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How Do Local SEOs Build Their Links?

How Do Local SEOs Build Their Links?

The importance of links, even today, should not be under-estimated, either in Organic or Local Search results. Referencing the Local Search Ranking Factors survey by Moz, link signals account for 18.3% of local ranking factors (covering inbound anchor text, linking domain authority, linking domain quantity, etc.).

The practices of building links however, are wide-ranging, with varying degrees of perceived ‘legitimacy’. John Mueller, Google Webmaster trends analyst, recently recommended against any sort of link building in a Google hangout, but it is unlikely that the idea of attracting or earning links is going to be abandoned on a large scale anytime soon.

So, in our latest weekly poll we wanted to find out which local link building tactics are most commonly used by Local SEOs.

We asked one simple question:

“Which of these tactics do you utilize for the purpose of growing backlinks?”

We gave the following commonly known link building tactics as choices:

  • Content creation / amplification
  • Paid for links
  • Blog / forum commenting
  • Infographics
  • Press releases
  • Directories / citation building
  • Guest posting / blogging
  • Broken link building
  • Offline events (PR / sponsorship)
  • Website Widgets (free tools)
  • Article syndication
  • Testimonials / interviews

We compiled results from 325 BrightLocal users over a week in April 2015. All individual responses are anonymous, but our typical users are SEO agencies and consultants who provide local search services. The geographical breakdown of those who voted is as follows; 75% – US, 13% – UK, 6% – Canada, 4% – Australia, 2% – Rest of the world.

Utilizing purpose if growing backlinks

Key Findings:

  • 31% use Directories / citation building as a tactic
  • 22% use Content creation / amplification as a tactic
  • 9% use Press releases as a tactic
  • 8% replicate competitor backlinks as a tactic


We work in a fast changing industry. Several years ago, we would have expected the chart to show a far more even spread of results, but in 2015, the fear of participating in the wrong tactics due to Google’s crackdown on unnatural linking, ensures that the majority of SEOs are sticking to a handful of safer options.

Citation building

A lot of local SEOs clearly see citations as having dual benefit. We know about the benefit of citations to local search ranking; 55% of experts say accurate citations are ‘critical’ to local search ranking, and listing your business on important niche, local, or national directories – even without a link – has direct benefit on local ranking. But now we can see that 31% also view citations as an important link building tactic.

Citations do not have to include a link, only a mention or form of NAP. A citation with a link is seen as an added bonus. However it must be noted that although a business listing without a link on a low ranking directory will not harm your site… the same cannot be said for low quality directories where you do have a link.

If you are using business listings for link building, you must be more discerning about the sites on which you are listed on.

Read more:

Content marketing

Content amplification or Content marketing as a link building tactic is now commonplace in internet marketing. From the above chart we can see that it is favoured by 22% of local SEOs.

However, content marketing shouldn’t go out of its way to build links that point back to your site. If content is produced with the sole aim of generating links, then it is likely to be poorly written, with little or no interest to those in your industry – and therefore ineffective. That’s not to say that a business with a great content strategy isn’t thinking about links, but it shouldn’t determine what you write about, and how much time you spend on it.

Press releases

9% say that they use press releases to generate links, which is a little surprising. The purpose of a press release has always been to distribute news about a service or product to the press. Somewhere along the way, this method got abused & became notoriously known as a spammy way of generating links.

In a post-Penguin world, the general consensus among internet marketers was to stop syndicating press releases without having a newsworthy reason for doing so. If you don’t have anything newsworthy to post about, don’t release a press release just to get links – you’ll be viewed as spam.

Competitor links

8% replicate their competitor’s links. This is a simple enough task, helped by the dozens of online tools which allow you to audit your competitors. It stands to reason that your highest ranking competitors are likely to have not only good on-site SEO, but also a strong backlink profile with relevant links from authoritative sites. By replicating the best & most relevant of these you are likely to be able to close the gap at a much quicker rate.

Guest blogging

7% said that they utilize guest blogging for links. Today guest blogging has a bad name but for a long while it was a very popular tactic. Whilst not all guest posting is bad, writing poor content for low ranked sites is. There is a major difference between spammy guest blogging and the real, genuine guest blogging. You must guest blog on a relevant site, write good content, and don’t over do the links back to your site.

Paid for links

4% said they still paid for backlinks. Buying backlinks is a very bad idea, ALWAYS. Whilst popular a few years ago, this is no longer an acceptable way to build links. Instead focus on building authority as a website & creating quality content that people will like. That is what earns you links.

Testimonials / Interviews

Testimonials / Interviews are used by 5% as a way of building links. Offering testimonials is a great way to thank your partners for a continued relationship, as well as receiving a free and potentially valuable lnk. Testimonials can be offered to suppliers, partners, etc. and have the added benefit of being 100% unique content that you yourself have written.

Similarly, interviews have the same benefit, plus they are more shareable. Of course, you’ll first need to find someone that wants to interview you – but by reaching out to your partners, industry publications, suppliers, or clients (B2B) etc. you may find that there is a demand for you to tell them about different aspects of your business. The added benefit being that you get to build authority as an individual or business – which in turn can lead to more opportunities.

Blog commenting / forum posting

5% use blog / forum commenting. This is undoubtedly a good way of interacting with other people &  making legitimate comments on published articles, but in short, if a link is extremely easy to acquire, then it is usually less beneficial for SEO – and this is no exception. Google may still technically give credit for these links, but not as much as they previously did. If you’re not really contributing to the article / discussion then there is a fairly good chance that it’s not a worthwhile enterprise.

Other link building tactics

Broken link building, which is only used by 1% of the SEOs polled, is actually one of the lowest risk tactics around. There are numerous ‘broken’ links to be found around the web, which now link to redundant websites or pages which are no longer displayed. These present the opportunity to approach webmasters with a relevant replacement link (yours), which solves a problem for them, and provides a linking boost for you. This dual benefit for both parties also helps to build potentially ongoing relationships with other bloggers / business owners.

Offline events (PR / sponsorship) are used by 2% as a link building tactic. Particularly for local search, these are a great source of links for local businesses. In a recent InsideLocal webinar on best practices for local onsite optimization, we discussed the merits of doing so; panelist Mary Bowling said she constantly strives to get her clients to go out in the real world and do things to promote their business in the local community;

“Join clubs, go to networking events, sponsor things, get your name in the community”.

Mary suggested that a business couldn’t go wrong by simply thinking about how it would have done marketing before the internet even existed.

Is your business still concerned about link building? Do you employ any tactics that we haven’t covered here? let us know in the comments box!

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.