Link Building from the Heart: Giving to Get

Giving back to your community on a local, national, or even international level is a great way to build links. This traditional marketing/public relations strategy is used by a range of industries, from retail to the service industry, and can easily be applied to link building for Internet marketing.

Getting Started

Overestimating resources is one of the biggest issues most businesses run into when putting together these types of campaigns. It's critical to test the waters first so you can evaluate whether additional staff will be needed, or if you need to outsource different aspects of the campaign.

Starting with a small project allows you to evaluate your available resources and not get overwhelmed. If it's successful, take that model and scale it. If you already have an internal PR team, then resources shouldn't be an issue. If you're working with a PR firm, this is a good opportunity to evaluate their performance in regards to link development.

Need Some Examples?

  • Software: Offer your software for free to nonprofit groups and public agencies. Since the product is non-tangible, there's little to no cost. Be a hero and find social service agencies facing budget cuts. Since they can't afford your software anyway, there's no opportunity cost.

  • E-commerce: Find charities looking for product donations. This could range from charities providing emergency supplies and clothing to families who've lost their home in a fire to groups providing winter clothes to children in need. Reach out to your local fire department and police station to find the people or agencies most in need. This is a good way to move excess items out of the warehouse and help people at the same time.

  • Service industry: Whether it's accounting, finance, legal, or any service-based industry, reach out to help organizations and individuals in need. This could range from a couple hours of consulting to handling the accounting for a small nonprofit.

Charity auctions are also a great way to donate consulting time, software, and products.

Promotion for Exposure and Link Building

Your charitable donations must be promoted with every means available, including press releases, calling in favors, getting people with influence to write about it, buying advertising space, and thinking creatively. Unless, of course, you want to sit back and wait years for the links to develop.

Cross-Promote

Work closely with the agency you're helping. Take advantage of their existing PR methods and contacts. Develop a cross-promotional PR campaign with them. If it's a city agency or a nonprofit, reach out to the city's PR team. They have the inside contacts and influence with the media.

Social Media

Yes, I know people are thinking, "I'll just use social media sites. That will solve all my promotional problems." Weren't sub-prime loans the golden egg to the financial service industry? Remember when MySpace was a golden egg?

Social media is great, but it's not a golden egg. It's just one method of promotion.

Lack of Resources

No time? Lack the resources to do this successfully? Hire a PR firm or a company that specializes in online promotions. These are the people who already have contacts, insider access, and are skilled at getting stories published in newspapers and magazines, and online.

Giving back to the community is an excellent way to build up a brand name, gain exposure, and build links at the same time – plus it's some savvy reputation management. The trick is to find the right opportunity and take full advantage of promotions.