In the ever-evolving landscape of digital marketing and search engine optimization (SEO), one thing remains constant: the importance of authority, which has a distinct effect on organic search visibility.
Authoritativeness is the “A” in the much-heralded E-E-A-T found in Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines.
In short, a business or organization needs to prove its authoritativeness to Google, and all other search engines, in order to be considered worthy of visibility in search engine results.
The authority of a local business can be established in a few different ways, most notably:
- Via the helpful, high-quality, well-structured content it creates for its target audience/customers.
- Through validation of its offerings via industry-specific backlinks it maintains to its primary product, service, or other relevant content.
- Via the engagement of its content.
- Through validation of its “localness” via its local appearance, community participation, and engagement.
We are obviously going to focus here on the fourth, often underestimated and overlooked, aspect of local business authority.
It only stands to reason: if a business wants to be visible locally, it needs to truly be visible in the community, with the digital local community merely being an extension of the real world.
While traditional SEO tactics like keyword optimization, content marketing, and link building are still essential, savvy digital marketers will look beyond these tactics to stand out from local competition.
Leveraging local business partnerships and collaborations to build your local online authority and extend your web presence will most certainly increase your visibility.
In this post, we’ll explore the power of forging partnerships with other local businesses and organizations to drive growth.
Building Authority Through Partnerships
Authority in the digital realm refers to your brand’s credibility, trustworthiness, and expertise in your industry and/or location. For small, local businesses, both matter.
As noted, Google and other search engines consider authoritative websites more relevant and rank them higher in organic search results and local map packs.
Here’s how forging reciprocal local business partnerships can help build authority:
Co-Branding And Trust-Building
Partnering with reputable local businesses and organizations can create a co-branding effect.
When consumers (or search engines) see your business/brand associated with other businesses they already trust, it naturally enhances credibility, trustworthiness, and authority by extension.
Local business organizations like chambers of commerce, Business Network International (BNI), and many others have been established, at least in part, to help small local businesses extend their reach, build trust, and, thereby, earn authority.
Many of these organizations have categorized online directories, content distribution opportunities (e.g., email newsletters or blogs), and business awards.
Maintaining listings, content, or recognition here provides search engines potentially powerful local and topical signals. Basic membership is important, but the more a business owner can do to boost their local offline and online profile through active engagement, the better.
Collaborating with local, like-minded businesses may enable you and your audience to tap into your partner’s related expertise and showcase it on your digital platforms or vice versa.
This can be accomplished through guest blog posts, joint webinars, offline events, or social media takeovers, all of which can enhance your reputation as a trusted, local information contributor.
One of the challenges of content marketing, especially for small local businesses, is simply having the time to create the content. Thoughtful partnering with other business owners provides a viable means to share this burden of feeding the content machine.
Content Syndication And Social Collaboration
Similarly, two businesses who choose to simply share each other’s content on their respective platforms expose each other’s brand to a wider audience and can establish each as a go-to source for local information.
While social signals – such as likes and shares – are not Google ranking factors, having partners occasionally like, share, and effectively validate any of your content will certainly extend its potential audience, where it will perhaps again be read, liked, and shared.
Content sharing, depending on where and how it’s done, may result in the creation of valuable local backlinks.
A well-structured partnership should include the reciprocal sharing of backlinks between websites.
Backlinks remain valuable in SEO, as search engines interpret them as votes of confidence.
Where possible, these links should be put in the proper context relative to your partnership and the related products or services offered.
For example, a local auto body shop might establish a partnership with a local full-service mechanic. Each could link to the other’s respective service pages as a reference for those customers looking for a trusted referral.
However, even a non-service-specific link for a local partner can be beneficial, as here, too, this is at least local, if not topical, validation.
And yes, Google’s algorithm is sophisticated enough to identify when one local business has linked to another.
All backlinks (except for those that don’t add any relevant value) contribute to authority.
Supporting Local Organizations And Events
Another aspect of growing local trust and authority is becoming involved in local service organizations, sports teams, clubs, or events.
Whether you are providing monetary or volunteer support, most organizations have websites or social media presences where a logo, perhaps a short business overview, and preferably a link can be shared.
