I believe that every startup should have a marketing plan that includes link building. 

If you already know why link building is important and want to skip to the meat, click here to skip to the section Where and how to build links for your startup.

In the title of this article I wrote it as SEO link building where SEO stands for search engine optimization. What do links have to do with search engine rankings?

Links are simply an important part of ranking a website within Google. If you don’t believe me you can read more about that here or on any major SEO authority website.

Why do I care about links?

10 years ago I ran my own SEO consulting business so I’ve always known the value of links. I’m the CEO and co-founder of a SaaS startup called StatsDrone and despite having a product live, we weren’t getting the sales I was hoping for. The drive to build links to the site has single-handedly picked up our sales and also lead to some new investor connections. 

Most investors that I talked to previously more or less didn’t want to do a followup until I had some sales numbers to present. Now that I finally have some growth and promising stats to present, those talks and interest have changed significantly.

I can tell you now that in the future when I do start to invest in other companies, link building will be a key focus of mine whether that startup has a plan or needs help with it. 

Reasons to build links to your website

Ranking in Google could be very beneficial but it definitely isn’t the only reason you should do this. All the reasons to build links:

  1. Rank in Google
  2. Build brand awareness
  3. Traffic generation
  4. Catch the eye of investors

If you agree that links are very influential in ranking in a search engine like Google then we can accept it and move on. 

Build brand awareness

The more websites are talking about your brand, the more exposure you are getting whether you have created this naturally or have helped this process. 

Traffic generation

Every link is a lead potential. If you build enough links and make them dynamic in target, they will generate traffic to your site. You’ll see this show up in your Google Analytics. 

Catch the eye of investors

If you can generate a lot of links like 1 per day, it might happen where you’ll eventually get spotted by an investor. If anything some investors will want to see you are being talked about regardless if that discussion is happening organically or not.

Mistakes to avoid when doing link building

  1. Don’t hire cheap link builders
  2. Avoid spamming
  3. Avoid most link directories

Nofollow vs dofollow

Some sites when linking out will put this line of code in the link that that says rel=”nofollow”. What this means is it tells Google to NOT recognize the link as a signal for ranking. The fact that Google does this tells you that links are actually a ranking factor in the first place. 

Just because a site might link out using rel=”nofollow” doesn’t mean you should ignore it. Some links are a source of traffic and if you only have dofollow links then it just looks unnatural.

Now I’m going to give you the blueprint for the types of links you should be building and give a quick checklist of places where you can get started.

Mastering outreach

Before I go into the types of link building you can do and give you actionable plans, I want to talk about outreach. Outreach actually deserves it’s own article and is possibly a critical element that is hugely overlooked. 

Outreach is a critical skill in link building but it is equally important when it comes to trying to get the attention of investors. Especially if you want them to open and read your messages and emails. 

What’s my point in the picture above?

Using the contact form is the lazy way of outreach. Not only is it lazy but your messages could get stuck in spam or lost in a busy inbox. By taking the time to find a contact at the company whether the founder or someone in charge of content, you’ll have a far better engagement. 

Video engagement

Sending video intros is something that most people don’t do. The reality is most people are shy in front of a camera so this is an excellent way to stand out. More people are seeing higher success rates with video and I’ve been using this to my advantage as well. 

Here’s a summary of my outreach tips

  • Keep your emails very very short
  • Avoid sending links, images and files in your first email
  • Don’t send any more than 50 emails in a day
  • Take extra time to find a contact

If you follow these tips, you’ll be in the top 5 percent of people that do outreach right. Outreach is an invaluable skillset that is often overlooked. Take the time to learn it and join some marketing groups that specialize in outreach. To be successful then you’ll have to stand out. 

Where and how to build links for your startup

Now that you know why you should build links, I’m going to share my tips on where you can find some links and how to seek them out.

  1. Startup directories
  2. Leverage your network
  3. Using Ahrefs to spy on competitor’s links
  4. Content creation

Startup directories for link building

If you are looking for investors, you should at least try to get on as many of these directories as possible. Most of these directory links will be nofollow but that is ok. 

If you Google search “startup link directories” or “startup directory” you’ll find some listings and quite a few articles that write on that very topic. 

Here is a very quick list of some important ones you’ll want to be featured on.

  • Crunchbase
  • Pitchbook
  • Angel.co
  • Owler
  • Feedough
  • TheStartupPitch
  • BetaList
  • F6s.com

Actually I found a ton more and you could probably spend an entire day doing this. I now have a headache.

Leverage your network

Asking my network for help completely opened the doors for me in every way. I asked my network for as much help as I could get. I asked them if they knew of investors, I asked if they knew of any good leads for business development and I asked if there was an opportunity to get a link from them. 

I get the feeling that many startups that don’t get off the ground don’t do any of that. It was a fundamental change in my thinking where I had to be vulnerable and ask for help. Most people were thrilled to chat and surprisingly it was only a few individuals that I would say were shark-like. That is they wanted a large chunk of equity and in some cases asking for that without even hearing what my pitch was. 

My email, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and InstaGram have been busy non stop for the past 30 days.

Using Ahrefs to spy on competitor’s links

Ahrefs.com is an invaluable tool for analyzing the SEO health of your website but as well as your competitors. If you have a lot of competition then you can search the backlinks they have and can even monitor their new links. 

I use Ahrefs to look at the complete backlink profile of any competitor which gives me insights on where I might be able to get a link. In these link reports what you’ll realize is that you’ll either need to do some networking to make these links happen or … work on your outreach game. 

In the Backlink profile section I can see every link in detail. I can even spot broken links too. If you have a competitor that has gone out of business, that is another opportunity to contact blogs that have linked out to that competitor. The possibilities of building links here are endless. 

Content creation

If you want good traffic, you’ll want good content. It might sound simple but this is rarely executed with most startups. Just take a look at the blog content on this site, it is well written and thoroughly researched and fits the target audience. 

Just have a look at this article I wrote, it took me a lot of time to put it together. If I only put together a 500 word article with half the effort of quality, it would probably get rejected. 

Closing tips

Whatever the topic is of your startup, find where that discussion is happening and be proactive not reactive. Don’t wait for sites to blog about you or people to talk about your startup in a forum or a Facebook group, start that conversation.