Link Building for Local SEO:
8 Simple Strategies To Boost Your Local Rankings
This is a guest post by Christine Maisel, founder of Portable Entrepreneur where she helps web design and SEO entrepreneurs start and grow their business. Christine has been doing local SEO for clients for over 15 years, and SEO PowerSuite is a big part of her routine.
Most local businesses want more leads for their businesses, more customers and more overall revenue. And one of the best ways to drive new leads to a local business is from search engines. Local customers tend to turn to Google to look for services in their area, and that's when you want your listing to pop up so the customers can call you and visit your business.
Although ranking a local business website uses similar techniques to ranking a website nationally, the results often come much faster. Many local businesses quickly get close to ranking highly in Google for those local and profitable keywords, and what they need in order to get an extra boost to the top is some high quality backlinks.
I know the topic of link building can be overwhelming. To be honest, finding high quality backlinks does take time and effort — but the payoff is worth every moment. You may have seen others getting links quickly, and wonder why it takes you so long. Don't ever forget that quality is more important than quantity, so always take the time to earn one really good link versus gaining several easy, low quality links. As a general rule of thumb, if the link is really easy to get, it's probably not worth it. Remember, this is how you are going to set yourself apart from the competition because you're willing to put in the effort that they're not.
So let's talk about what a high quality link looks like, and then I'm going to share 8 link building strategies you can use to earn more links to your local business website.
What Does a High Quality Link Look Like?
When it comes to link building for local businesses, there are a few factors you want to keep in mind when evaluating a link opportunity. The more of these factors you can get from one link, the better.
- Links from a site in the local area you are targeting.
- Links that are relevant to the business industry.
- Links that will drive relevant traffic to your website (put you in front of your target audience...aka potential customers).
- Links that build your brand's reputation (industry associations, well-known magazines, sites, or other resources in the industry, etc).
Now that you know what a high quality link looks like...are you ready to build some links? Let's get started!
Strategy #1 Harvest Link Opportunities Regularly
When it comes to earning links, you can't do that unless you've created a list of opportunities. So how do you do this?
This can be done manually by opening up your dear friend Google and looking for websites in the industry and area you are serving. Here are a few example search queries you can pop into Google to find such opportunities:
- IndustryName + "magazine"
- IndustryName + "write for us"
- IndustryName + "forum"
- IndustryName + intitle:interview -job
- site:.gov "staff discounts"
- site:.gov "your city + services"
- site:school.edu "your city + services"
- "City Name"+"Nominate a business"
- site:meetup.com city+keyword
- IndustryName + intitle:tradeshow
If you would like to do a more extensive search or get it done faster, open up LinkAssistant from SEO Powersuite, open your project (or create a new one), and click on the Look for Prospects button.
Here you'll be able to select from a variety of backlink types and instantly gather tons of potential link opportunities. Remember, while it's important to have high quality backlinks, it's also important to have a diverse backlink profile, which is where this tool helps out.
Strategy #2 Steal Your Competitors' Local Backlinks
Why is your competitor ranking ahead of you? A little research into what your competitor is doing is going to give you insight into some new backlink opportunities that will help you pass them in search results.
Luckily, it's easier than ever to spy on the competition. One of the best tools for this is SEO SpyGlass. After entering the URL of a competitor's website, you'll see an instant overview of their link profile and its strength.
Open up SEO SpyGlass and you'll be prompted to enter a URL. Go on and enter the website of one of your top local SEO competitors.
After you enter the URL, SEO SpyGlass will get to work pulling together a list of your competitor's backlinks along with the basic statistics. Here you'll learn the total number of backlinks, the percentage of dofollow backlinks, the number of linking domains, the IP diversity of the backlinks and more.
With the list of backlinks, in the Backlinks dashboard you'll find new opportunities for you to pursue and also see the variety of anchor text, title, pages linked to, and dofollow vs nofollow links. Here, you can also pull out the quality backlinks by their InLink Rank (SEO Powersuite's version of Google PageRank), and skip over any low quality or spammy ones.
Strategy #3 Be the First to Reach Out
Looking for backlink opportunities without acting on it is useless. Now that you have a list of potential prospects from LinkAssistant, and a list of your competitors' links from SEO SpyGlass, it's time to reach out to the website owners directly. Before you do though, make sure you have a good reason to request a link so more people will be willing to do so. This typically comes down to the quality of your content.
What makes good content?
Website owners are more likely to link to content that:
- Is relevant to their specific area (resources, events, scholarship offer for local students or universities).
- Is actionable (landscapers can create a seasonal planting guide specific for their location, pest control companies can create a checklist for things to do around the house to reduce pests, etc).
- Provides discounts or coupons (deals specifically for their viewers).
- Is informative (local guides: places to visit, eat, etc., local events).
- Offers contests (run contests for people or businesses in the local area and promote it to local bloggers and newspapers).
How you do this depends on where you would like a link on their website, what you have to offer, and the relationship you have with the website owner. For example, if the website you are targeting has a 'write for us' or 'contribute' page, you can simply follow their instructions for submitting your work and receiving a backlink (although reaching out beforehand so they know who you are certainly doesn't hurt).
