Scoring sports backlinks is simple but not easy.
It’s like scoring in soccer:
You need to kick the ball into the goal. But the challenge is that you have to get past the other team!
The same dynamic applies to winning sports backlinks.
You have to compete against other businesses in your industry if you want to win the top positions in Google.
So, in that spirit, let's talk about 11 ways to do that!
1) Maximize your social media profiles
You can start by getting easy backlinks from your social networks. They might not be followed backlinks, but they're still valuable and worth getting.
Why? Think about it:
You’re building backlinks because it'll help with boosting your keyword rankings and, ultimately, traffic to your website. If you get quality traffic directly from a social network backlink, that works just as well.
There are two parts to implementing this strategy.
First, start with getting backlinks from the mainstream social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.
At a minimum, add your backlink to your profile. See how MLB has added a backlink to their homepage from their Instagram profile:
These types of profile backlinks are the easiest to create. You can also get backlinks and traffic from posts on these platforms.
The second part of this strategy is to look for sport-specific social networks that you can also get backlinks from.
Some examples of these include myCrew for the running and fitness niche, and CheckSwing for the baseball niche.
2) Get listed on local and community websites
Do you have an office or a sports venue? If so, you can go after relevant sports backlinks from your local community.
There are two types of backlinks to pursue here: general local listings and specialized sports websites.
You can get local listings from places like Yelp and Google My Business, and even TripAdvisor.
TripAdvisor has a “Things To Do” category that tourists can check if they want to catch a local game. Here's an example of a New York City sports venue on TripAdvisor with a backlink to their site:
To find more local listing possibilities, you can use simple Google searches such as "[your city] directory" or "[your city] businesses" (e.g. "Chicago directory" or "Chicago businesses").
Specialized sports websites from your local community are another place to get backlinks.
Finding these websites does take more time and research, but it's more than possible. I recommend using a variety of Google searches like “[sport niche] [your city]” (e.g. "basketball Chicago") or “[sport niche] [your city] club” (e.g. "tennis Chicago club").
For example, if you were marketing a tennis company in New York, you might reach out to Vanderbilt Tennis (notice they have provided several backlinks to other tennis clubs and organizations):
3) Pique the interest of superfans with sports data
Connecting with die-hard sports fans is an excellent way to get more backlinks (and customers!).
A passionate golf fan would happily spend heavily on training and equipment to improve their skills. They'd also be very likely to share relevant content with others in your niche.
From a sports backlink perspective, creating data-rich content is one of the best ways to stand out and get the attention of passionate sports fans.
Infographics work particularly well to present data in an interesting and visually-appealing way. Check out how ESPN used this data strategy to publish an infographic about opening day achievements in baseball:
You can find relevant sports data pretty easily if there's a professional league dedicated to your sport. For example, you can check out the MLB or the NBA to find data on specific players and teams.
Once you have at least 10 interesting data points, create an infographic and publish it on your website. You can work with a graphic designer or do it yourself with a tool like Canva.
After the infographic is published, share it on your social media networks and use email outreach to request backlinks.
4) Publish content for finals and championships
Sport is defined by competitions. Play-offs, championships, finals, semi-finals—you name it.
All of these events are backlink opportunities for you.
While this strategy is easiest to implement if your sport niche has high-profile competitions and events like the Super Bowl or the World Cup, you can still see results by tying your efforts to small-scale, local sports events.
Start by identifying high-profile sports competitions and events in your niche that you could create content around.
Some of the possibilities include:
- International events (e.g. the Olympics, FIFA World Cup)
- National events (e.g. the Super Bowl, MLB World Series)
- College sports (e.g. March Madness)
Next, brainstorm content ideas related to the event. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Predictions. Who will score the most? Who will win?
- Gear and equipment. What shoes are the athletes wearing? Which brands are sponsoring them?
- Routines, habits and training. A long-standing theme in sports writing. What do the pro athletes do to get to where they are?
- Event-supporting content. Helpful guides or special offers for dedicated fans who might be making long trips to attend the event. For example, what are the most convenient hotels to stay at if you're watching the matches? Which restaurants in the area give you the best chance of spotting athletes?
