As an early-stage startup, time is of the essence. You’re looking at quickly getting the word out there about your product, having a first-mover advantage for your unique sales proposition, and starting to generate some sales. The Internet has proven to be the fastest, least expensive, and most far-reaching means of reaching your target market. No platform is more influential in the world of online marketing than Google Search.

Link building is a tried-and-tested mechanism for leveraging the power of Google Search. It remains one of the three most important factors for search result ranking. But link building today is different from what it was a decade ago. One key turning point in link building was the Google Penguin update. This clamped down on spammy link building. Fortunately, there are ways you can cultivate backlinks while remaining in Google’s good books. Here’s how.

1. Natural Backlinks

As Google improves its ability to identify unnatural links, natural link building is key. Natural backlinks have an authenticity that is likely to generate valuable, actionable leads to your website. When people are excited to share your content unprompted via email, social media, blogs, infographics, and whitepapers, it means they can see value, authority, and credibility in what you say.

You can encourage natural link building by creating content that is thorough, well-researched, and optimized for search engines. Before you plan, write, and publish any content on your site, aim to exceed the quality of the best page on the topic currently out there.

2. Social Media

Google has been the world’s most popular website for more than a decade. But the rise of Facebook and other social media portals has been a remarkable phenomenon as well. Today, any list of leading websites or mobile apps is dominated by social networking platforms. Given the amount of time the average person spends on social media each day, you’ll be missing out if you don’t tap into this audience for backlinks.

Stay active on social media. Have a plan to share updates on a regular basis. Expand your link’s reach and shareability with hashtags. Stay actively engaged with your followers and respond to questions promptly.

3. Guest Posting

Seek out guest posting opportunities on relevant sites. Most sites with guest blogging slots will have no issue including a link back to your site in the byline. OutreachMama suggests guest blogging helps you to reach the audience of another website and direct to your site those interested in learning more.

You get to ride on the reputation and authority the host blog has already established. Readers who would otherwise not listen to you will give you an ear. They believe you have met a certain minimum standard of credibility to be allowed to guest post. The more popular and relevant the blog you post on is, the better.

That said, competition for guest posting slots on the largest sites is intense. You should start by exploring niche and mid-tier blogs where your odds of a nod are higher.

4. Public Relations

Public relations professionals aim to enhance a brand’s publicity, visibility, and reach. They’d usually do that by pitching news stories that build awareness about a product and generate online and offline interest.

In other words, they are building backlinks even though they may not realize it. More importantly, PR teams are good at this. It’s a readily available skill set that your business could use to get credible, reliable, and authoritative links fast.

You don’t need backlinks for your business to succeed but you’ll certainly have an advantage over your competition if you do. Use these tips to get your startup off the ground via smart link building.