13 ways to earn backlinks on a free to low budget

Written by Fraser McCulloch.

The best link building strategy to earn backlinks for free or on a low budget, is to create content about statistics, industry studies, checklists and examples.

importance of backlinks graphic

The best link building strategy to earn backlinks naturally, for free, is to create content about statistics, industry studies, checklists and examples.

How to earn backlinks guide

What is a backlink ?

A backlink is when someone else mentions your website on their site or blog.

This is done by linking directly from their web page to your website.

Why do you need backlinks?

Backlinks help search engines understand more about you and your website; they are basically votes.

They also give the opportunity to improve your domain authority, search engine rankings and organic traffic.

Link building strategies that earn backlinks

There are many ways to build backlinks naturally but I want to focus on the main ones.

1. Interview an industry expert

I’ve thought about asking a few marketers and seo experts for an interview but I guess I just lack the courage.

Here’s an old interview I did with Adam Broadway; who is the CEO of Platform OS.

2. Guest on podcasts

You need to find and reach out to the people that run podcasts and pitch yourself as a guest.

  1. Start with people who know who runs podcasts; not strangers
  2. Have a chat with them about possible topics that could be discussed
  3. Do the interview
  4. Podcast hosts will usually link to your URL in their show notes and resources
  5. To scale up your podcast outreach, Postaga has a recipe for doing that.

3. Write valuable comments on blog posts

Here’s a blog comment I added to an Internet marketing agency’s website nearly 6 years ago.

I suppose you could call this company a peer or fellow industry associate.

Make sure you know your stuff and add something interesting to the discussion if you are going to make a few comments on the site.

If it’s your first time there, tell them it’s your first time and you are enjoyed the blog post.

Here’s how to find and post industry relevant blogs

  • Go to Google and type blog posts + “your business sector“ for example blog posts + “internet marketing” or blog posts + “biomass boilers”.
  • From the Search Tool bar, select to only show comments in the past week or (or past 24 hours).
  • Google will show you the hours or days when the blog post was published, find a post that grabs your interest and visit the page.
  • I’m on this blog and I look for a blog post that already has comments (I don’t want appear to be a spammer).
  • Genuinely read the entire blog post like you mean it and then click the comments links.
  • Enter your real name or company name, your email address and website homepage and enter a comment or ask a question or compliment the writer (stroke his/her ego) – that should not be a problem since you read the entire blog post.

Some blog comments will be regarded as No Follows by Google but that’s ok; you’re leaving a footprint or trail to Google about the relevancy of your website.

13 ways to earn backlinks on a free to low budget

4. Write content about software you use

Whatever industry you are in or job you have, you are using some kind of software.

Write a review and include content such as :

  • 10 things you can do with
  • Just discovered this
  • New features include

When you’ve published your review, write a tweet, include the software’s hashtag so you reach their audience.

5. Ask friends, family or your web designer

Here’s a couple of links, guaranteed.

Just ask your friends, family or web designer who have a website to mention you.

Write them a few paragraphs and give them your URL. 

6. Guest Posting

One way to gain backlinks is to guest post on other websites.

A guest post is an article written by you featured on another website that contains a link back to your website.

But there are 2 problems with the guest blogging strategy.

  1. An aggressive guest post strategy purely to build links is against Google’s guidelines and they will penalise your website.
  2. Even if you do get a guest post on a highly authoritative website, Google now recommends that the website owners apply a link attribute that won’t affect your ranking.

Here are some guest post tips:

Don’t call them guest posts

The term “guest post” has been abused; so if you want people to respond to your email propose a “content opportunity” not a guest post.

Pitch content that can get traffic

I don’t accept guest posts because I want to write in my own voice.

But if a really smart marketer pitched me the opportunity to earn more traffic to my website, I’d be open to that idea.

Target websites that have previously accepted guest posts

Using Ahrefs Content Explorer tool, I can identify website that have accepted guest posts in the past.

Ensure the topic you propose is relevant

I get pitched all sorts of nonsense from strangers; you might think proposing a guest post about social media is a good idea for a website specialising in SEO but it’s not.

