12 ways to build backlinks without paying for them

Backlinking campaigns can get super-expensive. As of 2023, businesses pay between $25 to $18,000 for one backlink. Now, the effectiveness of these links is debatable, but Google certainly equates backlinking campaigns with link spam – as per Google’s November office hours session.

Backlinking has lost steam as a ranking factor since the early days of Google search, and now hundreds of other ranking factors share the space that backlinks once occupied.

With all that said, backlinks are still a ranking factor, albeit less important, so you still need them. Ideally, you should get backlinks naturally. And if you don’t, you should definitely not have to pay for them.

You might be thinking, ‘how on earth can you get backlinks from other websites through outreach without paying?!’ Simply by offering an undeniable value proposition that compels a 

 website owner or operator to log into the backend and add a link to your website.

In this blog post, we cover some ways to highlight value propositions – other than money – to get those links.

build backlinks without paying

Here is how to build backlinks without paying for them:

1. Link building through HARO and similar websites

HARO (Help A Reporter Out) is a powerful PR channel that can generate high-quality backlinks to your website. It is a platform where journalists submit queries for sources to answer.

A journalist can be anyone writing an article. They are often on a tight deadline, looking for quality content that they can get for free. And that’s your chance to promote your content to them. Here’s how it works:

  1. The journalists across niches submit their requests to sources through HARO. 
  2. The query gets published through 3 newsletters every working day – Morning, Afternoon, and Evening.
  3. You can reply to these queries as a source—A source is someone knowledgeable in the niche and willing to share their expert opinion in the form of a quote.
  4. Once you send your response as a source, HARO directs it to the journalist via mail while attributing the quote to you. The journalist has many options from here. They might ignore your query, use text without linking it to you, or – in the best-case scenario – link the quote to your website.

Whom does HARO link building work for?

HARO link building works for all websites. It, however, is a gold mine for businesses with low domain authority.

HARO outreach can get you links from powerful domains like Forbes, NYT, and websites relevant to your niche, and it remains one of the most effective ways to get good quality backlinks.Most websites get so many guest posting requests every day that they direct them all to trash.

With HARO, you know the exact content these websites are looking for, so your pitch gets seen, to the least.

Challenges with HARO link building.

1. Competition

HARO is a popular newsletter for everything PR. Many people submit pitches for all queries, even those from low-domain websites. So Forbes and its famous cousins get thousands of pitches per query.

Even a perfect pitch may not make it to the final copy because of the intense competition. Yet, this backlinking method is better than most alternatives listed here.

Alternatively, Terkel has lesser competition, but fewer quality websites submit their pitches there.

2. You can mostly build links only to your homepage

Google wants to see contextual links with relevant anchor text. With HARO, journalists use your homepage as the landing page when they link. You might get a lot of links, but if they point to the homepage, they might not be topical. You must invest time in adding internal links to distribute link juice.

HARO pitch email template

At DigiGrow, we have seen a success rate of 8% with HARO with this template.

Hi {Journalist’s name},

I am {Your name}, and I own a {Your service}. Please find my response to your query below.


{Your query -limited to the word count suggested by the journalist}


I hope this was useful. Please let me know if you have any questions. I would be happy to answer them.

Please find my full name, title, image, and company URL in my signature.

Thank you.

{Your details}

2. Broken link building

Broken link building is one of the oldest link building techniques. In this method, a backlink seeker reaches out to the target website with information on a broken link with a recommendation to replace it with the seeker’s content.

For example, if I were to have a broken link on DigiGrow and someone were to want backlinks from my website, they would look for links returning 404 error on my domain, notify me about its existence and share their content to replace the broken link.

Through this method, the value the backlink seeker offers is an improvement in the technical health of the target website.

Whom does broken link building work for?

This method is almost as old as the concept of backlinking campaigns and doesn’t work much for anyone. New websites and those with low domain authority have a tough time seeing any success with this method.

We saw a poor conversion rate of 1.5% with broken link building.

Challenges with broken link building

Additionally, this method’s popularity has attracted tonnes of ready-to-use templates that most target websites are familiar with. Some websites also add them to the spam list. This method has become a joke – we don’t recommend it. It still makes it to the list because it’s one of the options available in case nothing else works.

3. The method that works the best

Creating a statistics page is the best method to get backlinks without paying for them – and get them in bulk, fast! A statistics page is a trend-based article on a specific industry pain point. 

For example, a data point on what percentage of successful people wake up early might be of great interest to many. If you have that number in your blog post, people will link to it while mentioning it in their blog posts.

With the statistics page, you provide data to content writers that no other website has. You get backlinks for your originality.

Whom does statistics page link building work for?

