Need some great link-building ideas? Columnist Andrew Dennis has them for you — with examples from major brands to illustrate how each might work.
Link acquisition is hard.
Links are still not guaranteed, even when you have incredible, compelling content to share. According to a study conducted by BuzzSumo and Moz:
When we looked at a bigger sample of 757,317 well shared posts we found over 50% of these posts still had zero external links. Thus (sic) suggests while many posts acquire shares, they find it far harder to acquire links.
So even if your content is popular and achieves a healthy number of social shares, links are far from guaranteed.
That’s why intentional link acquisition is important. It’s not impossible to strategically secure worthwhile links for your site — in fact, you likely have a number of link opportunities worth pursuing.
Here are 13 link opportunities — with real-life examples — that you might be able to capitalize on now.
One of the best ways to acquire natural, worthwhile links is unlinked mentions. Online mentions of your company offer legitimate marketing value and represent excellent link opportunities.
Typically, if a website is willing to mention your business, they are also willing to link to it. Often, all it takes to secure these links is some research (usually with a tool like Moz’s Fresh Web Explorer, Mention or BuzzSumo’s new unlinked mention feature) and persuasive outreach.
There are a few different types of mentions that can lead to relevant links. Let’s look at some examples of each.
Opportunity #1: Brand mentions
Example: Loot Crate
Loot Crate’s brand is mentioned twice within a blog post on Sticker Giant. There are two potential options for Loot Crate to secure a link back to their domain leveraging this mention:
- Contact Sticker Giant and request changing the first link (which currently points to Loot Crate’s Facebook page) to point to their website instead. A link to the company website is more relevant to readers and more valuable for SEO.
- Request the second mention of the brand be changed to a link to Loot Crate’s site.
Either is a valuable link opportunity for Loot Crate.
It’s worth noting this post is a bit older, so as an opportunity it might be optimal to reach out to this site during the holiday season, when this post likely receives the most traffic. There might also be an opportunity for some of partnership at that time.
Opportunity #2: Product/service mention
Brand names aren’t the only mentions that represent link opportunities. Product or service mentions can be converted into relevant links as well.
Here is an example of a product mention I would pursue if I worked with Starbucks (I don’t) for their S’mores Frappuccino:
If I were building links for Starbucks, I could reach out to this reporter or the site editor and see if they would be willing to link to the S’mores Frappuccino page on Starbucks, as it would be relevant and helpful for readers. Since the S’mores Frappuccino is a (delicious) seasonal drink, it’s best to strike while the iron is hot.
Often, news sites such as the one shown above have linking policies in place. Before reaching out, I would check to see if any explicit rules have been stated.
Opportunity #3: High-level employees/brand representatives
Mentions of important employees or others associated with your brand also represent link opportunities.
For example, Bodybuilding.com has many members who are well known and revered within the fitness community — such as Alex Silver-Fagan, who is a Team Bodybuilding.com athlete.
Alex is a prominent personal trainer and fitness model, and she is interviewed frequently across the web. If I were building links for Bodybuilding.com, I would reach out to whoever manages GreenBlender and see if they would be willing to link Alex’s name in the blog post shown below:
I’d probably ask them to link to her profile page on Bodybuilding.com:
It would, of course, be key to include Alex in this strategy: We want to make sure we’re preserving brand relationships and reputation. There are instances where you may not want to convert a mention into a link (e.g., highlighting bad press or articles the person doesn’t want to be associated with).
Opportunity #4: Images
Your brand’s proprietary images are essentially “visual mentions” and represent superb opportunities to secure quality links.
Image link opportunities can come in varying types of images, including:
- old/new logos;
- employee head shots;
- product photos;
- company buildings; and
- proprietary images.
In this example, PetSmart is cited in a case study that references work a PR firm did for PetSmart.
If you scroll toward the bottom, you can see where PetSmart’s logo is used, with a link pointing to an internal page on the site.
While this page specifically wouldn’t be an ideal fit for a PetSmart link (This is a navigational page designed to direct people to case studies), it does indicate that a relationship exists, and there might be potential for a link somewhere else on the site.
For example, this page:
Each of the partner logos featured on this page includes a link to those respective sites. Considering this firm published a case study on the work they did for PetSmart, it stands to reason that getting PetSmart added to the page (both a logo icon and link) is feasible.
It’s worth noting that it would be important to inquire internally about any potential relationships that exist before reaching out to this PR firm in order to preserve the relationship built during the creation of this case study.
Opportunity #5: Marketing/PR campaigns
Marketing and PR campaigns can yield unlinked mentions and opportunities. Publicity campaigns and link acquisition work particularly well in tandem.
Here is an example of a potential .edu link opportunity for Starbucks regarding their “College Achievement Plan.”
Of course, not every company can afford to run a campaign like this, but it’s a great example of the potential power of integrating PR and link building.
Simply interacting within your local and online communities can also generate real link opportunities. If your company is engaged in giving back to your community — and receiving recognition — you should make sure it’s leading to the links you deserve.
Community involvement is important for many reasons, beyond SEO and marketing. But you should seize link opportunities related to community engagement, or you’ll be leaving value on the table.
Opportunity #6: Testimonials
Testimonials offer a win-win scenario for you and the site you’re endorsing. They also offer marketing value and link opportunity.
In this example, I looked to find a partner CoreCommerce could hypothetically provide a legitimate testimonial for, so I headed to their “Apps & Integrations” page. As I scrolled down the page, I found NoChex as a potential testimonial partner.
