The Ultimate Guide To Building Links Without Writing Content
Even though Google passed out ranking penalties like Halloween candy for sites who’d built backlinks for their pages via what Penguin deemed black hat practices, don’t assume that the overall strategy of finding backlinks for your site should be forgotten about.
After all, Google still looks at your traffic and the quality of sites linking to you as a way to figure out your authority and page rank – which in turn influences your organic rankings, so why wouldn’t you find ways to get a decent backlink here and there?
For starters, most “safe” backlinks come from hours upon hours of content production.
And as an individual site owner, chances are you don’t have time to do that at scale.
You’ve got plenty of other things to worry about (site maintenance, monetization, and keeping up with your own blog posts) than to set out and spend hours per week producing more content that may or may not be accepted by authority-level site owners.
Fortunately, there’s a handful of ways you can generate quality, legitimate, non-spammy, white hat backlinks without producing any extra content—or if you do need to, it’s no more than a few sentences.
“Most SEOs would advise you to stop doing anything to get links,” says Neil Patel. “If you’re doing business online, I think that’s the worst advice you could ever get.”
Here’s What You’ll Learn:
- Easy ways to find pre-existing text and images that automatically give you the right to request a link
- How to get quoted (for free!) as an expert in leading online and offline publications
- How to optimize your infographics for even more backlinks
- How to get your fans to create your backlinks and content for you
- How to list your site as a reference on Wikipedia
1. Get Interviewed by a HARO Reporter
As a content producer trying to create a reputable site, HARO can be a great way to find experts to showcase quotes from.
But it works the other way as well—you can use it to show off your own expertise for people who are on the content producer side of things. Since you’re offering your expertise for free, it usually won’t be any problem to ask the reporter to feature a link back to your website, or to write out the url if they’re writing in print.
To get interviewed, all you need to do is find relevant requests for an expert in your specific niche, and respond with your credentials and availability.
A lot of people who’ve used and had success with HARO rave about it, including Steve of SEOno, who uses it in his SEO agency to subscribe to requests related to his clients’ businesses so he can get them as much quality publicity as possible.
2. Add Links to Pre-Existing Mentions
If your site has been around for a while, there’s a good chance it might be mentioned or referenced to on another website, even without your knowing about it. It certainly doesn’t hurt to check and find out.
You can use Moz’s 30-day free trial of Fresh Web Explorer to find pre-existing mentions of your brand or website title online, and then follow up by using Talkwalker Alerts to get an email every time a certain search query is mentioned.
Shoot the article writer or site owner an email thanking them for the mention and asking them if it’s possible to get a hyperlink back to your homepage. Easy as pie.
3. List Yourself in Business & Product-Based Directories
Product and business directories are rampant online, and there’s a plethora of high-quality ones you can use to list your business or some of your products on.
Hubspot put together a list of 50 different business directories that include only reputable sites that will help you in your white hat backlinking strategy. The majority of them are based on localization, so if you’re in a service-based or product-selling niche, this can be a great way to generate passive leads for new customers and boost your SEO.
Business directories are some of the easiest to get into, because anyone can make a listing.
For a product listing directory, your best bet would be to search for directories in your specific niche. Whether it’s weight loss, electronic parts, consumer goods, or building materials, you can get links back to your sale pages by getting in touch with the directory owner and presenting your product for inclusion in it.
4. Host a Giveaway or Contest
The contests that perform the best are ones that give away a product or service that isn’t so readily available elsewhere.
For example, giving away a custom-tailored diet and exercise plan to three individuals will perform much better than giving away yet another set of local water park tickets or an iPod.
Keep the core of your contest related to your niche site’s purpose so all of your backlinks are from relevant audience members and posted in relevant social circles online. To boost backlinks from this effort, make posting links back to the contest page from their own blogs one way contestants can earn another entry.
Hint: You can also use contests as a way to produce incredible user-generated content, so that the time you spend writing social media descriptions and contest rules more than make up for your efforts. For example, you could have people upload video testimonials of what your products or services have done for them, which is content that you’ll be able to use freely in the future.
