The world-wide web has always been about links. It was originally conceived as a giant library for scientific papers linked together but it became the global phenomenon we now use every day for everything from publishing cutting-edge research to commerce to watching funny cat videos. The one thing the web doesn’t have is structure. There’s no centralized server where everything is stored, no index or Dewey Decimal System to tell us where things should be kept. Finding anything on the web has always need some sort of indexing service or search engine. There have been quite a few of them: from the days of Archie, Veronica and Jughead (not the comic book characters) to Google, Bing, Duckduckgo, Swisscow and other, more modern, search engines.
But the amount of information on the web is massive. There are millions of results for almost anything you type into a search engine. Even something as wacky as “how to transport rocks from the moon to mars” gets you over 20 million results on Google. Try it if you don’t believe us! But who gets listed first?
Let’s get real for a moment. No one is going to go through the whole list of search engine results. If you own a bookstore in Chicago, you want to be among the first results listed when someone types “bookstores in Chicago” into a search engine. It won’t do you much good to be number 235,743 on that list. How high or low a result is listed will depend on each search engine’s particular algorithm but one of the factors they take into account is how many links are pointing towards each page. So if you want your bookstore to appear among those first hits, you want to get as many links as you can. How can you achieve this if you’re only a local, maybe family-owned company? Read on for a few tips on small businesses and link building.
1. Don’t neglect your internal links
Your website probably has more than one page. You probably have a description, an “about me”, a “contact us”, maybe a page for each product and a whole lot of others. Out of all the types of links, this is the only one you control completely. So make sure all the pages on your site are linked to each other. This not only will provide your visitors with easier navigation, but they are also the base of link building. Not all links are of equal value to search engines and internal links are very low-value. But doing it properly certainly won’t hurt.
2. Create and give out value
What do you search for when you go to your favorite search engine? Why are you on this website, reading this article? You’re probably looking for information, tips, how-tos, reviews or something else you want to know. If you own a restaurant, getting people to link to your site isn’t easy if it only contains information about the business itself. But if it contains a blog where you post recipes, cooking tips and techniques, it opens up a whole world of possibilities. People searching for your restaurant by its exact name on a search engine are sure to be few. But there will be far more people searching for “How to make a Margherita Pizza at home”. If you regularly publish lots of valuable content, your links are likely to grow a lot faster.
3. Use your profiles wisely
You probably already have your personal profiles on several social media platforms. Maybe a Facebook page and a Twitter account. Do your social media profiles have links to your business’ website? If not, you’re missing a nice opportunity there. Make sure your profiles have links to your website and consider creating accounts on other social media platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, Quora, LinkedIn and others.
Of course, simply putting the link in your profile and leaving it at that isn’t going to do you much good. You have to be active on that platform. Publish content, like and comment on posts, trying to give some advice or other value when you do so. Make people want to visit your profile, where they’ll find the link to your business. What you definitely don’t want to do is just posting the link to your business directly as a comment on other people’s posts. That would be spam and will surely hurt your business quite a bit.
4. Syndicate your content
Syndication means that you let other websites publish content you create. They can either publish your full post or just a summary, with the condition that they link back to the original post on your site. Doing so lets you both benefit from they deal. They get some good quality content that they didn’t have to create themselves and your get the link back to your site. LinkedIn and Medium are great platforms for content syndication.
5. Become a sponsor
This is a great way to get some very high-quality links quickly. Find a local event like a conference, sporting event, charity events or community meetings and become a sponsor for it. It doesn’t even have to be an event. You can even sponsor a team, school or local college. Sponsors are very likely to get links from journalists, newspapers, bloggers and organizations, which are all considered high authority sources, so their links are very valuable. Some small businesses have even created their own events, including academic scholarship contests, that have grabbed a lot of press attention. Not only does sponsoring get you high-quality links, but a lot of publicity too.
6. Partner with some influencers
Not all influencers are global celebrities with millions of followers. There are a lot micro-influencers too. And these smaller influencers are very often local people that give tips, advice and other useful information to the very people you want for your own business. Reach out to them and work towards establishing a long-term partnership that will benefit you both. You can provide ideas and collaboration for new content, add value with your comments on their posts and help them out in many other ways. Ask them to include your business in their local roundups. For example, that bookstore we talked about could be included in a post about local gift ideas. In return, they will not only consider including your business in their posts, but also provide valuable links and help drive more people to your doors.
7. Guest posting
This is one of the harder ones to pull off, but it works beautifully when you can manage it. First, you think about the industry your business is in. Then you come up with an idea for an engaging, compelling article. Not too hard so far. But here’s where it gets tricky. You have to find a site that is relevant to your industry and accepts guest posts. Then you contact the editor and pitch them your article idea. If you manage to land that guest post, it will not only give you a link back to your website, but will drive a lot of relevant traffic your way as well. Remember that the site is dedicated to your industry and its visitors are exactly the type of people you want to get interested in your business. Small-business owners might struggle to find guest posts on the big, famous industry websites, but them smaller ones will often work just as well.
8. Offer Testimonials
It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in. your business uses software, tools and other products. Think about what you use and which of those products or services you really like. Maybe it’s your inventory management software. Maybe it’s the camera you shoot your product photos with. Whichever ones they are, reach out to the brand and offer to take part in one of their case studies or offer your testimonial about what you like about their product. If they accept your testimonial, they will certainly provide a link back to your site.
9. Offer special discounts
Students are almost always looking for discounts on anything. Think about the local colleges and universities and what discounts you can offer them. Even discounts for alumni or K-12 students can work really well. You’re sure to get link backs from those colleges, universities or schools.
10. Get links in your mentions
Sometimes someone will mention you or your brand or products without including a link back to your website. This is pretty easy to fix. You can set up a free Google Alert for your brand, website or name and Google will let you know whenever you are mentioned. If there’s no link, contact the poster and ask them to include the link. After all, they are already mentioning you so they will usually be happy to do so. But be sure to read the post first. You won’t want your link included in post that has negative things to say about you. Instead consider that an opportunity for growth.
Wrapping it all up…
Building links isn’t easy. It can be a lot of work but it’s essential if you want your brand to be more relevant. It can be so daunting that many businesses hire social media marketing agencies just to help with link building. But you can learn to do it yourself. The 10 tips provided here on small businesses and link building are just some of the strategies you can use. There more, some easy and some far less so. But what you just read gives you a good place to start.