Then, publish the content on your website, and use direct outreach and social media to promote it.
And don't forget to search for trending hashtags on social media to include in your post (e.g. #superbowl).
5) Work with sports influencers
Partnering with a sports influencer can be worth it depending on your resources and expectations.
You can take the free approach to working with sports influencers for backlinks, where you create exceptional content that grabs their attention (something that quotes or promotes the influencer is a good way to go, like an expert roundup).
While no money changes hands between you and the sports influencer, this method is more time-intensive.
You'll need to work harder to produce the content, and then contact the influencer to let them know about the content and ask them to share it or link to it.
Another way to go is the paid approach to engaging sports influencers, where you pay them to publish posts about your brand with backlinks.
This method is quicker, but you still need to take the time to carefully vet the influencers before you make an offer.
Make sure to ask questions about their past collaborations and results, and what guarantees they will provide.
How to find the right influencers
If you have the budget, there are influencer marketing services you can use like HYPR that specialize in connecting brands to relevant influencers.
But if your resources are more limited, you can still find influencers by searching for them by hand.
First, decide on the criteria for the influencer in terms of number of followers and niche relevance.
On the followers front, set an ideal range (e.g. 1,000-10,000 followers).
On the niche relevance front, examine their profile and recent posts to find out how much of their focus is on your niche. If an influencer only mentions your sport niche 10% of the time or less, it may not be worth it to work with them.
Then, search for influencers that meet those criteria on social media. I like to use Twitter for this, and its Advanced Search function.
Here's what I found when I searched for tennis influencers and then looked at the "People" tab:
When you've identified an influencer you want to work with, start to connect with them.
Like any relationship, you want to move step by step. Read the content they've posted, and like or reply to their posts when you have something to add to the conversation.
After interacting with them for a while, send them a direct message to explore their interest in partnering with you.
6) Build internal sports backlinks
Don't forget about internal links!
While external backlinks to different websites are more powerful overall, internal links to other pages on your own site still have a crucial role to play.
Consider how many different pages your website has. If you factor in product pages and content pages, you could have up to hundreds or thousands of URLs.
How will your customers (or search engines, for that matter) find everything?
With internal links.
Internal backlinks help people and search engines discover your content, and can help boost your conversions too. A visitor may land on a blog post, like what they read and then be interested in clicking through to another page on your site.
Just remember to be strategic about the internal links you create.
The two key principles to keep in mind are:
- Relevance (i.e. are you linking to something that's relevant to the current content?), and
- Moderation (i.e. don't overdo it. A good rule of thumb is to limit yourself to 3-5 internal backlinks per page).
7) Create guest posts for relevant websites
Guest posts may not have the SEO power they once did, but they're still well worth the time and effort.
There are two main benefits to writing guest posts:
First, you get a backlink to your website, and that helps your SEO. Second, you'll reach a wider audience than your own and get some direct traffic from people clicking through to your website.
To find guest post opportunities for your sports site, use search strings like:
- "[sport niche] guest post"
- "[sport niche] guest contributor"
- "[sport niche] guest author"
- "[sport niche] write for us"
You can also try adding extra keywords like "blog." Here's an example of what you could find in the soccer niche:
Then, review the guest posts that have been published and look for two factors: quality and backlinks.
On the quality front, ask yourself whether the post is of high quality. Will it help your brand to be published alongside this kind of post? If the answer is yes, move on to considering backlinks.
You're looking for a website that allows at least one backlink in the author bio section—even better if you're allowed one within the content of the post as well!
Send a short outreach message to the editor or site owner to propose a guest blog post.
Model your post on the style of existing posts on the site, and if the website has guest post guidelines, make sure to follow them carefully.
8) Get backlinks from your competitors
If you want to win in sport, you have to study your competitors and learn their tactics.
The same goes in SEO.
If you want to get more and better sports backlinks, look to your competitors for ideas and tactics. They're likely to have plenty of relevant backlinks that you can go and get for yourself!
