In this week’s episode, I’m continuing my series on Local SEO signals and I talk all about local links. Inbound links are the most weighted element in Google’s local algorithm, so I explain how they work and share a few ideas for acquiring valuable local links. Watch and learn how to get more local links!
Welcome back to another episode of Local Search Tuesdays. For the last few weeks, I’ve been talking about the important signals that influence visibility in local searches. Today, I’m talking about the most important signal – inbound links.
Inbound links, commonly called backlinks, are the most weighted signal in Google’s local algorithm. For the noobs out there, that’s when another website links to your website.
Google looks at links almost like popularity votes – if you’ve got a lot of links pointed to your site, then you must have great content, so you’re more likely to be shown higher in search results.
Most businesses don’t do much – if anything – with link building… but it’s one of the most important things you can do to increase your visibility in searches.
Back in the early days, links were a numbers game – whoever had the most links would rank the highest. Google figured out pretty quickly that it was easy to manipulate links and that number alone wasn’t a good gauge.
In 2012, Google released the Penguin update, which targeted bad links and link manipulation. After this update, links were only valuable if they were relevant to your website.
I’ve got to tell you this story – it’s one of my favorites. Just a few months after the Penguin update rolled out, I had a car dealer call me and tell me that he had completely disappeared from search results – even if you googled his dealership name, the dealership didn’t show up. He told me he was using a very well-known automotive SEO provider, but that they couldn’t figure out what was going on. He had seen me speak at Digital Dealer and thought maybe I could help.
He was in a small town in New Jersey – so small that between new car dealers and used car dealers, there were less than 10 dealerships in town. Basically, everyone would be on page one search results no matter what.
Immediately, I figured he was under a Penguin penalty. I used a few tools to pull his link profile – a list of all the sites that were linking to him. Most car dealers have fewer than 100 sites linking to them, but if a dealer has been getting good SEO for a few years, there might be as many as 400 to 500 sites linking to them.
This guy has 6500 sites linking to him. About 6400 of them were russian porn sites.
His SEO provider had been buying links. Before the Penguin update, even though it was a questionable strategy, it worked. But once Google turned that dial, he got a penalty. It took us almost 10 months to get things cleaned up and get him showing up in search results again.
So clearly, you need to get links from sites that have a real reason to link to yours.
But remember – Google’s local algorithm is different… Links can be relevant to your business, or they can be relevant because they come from another local entity. In other words, links from local businesses that are completely unrelated to yours are still valuable because they’re from businesses in the same local area.
Also, with Google’s local algorithm, we don’t have to worry about the “authority” of the site that’s sending a link. Every SEO tool that provides a list of links has some sort of authority metric to help you see the perceived value of the site that’s linking to you.
In traditional SEO, you’d want to avoid links from low authority sites – but in Local SEO, most local businesses don’t have high authority sites. In fact, the low authority links that traditional link builders would avoid like the plague can be incredibly valuable.
So how do you get local links? The easiest thing to do is get involved in the local community. All of the old-school marketing tactics that businesses used to do to build their brand are the same sort of things that will help you get inbound links.
So here are a few quick ideas for how to get links:
Local sponsorships are awesome – Google isn’t OK with you buying links, but it’s totally OK to buy a sponsorship that results in a link. Golf tournaments, 5Ks, little league teams – they’re all great ways to get local links.
Use meetup.com to find local groups that are looking for meeting sponsors. You can throw in 50 or 60 bucks to buy their pizza and soft drinks, and you’ll get a killer local link.
Find a way to get local bloggers to write about you. Even if you’re giving them a free product or service and they mention that in the article, you’ll still get a killer local link.
Ask your staff – from ownership to management to regular staff members – what they do in their free time. If anyone is super involved in a local club or organization, it’s likely that you can get a link from them.
Write blog posts about things in your local area – something like “here are our five favorite burger restaurants in Dallas”. Once you’ve got it written, you can reach out to the restaurants you mentioned and many times, they’ll link to your article.
There are a ton of other strategies you can use to get local links – what’s important is that you make link building a part of you ongoing digital marketing strategy – or that you make sure you’re partnered with an agency who’s good at link building.
As you acquire more local links, you’ll build more local relevancy with Google and get more visibility in local searches.
That’s all the time we’ve got for this week’s video, so you know what that means.
Put your hand on the screen right here:
We totally just high-fived ‘cause you learned something awesome.
Thanks for watching, and we’ll see you again next week for another episode of Local Search Tuesdays.