It works well for businesses that already have a decent domain rating. Their domain authority gives people an impetus to respond to their survey as a backlink from them holds high value.

Smaller websites will have a tough time convincing people to respond to their survey. The only workaround is giving Amazon gift cards or something else that requires a budget – which disqualifies this method as a free method.

Challenges with statistics page backlinking strategy

Creating a statistics page involves qualifying leads and reaching out to them for data, cleaning the data, deriving insights, writing blog posts, and more. It might be a month-long effort, but the results are usually brilliant.

4. Free Guest Posting

The guest posting method belongs to the bronze age of link building campaigns. In this method, you write a blog post with a link to your website.

Whom does guest posting work for?

Guest posting is no longer an effective method for building backlinks for any business. Think about it – you essentially give away your content for just a backlink! You could get a lot more by hosting the same content on your website. You can get traffic and backlinks by getting the page to rank.

Challenges with guest posting

Even if you pick good websites to submit a guest post to, this method may fail you because:

1. Like the broken link-building method, website owners are overwhelmed with outreach mail and direct them all to the trash bin. The success rate is too low.

2. Every blog post is worth more than a backlink.

3. It is not a scalable method.

5. Link exchange

Link exchange is the technique in which the target domain links to your website if you link to theirs. Many consider this method to be grey-hat, and they are right. If done sparingly, this can be a very convenient method to build links. This practice is quite prevalent today.

Whom does link exchange work for?

Link exchange works for any website, but you can build links from websites with similar domain authority. A low-authority website will not have enough bargaining chips for a link exchange with a high-authority domain.

Challenges with link exchange

1. Link exchange is seen as a grey-hat method – Google doesn’t like it.

2. It works for websites with similar authority – if you want to get links from high-authority domains, this method will not yield results.

6. Link building through social media

Google rankings depend on the E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) of a website. And social media plays a key role in SEO by providing a signal to Google about the authority of your brand. When Google registers you as the author and owner of the content, you rank better. 

Not just that, social media can help you build backlinks without paying. This method involves creating valuable content on social media, building a follower base, and generating backlinks in the process. It takes time but once you have enough clout on any one social media platform, you can build backlinks consistently.

By building a network and providing value over a long time, you increase the probability of a follower clicking on the links you share. Moreover, even if you don’t have links in your posts, people might link to your post in their content. All in all, the more people see your post, the more visits to your profile page and click on your links.

Whom does link building through social media work for?

This method works for all businesses because, for the most part, it has nothing to do with domain authority.

Challenges with link building through social media

There is no way to predict if link-building through social media would ever work. It involves creating a lot of content without seeing immediate results. Additionally, you need to invest time in writing content, engaging with your audience, and building your subscriber base. You won’t see success overnight. It might take many months.

7. Promote target domain through your newsletter

Your website may not have a good domain authority but you may have a decent newsletter subscriber base. You can offer relevant high-domain websites to submit content to be promoted through your newsletter in return for a backlink.

Through this method, you offer exposure to target domains in return for a backlink.

Whom does this method of link building work for?

Anyone who has a good subscriber base or newsletters can use this technique. Brand new websites with fewer than a thousand newsletter subscribers may not see any success with this method.

Challenges with this method

Building an audience is the most difficult bit of this method but selecting content for your newsletters can be even more challenging. Your subscriber base expects high-quality content but the target domain may want to get away with a substandard piece. You need to be able to say no even to high authority domains if the quality of content is subpar.

8. Create infographics

Infographics are snackable. And thus shareable. Bloggers use them in their content to drive the point home effectively and often give a link-back to the owner.

Whom does this method of link building work for?

Infographics are a great way of getting backlinks without paying for them. They work well for any domain but the main challenge is getting the link. At times, people may post your infographic without giving you credit. You won’t find such instances until you do a Google image search. You sure can claim copyright or ask for a backlink but it’s often not worth the effort.

Challenges with this method

Designing an infographic might be a challenge. However, with Freemium tools like Canva, creating high-quality infographics is easy. You can access free templates and modify them as per your taste and brand colors. That’s it!

9. Start a podcast or feature in one

Podcasting has become a killer method of promoting content. You can start your podcast when you talk about your niche or reach out to industry leaders and try to feature in popular podcasts. 

Podcasting will give you exposure. Additionally, you often get to mention the name of your website or link your content in the description and get referral traffic. The more you get that, the higher the probability of people linking to it because of the value it offers.

Whom does podcast link building work for?

You must have some domain authority to leverage this method of backlinking. Most podcast owners do not entertain newbies. Once you have a good domain authority or enough customer testimonials that highlight your expertise, getting onto a podcast without paying the owner becomes easy.

