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Show Me The Links 2.5: Local Links. Live Q&A - Your Questions Answered




Julie Joyce: Hi, everybody. Welcome to the next episode of the SEMrush webinar series, Show Me the Links. I am your host Julie Joyce from Link Fish Media. Today we have a really cool episode that's all about local. We're going to talk about getting local links, reviews, linkable assets for local businesses. 

I have Giselle Navarro, who's been here several times before from NeoMam; and a first-time guest, Claire Carlile, who has her own marketing company.

I appreciate you both being with us today, we've got tons and tons of great stuff to talk about, loads of questions. I've got notes everywhere for this. If I could turn it over, Claire, would you introduce yourselves and just tell everybody a little bit about what you do? 

Claire Carlile: I'm Claire, Claire Carlile, and I run Claire Carlile Marketing. I work with small and medium-sized businesses to help them do better at digital marketing. I live in Pembrokeshire in Wales. 

Giselle Navarro: Yeah. My name is Giselle. I am the Operations Director at NeoMam Studios. At NeoMam, we do one thing, we create content that people would want to share and that people are going to be linking to. So that's my specialty. 

Julie Joyce: Okay. Well, first of all, before we get started, I also wanted to mention something cool that SEMrush is doing on October 30: they're gonna do a live stream of a 24-hour conference. You can find that at globalmarketingday.com. And they've been tweeting about it. It looks like a pretty cool thing if you want to see some speakers and you don't have time to actually get to a conference.

All right. Now I'm gonna jump in. As I said, we're talking about everything local. If one of you could define what we mean by local, for the purpose of this webinar. Claire, do you want to take that one. Just so everybody knows what we're talking about.

Claire Carlile: Yeah. When I think about local, what when I talk about local, it's businesses with an actual brick-and-mortar location, or they serve customers at their location within a specific location, so service area business.

Julie Joyce: But that's why we have Clare on here because she does get to do a lot of cool stuff. I thought about it when we were on a holiday because we talked about reviews a lot. We made a lot of jokes, like every time we go out to eat we'd make a joke about we need to give a review and we'd laugh. 

How Can Small Businesses Get More Online Reviews? 

Okay. We'll dive right into the reviews. Actually, that's the first section I've got. What are some ways that small businesses can get reviews? 

Claire Carlile: I think asking for them is a good start. I think being worthy of getting excellent reviews is something to think about as well. Right?

Julie Joyce: How do you recommend people? I mean, how would they ask? Do you think they should just, you know, as you're leaving a restaurant, say, "Hey, give us a Google review."? Should they email them? I've seen some come through on, I think it was my veterinarian, the receipt came through and it was, “like us, give us a review on Google.”

Claire Carlile: I think that depends on the business. But there are so many different ways. It could be a verbal prompt. It could be a visual prompt. It could be printed on the bottom of the receipt. It could be on a poster somewhere. 

Then a lot of businesses will choose to use some sort of software that they can use to email people post-purchase or post-service provision and depending on the scale of what it is.

Julie Joyce: Right. You could do offer a discount. What do you think about that? Can you offer a discount or give something free for a review? Do you think that's a good idea?

Claire Carlile: Yeah. Assuming you're not incentivizing reviews I don't work with Yelp; I understand that you're not even allowed to ask for them. I think that's right, on that platform. But yeah, don't incentivize them beyond prompting people.

Julie Joyce: Right. Okay. Giselle, did you have anything to add to any of that?

Giselle Navarro: As a customer, I really like when they make it easy for me. I'm really likely to give reviews when I get an email after, for example, I go and get a haircut and he says, "Thanks so much for your haircut. Did you enjoy it?" I might say, "Yes, it was great." "Do you have any words for the hairdresser?" Yeah, whatever, something, something. "Would you mind sharing this on Google with one click." And that's good.

Julie Joyce: Right. It's easy.

Giselle Navarro: Exactly. I think anything we can do to make it easy, it's good. As Claire was saying, there's something quite special about the face-to-face request. You wouldn't do it if you have just provided terrible service. 

