You’ve almost certainly heard of crowdfunding by now.
You’ve possibly even contributed to a couple of campaigns in the past.
Famous products like the Oculus Rift, Pebble watch, SkyBell video doorbell, and Tile location devices were all originally launched and funded using crowdfunding efforts.
But did you know that crowdfunding has more value and utility for businesses beyond simple fundraising?
For savvy businesses and digital marketers who are willing to try something new, there are actually two proven and effective link-buildings strategies that enable existing businesses to leverage crowdfunding as a link buildings platform.
One SEO strategy involves donating to other campaigns, while the second search engine optimization (SEO) strategy requires you to work on the campaign side of things.
Both offer tremendous SEO value and promotional opportunities.
What is Crowdfunding?
In the simplest terms, crowdfunding is a viral method of raising capital for a business idea through the joint effort of friends, family members, colleagues, customers, private investors, and interent users. It allows entrepreneurs and business owners to push out an idea in the form of a “campaign,” which is then shared and promoted via crowdfunding sites/platforms, social media, and other traditional and non-traditional digitital marketing and PR channels.
The beauty of crowdfunding is that entrepreneurs can present finished or unfinished ideas, reach the masses, gain validation of concept, refine the concept with the capital raised, and build products and services that people actually want. It essentially takes the traditional business funnel and turns it upside down – and it works beautifully.
Crowdfunding has gone from basically non-existent 15 years ago to a $17.2 billion dollar industry in North America alone – and the industry shows no signs of slowing down! There were a total of 6.5 million successful crowdfunding campaign in 2019 and the funds raised through crowdfunding platforms was up 33.7 percent year-over-year.
But it’s more than a method for raising capital. While that’s certainly the primary focus of users – and will continue to be – there’s another side to crowdfunding. Its popularity and viral nature means it naturally propagates links and exposure. And for entrepreneurs and brands that are looking for ways to enhance SEO and link-buildings efforts, crowdfunding represents a powerful and untapped strategy.
In this article, we’re going to focus on two primary ways crowdfunding can be leveraged as a channel for link buildings. You can think of them as two sides of the same coin. On one side, there’s a method that allows you to contribute to other campaigns and earn links in the process. On the flip side of the coin, we present a unique search engine optimization (SEO) strategy that enables you to launch your own campaign, raise money, and generate backlinks as a secondary byproduct. You may find one or both of these strategies useful or inspiring. Try whichever one speaks to you the most and let us know how it impacts your link-buildings efforts.
Links Building Strategy #1: Contributing for Backlinks
Strategy number one doesn’t require you to come up with an idea, launch a campaign, or even raise funds. With this strategy, you participate on the contributor side of things. In other words, you’re making donations to other existing campaigns.
In order to understand how this strategy works, you have to understand how crowdfunding works. With crowdfunding, businesses/entrepreneurs launch campaigns with target fundraising goals. And in order to persuade people to donate money, they offer small benefits or rewards. Generally speaking, there are different reward levels. The more you give, the more you get in return.
To refresh you on how this works, consider one of Kickstarter’s hot campaigns in early 2020: LastTissue. Supporters are given the opportunity to contribute and receive escalating rewards in return for the amount they give.
Pledge $39 and you get three packs of tissues. Pledge $49 and you get four packs of tissues. There are increasing rewards at $69, $89, $109, and $125. The final pledge category, which is $139 or more, provides 14 packs of tissues, membership in something called the “Tree Hugger Club,” and the opportunity to help choose colors for the final product.
This is just one example. Campaigners can use almost anything they want to reward donors. This includes products, paid travel expenses, membership, future discounts, and…yes…even backlinks.
While paying for backlinks is generally frowned upon by Google, this is one example of the few legal ways to purchase backlinks from websites. Google doesn’t consider supporting startups a violation of its terms of service – and that’s exactly what you’re doing. You just so happen to be getting a backlink as one of your perks.
The contributing for links strategy is pretty simple. It involves a three-step process where you:
- Search for opportunities.
- Contribute to the appropriate campaigns.
- Wait for your links to be placed.
The first step is the most challenging phase of the process, but you can streamline your efforts by knowing how to search for opportunities on Google or other search engines. There are a couple of different search strings that tend to produce good results:
- site:[website url] inurl:projects + “link to your website”
- site:[website url] inurl:projects + “donor page”
In the “website url” portion of the search, you’ll plug in your favorite crowdfunding platform – like Kickstarter or Indiegogo.
Let’s show you a quick example in which we run a search for the following:
- site:kickstarter.com inurl:projects + “link to your website”
When we run that search, one of the first results is for a novel called Savage Hunters by Adam Smith.
