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Sponsorships 101: Rank Better By Helping Local Organizations

 In SEO, SEO Strategy

In the SEO world, there are two major factors which contribute to a site’s search engine rankings: Content and backlinks – links to your site from other sites. Honestly-acquired, non-spammy links are a “vote” for your site, the weight of the vote depending on their relevancy and the authority (i.e., trustworthiness) of the site.

Big brands and larger sites acquire backlinks easily and spontaneously. Press coverage, press releases, people blogging about and linking to popular products, industry conferences linking back, etc. But for small local businesses who lack this kind of name brand traction, link acquisition can be a struggle. Many small businesses end up settling for a bunch of low-quality links or none at all.  And this is a problem because currently backlinks appear to be of significant importance for rankings in local search!

Quality link building via outreach is still possible, but it’s extremely time consuming – most small business owners rightly feel their time is better spent running their business.

Enter the sponsorship. Many organizations maintain a list of businesses who support them on their sites, making sponsorships a relatively easy way for small, local businesses to get a few trustworthy, high-quality links.

Like anything in life, there are pros and cons to sponsorships:


  • Links – You can get a good, solid link back to your site
  • Quick and easy to obtain
  • Residual referral traffic and leads – You may get traffic and leads from your visibility on the organization’s site or at their event, especially if they are in your service area or somewhat relevant to your type of business.
  • Contributions may be tax deductible – depending on the type of organization. Ask your accountant.
  • Good karma – knowing that you’re doing a good deed and helping someone out!


  • Cost – Unless you can offer an “in-kind” donation of goods or services, you will have to pay. How much does a sponsorship cost? It varies! Anywhere from around $100 to $1500 or more.
    Kids’ sports teams are usually a reliable choice towards the low end of the scale. Overall, prices run higher in big cities and affluent suburbs.
  • Links are temporary – These aren’t “set and forget” links, most expire the following year. Some events may only keep sponsor links active for a few months. You can renew your sponsorship. Rarely, an organization will keep all donor links live as long as the site is up, but that’s the exception not the rule.
  • Initial time investment for research – There is some up-front detective work involved in identifying effective sponsorship prospects.

Isn’t this “buying links?”

Yes and no. Technically, you’re supporting the organization and they’re thanking their supporters in various ways, including public recognition.

Sponsorship SEO

How do I find potential sponsorship opportunities?

Online searches like these are usually productive:

your location + “sponsor us”
your location + “our sponsors”
your location + “sponsorship”
type of event or organization + “our sponsors”

What to look for in a sponsorship opportunity:

Now that you’ve found some potential organizations to sponsor, its time to determine which ones are worth pursuing.

  • Type of link – Sponsors should be clearly listed on the site via a “followed” text or image link, not a JavaScript redirect or a “nofollowed” link. The last two won’t pass link equity to your site. Have your developer or a tech-savvy friend check out the source code of the sponsor page.
  • General topical or geographic relevance to your business.
  • Reputable organization
  • Is the site content current? – If the site is out-of-date it may no longer be accepting sponsorships or it may not be maintained.
  • Costs – Have a budget in mind but be prepared to be flexible.
  • Length of time the link will be active – How much exposure are you getting for your money?

About sponsorship packages:SEO Sponsorship

Once you identify a potential organization or event to sponsor, you need to work out the details. Sponsorship terms are sometimes posted on the site or available in a downloadable PDF. If not, you need to contact them and ask.

Most sponsorships are offered in tiered packages with different perks and benefits in each tier. These other benefits may or may not be something you care about.  Perks can include:

  • An unlinked mention on their site (not what you want.)
  • A link on their site
  • Tickets to a show or event
  • Assorted SWAG – Hats, t-shirts, coffee mugs
  • Your business name on a team uniform or event program
  • Business logo displayed at the event
  • Option of hosting a table or booth at the event

What to do with these “extras?” You can put them to good use and boost morale by giving tickets or swag to an employee of the month or winner of a drawing or contest.

Are the prices too high for your budget? Some organizations may be open to negotiation – it never hurts to ask.

Also see if your business could be a fit for an “in kind” donation of goods, services or time. Even if in-kind donations aren’t mentioned, the sponsorship chair may be open to a pitch if you can offer something they need. Some charities, like Move for Hunger, specialize in in-kind donation.

Things that need sponsors:

Lots of events and organizations depend upon sponsors and donors. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Sports teams – softball, hockey, basketball, cycling, roller derby …kids or adults
  • Sporting events – biathlons and triathlons, cycling events, charity golf tournaments, runs and walks
  • Arts & culture – Art exhibits, film festivals, music, dance
  • Animal rescue groups & wildlife rehabilitation
  • Local fairs
  • Zoos, aquariums, aviaries – usually pricey but worth a look
  • Business events – Conferences and lectures
  • Professional organizations
  • Local fashion and beauty events
  • Educational groups
  • Causes – LGBT, ethnic-focused, women’s groups, religious charities, youth groups
  • Farmers markets
  • Food banks – rarely have sponsor pages but yours may be the exception
  • Exhibits and special interest events
  • Medical charities – Small local ones are the most affordable. Well-known national charities usually want well-known sponsors who can afford to pay top dollar.

Not up to taking this on yourself? OpenMoves has local SEO specialists who would be glad to assist with this and any of your other on-page or off-page SEO needs. Give us a call and learn how we can help you!


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