No matter how you slice it, link building has gotten harder and harder over the last few years. Many SEO’s have even removed it from their repetoir.

There is a war going on right now. SEO’s everywhere are fighting everyday to get as many legit links for their websites as possible.

Alas, there are still many tactics and methods that can yield high value backlinks while staying within the good graces of the gods at Google.

So why business philanthropy?

Let me start by saying I am no business expert, and everything I’ve learned has come from my experience (and a few business classes in college.) There are many reasons why a business might choose to use philanthropic methods in their business dealings. Harvard Business Review writes a little about strategic business philanthropy and how it might give a business an advantage in their industry. Some obvious examples of the benefits of philanthropy in business:

  • associating your brand with excellence
  • gaining visibility by association
  • tax benefits
  • promoting company culture

Also, philanthropy does not always directly equal a charitable donation. It could also mean volunteering of time or other generous actions done on behalf of a company and its employees.

Enough already, give me some examples!

Today’ I am going to stick with small business examples since we are a small business blog and I venture to guess most of my readers are small businesses as well.

Example 1: a charitable donation to a yearly event

For starters let’s think about a really normal and run of the mill case: donating to a charity. Let’s start off by assuming your motives are pure and you expect nothing in return. After all if you are donating to charity with the expectation that you receive something in return, you are probably doing it for the wrong reasons.

So your company donates to a yearly charity, lets say it is an event. You donate $5000 and in return you get a thank you (and link) on their website, inclusion in their newsletter, and a sponsor “slot” in their giveaway bundle at their event. This can be any kind of swag from small things like a business card / flyer to larger promo items.

Example 2: volunteering a community cleanup

Sponsoring a local community cleanup can be a great way to gain exposure (and even links) for your website. Think about this scenario: Your company that consists of 30 people all “donate” 3-5 hours each on a Saturday to do a beach cleanup for a local charity. Your group covers 20 miles and collects over 50 bags of trash total.

As a result of this, the charity includes your company in their monthly newsletter along with a photo of your organization. They also list your company as a sponsor (along with a link) on their website, and post photos and a link to your website on their social networks.

Larger companies with more free cash flow have dozens of more opportunities for philanthropy such as walks, formal dinners, auctions, etc.

Intended & unintended opportunities

Many times these sort of charities will yield a number of different reactions in the community. Your company might get picked up by local newspapers (and their websites), local bloggers, radio stations, business journals, Chamber of Commerce and other organizations.

Just don’t be surprised if you get nothing in return. Many times a charity has rules set in place specifically regarding link building or social media updates. Other times there are thresholds that have to be met in order for recognition to be given.

For instance, some organizations might be willing to give out a link, but only if you remain consistent with the organization over a period of 1-2 years.

Good things come to those that wait. Keep in mind that sometimes good “karma” might be returned in different ways, and sometimes it might take a long time.

Think outside of the box. Remember when you start donating to a charity, you are building a relationship. Think about these scenarios:

  • could the charity use your business services? (printing, pest control, whatever)
  • are they looking for guest bloggers or even just a guest post?
  • are there other events that they have throughout the year that might be a better fit?
  • does the charity have other donors that you could network with?
  • placing their logo on your site as a form of social proof

Over the years we’ve had a few different philanthropic opportunities, most of which have yielded a number of unintended opportunities that have really benefited us.

Where there is link building, there is traffic

Always remember that even a no-follow link can have a lot of power. We have one client that has been riding a wave of traffic for over 3 years from a no-follow link they received from a vendor of theirs. It probably accounts for 5-10%% of their overall web referrals on a good month.

Links do not always equal traffic, but many times they do. A well placed link on a charitable website can not only yield traffic for your website but can also stand as a form of social proof for your company. I wrote a little about this in an informal study on social proof on Moz’s blog.

Above all, stay classy

At the end of the day remember you are doing this to help someone, and you should feel really good about this. Whether it is helping your community or someone all the way across the world. helping other people out is one of the best ways to create a positive company culture and unite your company as a whole.

Stay classy. Don’t beg or constantly ask for things. No one owes you anything in return for a donation.