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July 13, 2015

Ideas for Link Building in Difficult Industries

Published: 13 July 2015 

Link acquisition can be one of the more difficult and time consuming SEO tasks, however that makes it all the more satisfying when you pick up a good link.

While there are plenty of link opportunities out there, some industries are more difficult than others, and you can be forgiven if you find yourself struggling for ideas. I personally love link building in these industries, because more often than not the competition are also struggling to get links, which makes it a real win when you pick up a few quality links.

Throughout this post I’d like to share some of my tips on a number of ways you can build links in these industries. I’ve also asked a number of experienced SEO professionals which techniques they have used to find great opportunities.

Industry Specific Directories

Submitting to directories used to be one of the easiest ways to gain a valuable link, but unfortunately it doesn’t quite work like that anymore. Signing up to too many ‘SEO friendly’ directories can actually harm your rankings, although value can still be found in the right directories. Industry specific directories offer a great way to get a quick win, giving you a link while driving relevant traffic through to your site.

So, how do you know if the directory link is worth it? Assess all directories using the following criteria:

  • Are the links followed? Many directories will offer ‘nofollow’ links, if this is the case, don’t bother.
  • Does the directory look spammy? If it looks spammy, the chances are it probably is. It may be worth running the directory through a program like Ahrefs or Majestic and have a quick look at the type of sites it links out to.
  • Is there a screening process? A screening process means the directory will only accept genuine businesses and will be linking out to less domains. This will mean it’s a more valuable link prospect, as long as they are still actively taking submissions and will get around to reviewing your site.

Industry Memberships

These sites normally have a number of .gov and .edu sites linking to them, so can offer a very valuable linking opportunity. Often, all you have to do to gain a link back to your site is sign up for a membership, although you should check before to see that is the case. Normally they will have a members directory on the site where you will be listed. These can be quite pricey, but they often come with a host of other benefits, such as free invitations to exhibitions, as well as the potential of more traffic being diverted to your site.

Review Your Suppliers

This is applicable to any company that has a supplier of some sort, whether that be a software provider, wholesaler or a even an architect. It is always worth listing of all your suppliers and visiting their websites to see if they have a dedicated ‘Our Clients’ page. If you can find an opportunity this can often be a quick win, as you already have a relationship developed with the supplier. You can then give them a call and simply ask to be included, if it is a page that you should be on anyway there shouldn’t be much problem getting a link. Often people don’t understand the value of a strong link profile, which is why they haven’t thought to include them.

If you use software then it may be worth leaving your provider a review. Software is one of those industries that is highly competitive so companies rely on reviews to add credibility and value to their products. The great news is that if you use a lot of different software you are very likely to be able to find a couple that accept reviews and link back to your site, providing you with a quick, easy win.

If there is a particular client with whom you have a close relationship and conduct a lot of business with then there may also be an opportunity for a partnership. Many firms list partners on their sites, so if it makes business sense then it could be an opportunity worth pursuing.

This is a particularly good technique for industries such as construction and manufacturing.

Event Sponsorship

Whether this is a local event or an industry conference, events are always open to sponsorships to help fund the event. This doesn’t mean you will need to pay extortionate amounts either, sponsoring for around $200 should be enough to be recognised as a sponsor and get a link.

This can normally offer high value links, but it is important you carry out research on the strength of the domain and try to stick to events that have fewer sponsors, as the more the site is linking out the weaker the link becomes.

Web Designer

If your site was designed by a web designer then it should be an easy opportunity to try and gain a link back from their site. They may have a ‘Our clients’ or ‘Our latest projects’ page, where they display examples of some work they have done. This is an ideal opportunity to gain an easy link. If your web designer did a good job then they should be more than happy to have your site displayed, with a link back to your domain. Just make sure that the link doesn’t contain unnatural anchor text and isn’t stuffed with keywords.

To really stand out, offer to give a glowing testimonial as well.

Industry Magazines

Industry magazines offer various link building opportunities, as the majority now have an online presence. The easiest and least time consuming way to do this would be via advertising, I wouldn’t recommend this purely to gain a link unless advertising makes sense for your business as well. A link should only be looked at as an additional benefit in this case.

However, magazines are always open to article ideas and perhaps even an interview, anything that makes sense and could result in you gaining a link. Think about it from a more traditional point of view, how would you approach this magazine if you wanted to boost your PR? Perhaps you have just completed or are about to start a major project that you think is worth talking about. The truth is there are plenty of opportunities out there, you just need to pitch an idea that is interesting and adds value to the magazine.

Host an Event

Hosting an event is a great way to earn links, while improving your offline visibility. To get the most out of your event you have to make sure plenty of preparation goes in and you invite the right people to make sure it is a success. You want people to be talking about your event, the more people talking about it, the more links it is likely to translate to.

The link earning can begin right away, you can find websites that post information about local events that will allow you to link back to your page.

There are many specifics that go into hosting an event, probably enough for an entire blog post in itself, so I have found a great one written by Casey Meraz on the Moz blog.

Charity Donations

Making a charity donation is probably one of the best and easiest ways to earn a great link without writing any content. It is always best to look for charities that are somewhat related to your niche, however this isn’t always possible and a link from any charity is a good link to have.

