The BootStrapper’s Guide To SEO Linkbuilding

Today we’re giving a shout out to the bootstrappers and the DIYers out there. Of course, as most of you already know, Smash Digital has two different link building services for those looking to let the pros (that’s us) handle it:

RankBOSS for competitive niches with some higher quality big-boss backlinks, and RankBOSS Lite for those down the scale a bit.

But what if you don’t have the budget for either of our link building services (yet)? You’re just starting out, have your capital tied up elsewhere, etc. That’s who this guide is for, the entrepreneurs with more time than money, the hustlers looking to make some initial progress with their SEO.

When you’re able to scale up a bit (with the help of the organic traffic you’ll start generating), come back here and let us take SEO off your hands, so you can focus on growing your business, and we can do what we do best:

Dabb on ’em

…also SEO.

About This Guide

Look, I know you’re busy. If you’re trying to bootstrap a biz, you’re probably wearing 10 different hats, and trading sleep for productivity. We could have made this a very pretty guide, trying to burn up the charts. Instead we’re just focusing on the quick and dirty, the tactical vs. entertaining (and we just wanted to spend the afternoon writing this instead of a full week for pretty pictures).

So follow the steps below and you’ll be doing all the important things to lay a solid foundation to help with your organic traffic. And when you scale up and need someone to take link building off your hands, come back and grab one of our RankBOSS packages.

On Page SEO


Follow our on-page seo guide. Problem solved. Always start with this before venturing on to link building.


Directories have been used and abused by SEOs, and are not a powerful way to build authority or get some traffic flowing in. But everyone always asks about them so let’s cover these dinosaurs briefly.

A few high-quality and relevant directory links will help a little. It’s definitely not where you want to spend most of your time.

A few quick ways to tell if it’s a high-quality directory or not:

Look at the backlinks of the directory

What you’re looking for here is backlinks from authoritative sites (sites with high metrics as measured by Ahrefs, Moz, or Majestic), or backlinks from sites related to the industry.

Here’s an example of a directory’s okay backlink profile (in the marine/boating niche):


Here’s an example of a directory’s bad backlink profile:


Again, this is a way to quickly evaluate a directory. Don’t spend hours digging into the backlink profile. Just see if the links are from high quality sites and relevant sites, or if there are several links from low quality, general directories or “article factories”.

How targeted the directory is

This one’s easy.

Here’s a URL (keeping with the boating industry niche) that is specific and looks high-quality:

And here’s a bigger directory, of which boat-related listings are just one part:

Note: Good, general directories do exist, such as and, but mostly stay away from big, general directories.

Here’s an example of a directory layout from a site you want to avoid:

bad directory to list in

Get Some Basic Social Signals Using Buffer

If you don’t know, Buffer is a tool that drips out things you want to share to your social media profiles. In this case, we are going to share our own posts.

Set up a account and hook up all your social profiles.

  • Google+
  • Facebook Page
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Linkedin

Next, inside of Buffer go to “settings” > “link shortening”

link shortening

Make sure “No Shortening” is selected

link tracking

Then go and disable “campaign tracking”
Disable Campaign Tracking In Buffer
** Note: you need to disable link shortening and tracking for each separate social profile.

Utilizing IFTTT

Once you’ve got Buffer all set up to help your SEO, you can take advantage of If This, Then That (IFTTT), a service that lets you automate some tasks by helping different sites/programs/app talk to each other.

You can use IFTTT + Buffer to build up some niche-related properties.

Here’s what you want to do:

Create branded accounts on these sites (in addition to your main social profiles):

  • Diigo
  • Delicious
  • Tumblr
  • Blogger
  • Medium
  • Weebly


Now that you’ve created all your accounts (including your IFTTT account), you need to find “recipes” (the IFTTT lingo meaning connecting two different services to accomplish a goal).