Social Media Examiner reviewed a number of companies who’ve gathered and employed user-generated content on their websites and in their marketing strategies, and found that using it not only saves time in creating content yourself, but can double your ROI.
5. Send Out Free Products Asking for Brutally Honest Reviews
Though your response rates on this may vary, sending out a free physical product or downloadable information-based product to bloggers you’ve developed a rapport with and/or are within your niche in exchange for a product review can be a great way to get quality, investigative back links to your site.
As long as the blogger doesn’t totally slam the item you sent them (unlikely since you gave it to them free of charge), a good chunk of their inquisitive readers will want to check you out, so in order to provide that quality to them, they’ll send a link back to your site.
6. Create Online Community Profiles
Normally, most online community-based profiles allow you to place a link back to your website when you’re filling out your information.
While creating a profile does imply that you’ll be involved in that community, keep in mind that you don’t have to be active there 24/7. One or two sessions per month in quality, relevant conversations will be enough to keep your profile ‘active’, and will hopefully draw people in to what you have to say.
When someone reads a piece of your advice and likes it, they’ll be able to click through on the link you provided to get more quality advice from you.
7. Fix Broken Wikipedia Links
Wikipedia is a great place to get content-rich links without actually producing any content – because it’s all already been written by someone else.
With the passing of time and the changing and taking down of what were once hot and reputable websites, some Wikipedia source links get broken, and you’ll find some facts that need a brand new source altogether.
To find these broken links, go to Wikipedia’s ‘Category: Articles with dead external links’ page and scroll down to the bottom of the page to find the most recent month, since those pages are the ones that are least likely to have the broken links fixed.
Browse through the contents to find a handful of pages that fall within your niche. Go to each of those pages individually and do an on-page search (command + f) for “dead link” to determine whether or not you’ll be able to replace that link with some of your content.
And to update them with one of your own links, all you need to do is click ‘Edit’ on the page (you may need to log in with a user account) and replace the broken url with your own. You’ll also want to make sure that you edit the reference text at the bottom of the article.
In the ‘Edit Summary’ section at the bottom, you can check the box that says ‘This is a minor edit’ and type in the you provided a fresh source for a broken link.
8. Make Your Infographics Embeddable
If you’ve got an infographic that’s somewhat popular, providing an embed code for your fans to freely share it on their own websites is a great way to get links back to your website.
Particularly if you’ve got a large infographic that provides a better reader experience if it’s viewed in full screen, people will want to click through on the infographic to see it better. And as long as you modify the embed code correctly, the image itself will be a link back to your site.
Brian Dean of Backlinko does this with his ‘Guestographic’ method.
Basically, he makes his infographics embeddable and reaches out to sites related to the infographic’s content and offers to write a free mini guest post to accompany his infographic if they decide they want to post it. This does require more than a few sentences of content writing, but if you’ve got a little extra time, it can be incredibly effective.
9. Recover Broken Links Across the Internet
Keep your eye out for websites within your niche (or adjacent niches) that get taken down. One of the easiest ways to do it is to pay a subscription fee to a recommended expired domain service. This way, you get notifications every time a long-standing niche-based domain goes down.
Once you know a domain has gown down, you can use a tool like Open Site Explorer’s API to find the number of links coming into that domain.
Pick and choose the most reputable sites who were linking to the domain that’s gone down (.gov links are some of the best, if they’re available), and email their site owners notifying them of the change. It’s even better if you can find the link on their site that’s now broken.
Offer them a specific page of content on your own site to link to, or offer to help them find new ones if you’re unsure of exactly what type of content they were linking to on that page.
Another hack, suggested by Backlinko, is to do a search for ‘[your niche]’ + rebrand on Google News or a site like PR Web. You can filter through the news that you find to make a list of urls that either no longer exist, give error messages, or redirect to a different url.
You can also do a Google search for ‘[your niche]’ + “this page no longer exists” to find a great list to start from.
Hint: Some of the hottest places to score resource links include articles on .gov and .edu sites, but don’t let that limit you—there’s some equally awesome .com, .net and .org sites whose backlinks will work wonders for your SEO.
Also, as Jon Morrow points out, having broken links can harm a site’s SEO. If you point this out in your outreach to help a site owner update their broken links, it’ll be a win-win SEO situation for both of you.
