Image Credit: Scott Dodge
The culture of your locality provides endless opportunities for local attention. And attention means links, press mentions, and ultimately, targeted customers. As internet marketers, engaging with our local culture provides us with a great opportunity to build relationships, and ultimately, links. Citations and links are great from Internet Yellow Pages (IYP) sites, but as we all know, they don't seem to drive much traffic. We can do better.
We keep seeing algorithm updates focused on devaluing links that simply aren't relevant. A key benefit of local linkbuilding is that these links are almost entirely relevant. By learning the four functions of local link building, as well as eight tactics for executing a local linkbuilding strategy, you'll be armed with a solid method of sourcing relevant links by doing good things for your community.
The Four Functions of Local Link Building
1) Driving Relevant, Targeted Traffic
If your client is a small business with a brick and mortar shop in Minneapolis, their customers are probably in Minneapolis. Why not target your link building efforts locally? If your client is a restaurant, why wouldn't you want them to get written up in as many locally-focused publications as possible?
2) Building Strong Links from Authoritative Domains
If these local publications are writing about you, and you have a website, it's only natural that they'd link to you. And, as we all know, some of the strongest domains out there are local newspapers and publications, as they traditionally develop continually awesome content. I'm all for optimizing these press mentions, as squeezing every drop of value out of these links is traditionally something that is rarely thought of by the business owner.
3) Building Relationships with Authoritative Local Sources
When you get written up in an authoritative local source, you've probably made a great relationship with the author, and better yet, their organization. Relationship building tends to have exponential results, as you never know who that author is connected to. Many others have mentioned the topic of relationship building as an effective link building tactic, and this is no different.
4) Stimulating A Hyperlocal Economy
We all know that keeping your money in the local economy is bound to stimulate said economy. I think we're going to be seeing a strong resurgence in the small business, if we haven't yet already. Without getting too political, I'm of the mind that small businesses are the backbone of our economy. As people get fed up with the way that the giants of the world do business, they're going to start voting with their dollars.
When you allow small businesses to compete with these titans of industry by absolutely dominating the SERPs, you're bound to drive more customers (and therefore dollars) to that business.
Knowing this, how do you source this attention?
There are quite a few tactics that are very effective and worthwhile. Please note that the by nature, these tactics are resource intensive - they require you to build relationships, talk with people, and in some cases, change the way you do business. If you're looking for a quick win, look elsewhere - there's no shortage of offerings in that realm.
8 Local Linkbuilding Tactics
I'd like to preface these tactics with a mention of the Citation Labs Link Prospector tool, which offers a ton of functionality for scaling your link prospecting activities. Rather than doing all of this manually, you can create a custom report and build search queries based on the prospecting tips listed below. You are then able to export your report as a .csv, allowing you to efficiently slice and dice through the data.
Read my review of the tool here.
1) Building Links with Awesome Photography
Image Credit - Threyda
Do a quick search for Minneapolis Pictures. There's no shortage of strong domains with pictures of the city. Why don't you start taking pictures in your neighborhood, or around town, and submit them to these sources? Many of them provide back links to the source, or even the ability to publish an image from your website on their domain. Optimize the alt text, and boom, you've got a link with targeted anchor text.Image Credit - Threyda
Want to kick things up a notch? Find big local events, and take a bunch of pictures of said event. Contact someone on the administrative side of the event, and ask if you can provide a few pictures, with a link back to your site for more of your images from the event. The great thing here is that you don't even need to worry about anchor text - just a generic URL or business name as anchor text will do wonders.
Bonus points if you submit images to sites like Pinterest, or other social sources to effectively build second-tier links to boost the value (and potential targeted traffic) of your link.
Are you terrible at photography? Turn to Flickr, and search for local photographers that have taken similar pictures of events. Barter with them, ask nicely, or offer them financial compensation for letting you use their images. Or, better yet, just hire a local photographer.
