link building strategies

5 Affordable Link-Building Strategies for Startups

By Jay Bedi

So, you’ve started your new business and just created a killer website. You want to boost your SERP rankings but your digital marketing budget doesn’t call for outsourcing to an agency. For any business owner looking to solidify their small business SEO tactics, will want to familiarize themselves with link building.

Link building is an SEO tactic which digital marketers exercise to move a site up those SERPs. The more high-quality sites link to your site (backlinks), the greater your site’s value will be perceived by search engines like Google. Hence, scaling it higher. A good indicator of this ‘value’ or ‘quality’ of a site is its domain authority score.

Digital marketers have many link-building strategies up their sleeves, but not all of them are easy on the wallet. Nonetheless, there are strategies that startups can exercise while relieving their budgetary tensions.

1. Directory Submissions

directory submission example
Figure 1.1. An example of what a directory submission listing would look like.

Web directories are the quicker and easier way of obtaining backlinks to your site. General listing directories or even industry-specific directories will often include a link back to your site. Getting a link from these directories involves setting up a profile with them and submitting a profile with business details (contact number, website link, etc.) for approval. Once approved, the profile will be live with a backlink included (See Fig. 1.1).

Startups can target listings from a range of free directories available online. Startup listers are an ideal category to kickstart your directory hunt with.

If you’ve run out of free directories to submit to and have a few bucks to spare, paid directories should be your next alternative. If exercising this option, be sure to pay for the worthy directories. Run the site through a domain authority checker like Moz. The higher the DA, the more link value the site has. The high DA directories are most likely to be more expensive. Tip: It’s worth Googling for a list of directory submission sites to get you started.

2. Guest Posting and Blog Contributions

author bio example
Figure 2.1. An example of what an author bio would look like. The blue text is the backlink to the recommended homepage.
guest post guidelines example
Figure 2.2. An example of a set of blogging/guest-posting guidelines. View the full Small Business Bonfire guidelines.

While guest posting and blogging contribution can be seen as a form of a PR exercise (due to the writing aspect), in digital marketing its primary goal is link building. The tactic here is to reach out to blogs and publications relative to your industry and get an article or blog post published on their site. You’d be surprised how many sites accept guest posts. Everyone’s looking for unique, engaging content. The link to your site is usually embedded in the author by line/bio at the bottom of the article (See Fig. 2.1).

But that’s not where it ends.

To ensure that the site publishes your article in the first place, the piece must be a thought leadership (authoritative) one, come from an industry expert, be unique for the site and have genuinely useful information for the site’s audience. A site which accepts guest posts will usually tell you their guest posting guidelines for contributors, including the expected word count, nature of the article and examples of ideal articles (See Fig. 2.2). Tip: Searching for ‘guest post guidelines’ should show you a good list of sites accepting guest posts.

A well-executed guest blogging strategy can be an effective link-building tactic. If you’re not a fan of writing at all, outsourcing to a copywriter may be worth looking into.

3. Evergreen Content Sharing

No, we don’t mean a feature article around environmental and global warming issues.

Evergreen content is the type that stays relevant or ‘fresh’ for a long period of time. This means, if a reader had to look back at the piece a few years later, it would still be as relevant then as it is today. While this rules out news articles and current trends (which expire sooner), this doesn’t necessarily mean the content must be an article or a blog post. Evergreen content can be an infographic (submitted to infographic submission sites), a slideshow (for slideshow submission sites), or even a video tutorial.

The aim here is to ultimately provide unique learnings for the audience with this content. A few questions to think about: What are the key takeaways from this infographic? How will my slideshow help audience x and y solve problem a and b? If you take the time to research and incorporate unique data into the content, it is more likely to have greater appeal. Spend some time on Statista and other industry trends to see what’s happening in your industry right now.

Apart from improving your rankings through backlinks, such thought leadership content can also position your brand as an industry leader and attract sales for your business.

4. Forum and Thread Posting

As you dig deeper into the gold mine of link acquisition strategies, you’ll find that eventually there are only so many convenient, easy-to-grab nuggets. Forum posting is likely to be one of the last strategies shining out from the mud.

forum example
Figure 4.1. An example of a backlink in a forum response.

 There are a few ways to embed a backlink within forums and threads.

The first, is to include the backlink within your comment (See Fig. 4.1). The backlink can be a source for helpful information for the original poster, typically addressing their query/problem. The key here is to make sure the link you post is genuinely helpful to another user in the forum. Think of your comment as an extension of customer service, helping customers with a problem. Present your site as a solution (while not being overly salesy).

forum signature example
Figure 4.1. An example of a backlink in a forum signature.

Secondly, the link can be included in your user signature (See Fig. 4.2). Some forum sites only allow their users to have a signature show with every comment once they are reputed contributors. Hence, this could take some time.

Credible mentions in forums and threads can potentially drive sales through credible mentions by putting your brand out there.

5. Next-Stage Tactics

The following link-building tactics may not be suitable for every small or medium business out there as it depends on their current brand exposure and industry relations. However, if your business can implement any of these tactics then they can yield quick results.

Local Link Building: Leveraging relationships with nearby businesses and other local SMEs can benefit both parties with not only backlinks but also exposure. Reaching out to regional publications to get backlinks placed for articles such as ’10 most-visited businesses for July’ could benefit other regional SMEs.

Brand Mentions: A brand mention is a reference to your brand on any other website on the internet. Once you source a list of these mentions from the web, you can contact them and request that they link that mention of your company’s name to the website. This may usually involve an exchange of links or services. As a startup you may not have many of these mentions.

Partner/Suppliers: Do your partners, suppliers or any company you conduct business with have testimonial sections on their website? Presenting them with a testimonial and getting it placed on their website, can get you a backlink with you referenced as the testimonial provider.

Competitor Link Analysis: Everyone must start from somewhere. So why not find out where your competitors started from? Once you’ve run out of strategies for link acquisition, it’s always worthwhile to scope out how your competitors are acquiring their backlinks. Identifying sites linking to your competitors will allow you to source directories, guest posting sites and new link acquisition methods which you might not have thought of before.

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Jay Bedi on Linkedin
Jay Bedi
This article was written by Jay Bedi, a content writer and distributor from Indago Digital. Jay’s work spans from content marketing to entrepreneurship. He is also keenly interested in the Australian & American film industries.


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  1. Nice post Jay Bedi,

    I’d say link building is extremely burdensome. The reason to this is because Google lets the public know way too much, which can be both helpful and disastrous.

    Guest posts is kinda more difficult nowadays. Most sites I contacted for a guest post demanded either for a pay or no backlink.

    People now know just how important the link juice is and are very conservative about giving out backlinks.

    • Hi Matt,

      Completely agree! Link-building is just one of those SEO kinks that can take up a huge chunk of your time.

      Regarding, guest-posts – yes, you’ll find that most sites demand payments but I don’t recommend it at all. Besides, you’ll find that if you search beyond the ‘SME tips’ and ‘Digital marketing guides’ sites that accept guest-posts, you’ll find there are other niches to target as well. For e.g., the non-profit sector sites have blog section which could benefit from digital marketing insights.

      Yeah – link-juice conservationists know the value of a backlink. However, that’s where creating unique content (doesn’t need to be an article, perhaps a research/study done by you?) gets publications writing about you. The backlinks are ultimately just the editor’s ‘cheers’ to you. So the better content you make, the more likely you’ll be to receive one.

      Hope this helps! Let me know if you have anymore questions.


      • There are companies that offer backlinking services but I wouldn’t trust them. If you need an easier way to do it for your company I would just hire someone to do it for you.

    • Link building is one of the most time consuming task in marketing your business online. Not only that it is very repetitive and can bore you if you will have to do it yourself. While guests post nowadays have become harder either they are very expensive or they will just completely ignore you. The link building game has become very competitive and will only get harder.

  2. One way to effectively search for sites that accept guest posts is to use ahrefs. It really is a great search tool that allows you to search the web with a fine tooth comb. Use ahrefs then search “guest post” and just insert the niche your in to narrow down the search. This is an awesome post, thanks so much for sharing!

