For small businesses, SEO — and specifically link building — can seem like an intimidating endeavor.
Link building is hard work.
Google’s Matt Cutts recently reaffirmed the difficulty of viable link building:
"It’s certainly possible to do white hat link building. Usually, it’s called being excellent. Right…take Search Engine Land, you broke off from your old site, you started fresh. And yet, now…Search Engine Land is known as one of the most authoritative places to go on the web. You didn’t cheat, you didn’t take shortcuts — you went right up the middle and you earned it, with sweat. That’s the best way to do white-hat link building in my experience — sweat, plus creativity helps a lot."
While this quote stresses the need for quality and diligence in link building, it also points out that it is possible to implement successfully. Cutts is talking about link building because links remain at the core of Google’s search algorithm — and link building is still the best way to improve visibility within search.
Although it takes work, you need to be building links in 2014.
Along with hard work, effective link building is all about choosing the appropriate strategy. Business owners have a lot on their plates and can’t risk wasting time pursuing fruitless link building strategies. As Matt Cutts said, there are no shortcuts, and you must invest in proven strategies to build the types of links that will stand the test of time and help your business.
Local link building can be very effective for all types of businesses — but especially for smaller businesses that have a greater potential for local customers. Local link building is a great tactic because there a number of different strategies to choose from and they are all fairly easy to implement. Here are ten local link building strategies that work for small businesses.
1. Local directories/review sites
The first place you should start as a small business is with local directories as well as review sites.
Local directories are exactly what they sound like — directories that are specific to your location and. These are typically rather easy and straightforward links that are often there for the taking.
When pursuing local directory links it is important to keep the “local” portion at the forefront of your mind. These local directories can be especially useful if they focus on your specific niche as well.
Links on large, general directories that aren’t geo-specific will provide little value, and in some cases can get you into trouble. However, national directories that feature local pages can be useful — if you place your link on the relevant page.
Some other possible options include:
- Local chamber of commerce
- Your building’s online directory
- Local newspapers
- City/county directory
Along with local directories, reviews sites should also be a focus early in your link building project. Not only do reviews from these sites help with local SEO, they also can provide you with worthwhile links. However, getting quality reviews isn’t easy and increasing your number of reviews will take some work as well.
Some prominent review sites include:
There are a number of review sites and relevant directories out there that can provide you with a link relatively easily.
2. Create/leverage local partnerships
Another great place to find local link building opportunities is with local partnerships.
If you already have partnerships with other companies that have websites, you should certainly leverage these partnerships for a link. However, it may be necessary to create some new partnerships in order to build some new links.
One option for building these partnerships are local companies with products that are complementary to your own. These partnerships make sense from a business standpoint and you can often get a link on the other company’s “preferred vendors” page. Here is an example of what this might look like:
This is a “preferred vendors” page on a wedding/event center’s website that lists other businesses that are regularly associated with weddings or other events. As you can see, these listings also include links!
Local suppliers are another option for potential partnerships. Leverage the relationship you already have with your suppliers to build some valuable links.
Finally, you could partner with a local online publication or blog that is specific/closely related to your industry. Establish a partnership where you contribute a regular column and ask for a link on the publication’s site. If you don’t want to contribute regularly, perhaps you could become a sponsor and get a link that way — which brings us to our next link building strategy.
3. Local sponsorships
Local sponsorships offer a plethora of link building possibilities as well.
Some of the most common sponsorship opportunities come from local events. Along with building brand recognition at the actual event, you can also typically get links from a sponsorship page. For example:
This example shows sponsors of a local charity event. Along with charity events, it’s also often possible to sponsor an entire local charity.
Some other local events that offer sponsorship possibilities include:
Local Business events
- Trade shows
- Awards ceremonies
Local community events
Non-profit organizations can also present viable sponsorship prospects. Some options include:
- Nature centers
Sponsorships can provide a great way to increase brand exposure/recognition, and they can also lead to some solid links.
4. Host a giveaway/contest
Another effective local link building strategy for small businesses is to host a giveaway or contest.
If you are running a giveaway promotion you can encourage that participants link back to your site to show others where they can sign up. For contests, you can release an announcement post on your site that lists the winners — giving them something to link back to.
The most important aspect of giveaways and contests is ensuring you promote them in the right places so you can get your target audience involved. A great way to do this is to reach out to local community websites and let them know you are running the contest/giveaway.
5. Offer local scholarships/discounts
Offering local scholarships or local college employee discounts can be a great strategy for building some .edu links from local colleges.
