Does your business lack online presence in local listings? If that’s the case, you might benefit from local link building for organic and GMB SEO.
This guide will walk you through the basics of local link building. You will also understand the importance of Google My Business (GMB) and how it can be used to improve site visibility.
Sections of this post will be dedicated to providing you with actionable steps that help attract the right customers.
We’ll show one way to easily rank for localized keywords so your listing can be shown to people in your community.
If you’re interested in learning more about growing your business for the right market, this is the post for you.
(If you are wondering what local SEO is or what localized keywords refer to, I would reccomend reading this guide first)
Table of Contents
- 1 What Is Local Link Building?
- 2 Do Local Links Affect Your Google My Business?
- 3 Local Link Building Ideas to Increase Local Visibility
- 3.1 Build Citations
- 3.2 Get As Many Reviews As Possible
- 3.3 Spy On Local Competitor Backlinks
- 3.4 Cultivate Local Links using Unlinked Brand Mentions
- 3.5 Use Influencer Outreach To Get New Links
- 4 Conclusion
What Is Local Link Building?
To better explain what local link building is, we’ll need to differentiate it from regular link building.
Regular link building is great and you can’t go wrong with having great backlinks. Links from reputable sources—regardless of what SEO metric is used (DA, DR, Flow Metrics, etc.)—will only boost your site’s credibility.
But local businesses need to rank for queries made by people in the same area where they operate.
Your store could be ranking first in Los Angeles but what if you’re operations are based in New York? How would customers find you?
Local link building is the answer.
The intent of local link building is to develop relevance and value in local search queries. It works the same way as regular link building. Only this time, you’re building opportunities to connect with a local audience.
So how do you go about doing this? You’ll need to get backlinks from relevant sites in your community. The more links you secure, the better you’ll perform in local searches.
Here’s a real-life example of how local link building works.
Take the keyword “New York SEO”.
A quick Google search will return several results for several New York-based SEO companies. Pay close attention to the third entry on the list, SEO Services New York.
Despite its domain and meta title matching the keyword perfectly, it still fails to soar to the top position.
But deeper analysis shows that the SEO company manages to rank for other localized keywords including SEO New York.
Looking at the backlinks, you’ll see that the company got its backlinks from SEO pages that are relevant to New York SEO, including one from Break the Web, the parent company of SEO Services New York.
Sites that are optimized specifically for the business’ physical location will rank for keywords that are closely related to that.
Do Local Links Affect Your Google My Business?
Google My Business is a free tool that Google offers to business owners to help them manage their online presence.
If you’ve ever searched for a restaurant or any other type of business, you’ve likely seen one already.
Any local business should be taking advantage of this feature. And if you haven’t done so already, we encourage you to do so right away.
If you’re unsure or suspect that someone else has done so on your behalf, you can always try verifying your business.
The verification process can take a while but there’s no doubt that it’s worth the trouble.
Moz’s recent study implies that signing up and optimizing your GMB account for local search ranking factors is crucial for a local campaign. GMB, when combined with on-page and citation signals, makes up about a quarter of all localized ranking factors.
Even better, an optimized GMB listing adds your website in Google’s 3-Pack.
Google 3-Pack refers to the three businesses that are featured on top of the search engine results page (SERP).
Because businesses in the 3-pack are displayed prominently and positioned higher in the SERPs, these three spots are highly sought after.
To be part of the club, make the effort to:
- 1. Keep your NAP (name, address, phone number) information consistent – click here, to find the best ways to manage your NAP
- 2. Rework all details to be compelling
- 3. Fill in all the details
- 4. Earn positive reviews from the community
This brings us back to the original question:
Do local links affect your GMB?
No. It’s the other way around. GMB is the one that affects local links.
That’s why GMB is the perfect complement to any existing local link building campaign. When used together, your business can appear on both GMB and the search results.
Let’s revisit our previous example.
SEO Services New York appears as part of a 3-pack. Looking at their GMB listing, you’ll find that they were able to provide lots of information that visitors find useful.
They added their NAP information.
They have a Q&A section.
And they have excellent reviews (all 1views gave them 5 stars).
If you can muster the same kind of effort and dedication to building your GMB, then you’ll likely achieve the same results for your company.
Local Link Building Ideas to Increase Local Visibility
It’s time to take action.
Here we’ll talk about all the techniques and tactics you can use to build local backlinks to your site.
These will not only make you relevant for local search terms, but they will also improve your overall organic search performance.
In a previous post, we’ve discussed the importance of citations. If you need a refresher or haven’t read it yet, check out How to Audit & Clean Up Your Citations.
Citations refer to mentions of your NAP online. These can be posted on review websites, store directories, and social media.