Prospecting tip: Do a Google search for [locale (pictures | photos)], or (pictures of) [your city/neighborhood/town/metro area]. To find events, search for [locale (events | calendar | (season) guide)]
2) Building Links by Making Something Awesome for your Community
Image Credit - OpenLibrary.org
Develop a piece of content, an infographic, hell - even a mobile app that is purely catered to something in your community. Host the content on your site, and promote the crap out of it by pitching it to the local press.
The key here is to make something that's truly awesome. Is your locality legendary for their annual chili festival? Are you the most bike-friendly city in the nation? Do you produce the most amount of flour in the world?
Find out what makes your locale different, and more importantly, something that invokes emotion. People love reading about things that they are the best at. Conversely, taking a hilarious spin on something that they are the worst at can be an effective angle.
To get your brain working, think about how an entire media empire was founded on the fact that Minnesotans talk funny.
Prospecting tip: If you're unfamiliar with what distinguishes your target locale, try these queries: [locale visitor information], [locale quirks], [locale culture], [locale things to do], [locale accents], and the like.
3) Building Links by Featuring Others in your Community
Credit: Minnesota Business
People, businesses, and organizations love to be flattered, mentioned, and talked about. Use this to your advantage, and consider doing a piece of content surrounding those in your community doing something awesome. Ideally, you want to focus on something that is flexible and can be easily shared throughout various sources. You also want to target those that can promote this content themselves.
For example, you could throw together a blog post about top local reporters in your area that are truly making a difference. Or, cover individuals, businesses or organizations that are changing the way your city does something. Preferably, focus your efforts on something everyone loves. Or, if your angle is being controversial, do something everyone hates.
The key here is to develop a piece of content that attracts not only links, but additional write-ups about your content. I once wrote a post like this, and I attracted a handful of .edu links, as people that I happened to write about were alumni of universities that did a piece on them. You just never know with this stuff.
Prospecting tip: try these queries to find pockets of local opportunity - [locale college alumni], [locale press association], [locale bloggers], [locale sports teams], [best companies to work for in locale], [locale entrepreneurs], [locale nonprofits], [locale intitle:"for media"], [locale intitle:"of the year"], [locale intitle:"contact us"], [locale intitle:"press releases"]
4) Building Links with Travel Guides
Check out the Northeast Minneapolis page on WikiTravel - yet another strong, relevant domain. There's a strong focus on interesting local businesses on this page. Of course, this is only applicable to businesses that travelers would be interested in.
All of the businesses that are listed have links back to their respective websites. You'll see that these are nofollow, and if that alone stops you, then start reading up about diversifying link types, and more importantly, marketing.
Wikitravel sites are completely user-edited, so develop a relevant tagline, and build a strong link and a citation. Beware, if you try to game the system here, you'll probably be banned rather quickly.
Prospecting tip: do a Google search for [locale (travel guide | visitors guide | tour guide)].
5) Building Links with Neighborhood Sites
There's no shortage of neighborhood business associations, as I'm sure you're aware. If you're in a sizable locale, it should be pretty easy to find one in your neighborhood.
Take my neighborhood for example - Northeast Minneapolis. This site covers news, events, businesses, and the like. They have a business directory for members, with followed links. Membership isn't the cheapest thing in the world, so if budget is a strong concern, you'll have to think creatively here.
Their last news piece was published in November of 2011 - six months ago at the time of this writing. Pitch a post, a neighborhood infographic, pictures of an event, or host something at your location. Generally speaking, talk with the person that runs it, and see what would be valuable to them - build those relationships. Again, a link to your site, in this case, would be absolutely relevant.
Prospecting tip: do a Google search for [neighborhood (association | website | organization)]
6) Building Links with "Local Scene" Sites
Credit - MPLSBikeLove.com
This will be totally dependent on your locale, but for simplicity's sake, let's say your client is a restaurant. There's no shortage of sites in this niche that cater to exactly this. In about three seconds, I came up with Heavy Table, a food section in a local publication, and mspfoodies.com. These are all sites that are devoted to the food scene in my area.
