Link Building for Big-Name Brands

Link building is clearly not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Strategies have to take into consideration each client’s industry, customer, and brand itself, so things can get complicated rather quickly.

Throw into the mix a name brand client that is especially concerned about aesthetic and brand fit, and typical “go to” tactics aren’t really going to cut it. Plus, when bloggers tend to see potential opportunities with popular retailers, they also come to the table with the attitude of “Well, you’re a huge company, so you can surely offer me more products and it won’t make a dent, right?”

Below are three ways that can help you to tackle the challenges that come along when link building for big brands and to create success without wanting to pull your hair out.

Utilize Blogrolls to Find Relevant Sites

For some clients, the style of the blog doesn’t matter as long as there isn’t an excess of ads and if the target market is on point. For others, a certain aesthetic is, and rightfully so, such a part of their identity that it cannot be ignored while link building. While there aren’t filters for refined layout and tasteful use of font (but I’m crossing my fingers for the future), there is a way to help find sites that line up with your client’s brand without driving yourself crazy.

Although link builders love to boast about scalability, which I’m absolutely a fan of in the right circumstances, sometimes your own eyes and due diligence are the best tools for finding the right blogs. Say my client is a popular name brand shoe company that’s interested in working with bloggers. Would you want to work with the blog in the first snapshot or the second?


Option 1 (site)

Sidewalk Ready Shoe Review

Option 2 (site)

Now while the first is a perfectly fine blog, it just doesn’t seem like a good fit for a stylish, well-known brand to work with. It may be easily found through a Link Prospector report since the site is very vocal about doing reviews, but it’s probably not who my client would want to work with. On the other hand, the second blog is cleaner, uses better photos, and just feels like a better fit.

Find Great Blogs

So, is there a magic advance search operator to find blogs like the second? Sadly, no, you’re going to have to do a bit of work to get started. The best thing to do at the beginning is to get an idea of your client and their customer. Does their brand match up with the type of blogger who has DIY Wednesdays and hand-drawn blog headers? Maybe minimalistic fashion blogs that have a penchant for sans serif fonts? You’ll have to find a few of these blogs as a starting point. Yes, it takes work, but having a feature that both you and your client are equally happy with is most important.

Start Checking Blogrolls

Once you have a decent list built up, it’s time to check out each of their blogrolls. Why blogrolls? Because these offer a wealth of opportunity since most blogs that make these lists are relevant to the same topic and are of the same caliber or even better than the sites you’ve identified first.

To utilize blogrolls, you have to first identity if they have a list and where it lives. Oftentimes, there’s a list of blogs on the sidebar, but sites have begun to declutter their layouts (or make room for more sponsors), so more lists are being put onto separate pages. Of course, bloggers don’t always use the blatant “Blogroll” title to announce “Other opportunities here!”, but the following are typical phrases that I’ve seen used: reads, blogs, dailys, blogs I love, blogs I <3, etc. Once you find these links, it’s easiest to use a tool like Scraper to pull all the info and dump this into one spreadsheet.

Expand Your List

Now that you have this list, you can begin working through them, or you can expand on this list even more by using Buzzstream’s Blogroll List Builder. It’s best to use larger lists of blogs for this rather than a few because it doesn’t always pick up on every blogroll, but it’s great for expanding even further on the opportunities you have.

Another great way to find more opportunities is to mine the blogs to see who they tend to link out to and who comments on the posts. A good source for this is searching for Link Round-Up type posts since they are already curated lists. Bloggers who leave comments also tend to have the same style of blog, and if the original site you have your eye on is a little lofty, the blogs in the comments can be great, mid-tier opportunities. Again, Scraper comes in handy here.

So voila! A list of relevant, “on brand” sites that your client would be proud to work with for marketing purposes, not just for link building.

Key Takeaway: Start with sites that fit with your client's brand, then use blogrolls and comments to expand this list of opportunities to include more, just as relevant blogs.


Get Past the Affiliate Dilemma

When working with a large brand, especially one in the retail space, running into blogs that are affiliates can be a challenge. Not only do they insist on linking with or any other affiliate links, but they also may require a double payout by your client. By this, I mean that the company could have to pay out money for the commission this blogger earned, but also product being given away or reviewed.

Work with Top Direct Referrers

After reaching out to several sites on behalf of a large client, a light bulb went off. In Google Analytics, you can very easily find which sites are driving traffic to your domain by looking at referral visits. When I look at my client’s data, of course I see and other affiliate sites at the top of the referrers list, but below them are sites that are bringing in a significant amount of traffic and revenue while also using clean links that go directly from their site to my client’s.

Clearly, reaching out to these sites would be a win-win-win situation, where you have the opportunity to get in front of an audience that already loves and buys from your client while also getting more links. When contacting them, you can also help guide the site to diversify what products or categories they mention by pitching a feature focused on a department that you’re currently trying to promote.

Key Takeaway: Reach out to sites that are top referrers since their audience is already engaged and buying from your client and because you'll be able to avoid the double payout dilemma.


Create and Sustain Quality Relationships

“Create relationships” is another one of those adages used in SEO that are often preached, yet ignored. Everyone knows they should create relationships, but not everyone is clear on how. While I’m not going to take too deep of a dive into this, I wanted to share an example of how creating a bond between you and the blogger can lead to bigger, even better, opportunities.

About a month ago, Steph Beadell, our resident outreach expert, was poring over companywide Buzzstream data, and she let me know that I’ve sent the most messages in the entire company, and did so by quite a large margin—almost 100% more than the second most person. My first instinct was to be embarrassed. Was I sending so much outreach because I wasn’t getting results and needed to reach out to more prospects? So then, I asked Steph if that only counts initial outreach messages or if every message I send is recorded in that total. To my relief, that’s counting every message I send. Every. Message.

Be Genuine & Show That You Care

I don’t consider myself a pest, but I do tend to send emails that don’t always relate strictly to business. When someone gets engaged, I take a few emails to congratulate them. A few weeks ago, when the Boston Marathon bombings occurred, I waited a few days, then checked in with a few bloggers I knew were in the area to make sure their family and friends were safe. It’s not that my primary intention is to gain this extra influence, but because I genuinely care about the people I work with for strategies…and because it’s a lot of fun to get to know people.

A few months ago, I worked with a blogger who was incredibly easy to work with and, in general, just a great person. We exchanged pleasant emails during the partnership, and after everything was said and done, I thanked her and let her know how happy we were with the final product. About a month later, she got in touch to ask about the results that my client saw because of working with her blog, and I trusted her intentions and quickly sent over all the stats I’d gathered, emphasizing that she could reach back out if she needed anything else. She happily thanked me, and I assume she forwarded the results to another company that she wanted to work with.

Reap the Benefits

The next day, she let me know about an opportunity to get featured on a PR 7, DA 87 home and lifestyle magazine that is widely popular. She was working on an online feature with them, and asked if she could borrow one of our products to use, assuring me that we would be credited for it. Jackpot! Such a huge, easy win gained simply by staying in touch and helping her out when she needed it. Plus, working with the same blogger on a new opportunity saved me a significant amount of time than if I had to start from scratch with a new blogger.

Key Takeaway: Be kind to bloggers and help them when asked because the benefits can far outweigh the time spent.


Link building for big brands can present unique challenges, but if you're open to thinking in terms of a marketer instead of having a "checkbox SEO" mindset, you'll be able to see that there are plenty of opportunities all along. If you have your own tips, please feel free to share them in the comments or get in touch on Twitter at @teresa_a_lopez.

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Teresa Lopez
Teresa Lopez
Associate Director, SEO