As alluded to earlier, NAP information needs to be consistent to be effective. Outside of NAP, citations can also include:
- 1. Business hours
- 2. Additional contact details (secondary phone number, fax, email)
- 3. Description of your business
- 4. Driving directions
- 5. Media content (photos and videos)
- 6. Accepted payment options
- 7. User reviews
- 8. Social media links
The article that’s been linked above stresses the need to go over all your citations and edit the incorrect ones. Not only will citations help you join Google’s 3-Pack, but you’re also making it easier for customers to learn more about your business.
Citations can become inaccurate for different reasons. It could be as simple as a misspelling. You could have moved to a different location and failed to notify business directories.
There are also times when third-party agencies create listings but fail to update them when necessary.
Whatever the reason, do what you can to remedy the situation.
Citation audit and clean up are a good foundation for the next big step, building your citations.
After your initial assessment, you should have a clear view of what citations you need to add.
You can start with geographically relevant citations like:
- 1. Your local Chamber of Commerce (here’s a list for US and UK businesses)
- 2. Community hubs
- 3. Local business directories and associations
There are also industry-specific websites where you can get a citation from.
For example, FindLaw works for attorneys.
You have HomeAdvisor for plumbers and tradespeople.
Doctors can go to HealthGrades.
There’s TripAdvisor for restaurants and hotels.
If you’re having trouble finding sites that suit your company, you can use this list of popular online directories as reference.
And in the event that the list still isn’t enough, you can check Whitespark’s Citation Finder Tool to find potential directories based on the keywords and locations you set.
Your goal is to find pages that are tied to your industry.
Get As Many Reviews As Possible
Let’s be clear:
Reviews themselves are not going to skyrocket your website to the top of the SERPs.
But they are important when it comes to local 3-packs. You’ve got a better shot at being featured in Google’s 3-Pack if you have tons of positive reviews.
Unfortunately, getting 5-star reviews is not as easy as it seems.
After all, you don’t have any control over what your customers say. All you can really do is hope for the best.
But that’s not to say you can’t do anything to elicit a more favorable response.
Here’s what you can do to get tons of good reviews:
- 1. Address issues to improve customer experience — Complaints that go unaddressed will continue hounding you until something is done about them. So get ahead of the curve. Preempt negative complaints by addressing current one head-on.
- 2. Ask customers for a review — There’s no shame in asking for a review. Let customers know that they can leave reviews on your GMB. And if necessary, tell them how. Don’t assume that they already know how to do so.
- 3. Reply to customer feedback — It is possible to change a review score. So when people leave a 1-star rating, talk to them. See what you can do to convince them that you deserve better.
- 4. Send an email — If you’ve been collecting email leads, send your customers a link to your GMB page and encourage them to leave a review.
- 5. Use social media — Ask help from your followers. Let them write reviews about your business. And after doing so, publish the best ones on your social media accounts. This lets everyone know that you really do read and value all the feedback you receive. If you get less than stellar reviews, let your followers know that you’re taking action.
You may not know this, but a study showed that about 63% of consumers will check Google reviews before visiting a business.
The same study shows that 53% of customers expect businesses to reply to negative reviews within a week.
So you really do need to stay on top of your Google reviews.
Building your link profile will get you where you need to be — in front of your customers.
And one of the proven ways to do that is by looking at your competitor’s link profile and finding opportunities to explore.
So how do you do that?
You’re going to need the help of a third-party keyword tool like Ahrefs. This will show you where your competitors are getting their links from.
Sign up for an account. From the main dashboard, click Site Explorer.
For this example, let’s pretend that SEO Services New York is now a competitor.
Enter your competitor’s domain in the box provided and hit Search.
You will be given an overview of the site and how it’s performing online. Using the sidebar, go to Backlink Profile > Backlinks.
You will be provided a list of domains that are pointing back to your competitor. But in this case, you only want to see local results. So you will need to use the filter option to get rid of sites you don’t need.
In the Word or Phrase box, type in the location you want to for. In this example, we’re using New York. Make sure the drop-down list next to the box is set to Include.
Hit Enter to continue.
Review all the domains in the list you generated. Your focus should be on finding sites you can add your business information to.
In the screenshot above, you’ll see that the top result is for a site called The Manifest. Opening the site revealed that it’s a list of SEO agencies in the New York area.
This would be a good place to have your business listed if you’re an SEO agency in NY.
The Manifest has high SEO metrics. And based on the Get Listed link in the footer of the page, it appears they are open to adding new agencies to their list.
If you’re lucky, you’ll find domains that welcome new businesses to add to their directory.
You can filter the results further by prioritizing sites that allow do-follow links (since no-follow links provide no link juice).
You can even set a filter to exclude sites that get less than 100 search traffic. After all, you only want domains that receive traffic from users.
Here’s another example.
