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Local Link Building – 3 Great Ways to Get Authority Links for your Local Business

The power of SEO is not lost on local business owners. Ever since the advent of the Internet, customers have been moving away from the old-school ways of finding companies, such as the Yellow Pages. Nowadays the first thing most people do when needing to find a product or service is simple, they “Google it.” Thus, it is crucial for business owners to get in front of those customers when they go Googling.

The best way to do that is through SEO, but ranking organically can be hard. While SEO consists of the basic fundaments of links and content, breaking through the competition can prove a challenge for many.

Probably the hardest part of this process is the link building. It’s arguably the most important part of SEO, but can be very difficult to do correctly (which is one of the reasons Google rewards it so much). However, it doesn’t have to be hard, and today we will go over some tips that can help you secure authoritative and relevant links to your local business.

Tip #1 – Collaboration

This tip is one of my favorites because it harkens to a very old school technique, ye olde “link exchange.” Years back one of the main tactics for businesses was to exchange links to either other, usually on a dedicated “links page.”

This was a decent strategy, mutually beneficial to all involved. However, as SEOs tend to do, we ruined a good thing. It became extremely messy, links pages became long, keyword stuffed and spammy, and “reciprocal links” were rumored to be devalued.

However, when you take the underlying principle and build upon it, it’s not half bad. It comes down to collaboration and cross-promotion with other business owners (ideally not direct competitors).

This shouldn’t be done with some random link on a links page, but rather with a thought-out piece of promotional content, or strategic cooperation or partnership. Here are some examples:

  • “Industry Roundups” are essentially very large link exchanges, except they add a layer of promotion (getting featured in an article, ego bait of a headshot and byline), and a layer of value (insights from industry experts). This can gain backlinks and rank. Try doing that with a links page.
  • Reach out to local business owners in different cities. They don’t compete directly with you, but their websites are extremely relevant and would make a perfect source for a link.
    • Offer to contribute or trade content with them. Reciprocal links be damned, if you can get cited in a quality article, go for it.
    • Work out a referral partnership, as sometimes companies get calls from outside of their coverage area. Be sure to get listed on their site as a “Partner.”

You get the idea, work to build rapport with other business owners and eventually it will work out in your favor. I like to say, “there is a link hiding in every relationship.”

Tip #2 – Events

This is probably my favorite tactic for local businesses to use, largely because it gives them an excuse to do standard marketing and promotion, and has the side effect of generating links that will benefit your SEO in a long-term way.

First, I’ll let you in on a little secret. There is very little differentiating “white hat” link building from “getting press coverage.” Whether the press is the New York Times or local mom bloggers, getting naturally occurring mentions and citations in various publications is what link building is all about.

The trick comes down to doing something that is press-worthy. Unfortunately, there is no secret recipe for getting mentioned in the press. However, we do have the advantage that most journalists and bloggers are always on the lookout for something to write about.

That’s why local events are so great because they combine local relevance, an excuse for promotion, and a press-worthy happening, all in one. When doing this with SEO in mind, we take total advantage.

Here’s the process in a nutshell:

1. Pick an event you want to host/sponsor; it could be:

  • Charity fundraiser
  • Block party
  • Industry seminar
  • Community organizing
  • Something specific to your niche

2. Prospect all the various outlets that would make mention of your event:

  • Local newspapers
  • Local blogs
  • Niche blogs
  • Vendors/Partner Websites
  • Industry Associations
  • Event Calendars

3. Set up a website for the event, a press release and a flyer:

  • Host on your company’s website, or:
  • Host on a dedicated microsite, but if you do this you’ll want to 301 redirect it to your companies site at some point to gain the SEO juice.

4. Set up a Facebook Page, along with a Facebook Ad Campaign to promote it.

5. Send out a promotional e-mail, phone calls, and start the ad campaign.

6. Make sure to ask nicely after the fact for links on all your blog posts/news mentions.

See what I mean? You are doing something worthwhile, and the side effect is links. This is the best way to go about link building, since people are hip to the link building gimmick at this point, and are looking for real value.

