A Guide to Local Link Building [Strategies, Tips & More]

A Guide to Local Link Building [Strategies, Tips & More]

Alexandra Tachalova
Alexandra Tachalova
Founder of Digital Olympus
Do you want to rank high in local searches? Building links is a good start! Use our ten actionable strategies to outperform your competition and conquer local search results. From restaurants to gardening services, this article will show you how to get quality links from relevant local sites and stand out from the crowd.

Restaurants, gardening services, and other local businesses have fierce competition in Google search. Backlinks are one of the top ranking factors for local searches and map packs. Unlike link building for country-wide or global websites, local link building requires high-quality links from relevant local websites. Here is where local link building becomes more tricky and fascinating.

This guide features the 10 actionable local link building tactics to influence local search results.

Let’s dive in right now!

What is Local Link Building?

Local link building is the process of obtaining links from relevant local websites to a local site, thus helping businesses rank better in local search results and map packs and attract more organic traffic.

Local link building tactics include backlinks from directories, local news sites, local influencers, local blogs, and more.

Why is Local Link Building Important?

Local link building is an integral part of local SEO strategy, and links take the second place in local organic ranking factors, according to a WhiteSpark study. In turn, Milestone discovered that local and organic searches together drive a whopping 69% of website traffic. In comparison, paid search makes up only 8% of website traffic for local businesses.

Milestone’s study also found that traffic from local search gives the highest ROI compared to other channels.

To conclude, building links to local websites equates to increasing a site’s rankings and revenue.

Top local search rankings factors for organic search and local pack

Top local search rankings factors for organic search and local pack

Let’s conduct a little research to make sure the numbers reflect reality.

We used a location-specific search query «laundry service birmingham» to trigger local search results. We also installed the Ahrefs SEO Toolbar plugin to see the essential website metrics right in search results. So you can see that the Top 3 have approx. 1K referral domains and an average domain rating (DR) of 33.

The first page of Google search results

The first page of Google search results

However, if we jump to the second page, the number of referring domains pointing out to the websites drops to 22, and DR tends to 0. So, building links to local businesses seems like a wise move.

The second page of Google search resultsThe second page of Google search results

Do this quick check for your niche to understand how many links are required to boost your site’s rankings.

It’s also important to note that the success and the scalability of local link building depend significantly on the industry you’re in. So, you’ll have to adjust your strategy accordingly, and Doug Walker shares how he and his team did it for a local bicycle accidents law firm:

«In some industries this is REALLY hard to scale, but one thing we’ve found helpful is donor page links. Often our clients are happy to kill two birds with one stone, that is, do some good in the community while we take advantage of it from an SEO perspective. This is obviously just one piece of the local link building pie, but we’ve definitely seen direct results from this. For example, with one of our clients who handles bicycle accident law, we were able to get multiple local links from organizations in the area focused on various bike-related initiatives. These were high-quality links, with high relevance and they definitely moved the needle.» — Doug Walker, Founder and CEO at iOutrank.

Now, let’s now briefly learn the difference between citations and backlinks, as it is crucial to distinguish for link builders, and then start learning effective local link building methods.

Citations vs. Backlinks

If you’re starting out with link building or local SEO, you might be confused about local link building and citation building. In fact, these are two different things. Let’s take a closer look.

Citations

Citations are pretty much any mention of your business name with address and phone number (so-called NAP). It usually appears in local directory listings, Google My Business, or social media.

An example of a local citationAn example of a local citation

Citations are believed to impact SEO rankings as they show Google that a business is real and people get value from it. SEO experts suggest if a company appears in multiple places across the web, but with the same information about it, good reviews, and in a positive context, that may boost rankings.

On the other hand, being cited in directory listings is helpful for attracting new prospects. Think how often you ask search engines about «top things to do in a new city,» «best dentists in the city,» etc. So getting as many citations will indeed help your business grow.