I think if you provide a really good service or you have a really good product, asking a person as face-to-face there's nothing wrong with that, and so you might as well just do it.

Julie Joyce: That's a really good point because, like you said, I mean, if you've been a terrible waitress, you're probably not going to go, "Hey, give me a Google review for this restaurant," because they might say something negative. 

How to Handle Negative Online Reviews

Next, what impact can just a couple of negative reviews have on a small business? Claire, would you like to start that one?

Claire Carlile: Yeah. Well, a negative review for a small business, aside from the emotional damage it may cause to a person...I'm not saying don't give bad reviews, but if it's a small business, often you're commenting so personally. But say, for example, you're thinking about Google as a platform and they have two bad reviews and they've only got five reviews, then obviously it's going to look pretty bad. 

But if you've got a thousand reviews and two bad reviews, then in terms of your overall star rating and the assessment that someone would make of your business reading those reviews is much less. It depends on the volume of your reviews, I would say.

Julie Joyce: Right. What would you advise what a business does if they get a bad review? Do you think they should always address it?

Claire Carlile: Yeah. I think, breathe deeply to start off with, so you don't take it personally. Sometimes it's kind of funny though. But you can sit back and work out what truth there is. Then remember when you're writing a response to a review that you're not just writing to the person who left the bad review, you're writing a response that people will use to judge you as a business moving forward. If you have that in your mind and not being snarky, and just trying to be good, and professional, and honest, and so you're the like the good person that you are.

Julie Joyce: Right. It's kind of funny to me, I guess when I see people responding to very negative reviews and they get very nasty. But I know it's horrible and I wouldn't want to do that. Sometimes it's kind of funny though. But, I mean, it can just be amusing, the things that people say. Do you think people should respond to their good reviews also? Either of you are welcome to answer that.

I think if you got 100 reviews and somebody said great service you don't necessarily need to go behind each one and go, thank you, thank you, thank you. But if somebody gives you like a really, really glowing review, do you think businesses should respond to those too?

Claire Carlile: Yeah. It depends on your internal resource really. But I just think that it's important to respond to reviews. If you take the example of Google in GMB, then your interaction with that review and your response is almost like an engagement signal.

Fake Online Reviews

Julie Joyce: Well, I have a question about fake reviews. Do you see a lot of fake reviews? If you are a business and you have some that you think are fake, what would you do about that?

Claire Carlile: You can flag that within and Google My Business itself. If you are concerned about your competitors having fake reviews and you want to report that, then you need to be clear that those reviews are contravening the Terms of Service, the reviews.

Then, I think you can flag it, but also, generally, I think it's recommended that you report that within Google My Business forum. IJoy Hawkins wrote a really good thread in the forum called How to Properly Report Spam on the Google My Business forum. I would read that and then you can report those spammy reviews.

Linkable Assets for Local SEO

Julie Joyce: We're going to talk about content and building links now. First question, what are some good linkable assets that will help attract local links?

Giselle Navarro: Depending on the business, there are certain things that make sense for you. Just because something seems to be attracting local links somewhere doesn't mean that you should be doing it because at some point somebody's going to start asking why isn't this creating a guide to the best restaurants in Tampa? For example, local guides are a great way of getting local links. If you see from a point of if you want to get local coverage within newspapers, or even regional, or even national.

If you find a way of using Google Trends to find the regularity of how people have been searching within a certain state about something, and then you can use that to create a little study of thoughts that has a local angle. “These are the most watched Netflix shows in, I don't know, every county of the UK”.

You can do that type of stuff, so trying to create these top 10 type things. But again, just because it gets local links doesn't mean you have to do it. If you're going to think about doing it, then figure out what would be valuable for somebody who could be a customer, so not just go crazy just to get a local link because that's relevant if the way you're getting it is relevant.

