The $100 Link Building Challenge

The $100 Link Building Challenge

Link building can be a very challenging part of any SEO campaign. It requires a great level of creativity, adaptability and a strong sense of opportunism to be carried out effectively. Not only that, but link building can be extremely resource heavy from both a cost and workload point of view.

With this in mind, I reached out to a few SEOs with a challenge… to create a link building strategy based on a $100 spend a month. Now, I do have one word of warning – don’t just read this this post and assume that you can get your website ranking for $100 a month, because you won’t. What this post is about, is inspiring as much creativity as possible (which bordered on crazy within some responses!).

Here’s the scenario that I sent out to all of the participants:

[alert type=”box_info” text=”Your client has an e-commerce website that sells USB flash drives in a range of different sizes and they ship worldwide. Their objective is to make as many online sales of their products as possible – to achieve this, they have brought you in to run their link building campaign. The only catch is that you have a maximum budget of $100 per month. What would you spend this budget on to maximise results for your client (your personal consulting fees aren’t included within this budget)?”]


So without further ado, here’s the responses…

The $100 Link Building Challenge

Brad Knutson –

Brad Knutson

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Marketing on a micro-budget can be a daunting task.  Your margin for error is small, but the execs expect a big return on investment.

The first thing any marketer should consider is the audience for your product.  Who needs it, or who would use it the most?  For $100 a month, we are not able to run huge PPC campaigns, run targeted ads on social media, or use most of the tactics we would on a larger budget.  We have to make sure that our efforts are properly targeted and that they are memorable.  Rather than spending any money to send traffic to a landing page, I prefer to create something that is worth talking about, and let others do the marketing for me.

In this case, the products are USB drives.  Obviously college students are a potential customer base, but they are usually busy studying or partying, not to mention they have small budgets themselves. Perhaps students are not your best target demographic.  Another thought occurred to me while reading a story on the recent NSA news.  Wouldn’t it be funny to run a campaign that plays off people’s paranoia of the government stealing their data?  What better way to prevent the NSA from browsing your documents than to store them offline…on a USB!

Thus my ridiculously corny YouTube personality was born.

Clearly the production of this video didn’t cost a dime, and maybe my acting isn’t so good, but you get the point.  The more entertaining, outlandish, ironic, or just plain funny the video is, the more it will get shared.  The goal here is to get as many people talking about the campaign as possible.

Running a campaign like this gives you the ability to create a character and let your imagination run while.  Post follow-up videos on YouTube and Vine, and make sure to engage with anyone who interacts with you.  The more people you get talking about your campaign, the larger reach it will have.

This campaign is literally free, and there is no cost to you to run it.  So what do you do that that $100 a month budget, and what about that large potential customer base of students?  Let’s kill two birds with one stone – put the entire campaign budget into a scholarship contest, with the entrance fee being that the individual shares your content to their social network(s).  You could set up profile pages, create a voting system, but it’s far more likely that someone will hit a Tweet button than fill out a profile with their personal information.  Remember…the NSA is out to get you!

Dan Petrovic –

Dan Petrovic

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Step 1:
Structure a search query to find publicly listed bank accounts from a wide range of businesses.

Step 2:
Run a batch transaction file sending 1c to each found bank account.

Step 3:
Use a unique search term as bank transaction description or use your brand name if you like.

Step 4:
Create a corresponding landing page, index it and make sure it ranks for the search term.

Step 5:
Congratulations. You’ve just targeted 10,000 business owners, bookkeepers, accountants or anyone else that looks at bank statements in both printed or digital format.

I did this on a small number of accounts and nearly got sued. Some people thought I was probing their bank account with 1c transaction to see if it’s active. Had to talk to the bank to explain I was running a marketing experiment. They were not impressed.

Steve Morgan –

Steve Morgan

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For orders from the client’s ecommerce site over a certain large-ish amount (e.g. $500’s worth of stock), include a free USB flash drive, but don’t tell the customer – include it as if by accident, so they’ll get everything they ordered, plus a free flash drive. This is to continue until $700’s worth of USB drives have been given away for free.