Schools are often eager to make things more affordable for potential students, and by offering a scholarship you can build links from their websites. Before creating a scholarship, research the local colleges in your area to see if they have any pages that link out to local businesses. Look for a page like this:
As you can see in the image above, this .edu site is linking out to business sites like AirFilterBuy.com and Storage.com. If the colleges you are targeting have pages like this on their sites, there is a good chance you can get a link there.
Another option is to offer employee discounts to those same local colleges. Again, do your research first and make sure there are some local schools that have pages with links to local companies offering discounts. Once you find a school that has one of these pages, reach out and notify them of your discount and get a link. Not only will this strategy bring you links, but you will also be helping your local community and adding value — which can be a great way to build your local presence and reputation.
When reaching out to college websites it is important to ensure you have the most relevant contact info. Typically colleges have a lot of different departments and employees, so make sure you are contacting the most appropriate person to increase your chances of successfully building a link.
These kinds of links can be very valuable as .edu domains typically have a lot of trust and authority from the types of link neighborhoods they reside in.
6. Create a jobs page
Another strategy that can lead to links from .edu sites is to create a jobs page on your own site.
Create a page that lists open positions/internships at your business and then notify local colleges that the page exists. It is likely these schools will link back to your page as colleges generally like to see their alumni land jobs.
Here is an example of a jobs page:
Along with colleges you can also contact (and get links from) local job posting sites or community websites with job listings.
Not only will this strategy bring you inbound links, it could also bring you some bright new talent.
7. Award badges to local sites
Badging can be a great local link building strategy if you have already established your company as an authority within the community.
Your badge must provide value and have real meaning. Recognition is important in badging and the site you are giving the badge to should truly deserve recognition.
As an authority, you can award high-quality blogs or sites with badges that show they are among the best within the local community, and link back to your site. Here is an example of a badge awarded to a “Must-Read Pet Blog”:
When running a badging campaign, it is important to make sure the badge is relevant to your site and centers on the activities of the prospective linking site. Again, you must be an actual authority so the badge has meaning within the local community.
8. Provide testimonials
Providing testimonials is one of the most straightforward local link building strategies there is.
You provide a positive testimonial to another site/company — which gives their business legitimacy — and they provide a link back to your site so prospective customers who view the testimonial can see who you are. Here is an example of one of these links from Page One Power’s site:
At the end of Eric Ward’s testimonial there is a link back to his site so users can see who he is.
Building links through testimonials is simple, and as a small business there a tons of possibilities to utilize this strategy. Some possible local testimonial opportunities include:
- Your building manager/property owner
- Janitorial service
- Landscaping service
- Your vendors/suppliers
- Local caterers
- Local photographers
The list goes on and on. This strategy can be especially effective for small businesses because there are a number of interactions made regularly through the process of doing business that can easily be turned into testimonials and links.
9. Local resource creation
Another effective link building strategy for small businesses is local resource creation.
Creating a relevant local guide or resource will provide value to your community/audience and drive links back to your site. Some potential options include:
- Local guides – restaurants, bars, museums, etc.
- Local events calendar – activities, festivals, local sporting events, etc.
- Local map – tourist attractions, free Wi-Fi locations, pet-friendly hotels, etc.
- Resource list – community organizations, local heads of government, local charities, etc.
Creating these resources is usually pretty easy and simple, and they can really help you build some great links. However, as with many of the other local strategies I’ve described, it is important to do the necessary research beforehand to ensure your resource will be well-received. By identifying where content gaps exist for your local community you can increase the likelihood that your resource will be effective.
10. Leverage existing relationships within the community
Finally, as a small business you can leverage many of the relationships you already have within the community to build some valuable links.
For one, some of your most loyal customers may have their own websites and there’s a good chance you could get a link there. Simply reach out to these people and ask if they would be willing to include you on a local resources page (if they have one).
Other options include local business associations or meetup groups. These groups often have corresponding sites, and as a member you can typically leverage your existing relationship for a link. Some ways you can leverage this relationship for a link include:
- Interview prominent member of the group
- Write up a post that covers a significant group event
- Ensure proper linking of any mentions of your company/brand
As a local business you are sure to have a number of great relationships within the local community. Many of these relationships can be leveraged to produce great local links for your company’s site. However, you should always put your relationship first and consider how it will be affected — no link is worth tarnishing a relationship.
So there you have it, ten local link building strategies that work for small businesses. Link building can seem daunting at first, but there are proven strategies (like those listed above) that you can implement to get results.
Although link building is often hard work, links remain significant within search and link building remains essential to your business’ online visibility.