Tip #3 – Local Scholarships

This is another tactic that has a little bit of a jaded history. Scholarships have been used as a gimmick to attain backlinks from .EDU sites for many years now. Like I said above, when SEOs find something that works, we ruin it.

However just as with the link exchanges above, if we add on layers of real value, the underlying strategy is solid. Consider this:

  • Scholarships are a way to give back to your community.
  • They can help obtain talent for internships and employment in your niche.
  • They can be niche or location specific (but probably not both, as its too slim a segment).
  • They can be combined with other promotions/events.
  • They are totally newsworthy, especially in niche and local publications (if you were a journalist in a small town, wouldn’t you cover a scholarship that’s specific to your county?)

They are also not very expensive when you consider it as a marketing expense. I prefer to go for a $1,000 scholarship (although many will cheap-out for $500). If you can obtain 30 press mentions or links from .EDUs, that’s $33 per link. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take that any day of the week.

Here’s a quick summary of the process:

1. Decide if the scholarship will be niche specific (legal, vocational, technical, artistic), or location specific. As an example, Empire Maids has an NYC specific scholarship, which works for them because it’s their coverage area, while Lucid Chart has a design specific scholarship, as they are a visual design company.

2. Think of a unique take on it, to give it a spin that will appeal to bloggers and journalists. Should it be video submissions? A maker/builder contest? An essay submission? Have this be something you care about, so it’s not a bore going through all the submissions.

3. Put together a beautiful landing page. Doesn’t have to cost a ton, but should include all the relevant information and an area for students to submit. Make it pretty; people will be more likely to share and link to it.

4. Prospect, prospect, prospect. First, you want to get all high schools or universities that have an “External Scholarships” page. Here are some handy Google searches that will surface these for you:

  • inurl:k12 “external scholarships”
  • site:.edu “external scholarships”

Secondly, you want to prospect all the local or niche blogs/publications that might be interested in this. Go after every local newspaper, local blogger, and even University blogger you can track down.

5. Put together a well thought out, and descriptive e-mail about the Scholarship and what it means to you, your community and/or industry. Again, this is all about publicity, not about link building, so don’t mention links until after the fact (and only if necessary).

That’s it! You can get more or less aggressive (i.e., facebook ad campaigns), but that’s up to you.

Conclusion

Link building can be hard, and frustrating, but that’s part of what makes it so valuable. The competition will not take the extra step to find success, which leaves the door open for you and your company to dominate. These few tips can help you acquire some backlinks, but more importantly, if should motivate you to think outside the box when contemplating publicity for your business.


michael hayes

Michael Hayes is founder of Darby Hayes Consulting, a NYC based digital marketing agency. He can be reached at mike(at)darbyhayesconsulting.com.

 

Tips to Optimize Your Website and Improve Local Rankings

 

Many brands with multiple locations often forget about the power of local search. Without local pages, a brand might rank well on Google but is likely not as prevalent in local search results. Considering the growing popularity of mobile devices, a localized search is more popular now than ever before. Studies show that 88% of consumers, who search for local businesses daily on mobile devices, call these businesses within 24 hours. Other reasons brands should rank locally include the following:

  • Google favors smaller, local businesses – Although Google’s rankings strongly consider companies historical data and high domain authorities, it also shows favoritism towards brands that are smaller, more nimble, and that are newly popular in a specific area.
  • Geo-targeting gets more leads – Local residents tend to search according to cities, states, or regions on the web. Businesses that target specific locations must optimize their content in order for Google to deliver to their targeted audience.

With this in mind, consider these tips to improve rankings in local search results:

Optimize Pages for Specific Cities or States

Local optimization means focusing the content of each web page to specific city-focused keywords or search phrases. For Google to successfully index content, each local page must have its own URL. A great way to help Googlebot find these pages is by including them in the sitemap. Sitemaps that have pages with content and URLs that are specific to the locations they cater to can help to improve local rankings.

The tactics for creating these pages often depend on the industry and the types of services and products offered. For example, there could be several versions of city-specific pages for each service a company provides that are localized for both content and URLs. Regardless of your page creation tactic, make sure to add other unique details that differ in the location like hours of operation, accepted payment options, and addresses. In addition to organic search, these pages are also likely to show up for branded keywords and will ultimately help to create a better experience for the user.

