This post is about link building for startups. However, before I show you exactly how to build links for an early-stage company, let me tell you why acquiring backlinks for a startup is such a hard thing to do. 

(Because, unfortunately, it indeed is hard. Sorry.) 

You see, when it comes to SEO (or digital marketing in general,) most startups are in a real pickle. 

Unlike more established companies, they, typically, don’t have much content or other assets that could drive their link building and help them attract visitors and leads. 

At the same time, they can’t achieve much in the organic search without earning links… 

Since their domains are new, with little or no domain authority (DA) yet, the only way to acquire such authority is by building links. 

(A quick side note to explain the issue further – Google and other search engines assign the authority based on the domain age and its popularity, measured by links pointing to it. Since you cannot control the age of your domain, links are the only way to generate higher authority.)

Bummer, right?

Well, luckily, it’s not all that bad. 

Not all link building strategies require specific assets or a lengthy content library, for one. In fact, in this post, I’ll show you different ways to build links if:

  • You’ve just launched your site, and have little or no content on it to promote. 
  • Don’t have in-house resources or budget to hire a content marketing agency to create new pieces of content fast (and at scale, at that,) for you and
  • You need to kickstart your SEO and marketing (your product might be near ready to launch, after all, or has been attracting customers already.) 

So, if this sounds like the advice you need, dig in. 

Link Building for Startups: 11 Strategies to Earn Links for an Early-Stage Startup 

Below, you’ll find a list of link building strategies any early-stage startup could use to generate and earn an initial set of backlinks. 

Please note, by far, this isn’t an exhaustive list. However, strategies I’ve listed below will help you build links while overcoming the challenge I mentioned above – lack of relevant link building assets to generate backlinks. 

So, without any further ado, here’s how to build links for a startup.

#1. Reclaim Brand or Product Mentions

Public Relations (PR) is a natural first step for every startup. It’s the simplest way to generate brand awareness, introduce the product to the target audience, and build up some buzz about the company as well. 

The thing is, not every PR mention you generate will include the backlink.

Similarly, many people mentioning your brand or product might omit to link to your site. 

None of this happens on purpose, by the way. Nine out of 10 times, this is a simple omission, nothing else. 

Consider the screenshot below.

Link building for startups.

The person references a (now) well-known startup in a blog post but fails to link to it.

The good news – This is a great link building opportunity! In fact, to secure that link, you just need to reach out to the author of the content (or the site’s editor,) and ask to rectify the omission. 

Now, not everyone might agree to do it. Although, from experience, I know that the majority of people will do it. 

How to find a brand and name mentions?

Many brand monitoring tools – Mention, Brand24 and others – allow you to monitor the web for references of particular terms. Set up individual projects for your brand as well as key company stakeholders and check any source the tool finds out for a link.

#2. Submit the Site to CSS Galleries

As a startup, you, most likely, have an amazing website already. It’s practical a standard for new companies today to wow their initial customers with beautiful websites (and rightly so!)

But did you know that your website can become a link building asset? 

Many sites offer the opportunity to showcase and reference your design to others. And what’s important, they will always link to the website shown. 

Like this:

An image showing button based backlink. 

So, another way to build initial backlinks for a startup is by submitting the site to CSS galleries. 

You can find some of the most popular CSS galleries on this list.

#3. Send the Product for Reviews

More and more sites pop out offering reviews of SaaS products. Similarly, many bloggers in your industry might be willing to try your app out and share their impressions about it with their audience. 

And naturally, in either case, the review will include a link back to your site.

 Example of a review page with a link. 

What’s amazing about this strategy is that such sites will usually have high authority, sending an incredible link value to your site.

#4. Submit the Product to Software Directories

This is another super simple link building strategy for startups. 

Software directories, as the name might suggest, feature the best SaaS products on the web. 

What’s more, the most established directories have incredible domain authority, meaning that they send a strong backlink to whomever they link to.

The catch, some directories require paying for a premium placement to get a dofollow link. But even if you set up a free listing and get a nofollow link, it’s still something.

Example of a software directory:

A software directory with button-based link. 

#5. List the Company in Business Directories

If your company has a registered office (which I am certain it does,) then, you could also list it in various local business directories. 

