In my first time ever conducting an expert roundup, I asked 20 proven SEO experts what their favourite ways, that don’t require existing content or content creation, for building links are. In this roundup, you’ll find some of the very best information on the whole web on the topic, along with personally tested, result-oriented, practical tips.
So, without further ado, here are the inputs the experts have provided me on the topic: “Best link building strategies that don’t require content”.
Expert inputs are sorted on the basis of [sooner to later] response.
There are a number of ways to get good links without content. Probably the easiest is donations. Just look for charities (preferably those that are related to your niche) that have pages on their site with a list of donors. Then make a donation for a nice link from a reputable charity.
Aside from charities, you can also look for arts organizations like theaters and galleries, which are always looking for donors and tend to have high domain authorities. Student clubs at high schools & colleges are another good source of high quality, .edu links.
In each case, make sure that you’re not explicitly asking for links, which would be considered as buying links. Just make the donation with no strings attached, with an eye for sites that are already linking to other donors. Like any other link building tactics, you don’t want to overdo this one, but it’s an easy way to get some high authority links for a modest budget.
James NorquayProsperity Media
- Broken link building on scale using niche specific expired domains: This strategy works very well for locating broken links on scale for any given niche (no content required)
- Competitive research in your niche: Just look at any target page a competitor has a link from using tools like Ahrefs and reverse engineer the process they have used to acquire the link.
- Giving out gifts (this is not really digital content, as it is physical gifts) works very well from USB’s to cup cakes, we have tested it all.
- Finally do something for free like a SEO audit for a blogger and then they may link to your site or find a website which has been hacked and contact the webmaster with the correct fix — example of one we did earlier. You may just get a thank you for your work or you may receive a link or social post. It is worth a shot on scale.
Overall these are 4 ideas using no content. Time is the biggest cost.
Instead of writing blog posts for link building, why not generate infographics? Even if you don’t have a blog, you can create an infographic and get it published on other blogs through outreach.
This tactic is so effective, that we continually use it at KISSmetrics.com. 47 infographics helped us generate 2,512,596 visitors and 41,142 backlinks. These visual images actually generated more backlinks than our blog posts.
Patrick CoombeElite Strategies
One of my favorite borrowed expressions is from Wil Reyonlds and I’ll just mention the hashtag #RCS or ”real company sh**”
This expression really relates to SEO and linkbuilding and I think it is a great way to integrate it into your question, Rohit.
I mentioned this briefly in the interview I did with you here on Ahrefs but I’ll elaborate a little bit more. We recently did a company wide volunteer clean-up in our neighborhood.
Now, we generally do want to keep our office neighborhood clean and care about the city we live in, but there are also some positive side effects from doing something like this:
- potential press from local newspapers (and links)
- social media interactions — everyone involved in the cleanup shared the photo / event on their own
- potential mention from our County’s waste management newsletter or blog
- smaller bloggers and news sites might mention to our own blog post about it
Now, these examples take a lot of work and hard effort but they do pay off there.
I like to think about things our company can do that will pique the interest of bloggers, journalists and news sites.
Are you going to write another boring blog post and share it to your same 1,000 followers and hope you get a link or are you going to get your ass up off the chair and actually do something?
Julie JoyceLink Fish Media
Provide people with something that they actually want and need and if someone else provides the same thing, figure out how to make your offering different and better.
Warby Parker is a great example as instead of just selling eyeglasses online, they send you up to 5 pairs to try on at home for free. That doesn’t add to content bloat or an obnoxious social media stream; it just sells their product.
Simon PensonZazzle Media
Link building without content is still possible, despite the slightly spammy connotations.
In reality there are still lots of way you can gain very legitimate citations, and one of the best is via local authority or reference page outreach. For many industries and businesses it is possible to find reference pages on local authority/council websites that share relevant contact details with the local public. These domains often carry a great deal of authority and can be a very welcome addition to any link profile. Those pages will also link naturally to you and add value; a key barometer in modern day link building when querying quality and legitimacy.
