Links have always played a key role in rankings as they help search engines gauge a website’s authority. However, they haven’t always been a key feature when ranking sites in local search results. Not until the Google “Pigeon Update” that is.
Back in July 2014, Google released the Pigeon Update; a new algorithm which aims to provide local search results which are more relevant and accurate. The algorithm uses signals which are more closely related to traditional web rankings signals, such as inbound links.
Since the release of Pigeon, the industry has witnessed a shift in focus for SEOs looking to rank their websites prominently in local SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). This shift was highlighted in Moz’s 2017 Local Search Ranking Factors report, to which our own Susan Hallam contributed.
Darren Shaw, who compiled the report, said:
“Looking through the results and the comments, a clear theme emerges: Local SEOs are all about the links these days. Google is still leaning heavily on links as a primary measure of a business’ authority and prominence, and the local search practitioners that invest time and resources to secure quality links for their clients are reaping the ranking rewards.”
In fact, since the 2015 survey, link signals as a measure of importance has risen by +16.73% in total. Below is a break down of the specific link-related factors:
Furthermore, there is a specific focus on acquiring links from local sources, as this helps to underpin the locality and authority of a business within its specific geographical area.
Even a handful of locally relevant links can have a big influence on organic visibility and the links don’t always need to have a huge authority. They just need to be trusted, relevant and local. If the links meet these criteria, then there’s also a good chance that they’ll pass on valuable traffic too.
Local Link Building Techniques
Local link building can be notoriously difficult, which is why it’s vital to have a well-developed Local SEO strategy and to be aware of the opportunities available. Below are eight ways (depending on your type of business) to help secure those all-important local links.
1. Local citations
Citations remain a key part of local SEO. They provide search engines with valuable information regarding a business’s location. Taking the time to claim and populate valuable citations is worthwhile for any business looking to establish a presence in local SERPs.
Although it’s primarily the name, address and phone number (NAP) within structured citations that the search engines find valuable, some trusted online directories will also provide a link back to the website and the value that these links pass on shouldn’t be over looked.
There are many resources available online to help identify and claim the most important citations within a specific region or niche. What’s more, you don’t need access to paid professional SEO tools to find new citation and local directory opportunities. Simply search your competitor in Google and existing listings will be there for all to see.
2. Business associations
This method is potentially a quick win, as essentially, you’ll be leveraging the relationships you may have with other businesses in your location. As the relationship is already established, the chance of securing a link back to your site is high and all you have to do is ask!
There a few ways this could work. You could:
- Provide testimonials to anyone who has provided you with a service
- Participate in events being held by your partners
- Ask if you can have a link from their resource page
3. Local educational institutes
If you have a relationship with any local schools, colleges or universities, then there’s a great opportunity to gain some seriously powerful links from .ac and .edu domains.
This technique works particularly well if your business offers graduate career opportunities. Universities usually have graduate careers pages where they may be happy to provide details of positions within your company and link back to your website.
Another strategy, if possible, is offering student discounts on your product /services, as these offers have a good chance of being included on target educational websites.
Hosting and promoting your own events can be a great way to generate links back to your website. In addition, it’s likely that you’ll receive some positive brand visibility across your social media platforms.
Due to the time, effort and money involved in running events, I would suggest that events are ran for genuine business reasons, as opposed to being done solely to generate links.
While hosting your own events has it benefits, so does sponsoring the events of other people. This is a great way to build awareness of your brand and build some nice links in the process. The event you’re sponsoring is likely to have its own website, where they will mention your business and there’s also an opportunity to promote the event and reach out to additional outlets who might be interested in the story.
In addition to events, you could explore opportunities to sponsor local sports teams. Sponsoring local sports teams generally not only offer links back your website, they’re also great for local brand visibility to help give your business a reputation boost in the local community. What’s more, you don’t have to spend thousands to sponsor the biggest local sports teams. If your sponsorship budget is limited, there opportunities such as lower league/Sunday league football clubs, hockey teams and even roller derby teams.
6. Local resource pages
The idea here is to create a useful resource, using your expert knowledge of a key subject, that people in the local area will find genuinely useful, and as result will share and link to.
For example, an estate agent could build a useful resource page with tonnes of information about the local area, including amenities, schools, social activities and so on. If done right, such resources become attractive assets that other local businesses will share and link to.
7. Digital PR
Using Digital PR and stories emerging from your business and distributing them across local media outlets can be a great way to pick up local links. Examples include:
- Successes within the business such as staff promotions
- Entering local awards
- Interviews and columns in local and relevant publications
- Competitions and local events
These are just a few reasons to talk about what’s going on in your business and the local press and bloggers are often very receptive to this type of news. Also be sure to use popular local press and topical hashtags as part of your outreach to help drum up interest in your area on social media.
8. Brand mentions
Mentions of your business online are often a great way to pick up local links (and links in general). This link building technique is widely used as often viewed as a quick win. If a website is willing to mention your business, then there’s also a high chance that they will be willing to link back to your site.
There are some excellent tools to help monitor and capture links from brand mentions, such as Google Alerts, Buzzsumo and Ahrefs. It’s also possible to prospect for mentions using Google search operators. Once you’ve identified a bunch of sites which mention your business, then reach out to them and ask if they’re able to add a link back to your website.
The techniques mentioned above are a few ways in which local businesses can acquire links, and this list is by no means definitive. The key takeaway for local link building is to be present in your local community. Don’t just rely on obtaining links from brand mentions and citations. Get your business out there and join in with local events, awards, sponsorship and amplify all this good you’re doing with local press and digital PR.
If you’ve had success with local link building, then we’d love to hear about it in the comments below. Good luck!