How Highly Relevant Links Win In Competitive Niches

What is Relevant Link Building?

To say that the art of link building has changed over the last four years would be a bold understatement. Google algorithm changes have left the common business person and webmaster confused and frustrated, often left with conflicting information about what types of links are considered natural and the types of links that are considered poor quality or detrimental to a campaign.

The writing has been on the wall for years, and ultimately the changes Google has applied to its algorithm (in my opinion) provide better results for the end-user and help prevent low-quality spammers from developing websites and reaching consumers. Google Penguin is the algorithm responsible for rewarding natural, healthy link earning practices, and punishing those who choose to use low-quality, manipulative links in order to drive rankings.

How Google Changed – Suddenly

Increasingly Google is becoming clearer and clearer about the types of links it would like to see businesses earn. Low-quality, irrelevant, artificial and fabricated links generally cause significant ranking problems for most businesses. Clearly moving forward Google is rewarding businesses that build and earn high quality relevant links generated from remarkable content that is relevant to both their audience and their core topic. With the advent of inbound marketing and growth hacking techniques, it is clearly possible for small businesses to generate significant viral campaigns that drive social likes and mentions as well as physical links to businesses.

This gives small, agile businesses in distinct advantage in the market, as they can leverage expert content faster, without the bureaucracy and internal politics often found in larger organizations.

Here are some examples of small businesses building fantastic viral campaigns that drive inbound links and social mentions and engagement:

In 2012, their YouTube video kicked off this company to success and allowed for a long lasting viral media effect that to this day has hit over 13,606,104 views on YouTube.

Moz Stats

Just Discovered Links: 445 in 32 Days

Established Links: 1,607 Root Domains/ 5,453 Total Links

Originally the focus of a popular internet meme featuring a dog, this viral meme produced a website and subsequent community following that would go on to forge one of the most profitable cryptocrurrencies to mine using a graphics card in 2014.

On December 19th 2013, the value of Dogecoin increased by over 300% in just over 72hrs during a vulnerable point in the Bitcoin market. Later on, their viral marketing campaign was jokingly backed by Will Wheaton and kicked to new heights.

Moz Stats

Just Discovered Links: 28,174 in 32 Days

Established Links: 1,607 Root Domains/ 5,453 Total Links

Don’t think you only need to use viral marketing to try and drive your business to success. Consider creating valuable or highly informative content for your industry instead. Become a voice in your industry by setting that bar just a little bit higher and develop something inspirational Like Jon Cooper did.

Point Blank SEO Link Strategies

Straight from the PDF guide, this interactive link building guide will allow you to filter for link earning strategies to suit any timeline, and accommodate as many or as little assets as you have available.

This is literally the one stop shop for all your link building inspiration which makes it a highly linkable asset by many industry influencers. This is a perfect example of taking everything you know, and making it an interactive and highly constructive and usable tool.

Moz Stats

Just Discovered Links: 289 in 32 Days

Established Links: 432 Root Domains/ 1,361 Total Links

Why Care?

This is important, and marks a win for small business, because for years it has often been argued that large brands and businesses have favorable advantages in resources and assets, especially in the link building department. Because of those resource advantages, it is been argued that large business can build faster more extensive communication and relationships, more linkable asset types, and in the case of the past, purely purchase more links and small businesses – helping them to significantly outrank small businesses consistently.

Maximizing on Link Relevancy – the Top Down Approach

The top-down approach in link building is based on the concept of building the most trusted, most authority and most relevant inbound links to your business early and often. From a classification standpoint, these types of links will largely live in the areas of associations, certifications, memberships and local business opportunities. Because the nature of these links clearly denotes your business topic and audience, they provide strong signals to the search engines that you are relevant to your target audience. For example, a local business registered and listed with the Chamber of Commerce in your city is going to immediately generate relevancy signals in the search engines for your city, since the listing is verifiable.

Over the past year, we have seen businesses who utilize a diverse, relevant approach to link building and content development, along with robust social sharing activities, easily outcompete and beat larger businesses – often aged authority businesses – in their niche.

We recommend utilizing this top-down approach in link building for your business or clients. We have listed this in order of highest authority to lowest authority; however each client, vertical and placement has its own distinct nuances in terms of overall value. Additionally, it’s okay to mix it up a bit, building links that are mid-level authority while actively pursuing the larger authority links, as those often take more time to register, and have a waiting period involved.

1. Associations and Memberships

These types of links are the life line of a strong authoritative relevant link building campaign. Examples of high authority relevant placements include your local Chamber of Commerce, the Better Business Bureau, local trade and tourism boards, Kiwanis clubs, local national and international accreditation websites and any other organization that verifies that your business is verified and equipped to handle the product or service you offer.