Each of these flash drives will be blank, except for two files. One of them is a Word doc containing instructions. The instructions will explain the following:

  • The owner of the flash drive is encouraged to leave it in a computer in a public place (e.g. in a university library – somewhere where they’re notoriously known to be left behind anyway),
  • They are to tweet a photo of it in the computer’s USB port, with a particular hashtag (something like #usbchallenge),
  • They are also asked to login to the client’s site, charting the location where they found it and where they left it (the login details are the 2nd file, unique to each flash drive so that they can each be individually identified),
  • They are to leave the original instruction file on it, which will also explain that people who find it subsequently are encouraged to do the same and pass it on to another random person by leaving it in a public computer.

(Obviously they will be advised to make sure that they don’t leave any data-sensitive files of their own on it, as it’ll be ending up in someone else’s hands…!)

Given that USB drives tend to cost as little as $5, it means that there could be as many as 140 of the little critters out there worldwide.

Future ‘owners’ of the USB drive who find it (by randomly finding it in a public computer) will be encouraged to do the same, but there’s a catch…

The instructions also explain that if someone sends it back to the client’s address, they have a chance to win $500’s worth of free stock, split between them, the original person who received it and anyone else in the chain in-between – so if they’re the 4th person in the chain to find the USB drive and send it back, they have a chance of winning $125’s worth of stock, along with the 3 people before them as well each winning $125’s worth of stock. If it’s a 5-person chain, it’s $100 each, and so on.

The longest chain ends up winning the prize split between them. It encourages people to pass it on as much as possible, but if they do keep passing it on, they stand to earn less money, and yet if it’s sent in too early (e.g. they’re only the 2nd person in the chain but they’re feeling greedy and want to try and win $250), they risk not winning at all… There’s a deadline as well, about a year later (hence the $100 per month split in the two amounts: $700 of USBs and $500 of prize money), so the client has to receive it back before then for a chance to win.

In addition to drumming up some interest over social media (via the tweets and the hashtag), it’s likely to earn PR links as well as a few links from bloggers who see a USB stick ‘in the wild’ and decide to blog about it. The Twitter photos will also end up on the site as well, which will be available to embed on their own site/blog (if they want to share its ‘journey’ up until the point that they’ve received it), encouraging them to link to the client’s site directly.

James Norquay –

James Norquay

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Below are some ideas of what you can do with a $100 budget for a campaign. The first month would want to be impactful so here are some ideas of what I would do during the first month of the campaign.

1. Use the $100 to buy 100 USB’s (ideally they will cost $1 each) and then donate them to a local school or local community home which would be in need, people always need new USB’s. Then contact local journalists and let them know about the good deed you have completed. The goal of this would be to get some positive press and links from local community papers. You can adapt this “giving strategy” to most niches with any tangible item you have. You can locate journalists in your area using tools such as (most journalists are on Twitter so they will be easy to track for geo specific areas)

2. Use the $100 to send out free USB’s to tech bloggers. Let’s say you spend $1 on a USB and $1 on postage you can easily send out 50 different letters with a USB in to different tech bloggers in your country. I would also use a tool like Follower Wonk to locate bloggers and then message them via Twitter to get their address details. When you send the package make sure you include a note saying you love the blog, you have been long-time fans and include your website URL and twitter ID. If the tech blogger is generous they will tweet out an image bout the free gift or even share the image on their blog. Shoe Money (Affiliate marketing blogger) always shares out freebies from companies. You can adapt this “outreach strategy” to most niches.

In addition to idea two another strategy would be to send out higher quality USB’s to higher end bloggers which are “different”. For around $15 a piece you can buy close to 7 USB cuff links. Then send these out to the bloggers as they stand out a bit more than the more traditional USB’s. (refer to image below) use similar notes to idea two in the outreach.

USB Drives

Alan Bleiweiss –

Alan Bleiweiss

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This was an impossibly fun question – how to get maximum value from a $100 a month budget… Honestly, whenever a client says they do not have at least $1500 to $2500 a month to allocate for ongoing efforts, I suggest they forget about link building in the traditional sense. In fact, let’s be truly real – people need to stop thinking of link building as “how many links can I get for this budget” entirely. It’s the most myopic understanding of off-site confirmation that your site deserves the authority, trust and relevance to topical focus signals it needs.

People need to realize that you can’t easily obtain those signals on the cheap. For every issue in SEO, including “link building” I have a set of five “super-signals” I run through. Any individual signal point, such as an inbound link, must pass through all five and when it comes up short in any one, the other super-signals need to be even stronger to compensate. I’m talking about quality, uniqueness, authority, relevance and trust.

