“Local” Link Building
What is the best way to build “local links” to your website?
As more and more people are utilizing smartphones and search engines to find more and more localized services the importance of “local” link building cannot be overstated.
I have seen many link building strategies that forget to add a local link strategy to their overall SEO program. In fact, a local optimization strategy is often overlooked by national and international corporations and to some extent even businesses that have only one local presence serving a very local community may make the mistake of neglecting local SEO.
Until recently one of the major taco/burrito restaurant chains dominated the top of Google.com when a searcher searched for “burrito” in the US, but when searching for “burrito Denver”, “Mexican food Denver” or any other combination of “burrito” + a city name they were not showing in the Google Places or even the traditional organic results on the first page. Even without knowing the exact goals of the restaurant chain I think I could make a good guess that they spent a lot of time and/or money in a misguided effort. At the very least they left out a very important aspect of their SEO efforts, because it is fairly obvious that potential customers are usually using local search parameters when they are looking for a place to eat.
It is vital that a local SEO strategy is developed that focuses on local content and local link building. This focus of this article is local link building.
As fast as SEO rules and strategies are changing, I believe local SEO strategies are changing even faster, because local SEO involves traditional SEO efforts PLUS local SEO efforts. As a result, different local SEO practitioners may have different definitions for what they consider to be “local links”.
Let me define what I mean by “local links”:
- Links from localized websites, blogs, directories, forums, and social media platforms.
- Hypertext links via localized search terms.
- Links from Local Directories:
Links from Local Directories
At the top of the list is Google Places/Google +. The first thing you should do is claim your Google Places/Google + page, which will include a free link back to your website. Of course Bing and Yahoo! Should be next on your list.
As searchers begin to utilize Yelp, Urban Spoon, Citysearch and other directories for local searches, Google becomes a little less significant in this landscape. Therefore, these directories are more important than just the links they provide: by making certain your business is represented on your communities’ popular local directories with (or even without) a link back to your website you will likely have new clients find you on these directories.
Make certain you get in your “vertical” directories. For example, healthcare providers should get listed in Healthgrades, Vitals and WebMD, while the food industry needs to be in Urban Spoon. As of now I would recommend nearly every business in the USA and Canada get into Yelp.
Of course more and more directories are popping up every day, which means more opportunities for links and the expansion of your local online presence, but this also requires increased effort on your part to keep up with them all.
Caution Regarding Directory Listings
Most local directories offer a free listing that includes a link to your site, and many have options for upgrading to other services. In general, I would not recommend upgrading without a detailed analysis of the potential ROI for each, which can be challenging to predict. While companies like Yelp and your local online Yellow Pages should be part of your local SEO strategy, investing in their enhanced services is only recommended if you can tightly track results to make sure you are getting the return on your investment that makes sense for your business. My experience has been time and time again that local SEO has a better ROI than most enhanced directory advertising. In fact, a well implemented and managed local Google Adwords program usually has a much better ROI than any enhanced local directory advertising efforts I have seen.
How Do You Get on These Local Directories?
There are essentially 2 ways to get listed on these directories: what I call “passive” and “active” submissions.
Services like Axciom, InfoUSA/InfoGroup and Localeze offer “passive” submissions in the USA. As a business owner you provide these companies with your information (they have free and paid submissions) and they present it for hundreds of directories and social media sites to list on their sites. These sites pay to get the data, and choose which data they want to use on their sites. Some sites (like Google) may only use the data to verify data they already have in their database.
“Active” submission refers to a process in which you or someone you hire actively and manually submits your information to a site or claims information already on the directory. As of now this is the only way to ensure you are on Google Places/Google + with the correct information, although Google looks at other sites to verify your information for accuracy, and if they like what they see it can have a positive impact on your rankings.
Other Localized Sites:
Searching online for local blogs, forums, and community sites will also show you many other opportunities to find localized sites and links.
Make sure you also get your business on LinkedIn and Facebook. Your local BBB and “Biz” journals will have methods for gathering your data as well-some paid and some for free.
Do a search for your city and one of your services, like “Boston restaurant guide” and you may find many other places that make sense to be listed.
Getting Hypertext Links via Localized Search Terms
The ideal link to your website will be from a website with relevant content, that is well optimized (meaning high PR and good rankings on the search engines) and via hypertext links that are “local keyword” rich, rather than just links via your products, services or business name . For example, if you want to be well ranked for the search term “burritos”, getting links from other well optimized “burrito” or food related sites via the text link “burrito” is valuable. However, if you want to rank well for the search term “best burritos in Denver” then you would want links to your site via the phrase “best burritos in Denver”. Preferably this link would be from another local restaurant site, but that link from a well optimized topically relevant site that is national or about another community would likely also be of value.
These links can come from blog posts, press releases, forum posts. Just about any site that is willing to link to yours via your localized search terms is worth considering. The better the site you get your links from the more positively your rankings will be affected.
“No-follow” vs. “Follow Links”
Certainly “follow” links are better than “no-follow” links. However, many of the best directories (including Yelp) provide “No-follow” links, and you still should consider a link from Yelp valuable. In fact, a balance of “follow” and “no-follow” links may be a good sign to the search engines that you are looking for good places upon which to get your site listed and not just trying to artificially pump up your link program (even though you probably are).
Worried about getting too many links?
I once had an expert in the field answer that question with “Don’t worry-you won’t ever get too many links.” Technically he may have been wrong, but the reality is that if you are doing everything you can to get links to your business from trusted sources and have a good strategy to continue adding good content to your website at the same time you are unlikely to get too many links to your website. Your are very unlikely to get to many high quality links to your site.
If you service your customers locally you cannot afford to ignore local link building. Even outside of local SEO efforts many of the local directories will actually drive customers to your site-not just links. If your market is competitive (whose isn’t?) it is even more important to coordinate local directory efforts and local site optimization via local hypertext links from high quality sites from all over-not just from within your community.
Get your business listed on as many local directories as you can, but make sure you are on the ones important in your market and/or your vertical industry. Don’t get sucked in to paying for advertising on local directories without strong 3rd party recommendation that you it will be profitable. With hundreds of local sites if you paid each one only $30/month it would add up to a huge some very quickly and would not be worth it.
The best links are “follow” links from other sites that are highly relevant, well optimized and localized for your same community, but there are many other opportunities for links that are not quite as ideal but should not be ignored.
Don’t forget to coordinate your website content building efforts with local link building and put localized search phrases on your site.