I really like to convert mentions to links. Whether they are mentions about your brand, your competitors (especially if they’re mentioning many of them) or more generic terms related to your industry, products or services, it’s suitable for almost any type of business. I use TalkWalker Alerts and Moz Fresh Web Explorer along some of the IFTTT recipes I mentioned here to be alerted of them.
During the past 2 years we were getting pretty good links for our clients by using a more holistic approach instead of a technical one. We did many giveaways, contests, pro-bono services, social media contacts and leveraged the power of the bloggers. The last two methods actually delivered pretty amazing results because we got so many links without even saying the word “link” in our conversations with those real people.
We found that if you go on the social networks and get connected with people that like your product/service you can make them link to your site without even mentioning that you want that link. Similar was the situation with totally unknown bloggers we sent products for free to random bloggers (selected on a niche basis) and we got about 40% of those respond to our action with a nice post and more than one link to the client site.
All in all, the so called “new link building methods” are actually older than the whole internet — the core is to connect (link) with the right people and make them like you or your product/service. No doubt it is harder than technical automation, etc. but it pays a lot better in the long run.
When carrying out a link building campaign, you can sometimes get quick link wins by helping to enhance other people’s websites or content. Internally at Hit Reach we call this the “Swedish Pump Technique”. For example, about 18 months ago John-Henry Scherck wrote a blog post about link prospecting and Pivot Tables. John-Henry had created a great step-by-step tutorial and as my colleague Patrick says, “SEOs Fucking Love Automating Shit” so I decided to dust off my VBA skills and create a macro in Excel to speed up the process that he had outlined.
This got me a nice link and a mention from TLCSEO.com. I have had quite a bit of success with this technique over the years by helping to improve other people’s work, whether it’s adding some data from a study a client has conducted or offering some free images to improve a blog post.
Link building, although it is content-centric, can be done without content creation. Of course, high-quality content is necessary in general. There’s no point in trying to rank a web page if its look or content turns visitors away instantly. Here’s a tip you could use: content promotion within communities.
Dive into communities. That’s one of the best things you could do to get out of the silo, get more exposure and additionally — get some instant links. There are many communities you can stick around. The advantage of this solution is that you could receive tons of referral traffic as well. Where to start? Check out these places:
Need more instant link juice? In many websites, there’s a possibility to add a link to your home page in your profile. Take a moment to tweak your profile’s appearance as you might score an easy link from there as well.
If forced to build links without content, I’d consider scholarships, sponsorships and broken link building. While these strategies don’t require content per se, creativity still matters. For example, we worked with a law firm that offered a Don’t go to law school scholarship. Some might think that this is “cheating” because the scholarship page is content. However, the success of that campaign had more to do with the idea itself and outreach efforts than the page itself. It was the idea that motivated others to create content that contained links.
Nick EubanksSEONick Blog
A link building strategy that I have used with many of my own properties that does not require content is research and alignment. Not only can you use this approach to get deep links to your website, but these tend to be the “best links on the internet” as they usually come from government websites, both state and federal.
The hard part is putting in the research to find the proper alignment. What you are looking for are resource directories hosted on government websites. There are actually a “lot” of these, but they take a lot of time to find, and then the process of finding the right person to contact takes even longer, but it can really pay off.
I used this strategy last year to earn the best 5 links I have ever gotten. They came from EPA.gov, and all are deeply linked to category pages of one of my e-commerce websites, and they not only carry massive link flow — but also send extremely qualified traffic. The trick here was finding lists, or listings (i.e. through the use of a requirements filter on the website; location, materials, pricing, etc.) that exist for your website’s industry. All major industries have these directories so you just need to make sure you put in the time to find a true fit.
In my case, it was a consumer goods directory for suppliers of specific products made from 100% post-consumer recycled materials within a specific region. Like I said; there’s a lot of specific requirements that we had to meet, but creating content for this wouldn’t have made any difference, the fit was the fit and it was not something you could force.
Spend the time to sniff out these specific product directories within your industry niche, look up details on the site for who and how to contact (they tend to be explicit), and then send all required information, written in an objective tone, and wait. Government websites can take anywhere from 3+ weeks to respond, but the links are worth it.