10. Donate to Charity
If your business is going to be making donations to charity anyway, you might want to consider finding charities that have pages that list out who their donors are, and provide links to their business websites.
It’s usually not a good practice to make the donation with the expectation of the link (aka: link buying), but if there’s a nice line up between your business and the purpose of the organization, it creates a win-win situation for both of you: they get the donation, and you get an authority link on a lower budget than paying for sponsored content.
11. Blog Commenting
Whether or not a blog provides do-follow or no-follow links in their comment strings, writing a meaningful comment in response to the post is a great way to get a link that either drives some traffic back to your site, build authority on search engines, or both.
As a rule of thumb, WordPress tends to come with no-follow coding, but the CommentLuv plugin gives do-follow links back to your most recent blog post.
Otherwise, you can use a browser extension like Nofollow Spotter for Chrome to easily see if a blog’s author links in the comments section are no-follow or do-follow.
In this video on Quicksprout by Brian Dean, he shows you how you can get targeted traffic back to your website with blog commenting – whether or not the blogs you comment on use do-follow or no-follow links.
12. Get Categorized in a Government Website
This is a very similar strategy to getting listed in industry-based or product-based directories, but with a special focus on getting a listing in a .gov website.
Since government websites are so well-received by search engines, your link will register as one that carries high authority, and any traffic that comes from it will be highly relevant. But since their relevant directories are a little bit harder to find, the ROI from this particular strategy is all about putting in the time and brainpower to do the research to uncover them.
13. Do Something for Free
Depending on what your niche is and what services you offer, you can do something for free—like a PPC audit for a small e-commerce company or an on-site content strategy plan for a blogger.
While your main goal here might be to generate more business, there’s a chance that a blogger or site owner may link back to you in gratitude for the help that you gave them… especially if your industries line up in an important way that will benefit their audience as well.
14. Participate in Industry Forums
When you create a persona in most online forums, there’s usually a place to put a link in your bio and / or automated signature at the bottom of your posts.
Forum participation is generally a good practice anyway to find out what concerns are hot in your niche and what people are talking about. By participating with your own advice, questions, and comments, you’ll be getting the link back to your site in front of more and more people.
15. Request Image-Based Links You Have a Right to
A lot of times, especially when your niche site starts gaining traction and popularity, you’ll notice that some other sites might reference your website with your logo, but not give credit where credit is due.
An easy way to find if someone’s used your logo (or any of your photos) to refer to your site or your business is to go to Google Images, click on the camera in the search bar, and upload your original image for a search.
This will give you a list of sites who’ve used the image (your own included), and if you see that the image isn’t hyperlinked back to your website, you can reach out to the site owner to politely request that the change be made.
Tip: If you feel someone is using your original images without your direct permission and for their benefit, you can point out instances of businesses and bloggers being fined up to $ 8,000 for incorrect use of images they don’t own. (Like this story in The Daily Dot.) If you find a site owner that doesn’t want to give a backlink on your image, you can politely reference something like this and see how quickly that changes.
16. Community Sharing
Joining online content sharing communities relevant to your niche and post links there on a regular basis.
Interacting with other people’s content by following them, up-voting what they share, and commenting will also boost the visibility of your own content.
Normally, it’s not required to write more than a few sentences about a link when you share it, so doing so is quick and easy.
If you’re unsure where to start, Reddit has something for everyone, and you can expand your strategy from there.
17. Get Listed on a Council Page
Becoming a member of a council – like the EC-Council or the Web Video Marketing Council shares your contact information with people and business who might be seeking out services and are looking for a reference from a reputable source.
If the url is a .org, that means you get even more SEO brownie points, but even if not, it should be a long-lasting link that will improve your SEO and quality traffic over time.
Taking a Balanced Approach to Link Building
Though it’s clearly pretty easy to get a significant handful of links without having to create a boatload of content to support them, it’s usually a good idea to take a balanced approach to link building—so don’t forget to do a good guest post every now and then.
Comment and let us know some link building strategies you’ve used that haven’t required more than a few sentences of content… any that worked better for you than others?