The new digital world is about being present and available for customers on search engines. Whether your company is old or new, you want to get noticed by potential clients – and the perfect way to do so is by hitting the top spots of search engine result pages (SERP).
This guide will look at how to run link building campaigns that will help you dominate local search results so you can rank for the terms that matter to your business. Let’s kick things off by getting our definitions in order.
What is local SEO link building?
While people use Bing, Yelp, and Maps to find local businesses like yours, Google searches probably generate the most organic traffic leading to your site. Link building for local SEO refers to online presence optimization techniques intended to draw more traffic from relevant local searches.
The goals of a local SEO link building strategy should include:
- Creating content that connects with local customers and businesses (organically generating links)
- Securing links from local publications like local newspapers, business listings, blogs, etc.
Google and other search engines will check listings in your area when you search for a phrase like “Mexican restaurant near me” or “hair salon in [insert location here]”. These results are arranged based on the indexed sites’ credibility and relevance. Many businesses are starting to add link building to their local SEO as it helps boost their search rankings.
While local SEO doesn’t deviate significantly from other forms of SEO, local SEO practitioners place more emphasis on the following factors:
- NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number). Ensuring these details are correct.
- Optimizing the Google My Business listing.
- Creating local citations.
- Hyperlocal content creation.
- Local link building.
These tasks are all performed to create a presence in local Google business searches. You want your business to appear in SERPs for local terms and in organic search results for geo-targeted keywords.
Why are local links important for local businesses?
Companies want more leads and more clients. The better they can achieve these goals, the faster their businesses will grow. Unsurprisingly, for many businesses, the bulk of their revenue comes from local customers.
While it’s good to have a global audience, it’s always good to have a sturdy foundation of local followers and customers. Aside from word of mouth, one of the leading ways to drive new leads to a local business is through search engines.
Source: Rialto Marketing
Local consumers tend to search for services in their region on Google. You need your listing to show up on those searches so that customers in your area can call you, visit your physical store, or browse through your website. Link building will help you raise your site’s domain authority score and improve other aspects of your SEO.
Besides improving your search ranking, adding backlinks through guest posts in sites targeted towards your local audience will increase traffic to your site. If your site gets mentions from authority sites that cater to local residents and businesses, it can add to your credibility. You can consider these mentions another form of social proof or an indirect endorsement of your brand.
How to Find Suitable Sites for Local Links
Not all backlinks have the same impact on your business. Some links boost your traffic, some do close to nothing, and some drag your site down the search rankings. An article from Stonetemple by Erin Enge sums up the criteria you should use for local backlinks:
- They should drive direct referral traffic.
- They should create visibility for your brand with your target audience.
- They should establish and boost your reputation.
It is important to develop quality links to your site to establish your brand, increase brand recognition, attract prospects, and turn them into loyal customers. Here are some tried and tested link-building techniques.
1. Do competitor research
A good business has a close eye on its competition at all times. Doing a bit of research about what your competition is doing will give you insight into potential keywords and topics for articles that could help you move up in search rankings.
Competitor research should be a key component of your company’s marketing strategy. It will allow you to identify information gaps that your content could fill. You can also use different resources to find the domains that link back to your competitors’ sites. This will give you a glimpse into your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses, as well as your own.
You’ll need to use SEO tools to do your competitor research. For example, assuming you have access to a tool like Ahrefs, you can enter a local competitor’s domain. You should then click on referring domains to see all of the sites that link to that property.
For example, if I was a hairdresser in New York, I might look at Mizu Hair Salon’s backlink profile. The site is one of the top-ranking results for the term “hairdresser in New York.”
Mizu Hair Salon has a strong backlink profile. It’s been cited in publications like Elle, NBC News, and Good Housekeeping.
Some of these sites are national publications. Citations from these national publications help boost its position in local search results. There are also citations from local businesses.
Reviewing the backlink profile of your competitors will help you identify where they are securing links. I recommend you review the backlink profile of 3-4 different competitors, and identify commonalities. For example, if three of your competitors got a link from the same site, you could probably replicate that link.
Make sure to set criteria for the types of links you want to secure. I recommend using the following criteria:
- Domain Rating (DR): Domain Rating uses a scale of 0-100 to rank a website’s authority. I recommend you target sites with a DR 40+
- Trust Flow (TF): Trust Flow uses a scale of 0-100 to rank a link’s trustworthiness. I recommend you target sites with a TF 15+
- Traffic: Target local websites in your area, receiving at least 1,000 visitors a month to their website.
There are free tools available you can use to check these three metrics.
If you have experience in SEO there are more metrics you could use. However, I think those three metrics are sufficient for someone just getting started.