Contact them, and invite them to review your restaurant. Offer a deal for their readers. Develop a neighborhood offering - like Northeast Muffins, and let them know that you're offering this novel menu item.
Prospecing tip: try these queries to find local culture sites - [locale music blog], [locale food blog], [locale downtown blog], [locale indie blog], [locale sports blog]
7) Building Links with Daily Deals Sites
Since Groupon revamped the way we find deals, there have been no shortage of daily deals sites popping up. Now, we can debate the effectiveness of these daily deals campaigns all day long, but there are tons that are dedicated to local areas.
Find a daily deals site that is run by a local newspaper to maximize the value of your link. For example, steals.startribune.com is a fantastically strong domain. Additionally, by working with a local newspaper, you'll be building contacts and relationships.
After your daily deal is over, pitch an article to the paper about how great their daily deals campaign was for your business.
Prospecting tip: do a Google search for [locale] (daily deals | coupons | discounts)].
8) Building Links with Patch.com and IYP Sites
A seemingly little-known fact is that Patch.com offers followed links from a really strong domain. Additionally, these sites are generally very high traffic, and accept articles from just about anyone. If you're lazy, just get listed in their business directory - you'll get a strong citation, and a followed link.
If you want to kick things up a notch, develop some content for your local Patch. You can even become a neighborhood editor, and kick out a ton of content.
One of the best tools for finding IYP sites is the fantastic Local Citation Finder by Whitespark. Simply list your business, and build your link.
4 Tools for Tracking the Success of Your Initiatives
The fine folks at Thunder SEO wrote a killer post on this topic - 6 Ways To Track Your Linkbait Success. Rather the repeating everything they said, I'll give a general overview of my recommendations on effectively tracking the success of your link building initiatives.
Linkstant is a killer tool that automatically notifies you when someone clicks through a link to your site. It's really simple to set up, and it will send you email and/or text messages when you get new links. The real-time nature of this tool allows you to move quickly once a link has been established. Setup is really simple: all you have to do is add a few snippets of code to your pages.
2) Topsy Alerts
Topsy is a fantastic tool that shows social media analytics. Set up an alert to be emailed when someone shares a link to your site over social media, or writes an article about you. Set up two alerts - one for the title of your content, and one for the URL.
3) Google Alerts
Google Alerts are similar to Topsy alerts, and you'll want to set up an alert for the title of your content. Again, you'll be emailed an alert when someone mentions your business.
4) Link Monitoring Tools
Open Site Explorer moves a bit more slowly, so check up on it when they update the index. Pro tip - SEOmoz runs a calendar to show all of their planned index updates - so add these to your personal calendar so you know when to look.
For Google Analytics, keep a close eye on your referrers in the Traffic Sources pane.
Other Great Local Link Building Resources
Here's a few other resources that are very helpful when it comes to building local links:
35 Local Link Opportunities You Missed - SEER Interactive
44 Local Link Building Queries for Citation Prospecting and Opportunity Analysis - Ontolo
Local Link Building Strategies - Linkbuildr
Using Location Data for Local Content Creation - Slide Deck from Ian Howells
In closing, local link building is an effective tactic that doesn't seem to be mentioned often. Perhaps it is too resource-intensive for some, or perhaps the nature of many agencies simply don't allow for the level of interaction that these tactics require. However, you should know that the value of these links can be incredibly strong, and that they all appear to be completely natural, contextual, and relevant in the eyes of Googlebot and users alike.
When you contribute to your local culture, you're not only putting yourself in a good position to build quality links and citations - you're building your brand in the eyes of your target market.
We all know where link building is going, and we all know when we're spending time on a tactic that is easily tracked and could be completely written out of the algorithm in the future. It's time to think local.
Who Am I?
If you'd like any ideas on how to kick your (or your client's) local presence up a notch, I'd be happy to consult with you. Find me on Twitter, Google+, or drop me an email at scott [at] scott [hyphen] dodge [dot] com - I'd love to hear from you.