Tell me how many links you can get for $100 that pass all five of those, and I’ll tell you you’re smoking crack.

So what’s a small business owner to do in that case? Guerilla marketing, old school guerilla marketing. You need to invest time and legwork into doing something that will be so noteworthy, so impactful emotionally that people will want to naturally link to your site because of it. So if you’re a plumber, go out and find a shelter for battered women or a homeless shelter that needs plumbing work. Spend that $100 on the parts you need to fix their plumbing.

Do that and other good things in the world on a consistent basis and then let the world know you’re offering that service. Call the local news stations, radio stations, newspapers, chamber of commerce, and anyone else you can think of and let them know what you offer and that anyone who needs your pro bono help can just go to your web site and read about the specific types of services you offer, and to use that site to contact you for more information.

Or take the time to think about the challenges home owners, apartment owners and commercial business managers out there who run into plumbing problems and just need basic education to help save them time, aggravation and money. Then write a series of how-to and “top tips” articles and post them on your site. But don’t just write fifty word articles. Write detailed information about each thing you write about. And start out every article with describing a common problem, and how irritating, frustrating, and completely head-imploding it is for people to deal with. Make it so relatable that it’s “wow – yeah he really understands my pain”. Make that an entire new section of your site. Then once you have a volume of these, spread the word like you would in my idea above.

Offer a free Q&A section to your site. Where anyone can contact you through the site and where you’ll answer the best of the questions you get right on the site. Accumulate enough really good content that way over time, and you’ll naturally start getting links for that.

Find a local news web site or local radio station web site or regional or national site that you know your type of customer will visit. Reach out to them and offer to do the q&a or how-to content right on their site. Don’t bury bullshit links in that content though. Just have a link to your site in your author bio box there, where the anchor text of the link is your name, or your company name. Not some bullshit anchor text.

See, the concept in all of this is – you need to understand you can’t just “buy links” if you want to succeed. You need to offer real value, a compelling story that’s genuine and provokes people’s innate desire to find, identify and then talk about “the good guy”. Or if you’re so bold, go the opposite direction. Be so controversial in your content that it gets some people to love you and some people to turn into trolls just to take the opposite stance you take. Either way, triggering emotion in people will inevitably get them talking about you and linking to you without putting a nickel in their hand.

So put that $100 to really good use instead of wasting it on magic bullet bullshit.

Marie Haynes –

Marie Haynes

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If I had to create links for a company that sells USB flash drives, the first thing I would do is challenge the best SEOs I know to find ways to build links for my company and then write an article about it.  🙂 Good thinking Matthew.

But, in all seriousness, here is something I would consider.  I do a lot of link audits for penalized sites and in doing so I get a good look at what kind of things are attracting good, natural links.  One such thing is aggregation of current research articles and patents.

So, what I did was go to and search for “usb medical” to see how usb drives are
being used in the medical field.  (This is just an example, you could search for how they are being used for pets, for libraries, universities, auto mechanics etc. etc.)  I came across these articles: – A patent for using USB’s to manage medical records. – A research article on using USB drives for communicating medical information in a pediatric hospital. – an article that shows how first year medical students can use USB drives to keep track of resources. – Information on using USB drives for personal medical health records.

Now I just spent a few minutes, but a more thorough search would likely be done.  I would then take this information and brainstorm with my client on what kind of article or guide we could create that would be useful to people.  One example would be to do a thorough review all of the literature and patents that are out there in regards to using USB’s to store medical records.  Together with the client we could put together a guide that contains everything that is published so far about this topic – perhaps “A Thorough Guide to USB Use for Storage of Medical Records”.  Then, I would reach out to site owners, medical publications, businesses and universities that could find this information helpful and see if I could get a link.

A similar guide could be “How auto mechanics can profit from using USB drives”.

This tactic could end up costing nothing but time provided that someone in the company is skilled enough to put the guide together.

Cyrus Shepard –

Cyrus Shepard

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If I had $100 I would give out flash drives containing medical histories to the people on the street. Then we utilize the press to earn links. Here’s how the budget breaks down.

Flash Drives: Free – we would grab them from the supply closet.
Neck Chains: 0.17 apiece. I’m not very good with math, but I think we could buy about a million of them.
Voodoo Donuts: $60, to pass out to volunteers and hungry passerbys. (Voodoo donuts are the best for link building)
Laptops: We’ll use our own.