Looking at NoChex’s website, I see they have a nice testimonials page.
Clicking the “Learn more” link under each testimonial takes me to a page that offers more information on the company providing the testimonial:
And at the bottom of the page is a link back to said company!
If I were working to acquire links for CoreCommerce, I would see if a testimonial to NoChex made sense. If so, it would further the two companies’ relationship and secure a nice backlink. Obviously, securing this link would require approval and assistance from other departments within the company.
Opportunity #7: Local Chamber of Commerce
Local Chambers of Commerce are a great place to secure links if you haven’t already. For example, you can see Bodybuilding.com has a listing on the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce, and it includes a link back to their site.
Most companies will have a listing with their respective Chamber of Commerce, but it’s always worth checking to see if a link is also included, especially if you have multiple branches.
Opportunity #8: Charities
Example: Loot Crate
Charities are a perfect example of non-manipulative links. This is never something you would seek to do for a link alone, but if you’re already actively contributing to a charity or event, there’s a chance to secure a link. Link building is often just optimizing existing opportunities and ensuring you’re securing the links you deserve.
For example, Loot Crate partnered with Operation Supply Drop to donate many of their products to military members and their families.
There is an article on Operation Supply Drop that highlights the great charity work the company is doing, and it mentions Loot Crate’s contributions as well.
This is a perfect opportunity to reach out to Operation Supply Drop and ask them to cite Loot Crate with a link, again being sensitive to the existing relationship.
Opportunity #9: Partnerships
Real-life partnerships also create link opportunities. If your business has an authentic partnership with another company in the real world, you should absolutely cement that partnership with a digital relationship (in the form of a link).
In this example, QASymphony has a page that lists their partners with links to the corresponding companies. One of these partners is Praecipio Consulting:
Praecipio Consulting also has a page dedicated to partners, and QA Symphony is even listed there.
However, there is no link directing readers back to QASymphony’s website.
If I were building links for QASymphony, I would start by finding out who in the company managed partner relationships and see if requesting a link was feasible. Partnership links are worthwhile links, but a real, legitimate partnership (offline relationship) must exist, and I advise against pursuing any sort of reciprocal linking scheme.
Opportunity #10: Sponsorships
If your brand is sponsoring events, you should always be on the lookout for link opportunities. For example, PetSmart is sponsoring a local Indiana pet adoption event. You can see PetSmart’s logo is featured on the event’s main page, but it’s not linked.
Currently, this image links to the page it is on. If I were acquiring links for PetSmart, I would reach out this site owner and ask if they could change the link’s destination to the PetSmart Charities page. This would be useful to people, as it will help them learn about PetSmart Charities and the different ways they can get involved.
Opportunity #11: Loyal customers/brand advocates
Building a loyal community and brand advocates is important for growing your brand, but it also naturally generates relevant link opportunities.
Starbucks is a company well known for their loyal and passionate customer base. Because Starbucks has such loyal fans, they have link opportunities wherever these fans talk about their products.
Here is an example of an article where the site owner is sharing a personal recipe that is inspired by Starbucks’ S’mores Frappuccino. This is a natural opportunity to contact the person and thank them for being a loyal fan — and see if they wouldn’t mind linking to the S’mores Frappuccino page.
It’s also a great marketing opportunity (outside of link acquisition) and a chance to further the relationship. Along with contacting the author about a link, I would also alert the appropriate member of the marketing team to send her a letter or small gift showing appreciation for her creativity and support.
Finding worthwhile directories can also be an excellent way to secure links.
However, not all directories are created equal, and you need to have a very discerning eye when it comes to evaluating prospective directories. There are three simple questions to ask yourself when you’re scrutinizing a directory:
- Is this directory relevant to my business and audience (either specific to your niche and product/service, or specific to your location and community)?
- Is it clear that this directory is maintained and curated by a human site owner?
- Is this a visible directory that my target audience might actually visit?
If the answer to these questions is “yes,” then that’s a directory worth pursuing.
Opportunity #12: Directories
Example: Loot Crate
In this example, I’ll be highlighting a directory that is relevant to Loot Crate’s niche: subscription boxes. The Science of Happy contains a directory of subscription boxes for a United Kingdom audience, and it is segmented into six different sections: beauty, food & drink, lifestyle, children, pets and men.
Looking under the “Lifestyle” section, I can see that My Geek Box (a similar product to Loot Crate) is listed with a link.
As a link builder for Loot Crate, I would definitely contact this site owner and explain why Loot Crate would be an excellent addition to their list (with a link) and a relevant product for their audience.
Directories can be powerful marketing opportunities when vetted correctly. This directory is a place where people shopping for subscription boxes might visit to do some research, and a site where Loot Crate should absolutely be listed.
Resource link building
If you have any sort of resource page on your site (a blog, e-book, guide, how-to videos and so forth), you should explore potential resource link-building opportunities.
Resource link-building involves finding relevant resource pages covering topics related to your own resources, and promoting your resource to be featured on that page.
Opportunity #13: Resource promotion
In this example, I’m looking for sites to promote QASymphony’s Resource Library.
By simply using the query “software testing resources” in Google, I quickly found a site that lists software QA and testing resources.
Sure enough, there is a page on the site dedicated to resources.
Scrolling down the page reveals a section that would be a perfect fit for QASymphony’s Resource Library.
Suggesting QASymphony’s Resource Library to this site owner would be a promising opportunity to secure a link, as it would be beneficial for both sites and the linking site’s audience.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.