How to get backlinks to a small business website

Just add water

I feel for small businesses today because it is becoming more and more difficult to compete for search engine visibility. Sadly, not every website is created equal in the eyes of Google and the other search engines. However, it is not all doom and gloom. Like a vegetable garden, the more you care for your SEO the greater the harvest. Before we delve into learning how to get backlinks to your small business website, we need to cover a few basics.

There are three pillars of SEO

SEO Strategy

Each pillar is equally important.

If your website code is not search engine friendly, then the search engines cannot read your valuable content targeting specific keywords. If you do not have worthy content that contributes to the wealth of knowledge that is the Internet, then you probably are not going to earn backlinks or social share activity. Backlinks and social media activity act as votes of confidence from external sources praising your content. They heavily influence a web page’s ability to rank for a target keyword.

Now that we understand why each pillar is important, we need to think of an arms race between the world superpowers.

In theory, the first country with the greater number of weapons that can cause the greatest amount of destruction “wins.” Same can be said in SEO.

Websites that continuously pour their heart and soul into all facets of SEO will perform better than competitor websites that do not.


If you only do a little SEO once in a while, then you need to adjust your expectations on how much organic traffic you can expect from search engines. Websites that are constantly improving their code, publishing valuable content, and earning backlinks and social share activity are building a larger arsenal than sites that are not engaging in SEO.

It sounds like a lot of work — and it is — but once you get into a rhythm and grow comfortable with the process, earning backlinks can be fun and enjoyable.

Bad backlink tactics

In April of 2012, Google announced an update to their search algorithm named Penguin. Penguin penalized websites that more or less built their own backlinks. The primary way to accomplish a large increase in backlinks was to purchase and pay for those links.

Thanks to Penguin, if you engage in buying links and you are caught, Google basically eliminates your search presence for your entire site.

Here are other link building violations, according to Google:

  • Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link.
  • Excessive link exchanges (“Link to me and I’ll link to you”) or partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking.
  • Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links.
  • Using automated programs or services to create links to your site.
  • Text advertisements that pass PageRank.
  • Advertorials or native advertising where payment is received for articles that include links that pass PageRank.
  • Links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites.
  • Low-quality directory or bookmark site links.
  • Keyword-rich, hidden or low-quality links embedded in widgets that are distributed across various sites.
  • Widely distributed links in the footers or templates of various sites.
  • Forum comments with optimized links in the post or signature.

See the similarities between all the violations?

Actively seeking links can and should penalize your website.


These tactics are easily discovered because Google knows what a natural backlink profile looks like compared to an unnatural one. They have your website’s backlink profile because they crawl and catalog every single link found on the Internet. If you gain 10,000 links this Tuesday and only two or three over the next few weeks, and then all of a sudden gain another 2,000 a month later, there is a good chance you are engaging in one of the tactics above.

How to get backlinks, then?

Um, you’re reading an article titled, “How to get backlinks to a small business website,” and so far we have only learned what not to do. What gives? Well, you need to know which tactics to avoid because the consequences are grave. Now on to the fun stuff — learning how to get backlinks naturally so we can avoid search engine penalties.

One of the safest way to produce backlinks involves work and establishing yourself or your company as a thought leader relative to the products and services your business offers. A thought leader, you say? I am just a florist! I am just a cobbler! I am just a baker!

Never sell yourself short and never assume anyone knows your business better than you.

I am a reality TV fan because I do not know anything about fishing in Alaska, designing clothes, or surviving naked in the most inhabitable locations on Earth. People search for and research everything on the Internet. There are people out there looking for shoe repair, and how to bake a wedding cake, and how to arrange flowers. Be the solution for those people. Share your knowledge and expertise through content publishing.

Add a blog to your website and start writing.


Below is our nifty visual aid that you can reference as I walk you through each step.

How to Get Backlinks Content Creation

These are safe and surefire tactics for how to get backlinks to your website:

Step 1 – Analyze – Figure out what people are searching for
Step 2 – Create – Draft content for each target keyword
Step 3 – Publish – Each piece of content targets a single keyword
Step 4 – Promote – Let the world know you are creating content
Step 5 – Monitor – Track organic traffic and your website inbound links

Now let’s review each of these in detail.

Step 1 – Analyze – Figure out what people are searching for

You need to come up with blog post ideas, and there are various sources of data that can help you come up with topics. Randomly guessing without leveraging these data sources will hinder your potential. So how can we figure out what people are searching for when they are on Google?

Does your website offer an internal site search feature? Is there a search bar on your website? If so, your website is capturing, and you should have access to, all those keywords people use when they search using your site’s internal search. Do you see any patterns? Common search themes? If yes, figure out if you have a page of content on your website that addresses those search queries. If you do not, now you know which web page to publish next.

Do you review and analyze your competitor’s website? You should. I do. I always keep an eye on the business across the street, or in my case, across the internet.

There is one tool I heavily rely upon — the Google Keyword Planner. This tool provides you with search behavior data (i.e. the number of times per month people search for keyword X in Google). You can filter by country and language. The Keyword Planner will even provide you with suggested keywords based upon your initially query. I suggest focusing your research, so select a handful of related terms.

