Five ideas for building quality external links

Small businesses quickly discover that the key to success in natural search is gaining quality external links.  Paid-for directories can’t compete with highly relevant, authoritative sites linking back to your business website.  The bad news is that this takes time to establish.  The slightly better news is that with a little creativity, and using your existing real-world business relationships, you can make good progress in a few months.  The first step is to make a list of your 10 or 20 target sites for links and work out what you can trade with them, and how you can translate real world business relationships into quality inbound links.  I’ve listed five approaches that have worked for SMEs I have encountered while running SEO workshops, and for my own business sites.

1. Useful, practical content

Most SMEs have a special expertise.  Practical how-to articles, buyers guides, Q&As and checklists that help your target customer make better decisions and enjoy your product or service more fully are not only helpful to site visitors, they can make good copy for specialist publications, niche community sites and local and regional media, all of whom can have good pagerank and a high proportion of potential customers.  Blog articles or video are most portable forms of content. Once you have created your articles, use old-fashioned PR techniques and tell your target sites about them, providing a link and your preferred anchor text.

2. Client case studies and profiles

Niche business to business media, consumer publications and regional/local press all love case studies of successful businesses or profiles of interesting people.  Create articles that tell a story about your clients and subtly showcase your product, and then once again contact your target media directly.  Provide a short summary for their own site and link back to the full article on your business website.

3. Awards

Enter your business for local awards, often run by highly ranked regional media or even better chambers of commerce, and you’ll get a link back to your site.  Or even set up your own awards in your market niche, and provide shortlisted winners with a logo and link back to your own site.

4. Partnerships

Build real-life marketing partnerships with relevant charities, academic organisations, trade associations and public sector bodies – maybe joint campaigns, event sponsorships, or other cross-marketing.  Then you are in a strong position to gain a link back from some very highly ranked sites.

5. Promotions, competitions and vouchers

Create some special deals for your target audience, and offer these to specialist media, or niche communities in your own market in return for a link back.  Most media owners are keen to be seen to offer their readers/ members an exclusive benefit.

If you have experience of other methods of building quality links, I’d be interested to hear: please comment below.

About the author: Carolyn Morgan runs Penmaen Media, who create practical digital media and marketing strategies.  Carolyn runs workshops for SMEs in the East Midlands on planning a website and successful SEO as part of the Transformational ICT programme – more details here.  Carolyn also runs workshops directly for individual SMEs – some can qualify for grant funding.  Read more about our website marketing advice for SMEs.  To discuss your own needs, please contact us for an initial chat.