Take the time to really find out what they are interested in for proposing content ideas.

Offer to upgrade or rewrite one of their existing pages

I offer prospects and clients an SEO Quick Win service.

I identify the top keywords just outside the top 10 results that a page ranks for and rewrite some of their copy to boost the rankings.

I also proposed internal link opportunities that can help improve the rankings as well.

Offer this to other websites; in return for a link to your website on their page.

Buy something from them; it’s hard to say no to customer

I pay a number of companies and supplies for their software and services each month.

I’ve secured a few links from them; a testimonial, an interview and an example.

I’m fairly sure people that know me would be more open to the idea of content being created for them than a stranger.

7. Statistics

Another strategy to earn backlinks is writing about statistics.

Without email outreach, you will earn links naturally if you can create statistics that people in your industry look for and reference.

If you want to find popular statistical topics that people are currently linking to, use Ahrefs or content explorer.

  1. Go to Ahrefs Content Explorer
  2. In the search box type your keyword AND (“stats” OR “statistics” OR “statistic”)
  3. Select In title and hit search
  4. Filter explicit results
  5. Exclude home pages
  6. Exclude subdomains
  7. Add a filter of referring domains from 10 and apply
  8. Sort by referring domains

Once you give a topic with a lot of links, create your content, make sure to include alt text to your image so you’re found on Google Image search results.

13 ways to earn backlinks on a free to low budget

8. Checklists

Creating checklist articles is another great way to earn backlinks.

Checklists are useful tools that make life easier for people who may not know everything about a topic.

Checklists are very useful resources for any type of website whether its home improvement, cooking, DIY, fashion or marketing.

I’ve earned around 9 backlinks from the checklists that I’ve created.

If your audience finds something difficult, or they need to do it repeatedly, then you should produce a checklist.

Once you’ve written it out, turn the list into a graphic, add to your website and add alt text to the image.

9. Broken Link Building

When a web page or website is removed from the internet, it can be very frustrating if you are trying to find information on this topic online.

A broken link may occur due to many reasons such as:

  • The original web page was removed by its owner
  • The domain name of the original site changed
  • Additionally, Google may penalise a website containing too many broken links because these links dilute the value of other high-quality links pointing at the same URL.

Use a broken link checker (like Ahrefs)

  1. Select Ahrefs content explorer
  2. Enter a single seed keyword in the bar, select title and hit the search button.
  3. Filter the results by “only broken” pages
  4. Sort by referring domains
  5. You will see a list of broken (404) pages
  6. You will see the number of referring domains that link to this page

Find link prospects

You need to find the contact information of these web pages that link to the broken page.

You can use tools such as Postaga or Hunter.io.

Re-create the page

Next, create a better version of the broken page.

Outreach process

Now you’re ready to reach out and email those with a broken link.

Turn your outreach into links

Use your powers of persuasion offer your page are a replacement to the broken link they have.

Here’s a full step by step to a broken link building campaign.

10. How to earn a backlink with a Visual.ly Infographic

Here is an infographic I created for a blog post called The Red Bus Rule; email as a marketing tool will be around for ever and the graphic outlines 7 steps to creating email campaigns.

Visual.ly has a fairly high domain rating that means it’s a fairly well trusted source to get a link from.

So here’s what I did to create a backlink from Visual.ly

  • Create a blog post – this was an old blog post created in 2010 that I improved upon in 2015.
  • For my blog post image I used the Social Media template – 800 x 800 pixels and for the Infographic on Visual.ly I used the Infographic template.
  • I purchased the little bus driver image from 123rf.com and used the Eva Walsh free template and changed the background colour, fonts, added my text until I was happy with the layout.
  • Then I named the image (click in the box to the left of share) then I click download and select high quality PNG since this image contains no photographs – if you have an image with a high quality photograph then I recommend you select Image: for Web (JPG) to download.
  • Download your image to your PC/Mac and add your infographic to your page or blog post.
  • When logged in click Upload in the top right hand navigation and select Infographics.
  • Then complete the upload form and submit (ensure your infographic actually appears on the add source URL field.
  • The source field is the backlink to your website.
13 ways to earn backlinks on a free to low budget

11. Add 5 free backlinks from high authority websites

I just checked my backlinks in Ahrefs and discovered I have 2 high authority backlinks.