    • Hi Nathan,

      Absolutely, Ahrefs is a great tool for sourcing guest-post opps. Was so close to including it in this work however their prices don’t scream ‘fits-start-up-budget.” Nonetheless, it’s one of those industry digital tools which should never go unnoticed.

      Awesome recommendation!

      If you have anymore insights like this, please feel free to share! More information is always better than none.


    • Thank you for the online tool! I haven’t used Ahrefs yet. I’ve mainly been using majestic to find out which sites are backlinking to each other.

  3. Thanks for this helpful article. Link Building is challenging. I’ve tried the Competitor Link Analysis approach but for some niches, especially in local, you don’t get very far before you reach a dead end. Majestic is a helpful tool to use for this approach. It just takes a lot of time. I’ve still got lots to learn.

  4. Hello Jay,

    A wonderful post with many things to learn.

    Link building is one of the most important activities for any startup that wants to show up on Google and other search engines.

    In fact, Google’s Andrey Lipattsev claimed it’s one of the 3 most important ranking factors along with quality content and Rankbrain.

    Moz also found that it’s almost impossible to rank on Google first page without having backlinks to that page. Perhaps building links is difficult because it’s so important.

    In the past, people bought and traded links to influence their ranks. Now a website could be removed from search results if caught doing that.

    Your mention of brand mentions is an opportunity everybody must take because it’s easier to gain such links.

    One passive way of building links is writing quality content. Most people want to link to resources that their readers will find useful.

    That’s one of the major ways experts like Brian Dean and Neil Patel have built so many backlinks to their websites.

    Thanks again for this post Jay & I’m going to share this for others to learn.

  5. Forum posting can be good but you have to be careful, because no one likes a guy who waltzes into a forum and starts promoting himself. Offer some value yourself (real value – not a bunch of “very interesting post OP!” type of posts) and perhaps eventually they’ll allow you to get away with linking to the site you’re trying to promote.

  6. Presenting partners with testimonials is such an underrated link building method. Both parties benefit from the arrangement. You get a link while your partner gets a recommendation from a trusted source. Great tips!

  7. Very Informative!

    I have to agree with Alexis, link building can be very challenging. This article opened my eyes to new information.

    Thank you!

  8. Thanks for the information. I find that having quality content is an often overlooked factor when it comes to ranking your site.

  9. All I have to say is WOW. This article kind of blew my mind. I am just getting into the business of finding back links for my site and I definitely learned a thing or two from reading this article. I look forward to doing more research on link building and guest posting and anyway I can find links on budget is going to be great. Thanks for taking the time to share your knowledge with myself and all who come across this article.

  10. I’ve recently had some surprising SEO success through directory submissions. Guest posts are also always a great way to get link juice if you have the time to invest.

  11. Thanks for the informative post. It’s definitely important to have evergreen content. It can be a hassle to have to rewrite content as old content becomes irrelevant.

  12. Hey Jay,

    Thank you for this awesome post. One of my favorite link building strategies is Guest Posting and Blog Contributions- I feel like it ads a level of credibility and excitement that a few of the other Link Building Strategies you mentioned lack.. with that said, I’d love to guest post here ;)

    – Markus

  13. Super helpful article. As SEO becomes a bigger business and strategies become more complicated it seems like basic tactics such as these can be overlooked – despite the fact that they are still extremely relevant.

  14. Interesting article Jay Bedi. I liked what you have shared here with some good tips & tricks in link building.

    My best approach towards link building is record, record, record, so I would have a gigantic list of backlinks to link to and gain it from comments, or hyperlinks people get their links from and use a tools like ahrefs or majestic. I may have recorded a few here :)

    Anyways this article was interesting to understand and good tool belt added to my skills towards link building.

    P.S I love entrepreneurship and american film industry as well :)

  15. Hi Jay,

    Quality link-building is very challenging task. The 5 tips you’ve shared are really the ones which are most used ones due to their effectiveness.

    Internal link building is also important one.