One of the top pet shops in Anaheim, CA is Anaheim Feed & Pet Supply Inc. Using Ahrefs, we entered their URL and got a list of all referring domains.
The first result is for a directory of pet stores that features Anaheim Feed & Pet Supply.
If you’re in the pet industry and your business is in Anaheim, getting added to this directory will benefit your local link building efforts.
Let’s talk about wasted opportunities.
There are times when local sites mention your brand on sites but forget to link back to your site.
Being that these users have no problem mentioning you in their posts, it would stand that they won’t mind inserting a link to your domain. You just need to reach out to them and ask.
There are different tools online—both paid and free—that makes it easier to find prospective users.
Google Alerts is one of those free options for finding brand mentions online. It even allows you to find mentions from sites within a certain region.
It keeps track of keywords you add and notifies you whenever it is mentioned in web pages.
And it’s easy to set up. If you have a Google account, that’s already half the battle.
Log into your account and go to Google Alerts. Enter your business name (or the term you want to keep track of).
You can then set how frequent you want these alerts to come in. There are also other settings you can change such as region and language.
Once you’re set, just click Create Alert.
Continue setting brand-related alerts. With this in place, you’ll be the first to know when someone is talking about your brand. All that’s left to do is see if they’ve included a link to your site and ask them to do so if they haven’t.
You can also use Alerts method to spy on your competitors.
See what sites are linking to them and check if there’s any way you could be mentioned and linked to.
Say you find an article compiling reactions from entrepreneurs that includes a quote from your competition. If the topic concerns you and it is locally relevant, you can ask the author of the post to include your thoughts on the matter in exchange for a backlink.
Like most free options though, Google Alerts feeds you limited results. If you want to see even more results, you’ll have to go through the paid route.
Awario does the same thing as Google Alert but brings it to another level.
Awario not only shows you mentions of your brand on websites. Awario lets you know when you’re mentioned on social media, forums, and other channels.
Sign up for an account and log in. You can set up an alert straight from the dashboard. Say we’re creating an alert for SEO Services New York.
Let’s set up an alert for that brand.
Click the plus icon under Mentions to start.
Enter the keyword or brand you want to monitor.
Clicking More Options will expand the list to include other settings you can manage.
You can set more than one keyword so make sure you include all variations of your brand including misspellings and brand nicknames.
Under Website or Web Page, be sure to enter your domain. The tool won’t include results from domains you specify.
Negative Keywords will exclude results that are similar to your keywords but not your business. In the case of Apple, you don’t want to include results that refer to the fruit. So you file words like “juice” or “pie” in this field.
You’d also want to set the country to where your business is located to remove unrelated results from foreign countries.
Under Sources, you’re allowed to set where Awario will track the mentions.
Once you’ve filled out all the necessary fields, click Create Alert.
Use Influencer Outreach To Get New Links
Influencer outreach may not be the fastest way to get backlinks. It requires a long-winded process of building relationships with local influencers.
However, the backlinks you get through this method are not only sustainable for your site, but they would also increase your visibility to your target audience.
Here are the steps you need to take:
Use Buzzsumo to find the best influencers in your niche/location
Log into Buzzsumo. Go to Influencers and type in your keyword (the type of service or location) like “SEO New York”.
Assess the results based on variables like domain authority (DA), Twitter followers, retweet ratio, reply ratio, and average retweets.
You want to filter influencers with the highest scores. A high DA value, for example, means that the site is an authority figure in its niche. The same can be said for influencers with good Twitter numbers.
You should definitely look at the links these local influencers have shared over time after you’ve filtered the results.
This would give you a better understanding of the kind of content they share on their platforms.
You can then create content you think their audience would like and ask them to share it with their users. You can also begin to interact with them through replies or retweets.
Engaging with them is important so you can establish a relationship with them early on.
How To Make Your Outreach a Success
Before reaching out, do yourself a favor and get them to notice you first.
By using all the information Buzzsumo has provided you to publish a blog and find a page of theirs that you can link to.
After doing so, send them an email to introduce yourself. Mention that you’ve liked to them in your recent post and that you’ve been engaging with them on Twitter (or whatever social media platform they’re using).
Here’s a sample template you can use. However, we’d advise you to tweak the template and make it your own to fit your needs.
If the influencer does not respond, send a follow-up email. But don’t force the issue. You want to establish a good relationship, after all.
Deepen the Engagement
If you do get the influencer’s attention, here are some other things you can do.
- 1. Ask if you can be a guest blogger on their local blogs.
- 2. Ask if you can contribute to a roundup post.
- 3. Ask if you can collaborate on a post.
The goal of going through all these steps is to get local links.
You have to be smarter with your link building strategy. If you have a local business, then you should put more effort into ranking for local searches.
Our tips should push you in the right direction.