I have not really paid much attention to this method of link building yet, but have now decided to give it a try. If you look around at Webmaster Forums you’ll find people looking for a sponsor of their templates. Templates can be for directories or blogs (in particular WordPress Blogs). These fine folks design and build templates for the software of choice and release it for free. Under the license terms the user of such a template has to leave the footer links intact. By getting sponsors for their templates these designers actually make money. If you are a good designer it might take you an hour or two to develop a nice looking template. You sell 2 sponsored links for somewhere between $35 and $100. Depending on where you live this will carry you quite a while. From a sponsor point of view this means if the template is promoted well, you get a lot of back links from other blogs. Imagine a free template with your link in it used 100 times – this can be significant if those blogs grow in popularity and Google Page Rank. By the time you read this I most likely secured the first template sponsorship (I am writing this posting in advance and let WordPress publish it automatically at a time I specified before). So, we will see how this turns out. Don’t tell anyone, but the real beauty of this “seo trick” is not to concentrate on the public available sponsorships you find in forums, but to contact designers and work with them directly. Bypass the middleman, bypass the competition.
In general this seems to be an underdeveloped market with high potential. If used in a mix of normal link building and SEO it can be a great tool to make your blog or website more popular. With Google and other search engines becoming more difficult to deal with from a webmaster standpoint you have to become more creative if you want to succeed. White Hat SEO is fine, but if you are too conservative with your approach things are moving very slow. That has been my biggest mistake. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not a bad way, but it is slow. Being a little more aggressive does not mean that you have to leave the white hat seo arena though. It just means you have to re-assess how you do stuff and decide to take a different approach that will get you going faster. But with everything that you do beyond what the search engines want you to do, you increase the risk of landing in supplemental hell or in the Google Sandbox. Therefore it is always good to diversify.