With a list of 2-5 competitor websites, you can put this technique into action and speed up the link building process.
Start with one competitor website to study, and run it through our Backlink Research tool to get a list of their top backlinks.
You can see that there are plenty of promising backlink ideas to consider.
Examine the linking sites further to see if you can get backlinks from them as well, and repeat the process for each of your competitors to get a steady stream of new link opportunities.
If you have competitors that are regularly earning great backlinks and you want to keep a closer eye on their link building activities, I recommend using SEOptimer to automatically track their backlinks as they earn them.
With this tool, you can add and track multiple competitors at the same time, and get email updates whenever your competitors pick up another backlink.
You'll never run out of link building ideas again!
9) Offer a sports award
Every sports fan loves to see star athletes rewarded with recognition.
Sponsoring a sports award is a great way to support a local team or sportsperson, and earn some backlinks at the same time.
You'll need to provide some kind of reward (a trophy, cash prize, free products, etc.), create a page on your site for the sports award, and issue a press release to tell people about it. The backlinks will pour in!
Start by choosing a niche or category in your sport that hasn't been celebrated yet.
You could use a geographic filter (e.g. the best baseball player in Oregon), or take an age focus (e.g. the best golfer under 25). The important thing here is to do some thorough research online to find out if there's already an award for what you're thinking of.
Ideally, you want to be a category of one.
Then, create the sports award page on your website. It should have a few key elements:
- The sport you're celebrating (e.g. baseball)
- The category or aspect of the sport that you're celebrating (e.g. best pitcher)
- The prize you're offering. A more competitive prize will help you earn more attention and links
- Applicant details. In addition to contact information, this could also include a few questions about the applicant’s sports performance and a request for references so you can verify the application
You'll then want to issue a press release about the award to get the word out.
Keep it simple and to the point. Something like: “Announcing $1,000 Prize to Recognize the Best Baseball Player Under 25 in Oregon.” Include a link to your awards page for all the details.
10) Partner with related companies for joint ventures
You know the saying, “there's no 'I' in team?”
Coaches love to use it to emphasize the importance of teamwork in sports—but it applies to building backlinks, too.
Partnering with other sports companies and organizations is an excellent way to earn relevant backlinks and traffic. Joint ventures will bring value to both parties, while also helping you grow your network and strengthen your business relationships.
But who should you partner with?
You'll want to come up with a list of organizations that share your customers but who aren't competitors.
For example, if you run a sports apparel e-commerce store, you wouldn't want to partner with another clothing company. Instead, you might look at local sports clubs, college sports clubs and sports apparel suppliers.
Then, propose a trade that benefits both parties to the joint venture. You could offer a discount or free products to every member of a local sports club in return for a backlink.
Once both parties agree, put the deal into action. You might even want to announce the new joint venture partnership on your company blog and ask the other company to do the same.
If the relationship goes well, you can then look at developing it even further with options like sponsorships, webinars or featuring in each other's email list.
To learn more about joint ventures, I recommend reading Jay Conrad Levinson and Sohail Khan's “Guerrilla Marketing and Joint Ventures."
11) Engage your suppliers
Your suppliers are part of your professional network. They’re also interested in maintaining a good relationship with you.
Some of them will even be open to giving you backlinks!
To put this method into action, make a broad list of all your suppliers. This should include product suppliers (e.g. apparel and equipment manufacturers) and service suppliers (e.g. your accountant).
Review each supplier’s website to see if they have any links to other companies.
Also look out for mentions of other companies that don't include links, like on MVP Athletic Supplies' Brands page, which lists their supplier logos but not with backlinks:
In cases like this, you can ask them to include a backlink along with the brand mention.
You can also offer to write them a short testimonial to feature on their website along with a backlink. In most cases, they'll be happy to oblige you.
Sports backlinks wrap-up
Earning sports backlinks is like training for any sport. Each day you work at it, you'll become better and stronger!
Put these 11 methods into action and start earning links today.
Bruce Harpham runs Steam Press Media, a digital agency that helps B2B technology companies acquire more customers.