There are a lot of myths, debates and misinformation when it comes to search engine optimization in general, and even more confusion about niche areas, in particular local SEO. Links continue to be at the core of all search engine algorithms and are still the best way to increase visibility for your website. For local SEO for small businesses, effective link building is about knowing what strategies work, which don’t and which ones can actually hurt your site’s local search ranking. Since proper link building is so crucial, here are some top link building tips for increasing your local SEO.
Review Sites and Business Citations
Since your are tying to increase local SEO it only makes sense to concentrate on building links locally. It is begin with local business directories, like your local Chamber of Commerce, and local review sites, such as your local Better Business Bureau.
Local directories are business directories specific to your location and are typically easy to get listed on just for asking. Conversely, links on the larger general directories, which aren’t Geo-specific, won’t provide much help at the local search level.
Examples of local directories:
● Local Chamber of Commerce
● Local newspaper’s online edition
● Your office building’s or complex’s online directory
● Local city and county directories
Local reviews sites must also be part of your link building plan. Not only do local review sites help to boost local SEO, they can also provide your site with positive reviews and studies show that a well rounded collection of reviews can increase conversion by 28%.
Don’t shy away from asking customers to leave a review. Offer a selection of sites where your business is listed that they can leave a review on.
Examples of local review sites:
● Better Business Bureau
No-Follow and Do-follow Links
No-Follow Links: Still a hot topics in SEO circles is whether a “no-follow” link helps or possibly hurts your SEO rank. A no-follow link does not “point” to another domain, so it has no signpost value. Even though a no-follow link in clickable, in the eyes of a search engines bots the link doesn’t point” to anything. The no-follow tag was created in an effort to cut down on spam sites. When SEO’s learned of the importance of links some websites went nuts with links and would do anything to acquire as many as possible simply to help improve search rankings. Search engines quickly caught on and created the no-follow tag to help curtail the activity. An example of a typical no-follow tag is a domain posted in the comment section of a website by a user.
Do-Follow Links: Search engines are always on the lookout for clues as to what pages belong at the top of the search results. One of the things that the search algorithms look for is how many links point to any given page from external sites. As an example, if there are two high-quality posts on a similar topic on two separate websites, the post which has the more natural links pointing to it from other sites will in most cases achieve the higher search position. This is because the search engine algorithms reads the greater number of links as evidence that more people find the data valuable enough to create a link back to it.
I would not get hung up over no-follow and do-follow links, think about traffic and brand building. Lets say you managed to get an article published in The Times. Are you going to get upset that it’s no-followed … NO, because 10,000 people might read the article and I may sell £100,000,00 worth of product. Still bothered it’s no-followed?
Links from a press release to a site are most often seen as a no-follow link by search engines. Matt Cutts of Google stated that press release links are typically no-follow because too many people were employing press releases as a link building tactic. However, press releases can still benefit local SEO as the publicity can get a site noticed by other websites that will place a link to the site mentioned in the press release, provided they feel the site has value.
I personally have not used a press release submission site in over 10yrs now. I felt that the pick up rate was pretty thin and produced no valuable traffic. Instead I stuck to a traditional method of press releases and relationships.
We only issue press releases when there is something to actually shout about, that is worth a story, something that will be written about, lets face it, why would a site pick up a press release and write a story about your business moving to a new address?
We then send the press release by mail, did he just say mail?. Yes the press release is packaged up with the new product, part of the new product, or something promotional for the journalist. We then follow up by email a day or two later after the package arrived to see if they require any further info. We generally have a 60% success rate this way of having a unique article published about the new product. You will also find that once 1 reputable site publishes about you, a whole lot more contact you for a story.
Is this a paid link?, why yes it is. In almost all cases, high quality editorials no follow their links as standard, so you are within Google guidelines. See my above thoughts about no-follow links.
Sign up to journalist sites like HARO or Journalist. Journos are always on the lookout for info and occasionally a request comes though for information about your industry.
Another great local link-building prospect is building local partnerships. If you have partnerships already established with other companies that have websites you can leverage these partnerships by asking for a link. You can easily create new partnerships with other business that have products or services that are complementary to yours, such as a hotel and taxi company.
All you have to do is ask!
Sponsorship typically provide a horrendous return on investment. However, the real payoff of a sponsorship is the good will it builds, and you can leverage that good will into a link.
Schools: From the primary level through college, schools will all have inexpensive sponsorship opportunities that will get you listed on the school site as a sponsor. Just one link from a .edu domain can help move you up dramatically in local SEO.
Municipal Events: Municipalities are always organizing some sort of event, such as art festivals, 5k runs and parades with sponsorship opportunities that can secure you a link from a .gov domain for just a few quid a year.
Animals Shelters: Rescue shelters are always in desperate need of donations and are almost always happy to link to your site, listing you as a sponsor for a few pounds.
Alumni: See if your alma mater offers listings for alumni in their directory, providing you with another of those valuable .edu links.
Everyone loves a good contest, and giving something away is a wonderful technique for branding and may get you picked up by the local media who will post a link to your site. For example, a small used car dealership in Atlanta gave away four tickets to a Falcons home game and earned three links from local sports bloggers.
Don’t get disparaged if your attempts fail at first. I have successes and failures even with years of practice.
Event or Fundraisers
Organizing an event or fundraisers may seem like a herculean task, but it can pay big dividends in local SEO link building. Here are some examples:
● A dentist offered free basic dental care, such as cleaning, filings and extractions, and got picked up by all the local papers, radio and TV stations that all linked to the dental practice’s website.
● An HVAC contractor put on an air conditioner drive where he took old window AC units people donated and installed the donated units for free in homes in need of air conditioning.
● A carpet cleaning service organized a fundraiser by teaming up with an electronics recycling company and a local school. Even though the carpet cleaner was only the organizer the local school put up a link to the carpet cleaning company’s website.
One of my most successful exercises was the Godiva Chocolate Challenge. This coincided with the brand launching in the UK. It was well publicized, some great chocolate creations were created, the final event night was jam packed with bloggers, journos and social influence’rs. With around 2000 links being generated.
Not every local business is as sexy as chocolate, or you have the budget to pull of an event like this, but there are opportunities out there, be on the lookout.
Most often in life you have to give something to get something in return. Reviews and testimonials are something that every business wants and needs more of. Look for business in your local area that have provided you with a good customer experience. If they have a website, offer to provide them with a good testimonial in exchange for a link to your site. Even if the business is not in the same industry as yours, these types of location specific links can be incredibly helpful.
For Local SEO Forget About National Metrics
Far too many people think of the larger national search metrics and forget to focus on the “local” part of local SEO. When it comes to local search most the techniques that work in national rankings don’t make a bit of difference. The two biggest factors in building local SEO results are always how location relevant and industry relevant the link is, and in that order.
PageRank toolbar isn’t updated by Google anymore, so it is absolutely pointless to even give it a thought when building links, either for building local SEO or organic results. Both Domain Authority and Page Authority are metrics that were created by Moz and can help with link building for organic search results, but again don’t get obsessed with these. Google does not use either of these metrics, but relies on its own algorithms. The bottom line is, when link building for local SEO, remember it is the local links that are the most useful and also your brand.
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