We’re seeing the industry shift now that massive corporations finally understand the value of online marketing. Enterprise level SEO is becoming more prominent. This is a great opportunity for SEOs who can appeal to clients with that stature, but it presents a problem to SEOs and small businesses who have limited resources.
In a world of massive promotions and big budgets, how can small businesses and local search optimizers set themselves apart? Here are first five strategies you can leverage to grab that much needed attention in the online sphere.
1. Host an Event
Events can be an incredibly powerful way to capture links that would otherwise be impossible. It’s so effective that any local event of sufficient size is bound to attract some links. That said, you can really up the ante and pull in a huge amount of SEO value if you optimize the event for online benefit.
First things first; you’ll need an event page on your site. Without a page, you’ll miss out on a tremendous amount of SEO value. This is the page you want to promote through all of your online and social media channels.
If you’re selling tickets, keep the ticket sales page separate. If you use Eventbrite to set up ticket sales, you can get a followed link out of it. Same goes for Brown Paper Tickets. Meanwhile, you should be able to get your event listed in tons of event listing directories and local newspapers. These are relevant directories that people actually use, so they make for perfect links. Yes, you should take advantage of listings even if they’re nofollow, assuming there’s any real traffic potential (and there always should be when you are manually building links).
Since odds are high you aren’t the first business to host an event in your area, there’s also nothing wrong with scoping some of the other local event pages with Open Site Explorer to see where they’re getting their links.
I hope it’s obvious that your event should be more than a tool to get links from event sites. You may need to hire a contractor to set up the event (preferably one who links to their clients), and you should certainly put a great deal of thought into how to monetize the event, or at least make it pay for itself.
Be sure to capitalize on the local features of Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Foursquare to reach as many people as possible. Your link building efforts shouldn’t stop there either. Do some outreach and, if possible, work with some local micro-celebrities to capture as much attention as possible.
Assuming you have a local location to promote, be sure to get your business address attached to as many of your links as possible. Those citations are solid gold. Even if the event is hosted somewhere else, there’s no reason you can’t say something along the lines of: “For more information, get in touch at…”
Also be sure to cash in on Schema.org markup to get rich snippets in the search results.
2. Sponsor a Charity
Have a cause you care about? There’s no shame in getting some SEO value out of it while also using it to help improve your reputation. It would be beyond cynical, and unlikely to pay off, if you tried to use charities for SEO alone, but there’s no reason not to make the most of it when you do. Local businesses are the biggest contributors to charities, and they can be a great opportunity.
The most obvious bit of SEO value is a link to your site from the charity as one of their sponsors. Many charities do this simply by default, and many that don’t will still be happy to send a link to return the favor.
Causes and charities also tend to spread through social networks more readily than just about any business message. If you embrace a cause and promote it on social networks, this can be a great way to expand your reach.
Be careful when mixing promotion and charity work, however. Business involvement in social causes is often viewed with skepticism, and if you blatantly capitalize you may end up getting shunned. Only embrace those causes that you sincerely believe in. SEO and other marketing efforts should always come second.
3. Build a Tool
We’ve been mentioning tools frequently as of late, and with good reason. The most popular sites on the web are all tools, not what would traditionally be called content sites. Tools naturally attract links because they are inherently more engaging than passive content.
While a content-driven strategy certainly does require a great deal of creativity and skill, tools arguably require even more creativity. Content at least obeys a preset format: blog post, video, infographic, white paper. It may take creativity, research, and ingenuity to figure out what the content should be about and the best way to put it together, but at least you have some idea of what the end product is going to look like.
Tools are very different. Google, Facebook, and Twitter were like nothing that had come before them. Tools are designed entirely around the problem they are meant to solve, and take on completely novel forms every time they are created.
For this reason, it’s difficult to give advice on how to create a tool for SEO value. You’ll need coders, graphic designers, and a spark of ingenuity. Beyond that, the sky’s the limit. The most linked to sites on the web don’t lie. Tools that people find useful or entertaining grab more links than anything else on the web.
4. Get in Your Local Newspaper
Why go for small time blogs when you can get listed in the most reputable publication in your area? Local newspapers are hungry for content just like bloggers, and there’s nothing stopping you from getting an entry in your local paper if you put your mind to it.
Making the paper is all about one thing: being newsworthy. The rest is window dressing. If you can bring something to the table that they haven’t reported on before, that will interest their readers, then you’re already halfway there. It’s all about the “inside scoop.” What can you reveal to the press that will intrigue them?
If you don’t think you have the writing skills to make the cut, there’s a fairly simple solution for that as well. Hire somebody who’s made it into the local paper before. Ask them for feedback on whether the idea is newsworthy, and let them take it from concept to published article. A one-off job is worth the money if it means a link from an established publisher.
A word of caution here, however. Make sure the content is actually going to make it to the web. Many local newspapers only published half of their content online, and many of them delete it as time goes by. Don’t bother working with a paper unless you know the content is going to make it online and stay there. Unless, of course, the paper would bring so much exposure that it would result in natural links from secondary sources.
5. Befriend the Mom Bloggers
I’m generalizing a bit when I say “mom” blogger. They don’t need to be moms, or even female. The point is, small blogs with tightly knit communities are some of the most powerful forces to be reckoned with on the web. These small communities have tremendous influence on social networks. The community members tend to know each other very well and have developed a great deal of trust.
There are undoubtedly “mom” bloggers in your area. They keep online food diaries, review products, share design inspiration, and dominate Pinterest. Get these people on your side and you won’t just see links with SEO value, you’ll see referral traffic that doesn’t quit.
Expanding your reach doesn’t have to involve making connections with widely popular influencers. Sometimes the smallest influencers are the most truly influential. Make friends with these people, maybe even hire them. The rewards are incredible.
(More 5 strategies to come in the 2nd part of this post)
What are your thoughts on these strategies? Got anything to add?
Subscribe to SEJ
Get our daily newsletter from SEJ's Founder Loren Baker about the latest news in the industry!