Other things you can do, you can have a resource page just for your area where you, depending on again, let's say, you're a restaurant, you might not want to go and start promoting your competitors. But when it's a little small community, in general, the idea of competition is not the same as in a natural way. There's an underlying friendship.

You could go and say, "I've got to do a roundup of the best restaurants in the area," and then go and say, "Hey, I'll be featuring you on my roundup, and stuff like that." I would share it or maybe they're just going to tweet it, and that's the end of it.

I guess it's really important that as a business owner, small business owner, from a small business owner to another, I know that sometimes it gets hard, and you just freak out, and you need to get some sales, and you need some people through the door. You might read online that you need links, sometimes you don't. There are other ways for you to create something of value that is going to show what you do and doesn't rely on having a website that is ranking or anything like that.

I mean, there are lots of assets you can create, but again do what's right for your business, what makes sense. 

Actually there's a quite straight roundup of 50 local link building tactics somewhere here and I can drop it in the chat and if people would have a look, it's created by a guy called Adam from Loganix, and there's so many things there.

Julie Joyce: That's good. Adam is actually, I think Adam is on the next webinar.

Giselle Navarro: That's cool.

Julie Joyce: Right. Claire, do you have anything to add to that? I think that was an excellent answer, I can't add anything to that.

Giselle Navarro: I think this included people with linkable assets. Often a small business that's owner-operated, they just know their niche so well. Having then someone that you can give sound bites to or comment on things that are happening within the geographic area. I guess it's mostly the brand as the linkable asset. It's being in your community and being a part of your community.

Julie Joyce: What about having local sites linked but the site isn't relevant to my niche? Does that do any good? Like saying if you're on a Tampa City forum linking to a law firm?

I think it would be natural if maybe one of the restaurants there had a list of places that were like, where to go to do this, where to go to do that for people coming to Solva for the first time.

I wouldn't think local links that are totally irrelevant just for the purpose of it. But done well in a situation like, if you're on vacation here, here are five things you might need to know and you look out, I think that's okay.

Claire Carlile: There are different things with relevancy because there's topical relevancy, but then there's also local relevancy. When you're talking about local links sometimes it might not be exactly your niche, but it's relevant because it has local relevance. 

Giselle Navarro: Yeah. What I'd also say is if it's a real link, it's a good link. A good, solid link that it's real could actually pass a lot more value than just link juice. When you get too caught up in the ninja tournament you might miss an opportunity that is way bigger than just a link.

Building Community Relationships as a Local Business

Julie Joyce: Right. That's true. Bill Slawski had a great comment on here that I wanted to read. It's just talking about being an active community member, where you're from and building positive relationships with people can lead to links. And it can lead to all kinds of business anyway. 

Claire Carlile: I think the local link building, in general, is all about relationships. That's where the community fits in. It's not just about schmoozing. It's not about who you know. But it is partly about being an active member and being a full source member of that community. For me, that's what a lot of some small business local marketing is about, relationships and making the most of relationships.

Julie Joyce: Right. Offline methods are pretty critical with locals, I think.

Giselle Navarro: Yeah. You can actually turn them into a link. You don't start thinking about the link, the link comes after. I guess that's when it's kind of different from maybe enterprise where perhaps you start thinking with the linking first and you're like, "How can I get this strategy going with this type of links?" 

But if it's local, it's how can I be a better business? How can have better service? How can I, you know. And it becomes a wheel. It's like a flywheel. The more that you're involved in your community the more that people are going to start recommending you. It's massive for enterprises and it's worth the effort for local businesses. If you want to be a business 10 years from now, you don't have to care about this stuff.

Julie Joyce: Right. Okay. Good question from Simon, "Is a link from any local business better than a national link even if it's not in your area?"

Claire Carlile: I'd take both of those links. I'd take all of the links.

Giselle Navarro: I don't know if anybody has really tested it in such an isolated way. But from a link building point of view, any link, if those two links again are real links and they're clean links, did they happen in non-sponsored money beginning way, I want both.

Claire Carlile: Also, it depends on how you're judging better, what this sector means because if you spend a lot of time in analytics, does it refer to traffic? Does that traffic do any other things that you want that traffic to do?

Julie Joyce: Can you see Geoff Kennedy's asking a question? Are you guys seeing that, about where Google wouldn't accept the correct format of a new business address. I just wanted to know how much of an issue is there. Are they able to join up minor inconsistencies?

Claire Carlile: It depends on what the inconsistency was because, in the olden days, not consistency like if you were street, it needs to be street and not streets. This is what people used to say. But I think Google's clever enough to know that LTD for limited is the same as limited and streets is the same as streets. 

Skyscraper Link-building for Local Businesses

Julie Joyce: Okay. I have a question about, while we wait on her, the skyscraper technique. Giselle, are you familiar with that? I guess where you just kind of find something, you try to make a better version, then you try to get all the links? What do you think about that? Would you recommend that for local businesses?

Giselle Navarro: Yeah. I mean, anything, if you can find something that, again, you know... First of all, you have the resources because it sounds really beautiful. Just find something that is doing really well and then make it 10 times better. If you've never done that before just knowing what 10 times better looks like. You can get lost, you can waste a lot of time. Again, I guess he's trying to outweigh the resource while you're going through it. 

And when Brian recommends that, I'm guessing he's assuming that the person on the other end of the advice is ready to just build some amazing links or create some amazing assets. 

Whereas if you're just a local business and out of nowhere and you just see something and you think I'll just make a better one of those, but you don't have it all, first set up a blog. If you kind of create one and make something nice potentially, maybe even a yearly thing you can release or something that is going to become an asset that you can use throughout many, many years to come, it's definitely worth sitting down and trying to figure out what could that be.

Julie Joyce: Yeah, I agree. I think it's a very simple idea. It makes so much sense to say just find something and do a better version of it. But...if you had two dentists in Solva, where Claire lives, I wouldn't think if one of them had something really cool, the other one should go and try to make that better and then steal all their links because that's going to be a bad offline relationship. Right? I don't like that. 

Claire Carlile: With a small business website, some of them aren't updated. I know this is going to shock you, but some of them aren't updated very often. I know. Would you believe it?

It could be a remarkable resource that was really useful a year ago for people, but they haven't touched it or updated it since. Especially with small local businesses, they open and close, so you might have a resource that talks about restaurants or things to do. I know I keep talking about the same things. But three of those don't exist anymore. Making a better resource, it does work and it is a good idea.

Julie Joyce: That's a very good point for that, a lot of stuff is outdated. Maybe that's just a good go, go look for something outdated instead of looking for something and make better. That's a great point.

Claire Carlile: Or, because I didn't know about the skyscraper technique, you could find something that's really useful as well linked to and has been very popular and then do a twist on it. You could make it more for your niche or more of the age or more hinge around whatever. 

Building Local Links Without Content Marketing

Julie Joyce: Well, another question here. "How can local businesses build links without creating content on their own websites?" 

Claire Carlile: One to start with is testimonials for links, which I really love. The idea that you can offer that, the testimonial which they would then feature on their website with a nice picture of you talking about how well they as a service provider met your needs. Then that's worked really well in the past.

Julie Joyce: It's a good idea. Giselle, do you have anything to add to that?

Giselle Navarro: If you have any brand mentions that you can try to get linked to; that's always something good to do, and it's easy and cheap and repeatable. 

I would say without creating any content on your site if there any events you can sponsor, things like that in your area, you don't have to create any content. You can just go and pushes forward for it. But looking into things you're already doing, I mean, like is there an opportunity here for me to get the word out somewhere about this? In the same vein, I think local media are very interested in stories about local people. 

Sometimes it's just a story of how you created your business. It's just the possibility of just being interviewed, and putting yourself forward, sending an email to whoever, if your local newspaper or your regional newspaper has a person that just interviews people and putting yourself forward is always worth it.

There might be a local charter of businesses for what you do, again remember you can get a link. Same thing if you're an alumnus of some university, then just reach out and say, "Hey, I studied there and now I have my own business." 

