Local Link Building
If you’re marketing a local business online, earning quality local links isn’t just good for local SEO, it’s good for business, too.
You might not be asking, “is link building still relevant to SEO”? But you may be questioning whether it’s really worth investing in building links that won’t have immediate SEO benefits.
Building awareness is an often-overlooked benefit of earning local links. When potential customers or clients begin the research and discovery phase of their journey, they are looking for answers, resources, education, data, opinions, and insights from sources they know, like, and/or trust. Earning links to your site/pages from these sources can be a remarkably effective way to get on their radar.
A link from a local chamber of commerce, for example, could replicate the impact of search visibility within that local chamber’s membership. If you’re a business looking to get in front of other businesses, having a link from a chamber of commerce page, blog post, or news article will deliver targeted, effective visibility, placing your business directly in the line of vision of other local business decision-makers. Is that not exactly what you ultimately hope to achieve by improving your local SEO?
Directories and review sites are also useful too. Here’s an example for someone looking for the best place to buy meat in Chicago:
What is local link building?
Local link building is the practice of acquiring links from other local websites, for example, news sites, other local businesses, or local directories. The key thing with a local link is that it should come from a site that is location-specific to your own area of operation.
How do I create a local backlink?
Being told to go out there and build local links can be daunting. But the truth is, there are lots of avenues to explore once you know where to look.
Acquiring local links from business directories and review sites is really ticket-to-entry local link building for awareness. In terms of deciding which sites to prioritize, start with the directories that appear most prominently for relevant awareness search queries. These are likely to include a combination of the major sites (i.e. Yelp), as well as vertical-specific business listing sites (i.e. a legal directory like FindLaw).
In addition to directories, other ‘local links for awareness’ options include:
- Local blogs (contributing and commenting)
- Local news
- Local community forums
Even if the searcher isn’t ready to make a purchase now, having links from these sites reinforces brand awareness and builds confidence and trust.
It’s also worth mentioning that, while we’re focusing on actual local hypertext links here, you certainly shouldn’t ignore linkless citations.
In addition to building awareness, local link building is also an effective way to drive qualified leads. Identifying local partners who share a target audience similar to yours is a great way to generate both links and leads.
Building local links for business is also about “getting out there” in your local community. It’s been said that the best links tend to grow from building great relationships.
Local sponsorships are a good example. Use links from a sponsorship page to drive leads for a specific offer that is highly relevant to the audience of the sponsored group, organization, or team. Think local sports shops sponsoring local youth sports teams and offering team-specific discounts, for example.
Not sure how to go about finding sponsorship opportunities? NiftyMarketing’s Mike Ramsey suggests performing custom searches to identify potential sponsorship requests in the target area:
You can also find local sponsorship opportunities by using custom searches like:
inurl:sponsors “City name”
intitle:sponsors “City name”
intext:sponsors “City name”
Find popular existing local events. Where does your local community congregate? Where are these events published online? In many cases, local government sites get involved in promoting these events, along with local Facebook Groups. These are fantastic opportunities to earn links that also generate leads. Look for event sites that have a track record of linking back to partners and contributors.
Scholarships also remain a really effective link building tactic. Consider offering local scholarships to students who might also be customers. Going back to the sports shop analogy, offer a scholarship to a local student-athlete who excels both on the field, as well as in the classroom. You might be surprised just how effective this can be for generating goodwill, building brand awareness, and building local links.
Community sites such as local jobs boards, local not-for-profit sites, community groups, community radio stations, TV channels and newspapers, food banks, churches, and similar are additional sources of local links.
You could consider donating your expertise to a cause, providing a helpful resource, writing a news article to share with local media, holding a community open day, or even offering to host a fundraiser in your space.
Many community organizations welcome local business participation and in turn, you’ll obtain a local link and raise your brand visibility amongst local community members.
Local charities faced an uphill struggle during the COVID-19 pandemic with a drop in funding and donations and an increase in people needing to access their services. This isn’t a situation that looks likely to change anytime soon, making their role within our communities more vital than ever.