  • A DR 93 do follow backlink from Behance.net
  • A DR 86 do follow backlinks from Teachable.com
  • A DR 87 do follow backlink from Strikingly.com
  • A DR 88 do follow backlink from Flipboard.com
  • A DR 88 do follow backlink from Soup.io

I am not a web designer, but you can add a profile and examples of your website work with Behance.

For Teachable I created a free training course and added a link to my website in the profile section of the course.

So if you’re just starting out link building these are 2 excellent high quality backlinks for anyone in the web professional service industry.

12. Forums

I’ve a client that built his entire online business by reaching out to users on forums and promoting his product.

  • Do a Google search – your industry + forums e.g.: web design + forums
  • Register your name and profile
  • Start making a few comments over a few weeks
  • Start looking for problems in the forum topics and replying to people who have the problems you can solve; something like, hey I had that problem here’s how I solved it.
  • Then when you’ve built up some trust from other members post a topic yourself, outline the problem or situation and link to your solution.

13. Links from Wikipedia

Wikipedia is a user generated search engine and I was able to list my own website there under a supplier entry.

I had published an expert’s guide and listed it there and linked back to my website.

Wikipedia is a highly authoritative domain so it’s a great link to have but only if the link you add makes sense and adds value.

How to add a link to Wikipedia

  • Do a google search for a service, industry category, supplier or search terms and click the Wikipedia entry.
  • Look for a section that may be relevant; for me there was a section call Community and it made sense for my link to be added there.
  • Register for Wikipedia then click the edit button next to the subheading and put in your link.

Don’t abuse this if you do the community who patrol Wikipedia will know you are trying to fake a link.

Don’t forget internal links

Internal links, that is a link from one page of your website to another page of your website, are important as they help Google crawl deeper into your site.

Here’s a brand new website that has a blog post without an internal links on the blog post pointing to other areas of the website.

The blog post should at least be pointing to a product page since the company is selling products.

  • Read your page or post and try to find some text that relates to, preferably a main product or service page.
  • Go into your CMS, locate the page or post and the phrase. Highlight the phrase with your cursor and select the hyperlink tool from your editor.
  • Choose the link you want; in my case I’m linking ‘high qualify firewood’ to the Firewood catalog. I then type ‘high qualify firewood’ into the link box and update or save.
  • Now when I go back to the blog post my text is highlighted and linked and you can see the anchor text when you hover your mouse over the text.
13 ways to earn backlinks on a free to low budget

The best types of backlinks

The best types of backlinks come from authoritative, industry websites, include your brand name or target website and they’ve never linked to you before.

The most powerful backlinks come from authoritative websites

If you want to rank higher in the SERPs, focus on quality backlinks.

The first thing to look at when evaluating any type of link is who linked to them.

If they come from trusted sites like Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, etc., those are generally considered good sources.

If they come from less reputable sites, such as spammy blogs or forums, those aren’t so great either.

The best backlinks include your target keyword or brand name in the anchor text link

When someone links to a page with your company’s name in it, Google considers this an authority site and gives more weight to the page than if there was no mention of your business anywhere on the page.

This means that pages linking to yours get better rankings.

Good backlinks come from websites related to your industry

A relevant link for a marketing website would come from the Institute of Marketing or a major marketing website such as Content Marketing Institute.

But related industries such as design, SEO or printing will also be good links to secure.

A domain that hasn’t linked to your website before

Suppose you get a link from website A.

Excellent.

Website A links back to you again. Repeatedly. Again and again.

Do the 2nd, 3rd and 4th links have the same power?

No.

There are diminishing returns on links from the same website.

Or put this way:

It’s better to get 100 links from different websites than it is to get 1000 links from a single website.

Summary

There are many ways to earn natural links for free, but you still have to invest time and money in order to actually get them.