Mentioning people and thanking them is quite important. There are tools. You can use NX. There are tools you can actually pay for. NX, that's fine. 

Sometimes reaching out to Facebook pages is actually quite easy. Instead of having to spend all this time to figure out what works, in most cases, if it's a small business the person managing Facebook is the person managing the website is the same person. Getting in touch with that and say, "Hey, my name is this. I saw this thing. Thank you so much. Who will be the best person to talk about links?" And they see this as the most straightforward way.

Building Local Links as  a New Business on a Small Budget

Julie Joyce: That's good. I had a question from Jason earlier that I meant to get to. Can we talk about some ways for a brand new local business to get some local links without a big budget?

Claire Carlile: I think we have to draw the relationship card again. Really understanding all the opportunities in terms of who do you know...what's relevant within this context? Just doing all the normal research like competitive backlink analysis. Take a look who's linking to them, what the context of that link.

Obviously, all the free stuff that we've already said, which is testimonials, niche directories, your relationship, community event, industry-specific site, and also I know it's a new business, but the biggest one of the most successful and really good links that I've seen are businesses that then go on to target lots of sort of regional and local awards ceremonies.

You get the kudos of winning the award and you get all the marketing bumps off at the back of that, but you also get the links.

Julie Joyce: All right. Very true. I think we have mentioned alerts. I think alerts are really a good way. You could keep an eye on your competitors. Like if you're new and you figure out what somebody else is doing, so you kind of have a blueprint. Not that you have to chase it necessarily, but it's a really easy way to have something emailed to you and you just go take a look at it. Giselle mentioned Google Alerts. I use Talkwalker Alerts too because I find different stuff.

Giselle Navarro: There are lots of places where you can get a link. You can create a CrunchBase profile, you can do Yelp, Yellow Pages. There are things you can do from zero to 10 links. The problem is those are links that are very easy to get, so everybody's going to get them so they're not going to move a needle that much, many of them are nofollow. But no, it's just a link.

Of course, before you do that, I would recommend making sure to set up a really nice looking website, spotless social media so that they know you exist and you're a real business, and you're not just somebody out of nowhere saying, "I promise you, I'm a dentist." So, yeah, that's also a good thing to do.

Guerilla Marketing Ideas for Local Businesses

Julie Joyce: Yeah. Bill had a cool question I'm here, "Any guerilla marketing ideas that you might have that would be outside of links for local businesses?" And then Simon had a very cool idea, "Pay off the local youth to spray-paint your domain around." I think that's a very funny idea. But do you guys have any ideas off the top of your head for things that don't involve trying to build links for local businesses?

Claire Carlile: Repurposing that content and those stories across all these different channels is useful.

Giselle Navarro: I think every community has artists and preparing them with them and doing something special. That type of stuff you could try to make it super relevant to you and tomorrow they see the statues of everywhere because you are a dentist. It's going to get people talking. I think the thing with guerrilla marketing is like it's a little scary as well because you don't want to get in trouble. 

Claire Carlile: I just thought of an example that sort of fits in with Bill and with Simon comment, which is we have an artist here who's a sand artist. He creates massive sand sculptures but he writes messages. He's a sand artist and he's collaborated with various organizations that have come up with big pieces of art. That then he gets produced, which has become obviously much photographed because guerilla marketing surprised and unconventional interactions.

You put all those people that are walking the coast part taking photos of that and it's being covered in the press. Obviously, then you've got those assets that that business can then use as far as possible.

Julie Joyce: That's a great idea. Well, unfortunately, we're out of time. We've already been an hour. I always say this, I know. We have so many more questions that we didn't get to, so maybe we'll have to do a follow-up at some point.

Thank you very much. I know you both are extremely nice and helpful. If anybody has any questions for you, I'm sure you will let them ask you on Twitter, if that's okay? The same goes for me.

Claire Carlile: Thank you.

Giselle Navarro: Thank you.

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