Backlinks are still one of the most important factors that Google takes into account when ranking your website in the search results. Regardless of whether you’re a large brand or a small local business, you NEED quality, relevant backlinks. Since the release of the Google Pigeon update, the algorithm that ranks map pack listings in local search results has tied in more with the organic rankings algorithm. This means that building links to your website now not only helps you rank in the organic search results, but also helps you rank in the local listings! We’ve been over general link building tactics in depth before, so with this guide want to focus purely on links to help you rank locally.
Simply put, citations are a reference to your business name, address and phone number (NAP) on the internet. Though most sources for citations will allow you to link to your website, this isn’t the biggest benefit of creating citations. It’s the fact that you have your NAP listed that will add value to your website’s ranking in local search. Citations come in two forms:
Structured Citations - Structured citations are mentions of your business on directories. For example; Yell, Yelp, Scoot and Brownbook.
Unstructured Citations - Unstructured citations are mentions of your business on any other sites. For example; event listings, newspapers, job listings and blogs.
Getting links from other local businesses and newspapers will be covered in this article, so for now we’ll just stick to covering structured citations here. We mentioned earlier that citations without links are still valuable for ranking in local search, but since this article is focused on link building, we’ll look at citation creation for link building purposes. Most of the links you get from directories are no-follow, but they still provide value as they are locally relevant. Add to the fact that they’re really easy to build, this makes citations a no-brainer for local business websites and should generally be the first links you build. To avoid going over things we’ve already written about, we previously created a guide to local citations and where to get them.
2. Sponsorships & Donations
There’s two ways to get a sponsorship/donation link:
Service Donation - When you think of donations, you instantly think of money. But there is something else you can offer…your services. Are there any local charities and non-profit organisations in your area that could benefit from your services? As an example, if you’re a web designer you could contact local charities and offer them free web hosting. The chances are that you already have space on a server somewhere that can be used so it won’t really cost you any money. You need to have a think about what services your business could offer and then start reaching out to charities to suggest offering these services in exchange for exposure. Be subtle and don’t ask for a link straight away. First, mention your offer and then mention your request in a follow-up email. Here’s an example of an email you could send:
Subject: Can we donate free web hosting to [CHARITY]? Hi [CHARITY], My name is [NAME] and I’m the owner of [YOUR COMPANY]. We’re a local website designer based in [LOCATION]. I believe in the great work that [CHARITY] do and we’d really like to support you by saving you money and offering to host your website free of charge. Let me know if you’re interested. Kind Regards, [NAME]
It’s really that easy. When we’ve ran campaigns like this, we’ve had a 100% success rate.
Money Donation - If you can’t think of any ways in which your product or services could be of use, then you could always donate/sponsor a local club, sports team or charity. Most of these local organisations will have a website and will also get news coverage, meaning that their website will have strong links to it, further increasing the value of the link to your website. Some examples of organisations that accept sponsorships/donations:
- Running clubs
- Dogs homes
- Local charities
- Dance clubs
- Food banks
Here are some search operators you can use to find these opportunities:
- inurl:sponsors CITY
- intitle:sponsors CITY
- intext:sponsors CITY
- inurl:donors CITY
- intitle:donors CITY
- intext:donors CITY
- inurl:donate CITY
- intitle:donate CITY
- intext:donate CITY
If you go through these search queries, adding the details to a spreadsheet like the one pictured below, you should end up with a good list of link opportunities.
3. Alumni Links
Are you a success story that went to a local university? Chances are they may have a section on their website that feature their former student’s success stories and may even have an alumni directory. These links will be from .ac.uk and .edu domains, which carry a lot of weight in Google’s rankings. It’s worth noting that some universities do not allow links to commercial websites and if that is the case, have them link to a high-authority social profile of yours.
If you’re thinking of getting an intern, or think you will in the future, this is a great way to get quality backlinks from universities. For this to work, you first need to create a dedicated page on your website for internships that tells students about your company, what the internship will entail and how they can apply for it. Once you’ve done this, you can then begin contacting universities to let them know about your internship opportunities and to ask if there is anywhere on the universities website where you can be listed. The great thing about this is that universities tend to have teams dedicated to this, so you’ll be able to find out if you can get a link relatively quick.
5. Provide Testimonials
Being a business, the chances are you’ve done business with another business at some point or another. Some businesses you might’ve used include builders, cleaning companies, software providers, accountants, etc. The idea with this local link building tactic is to get in touch with these companies and offer them a testimonial in exchange for a link back to your website. This is a great tactic because it helps both parties. Companies want to show off customer testimonials to provide social proof to win them more customers, and you get a boost in the Google rankings from having a link from their site. These links are often from their homepage, which is often the most powerful page on a site.
6. Hosting Local Events
Whether you’re a small local business or an internationally known brand, putting on local events is a fantastic way to build your brand. Not only is it a great way to build your brand, it’s also a great way to get links to your site. Link building via events generally works better for businesses that have their own offices and can host events, but you can still generate links when hosting an event at a different location. To start gaining links by hosting local events, you first need to come up with what types of events you could host. We’ll go back to the web design company that we used in earlier examples:
- Introduction to WordPress
- Introduction to marketing your business online
- Beginner web tips
A good idea when thinking about topics to host an event around is to see if you can connect it to another, larger event in your city. A great example of this that we have seen is a law firm. They managed to tie their event with their cities’ gay pride parade. They held a talk one of Microsoft’s lawyers that talked about the organisation’s stance on workplace diversity. The law firm reached out to groups that were participating in the parade and were able to get their event listed on other websites and also get it promoted on social media. Once you’ve decided on a topic to host an event around, you’ll need to create a page on your website for the event and you’ll then need to list your event on event sites. Here are some to get you started:
You can also find other sites to list your event by using the following search operators:
- “submit event” CITY
- list an event CITY
- event listings CITY
This shouldn’t be all you do to promote your event (you want people to actually turn up as well!) and you should reach out to local bloggers, newspapers and other businesses that you think might be interested in the event and let them know about it. Facebook advertising also works great for this is you’re happy to set aside a small budget for it. You simply just need to create a post with the details of the event and then boost it, or create a Facebook Event Ad.
7. Create Local Resources
What better way to show you’re the area’s expert than creating a local resource? Not only will it gain links and social shares, but it will help you give something back to the community you’re operating in. The good thing about this is that you’re already a local and should be able to compile something like this without too much research. If you’re struggling with things to create a resource around, here are a few ideas:
- Local guides – bars, museums, restaurants, attractions, etc.
- Event calendar – festivals, sporting events, etc.
- Map – pet-friendly places to eat, attractions, etc.
One thing to note is that this resource must look great. Like with all content, you should ensure it is of the highest quality and is an asset. It should also be kept up to date. Once you’ve created your resource, you can then start promoting it via social media and outreach. We find that starting with local Facebook groups helps to get the ball rolling. You can then start reaching out to local hotels, travel agents and newspapers to let them know about your resource. What local link building tactics do you like to use?