Local backlinks

The distinctive trait of local backlinks is that they are contextual and refer from one site to yours. Any backlink that points out to your website that is not from local directories with NAP information is considered a local backlink.

Enough theory — let’s practice!

10 Effective Local Link Building Strategies

Building local links is about out-of-the-box thinking in most cases. There’s not much to write about in some niches, like laundry services, but SEOs still have to build links. How? We’ve laid out the 10 effective link building methods to ignite your creativity and help land a decent number of backlinks.

Let’s learn all of them.

Strategy #1: Build backlinks from local business directories

In substance, local business directories are listings with helpful information about companies (short descriptions, NAP info, companies' websites, etc.). There’re well-known aggregators like Yelp or Foursquare and smaller ones. Here you can find the Top 50 citation sources and directories for any country. To find local directories, use the following search strings and their alternatives:

  • {your service} + {location} + directory
  • {your service} business listings {location}
  • {location} {business type keyword} alliance
  • {industry} listings

For example, Google returns some quality local directories for the query «accounting firms oregon directory.» Then, we’ll visit each directory and follow its guidelines to add our business and get a backlink to the website.

Local directory searchLocal directory search

Remember, before building links to directories, ensure they’re credible and place dofollow links, as nofollow links won’t pass link equity.

  1. Check domain authority. Like with any backlink, the higher the DA, the more link juice it passes. Aim to get links from the DR 30+ sites.
  2. Analyze traffic geography and organic traffic volume with Ahrefs of SimilarWeb.

Another key thing to focus on is the relevancy of the directory.

«As with all link building, relevancy is key. When looking for local directories to be listed on, you should ensure that you are listing your business under the right categories and that you are targeting directories that have listings for your area.» — Tilly Haines, SEO Executive at Infinity Nation.

Also, beware of building links to fishy and spammy directories, as local link building complies with the same Google guidelines regarding link schemes. Here we listed more mistakes link builders should avoid.

Strategy #2: Join local associations

Local associations can be a great link source for local organizations. As a rule, dentists, plumbers, or agriculture staff have local associations. Try to find ones using search strings such as:

  • {city} {business type keyword} association
  • {city} {business type keyword} society
  • {location} {business type keyword} council
  • {location} {business type keyword} local union
  • {location} {business type keyword} local community

For example, new york plumbers association returns at least 10 quality domains to build links from.

A snapshot of search engine results pages for local associationsA snapshot of search engine results pages for local associations

Before applying to any association, ensure it has a sense in terms of SEO benefits. Like with directories, check the website’s DR and whether or not you can get a citation and a backlink to your homepage.

Strategy #3: Reach out to local bloggers

Local small businesses can do email outreach to relevant local bloggers and offer guest posts.

Make your pitch stand out by offering a unique perspective on a subject you’re an expert in. Share observations or recent discoveries.

Like for any cold outreach campaign, it’s crucial to craft hyper-personalized emails and explain to bloggers what value the business will provide by contributing to the blog’s content.

Here are some more recommendations on how to find the right local blogger to partner with:

«The first thing I looked for when I worked with local bloggers is that they address the same type of audiences and in the same area that the business. This is key, as bloggers will want to provide value to their local readers. I also looked for a clean appearance, i.e., not looking to cause controversy nor confusion with their articles. It is important to remember that they don’t have to link back to your website, and that a citation can be as powerful.

On the technical side, I found that I needed to be a bit more lenient, as I often found websites that were not technically solid, albeit providing good content. Lastly, I would use local networking to get to know bloggers to have a better idea of their motivations to write and gauge any interest in collaborating, as it happened with me when I was a blogger." - Montserrat Cano, international SEO and digital marketing consultant, associate professor at Universidad San Jorge.

On a general note, local guest blogging works best for popular niches like fitness & health, entertainment, and even gardening. It may be difficult to find local bloggers covering pests. If that is your case, try to look broader. For instance, become a contributor to blogs writing about gardening or home renovations as their target audience is somewhat relevant.