We take our flash drives, neck chains, laptops and donuts to public square and recruit folks to give us their medical history. We enter it on the flash drives and give it to them wrapped on a chain to wear around their necks. We make a few phone calls to the press and viola! Links come pouring in like sweet donut frosting.

On second thought, this is the worst link building idea ever. Let’s forget the flash drives, eat $100 worth of donuts and call it a day.

Marcus Miller –

Marcus Miller

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Given that Google is ever more aggressive on their stance against artificial links and subsequently this means the rewards for natural links are better than ever want an approach that focuses on stimulating natural, editorial links. So where better to tap into than the Blogosphere?

I also like the idea of a campaign or approach, something brandable that people can tap into and can take on a life of it’s own down the line – something like: Free Backups For Bloggers.

I see this working something like this:

A page is created on the clients site detailing their new initiative which is to provide free flash drives to Bloggers around the world. They know how hard it is to blog and the pain of losing some work so they want to make sure that all Bloggers have a free and flexible backup system that they will provide. At no cost. Out of the goodness of their hearts.

All any Blog owner has to do to qualify for this offer is mention the campaign and link to the clients site in a blog post and / or social media. They then simply fill out a form conveniently placed on the landing page detailing where the link / tweet / share exists and they will be shipped out a free USB flash drive to ensure they always, always, always have a back-up of their work. I would like to see a link + social share but that may be a bit pushy but maybe we have a slightly better flash drive for a link + share. It’s free stuff right? Why not share with your blogger buddies?

Now, in the idealist SEO mentality you would build this and they would come – but, the realist SEO knows that you build it, market the hell out of it, and then they come. So, we would use the $100 to promote the Free Backups For Bloggers landing page. Maybe via some fine tuned Facebook ads & some well targeted adverts on the Google Display network. We basically want to ensure we get this amazing free offer in front of as many Blog owners as possible and these two platforms offer plenty of eyes for a relatively low budget so we can start the traffic rolling in.

We make sure the page has simple social sharing (Free stuff – tell your friends!) and we encourage viral sharing of what is essentially an offer that is too good to be true. We would likely ask for a link to the homepage and not steer the ship too much with regards to anchor text or link destination so if some folks link to the landing page, if some link to the homepage, if some use anchor text, if some don’t, it is all the more natural. As long as they are linking and mentioning USB flash drives then everyone is happy.

If they can then also commit to some simple outreach and other 101 inbound tacticts to make folks aware of the offer and maybe even a couple of guest posts to raise awareness (rather than get a link as we will get plenty) then with a little time, a little effort and a lot less money they can soon be rolling in links.

Takeshi Young –

Takeshi Young

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Ok, so this can be done in either a good way or an exploitive way so beware.

One method for businesses to do online marketing with a shoestring budget is to hire college students as unpaid interns. I know a number of small businesses that do this. The benefit for the business is that they get a bright young mind working for them for free, while the college student gets work experience they can put on their resume, expands their portfolio, and in some cases can even get college credit.

The intern will work primarily from home, with weekly in-person checkins. The tasks you assign them will be based on their major of study. Look for English or Marketing majors to help with content creation and e-mail outreach, or graphic design majors to create infographics and improve the overall look of the site. As the SEO consultant you will handle most of the on-page stuff, and teach the interns about basic online marketing tactics such as guest posting, relationship building, social media promotion, etc.

As far as the $100 is concerned, use it to buy lunch & coffee for the intern at your weekly checkin and throw a pizza party once a month in appreciation of their efforts 🙂

Again, free labor can quickly turn exploitive, so be really mindful about being ethical, and make sure that the intern is actually learning about online marketing and getting a lot of value from the experience, and don’t just use them as a grunt to churn out content.

Matthew Green –

Matt Green

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Quick Wins

I would start with two of my favorite e-commerce link building strategies:

Offer discounts to University Faculty and Staff

By using targeted search operators and phone outreach, I can get dozens of high authority links simply by offering a discount.

Offer a general scholarship

By creating a general scholarship (I suggest $500 to $1,000 annually) I can get dozens of high authority links.

Total hard cost = $0
Estimated number of links = ~30

Note: I’ve never actually had anyone take advantage of a client’s discount or scholarship, meaning it’s possible that no costs outside of outreach time will be incurred.

