3 Link Building Tactics That Can Work on Low Budgets
Once Upon a Time, there was a magical world called StaceyLand. And in StaceyLand, all SEO campaigns that Stacey and her team were asked to run had 3 things in common:
- They all had a bottomless pit of money to spend on whatever digital assets for link acquisition that we wanted. Literally a bottomless pit. There was more money for creative content than you could ever possibly hope to spend
- They all had an equally bottomless pit of patience. Nobody wanted quick results. In fact results were just, well, optional. Everyone could just chill, do some fun creative stuff and if links were built and visibility rose and traffic came and sales happened, then great. If not, well… meh. Maybe tomorrow
- If your content was awesome, everyone would just automatically link to it. They would just magically know it was there. And Google would know too and Google would send you chocolates and reward you with all of the traffic.
Image generated using Strip Generator.
Meanwhile, back in the real world…
Ok, now I am going to stop referring to myself in the 3rd person cos it’s admittedly a bit weird.
Wouldn’t it be awesome if every single campaign we all worked on had limitless budget and time? Wouldn’t it be great if people who were running SEO campaigns could just come up with top notch content ideas, make them happen and then make the links, the visibility, the traffic and sales happen. As if by magic?
But it’s never going to be the case.
We’re lucky at Tecmark. We have a lot of clients with reasonable expectations and good budgets and we have the capabilities there to come up with great content led link acquisition campaigns where we get the opportunity to prove to clients that a more creative approach will yield measurable results over time.
That’s a lot of fun. And the content marketing elements of the work we do are often the most enjoyable parts of the job. But what when a client simply doesn’t have the budget to spend on big content projects? What when there simply isn’t the time or resource?
We still need links. As an industry, we still accept the link is far from dead.
Low Budget Link Building Techniques
For people running their own SEO on a limited budget or working on budget constrained campaigns, the ability to acquire links without bells-and-whistles-all-singing-all-dancing-bazillion-pound content projects is essential.
There are 3 tactics in particular that I feel can be modified to suit smaller budgets and can generate inbound links from decent websites in a clean manner. And here they are:
1. Image Link Building
I’ve talked about this before fairly extensively. Image link building is basically about taking/collating images and distributing them under a Creative Commons license and putting an attribution request in that users taking and using those images credit you as the owner – that credit taking the form of a link.
There are, essentially, 4 steps to this process:
- Deciding upon the types of images to release. This should be based on images in demand by your target image users, on relevance to your content and site on the feasibility of acquiring the images.
- Uploading the images to Flickr under Creative Commons Licensing and then optimising said images for the relevant keywords (titles, description etc). It’s a good opportunity here to also request a specific attribution in the event that someone uses the image on their site. Just a simple line, something to the effect of “This image is released for free usage under Creative Commons licensing. I’d appreciate it if you could attribute to www.mysite.co.uk.
- Tracking usage of your images either manually using Google Reverse Image search or using 3rd party tools such as Image Raider that will do it in the background for you!
- Contacting people who don’t attribute correctly to seek the appropriate attribution
It can be a lengthy process to get set up, particularly as you often need a reasonable sized bank of images to get going. But done with a reasonable strategy in mind, it can prove effective. Examples of links I’ve acquired using this technique include this one on the Government website (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/lord-deighton-meets-manchester-leaders-to-discuss-infrastructure-strategy):
This is a technique I’ve seen work effectively in a host of niches, including in some traditionally more difficult-to-work ones like gaming. It just needs thought.
In terms of the budget requirements, it can be tailored to fit multiple budget levels. Start out small. Local businesses and traders can take pictures of landmarks in the areas they service, for example. You don’t need to go right in there with professional photography and thousands of images. Start with smartphone photos and build over time.
2. Small Scale Surveys
I’ve had the pleasure of being involved in some awesome campaigns at Tecmark that centre around surveys. A recent project we carried out involved surveying 2,000 smartphone users about the number of tasks they carry out on their phone each day. This ended up being covered in the Mail, referenced in an article on the BBC website, covered on ITV, covered in the Dutch Telegraaf and being linked to from scores and scores of other websites. The nature of the content is such that it’s still being picked up and referenced as a source now – some 3 months after publication.
BUT…. that was a project that had a budget outside of the budgets some small businesses have available. There’s a 4 figure bill for acquiring the data and a lot of resource required to conceptualise, write up, research, produce related content assets and carry out outreach.
Surveys can work on a smaller budget and scale though. In September 2013, I used Google Consumer Surveys to ask 1,000 Americans to name a British City other than London.
Paris and Wales were in the top 10 responses.
It was a lighthearted, tongue in cheek survey just for a bit of fun. But the results meant a lot of people agreed it was fun. This blog, that was typically getting around 10,000 visits a month took more than double that over a 24 hour period and more than double again over the following 24 hours.
It was covered on Wales Online, Buzzfeed, Bristol Culture, the Nottingham Post and a host of other places.
That survey cost less than £20 to carry out and just a couple of hours of my time.
I went through the approach I took with this in a talk I gave at BrightonSEO in late September 2013. You’ll find that from slide 18 onwards in the deck below:
- If the responses are not interesting, then your survey isn’t going to make the news
- Your questions should always be written with your end headlines in mind
- Have a backup plan. If your answers don’t go the way you want them to, make sure you can still spin something (not always possible!).
You can acquire cost effective data from Toluna Quick Surveys and Google Consumer Surveys quickly.
3. Making the News (and Doing Something Good) Through Freedom of Information
Making the news means you tend to naturally acquire links. Celebrities can make the news just by stepping out of their front doors without makeup. But for the typical individual or business, it’s not that simple. Honestly, try it. I actually walked right the way to the Sainsbury’s at the end of my street without makeup this weekend and nobody gave a crap.
I’m not newsworthy. Nobody on the planet could care less at all whether I wear makeup to the supermarket or not. And most businesses frankly just are not newsworthy either. I really can’t stand reading press releases from businesses who are just trying to spin something someone said or did into news. Someone unveiled a new frikkin printer, or donated something to charity or sneezed in a Westerly direction on a Thursday morning. Some press releases really should never be written.
But where everyone has an opportunity to make the news is in their content. I’ve already mentioned surveys. They’re phenomenal for making the news because going off and acquiring brand new information means that information is, by definition, news.
Remember that news story that was doing the rounds a while back about MPs accessing adult websites? Well that came from a Huffington Post Freedom of Information Request. And this can be applied to your own content/PR/SEO efforts. By using the Freedom of Information Act to unearth important data, not only do you create compelling stories and research pieces, but you can feel pretty good about it too (as long as you’re not asking stupid questions and just wasting people’s time).
We’ve carried out FOI requests to the DVLA about banned drivers by region, for example, and created content around Britain’s most dangerous drivers.
There’s more about the Freedom of Information Act here. Before you make a request, ensure that the data you’re asking for isn’t already out there in the public domain – you don’t want to be a time waster. And it’s also worth taking a look at Data.gov.uk, which has a ludicrous amount of data available to people.
Again, the data alone is unlikely to win you links. You’ve got to turn it into a compelling story or piece of content that gives something to people or elicits an emotional response.
There’s a pretty awesome tool that guides the process of making Freedom of Information requests for you. That’s called What do They Know and is well worth checking out.