    Brand or bloggers mention in our articles and telling them to share on their social media is one of the beautiful and sweet techniques. I’d also like to state Blog commenting strategy as one of the easiest way to earn sweet links if done in relevant and right way.

    Finally, Competitor backlink analysis using SEMrush, ahrefs really helps to earn links and thus rankings.

    Overall, great article!

  16. Thank you for this awesome post. You should also add these steps to make your blog one of the best link building guide.

    know your audience
    Use social media to boost your content
    Make a list of websites which appeal to your desired audience
    Reach out to these websites
    Write strong and unique content
    Match your unique content to websites

  17. Wow, yeah that’s basically all you need to know about backlinking, and not in some drawn out, dreary SEO style article. Diggin’ it brotha. Keep it up Jay!

  18. I can say from first hand experience that link building can be one of the most grueling and difficult processes if you don’t know what you’re doing. However, the pay off is well worth it when your site is ranking number one. Love the different strategies you present.

  19. Looking into link building and all the different strategies and find it very difficult/interesting at the same time. Somewhat overwhelming for a beginner like me though

  20. I have found local link building to be hugely beneficial for my SEO. I have managed to build relationships with a few local publications in my area and the links I have been able to get from them have been extremely valuable.

  21. I love reading stuff like this. I’ve only just started my web development and SEO journey, but coming across post like this gives me a lot of hope. Personally I use Majestic, as the links it picks up seem to be stronger than the ones Ahrefs pick up. Both are pretty neat tools though once you get used to how to use them.
    Thanks for taking the time Jay, was a very enjoyable read!

  22. My default go to for SEO results are directories. There are a lot of directories out there that are a waste of time and money so sifting through them on majestic to find the right ones is really worth the time, effort, and money.

  23. I second Snow Services’ tactics. Usually there are a pile of free ones you can grab by looking at the competitors, but not only that, if you decide to pay for the better directories the links will be permanent, which I feel I’ve learned the hard way by losing so many links.

  24. Thanks for the great tips.

    One extra tip not mentioned here is citation listings like yellowpages for example. There are many that are free and they greatly help boost your citation metrics. You can find them by googling [your location] + business directory.

    Just make sure to always use the same information (phone number, address, business opening hours etc) across all your citations. This also helps GMB listings.

  25. Solar Panels Miramar

    Thank you for this informative article. It’s given me even more great ideas for link-building to my conservation blog.

  26. Link building is VERY time consuming but such a necessity to your website !!!! IT can be very tricky if you don’t know what to look for. Especially spammy links that can do more harm than good !! A Great read!!!!! Thank you for the information!!!

  27. I agree with a lot of the previous comments, directories are highly undervalued in SEO today. Many people think they are a dead space when it comes to link building, but I disagree, a lot of my success has been through the use of directories.

  28. Link building is such a headache to wrap your head around and I’ve found myself taking the easy route and relying on too many spammy directories. This was a good read and refresher of different tactics, thanks for sharing.

  29. This is actually really helpful! There are so many blogs available for commenting online, and they can help massively with your websites. Thanks for sharing these 5 points here, as I’m in the process of doing SEO on all sorts of websites.

  30. I think I have tried all the white hat link building strategies discuss in the article. The most simple and guaranteed link placement you can try among the rest of the strategies is directory submission. Sad to say directory listings are mostly paid these days. If not paid, you need to agree with link exchange in order for them to verify and approve your submission.

  31. Link building is a very sensitive part of SEO and you have explained every step in a very good manner. Keep up the good work! But dofollow backlinks are the most effective.

  32. This is great info for small businesses. Marketing can feel like such a tangled web for small businesses like mine that aren’t used to using the internet to grow their business. Thanks for this informative article.

  33. Building backlinks can indeed be very timeconsuming but it’s worth it in the end. Focussing purely on Quality Backlinks is not the way to go as you got to mix it up a bit.

    You have to be willing to put in the work and time. Due Diligence is key, providing value to those who are willing to share “the juice”.

    Great post, you’ve hit it out of the ballpark with this one.

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