Making Friends

Next, I’d begin making friends before I need them. I’ll position myself to get tons of link opportunities right as the client begins to get nervous (as they always do).

The key here is to find people in your niche using really targeted outreach, to participate in their community, and to give them something of value. One of my favorite ways to do this is to inform bloggers of HARO opportunities. I also frequently stalk and contact other SEO’s in my niche, and offer them links on my site (via guest posting, resource links, etc.).

You cannot be impatient or eager with this tactic. If you ask for something before you give something the outreach will fail 100% of the time. Here is an example of my outreach template to fellow SEO’s:

Notice that I’m not asking for a damn thing here. I am saying: “Hey, link building is hard, and I know you need some links. I’m here to help you”. Be sure to track your outreach efforts (a simple spreadsheet will do the trick), listing the pertinent information of all of the people you contact.

Tip: If you determine your blog topics beforehand, you can get these folks to write a large portion of your long-tail content for you in the form of guest posts.

Total hard cost = $0
Estimated number of links = Unlimited

Long-tail Content Strategy

Finally, I’d interview the customer service department at the company to get a list of questions that they are asked on a daily basis by actual customers. I would also gather queries from the site search analytics data. I would pick 24 questions/topics and write blog posts on all of them.
This will be my blog strategy for months 1-3 (2 new posts per week). While passive, this is a great way to build links over time, all while establishing the presence of the site in the USB vertical for long-tail informational queries.

Total hard cost = $0
Estimated number of links = Unknown (but it’ll certainly drive relevant traffic)

Ryan Hutchings –

Ryan Hutchings

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The $100/month budget can be stretched much further than that exact “cash value” if you take advantage of your own product. I would split up the $100 budget into two buckets: $25 – $30 cash, and then the rest in actual product. Here would be the link building plan:

$25 – $30 – I would use this for actually purchasing links on techy blogs/social sites with tech people or event sales people. I would offer them the cash in exchange for a post or a mention about where to get custom USB flash drives, etc… Nothing too sexy there.

$70 – $75 – This is where the creativity comes in. Lets assume that you can make a cusotm USB drive for 30 cents (your net cost). That would make you 233 USB drives. This is a decent amount of USB drives for small events, promotional giveaways for any company. Start a campaign where you will literally give away 230 USB drives, for free, with a logo on it for anyone that wants. A free “trial run” of the “service”. Of course everyone that finds out will start to order the free 230 customized drives and probably be done with you at that point. The only caveat is that whomever gets the free order has to “mention you” somewhere online – social post, logo on the website, etc… (basically give you a link somehwere). You just claim that its “brand building, just trying to get your name out there”, its a fair trade for free product. It looks like a sales promotion, but really its a link building effort.

You can do one of these a month- or split it up to 2 a month @ 100 each. However you like. Would create a sort of demand for the monthly giveaways. Kills two birds with one stone. Generates “leads” for your internal team to follow-up on for future orders, builds out a contact list and gets you a link. And I would negotiate that for every sale you generate from this effort, 5% goes back into the SEO fund to start doing more of these per month.
Bam. Opens up a whole new world of possibilities. Booth giveaways, company gifts, realtors, small service shops… biz dev opportunities are endless.

Moosa Hemani –

Moosa Hemani

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Step 1: Use Social Media and Blog not to target long term key phrases but to cater targeted audience and engage with them from time to time. The ultimate target is to gather as much audience as possible using platforms like social media and blog.
Step 2: I will launch a promotion (let’s say “Buyer Care”) and the idea will be something like this! The Store is giving buyers (people who already bought at least 1 flash drive from the store) a chance to win FREE flash drive (should cost at most of $10) IF they can convenes the company that they deserve the Freebie.

You can select the people, who can come-up with creative ideas of what they will do with that flash drive (gifting it to a techy GF, store the wedding album and pass it to parents and other creative ideas) and then blog about it! (blog should contain photo of the winner and the idea they sent to you!)

These kind of blogs mostly encourage audience and this will allow them to do 2 things naturally… share the blog to their circles or/and buy a flash drive to participate in the offer.
In both cases our overall sales will increase and brand will be able to reach out to the new audience.

