How to Build Links Without Creating a Drop of Content

Build links without a drop of contentEver think you can never compete with the big guys in the search engines because you have zero budget for creating link-worthy or link-bait-able content?

Recently, I watched an episode of Whiteboard Friday from Rand Fishkin at SEOmoz about how content is NOT the only way to build links. And he’s right.

(You can watch the episode I’m talking about below.)

Rand gives a few examples of his own, but I wanted to flesh out a couple of these content-alternatives to link building and give you a few more ideas.



Number one: Relationships, reputation, and word of mouth

Here, Rand is talking about how people will naturally talk about you online if they’re talking about you offline.

This makes sense, right? Especially given all the emphasis on sites like Yelp and Google+ Reviews — reputation and word of mouth are easily translated to the online world.

Reputation Marketing Example for Link Building - Chi'Lantro Food TruckExamples: The classic example here for me is food trucks who normally start out with just a Twitter following of those looking for their location for lunch every day. Trucks like in Austin, TX have a huge following (over 9,000 at the time of this post) and have tons of rave reviews on Yelp.

Reputation? Yep, it counts.

Taking this to the next level? Ask for reviews on Yelp, Google+, or for a write-up of your services or product on your favorite’s customers’ blogs.

Have another word of mouth example to share? Link me in the comments.

Number two: Phenomenal advertising

In this one, Rand is referring to the type of campaigns that get people talking – both online and offline.

I actually disagree that this is *so* different from content creation as it can still require big budgets and still has the same aim as content creation — trying to get noticed and shared — not to mention, you need to create some advertising content! Not the best alternatives for the small business/solopreneurs attempting content alternatives with small budgets.

Examples: An excellent offline example is the “I Hate Steven Singer (” billboards from Steven Singer jewelry in the Philadelphia, Pennslyvania and Southern New Jersey market. Allegedly based off a back-handed compliment about a customer who bought a ring from Steven and 9 months later blamed him for all his sleepless nights (with a new newborn). The ads are controversial and attention-grabbing in and of themselves and as such, get a lot of people talking offline and on.

SEO without content example - Steven Singer


If you know of another small business doing phenomenal advertising that doesn’t fall under the hat of content marketing – link me in the comments.

Number three: Inherently viral products and services

Here, Rand is talking about those products that by their use are almost required to acquire new users or have shareability built-in.

How can you build this into your own services or products as a small business owner? Think referral incentives or affiliate programs or even contests (affiliate program meaning one in which you pay a percentage of final sales to people who promote for you).

No, paid links aren’t supposed to influence Google but they still up the number of people talking about you and should ultimately lead to an increase in links and social mentions around the web (all good for the Google).

Examples: Inherently Viral Products - Shutterfly exampleThe classic example I think of here is picture-sharing sites. Ones like that almost require you to have an account to grab access to the prints of the pictures your friend shared with you.

Inherently Viral Product Example - AppsumoOr how about Appsumo? The entrepreneur daily deals site. Because who doesn’t want to share a good deal.

Other examples are LevelUp and Dropbox because they encourage you to share the product by offering an incentive of dollars to spend or extra space in your account in return for getting friends to join.

Have another example? Link me in the comments.

Number four: Community building and engagement

If you build it, they will come. As Rand mentions, if you build a highly-engaged community, the links will come. Why? Because people are talking about you and use you as a important resource.

Examples he mentions include sites like Quora or even Lifehacker.

Examples: What are some highly engaged small business examples of community building?

Highly engaged community example - MarieTVEver check out the comments section in Marie Forleo’s weekly MarieTV posts? Every week, very engaged comments and discussion for small business women entrepreneurs. That is a Lifehacker-style community for small businesses.

Or how about Kickstart Kitchen’s Bootstrap Book Club Facebook group? A strong group of (mostly) female entrepreneurs highly engaged in discussing how business book lessons apply to their businesses.

Community Engagement Example - Kickstart Kitchen Bookclub

Have another example of a small business-created highly engaged community? Link me in the comments.

Other Ways?

Are these the only ways to build links without creating a drop of content? No.

You could do some awesome charity work.  (though the potential link-benefit from this activity should just be a distant side-bonus, right?)

Speak at an amazing conference.

And lots of other ‘regular’ marketing activities.

As Rand says, play to your strengths – link building doesn’t have to be hard. Being awesome at what you do and making it easy for people to link back to you goes a long way.

What Do You Think?

Have another idea that’s worked for you in getting attention online? Think any of these ideas are baloney? Find this helpful? Let me know in the comments!

top photo credit: kaibara87 via photopin cc

Your SEO Roadmap, an SEO course for real people, is opening soon. Do you want to be the first to hear all about it? Get on the insider’s list here.

2 Responses so far.

  1. You can also attend online events where there are communities of people exchanging ideas and information. There’s opportunity for others to talk about you if you give value within these forums.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *