Link Building for Startups: A Diversified Approach to Promote Your Business and Grow Traffic

5 strategies that can take your Startup link building to the next level
Published on 
May 26, 2024
Updated on 
May 26, 2024

A lot of startups first use inbound marketing to drive growth. 

You create content that you believe will attract readers and then try to turn them into customers. 

There are a variety of ways to do this, but one of the most cost-effective and, therefore, most common, is to use search engines to drive organic traffic. 

Keyword-optimized content that will hopefully appear near the top of the search engine results page when someone searches the terms you are targeting is what will bring people to your website. 

Ideally, you want to be as close to that first result as possible, given that more than 25 percent of searchers click on the top result

There are a lot of Google ranking factors you should pay attention to, but the two most important are: 

  • High quality content
  • A solid backlink profile

We’re a link building agency, so building those needle-moving backlinks is what we do and that is what we are going to spend the most time on in the following article. 

What separates a good link from a bad link?

What separates a good link from a bad link is hard to say a lot of the time because so much of what makes a link useful to your organic search traffic depends on how you acquired it and the niche you are in. 

Generally speaking, however, there are three constants in any good link. A good backlink is: 

  • Authoritative. It comes from an established, trusted website that people know and respect. That is what link builders mean when they refer to high authority backlinks
  • Relevant. The referring domain is a website in your niche or industry–not something unrelated. 
  • Editorial. It was freely given by a website (usually included within the body of content like blog articles). This is, generally speaking, the most valuable type of link. 

A fourth, but more difficult-to-quantify aspect of a good link is whether it is a dofollow or nofollow link. 

Dofollow links are almost always better than nofollow links because they essentially tell Google that a target domain is worth passing link juice on to. 

Link building for startups: 5 strategies any new company can use to great effect

Link building is labour-intensive which ultimately means it's either going to cost you time (and opportunity cost) or money, usually both. 

That said, there are some tried and true link building methods that startups can put into practice that don’t require a big link building budget. 

Strategy 1: HARO (Help a Reporter Out)

The first and perhaps one of the most high-ROI link building tactics for new companies is the digital PR service HARO. 

HARO, in a nutshell, is a digital meeting area for journalists and sources. 

Writers (bloggers and journalists, for the most part) post queries and questions they need answered for articles and content they are working on and people with relevant expertise offer up their two cents. 

If the journalist or writer likes what you have to say, they might end up using it in their article and including a link back to your website in your attribution. 

Building links using HARO is free (there is a paid option, but it’s usually not necessary for most businesses).

All you have to do is fill out the short signup form

Confirm the signup with a verification email, and you are now set up to receive HARO’s three daily emails full of potential link building opportunities. 

HARO sends its emails out at 5:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., and 5:30 p.m. (EST), Monday through Friday (excluding major U.S. holidays).

The pros of using HARO

HARO is, without a doubt, one of if not the best places online for high DR links from some of the internet’s biggest websites. 

Companies like Forbes, Business Insider, the Wallstreet Journal, TechCruch, Wired, blogs on massive websites like Hubspot, etc., all regularly post queries on HARO. 

Have a look at some of our biggest link building wins for clients over the last few years. Not all of these were gotten through HARO, but a lot of them were. 

HARO is also low effort and free. It puts new businesses in contact with massive sites and publications–ones you would otherwise need a digital DR budget and strategy to ever hope to make contact with. 

The cons of building links with HARO

Link building startups often find HARO frustrating because of how unpredictable it can be. 

You can spend time sifting through the email for opportunities and then crafting a great response only to never have your email opened, let alone read. 

The writers and journalists using HARO are often looking for something specific and, perhaps more importantly, their inboxes are flooded with replies from other people looking to do the exact thing you are doing. 

What’s more, sometimes your input is used, and you are not credited in the way you would like. 

Perhaps a website has an editorial policy of only giving out nofollow links, or no links at all (just a mention). 

While these are by no means useless when it comes to their SEO value, a dofollow backlink is what most people are after when using HARO. 

How to be successful with HARO

A successful HARO link building strategy depends on a few things. 

The first is you need to be quick to respond.

As we touched on above, HARO is immensely popular, and some of the queries receive hundreds of responses. 

Most people don’t have the time to read through all of them (or even half of them), they look at the first few responses in their inbox, find what they need, and ignore the rest. That’s the reality of it, unfortunately. 

To make HARO work, you need to be available when the emails come so that you can craft your replies and send them out as fast as possible. 

The second is you need to know how to write concisely. The writers using HARO don’t have time to read a 500-word response from 20 different people. 

They want information that is easy to digest and sort. Responses under 200 words tend to perform best. 

The third is you have to be specific. If a response asks for a specific answer to a specific question, that is what you should provide. Going off-topic and meandering will get you nexted. 

The fourth is that you need to be good at quickly isolating only relevant queries. It can be tempting to try and pitch all the websites using a service like HARO, especially the big ones, to land those big links, but you stand a much better chance of getting backlinks if you stay in your lane. 

If you spend a bunch of time crafting a response to a question that has nothing or very little to do with your business or area of expertise, the person you’re reaching out to probably won’t even read past the first line of your email and, if they do, you’re not likely to be used anyway. 

Strategy 2: Digital PR

Digital PR refers to reaching out to journalists, writers and thought leaders in your industry with new content and stories. 

This is a great link building tactic for startups that have a new product to share or some important announcement for the market. 

It can be hard to get the attention of these writers and journalists at the beginning, because you are essentially cold calling them with ideas and asking them to take an interest. 

However, if you can get one outlet to cover your story, there is often a snowball effect, with other outlets jumping on the bandwagon the more press a story gets. This can result in a lot of links. 

The reason this link building strategy can work wonders for startups is two-fold: 

  1. Journalists and writers are always on the lookout for a new story
  2. If a story does well with an audience at one publication, writers and journalists who contribute to similar publications will probably have success with it as well

And you don’t need something groundbreaking or revolutionary for a journalist to pick up your story. 

Something simple can and often does result in a great digital PR campaign with a lot of high quality links. 

The catch is knowing who to reach out to 

When you build links using digital PR outreach, your success depends on contacting the right people. 

There are plenty of press release services out there, but these tend not to work that well since a lot of journalists know that a lot of press releases are strictly promotional. Generally speaking, they aren’t going to foist promotional content on their audience. 

It’s harder work, but you often have more success sending your content right to the journalists and writers in space. 

You can either build a list of writers and journalists in your niche and then reach out to them yourself, or you can use a third-party service that has already built the relationships to send your story out. 

The pros of digital PR

The biggest pro of this method is that it is one of the best ways to land a high volume of valuable links on authoritative websites in a short amount of time. 

The cons of digital PR

The biggest downside is that the ROI is unpredictable and can end up being quite poor. 

You are taking a chance while creating content that someone is going to like it enough to pick it up and share it with their audience. 

Strategy 3: Unlinked mentions

This link building strategy involves reaching out to websites and writers who have mentioned your company or brand name in their content, but not provided a backlink. 

It can be a great way to turn branded mentions into dofollow links. 

The best way to do this is to set up Google Alerts that send you an email every time your company name is used online. 

Every time someone mentions you on their social media profile or in a blog post, it’s a chance to reach out and ask to have that simple mention turned into a powerful backlink. 

Some websites might not be amenable, other websites may simply not be aware that they forgot to provide a link. 

Keeping track of your unlinked mentions can be a great way to turn low SEO-value mentions into high SEO-value external links. 

Pros of unlinked mentions

By far, the best part about unlinked mentions is that it is one of the easiest ways to build dofollow links. 

All it can take is a friendly, two-minute email to have sites linking back to you. 

Cons of unlinked mentions

You need some buzz before you are even able to pursue this link building strategy. 

If no one is discussing you yet, then you won’t have the branded mentions to convert in the first place. 

The importance of monitoring social media and search engines for mentions

Beyond simply building more dofollow links, monitoring places like Google (and other search engines) for mentions of your brand is a good practice to get into. 

It will show you who is talking about your startup and can give you valuable insight into how people are reacting to your products and services. 

Strategy 4: Guest posting

Guest posting is one of the most commonly used link building strategies for both startups and more established companies and websites. 

This is where you have original articles published on other websites that will link back to your site. 

It is one of the most commonly used high-ROI strategies for new companies for a few reasons: 

  • Startup businesses tend to have expertise that is useful to other blogs and websites
  • A guest post is a good way to get your brand and content in front of relevant audiences
  • A guest post is a great way to generate links that are highly relevant

How to write a good guest post

There are a few things that go into effective guest blogging: 

  • You need to make sure you are reaching out to the right person
  • Personalize your outreach, so you stand out
  • Provide various guest blog article ideas for consideration
  • Provide examples of your previous work

It also never hurts if you are able to offer a website publicity (in the form of a share) when you reach out for a guest posting opportunity. 

Finding guest post opportunities 

There are basically two ways to approach guest blogging: you can search out websites you know will accept a guest contribution. Or, you can try and build relationships with sites and businesses you want to work with and then propose the idea to them. 

The first way involves using specific search strings to find websites that explicitly state their willingness to publish guest posts. 

Here are some of the most fruitful search strings when looking for guest post opportunities: 

Simply add “your niche” in quotation marks before each of the above search operators, and Google will show you a list of websites that have specific pages that break down a site’s guest posting guidelines. 

Let’s say you were an accountant running a personal finance blog. You might try searching something like the following: 

You know that both of the above two websites are going to be open to receiving your guest post ideas before you even reach out to them. 

It simplifies the transaction and lowers the odds that your email with the subject line “guest post” is going to be ignored or trashed by default. 

The second way to find guest post opportunities is to compile a list of sites you would like to work with and then either start cultivating a relationship or try your luck with some cold outreach. 

Obviously, this method is harder to pull off than reaching out to sites you already know are receptive to the outreach. 

The pros of guest posts 

Guest posts are one of the favoured link building tactics for both new and established businesses because website owners are always looking to add new, relevant content to their blogs. 

If you have real expertise to contribute to a blog post, a lot of site owners are more than happy to share it with their readers. 

The cons of guest posting

Guest post link building can be very time-consuming. 

Not only do you have to go to the effort of prospecting for guest posting opportunities, but, if a website agrees to publish your content, you are then tasked with content creation. 

The link building process behind a guest post is very involved, which is why a lot of businesses with the budget for it choose to outsource link building to professionals with proven processes in place for all of these things. 

Strategy 5: Creating linkable assets

Another of the potentially very high-ROI link building strategies for startups is to create what are known in the SEO world as “linkable assets.”

In a nutshell, a linkable asset is something that is of such high value that other websites in your niche will want to link to it because of how useful their readers will find it. 

A single linkable asset can help you build links to dozens of websites, skyrocketing both your website’s authority and brand recognition. 

What very often happens with a linkable asset is that one website picks it up and it makes such a splash that other sites jump on the bandwagon and, before you know it, you’re being linked to and syndicated from everywhere.

Some of the most common and effective linkable asset types include: 

  • Statistics pages. Data-rich posts on topics related to your industry.
  • Reports and surveys. Original reporting and surveys provide quantifiable ways to make points and arguments, which are always helpful. 
  • In-depth posts (more in-depth than what’s currently out there)

Linkable assets–the rub

The issue with creating linkable assets is that you are essentially pouring a bunch of time (and potentially money) into something that you are HOPING will garner enough attention (and links) to pay itself off.

You’re making an educated guess as to what the market will respond to. 

Of course, it helps if you have a network of writers, influencers and bloggers you have cultivated over time that you can reach out to with your asset, it makes it easier. 

At the end of the day, however, a linkable asset is a gamble. 

Link building for startups requires a varied approach

At the end of the day, you don’t ever want to focus all of your energy on any one strategy. 

Different types of link building are better for different types of links. 

HARO, for instance, is almost exclusively for building powerful links to your home page, as is capitalizing on unlinked mentions. 

Guest posting, linkable assets and digital PR are much better suited to inner pages on your site (i.e., your blog posts and maybe some purely commercial pages). 

You need to engage in all of these tactics if you want to build a healthy backlink profile and see your rankings and organic traffic increase significantly. 

Of course, all of this requires a lot of work. Startups typically don’t have the time or the inclination to devote so much energy to something that is ultimately not their core business. 

If you have the budget and are interested in working with an experienced link building agency, get in touch with dofollow and find out more about our contract-free, completely transparent, performance-based service. 

Why Trust Us On SEO

Eric Carrell & Sebastian Schaffer have been working in SEO for over a decade, building their own projects - understanding and testing SEO strategy, along with building hundreds of white hat links per month for our projects. They take their learnings and experience and apply them to the strategy that drives our link building strategy for our clients.

Eric & Seb have always believed in quality over quantity, doing things the right way so we future proof our client’s websites against future Google updates and the evolving industry of search.

While Seb handles the company strategy around culture, processes and structure, Eric is constantly working to improve our service offering, customer experience, and following the industry in parallel with Google’s Quality Guidelines so that we are always one step ahead of our competition and aligned with what Google wants to see for your site to rank higher.

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