This is a tactic that I’ve mentioned before but it’s a fairly easy DA88 link (that’s right, I said fairly easy). Plus, with this tactic you can actually do something that can help a good cause in the process.
I know, you’re probably wondering what the hell I’m talking about. Well, here it is… JustGiving.com allow you to place dofollow links within any of your fund-raising page. Just check out this example.
So why not get a few sponsors for a charity, run a few miles and cash in on an awesome link. You can scale this as much as your legs can handle!
Venchito TamponDigital Philippines
If you asked me about link building strategies that don’t really require content, it may be confusing since most of the time, you have to consider content and create this to build high quality links to your website.
However, there are still a few link building tactics that only require little to no content at all:
Directory Link Building
Directories can give you a few easy links in your first link building week. Though you don’t want to acquire them massively, you may still consider them in your link profile. Here are a few tips to consider:
- Check your category in some of the top directories (Dmoz) and create a list of all the sites listed in that category (may it be a competitor or a non-competitor). Relevancy matters.
- Reverse engineer your competitors’ link portfolio to quickly find closely-related directories.
- Pursue directories within your local area, this will help your site’s relevancy factor.
This is an old but still an effective link building tactic as you would only need a simple outreach to earn those branded links.
To get started, you can collect all your branded images (logo, profiles of team members, office pictures). Then grab them in Tineye or other reverse image tools. Check out those sites that use your images but don’t bother to link to you. Reach out to them and simply ask for mentions.
Service/Product-based Link Building
Whether it is a service or product you’re offering, there are resource pages that list them down without requiring any content. However, you have to make sure that your site is branded (good design, logo and well-structured) to secure positive responses from the content publishers of those links pages.
Improving the Site’s Linkability
A strong technical foundation can help your site rank higher on SERPs. And eventually it will bring you into many link building opportunities given that most bloggers/writers are referencing ranking and relevant pages from their work.
Here are a few tips to improve your site’s linkablity:
- Fix broken but important webpages by creating new versions of them and getting the old pages redirect to the new ones or redirect the broken pages to other topically relevant and existing pages.
- Make your linkable assets visible in the most important areas of your site (sidebar, right header, etc.). The more exposure you put into your best assets, the more natural links you can earn from bloggers who will reference your work from their sites.
If you are looking for other link building strategies that work today, you can check out this post about organic link building.
I truly believe that content is the backbone of your overall SEO campaign. The better content you will have, the better quality links you can get but obviously from the clients’ perspective investing in content is a risky investment as they are not sure what they are going to get out of that investment.
When I usually deal with the client, I try to get as many quality links as I can without investing on new content. Here are few of the tactics I use to build links without content:
Brand Name Reclamation
If the company is old, they would have done some work online or offline within their field and maybe got some mentions here and there. The idea is to find those resources where the brand name is present and then reach out to them and request a link. As they are already giving you the credit, most of the time they don’t mind linking back to you. Considering using mentions tracker tools to help you finding these kinds of resources.
Pro Tip: You can try different versions of your Brand Name and miss-spells to get the most out of it.
This works especially well for businesses where customized images are very important. All you have to do is to reverse search your images and see who else is using it. Make a list of the websites that are using it, send email and ask for a link.
If your email is good, your response rate would be good and you will be able to get some quality links back to your website. Use Google image search to find the resource pages where your image is present.
Help a Reporter out or HARO is a platform where reports ask for a help regarding their articles. The idea is to subscribe to those requests and check them each day to see which one is most relevant to your website. Help them to get a link that points back to your website.
This is a bit of a pain, especially if you are using the free service of it but as it says no pain, no gain. If your help would be high-quality and powerful, you can easily get very trusted links in no time.
This is only possible when you or your client have a recognized name in the market or on social media platforms. All you have to do is to connect with the right kind of people, engage with them on social media platforms (mostly Twitter) and be attentive on any group interview opportunity that comes your way.
Share your opinion and get a link.
