The Startup’s Guide to Effective Link Building in 2018

As a startup that’s trying to increase visibility and forge connections with key players in your industry, it can be difficult to know what to do or how to do it. The online landscape evolves so rapidly that chasing fleeting trends can ultimately prove to be costly and fruitless.

No Real Shortcuts.

Truthfully, there’s no way to shortcut brand building or hack your way to the top. If you want to build a startup that’s grounded on a stable and scalable foundation, you have to do the dirty work. In terms of digital marketing and online visibility, this means investing in link building.

Understanding Link Building.

If you don’t have a background in SEO, you probably don’t have much context for how search engines work. You’re familiar with the user side of things, but don’t have a clear grasp on what’s happening in the belly of the beast.

Search engines.

The best way to understand search engines is to think of a large, bustling city with thousands of buildings and busy street grids that are ever-expanding to account for continual growth. For the search engines that crawl the large cities of the internet, links are the streets that connect pages. These links provide directional cues on how pages relate to each other.

Links are like votes.

“Since the late 1990s search engines have treated links as votes for popularity and importance in the ongoing democratic opinion poll of the web,” Moz explains. “The engines themselves have refined the use of link data to a fine art, and use complex algorithms to perform nuanced evaluations of sites and pages based on this information.”

Always think quality.

While there’s value in obtaining as many backlinks as you possibly can, link building is about quality over quantity. It’s far better to have 10 links from 10 authoritative websites than 100 links from spammy blogs.


Other factors come into play as well. While it wasn’t a major factor in the beginning days of SEO, search engine algorithms have now come to prioritize a backlink’s relevancy. There’s a much stronger connection between a restaurant blog and a donut shop website than a video game blog and the same website; therefore, the search engines look more highly upon the former link.

Know a few basics.

You don’t have to understand all of the technical components behind search engines, but you should familiarize yourself with some of the basics. By understanding how link building works and how it can benefit your startup, you can give yourself a major boost in visibility, website traffic, and brand authority.

5 Link Building Tips for Startups.

There’s a right and wrong way to do link building. If you’re going to be successful in developing a sustainable link building strategy, you need to make sure you’re actually digging in and doing something that works. Taking shortcuts might provide a momentary boost, but it’s going to collapse in the long run.

Here are five practical, yet effective tips that you can use to get your startup moving in the right direction.

  1. It Starts With Linkable Content.

A lot of startups want to immediately talk about backlinks without first considering their own content development strategies. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to be successful with link building if you don’t have linkable content assets.

Valuable content is linkable content. 

A linkable content asset is a piece of content on your site that other websites and blogs find valuable (for any number of reasons). Research shows that the most commonly linked content includes articles, research, infographics, case studies, videos, and free guides or whitepapers. When asked to explain why they link to external content, marketers and writers most commonly (1) report citing or reference a source, or (2) providing additional information for site visitors.

Original research is best. 

There are any number of ways to develop linkable content, but the best is to publish content that’s based on original research and data.

“Original data earns links because it provides unique information that cannot be attained anywhere else,” content marketing specialist Andrew Dennis writes. “This means any time a website wants to cite information from your study, they have literally only one source to link to: you.”

If you can’t provide your own data or research, you may be able to secure an interview with a well-known figure in your field. Other websites will want to use these quotes and will have to link back to you.

Start to add additional visual content now.

In today’s day and age, visual content is often more linkable than text-only content – especially if you’re trying to reach mobile and/or social users.


“Video provides another medium for your audience to access your content and helps you reach segments of your audience who would rather watch than read,” Dennis explains. “As mobile devices become more ingrained in our lives and mobile usage continues to grow, video content will be important, as people may not want to read long, text-heavy blog posts.”

Whatever the case may be, you need to be developing shareable/linkable content before you can even think about investing time and energy into attracting backlinks.

  1. Create a List of Potential Sources.

Once you have some linkable content that you believe gives you a good chance of garnering backlinks, it’s time to start strategizing. While the eventual hope is that you’ll attract organic backlinks, you may need to start by reaching out to some bloggers, websites, and journalists that you believe can help you get off the ground.

Potential sources.

As you develop a list of potential sources, remember to weigh the relevancy and quality of these sources above all else.

“It is important to know that not all links are created equal. Google’s algorithm looks closely at the trustworthiness of the linking website,” Higher Visibility explains. “For example, a link for the New York Times, which has millions of links and tens of thousands of reputable and unique websites linking to it, will carry much more weight than a link from your friend’s free WordPress site he built a couple of weeks ago.”

You also want to think about potential backlink sources that are looking for content. If you find websites that require content in order to continue providing value to users, you have more leverage than if you’re targeting a website that only uses content as a supplementary resource. In this sense, small, yet authoritative websites in your niche may prove to be better than large websites outside of your industry.

  1. Reach Out to the Right People.

You’re armed with content and have a list of potential sources that could give you backlinks. The next step is to reach out and try to earn backlinks. There are two key elements to this process:

  • Who?
    For starters, you need to reach out to the right person. Sending an email straight to the CEO of a large company isn’t going to get you anywhere. It’ll almost certainly end up in the trash before you even get a chance to state your case. You need to find the person in charge of writing and publishing content. This is the key decision maker.
  • How?
    You also need to know how to contact the right person. In order to stand a chance of getting a backlink, you must be willing to offer something in return. One suggestion is to offer to author a guest blog post with your link in it. This gives them free content and you SEO juice.

Practice makes perfect. Don’t get discouraged if you get turned down the first few times. Refine your approach as you learn what works and you’ll eventually get some people to bite.

  1. Listen Up.

Eventually you’ll see results. Not only will some websites and blogs respond to your contact by including valuable links in their content, but you’ll also start to notice organic backlinks crop up. And in order to stay on top of your link building efforts, you need a method for listening.

There are a number of free and paid tools you can use to automate the brand listening process. Google Alerts is the most commonly used, but Mention is also worth trying out.

  1. Don’t Neglect Your Brand.

Finally, make sure you aren’t neglecting your brand. It’s easy to get so caught up in link building that you forget your primary focus should be on building valuable products and services that satisfy the needs and desires of your target audience.

Link building helps grow your brand, but you can’t grow a brand that doesn’t exist in the first place. Create a compelling business and the rest will naturally fall into place.

Learn From the Best

The more you can study what other successful startups are doing, the greater your chances are of being successful. While you never want to copy exactly what someone else is doing, there’s value in picking out the techniques that work and utilizing them in your situation.

Link building takes time, so you might as well get started today. Do your research, try out some of these techniques, and watch your online presence mushroom into something you can be proud of.