SMB Link Building Without a Dime

In “Marketing your SMB with Time & Elbow Grease,” I explained that I’m committing to a series of articles for Little Biz that will give actionable advice on how to improve your rankings or revenue from search with no dollar investments — aside from the time it takes to research and implement these changes.

Because you demanded it, today we’ll discuss how to obtain a strong inbound link profile without spending any dollars out of your budget. Link building like this definitely takes time, so we’re not talking completely free — just no out-of-pocket money involved.

These tactics can work for the smallest of sites and have nice benefits. First, some things to remember:

  • Not every link will become a Google backlink.
  • Not every link will make you move up one ranking.
  • I don’t know how many links it takes to be number one.
  • Every little bit of conscious effort helps.

Have Something Worth Linking To

Nobody wants a link from someone who has horrible, irrelevant content on their Web site. You can request a link, request a link exchange, or post a blog comment, but if the person in charge of approving that link doesn’t think your site is decent, you aren’t going to get it.

The first step in finding good links actually started a while ago when you got to work writing great content . If you haven’t done that yet, what are you waiting for?

Don’t be Afraid to Copy Your Top Competitors

Start link building without a budget by scoping out the top ranking sites for the best keyword phrases you can find for your products or services. Review all of their incoming links using Yahoo Site Explorer and mark any they do have that you don’t have.

Next, parse through those links and find ones that can be obtained for free. It can be as simple as making a comment on a blog post or exchanging a link with a relevant business.

Blog Comments

Many bloggers allow those who post comments to have a link back to their site. This is a great way to contribute to your niche community as a whole and, in some cases, obtain a nice link back to your own Web site.

Here are some tips for commenting on blogs:

  • Don’t put a keyword phrase as you name. I delete these, every time! You’re a person, and I highly doubt your real name is Buy Viagra Online, so don’t leave that as your name in the name box. Yes, anchor text links are fine. But if the comment gets deleted, you didn’t get the link — and you wasted time submitting the comment.
  • Leave a meaningful comment. Don’t say “nice post” or “I found this very useful.” Why did you find it useful? What can you add to the conversation?
  • Provide a link back to relevant content on your site that supports the content in the blog post, or as closely as you can.

Sponsorships, Volunteerism, Partnerships

Many nonprofit organizations have a Web site and they love having volunteers. Next time you do some work for your local charity walk or fundraiser, see if they have a links page on their Web site. This may not be 100-percent relevant, but if you volunteer in your business’s name, maybe they’ll have a page that lists the volunteers with links. Don’t volunteer only to get links, though. Have some fun, too.

Relevant Link Exchanges

I like link exchanges, especially if you’re exchanging with a product or service that can provide direct benefit to your Web site users. Are you a plumber that recommends a certain type of furnace or A/C unit? See if that company will agree to link to your site — and offer them a link in exchange. You’re adding value, “playing within your own neighborhood” and getting some nice relevant links in the process.

You should limit how many reciprocal links you have. One hundred percent is definitely too much; 50 percent is probably too much; but less than 40 percent is probably just fine.

These tips take elbow grease and time, but no dollar investments. What you put into the process is directly related to what you receive back.

Don’t forget to be genuine, thoughtful, and above all honest in what you’re doing. Yes, you may be leaving a comment on a blog for a link. But if you’re thoughtful and contributory in your answer, you’re giving something in return.

Join us for Search Engine Strategies New York March 23-27 at the Hilton New York. The only major search marketing conference and expo on the East Coast, SES New York will be packed with more than 70 sessions, plus more than 150 exhibitors, networking events, parties, and training days.

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