One caveat: Local bloggers and influencers make money on their popularity, so don’t be surprised if they charge you for publishing a piece of content.

Strategy #4: Claim unlinked mentions

There’s a possibility that local companies can be mentioned on the news sites or any other relevant local websites. That’s why local businesses must monitor unlinked brand mentions and ask webmasters to turn that mention into a backlink to the business' website.

" Mentions, or brand mentions, are helpful to improve the relevance of a topic to a brand. Construction co-occurrence matrices are helpful to understand phrase distance. And, decreasing this distance helps brands to be relevant for certain queries from certain contexts. So, even if it doesn’t pass PageRank, it relates the brand entity to the topic, service, or product for higher rankings, with certain attributes." - Koray Tuğberk Gübür, Founder at Holistic SEO & Digital.

There are three ways to find unlinked mentions:

  1. Using the search operator for Google search: intext:{brand name} - {own domain name}.com -twitter.com -facebook.com -pinterest.com -youtube.com -linkedin.com

    For instance, intext:Digital Olympus -digitalolympus.net -twitter.com -facebook.com -pinterest.com -youtube.com -linkedin.com.
  2. Setting up brand monitoring tools such as BrandWatch, Brand24, or Mention.
  3. Using Ahrefs Content Explorer (see the instructions in the screenshot below). This method is likely to work for popular local brands rather than mid-size businesses.

How to find unlinked brand mentions with AhrefsHow to find unlinked brand mentions with Ahrefs.

Strategy #5: Find sponsorship opportunities

Any city runs a bunch of events during the year. They may be commercial or nonprofit. Both work for you. If you have the budget for a sponsorship package (even a small one), you’ll secure a backlink and brand exposure.

Literally, you can sponsor any local event, from half-marathons to local hot-dog eating contests. But try to find relevant events because link relevance is one of the key factors for the Penguin algorithm.

Here are four methods to find local events to sponsor in seconds:

1. Google local event calendars using search strings {location} events, {location} event calendar

2. Unlock more events using searches like {location} intitle: sponsors OR intitle: association OR intitle: donor

How to find link building opportunities with local sponsorship

How to find link building opportunities with local sponsorship

3. Leverage Meetup to find events in your area and local communities. You can either become a sponsor of one of the regular gatherings or offer your business as a venue.

4. Check Facebook Events for your location.

Strategy #6: Speak at local events

Become a speaker at industry-specific local events, get a free backlink to your site, and boost your brand authority. By looking at your local venue’s event listing, you can find expos and seminars taking place in your area.

Attend events that fit your business. Expos and seminars often require guest speakers to give talks or run workshops. The event website usually gives speakers a bio and a backlink to their websites. They’re also featured in promo materials, like blogs and local press releases.

Strategy #7: Partner with local charities

Local charities usually have social media pages and websites that list their donors and a news section for sharing wins and needs. Business owners can support charities dear to their hearts by transferring funds, organizing fundraising events, or advising local charities on a given topic.

In this way, you’re doing a good deed and gaining links from local media outlets and charities.

Strategy #8: Reach out to local news sites

Local news sites or local newspapers are perfect for local link building campaigns. Like with blogging outreach, link builders have to come up with compelling content to get featured in media outlets. However, writing for news sites gives you a wide range of topic choices, which makes getting backlinks quite an easy task. Let us explain.

To build links to bloggers, you need to be specific about the topic. For news sites, it’s the opposite. You can run a laundry business but find topics to cover for any local news site. Here are a couple of content ideas:

  • Give advice on how to start a laundry business — the founder’s view
  • Write an op-ed about how the recession (or any other matter) affects laundry services
  • Share tips on how to choose bio detergents
  • Create a viral piece with original fun stats such as how many times per week men and women change their underwear (this is a real piece that became viral and collected 157+ referring domains!)

You can also offer journalists to cover your wins as the Hepihemp shop did.