As a local business owner, you may well have an area of expertise or a resource that could make a positive impact on a local charity close to your heart. Whether that’s donating time, goods, or expertise to make a positive difference within your community, there is a clear opportunity to give back while also local link building for SEO.
Most charities will have social media pages and a website where they share updates about donors and drives, so it’s quite feasible you could generate a local link while also making a real-world contribution.
Connect with local creatives in need of your expertise. Building a reputation as someone who knows their stuff in their field can also be leveraged for local link building.
Think about the creative scene in your town or city. Are there any local podcast hosts? Local reporters who work freelance? Local theatre groups? Each of these people may find themselves in need of local guests and local experts at one time or another.
If you can build your profile locally, you increase your chances of being asked to appear on a future podcast episode, be interviewed by a local radio station, partner on a webinar, or host a seminar or panel discussion.
Create local case studies which highlight your work with other local businesses, charities, and organizations. If you’ve gone out of your way to make a difference to someone in your community, perhaps by giving them a favorable rate, helping them with an urgent problem, or by donating goods or services, consider asking them to share a case study, include your link on their site with a logo or provide a testimonial.
Put yourself forward as a local columnist with your area’s newspaper, prominent blog, or media outlet. Typically, local media outlets are welcoming of knowledgeable contributors and they will often include a short biography of the author, sometimes with an image and link. This can also be a great way to build your local visibility as a trusted expert, a local business leader, and a subject matter expert.
Apply to speak at local events to further boost your personal and business brand and you might find that you get a link back from the event website too. Finding out what business expos and seminars going on in your area can be as simple as scouring the what’s on listing of your local venue.
Keep an eye out for any events that fit your area of business. Expos and seminars will often require guest speakers to give talks, deliver seminars, and present keynote speeches. And you’ll often find that each speaker receives a bio on the event website along with a link, in addition to being included in the event’s marketing materials such as pre-show blog posts and local and industry news releases.
Local links generate customers and clients. In fact, if you’ve already acquired some of the links that we discussed here, they’ve likely been helping you to win more business already.
You can mine referral data and configure Analytics goals to capture the business impact of your local links.
Does link building affect local SEO?
Keep the following in mind when link building for local SEO:
- Don’t prospect local links based on proxy domain metrics (i.e. Domain Authority, Trust Flow, Toolbar PageRank, I couldn’t resist). Most of the valuable, relevant, and local links won’t get high marks on these scales.
- Don’t ignore NoFollow link opportunities. Too many link builders dismiss sites entirely that have NoFollow policies. Since 2019, Google has treated NoFollow links as ‘hints’ to help with crawling and indexing content, so considering them a waste of time is an outdated approach.
- Don’t ignore linkless citations and mentions. Ignoring local news sites that won’t link back to you doesn’t make much sense. Those linkless mentions are important for establishing prominence and can put your local business on the radar of your target audience.
- Don’t obsess over the anchor text. Earning some keyword-rich anchors can help point Google in the right direction. But most of the time, this gets abused and creates a pattern that is more of a liability than an asset. Further, if you’re prospecting for relevance, your link will likely be surrounded by relevant keywords.
- Do prospect local links for relevance. The best local link you can get is from your competitor down the street. Needless to say, that’s a tough link to acquire. But the point remains, competitor websites are likely the most topically and geographically relevant sites you can find. Let this mantra guide your prospecting efforts. So, if you can’t get a link from a direct competitor, look for local sites that serve your target audience in a different way, such as the local chamber of commerce.
- Do go hyper-local. Begin your prospecting research with Google Maps. Start with your business location and radiate outward to uncover more local link building opportunities (i.e., neighborhoods, blocks, and other hyper-local language).
- Do use crawlers to identify link opportunities. Many local sites have a variety of issues that present great opportunities for local link building (i.e., broken links, linking to outdated content, etc). Crawlers can also make it much easier to identify the path of least resistance for earning a link (for example they already link to pages like yours).
- Do use competition-informed prospecting. Look for sites linking to your competitors but not to you but don’t obsess over copying competitor link profiles. Most of the links you’ll find there probably aren’t helping much. You’ll waste a lot of time and money trying to build links that won’t move the dial.