So how do you gain a link? You need to look for charities that provide a list of ‘donors’ or ‘supporters’ page. You should never exclusively ask for a link, however just make sure you are approaching sites that you know are linking back to donors. Sometimes it may be difficult to see how much is required to be get mentioned. It can be a tricky subject but start by approaching the charity and ask what their sponsorship options are and mention you would like to make a donation and be recognised for doing so.

Like any link building tactic it is important that this isn’t overused, however it provides a great way to generate some backlinks with high pagerank and domain strength.

Tip: A great way to find pages that display donors and supporters etc is by doing an inurl check on Google. So if I were looking for donor page I could search ‘inurl:donors’, which would then display pages that have donors in their url. This can be used as a basic filter process, making your search less time consuming.

Expos & Trade Shows

If your company is one that attends expeditions and trade shows then there could be a number of easy link building opportunities at your disposal. The vast majority of expos or trade shows have a list on their dedicated website that lists all of the exhibitors that will be attending, but it is always worth checking that your business has been listed. This is could potentially provide you with a highly authoritative link that passes a lot of value for very little effort.

Competitor research/analysis - review competitor backlink profile

This is one of my favourites and I probably spend around 80% of my time doing this when link building, whether the client is in a difficult industry or not. There are a number of great tools like Ahrefs and Majestic that for a small fee (around $70 a month) will allow you to identify backlink profiles of your competitors.

These tools can be really valuable if used correctly, and there are techniques you can apply to find the very best link building opportunities. Here’s a tip: When evaluating a link opportunity, consider both the number of inbound and outbound links coming to that site; ahrefs gives you a option to the view the number of outgoing links of a domain. So why is this useful? Well, say you find a site that has 1000 referring domains, but is linking out to 10,000 domains, then the link juice from this will be very diluted. However, if you find a site that has 500 referring domains, and that domain is linking out to 250 different sites then the value you can gain from that link will be much higher.

Ideas from the Experts:

We live and breathe link building, but we’re not the only ones! Check out what the other experts in our field had to say about link building in difficult industries.

Brainstorming ideas and research
“Invest a ton of time in brainstorming ideas and doing research before you start trying to find linking partners or doing outreach. I am not a big fan of competitive analysis usually, but in cases like this I do believe that it can help. So definitely see what your competitors are doing, then try and do it better. If your competitor has written an article about topic X and that's generated some good links, create a video that expands on the same topic and do outreach to those sites linking to your competitor's post, for example.”


Julie Joyce is owner of Link Fish Media and co-founder of SEO Chicks.

Build relationships with key influencers

“Start out getting to know the space by joining and participating in the right LinkedIn Groups, Quora discussions, industry community sites, etc. Find the influencers, even if they don't have websites, and build relationships. And don't neglect the importance of building your own personal brand! If you're struggling to find a meaningful connection with influencers, find a reason to feature them as the expert. Interviews, quotes, etc. Making your outreach about them is a great way to build a meaningful connection.” - Nate Dame at Profound Strategy


Get creative - infographics

“Getting links is about building an authoritative brand and sharing their knowledge. Creative mediums like infographics, blog posts, videos get a high level of engagement.”


Stoney G deGeyter is CEO & SEO Strategist at Pole Position Marketing.

Build a long term strategy

“When you optimize for difficult industries you need to plan for the long haul, create a strategy for a year or two and implement it over time. Also branding is a significant advantage.” - Tad Chef


Tadeusz Szewczyk, better known as Tad Chef, is a blog, social media and search specialist at

Take risks and stand out

“I truly believe that if you get creative enough, even the most difficult and boring industry can yield a wealth of ideas for winning links. Content should always be the pivot around which your link building efforts revolve, so you need to get out of your comfort zone and think of content ideas that are radical and might make some people uncomfortable.

You could go down the route of humour, for example. A company I used to work with sells rubber floor tiles. Not exactly a sparkling industry, but we had plenty of ideas showing off the robustness of the floor tiles with slapstick-like short videos featuring all kinds of industrial calamities. The company didn't go for them, unfortunately, because they felt it was too risky.

Well, in difficult industries you need to take risks if you want to get anywhere. When you play it safe, you're nothing special and don't deserve to stand out from the rank and file. Sticking your head above the parapet is not an easy thing to do, but to be successful you have to take a chance.

For me, that's the key to winning links in difficult industries: take risks and stand out. Do things differently - it might backfire, yes, but it could also propel you to the top. The most successful viral campaigns we remember are precisely the ones where a business went out on a limb and tried something new and unusual.” - Barry Adams - Founder, Polemic Digital

Create a brand

My best advice for building links in competitive industries is to focus on building a brand; not individual hyperlinks amongst the vast interwebs. Over the years I have realized that the rules of SEO are the same for all sites, industries and levels of competition. However, the degree to which they apply vary greatly, and the main driver is competition. Think of "search volume" whenever you read the word "competition."

For example, if you were Ned Flanders and your site was all about left-handed hypoallergenic scissors for vegetarians, a few links could get you to the top overnight. That industry has basically zero competition. In highly competitive industries (again, think search volume) Google has to decide how to rank sites which might have similar or even identical link profiles. The difference is the brands. Do they have relevant co-citations, from relevant sites? Do they make the industry news? Are they a knowledge graph entity? Links will come naturally once you've sufficiently defined a brand personality through consistent multi-channel content activities.


Harris Schachter is Senior SEO & Content Marketer at Capital One and Owner of Optimize Prime.

Ben Maden

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