Not only do these directories denote strong relevancy for your business, they are often well link to buy not-for-profit organizations and other websites that have high domain authority, so they tend to drive strong authority to your business when listed.

Ensure that the page that your business will be listed on allows for a do follow link, and is cached recently in Google. This will ensure that your link is counted positively (although the effect of citation in the listing might also carry some weight)

2. Niche Local National and International Topical Directories

We like these, because often they are overlooked, and yet have strong value both in terms of relevancy and audience.

Here are some queries that you can us to help you to find relevant, niche directory opportunities that are valuable your business and to the consumer:

  • {Keyword} directory
  • {Keyword} inurl:directory
  • {Keyword} intitle:directory
  • {Your Location} inurl:directory
  • {Your Location} intitle:directory
  • {Keyword} submit website
  • {Keyword} submit URL

Additionally, always be sure to back link mine competitors, in order to find opportunities that they may already be listing in.

3. Paid Directories

While the list of paid directories that remain quality and consumer-focused is dwindling, there are some opportunities to be listed in aged, high quality paid directories that we believe help establish some level of authority. Be sure to stick to human edited and reviewed directories.

Always be sure to focus on quality over quantity with directories. Make sure to really define your category properly and use unique descriptions with clear and concise company information. Let this be a small supporting role in your backlink profile, but not a primary strategy.

Here is the list that we use:


Don’t forget to submit to which is free and extremely high authority. However, it is challenging to get accepted into, so choose your categories wisely.

4. High-Quality Business Profile Websites

These types of links are often overlooked, as in the past they have often been breeding grounds for low-quality link campaigns for spammers. However, high quality, naturally built 100% complete business profiles are both highly relevant and helpful to every business. Many of these, especially many of the new are types, allow you to build extensive descriptive content about your business. This allows it you ample opportunity to “laser target” your audience and develop high relevancy in the form of natural keywords. A side benefit of these profiles is that they help the business combat negative reputation.

You will sometimes find these opportunities with association memberships or accreditation that are unique to your industry. Be sure to check out localized opportunities in your city, province or state as well.

5. Union Links

Once you begin researching your competitors and their inbound links you will soon start to see patterns. Those common patterns we often referred to as Union links. Quite simply, they are the union of competitors that rank in the top five positions of Google and Bing.  Aaron Wall, from SEO Book, used to call these types of links “hub links”.

Here’s a practical way to find these links:

Extract the unique linking domains for your competitor’s websites using popular backlink tools such as; Open Site Explorer – Moz, Majestic SEO, or Ahrefs. Compile the unique linking domains into columns by competitor to analyze side by side.

Identify the common domains that link to those competitors and consider those worthy of trying to replicate and earn them yourself if possible.

For paid tools to find Union Links consider checking out:

Hub Finder by SEOBook.com

Competitive Link finder by Moz

6. Relationship Partners, Providers and Producers

If you are the type of business or service that is a franchisee, or resells products that are largely built by other companies, you may be able to leverage relevant links simply by requesting links from your partners, providers and producers. The extent to which you can use this strategy is limited by the total number of products or services that you resell, or the extent of the relationship network that you hold with the business.

An example of relevant link building using this strategy would be:

  1. Check a manufacturer’s website for a product you sell and see if they have an “Authorized Reseller” or “Distributors” list. Do they offer a link on these pages that you can get by contacting them?
  2. Does a mutual business partner have a resource or links page on their website? Consider mutually exchanging links if they are relevant to your business. Referral links within content of each other’s blog posts can be a great way to kick this off.
  3. Does a service or tool you use regularly have a testimonials page that offers a link? Send them a testimonial about their company.
  4. Exchange links with a company that offers mutually beneficial partnerships with non-conflicting interests. ie. Mortgage brokers with realtors, car dealers and car insurance, interior design and hardware supplies etc.
  5. Are there public events or local charities related to your niche that offer a sponsors page with links? Sponsor a public event or an organization that aligns with your company views.
    Again, each client in a niche has its own unique opportunities, and not all businesses will have the opportunity to leverage this strategy.

7. Guest Posting

Guest posting has been a hot topic for many years and there have been many great guides and articles written about the subject, so instead of reinventing the wheel I will list what I feel are some of the better guides and blog posts out there.  These should help you to understand the concept of guest posting and how to achieve results using it.

My advice is to always stay as relevant as possible, and search for signs of activity and life on the blogs you choose to engage with (especially social and usability signals) also ensure that you fully develop out Google authorship so that you can maximize on the benefits of authorship.

Here are some good guides to help get you started:

What is Guest Posting?

The Guide To Guest Posting

Brian Dean recently brought his new article to my attention that speaks volumes towards guest posting outreach and nurturing the relationship. This is a great guide that covers all the steps and will have you guest posting in no time. There are some powerful tips here to keep a long term partnership for your authorship opportunities.