For example, here I’m using a recipe to have Diigo to publish whatever I share with my Buffer account:

if buffer share to diigo

Here are a few of the recipes I use to get you up and running quickly (just log into, click on the links, and set up your account!).  Once you get these going, use the search or browse feature to find more recipes to automate your sharing.

Buffer to Instapaper

Buffer to Delicious

Buffer to Tumblr

Buffer to Weebly

Buffer to Blogger

Buffer to WordPress

Buffer to Diigo

Connect Buffer to every account listed above use the recipes provided.  Now, every time you drop a new link into Buffer, it will be syndicated to all of the connected properties (and, just to super spell it out, you’ll get a link and continued social signals from each one).


Once all of that is done, simply start sharing articles about your niche via buffer, and mix in links to your previously published articles AND all new posts on your site.


Now you’ve got niche-relevant links from all the top social sites on the web.


Make Sure Your Social Media Profiles Are Indexed

Go to and use the search operator:


If your profile shows up in the results, it’s indexed.


If your profile does NOT show up, there are a few things you could do to get it indexed:

1. Link to it from a social media profile that IS indexed
2. Link to it from your site (if you’re not already doing that)
3. Drop the URL in an indexing tool (just search for “link indexer” and pick one to use).

Guest Posting and Sharing Content

There’s a ton of posts out there to help you execute this flawlessly.

Here are a few good ones:

Not much else to say about this: if you know anything about SEO/Marketing you know how valuable guest posting can be for getting those sweet, sweet contextual links. And if you don’t? Then take my advice and get good at guest posting and sharing your best content.

Blog Commenting

Leaving blog comments for SEO gets a lot of hate these days. Not a surprise, as dropping an irrelevant link on some sh*ttily constructed comment as been done to death, brought back from the dead, and then killed again.

But here’s the thing, leaving high-quality comments on niche-specific blogs is actually a solid strategy. It shouldn’t be your ONLY strategy, but it can payoff if done right.

How to do it right

  • ONLY leave comments on relevant blog posts.
  • Leave humungous knowledge-bombs that the people who read your comment will actually derive value from.
  • Don’t leave this comment:


Hi! Great post. I really found this topic interesting. Thanks for sharing!

The goal here is to actually drive traffic back to your site, which will help your rankings.

Blog comments still work (and actually probably work better now than they did a few years ago).

The Social Network(s)

Put a link to your site on every major social network that lets you. Sometimes the link is in your profile, sometimes in the actual content you post.

Here are some to get you started:


This is also where having a few of the generic web 2.0s isn’t that bad of a thing.


Set up a few of these web 2.0ish sites and add unique content over time. Don’t go after any fancy anchor text—stick to brand and URL mentions in your anchor text.

Press Releases

It’s not popular to say anymore, but you can get some good results with high-quality press releases.

If you’ve got something worth talking about (and a bit of a budget to buy one), a press release can drive both links and traffic.

Wrapping it Up

wrap it up

You might have heard this before (on my site and elsewhere), but I’mma say it again because it’s important

Making the best damn in-depth content on each subject you write about on your site will be the best possible thing you can do to help your SEO efforts.

Writing bomb content + basic foundational link building + working to drive traffic to your site (guest blogging/outreach) = good rankings

Driving people to your site will put you on Google’s radar. Showing good user metrics will keep you there.

Last but not least:

I will always recommend starting your SEO work by choosing keywords that are the most specific to your offer as possible. This way your users will be highly engaged when they do click through, and you will have great metrics/great user experience.

When I started with AMZ Tracker, the very first keyword I targeted was “Amazon Keyword Rank Tracker.” Very long-tail—can’t get much more niched down than that!

Start small then expand to bigger targets following the guide above for each keyword/subject and you’ll have built a solid foundation.

Leave a comment below if you have a question and I’ll hit you back with some SEO knowledge.
Or simply follow us to keep up with SEO shenanigans.


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Sean Markey

Obsessive consumer of SEO news and strategies, writes the This Week in SEO column. Loves playing drums and writing fiction. Bets you he can throw a football over them mountains.
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