I work with clients and consultants all over the world, and a common theme I see is that many local businesses don’t know where to get started when it comes to local search, and with that, comes not understanding the importance of link building and how to get started.
Link building has been, and remains to be, an important factor for local search traffic, and it’s not nearly as intimidating to get done as it may seem (takes effort, yes, but intimidating, no).
There are many “SEO professionals” that charge money to do a lot of “evil things” in the eyes of Google to generate links because they’re so important. Don’t do this and don’t hire anybody who does. Google will recognize if you’re being shady and will penalize you in search engine results pages for it.
Instead, consider getting started with link building through the 8 methods below.
1. Conduct keyword research
I use keyword research across various aspects of my marketing, but for link building specifically, I use it to help me understand my audience’s intent when they go out looking for something that I could help them with. It gives me an understanding of what their problems and challenges are and often provides actual questions that they are typing into search engines.
From there, I can come up with shareable content ideas (more on this later) that I should produce as well as the platforms and businesses I should be interacting with to get in front of my audience. This, in turn, increases the number of links driving back to my site.
2. Focus on creating high-quality content
Content is air. Your marketing simply won’t survive without it, and link building is no different. People link to things worth sharing, so if you want to get a lot of shares, you need to create useful content that is valuable to your audience.
This content needs to be educational and informative for your audience and should establish thought leadership. Feel free to be creative with this content, it doesn’t just need to be your standard blog posts, ebooks, or white papers (although those can also be useful). Other ideas include:
- How-to guides
Consider adding a local focus to some of the content you create to really capture your chances of backlinks from other local businesses.
While creating content is a necessity, you don’t always need to reinvent the wheel. Consider repurposing content you already have. You can also take a look at your competitors’ content that’s performing well and think of ways to make it better.
In addition to improving existing content, consider sharing content with your audience that was created by others. By doing this, you’ll increase your odds of them sharing your content naturally.
Lastly, creating the content alone isn’t usually enough to generate links back to your site. You must promote the content in channels where your audience hangs out. Find out what social media channels they’re on, what forums they visit, etc.
3. Be a guest
Guest posting is still a great link building tool, but it should be done by networking, not spamming. If when writing a guest post, your only intent for writing it is to get links directing back to your site, then you’re probably not going to get much value out of it.
Additionally, consider becoming a guest on a podcast. I have found tremendous value from this in regard to link building, and believe in it so much, that I actually joined up with one of my Duct Tape Marketing Consultants, Phil Singleton, to create Podcast Bookers to help people book guest spots on podcasts because there are so many benefits from doing it, including acquiring links back to your site.
4. Leverage strategic and local partnerships
Forming partnerships with local businesses and organizations can be a great opportunity to get backlinks from their websites. These should be local strategic partners that you can refer your customers to when they are in need of something you don’t provide. A great way to supplement this activity is to make sure that you and your local partners are linking to and sharing each other’s content.
If you’ve produced a great piece of content, let them share it with their networks as well, and vice versa. Additionally, consider writing testimonials for your partners and don’t forget to include a link back to your site in the review.
5. Get involved in your community
Consider sponsoring local events in your community to help you get links from the event’s sponsorship page as this can be extremely effective for local SEO. Most of these local organizations have a website and get news coverage leading to higher authority local websites.
In addition to sponsoring events, you can host your own as well and generate links through promotional press releases, social media posts, partner newsletters, and so on.
Link building today is very similar to how you would do effective networking. My best advice for getting links is by meeting real people and promoting their content. When you employee effective networking techniques, both online and off, you’ll start to see real link building results.
7. Get added to local citations and directories
If you haven’t already done this, make sure your website is listed in local citations and directories.
Getting your business on Google My Business, Yelp, and local sites like your chamber of commerce or alumni directories, is extremely important in getting backlinks to your site. Just make sure that your name, address, and phone number are consistent across the board to avoid confusion. Use a tool like MozLocal or Yext to get started in the right direction.
8. Pay attention to your competition
It’s a well-established SEO practice to go after the links that might be helping your competition rank in search engine results pages.
Conduct a few searches on the keyword phrases and terms (from your keyword research) that are important to your business. Once you find a handful of competitors, use a tool, like Ahrefs, to get a list of sites linking back to your competition. Use this to see if you can figure out an angle to get a link of your own. (Here’s a nice tutorial on doing competitive research using Ahrefs.)
There’s no way around it, link building does take time and effort, but done correctly, the hours put into it will be well worth it.