Now, I admit that these links aren’t super strong. But if you’re really stuck for links, then even a reference like this is worth something. 

#6. Get Listed in Resource Pages

It’s a common trend for companies and individual bloggers to create resource pages focusing on a specific topic. Some of those pages list content relating to the topic. Others, however, feature relevant software. 

Here’s an example of the latter.

A screenshot of an actual resources page with backlinks to SaaS companies.

To be perfectly upfront, getting featured might not be easy. That said, it costs nothing to ask. 

So, find resource pages relevant to your product. I use a simple search query – “topic” inurl:resources (alternatively, you could also try inurl:links) to do so

Here’s what Google returns for the query:

Google SEPRs page listing various resource pages.

Then, email the people behind the site, introducing your tool and asking whether they’d be willing to include it on the page. 

#7. Answer Questions on Quora

Quora is a great place to start building links for startups. 

First, you can include links in your bio.

Second, you can include links in your replies to questions relating to your product. 

It’s that simple. 

(One thing to note, all Quora links are nofollow. They still carry some link value, though.)

Image of a Quora answer with link included in the copy. 

#8. Be a Guest on a Podcast

I don’t think it’s too far fetched to assume that many podcasts target the same audience as you. 

Many of those shows continuously look for guests to feature on the show. 

Here’s how to get on:

  • Review podcast lists on iTunes, Stitcher or any other podcast directory, looking for shows relevant to your product. Most of them will list the show’s website in the description. 
  • Review the site, and the past episodes, looking for topics where you could add value or new insights too. 
  • Send a personalized email to the host, introducing yourself and your product and suggesting what you’d like to talk about. 

Once you get featured, the host will feature links to your site in the show notes on the site. 

Podcast show notes with a link included.

#9. Conduct a Roundup to Earn Links

This is a more time-consuming strategy but it can deliver three outcomes, actually. It can get you the links but also help build relationships with key figures in your industry and generate buzz about your app. 

(By the way, roundups are also one of the most effective growth hacking strategies for startups.)

Here’s how it works. 

Create a roundup post focusing on an issue your audience finds intriguing. The best roundups focus on how others have solved a problem your audience has. 

This startup, for example, focused on showing how other companies overcome the problem their product eliminates too. 

Roundup example.

To make a roundup work, you need participants, naturally. So, reach out to key figures in your industry, asking for insights or comments on the topic.

Here’s an example of an outreach email I received from a startup a while ago. 

An example of an actual email outreach.

Then, wait for replies (hint: you might have to follow up a couple of times.) 

Finally, compile the replies you’ve received in a blog post, publish, and let everyone who participated know about it. 

Over time, this post will generate attention, much of it will result in links. 

Of course, if you could promote it further on social media (and ask your participants to do the same,) you can amplify its reach and the results it can generate. 

#10. Guest Post

To me, guest posting is the holy grail of link building. It’s a strategy that gives you the fullest control of the type of link you receive, its anchor text, and even the placement. 

(That last bit means that you could place the link above the fold in a guest post, further increasing its strength and significance.)

But I recommend you approach guest posting more strategically as a startup. It might turn out to be a long term strategy but it’s going to be well worth it. 

What do I mean by a strategic approach? 

Well, instead of going off to guest post exchange sites (I won’t name any as I do not support their model,) choose only highly respected and authoritative websites in your industry. 

These sites already rank high for their respective terms and have acquired incredible domain authority and audience. 

Unfortunately, this means that getting featured there might be more challenging. It’s not impossible though. We’ve been building those links for clients for years, actually. 

#11. Free Tools

Finally, attract attention and links by creating useful free tools that can help your audience. 

This SaaS company, for example, offers a whole range of such tools. Each of them solves a particular problem of their audience and stands a chance at getting noticed and linked to. 

Startup website showing a list of free tools the company has created.

And, as a matter of fact, that’s exactly what happens. Just one of those tools has acquired 24 links to date. 

List of backlinks a free tool has acquired for the company.

That’s an incredible result, given the relatively low effort required to create such small and simple apps. 

That’s it.

Now you know how to build links for a startup, particularly if you don’t have any link building assets to base your strategies on. 

But if you’re stuck with getting started, let us help

We offer the full suite of link building services, from backlink audits, penalty removals to earning your domain new links and mentions online.