Challenges with backlinking through podcasts

If you plan to start your own podcast, be prepared to spend at least 6 months in getting a sizable subscriber-base. You won’t get followers until you build some clout through other channels of promotion.

10. Write business reviews

Very few websites adopt this easy method of getting backlinks without paying for them. However, this one really works because you offer value to businesses before reaching out to them for backlinks.

This is how this method works:

First, you finalize 10-15 product or service based websites you hope to get a link from. Let’s assume that you seek backlinks from gardening based websites in the US. To attract their attention, you can create service-based listicles. 

For example, the keyword – best nursery in Seattle – is important for most nurseries. A post with them listed in it makes for good PR. You can get the list of nurseries from Google maps, select those that don’t rank on the map pack, and reach out to them for inputs. 

You can ask for details like Pricing, Quality, Distance from city center, employee count, etc. You can also assign a star-rating. This way you establish contact and give them something of value.

Finally, once the article is ready, let the listed websites know about it. You can ask for a backlink but most of them will share your content, one way or another, by themselves.

Whom does business review link building work for?

Businesses with decent domain rating – and thus a chance to rank the listicle would see the most success with this method. You need to have samples of top ranking pages for businesses to evaluate your proposal.

Challenges with this link building method

The biggest challenge of this free link building method is that most listicle keywords are super-competitive. They are quite difficult to rank for.

11. Use an affiliate network

An affiliate network can help you generate loads of relevant referral traffic through backlinks. It makes it easy to find the right affiliates to promote your business who also link to your website while promoting it.

How this works is, the affiliate network creates unique links for every affiliate who chooses to promote your business. Those links find themselves in the media of promotion that the affiliates choose. 

For example, someone might promote your product through social media, in which case you just get a brand mention. However, if someone does it through a blog, you get backlinks.

Who does affiliate link building work for?

This method of link building works from businesses that pay a high commission and have a good reputation. It may not work for new websites.

Challenges of building links through affiliates

Most affiliates will add a nofollow or sponsored tag to your links because that’s what Google wants them to do. Any link that involves a monetary transaction needs to carry those tags otherwise Google might penalize them. 

A nofollow tag does not carry forward the link-juice which means you won’t see an improvement in your domain rating. However, these links might drive quality traffic which improves your authoritativeness. So these still are valuable links.

12. Try Slack Groups

Slack groups are a gold-mine of backlinks and content collaboration in general. These groups are like HARO without competition. This method of generating backlinks without paying shows a high conversion rate.

Essentially, someone who needs content for their next article puts a request in a popular slack group. You, if the niche is relevant, can respond to those requests with a quote in return for a backlink.

Who does this free link building method work for?

This method works for all websites big or small, old or new. Low domain authority websites may see a lower success rate but this method works much better than most others.

Challenges with Slack group link building

Finding vibrant slack communities is the biggest challenge of all. You will find hundreds of communities relevant to your niche, but few of them have a responsive audience. But the effort invested in finding one functional group will yield great results.


Is paying for backlinks worth it?

Buying backlinks is helpful only if the invested amount generates backlinks organically. It is a legit practice to pay someone to create content that generates links naturally. But paying someone to link to your website in their content is risky. That is because it can result in a manual action from Google.

Does Google allow buying backlinks?

No, it is a black-hat method of link-building. Google released a link-spam update in December 2023 that helps the search algorithm identify and penalize purchased backlinks. Today, websites find it difficult to buy backlinks and keep safe from Google’s manual action.

How much should backlinks cost?

Getting backlinks from individual domains should cost $0, meaning you should not pay for backlinks nor sell them. Paying for links is a black-hat method that can get you trapped in the link-spam update, resulting in deindexing of your website. There’s no easy or fast way to come back from that.

Anurag Surya
Anurag Surya

B2B Saas | Content Marketer | SEO Specialist
My SEO strategies prioritize building human-to-human connections, resulting in longer-lasting client relationships.


3 thoughts on “12 ways to build backlinks without paying for them”

  1. Your blog post about building backlinks without paying for them is really helpful to me. Your advice on how to get backlinks from other websites is especially helpful, and I’m going to try and implement that in my site!

  2. This article on ’12 Ways to Create Backlinks Without Paying for Them’ is nothing short of exceptional! I’m truly impressed by the depth of insight and the variety of strategies presented. It has opened my eyes to new possibilities and has paved the way for me to explore innovative approaches in link-building. The tips are practical and seem very actionable, especially for someone looking to enhance their website’s SEO without significant financial investment. Thank you for sharing this invaluable information. It’s articles like these that make navigating the complexities of SEO much more approachable for beginners and seasoned professionals alike.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.