Local SEO Begins with Community
Getting involved in your local community brings with it lots of potential to boost your business’ local SEO. Contributor Matthew Murray explains how your link profile, local rankings, sales opportunities, and personal profile can be supercharged by becoming more well-known in your local area.
At first glance local SEO is about achieving high ranking for targeted search terms. But, or course, it goes a bit deeper than that.
All the things you need to do to improve local SEO also help with brand recognition in your community. They position you as a thought leader in your area of expertise. They make you the ‘go to’ contact when for new opportunities that arise. And they help you connect with successful people.
When you think about it, you don’t need search engines for most of those things. The world doesn’t happen online any more than Google defines who we are. Search engines are just a mirror that reflects our relationship with the world around us.
To be clear, volunteering your experience and energy to a community organization is NOT about professional benefit. Volunteering and sponsorship happens because you see a problem you want to fix. Maybe you want to participate in an organization with a mission that resonates with you. Perhaps you love something and want the world to have more of it. Or maybe you know no one else is going to step up so you raise your hand. Whatever your reasons for participating, passion comes first. If you genuinely enjoy your contributions then you win, no matter what outcomes follow.
But the lines between our personal lives and professional lives are becoming increasingly blurred. In a world where tagged images tell everyone how we spend our personal time, our professional lives can’t help but be affected by our non-work activities. A quick social media check will tell you exactly how your colleagues spent their weekend. Did they go on a keg crawl? Or build a home for the less fortunate? Who would you rather work with on the next important project?
In this article, we’ll look at some of the ways your local search presence and career might be impacted by getting deeply involved in the community. In the right circumstances it could create a positive cycle in both your personal and professional lives.
How Getting Involved in Your Community Gets You Local Backlinks
Local SEO thrives on backlinks from trusted sources and good backlinks can be obtained from mentions about your community involvement. They flow naturally from your personal relationships. Here are a couple of strong backlinks you might find yourself earning by creating a strong presence in your community.
If you are helping out a large local organization or charity then there is a good chance they’ve got a website. These sort of websites attract a lot of powerful incoming links from publications and other large organizations. But generally speaking, they don’t tend to link out too often. A link from one of these sites can do wonders for your relative position in Google, particularly as one of the key factors in the local ranking pack is relevance. Backlinks from local organizations boost your relevance in the local area.
So how do you get a link? There are a couple of easy ways. If they publish news or a blog you could contribute content with a reference to your own site’s content. You could also ask them if you could provide “services in kind” in exchange for a sponsorship link. It doesn’t cost your local charity anything to list your company as a ‘donor’ in recognition of the non-financial contributions you’ve provided.
Every organization needs a figurehead. If you add enough value, by offering your expertise, services and products to businesses and organizations around you, you could become the face of your organization. Large organizations are magnets for special interest features in local news, so you may well find yourself in front of journalists wanting to write about your latest good deed. When the story is published you can ask them if they can add a link to your website profile on your name.
Often there’s not quite enough going on in a local area to fill a newspaper, but local papers can’t publish blank pages. So they look to human interest stories, which they never tire of. If you’ve got a good ‘hook’ then they’ll be happy to share your story, too. Part of having a good hook is having strong local connections and making meaningful contributions to local events. If your story includes references to your job then you can request a link to your website.
Successful people give back to their community all the time. Many of these people have powerful blogs, podcasts, contests, and email lists that you want to be featured in. And guess what? They have the same problem as journalists. The lady with the successful podcast might know who her next four guests are, but after that her calendar might be empty. Making yourself more well known in the community provides you valuable personal exposure, which increases your chances of being invited to speak on podcasts, webinars, and events. Every one of these will have a website, or at least a web page, perfect for a well-earned backlink.
Think about how many people you know in various industries. How many car dealers do you know personally? How many jewelers? How many accountants are listed in your phone? Can you name three executive recruiters? What about corporate lawyers?
Most of us don’t know someone we trust in every industry. To fill the gaps, a quick Google search makes sense. But what if you already know an expert in a field where you need help? There’s a good chance you’d call them before checking out Google.
That’s the power of taking a leadership role in a community organization. The more you serve the community, the more people come to be aware of you. And they probably learn about you in a holistic way, including your professional achievements, rather than through a forced outbound sales fashion. This is one of the best ways to earn new clients and customers.
In The Ultimate Sales Machine, Chet Holmes suggests that, at any given time about 3% of people are actively looking for whatever solution you offer across most industries. If that holds true in your community, imagine how busy you’d be if 1,000 people knew you could help them solve their biggest professional problem today.
No one wants to pay big bucks to someone with limited experience. This is why companies showcase their expertise on their websites. If they’ve previously helped a large or prestigious organization, then they can probably help you, too.
And if you don’t have an attractive portfolio? Regardless of your abilities, you’ll probably miss out on some premium job offers.
That’s why it’s so nice when your community contributions include work that overlaps with your business expertise. For example, a website designer might help the charity with their new site. Or a copywriter might create posters for a charitable cause.
Depending on your relationships and contributions, the organization may be happy to provide a testimonial, case study, or let you use their logo. And a strong recommendation from a well known community group or NPO could be a huge boost to your portfolio.
The world turns on reciprocity. The more you contribute to others, the more others feel compelled to help you. This is a well-known phenomena, but just because people know it, it doesn’t make it any less powerful.
Given the choice between two competent dentists, who would you rather visit? The one who takes Sundays off, or the one who donates free dental care? Dr. Mark Hassed got the answer to this question when he saw business and PR swell in the months following his bi-annual dental services for the poor.
And what about employee engagement? Would you rather work at a ‘faceless’ corporate job? Or work with a dynamic community leader that shares the same values that you do?
Employers quickly find that their community service makes them an employer of choice and they can attract talent they might not otherwise been able to attract.
In a Nutshell
We share our time and energy with our communities because it’s the right thing to do. Finding a cause that means something to us can be very rewarding, and give definition to our lives. There’s nothing more satisfying than knowing you helped someone, or furthered an initiative you believe will help.
Communities of any size tend to be small and over time participants get to know one another. People will come to know about your professional expertise. We all want to work with someone we trust so they’ll turn to you when they need help.
On top of new client opportunities, you’ll see other benefits like backlinks from trusted websites, and opportunities to work with other successful professionals.
With all these benefits in mind, it’s worth finding a cause you believe in enough to share your valuable time and energy.
The added bonus to keep in mind all along is how much these efforts will boost your prominence in local search. With added relevance and prominence comes better rankings, better backlinks, more reviews and more customers!