I think a lot of site owners are scared of link building, especially in the wake of the Google Penguin update. I know plenty of site owners that are so afraid to get a link from the wrong site that they hardly get any links at all! But just because a website isn't 100% the same as yours that doesn't mean getting a link from there is going to land your website in hot water. No niche has an infinite amount of link building opportunities so sooner or later you're going to have to take a step or two outside of your vertical and get a little creative with your link building.

Here's an example of how a B2C company like an organic pet food company could move outside of their direct niche (pet food) into related niches to find great link building opportunities:

What other products do your customers shop for?

A pet owner that cares enough to buy organic and all-natural pet food probably looks for other organic pet supplies like all-natural pet shampoo, organic vitamins and supplements, natural flea and tick repellent and so forth. These companies are targeting the same audience as you but they aren't directly competing for the same money. A pet owner isn't going to buy your organic pet food because they bought shampoo from another company, right? They need both.

A great link building opportunity is to partner with the relevant companies and pool your combined resources to help both companies succeed. For instance, you might be listed on their company site as a preferred partner. Maybe you can advertise in their company newsletter or contribute content to their blog. They can leverage their social network to help you promote a new line of organic cat food and introduce your brand to their customers that way.

I want to stress that you are to NOT engage in a link exchange with any company that will have you! A crunchy-granola pet owner might be interested in eating a Thai restaurant but what reason do your two businesses have to be linked to and promoting each other? Unless this Thai restaurant lets pets sit at the table for dinner with their owners there isn't really much of a correlation. That's the key to building links outside your direct niche--they still need to be relevant.

How can you get involved in your community?

Believe it or not, local, offline events can actually be a great link building opportunity when you go about it the right way. For instance, your organic pet food company could sponsor a pet adoption day at the local shelter and give out free food to new pet owners. Maybe you give them a coupon for 15% off or free shipping on their next online purchase, hopefully sending some repeat business back to your website. Not only are local events a great way to introduce your brand to local customers (which is especially important if you have a physical store location you're trying to drive traffic to), you can also get listed as a sponsor on the organization's site, as well as a mention in any press coverage of the event in local, online newspapers.

Who are some leading industry voices you should try to connect with?

I think that expert interviews are a great addition to any content marketing campaign because A-they provide your readers with a new perspective, B-you might learn something yourself and C-they are a great way to attract links! Who might your organic pet food company want to connect with? Perhaps a well-known and respected veterinarian, a successful breeder, or animal rights activist would be willing to be interviewed for your company site/blog. You could take a video of the interview and slice and dice it into smaller segments (if it's particularly long) or you could have a written interview published on your site. Chances are that expert is going to help you promote that piece of content because it helps with their own personal branding and link building. But every time they share your interview it's your site that gets a link and the social signals! A well-known industry expert usually has a powerful social network and their name carries a lot of weight. Leveraging their brand to help your own is a great link building opportunity for your website.

Like I mentioned before, the key to building links outside your niche is relevancy. Yes, it's okay to step outside the box and find new, creative link building opportunities to help expand your link profile and grow your brand presence but there needs to be a clear and reasonable relationship between your site and theirs. Look for sites that target the same audience as you and help solve similar problems. Think about who your customer really is, what their needs are and how you can find new ways to introduce your brand to them.

December 10, 2012

Nick Stamoulis is the President and Founder of Brick Marketing, one of the premier full service SEO firms in the United States. With over 12 years of experience Nick Stamoulis has worked with hundreds of companies small, large and every size in between. Through his vast and diverse SEO, search engine marketing and internet marketing experience Nick Stamoulis has successfully increased the online visibility and sales of clients in all industries.


I read your comment "Unless this Thai restaurant lets pets sit at the table for dinner with their owners there isn't really much of a correlation" and I wonder:

1. How does Google *know* these sites aren't relevant? I mean, I understand that their are mechanisms to determine relevance, but none of them can have any sort of certainty, can they? Also, is relevance calculated domain-wide or just page wide? Finally, we know that irrelevant links aren't always bad...how does Google determine when an irrelevant link is bad and when it's good?

Answer: I don't know for sure, but I'd guess Google looks at relevance the same way they look at trust. When a decent quality site links to another decent quality site, Google likely conveys some sort of value, relevant or not. Right?

2. How does it hurt to get a link from the Thai place? I'll take any so-called irrelevant links that no one else wants. I'm not scared because I know if I work to build links in my niche by doing interesting and/or useful things, I'm not going to be penalized for getting links anywhere and everywhere on the web.

What's more, if that Thai restaurant just happens to send me some traffic via that link, I'm a happy camper.

3. I think "there needs to be a clear and reasonable relationship between your site and theirs" is a good general advice, but too often it's taken to the extreme. If I can land a link on a decent blog by writing a post that connects with that blog's audience on some level, aren't I wise to take that opportunity, regardless of perceived relevance?

Personally, I think that SEO is marketing first...I don't recall hearing or reading "only promote your company when people have a strong and direct interest in what you do" in any marketing books or classes.


Some really good advice here, I am working with a gutter cleaning company at the moment. And this reflects my advice, which was form relationships with local roofing and window companies. They are not in direct competition, but have the same audience. And more so this will help the other companies complete their own marketing plans therefore making them eager to get involved etc.

Good work!

I definitely agree with your article. It's hard to get links from sites that are relevant to one's site since at the onset of the relationship you can be flagged as a spammer. One thing I've learned is that not all the things that appears the same are relevant. There are some sites that can be relevant even if it's not really the same as what you are eyeing for.

Hi Jason,

Thanks so much for reading and sharing your thoughts!

Hi Jonny,
Thanks for reading, I am glad it helped! :)

Happy Holidays,

This is an excellent article. I recently did similar with a site that sold a specific old fashioned product. I looked back and researched historically at places the product could have been bought (we're talking 17-1800's to present day) and found that it was also sold in barber shops and gentleman's accessory shops... So the modern day website versions of these stores became a target to obtain links from; guest articles submitted, comments made on blogs etc.

Top post mate. Couldn't agree more with your views. My current project is running with the same link building methods you've blogged about. Its all about the relevancy. Be creative, be careful but don't be scared!

I think it's both domain wide and page relevance that is taken into account, but I certainly agree that getting links outside of your niche is not going to hurt your rankings, it's only beneficial as long as it is controlled. The Google Penguin update scared a lot of people away from taking action and now everyone is scared to make a move. The fundamental to link building are still the same and a quality link from a site that may not be directly related to your website still has enormous value. Better yet, I'd recommend surrounding the link with niche relevant content. Then at least the page will be niche specific if the entire domain is not.

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