Small businesses are constantly looking for valuable marketing and advertising opportunities, but are often limited by tight budgets or minimal knowledge on the subject. While there are hundreds of common marketing tactics to choose from, some are demonstratively more effective than others, with a higher return on investment, a wider range of effects, and a lower barrier to entry.
Among these strategies is link building, the practice of writing valuable content for offsite publishers and earning links pointing back to the pages of your site. It sounds simple, and it’s true that you can learn the fundamentals of link building in the span of an afternoon, but it takes years to truly master.
So why is link building so effective?
The Perks of Link Building
Earning and placing links on external sites comes with a host of benefits for small businesses:
First, link building is remarkably cost-effective, which makes it perfect for startups and small enterprises. You can build a link with a single well-written article placed on a high-profile publisher; if you do it yourself, you might find success after just a few hours. If you work with an agency, which can get you access to much more valuable publications, it might cost you a few hundred dollars—but return a much higher value to you over time.
Every link you earn will increase your brand visibility, and expose you to new audiences—especially if you’re working with publications that prioritize your target demographics as a readership. Just seeing your name referenced in the publication can be enough to get you a reputation boost.
Links exist to be clicked and followed. Each person who clicks on your link will end up on your site, which can be a valuable opportunity to show them more about your brand or convert them to become a new customer. In the case of high-profile publishers with ample readership, you could potentially get hundreds to thousands of visitors per month from a single link.
Your domain authority is an invisible score that Google uses to evaluate the trustworthiness of your site. It draws in many complex factors, but can be simplified as follows: the more links you have pointing to your site, and the more credible those links are, the higher your authority will be. The higher your authority, the higher you’ll rank in search engines. With enough time and attention to your link building strategy, you’ll be able to rank higher for keyword queries related to your brand, and earn more organic traffic from searchers.
It’s possible that a publisher will eventually remove your link, but it’s more likely that your link will exist semi-permanently. The longer your link stays up, the more value it’s going to be to you. This means every link investment you make will continue paying dividends indefinitely. For example, you could place a link that earns you 100 new visitors a month, every month, for as long as that link remains intact.
Every dimension of your link building strategy can be improved upon and scaled. For example, you can seek publications with higher authority so your domain authority keeps climbing higher. You could seek publishers with high traffic volumes to earn more traffic. And as your backlink profile continues to grow and evolve, you’ll continue reaping the dividends of your previous investments. If you continue investing long enough, link building will likely outperform every other marketing strategy you try.
Are there any real downsides or consequences of link building?
You always have to take the good with the bad when engaging in any link building strategy, regardless of how above-board it may be regarded in the Internet marketing and SEO industry:
Quality and link penalties
Google is exceptionally wary of link schemes—deliberate attempts to “fool” its search engine algorithms with link spam or other low-value links. This isn’t what link building is all about; with the right agency, you’ll be placing high-quality links that add value to publications. However, if you try to use a cheap tactic, or try to be sneaky, you might be hit with a ranking penalty.
Management and coordination
Keeping track of all your offsite content, your entire backlink profile, and your high-level campaign goals (including your ROI) is a lot of work. Not all small businesses are prepared for this.
Link building performs best as a long-term strategy. It takes months before you start seeing the real fruits of your labor, which not all businesses have the patience for.
As you can see, these downsides are minimal and (largely) avoidable, especially if you can complement your link building with other strategies that offer different strengths. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see results right away; this is a long-term strategy, so as long as you continue investing and making improvements, you’ll eventually see the perks you’re looking for.
It should be obvious that the benefits outweigh the potential consequences of link building for your small business website. Link building is an essential practice that will ensure the long term survival of your businesses online presence, whereas other strategies like paid ads and banner placements will only bring short term results.