There must be more but these are a few that I usually do for my clients, when developing new content is not a choice.
Recently I’ve been spending the bulk of my attention on a brand new authority site project in a very different niche market. (That’s because I’ve come to realise there’s a lot more money to be made elsewhere than trying to compete in the saturated SEO / blogging niche). This has meant I don’t have much time to actively build links to Clambr (my SEO blog) because the ROI is simply not worth it. However, this doesn’t mean I haven’t found a way to get links from powerful pieces of content that have a habit of going viral and in return, give my blog a lot of nice link juice.
This method works without having a specific piece of content to leverage for links. In fact I’m using this method RIGHT NOW to build a link to an important post of mine.
I’ve achieved this by establishing myself as an expert on ranking for competitive keywords on Google. Rohit then kindly asked me to take part in his roundup. Because the question of the roundup is all about link building, I’ve structured my answer around the piece of content I’d like a link to.
In this case it’s a broken link building video tutorial I made that takes you through the entire broken link building process — from prospecting to outreach using Ahrefs, BuzzStream and Screaming Frog.
Broken link building is my bread and butter strategy for building high quality links and in the video I show you how to unlock Pandora’s Box to limitless broken link building opportunities! Because it’s very hard to get links from relevant sites in highly competitive niches, broken link building has been my go-to strategy for getting authority sites to link to me.
Here’s a screenshot of organic traffic growth to a niche site I built in a highly competitive niche after just 6 months of going live:
The site is now getting 1,300 visits a day and it’s mainly thanks to broken link building!
See what I did there?
I have just built a nice contextual link to my broken link building tutorial on Ahrefs — a quality site and in a relevant article all about link building, which I believe Rohit will do a fantastic job of promoting, getting tons of shares and in return attracting a bunch of links from supercharged blogs in the SEO niche.
All I had to do was to provide a cool answer and BANG I’ve built a nice link without having to leverage a piece of content.
I now have an awesome link to my broken link building tutorial on Rohit’s post because he was kind enough to ask me to take part.
So how can you do this too?
Work on establishing yourself as an expert in your niche and actively connect with bloggers who run interviews on their sites. A great way to do this is to invite them to your own expert roundup first and then further down the line they might ask you to get involved in their own! Then when they invite you to take part in an interview, feel free to drop a link to the piece of content you want to promote as long as it helps explain your answer better and you’re not just shamelessly self promoting.
Kane JamisonContent Harmony
Here are my top 5 favorite link building strategies that don’t require new content (or only require minimal page updates):
- Fixing 404s across the website and redirecting them back to appropriate pages on the site, or recreating the lost web pages.
- If you’re working with a reasonably large website, doing a content inventory and analysis to see what has earned links in the past and updating that content to justify a new round of outreach, or looking for missed opportunities from past content.
- Looking into historical lost links in Ahrefs and doing manual outreach to reacquire those links (perhaps improving the page content in the process as an extra reason to be reaching out in the first place).
- Hosting events, even if you’re not the speaker. I go into a lot more depth on this tactic in my link building with local events post on Moz.
- Contests and giveaways, especially if they’re clever and unique and involve some kind of user generated content as part of the submission contest, or if you’re giving away something that people can’t get anywhere else. Contests for iPads and other toys might get lots of submissions, but they don’t do much for your brand.
I had a few ideas, but that is a hard task. I would say one way of getting links without referencing content on your site is to be known as a source for Journalists. Quotes from executives are a great way to get links without needing to publish content on your site. However, I must say that I don’t recommend trying to get links without specific content. It’s being a resource and having resources on your site that get the best links.
Rhea DrysdaleOutspoken Media
Connect with your audience IRL
This is under-rated and probably the most effective tactic when it comes to quality, organic link development. While you typically can’t control anchor text/locations or do this to scale — it’s a consistent, long-term tactic and you can control what you share with people or guide their discovery of your site.
Connecting with your audience should look like more than your customers or clients — audience can be your community, employees, potential employees, the media, your industry, etc. By simply building out legitimate business practices that align with your objectives, you can reach a broader audience that’s relevant and likely to link back to you because of a shared experience.
