SEO of any kind needs links. And local SEO is no different. Just like a site that targets a national, international or online audience, you need links to rank high in the local pack and other geo-related queries on Google.
However, local businesses tend to be small businesses. They don’t have the necessary resources and budget comparable to national or multinational-level companies. So they need to go the extra mile and follow a smart strategy to earn high-quality links that work for them.
But what kind of links work best for local SEO? There are three basic kinds:
Contextual links are the first order of the day, regardless of the geography or region you’re located or targeting. All the links you get have to be from pages that are thematically relevant to your content. Make sure the linking page talks about your industry, if not specifically about your brand or product. Needless to say, the more relevant a link is, the more Google will value it.
Suppose you are a fruit wholesaler and you want a link to a category or product page selling apples. You can try to get a backlink from a page that talks about:
You can also use a technique called barnacle SEO – this involves leveraging the rankings of other sites to increase citations and brand awareness of your site. Simply put, you can create your business profile on prominent social media sites, forums as well as other sites in your industry that tend to rank for queries related to your business with the aim of getting visitors to come to your site through these intermediary listings.
For example, there are websites that cater exclusively to a specific professional service industry, such as lawyers, doctors and real estate agents – in India, there’s Practo and Lybrate that help people find medical professionals in their city.
Of course you want to be ranked high for all queries originating in and looking for your services in the region you cater to – if you’re a chartered accountant practicing in New Delhi, you want to be ranked #1 for queries like “tax consultants in delhi”.
You need to buy or earn links from sites that people living in (or touring) Delhi would go to for local information – these include local newspapers, blogs and magazines.
Unless you operate and target a very large city or geographic region, you’ll find that there aren’t many such local sites from which you can get backlinks. However, the upside is that the same sites rank for multiple queries and once you get links from them, your rankings will quickly rise.
You can quickly find business directories and industry associations in your region with a few variations of location-specific Google searches.
Feel free to join (and ask for links from) organizations that are not specifically about your product or industry, but general business associations for SMBs or startups (such as the Chamber of Commerce). They might not have thematic relevance but will definitely have high authority and local relevance.
If you don’t find many industry associations in the neighborhood or town you’re targeting, you can widen your net and look for those at the district, state or country level. You can also build brand partnerships and exchange backlinks with other members of such associations. This way,
Finally, you could sponsor a local event or two, donate to a local charity or take part in community work to find good, permanent opportunities for local links and citations.
The more references, citations, brand mentions and links you get from popular, high-traffic sites, the more trust and authority Google gives your site. As noted earlier, the best locally-relevant links you can get are from widely known media publications and blogs operating in that region. This is a great way to kick-start your digital PR efforts.
It’s not very difficult or expensive to do a bit of guerilla marketing to earn such placements. Local markets are nowhere as competitive as the global market. There’s probably not much (or great) competition, so you can beat your competitors with fewer and less authoritative backlinks.
That said, there’s no reason to be complacent. If you can get coverage from a great local website, it isn’t difficult for your competitors to emulate you. Link building via guest posts and niche edits helps you keep (or steal) the lead.
Let’s make the distinction clear first. Niche edits – or link insertion – is when you add your link to a pre-existing article that’s relevant to your product or service. You choose this article on the basis of its metrics and you’ll probably want to add a short snippet of text to make the link more natural.
Guest posting is when you write the whole article for a third-party site and they publish it as a sponsored post or expert contribution. This article is published as a new post with a URL of its own. You have more control over the title, sub-headings, anchor text and description of your brand here.
While niche edits are easier, quicker and more affordable, each individual link doesn’t carry much weight. There’s a probability that the post you’ve chosen already has many such outgoing links. You need many of these to get the necessary authority to rank higher.
Guest post links pass much more authority but are more difficult and time consuming to get. You need to put more efforts per link – first you find a website ready to accept content from you (which needs a ton of sustained outreach), then you create a high-quality article, then you have to follow up with the editors until they publish it, and so on.
However, Google loves the end result, because the whole page or article has high-quality content that is also relevant to your product or brand. Even better if the post is dedicated to your product – like a review.
When you get such high-authority links, it might be possible that people won’t click through to your site, but that is compensated by the link juice you get. This is an example of chasing the algorithm and creating useful content for both Google and users.
When you combine all of the above factors – contextual relevance, local relevance and authority – it makes a perfect backlink for local SEO.
However, it’s not a child’s play to get all of these factors right every time, especially when you’re a small business and have a tight link building budget.
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Further, there are two critical guarantees, especially important for local businesses:
If you run a local business, you need to be on your toes and watch out for any and all opportunities to get backlinks as well as brand mentions. Your site needs geo-specific link and content signals in order to gain visibility in the search results. If you haven’t yet begun your local link building campaign, the time is right now!