Backlinks play a large role in a website’s rankings, whether it’s a local service or brick-and-mortar business.
But how do you find links for these types of businesses?
This article will help you figure out how to get your local link building campaign started.
- Related reading: Download Search Engine Journal’s Illustrated Guide to Link Building
What Is a Local Backlink?
The traditional thought process when we think about link building is that we want high authoritative domains to link back to our websites and we want as many of them as possible. But, that way of thinking might not always be relevant for a brick-and-mortar and small business website.
If you’re tasked to build links for a local brick-and-mortar store, it’s important to understand what you’re looking for when building those links.
Local backlinks are done with the intention to build relevance for a website towards its locality.
Local SEO professionals fixate on correcting N.A.P. (Name, Address, Phone Number) information, building up a list of citations, creating hyperlocal content, and link building.
These tasks are all done to serve the purpose of establishing a presence within the SERPs for local terms in the local pack with Google My Business, and the organic search results for geotargeted keywords.
So, a local backlink should serve the following criteria:
- Link back to your website
- Provide the opportunity to speak to your local audience
I mentioned the traditional process because I think this is important to keep in mind. Those who influence your specific local market might not command a highly authoritative site. They might be small themselves. However, because they have influence in your small market, getting a link from them might be more valuable than from Forbes, Huffington Post, or The New York Times.
While it is always great to get these type of links, we must understand the limitations that our small business owners are dealing with, and more often than not the lack of budget to produce the type of content that these big publishers are looking for.
It’s amazing to reach for the stars, but we need to understand the parameters we’re working with. A local business will only do business in the confines of the local space it’s in, so doing business in San Francisco and getting traffic from New York might prove to be worthless to the business in the end.
Start with Citations
Citation building, finding general directories, and correcting the information you are currently in will help you get started.
Citations are great because they offer the ability to place your NAP information somewhere and allow you to put a link down on some fairly decent websites that are not spam and might even be seen by some random searches if the query is low enough in competition. The idea behind this process is to just get into the habit of getting the business’ name out there in as many sources as possible.
Services that allow you to tackle citation building include:
- Moz Local
These are both good platforms that I have used and can be great auditing tools as well.
Where Do The Opportunities Lie? – Anywhere You Can Find It!
“Who would link back to a sandwich shop?” – Anonymous SEO Specialist
There is a general idea floating around that local link building might not be beneficial, might not be natural, or (in some cases) might seem impossible.
But that is why those who do local SEO need to be more creative than those doing SEO for a giant brand. Link opportunities are much more limited. You’re fighting to rank for hyper local keywords which tend to not have a lot of search volume, and you will be working with websites with low authority to start.
To answer the anonymous quote above, here are some types of local links you can build for a sandwich shop.
- Local newspapers or media outlets that do features on local eats.
- Local bloggers who have a small following but that entire following is within your locality.
- Local event pages that write content about what to do in a locality – tourism sites, downtown directories, chamber of commerce.
- Other local businesses that also have websites and are open to having a local partners page or businesses we love page.
- Local charities that you could sponsor as a small business owner or volunteer for that offers a featured volunteers page.
As you can see the opportunities are vast. If you are doing SEO for a local space, it’s important to understand where the limits of that local space are and make that space your new earth. Everything you do to promote this business exists in the confines of the radius you set forth.
Understanding your limitations will allow you to think more creatively and effectively find opportunities in that space which will ultimately lead to the most value for the business website you’re working on.
Open Up a Link Tool & Start Finding Prospects
For as long as I can remember, I’ve used Ahrefs for anything related to backlinks. However, any good tool should work for you.
To start building your list of prospects you first need to understand where the business stands within its space and how competitive it will be to rank moving forward.
Start with the terms that you believe will offer the most value to your business. Then see what businesses currently rank on the first page of the SERPs.
Collect the list of websites and see what backlinks they have acquired in the past. Compare what are mutual links among them, and what are the different links they have acquired. These are direct competitors so most of the links will be related to the specific business you’re working on.
Compare the lists you collected with the backlink profile of the site you are currently working on and see where you are lacking. Remove all duplicate links your website has in common with the competition and then go after the links that you do not have but your competition does.
Do this link building as well as possible. If you’re able to acquire all the links that the competition has acquired then you’re able to stand on a more level playing field as far as links are concerned.
How to Find More Link Opportunities
If you are caught up with your assumed competition for your space in search in respects to backlinks then the natural next step for you is to obviously to get more links than your competition.
Explore other local businesses and where they have acquired press. Doing this will help you get some insights on how other businesses not in our industry have built links in the same local space.
By looking at popular businesses in general within our local space we can start to find some low hanging fruits of opportunity to build links, find local writers, local blogs and sites in general that want to or have supported local businesses in the past.
A method I have used is finding businesses with a lot of traction and putting their website through a backlink analysis tool.
One way you can find a high traction business is through review sites like Yelp. Go to Yelp and search within your city and filter by the most reviewed business. These businesses might not be related to your value proposition at all, but they offer a wealth of information on promotional opportunities for your site in the local space.
The top reviewed business for San Francisco was for the Tartine Bakery. If you throw this site into a backlink analysis tool you might be surprised with the results you find.
According to Ahrefs, this website has over 3,000 backlinks. I’m more than willing to bet you that not all of these are related to food.
So, if you’re working with a small restaurant that is dealing with food, then you are now in a goldmine of potential backlinks that are local to your space even if you are not providing the same type of food.
Do this method with the businesses that have gotten the most reviews and businesses within a handful of different verticals to get a variety of potential links.
When you’re going through these lists you will find links that are completely not related or not obtainable. But that is OK.
The whole point of this exercise is to find the few diamonds in the rough and build connections with those in the local area who have some influence when possible.
Featured Image: Created by Author, September 2017.
In-Post Images: Screenshots Taken September 2017.
Subscribe to SEJ
Get our daily newsletter from SEJ's Founder Loren Baker about the latest news in the industry!