For example, this is a cluster of related keywords:

Local Search, Local SEO, Local Business Listings, Business Listings, Local Listings

There is a tight theme with those terms. Do not do this:

Cats, best hamburger recipe, Italian beaches, carnival rides, how to increase website traffic

Google will not be able to provide you with good keyword suggestions if you do not refine your keyword focus.

Step 2 – Create – Draft content for each target keyword

You now have a decision to make. What type of content should I produce? There are infographics, video, ebooks, white papers and, of course, blog posts, to name a few. As a small business owner you need to weigh your time and cost of production. The fastest way to producing content in an economical manner is by blogging.

For an SEO blog I might write a post for the following topics:

  • What is SEO?
  • How does SEO work?
  • What is a Robots.txt File?
  • What is an XML Sitemap?
  • How do I use the Rel-Canonical Tag?
  • What is on-page SEO?

These are popular questions asked by visitors and many have search demand. Each of those concepts above will become six separate blog posts.

Step 3 – Publish – Each piece of content targets a single keyword

We are publishing content for the purpose of generating inbound links to our website. This means your content better be worthy of sharing. How often are you sharing and promoting garbage content on your Facebook feed? While some people are obsessed with flooding your Facebook feed with inane content, as a small business owner you should produce content about your products and offerings.

Establish yourself as the subject matter expert and authority about your business.


Target 500 to 1,000 words per post without sounding spammy or repetitive. Trust me — 500 words is not difficult when you know your business inside and out. I am already at 1,500 words for this post (unless my editor breaks out a Ginsu knife). Also, publish frequently. Try one post per week until you get the hang of writing and blogging. Then bump that up to twice per week.

The more content you produce, the more organic traffic and inbound links you will receive.

Keep your blog post focused on the target keyword. So if you are writing a post titled, “How to Refinish Hardwood Floors,” only discuss that topic and do not include guidance on how to remove wallpaper.

I highly recommend utilizing WordPress for your website and blog. It is super easy to use and the platform (for the most part) is search engine friendly!

Step 4 – Promote – Let the world know you are creating content

If you build it they will come only worked for Kevin Costner and his Field of Dreams.

Publishing a web page and hoping floods of visitors will appear is not how the internet works. The greater amount of effort you spend will result in greater results. Become active on a couple of social networking platforms. Facebook and Twitter are a must, and then you need to decide which social media network is best for your subject matter. Are you publishing business-related content? LinkedIn might be a great place for you. Are you writing about handmade jewelry or designing clothing? Pinterest and Instagram are definite destinations for promoting your content.

After you publish a blog post, share it on your social networks and then engage when people engage with you.

Content PromotionWe thirst for conversation rather than being lectured. Those who merely push their message and never listen or engage usually are not as successful. So when someone comments on your blog or on your social media post, engage with them. You never know who has a website or blog. You never know who will build upon your knowledge and create their own post referencing your original post as a citation!

Ahhhh, I knew you were going to discuss how to get backlinks to a small business website. There is a method to the madness. Trust me it happens. Let the world know you are a subject matter expert by sharing your knowledge. Be a good internet citizen, adding to the collective knowledge space while making friends. Over time your traffic and website backlinks will grow.

People search for solutions to problems related to your products or offerings. Provide those solutions — and the visitors and inbound links will come.

Step 5 – Monitor – Track organic traffic and your website inbound links

If you are taking the time to create, publish and promote content to build backlinks, it’s smart to measure your progress.

Remember the part where I said this will work? Add website analytics to your website. You can spend cash on an analytics solution such as Adobe Web Analytics, but as a small business I would recommend using Google Analytics, which is free. Install the analytics tracking on every page of your website. You can check your analytics weekly, but once a month is just fine. Google Analytics will show you how an individual page is performing and which channels are driving traffic to that page (i.e. organic search, social media, web referrals etc.).

To track your website backlinks I suggest using Majestic, OpenSiteExplorer or Ahrefs. You will be able to get some data for free, but it is worth paying for these services if your goal is to build backlinks to your website.

This is not going to be an overnight project. You might not see dazzling results after six months. This is a marathon, so keep at this for at least 12 months and I promise you will see fantastic growth in backlinks and web traffic from organic search, social media and web referrals. Also, this is a form of backlink generation that will never be punished by the search engines like paying for links, or engaging in link farms.

Now go forth and broadcast your knowledge — and reap the benefits of your labor.

Image by: Christopher Craig via / CC BY

Garth O'Brien
Garth O’Brien is the Director and Global Head of SEO for GoDaddy. As a recovering attorney he began his Digital Marketing career while practicing law, but in 2006 he traded the courtroom for the world of online marketing full-time. Garth has owned the SEO programs for numerous small businesses and global enterprise companies, including IKEA USA, Hallmark, Windows Phone, Chevron and Xbox. He also has extensive experience with social media, blogging and paid search. Connect with Garth on LinkedIn and visit his website focusing on SEO, Social Media and Community.