On the other hand, if you have content that will benefit their readers and would make them look good (offering a discount, promoting upcoming events, etc.), that will help you get the backlink.
Remember when I said this process takes time and effort. This is where a good bit of that comes in. Before asking for a link, reach out to them so they know who you are before you ask for anything. Thank them for work they've done, follow up to start a conversation about something they've done that you noticed, reach out via social media, comment on their blog, offer your help, and so on.
Too many people reach out using a standard template and beg for the link. Don't be that person. Take the extra couple of minutes to write a personalized message to them. It makes a huge difference. Trust me on that.
So here's what I do.
Going back to my link prospect list in LinkAssistant, I want to start emailing the prospects directly. Just hover your mouse over the link prospect you'd like to contact and click on the email button.
In the Email module, I can also track how many emails I've sent and to whom, as well as the status of each of those contacts so I stay on top of each opportunity.
Strategy #4 Create a Case Study or Review
If you want to get on the radar of a bigger local blogger, website, or other publication, one strategy that works well is to create a case study or in-depth review of their product or service.
It goes like this: you visit your prospect's website to see if they are selling anything (product or service). You will then purchase their product or service and use it in your business. Once you have some results, you will report back with an in-depth case study.
Why does this work? First, it is an instant ego boost. Business owners love to see other people using their products with success. Second, it will not look like you are asking for a link at all, rather you are just authentically thanking them for the product. This often results in a backlink and social media sharing as well.
Strategy #5 Visit Your Prospect's Location
Local SEO has the advantage of, well… being local. This presents so many additional opportunities. Earning high quality backlinks comes down to relationships. The more relationships you have and the better they are, the more (and better) backlinks you will have.
Which presents the following opportunity (get ready for this one because it's scary). Go out and actually talk to people in person. Yikes! I know, practically everything we do is online these days and we even hesitate to reach out to new people via email, let alone in person.
Meeting someone in person is the fast and most effective way to begin a relationship and start you on your way to earning a backlink.
Here are some examples of places you can visit / people you can talk to:
- Chamber of commerce / Rotary clubs
- Local meetups (check out meetup.com for that)
- Similar non-competing businesses (for instance realtors often partner with lenders, home inspectors, termite & pest control companies, painters, home stagers, photographers, etc)
- Networking events
- Conferences and tradeshows
Talk to them about your business and show an interest in theirs.
Strategy #6 Always Be Guest Posting
Over the years, Google's algorithm has changed tremendously. In the old days, it was rather easy to rank a website just by resorting to using spammy techniques. These days, Google has cleaned up their algorithm to deliver a better experience to their users.
In an effort to get rid of spammy websites in their search results, Google took the route of undervaluing some types of backlinks. However, the link type that has continued to retain its value despite the changes is guest posting. As with anything else, it is most effective when it's done right.
Using your prospect list from above, you can expand it by searching for guest posting opportunities manually using search queries such as:
- IndustryName + "write for us"
- IndustryName + "guest post"
- IndustryName + "contribute"
- Location + "write for us"
- Location + "guest post"
- Location + "contribute"
To speed up the process, open up LinkAssistant once more and click the Look for Prospects button. This time choose the Guest Posting option to find websites relevant to your industry.
Each website has their own specific requirements so you'll need to review their criteria. Don't assume an opportunity doesn't exist if you can't find a page specifically about contributing. Again, get in contact with the site owner. It's often a win-win scenario because they want to continually provide valuable content to their readers, but don't always have the time to write.
Strategy #7 Find Local Business Directories
An important part of local SEO is also citation building. A citation is anytime your business Name, Address and Phone Number (referred to as NAP) are listed together. The easiest way to do this is by using local business directories such as Yellow Pages and Yelp. These are the major ones; and then there are also location and industry specific directories worth submitting your business information to.
This can be done manually as well by doing searches such as:
- Location "recommended links"
- Location "add your site"
- Location "add your business"
- Location * directory
To save you the time though… You guessed it: these opportunities can also be found by looking for new directories inside of LinkAssistant.
Strategy #8 Track Your Efforts & Reward Your Linkers
It takes time to build up a relationship, which is why you shouldn't stop connecting after you've earned a link. Continuing the relationship can help you earn an additional backlink down the road, as well as more traffic, more subscribers, and even connections with other influencers. That's a lot to miss out on.
When you've earned backlinks you should also continue to monitor those which you can also do inside of SEO SpyGlass. To check that your links are still live and haven't been switched to nofollow, select the links in your project and click Update Backlinks. Choose Backlink Page Info to be updated, and hang on while SEO SpyGlass is looking up your links. When this is complete, just look at the Links Back and Backlink Status columns.
As an extra good measure, reward those who have linked back to you. Even a simple thank you email goes a long way. This shows you took notice, appreciate their efforts and will encourage them to link to you again. If you want to go the extra mile, send a handwritten note in the mail. While it can appear over the top for a backlink, these small efforts can make a big difference in your rankings, and it is a gesture that hardly anyone else takes advantage of, which will make you stand out and be remembered.
Link building is a crucial piece of local SEO, and it often makes the difference of getting your local business site to the top positions, where you will get more leads and customers for your business. Following this simple yet effective process will help you get there faster, so long as you're willing to take action to make it happen.