Further, if approved by the supported organization(s), who are no doubt also looking for any positive exposure they can get, content and links to their websites, programs, events, etc., should be published on yours.
Typically, this is done in the “about us” section or perhaps on a page dedicated to all of your community support initiatives.
These types of relationships will bolster localness online and provide more evidence of your business’ role as a contributing, engaged member of the community.
Local Competition And Content Differentiation
Depending on your location and level of competition, establishing local partnerships and collaborations may simply be a way of differentiating your business from all others when competitors don’t have the time, resources, or foresight to leverage this important opportunity.
The introduction of generative AI used to produce content has raised fears in some circles around the potential for a lack of “unique” informational content, as some marketers, while not advisable, will post what AI has generated verbatim.
Local collaborations can be a great way to complement what AI has to offer by injecting partner contributions in amongst standard service-related blog posts and FAQs.
A Local Collaboration Case Study: Fitness Food
Here’s a quick example of a local business partnership scenario and some of the potential benefits to be realized.
A local fitness studio partners with a healthy café, offering a stay fit meal deal to gym members. The café provides fitness class discount vouchers with qualifying fitness-focused meal purchases, which both prominently promote on the home page of their websites while linking to each other.
They also collaborate on a weekly Fitness Food blog post with reciprocal links, which they publish and share on their respective websites and social media platforms.
Lastly, they create a health challenge and contest on social media for their customers, where participants are asked to share their fitness and nutrition journeys – again cross-promoted.
- Combined, the businesses positioned themselves as leading community advocates for healthier lifestyles, reinforcing their authority as wellness experts.
- Blogs linked to their offers and primary service pages, shared via each other’s Facebook and Instagram accounts, trigger a boost in each business’ Service page rank in organic search and, subsequently, organic search traffic and conversions.
- The program attracts local influencers who post user-generated content with links to their offers and blog posts, further enhancing their reach and authority.
- The health challenge and contest becomes a trending topic on local social media platforms, leading to likes and shares, thereby attracting a broader audience.
- The partnership created a mutually beneficial cycle – as more people joined the fitness studio, they also frequented the café, and vice versa.
Practical Steps To Building Local Business Partnerships
With the potential benefits of local business partnerships outlined above, here are some practical steps to establishing and maintaining effective relationships:
Identify Compatible Businesses Or Organizations
Seek out local businesses and groups that ideally complement your products or services and share your target audience.
Ensure their values and marketing goals align with yours, as this will form the foundation of a successful partnership.
Develop A Clear Value Proposition
Clearly define what each party brings to the table.
Consider how you can benefit each other, whether through collaborative content creation and distribution, co-promotion, shared events, or other tactics.
Create A Partnership Agreement
Consider putting a written agreement in place outlining the terms and responsibilities of each party.
This document should include details like the duration of the partnership, resource/time contributions, content ownership considerations, and any other mutual expectations.
Leverage Both Online And Offline Channels
Promote your partnership through various channels, both online and offline.
Utilize your website, social media platforms, email marketing, pay-per-click advertising depending on the promotion and budget, and in-store physical signage to showcase your collaborations.
Collaborate On Content
Partnering on content creation, such as blog or social media posts, is an excellent way to leverage each other’s expertise and resources.
If the plan is to create a blog post per week or month, alternate scheduling to spread out the workload. This will no doubt resonate with most local business owners who are generally taxed for time.
Monitor, Measure, And Adjust
Any good digital marketing campaign should be monitored and measured to see what’s working and what isn’t i.e., messaging, channels, etc.
Part of your campaign planning should include a determination of what to measure and the goals you both hope to meet.
Analyze organic search results, website traffic, social media engagement, and sales at regular intervals to gauge impact. Be ready to suggest and make adjustments if something isn’t working as expected.
Plan, Engage, Collaborate, Grow
Building online authority and visibility is paramount for businesses of all sizes.
While traditional tactics are still essential, forging local business partnerships and collaborations can be a game-changer in establishing both local and topical authority.
These partnerships not only enhance your credibility and trustworthiness but also expand your reach and customer base.
You can start small by reaching out to your local business groups for membership options or another small business with which you believe you share – but don’t compete for – customers and do a link exchange.
Community building, offline and on, will be key to any local business wanting to compete and grow in an increasingly digital world.
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