Max Prokell –

Max Prokell

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Universities would be great candidates for some awesome links. Who has no money but needs to store and transport data? Answer, college students, so why not set up a USB donation program for select Universities.
We would do a little research and find Universities that have solid IT, Computer Science, Engineering, etc. programs that also have steadily updated blogs or recent news sections on that department’s sub-domain.

Next, we would reach out to a consistent publisher and offer to donate X number of USB drives to their students. We would explain that we remember what it is like to be a broke college student and that anything free is greatly appreciated.

We would plan to donate $100 of USB drives to a few Universities each month. Along with each donation, we would include a University and department specific press release/article that they could easily add to their blog or recent news section. Also, as a way to follow up, we would ask them to take a picture or two of the happy students with their free USB drives, as well as let us know when the post launches, so we can share them across our social media platforms.

Lewis Sellers – 

Lewis Sellers

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Looking at the question, USB flash drives is a hugely competitive market. With a budget of only $100 per month, outranking the competition is going to be very hard so in my mind, the best form of advertising would be a viral/popular campaign. Searching YouTube quickly showed that the most viewed video when searching ‘USB Flash Drive’ is a video of a Humping Dog – – The video lasts for 1 minute, is filmed on a poor quality video camera, but has had in excess of 4 million Facebook views (crazy I know!). Looking at the insights, it’s over 6 years old, but the viewing numbers are still increasing at around 500,000 people per year.

So, in month one, I would first of all ask the client to stock this brilliant piece of kit on their website (I’m sure you could dropship it from somewhere). I would secondly email the owner of this video and offer them $100 to add a link to our clients website in the ‘About Us’ section of the video and replace the two companies who are already there. They could also add an annotation to the video to promote the link further!

If the client was looking for a safer alternative that was more scalable on a month by month basis, I would take a look at broken link building. There is so much competition online for USB flash drives which means there will be goldmines of broken links available to steal. I’d head over to the Citation Labs website and use Garrett’s broken link finder to find locate some low quality sources, then curate some high quality content then can easily steal the links. From there, we’d simply link the pages back to the client to boost them up the SERPs. Broken link building has the potential to open up a huge number of links in a very short space of time and it’s very cheap to do.

Danny Ashton –

Danny Ashton

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$100 is a small amount per month but I would go for a long term strategy as the budget doesn’t provide the ability for any short term wins.

The first thing I would do is create a blog and identify a persona/audience that this blog is aimed at. Chunking up from USB flash drives we have gadgets – this is a niche that has way too many blogs already so I would look to chunk down. As USB Flash Drives are always getting smaller then I would potentially go down the path of “Tiny Gadgets.”

I would set-up a twitter account that would be connected to the blog and would look to hire two outsourcers.
1 outsourcer would be given a guide on where to find news stories related to Tiny Gadgets (Google News, RSS feeds, Forums, Reddit…etc) who would then input this into delicious. This same outsourcer would write tweets with comments as well as identifying the author of the original story and loading these stories into Bufferapp.

Next, I would hire an outsourcer to use the stories that are now in delicious and they would write news abstract posts (150-200 words) that would link back to the story. Based on the budget, we would probably get away with one post per day 5 days a week.
Over the next 3 months, we would see a steady increase in audience (Twitter) and interaction on the blog (search visibility, syndication, links and visits.) My goal would be to use these metrics as a way to get buy in for content that could really push the blog forward – (linkbait, infograms, static infographics and html 5 infographics.)

Using the above method, I have built up niche sites to over 800 search visits per day with less than 3 months of activity.

Donnie Strompf –

Donnie Strompf

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We would start with keyword research to determine which terms/phrases would be worthwhile to build links for, as well as identify the sites that are ranking for them. Then we’d perform an audit on the websites that are ranking for the “higher volume terms”, look for great content that has been previously created (with social media interaction or a great amount of natural links) that we can improve.

The next step is to network and outreach to as many professionals that will contribute and share the article.
We would spend $50 per month creating content that encourages links, likes, and shares. We would spend $30 promoting the post on Facebook. We would also promote the post on for free, and we would spend the last$20 promoting it on StubleUpon. The key is to get links to the content. The most expensive part of link building is timefor researching, creating, outreaching, sharing, measuring, and submitting.