Evaluating Your Guest Post Prospects

Be sure to also check out Ann Smarty at for a lot of great guest blogging tips and resources.

8. Relevant Event Sponsorship & Donation Opportunities

Sponsorship and donation opportunities have taken their fair share of abuse. Too often, single instances of businesses being penalized or filtered back and results are tied heavily to specific sponsorship or donation sites they may have used in link building.

And this is true – if your sole intent is to game search engines by using sponsorship and donation links to drive commercial anchor text links to your brand, you will likely largely suffer negative consequences down the road. Google is far too intelligent and has sophisticated systems in place capable of understanding patterns in these types of links.

However, there is no inherent issue with building relevant sponsorship and donation links. In fact, Matt Cutts – head of the Google spam team – has clearly spoken on these types of links and how Google perceives these. Done with value, the organization and consumers in mind, these types of links are both valuable and necessary in supporting worthwhile causes.

If you choose to pursue these types of links, I advise you to always approach them from a point of value – what kind of value does the organization you are donating to offer to the consumer or the public, and how relevant is that value to your brand and brand messaging? If there is a strong fit, then by all means consider donating and / or sponsoring.

You can use a pretty simple set of queries in Google to find opportunities for events and donation websites, and often competitive link research will help uncover further opportunities.

Here are a few queries we hope you will find helpful in finding these types of links for your business:

  • {keyword} intitle:sponsor
  • {keyword} intitle:donor
  • {keyword} intitle:donation
  • {keyword} donor
  • {keyword} donation
  • {keyword} sponsor
  • {keyword} sponsorship
  • {Location} donor
  • {Location} donation
  • {Location} sponsorship
  • {Location} sponsor

9. Resource Page Links

Over the years resource page links have taken a bad rap. This was largely caused by SEOs and businesses who delved into using what were known as reciprocal link exchanges to build link volume anchor text.

Because of this, many businesses are hesitant to build a resource page, a partner page or find a useful way to support relevant industries connected theirs on their website.

Unfortunately those same businesses don’t understand the potential value they might be leaving on the table insofar as opportunities in their niche. Building relevant, helpful links to related resources in your area, or your vertical help provide value for the consumer, who is often looking for these types of services in their search to solve their problem of pain point.

We recommend building a small list of highly helpful and relevant topics related to your business, and then seek out other businesses who are like-minded and enjoy the synergy of referring business to you (and vice versa). This way, links that are built, are built naturally, and on the premise of a natural relationship.

Here are some queries that you can use to try and find some of these opportunities:

  • {Keyword} inurl:resources
  • {Keyword} inurl:links
  • {Keyword} resources
  • {Keyword} intitle:resources
  • {Keyword} links
  • {Keyword} partners
  • {Keyword} recommended resources
  • {Keyword} recommended links

10. Social Links

A lot has been said about the benefits of building social media into a strong content marketing game plan that potentially allows you to drive links into your content (assuming your content is remarkable)

Here are some great guides on how to leverage content marketing and social media sharing to maximize the benefits of social sharing and potentially generate high quality inbound links.

We recommend that you ensure that you build out all of the social media profiles 100%, and actively contribute and engage consumers in those profiles daily. The synergistic effect of this action greatly Increases thelikelihood that your content will be shared and potentially linked to. At a basic level, most businesses should consider Facebook fan pages, Twitter, & Linkedin.


With the largest audience, Facebook is a must have for any online businesses in 2014. Be sure to follow up your wall posts with a call to action that encourages your audience to comment or interact with your business page.


With a character limit of 140 per post, audiences in Twitter are living in the fast lane. Followers are looking for condensed, easy to digest information. Don’t forget to shorten your URL’s to conserve as much characters as possible for a compelling reason to click!


This social platform allows you to showcase your expertise and create a business profile that acts as an online resume to your credentials. This is great for networking with potential partners, job hunting, or seeking employees alike.


An excellent platform to post pictures and media to increase brand visibility through having your content re-pinned by other intrigued viewers. Show them something interesting and worthy of re-sharing.


A great place to publish all your picture content, don’t forget about info-graphics!


This is a great site for finding or hosting public events for your industry around a specific theme or topic. If anything you’ll be able to network with people of common interest in your local community. Who knows… maybe you’ll find your next employee or meet an inspired potential client? Maybe it’s time to showcase your expertise with a local presentation.

11. Local Media and PR

I strongly feel that local media, PR and communications are the way of the future in our increasingly complex, rich-content driven world. Humans crave storytelling. PR has the opportunity to magnify a story, an increase the scope of the audience that interacts with it.

