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.


  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.


  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.

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