Peter Newsome –

Peter Newsome

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When it comes to cost-effective link building, there’s the tried-and-tested methods such as spending the money on content generation – paying a freelance writer to craft an article such eg. “50 weirdest USB Flash Drives of All Time”; reach out to the blogging community and giving them free products for review etc. etc. These methods work well and don’t cost a lot of money, but they aren’t incredibly exciting. Every industry is different and no matter what industry you’re in, or what products you’re trying to sell, there will be some out-of-the-box way to promote it.

If you aren’t creative enough to come-up with an idea yourself, then do some searching around and you can likely find someone else’s creative idea to partner with or leverage off. For example, with the USB Flash Drives, they could partner-up with the guys from (which we are not affiliated with in any way). The basic premise of their site is embedding USB sticks into walls and other public spaces to create an anonymous, offline, peer-to-peer fileshare network. These guys haven’t done anything recently with their site, so they might welcome a fresh burst of energy and some free USB sticks to plant around the place. This could then be shared with the GeoCaching community and get them involved in finding where the Flash Drives have been hidden.

This might not seem that amazing, but if you can find the right communities to engage with, you could be surprised by the exposure it provides. The global GeoCaching community alone has over 300k active users. It just takes a bit of research to find these types of groups and if you can tap into them, the links will follow.

Zeph Snapp –

Zeph Snapp

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The truth is, very few of the link building strategies that we use are expensive, unless you count effort.  And I am not a super-genius, but I’m going to let you in on my secret:

I take the best techniques from other SEO’s, and adapt them to fit my needs.  So for an ecommerce project, first I’d be looking at their site:

Are they properly distributing their crawl resources?

  • Re- optimize, the pages going after long-tail keywords first, since they generally have a higher conversion rate, and in the long term can increase ranks for head terms.
  • Increase the amount text on each product page, and ensure that the internal linking as up to snuff

Only then would I look at building links.  And few of the techniques would cost money:

  • Check the Fresh Web Explorer for branded mentions (every two weeks, since the data expires).
  • Look at the site’s current backlinks and do reclamation to ensure that existing links were pointed at the right pages.
  • Start prospecting!  Here I would use my only paid tool, Link Prospector from Citation labs.  It allows me to cull prospects by category (and language).
  • After qualifying the list, I’d divide it by prospect type (unlinked mention, reclamation, resource page, etc.)  and then by vertical.
  • Reach out to each site via the most convenient social platform (we heart Facebook).

After this, I’d spend the remainder on PPC to send targeted traffic towards the page to test the quality of what we had done.  If we managed to do the on-page work correctly, and the content on the page is actually interesting enough to make our site the last click, then not only will we have some purchases,  but those high engagement clicks will send positive signals to the Search Engines.

Dana DiTomaso –

Dana DiTomaso

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I’d spend $100/month on Reddit advertising. Here’s why:

  1. Reddit is mostly techy young males – advertise the security features (the NSA can’t read these drives!) and they’ll eat it up.
  2. Do a silly meme (STORE ALL YOUR DATAZ) for the other folks who don’t care about the NSA.
  3. Make a flash drive with an alien on it. Redditors love spotting other Redditors “in the wild”.

Plus Reddit advertising is pretty cheap. They have some info on it here:

Giuseppe Pastore –


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Since it doesn’t exists any particular reason one should buy prefer this ecommerce to another one, I suppose they are not a brand and it’s unlikely they can get links because of their content.
So, first of all, I’d ask them to create a linkable asset. My choice would be trying to strike passions, and it’s not that easy with a flash drive.

So I’d ask the site to create a “Flash my Giulietta – an USB love story” page in which, buying an USB flash drive you’re getting a Shakespeare’s complete work kindle eBook for free. (They cost 0.65€ each, so with 100$ we have 154s per month). When someone buys a flash drive, in the confirmation email they get a link to download the ebook (they should be sure to send every coupon code only once).

While everything is ready, I’d start looking for Shakespeare’s fans among journalists, bloggers, libraries, theatres, educational websites and every site that might like to spread the news. You can just type “I love Shakespeare inurl:blog” in Google and find tons of sites, but your possible audience is much wider. Mining good prospects can be done combining using Google queries and other means such as Link Prospector by Citation Labs, Followerwonk to search in Twitter bios, Ahrefs to analyze links pointing to the sites you’ve already found…

I think chances are high I’d end up with a big list of prospect to let them know I love Shakespeare’s as well and I’d really want people read his plays. Being so in love with him, I’ve launched “Flash my Giulietta – an USB love story” and it would be great if they shared the my initiative with their readers.

