When Link Buying is Not Paid Links

TINSTAAFL. Nope, that wasn’t a typo…the theme of this post is just that: TINSTAAFL. Some of you may already be familiar with the acronym, but I can guarantee that every person reading this is familiar with what it stands for. In the wake of the recent backlash over paid links by some major companies, most recently Sequoia-based Minaloo, SEOs far and wide are (rightfully) concerned about paid link tactics and the potential consequences of them. So, what does this have to do with a seemingly nonsensical string of letters? Well, it refers to a very basic, yet timeless adage of businessmen and businesswomen regardless of age, location, or industry: There is No Such Thing as a Free Lunch.

Recently, my good friend and colleague whom I (affectionately of course) refer to as Old Man Suarez, wrote about a slew of new ways that you can use a budget to successfully build links to your website (check it out here). Within 15 minutes of reading that post, I had to grab Napoleon for a cup of coffee to continue the discussion of new ways that we can enter the linkbuilidng arena armed with the weapons of a budget and a well-crafted link buying strategy. Napoleon did a great job of dissecting what link buying really means, but in summary it all returns to the idea that there is no such thing as a free lunch. The majority of our strategies require some sort of an incentive, be it free samples, sponsored guest posts, paid directories or traditional advertising. Heck, if you think about it any company who hires an SEO or linkbuilding agency is indirectly paying for their links. But there are ways to take a budget to your linkbuilding campaigns to pursue new and exciting opportunities for links.

Baseball is the only place in life where a sacrifice is really appreciated. ~Author Unknown

Ryan Howard leads the major leagues in RBIs (28), Placido Polanco wracked up a franchise-record 39 hits in April and holds a team-leading batting average of .385, and the Phillies pitching rotation is second to none in all of baseball. It’s no wonder that Citizen’s Bank Park regularly sports a sellout crowd and the Phanatic is America’s #1 sports mascot. What does this mean to you? Baseball is America’s pastime! How many radio shows and charity events give away tickets for baseball games, basketball games, football, soccer, hockey, you name it! Buy some tickets, maybe even a partial season ticket package, and offer them to local bloggers in return for a post about your business. Beyond the obvious accumulation of links, you’re also reinforcing the local relevancy to your particular community and therefore increasing the value you generate from those links.

"Bachelors have consciences...married men have wives." ~ H.L. Mencken

Let’s face it, a wedding is quite possibly the single most expensive day of your entire life. In my 2 years at SEER, I’ve seen 3 of our own get hitched, with another slated for later this month, and it’s always cause for celebration! However, while nobody really wants to make concessions when it comes to their big day, few of us have the luxury of a blank check when it comes to wedding planning. What this unfortunate truth does create, therefore, is a ton of ways you can “buy” links from this niche. Own a flower shop? Find a blogger writing about their impending wedding and give away flowers in exchange for a link(s). Catering business? Offer free appetizers. Hairstylist? Tailor? Photographer? I think you get the picture :-)

If you do not have in-kind services to offer, find bloggers within the wedding community and offer to sponsor some piece of a wedding (check out Wedding Bee to get those creative juices flowing). The beauty of it is you can sponsor as much or as little as you can afford. Maybe cover an hour of the open bar, half the DJ, or help the happy couple upgrade from lilies to roses (disclosure: I have no idea what flowers are preferred/better or even suited for weddings. I randomly chose 2 types of flowers, so for all the lily lovers out there, please forgive my ignorance).

For some larger investments, perhaps consider running a contest by which soon-to-be newlyweds write a post about why they are most deserving of the prize, whatever it may be. Finally, a nice added bonus about this strategy is, once wedding season is over, there’s a solid chance the volume of these posts goes down. So, you’re link can potentially remain 1-2 clicks from the homepage for the better part of a year!

"The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them." ~Mark Twain

Believe it or not…people still read books! I know for me it is sometimes too easy to get blinded by our increasingly technological world that I forget that some of the best insights you can get about a particular industry come through published books. Choose a book that you feel your audience/community would be interested in and send copies to influential bloggers willing to conduct an interview with one of your team or post a guest post about you. That way, you are providing them with an added incentive beyond just the quality content offered in the interview/guest post.

Want to go the extra mile? Consider snapping a photo of your team with a stack of books and send the photo to the author. This display of appreciation, coupled with the obvious support you showed when purchasing 25 books, may garner you a little love from the author in return as well.

Along the same lines, don’t forget the more traditional news outlets. Many nationally-renowned news sources such as the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal still offer paid subscriptions that would be welcomed by bloggers. Offering a subscription to these outlets provides the same incentives to bloggers to engage with you and allows you to spread the word about your business.

Lastly, looking to be a little more “green” in your link buying? If you’re audience is more tech-savvy, you can always consider giving away a Kindle or Nook or even a gift card for book downloads. Either way, just make sure you’re offering something that your community is legitimately interested in and use those relationships to build links.

I believe that we parents must encourage our children to become educated, so they can get into a good college that we cannot afford. ~Dave Barry

Napoleon talked about this briefly in his discussion but just to take it another step further: college student groups offer a plethora of opportunities for link buying. It has not been so long since I graduated from college that I’ve forgotten what it was like to be a broke college student. How many days in a row did you eat Ramen or Spaghettio’s just so you could afford to go on your ski team winter trip? How many countless hours did you spend trying to raise money for your club, sports team, or Habitat for Humanity group? College students relish any opportunity to accept sponsorships to keep their organization afloat and many of these groups actually thrive on sponsorships like these. And what’s even better? Most have pages hosted on the university’s domain. The great part here is that you can provide donations regardless of whether you’re in a hyper-specific vertical (perhaps a saddle manufacturer helping out the Equestrian club) or something more general (an ecommerce site sponsoring the marketing or advertising club), but this provides a strong opportunity to generate links from highly reputable .edu domains.

The belly rules the mind. ~Spanish Proverb

When was the last time you ate? Unless you’re Wil, who I’m convinced only eats once every three days, odds are you grabbed a bite within the past 12 hours. At some level, we all love food and the enjoyment we get from a nice steak, fish filet, or salad is oftentimes unmatched.

So how does this build links? To cite a completely made up statistic, there is a food blogger born every 9 minutes in the US alone. Many of these will welcome a restaurant gift card or, depending on your target, a catered meal in exchange for some link love. Take advantage of these opportunities and use them to build links back to your site.

Now, I know what you’re probably thinking here. Wouldn’t a link from a food blogger be irrelevant if I sell sneakers? On the surface it might seem like these links would be entirely irrelevant and off-topic, but there’s plenty of ways to redefine your niche to capitalize on these opportunities. In the industry of personal finance? Write about how responsible spending and saving will allow you to take that special someone out to dinner for his or her birthday. In the business of sports and personal fitness? Last I checked, a healthy diet is a huge part of personal fitness. Frequent traveler? I’m sure you’d love some tips on great places to eat during your travels. The point is, a $50 gift card to a popular restaurant can go a long way in procuring succulent, juicy, slow-cooked-to-perfection links back to your website.

The bottom line here is that we, as linkbuilders, must open our minds to new ways of procuring links even if that means shelling out a little dough in the process. Have new ideas for ways to spend a budget as part of your linkbuilding campaign? We’re always looking for new concepts, whether tested or untested, so please feel free to share in the comments or you can also engage with me or SEER on Twitter.

We love helping marketers like you.

Sign up for our newsletter to receive updates and more: