Let’s get straight to the point: a link from someone else’s website to your website has an impact on your search engine optimisation (SEO). This is called a backlink, and people go absolutely ruddy wild for them because they are so dang valuable.
A backlink from a Cardiff news website tells Google that you are relevant to people in South Wales.
A backlink from an interior design blogger tells Google that your products are probably interesting to people shopping for homewares
And a backlink from an interview about small business life tells Google that, well, you’re a lovely small business.
The big backlink building misconception is that you have to be a relentless PR fiend to even start taking advantage of this SEO favourite.
I’m here to tell you that’s just not true! Here are 7 simple and free SEO backlink building tips using only your existing contacts and relationships.
1. Your suppliers’ client rosters
A client roster is a visual list of a business’ clients because if there’s one thing service providers love, it’s popping their beloved clients on their own websites so that new visitors can check out all the cool brands and people they have worked with.
It’s kind of a win-win-win situation:
- The original business gets the prestige associated with their client’s brand, plus the SEO benefit of a relevant out-bound link
- Their visitor gets a valuable piece of context and often an example of the kind of work the business can create
- Their rostered client gets the SEO benefit of a relevant backlink and a new source of visitors
I’m also an absolute turd at remembering to add new clients, and I’m guessing some of the professionals you’ve worked with on behalf of your small business might fall into the same trap. They probably wouldn’t call themselves turds though.
I recommend spending 45 minutes visiting the websites of every professional and organisation you have worked with in the last couple of years to check if you’re listed on their client rosters.
Think consultants, strategists, graphic designers, photographers, charities, copywriters, social media managers, PR managers, website designers, bloggers, influencers, coworking spaces, cleaners – and anyone who has helped you with your small business.
I can tell you now that they won’t begrudge a friendly nudge, so drop them a quick email just to say hey (and that you’d love to be included on their website, and here’s a logo file, and here’s the URL to link it back to).
Bonus thing: attach a copy of your logo in a suitable colour for their website as a transparent PNG. Hunting down decent logo files is the bane of any website manager’s existence.
2. Your suppliers’ client testimonials
This is one of my absolute favourite tactics for backlink building using your existing contacts, because it can make nice people really bloomin’ happy.
Think of it like getting on your suppliers’ client rosters, but with an extra cherry on top and the added bonus of you being able feed two birds with one scone.
This time I want you to send each of those professionals you have worked with a nice, succinct testimonial. I’ve even written a short email script you can totally copy & paste:
Hello [insert human name],
I hope you’re having a lovely week. I was just thinking about [the project we worked on together] and how much of a joy it was working with you, and how great [the outcome] was too.
I just realised I’ve not sent you a testimonial, sorry about that! Here’s a few words in case you’d like to add them to your website:
[Maximum 200 character testimonial, keep it short]
[your business name]
[you website address]
There’s no pressure to use it, I just wanted to sing your praises for future clients.
Until our paths will cross again,
Not only will this massively increase your chances of getting that backlink on your collaborator’s website, but it’ll probably make their day. Heck, even their week.
3. Stockists and Meet our Brands website pages
If you run an online shop, you probably stock a lot of lovely brands. Brands that likely have their own websites, and websites that likely have a ‘stockists’ page too. You stock their products, and you should be on their stockists page.
So here’s another backlink building to-do of spending 30 minutes to go through the websites of every brand you stock to ensure you’re on their stockists page.
On the flip side of this coin: if you run a brand that is stocked in lovely shops, check their websites to spot opportunities for Meet-The-Brands style content.
Sometimes this can be in the format of Q&A-style blogs, or even a brand directory – just like the one we designed and built for sustainable sewing shop, Good Fabric.
4. Event line-ups and event descriptions
Here’s one for small businesses that love a pitch at their local Christmas market, or for experts like me whose egos demand to be stroked by speaking at events and panels.
Check the websites and descriptions of the events you are participating in on behalf of your small business, and drop a friendly email to the organiser if there’s a suitable opportunity to link to your website.
5. Recommendations pages
Just like Gretchen Wieners and Fetch, we’re trying to make recommendations pages happen. A recommendations page is a list of resources and suppliers recommended by a business, and they used to be a super popular website design feature.
I don’t know why they fell out of favour, but here’s why I’m trying to bring them back:
- They save me and my team at least 10 emails a month recommending copywriters and photographers to our website design clients
- They’re a great source of relevant outbound links which can have a positive impact on SEO
- I despise website design credits in footers (a conversation for another day), but I also need to compete with our competitors who love them and get a massive SEO boost from their little ads. A recommendations page provides a suitable function for a mention and backlink.
So whilst we might just be the only website design company who builds recommendations pages into all of our projects, we’re not the only company who uses them. Check out your collaborators’ website footers and dropdown menus for similar features.
6. Obscure website and club profiles
Ever heard of The Dots? It’s like LinkedIn but for creative people. At least I think that’s the pitch, I don’t really know too much – but I do know that by completing the profiles for myself and Studio Cotton, we gained two lovely new backlinks.
Now you don’t have to go out and join heaps of services just to create profiles (I mean, that’s ok too), but it is worth checking any profiles you already have.
Websites like community memberships or local directories, ensure your website link in included in the correct field and if you’re feeling fancy, include some links in any text boxes too when you can.
7. Your small business mates’ blogs
In my experience, a lot of small business owners just seem to end up with a bunch of small business owning maties.
And won’t you just look at that, I just gave them all lovely, juicy, SEO-y backlinks that I somehow made relevant. Ok, only ever-so-slightly relevant – but these are the kind of small wins that will still have a considerable positive impact on your SEO.
There are heaps of ways you can collaborate with small business buddies to create opportunities for relevant backlink building.
A detour into black hat SEO
Now, before we go any further, we need to talk about reciprocal links and engagement pods. Reciprocal links are an old-school back hat SEO tactic where two or more websites would link to each other for the sake of linking.
This is bad for SEO, and could get you penalised. I do not want you to exchange links because you want links: I want you to work together to create and support new blog content, and make small tangents where you can create opportunities to name drop, just like I did 4 paragraphs ago.
Engagement pods are another old-school hacky favourite where a group would pinky promise to always visit, share, and comment on each other’s blogs (or Facebook posts, or Instagram Stories) to artificially increase the perceived engagement. These are also bad.
Whilst I don’t want you to create a group that engages for the sake of engaging; I do want you to look at the community around you to again identify ways to bring together skill sets and audiences for a business benefit.
That’s my way of saying I don’t want you to work on a “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” basis, more of a “this back needs scratching, shall we work together to scratch it faster?” kinda thing.
Collaborative content for better blog SEO
Collaborative content can include hosting Q&As on each other’s blogs, or creating a two part blog and hosting half on each website, or doing a shoutout within your community for contributions – which is actually how we created articles like:
- 9 stellar small business podcasts handpicked by small business owners
- 10 ecommerce brands reveal which fruitless festive tactics they’re abandoning for Christmas 2022
- 13 bloggers and influencers tell us what they love (and hate) to see in brand pitches
- 35 small business owners tell us why they’ve fallen out of love with Instagram in 2022
And that’s it.
Sorry I’ve given you a whole heap of admin and websites to root through like one of those well cool trufflin’ piggies, but I promise you it’s much much easier to start with these 7 simple and free SEO backlink building tips using only your existing contacts and relationships, before diving into the world of PR.
Bonus backlink building thing!
Want to know what connection your website has already got?
Head on over to the totally free ahrefs backlink checker which will help you identify and track your backlink building efforts, it’s one of my go-to 7 FREE SEO tools I check when someone tells me their SEO sucks, and the blog post that I reckon you should dive into next.