This can look like:
- Trade shows
- Community gatherings
- Community outreach
When you meet someone, focus on a story that’s unique and attention-grabbing about your brand and/or yourself. Be memorable, kind, helpful, fun — whoever you are as a person, let that come through. Media/publishers/bloggers are often looking to document events through photographs, videos, recaps, etc. By networking, you can gain exposure for your brand through relevant industry sites.
Who this works for?
EVERYONE. I’ve seen this work in some of the most competitive industries in the world — legal, online gambling, credit cards, etc. When you form REAL connections with people, not just customers, it strengthens your brand and leads to opportunities that invariably build the most natural, high-quality backlinks in the world.
In other words, be a legitimate business/brand/marketer. Step away from your desk and be human.
Marcus MillerBowler Hat
Link building strategies that don’t require content — that’s a tough one as most modern and safe link building strategies do require content. Whether that is content that you add to another site such as a guest post or expert commentary to an existing post or whether it is content on your own site that you are using to leverage links from other sites.
I think it helps to ask the question why is content such a useful tool in link building? Why does content allow us to encourage others to link to us? In a nutshell, content provides value. Content provides the ‘what is in it for me’ factor to the other site. Again, whether you are providing a guest post, an expert comment or contribution or something else altogether, the content provides the value that you exchange for the link.
So, if we are looking to build valuable links without content, then we must also ask ourselves how are we going to provide value? How is this going to help the end user of the target site and how do we add value?
Let me give you an example: a new client of ours recently lost their domain name. It was essentially stolen from them by an ex-employee and whilst this individual has no hope when this goes to court in the meanwhile the business has lost its established domain of over ten years and is operating on an alternative domain. Total bummer.
So, to help this client we are doing two things:
1. We are looking at all existing links to the lost .com domain and contacting website owners to explain the situation and ask them to update their records. This is an obvious one.
2. We are looking for new relevant links using old-school tried and tested methods of link prospecting. To give some context, this client hires out disability hire equipment in Tenerife (scooters and the like). So, we asked the question: who is this information useful to? It’s useful to disabled holiday makers, of course, but they don’t tend to have websites. Where do holiday makers stay? They stay in hotels and complexes and these hotels and complexes often have useful links pages.
So, with some simple Google queries, we can identify a range of prospects for us to outreach to.
Hotels & holidays in tenerife with a links or resources page:
- hotel tenerife useful links
- hotel tenerife inurl:links
- hotel tenerife intitle:links
- holiday tenerife inurl:links
- holiday tenerife intitle:links
Better still hotels or holidays in tenerife with disabled facilities:
- hotels tenerife disabled facilities
- hotels tenerife disabled facilities inurl:links
- hotels tenerife disabled facilities intitle:links
Really, this is the tip of the iceberg and there are a hundred ways to spin the queries to find opportunities (and it’s a little like telling the folks that read this blog to learn how to suck eggs) but the point here is not the mechanism used to find the links but rather the thinking used to determine the approach — we want to add value. We want to brainstorm who our target site or page is useful to and how we get it in front of those people.
With this approach we can get our link added to relevant pages and in all likelihood generate more exposure (and business) for the customer even without the SEO benefits. We will likely build a bunch of new relationships with relevant businesses in the process so who knows what further opportunities that may also add for us to investigate later.
Ultimately, the approach always depends upon the specific business but by focusing on where we can add value, even without content then we can ensure that our efforts offer the best possible return on our time. Ultimately, we focus on what we can do to add value and serve the end users of the target sites.
So, nothing radical here in the actual techniques but hopefully some food for thought with regards to the philosophy and thinking behind the approach — a good plan usually delivers solid results.
These are literally some of the BEST ways you can build high-quality, white-hat links to your site right now. That too, without leveraging an existing, great content piece (like my massive Domain Authority guide & infographic) on your site or even creating a new one for the link building purpose.
What other strategies do you recommend for building links without having to leverage content?