If your business or brand has your opportunity to consistently employ high-quality content writers and PR professionals, then you have a distinct advantage over other businesses who are not able to employ the services. Having an outreach person on your team who is capable of connecting with local journalists, media outlets and online magazines is truly an asset, and combined with remarkable content development can truly impact an organization not only by increasing traffic, but by building high quality, natural, editorial links.

Media and online magazine relationships are just that – they are relationships, and they require a long-term commitment to keeping in touch, and being available to be an expert source on a story or subject matter.

Here are some examples of queries you might find helpful in prospecting media, PR and magazines:

  • {keyword} news
  • {keyword} press
  • {keyword} magazine
  • {keyword} reporter
  • {Your Location} news
  • {Your Location} press

Also check out HARO – Help a Reporter Out, to subscribe to a newsletter that can keep you informed of great press opportunities for your company.

12. Microsites

Microsites are essentially websites or webpages which serve as independent units within a brand or company in order to complement the business product or services.

They service distinct purpose – which is often to invoke engagement and discussion, support the product or service with technical knowledge, support the industry with technical knowledge (for example, a wiki) or providing educational foundation or base for which consumers can access and interact with readily.

Here are some examples of popular microsites: – A Wikipedia like site that allows you to create a business profile for your website, blog, and general company. Once you’ve built your page, be sure to include a link to your website in the body of text content by adding in [http://www.yourwebsite Your Brand]. Email [email protected] and request a do-follow on your page. This is a great example of one you can leverage for your website. There are other wiki sites where a company with the right expertise can provide insightful information and receive a citation as well.

Set up a personalize profile that showcases your expertise. Include a link to your website, blog, and any other linkable assets you have. This is perfect for promoting your authorship.

Microsites allow you the opportunity to build highly relevant, highly informational and helpful content to your industry and community. Because of this, micro site can generate a gold mine of social shares and inbound links from influencers and authorities in your vertical.

We recommend that micro sites are built with a pure focus on the end consumer and their pain points or problems. Helping to be a productive, helpful solution in your industry will not only help you generate inbound links, but will situate you as an expert in the industry, which will increase customer retention, improve sales and develop brand ambassadors. Ensure that you co-brand your microsite in a subtle but helpful way, so that consumers understand who the brand or company is behind the educational resource. Also be sure to link over to relevant products and services when the opportunity arises.

If you are able to stay highly relevant, highly focused and content driven in your link building efforts following a similar strategy the one above, you should be rewarded well for your efforts in Google and Bing search.

Here are a list of link builders you should check out that have contributed greatly to the discipline of link building. (If we missed anyone please suggest them to us)

Jon Cooper
If you’re ever short on link building ideas or strategies, Jon Cooper puts out an amazing flow of ideas in the progressively challenging world of link building.

Paddy Moogan
One of our all-time favorites for link building and outreach strategies. I highly recommend his guide as a good foundation to link building.

Neil Patel
Creator of the Quick Sprout traffic system, you’ll spend hours on countless strategies you never even thought to try. These strategies are backed by a track record of running success.

Brian Dean
The founder of Backlinko, he offers some great and practical link building strategies. Be sure to subscribe to Brian’s free newsletter for all the latest link building tips and strategies.

Eric Ward
Established in 1994, Eric Ward has outstanding link building strategies that are meant to go the distance. Be sure to follow his strategies for link building fundamentals that even Matt Cutts of the Google Web Spam team approves of.

Garret French
The founder of Citation Labs and some of the best tools in the industry. Garret teamed up with Eric Ward to produce The Ultimate Guide To Link Building. This book is truly a must have for any link builder. If you are fascinated by link building like we are, don’t keep this one on the night stand if you plan on getting any sleep.

Christoper Cemper
If there is anyone in the industry that knows the quality of a link, it’s Christopher Cemper. He’s the founder of Link Research Tools and creator of our personal favorite backlink analysis tool, LinkDetox Genesis. Be sure to follow him for regular case studies on links that have landed other companies in the ‘doghouse’ with Google.

Rand Fishkin
The former CEO of Moz and a true marketing legend in our minds. His regular Whiteboard Friday episodes continue to inspire us to develop marketing strategies that are both effective and valuable for the end user. What better way to make your business thrive then on a perfect Eco-system of targeted users paired off to relevant content?

The Ontolo Team
Ben Wills (Founder) and Andrew Davidoff (cofounder) are the technical geniuses behind the popular link prospecting tool Ontolo. They set a new standard for link prospecting tools for large scale agencies. If you are looking to scale your link prospecting, be sure to check them out. Want to powerhouse through our suggested search queries faster? Be sure to check them out.

Do you know of other types of relevant links that you feel are helpful for small businesses? Share your stories below in our comment section, and please share this article with your community if it was helpful for you.