2. Try guest blogging & HARO
The Google search algorithm has improved significantly over the years. While it was easy to game the algorithm’s early versions through the use of spammy links, these techniques no longer work with the current incarnation of the search engine.
One technique that has stood the test of time, though, is guest blogging. Getting backlinks from more established sites is often possible only when you publish an insightful, relevant article that includes links back to your site.
How do you find blogs where you can publish your guest posts?
First, you need to identify the sites that link back to your competitors as part of your competitor research. While you don’t have to publish on the same sites, you can use this list as a jump-off point for your search for other sites in the same niche.
Once you can find sites that meet the criteria above, it’s time to reach out to the people in charge of content. While some sites have a “Write for Us” section, you’ll have to do a bit more research for others. You may find their content managers on LinkedIn. You can then use an email finder to find their company email addresses. You can use a tool like Find Emails, Hunter, or Voila Norbert.
After building a decent-sized list of content managers and editors, you need to introduce yourself to them, then ask if they’re currently accepting guest posts. Once they respond positively, you can send them content pitches consisting of relevant topics that haven’t been covered in their blogs. When they approve your pitch, start writing your blog and include relevant backlinks in your content.
You can also use Help a Reporter Out. If you’ve never used it before, reporters use HARO to get insights from industry professionals. Those insights are often included in an article in the form of a quote.
3. Find unlinked mentions & reach out to site content managers
Sometimes, bloggers will mention you or your business in your content without including a link to your site. You shouldn’t be offended by this omission. In fact, they’re doing you a favor just by mentioning your brand. This means that they’re already aware of your business.
To find unlinked mentions, you can use free tools such as Ahrefs or even Google Search. You can use the following search string to discover unlinked mentions, omitting results from social media sites:
intext:[yoursite], -[yoursite].com -twitter.com -facebook.com -linkedin.com – youtube.com
Using the search string above will give you hundreds, even thousands, of results. However, not all of these results are relevant. Some of them are no longer active, while others are outdated. You can set up Google to find sites that have mentioned you in the past year instead.
After you’ve found these sites, reach out to the people in charge of content, then ask them (nicely) to add links back to your site. Most site managers will be more than willing to accommodate your request. Some will ask for a link exchange, but you should only agree to it if they have a domain authority score higher than yours.
4. Use Local Directory
Citation building is also an important component of local SEO. Whenever your business name, address, and phone number (referred to as NAP) are listed together, Google considers it a citation.
Using business directories like Yellow Pages and Yelp is the best way to do this. There are also local and industry directories where you can post your business details, including your homepage. These directories are often high-authority, and aside from increasing traffic to your site, they can also pass on some of their authority to you. This results in better search engine rankings.
5. Participate in local events & write about them
Establishing relationships with other local businesses and nonprofits is an effective marketing strategy because it gives you exposure. Events are a chance to engage with your community. Local events can also be an opportunity to secure high-quality backlinks.
How do you get these backlinks? You can try the guest posting approach. People who host an event can use all the exposure they can get. You can promote events to local daily or trade publications. For example, you could write a press release and share this with local publications.
You can also generate content that other businesses can also link back to – and maybe sneak in a backlink or two to your site.
By writing about local events, your brand can become associated with the event. This means that anyone who searches for the event will also find your site in the top search results.
6. Connect with local influencers
Consider reaching out to some local bloggers or influencers in your area and ask them to do a feature on your company. You don’t have to go for influencers with millions of followers. Instead, focus on those who have followers in the thousands, and a high engagement rate. Many of them are happy just to help out a local business, especially if they’ve worked with you in the past.
However, you need to compensate them for their time and effort. Local influencers usually have lower rates per post than those with wider followings, and collaborating with them shouldn’t burn a hole through your pocket. However, if you don’t have the budget for it, you could instead offer them a free trial of your product or service in exchange for being mentioned and linked in their content.
This kind of local link-building strategy will help increase your company’s exposure in your neighborhood. This will help you reach more potential customers because the local influencers will most likely have loyal followers.
Over time, working with local influencers, you should increase your digital profile. You can use social media tools to maintain your digital presence as well.
Link building is a vital part of local SEO. It often makes the difference to get to your local searches’ top positions, where you can get more leads and clients for your business.
Link building has proven to be one of the most critical aspects of SEO. However, you need to build your backlink profile properly. You can get good backlinks through guest posts and linked mentions in high-authority sites, local directory sites, local events, and influencers in your area.
There is no royal road to link building, even if you’re operating in a very small market. It takes discipline and guts to ask for backlinking opportunities. However, if you do local link building properly, you’ll soon enjoy its benefits in the form of higher revenue and more repeat business from local customers.