(Here consider the name of the initiative contains a few keywords, so if they link it as anchor text, it would be not so bad)…

Every month the ecommerce will create another page so to target different kinds of websites (there are a lot of digital cheap items to buy on Amazon… a Justin Bieber’s mp3, for example?).

At the end of the year, I hope the ecommerce not only will have earned links, but maybe also actually sold some extra products.

Martijn Scheijbeler –

Martijn Scheijbeler

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To be sure I want to state that in this case I assumed that the ‘hard work’ to improve the site itself and to optimize the technical parts have already been done to make full use of the link building campaign.

I’m going to repeat the slogan I think in my opinion will always remain most useful for doing SEO: create something of real value or to quote Will Reynolds: Real Company Sh*t. Creating real value can also be done for ‘free’ if your client is willing to spend time on creating valuable assets themselves. In this particular case I would advise the small business owner to answer as many questions as he/ she and/ or his team can about USB drives. When you’ve done your keyword research on USB flash drives you will find that people are looking for information on how to use them on different operating systems and with different kinds of pc’s, laptops, tables or mobile phones.

You hopefully now have a great list of questions answered on how to best use a USB flash drive, for free, made by your client who knows all about it as he’s the expert. Now it’s time to spend the $100. I would spend this money to hire a (web ) designer who could enrich the page. For $100 you won’t get the best award winning designer but in most cases it will already make you stand out of the crowd for having more than just a basic design + stock photos. Graphic design students will always be looking for small jobs to earn some extra pay, you would be surprised with what they can come up with in litle time.

By creating an FAQ you know will have a valueable asset over most of the competitors in the clients niche. Which will hopefully earn you already some extra visitors looking for answers on some of the questions. While this will not directly earn your money in some cases that shouldn’t also always be your first priority! It will making reaching out to potential link targets easier in the long run as you have something they probably won’t have and is also not directly intended for sales purposes.

Jayson DeMers –

Jayson Demers

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With a $100 link building budget, I’d allocate it all to a contest. I’d offer $100 to the blogger who can write the most convincing argument as to why they need my client’s USB flash drive. Video submissions would be accepted, too. I’d curate all the responses and aggregate them into a central location where they’re publicly viewable, such as a blog post or the company Facebook page. In the end, I’d pick a winner, and mail them the $100 as a reward. I’d also ask my client to send them a free USB flash drive 😉

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Liam McCarthy

Online Marketer at Wow Zone
Liam joined the Wow team towards the end of 2013 as a volunteer, which led to an apprenticeship, which led to full-time employment, working in online marketing all throughout that time.


  1. craigaddyman

    “$25 – $30 – I would use this for actually purchasing links on techy blogs/social sites with tech people or event sales people. I would offer them the cash in exchange for a post or a mention about where to get custom USB flash drives, etc… Nothing too sexy there.”

    Matt just spat his coffee out!

  2. Moosa Hemani

    Thanks Matt for including me such an awesome list of experts!! I personally love the idea of Reddit!! if it worked out the results in terms of conversions can be superb!

  3. alanbleiweiss

    To be fair, I don’t recall the challenge being communicated about a company selling flash drives, so my answer wasn’t tailored to that specific focus (I may have been half asleep when I saw the initial email, or I may have been neck-deep in an audit – anyone’s guess). Its still good advice I came up with though – and all the answers are filled with things that cause you to go “oh okay – I can do that”…

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  9. Entreb

    I found great link building tactics in this post. If I were to be asked, I would spend the 100 dollar mainly on creating a highly useful and engaging content that has the quality to be viral. It could be a very awesome article or an infographic.

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  11. Fervil Tripoli

    Love the idea of Jayson DeMers… short and sweet. I think we can formulate some good strategies if we encorporate all the ideas mentioned.. contest (for content) + HARO (PR and journalists report) + social media (outreach and engagement) can become a great hit.

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  19. Roddy L

    To be fair, I don’t recall the challenge being communicated about a company selling flash drives, so my answer wasn’t tailored to that specific focus (I may have been half asleep when I saw the initial email, or I may have been neck-deep in an audit – anyone’s guess). Its still good advice I came up with though – and all the answers are filled with things that cause you to go

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