Here’s a great example from the company WeWork. By clicking on the “Locations” navigation, you are directed to various pages dedicated to a particular location, as shown below.

Speaking of content optimization, making a page geo-specific doesn’t only mean changing the name of the locality, city, or state for SEO purposes. Geo-targeted content, or content that is targeted at a specific website visitor depending on his or her location, is intended for a highly focused audience. To make the user experience exclusive to this audience, the content for each page should be unique to the city or area that it is targeting. This content will help to garner longer tail keywords, such as “[service] in [city name]” that will help the page’s organic search profile. In the above example from WeWork, this page is focused on “office space in Minneapolis.”

Bonus Tip – Locally focused landing pages can be leveraged in paid search campaigns and may help to improve click-through rates compared to non-local pages.

Use Reviews on Location Pages

Happy customers are likely to leave positive reviews, but it’s useless if potential customers can’t see them. An online marketing strategy can include paid advertisements from local listing websites like Google My Business, which also features customer reviews. Also, many sites have seen success by adding a function where users can leave reviews directly on the site. This will not only add content to the page but will also help with adding location-based keywords, as customers describe their experience in different locations.

Take the company Community Tax, for example, which features its testimonials on both its homepage and on a separate testimonials section on its site, encouraging customers to leave positive reviews:

Here’s another example from the company Executive Enterprise, a business management consultant in New York, which uses its Google My Business profile as a way to highlight good reviews from its customers:

Leverage Google My Business

Location pages that are listed on Google My Business have a better chance at appearing in relevant searches for their areas. Providing the complete business information can also enhance their presence in Google Maps.

To ensure visibility for local search results, Google recommends completing the following tasks while listing businesses on Google My Business:

Enter the complete data – Local search favors relevant information, so businesses with accurate data are easier to match with the right searches. The information on a location page can include, but should not be limited to, an updated business address, category, and phone number.

Keep information accurate – Keep in mind: if users don’t always specify a location in search, Google calculates the distance according to what it knows about the business. The more accurate the information, the more visible the relevant searches.

Another perk of using a Google My Business account is that it helps to improve your knowledge graph for branded searches. Let’s look at two examples from the finance industry, the first from Charles Schwab and the second from GuidedChoice:

Notice how Charles Schwab has a general corporate listing. GuidedChoice, on the other hand, shows the location, pictures of the building, etc., likely because they are attempting to target local customers.

Business NAP Should Be Consistent

NAP is an acronym that stands for name, address, and phone number. For SEO purposes, listing information for a business should be as consistent as possible in top online directories, such as Citysearch and Yelp. It’s also essential for a business’s NAP to be consistent in content and format across all media. While Google does have an advanced data normalization capability that allows it to skim over minor inconsistencies in the NAP, it’s vital to try to keep the format as clean and professional as possible for citation building purposes. Therefore, to increase the chance of ranking well, businesses should make standard formatting a practice.

An example of NAP consistency is shown by Atlas Professional Services, a telecommunications firm located in Florida. Besides abbreviations, which Googlebot can recognize as the same, both of its NAPs are pretty consistent on both its Yelp page and on its site.

Local Citation Building

A NAP can also be referred to as a citation. A citation is only complete if all three elements (name, address, and phone number) are present; otherwise, it is referred to as a partial citation. It is valuable because, in Google’s eyes, the mention of a business with its NAP information gets more credit, and the more mentions a business has across the web, the more likely it will rank better in local search results.

Relevant backlinks from these citations are also important for ranking well in local results and can be helpful in ranking local pages on a site. There are dozens of link building tactics, and Jon Cooper from Point Blank SEO provides an in-depth overview of them here. It is infinitely better to have links in citations rather than no links, so try to include links in citations, as long as they are consistent when building them for your business.



Cat Nilsson is the Managing Editor at 365 Business Tips, a site geared towards helping small business owners grow their business. Cat enjoys writing about a plethora of marketing topics, ranging from SEO to social media to content marketing.