Obtaining backlinks is an important part of building out your SEO strategy. When you have a fair number of backlinks from reputable sites, it signals to Google that your site is reputable, too. By establishing yourself as a trustworthy presence on the web, you’ll find your pages getting prioritized in Google’s rankings, ahead of your competitors that are relative unknowns in the Googleverse.

But the prospect of having to round up backlinks can be intimidating. How do you get people to link out to your content, anyway? Well, in many ways, it’s a lot like networking. Here, I’ll show you how to apply your existing networking skills to your backlink building efforts.

Start with Your Best Customers

When you send a new LinkedIn request, is it easier to write to your former colleague, or to cold-message a total stranger? The person who already knows and likes you in real life is a lot more likely to respond favorably to your networking request.

The same is true in the world of backlink building. If yours is a local business, turn to some of your most valued customers. Are they members of local communities where you can ask them to spread the word about your business?

Perhaps you own a dry cleaning business, and some of your regular customers are all members at the same church. Consider asking if they’ll include you in the church’s directory, which features local businesses that can help members prepare for special events at the church, like holidays or ceremonies (where they might be wearing their best dress or suit and need a dry cleaner after the fact).

Offer Something in Return

Once you’ve spoken with your customers, take a look at the list of businesses in your community with whom you’ve already established a strategic partnership. If you’re a local contractor, do you have an architect who you typically work with? Maybe you run a coffee shop that sells pastries from the local bakery. Anyone who’s an existing partner or supplier is a potential backlink-sharer!

Whatever the case may be, ask this business if they’re willing to link to your site from their site. And then offer to do the same for them. It’s a win-win, and another smart way to gain mutual benefit from your existing relationship.

Sponsor Local Events

Local events are a great way to get your name out there in the community. It shows that you’re invested in the town or city where you’ve decided to open up shop, and having your name attached to a good cause never hurt any small business!

When you sponsor a local event or donate to the cause, that’s a great opportunity to ask the event host to link back to your website. If you’re one of the event hosts, ask if they’ll include you logo on their homepage and link to your site from there. If you donated an item to their silent auction or provided a food booth free of charge, it’s fair to ask for a shout-out on the event webpage.

Take Advantage of Existing Networks

Beyond your personal relationships with people in the community, it’s likely that you’re already a part of certain local networks. Maybe you’re an alumni of the nearby college or private high school. Perhaps you joined the local Chamber of Commerce when you started your business.

Most of these existing networks are already doing outreach within their spheres. Your alma mater likely has a newsletter featuring class notes that highlight their graduates’ accomplishments. Your local Chamber of Commerce probably has a directory of businesses who are members or are part of the local community. Make sure that your business is listed in the resources that are maintained by these existing networks!

Get Mentioned in the Media

Local press releases are another great way to build up backlinks. Start by establishing a relationship with the people at your local publications. When you have a newsworthy event—say, you want to announce the grand opening of a new location or you just hosted your first-ever Halloween festival for local children—reach out to the person who handles business news or events at the local paper.

Take the time to research and find out their name, rather than sending a “To whom it may concern” email. If you didn’t know them before, that personalized touch can go a long way to getting your message noticed. Attach your press release, and rather than focusing on what getting published could do for you, provide a brief explanation of why the story would be of interest to the community. Finally, be sure to include links to your website within the press release, so that you can obtain backlinks when they post it on their online publication.

Building up backlinks is an essential part of a strong SEO strategy. And while it can seem intimidating at first, if you think of it as an extension of your existing networking efforts, it suddenly becomes less scary! Tapping into the relationships you already have within your community can help you quickly build up the backlinks you need to gain credibility with Google and other search engines.

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The Self-Reliant Entrepreneur

by John Jantsch

“A book that deserves a spot in every entrepreneur’s morning routine.”
—Ryan Holiday, #1 Bestselling Author of The Daily Stoic and The Obstacle is the Way

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