While the first few rewards are all pretty standard, things get interesting once you pledge $150 or more. As the description explains: “Your company will be thanked by name in the front of the book in all editions in a special Business Sponsor section. Included will be your company name, a 100-character business description, and a link to your website (all to be provided by the business)”
So for $150, you get a backlink and small business promo. (You also get a signed copy of the book, for whatever that’s worth!) While you’d have to research the specifics of the website where your backlink would be placed and other pertinent details, you get the idea.
This strategy is still in its infancy, which means it can be challenging to find good linking opportunities. You’ll have to spend some time running Google/search engines, filtering out campaigns, and looking for opportunities that are cost-effective. However, they do exist. And as campaigners start to learn about the perks of offering backlinks as rewards, we expect to see this become the next popular reward strategy in crowdfunding.
Links Building Strategy #2: Campaigning for Backlinks
Now for the second link-buildings strategy, which involves working on the crowdfunding campaign side of things to earn back links and search engine optimization (SEO) credibility for key search terms.
With this strategy, an existing business launches a successful crowdfunding campaign for a new product, service, or opportunity. The objective here is two-fold.
Objective number one is to leverage the domain authority of established crowdfunding platforms like Indiegogo and Kickstarter campaign/ successful kickstarter campaigns to gain exposure for relevant search terms.
Search Engine Watch explains how Leed Bicycle Solutions was able to do this just a few years ago. They did their research and notice that Kickstarter campaign had the eight place search engine rankings for the search term “electric bike kit.” Naturally, this made a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign the perfect channel for launching their electric bike conversion kit. By using meaty keywords like “electric bike kit” and “electric bike conversion kit” on their kickstarter campaign page, they were able to indirectly appear on the first page of Google/search engines for their desired search terms.
Objective number two is to use a viral crowdfunding campaign page as a PR focal point to build inbound links to your website. With this method, you launch a compelling crowdfunding campaign and then use it as “link bait” for other bloggers, journalists, podcasters, social media influencers, news websites, etc.
Pebble, which was able to raise well over $10 million for its first smart watch, is the perfect example. If you run a Google/search engines for “Pebble AND Kickstarter,” you’ll see hundreds of news stories and blog posts about the brand. Many of them come from authoritative domains like TechCrunch, QZ, Wired, The Guardian, CNN, Business Insider, Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc., and dozens of other websites.
While the average crowdfunding campaign isn’t going to raise millions of dollars and earn thousands of links, it’s not unreasonable to think a moderate campaign could generate 100 or more backlinks. It happens all the time – and there’s nothing stopping you from giving it a try.
The Top Crowdfunding Platforms
As you consider implementing these two-crowdfunding link-buildings strategies, it’s helpful to know where to focus your time and energy. For the most part, your efforts will center on platforms like:
- Kickstarter is the top name in the crowdfunding industry for a reason. Hosting more than 13 million active visitors every month, Kickstarter is by far the most popular crowdfunding platforms, and it’s fairly easy to get started with a campaign. Over 80,000 projects have been funded using Kickstarter so far, with more funded every day. However, in order to be accepted, you have to have some tangible creation, like a product or an event—social causes and personal endeavors aren’t allowed. Kickstarter also has an all-or-nothing model, so if you don’t hit your goal, you’ll forfeit all your donations.
- IndieGoGo is another major player worth considering. It’s host to about 9 million monthly visitors, making it slightly less popular than Kickstarter. However, it has better support for international funders, and has a slightly higher track record of successfully funded projects (for what that’s worth). IndieGoGo also allows any legal project, cause, or idea to be funded—including personal needs and charitable donations.
- Fundable is a differentiated platform because it offers both equity and non-equity crowdfunding options. It has a much lower user base and is less well-known, but it doesn’t charge any percentage-based fees, making it an attractive platform for brands looking to raise large amounts of capital. Participants keep any and all funds raised.
- GoFundMe is a popular platform, almost as visible as Kickstarter campaign or IndieGoGo, but its main focus is individual initiatives, such as funding trips, medical bills, or personal creative goals. Accordingly, it’s not an appropriate platform for most companies, organizations, or brands. Like Kickstarter, it offers an all-or-nothing model.
- WeFunder is an exclusive platform for equity crowdfunding. As per current regulations, you must be an accredited investor to use WeFunder as a contributor, but almost any entrepreneur or startup can use it to gather equity capital.
- AngelList isn’t quite a crowdfunding platform, but if you’re considering equity crowdfunding, or if you’re looking to fund a business from scratch, it’s an important site to note. Here, you’ll be able to network with potential angel investors, as well as find potential incubators and accelerators in your area. You can also network with other entrepreneurs.
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As an additional resource for your link-buildings efforts, I would check out the best link-buildings tools, including a backlink checker.
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