BirminghamLiveBirminghamLive

Placements on local news sites not only give you backlinks but also referral traffic (aka potential customers) and boost brand awareness.

Strategy #9: Offer scholarships

Scholarships are a popular link building tactic for local search engine optimization and for everyone who wants to acquire links from .edu domain names. SEOs believe that .edu-links and .gov-links are fantastic to have in your backlink profile as they pass more link equity. This happens because Google sees .edu/.gov domains as 100% credible.

The scholarship tactic involves your company offering scholarships or grants to prominent students from a specific area. Announce it on your website and social media pages, and reach out to local colleges and universities so that they can share the news with their students.

You can also approach local newspapers and ask them to support your initiative by sharing a press release.

Like with helping charities, this method brings you brand recognition, backlinks, and some points to your karma.

Strategy #10: Team up with local businesses

Local businesses can team up with other local experts to give advice together on relevant subjects and create co-op content.

For example, a local car mechanic may team up with a local driving school to write an article about 5 things newly licensed drivers should check on their vehicle after a long trip.

With this last local link building tactic, we hope we’ve geared you up🦾enough so you can start earning links to your biz. But before you go and rock, read the 3 essential tips for local link building.

3 Tips to Get Started with Local Link Building

Right now, you might be asking yourself — how fast will I see the results of my link building efforts?

The answer is it depends.

Luca Tagliaferro, a seasoned SEO expert, shares that a new link he acquired from HubSpot took 7 days to come into effect. However, this is the best-case scenario — it can also take two months before you start seeing any tangible impact.

Ultimately, it all boils down to the processes behind your link building campaign. Below, we have three tips that will help you make these processes more optimized.

Tip #1: Make a list of link prospects

Every link building campaign must begin with creating a link building checklist to organize and streamline the link building process.

One of the first steps of the checklist is to create a list of link prospects alongside their contact information. In this spreadsheet, you can track the outreach progress and determine which sites to contact.

You can also prioritize link prospects and separate them into the most/the least important ones or organize them strategy by strategy. For example, first, make a list of local directories. Once you’re done with this tactic, make a list of local bloggers to reach out to.

Use Google Sheets to organize link building campaignsUse Google Sheets to organize link building campaigns

Another crucial thing to pay your attention to is the relevancy of a website you want to add to your list of prospects. Zoe Ashbridge shares her recommendations on how to evaluate it:

  • «Look at the site you want a link from. Is it relevant? Do they have plenty of content related to your niche? This would be an ideal link.
  • Consider the page you’re going to be linked from, is the page relevant to your niche? This would be a perfectly acceptable link.
  • You can consider domain authority but instead of getting wrapped up in the numbers research the source. Forbes is a high DR publication. We all know Forbes so of course it’s authoritative.
  • Look at the backlink profile of the site linking to you. Has the site earned a lot of links from other relevant sites?» — Zoe Ashbridge, Co-Founder and Senior SEO Strategist at Forank.

Tip #2: Start by reaching out to people you already know

Getting started with link building is easier when you know someone from an industry related to your business. Check your circles and think about with whom you’ve already built strong relationships. With other local businesses, bloggers, or editors from local news sites?

Leverage your network to build links.

Tip #3: Follow Google’s Guidelines

Local link building is STILL link building, meaning Google’s link building guidelines apply just as with regular link building.

It means link builders must follow Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and avoid participating in link schemes. Beware of paid links, excessive reciprocal links, and low-quality directories.

Link schemes that violate PageRank and may decrease a site’s ranking in search resultsLink schemes that violate PageRank and may decrease a site’s ranking in search results

Now Over to You

All of these local link building strategies prove their effectiveness across different industries. If you want to improve your search engine presence, take action now and start to acquire links.

Implement tactic by tactic and see your site growing in the SERPs.

Want to learn more about link building? Check out our Digital Olympus blog, where we share tips & tricks based on 6-year experience in link building.

High rankings!

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