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Citation building rated the most popular link building tactic for Local SEOs

Citation building rated the most popular link building tactic for Local SEOs
Key 'Takeaways' From This Post
  • 72% of Local SEOs use Citations as a way of building links
  • 57% of Local SEOs use Content Marketing to build links
  • 25% of Local SEOs use Press Releases to build links

Links are hugely important in search engine marketing, both in terms of local SEO, and Organic. Authoritative links therefore, are in high demand for SEOs, local businesses and big businesses alike.

That hasn’t changed for years, and it’s unlikely to anytime soon. What does change is the way in which we try to get links, whether that’s building them, earning them, requesting them, or even buying them. So how do local SEOs build links in 2016?

We recently polled 388 BrightLocal users to find out which link building tactics are most commonly used. As a Local SEO tools provider with a local citation service, our respondents are generally local search practitioners, and we can, therefore, expect the results to reflect that.

The first question we asked was about which tactics are most commonly used. We also conducted a similar poll in 2015, and have therefore shown the year on year comparisons where possible:

What are the most popular link building tactics?

What are the most popular link building tactics?

NB. Respondents were able to select multiple answers.

Key Findings:

  • 76% of SEOs use Citations / Directory listings to build links
  • 58% of SEOs use Content Marketing to build links
  • 24% of SEOs use Press Releases to build links
  • 21% of SEOs use Guest Posts to build links


76% of respondents use citation building or directory listings as a link building tactic. This shows that many Local SEOs recognise the dual benefit of citation building.

The 2018 Expert Local Citation Survey showed that 90% of experts rated accurate citations as Critical or Very Important to local search ranking. So getting listed on top industry or local directories is not only important for ranking, but it’s also an asset to your link building efforts. We can also see that citations and directory listings were also rated highly in our poll from last year.

58% of respondents selected Content Marketing as one of their link building tactics. Not only is it a popular tactic, but it’s also one of the most concrete ones, with perhaps the best longevity going forward. The key is obviously not to publish content with the sole purpose of generating links – but it does come with that added benefit! In fact the best link-earners are those evergreen content pieces that can be of use long-term. It’s also beneficial to update and upgrade existing content, with new comments, assets, graphics, etc. – as mentioned in this post on Search Engine Journal.

Similarly, Guest Blogging, used by 21% of Local SEO, is a perfectly acceptable practice when you’re contributing high-quality content to authoritative & relevant websites.

Press releases, although a fairly old school tactic, also feature highly. Much like Article Syndication services (also incredibly old school), these are both tactics to be wary of – especially when offered at extremely low costs. With Press Release distribution, the motivation needs to be much more than link earning, and ‘nofollow’ tags are advised. However, as SEMrush points out, a good press release that gets attention from a journalist, offers a great opportunity to gain strong media coverage, as well as plentiful links in turn.

With the poll respondents containing a high amount of local search consultants, it’s a little surprising that only 7% use Local Events, such as sponsorships or meet-ups. We’ve often heard on our past webinars & industry surveys, local experts championing the benefit of these type of links for local businesses. Local groups or organizations bring that genuine ‘Hyper-Local’ authority. Similar to citation building, links from local authorities, associations, groups & community events can really help to move the needle when it comes to local ranking.

NB. In the poll, we also received a number of ‘other’ options which included some of the following tactics:

  • Video syndication (testimonials / how to’s)
  • Google News inclusions
  • RSS syndication
  • Allintext searches
  • PBNs

How many links do you build for a new local business?

So, now we know how Local SEOs are building links, it’s interesting to find out how many links they are concentrating on building. Depending on factors such as domain age, industry competition, current health & state of link profile, etc, each business will require a different number of links to make a significant impact.

However, we put a specific scenario to our users, to find how many links they would usually build within the first 6 months, for a new local business.

How many links do you build for a new business?

Key Findings:

  • 56% build 0-40 links in the first 6 months
  • 25% build 40-100 links in the first 6 months
  • 13% build as many as possible


We would expect the most common answer here to be “it depends on the business”, but we cruelly removed that option from our SEOs 🙂 , so we could gauge a good average response.

Most Local SEOs are in agreement that a new business should build between 0-40 links within the first 6 months (56%). Now obviously this figures depends on factors such as industry type & competition, but it does at least show that effective link building is achievable for any new local business – particularly within those first 6 months.

Less than half of that figure (25%) said they would build build 40-100 links. This might be more of a challenge to businesses with limited resources, and definitely requires a more concrete strategy to be in place. As we saw above, citation building is rated as the most popular link building practice and you would expect a lot of those links to be generated in this way.

Can you build too many backlinks?

13% of SEOs said they build as many links as they can. Obviously this comes down to quality vs quantity. Can you have too many high quality links? No. Can you have too many low quality links? Yes.

So it’s a case of treating each site as an individual case. Some industries will be easier to build high authority build links for, and some will be tricky. But no website would surely turn down a bucket load of high authority links – it’s simply a case of quality. And the higher quality links are usually those that take more time & effort to earn.

Take Content Marketing for example. It’s a great tactic for attracting local links, but it’s one that requires time, effort & continued resources in order to reap the benefits. Which is something not every new local business can commit to.

Please let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Poll Respondents

The geographic breakdown of the poll respondents was as follows:

  • USA & Canada – 76%
  • UK – 11%
  • Australia – 4%
  • Rest of the World – 10%
Ross Marchant
About the author
Ross is the former Marketing Manager for BrightLocal. With 9+ years SEO and content experience, Ross spearheaded the marketing and CRM initiatives which focus heavily on creating useful and informative content. Ross coordinated the research program at BrightLocal which delivers unique insights into both the SEO industry and local consumer behaviours.