It’s no secret that inbound links are a factor which contributes significantly to high organic rankings in Google, however, this hasn’t always been the case within the field of local SEO.

Historically, local businesses have been able to achieve good organic visibility purely through locally targeted content, citations and a well optimised Google My Business listing.

The reliance on these signals has shifted, and significantly in July 2014, Google released an algorithm update in order to improve the relevancy and accuracy of local search results. This update was named “Pigeon” by search thought leaders, Search Engine Land, and at its core, Pigeon uses signals which are intrinsically related to traditional ranking signals, one of which being inbound links.

Following the rollout of Pigeon, the shift in focus for those looking to rank the websites of locally focused business is clear to see.

In fact, in Moz’s 2017 Local Ranking Factors Survey, link-based metrics rank 2nd and 1st for Local Pack/Finder Ranking Factors and Localised Organic Ranking Factors respectively, with an overall increase of +16.73% on link based signals as a ranking factor since the 2015 survey;

Local Search Ranking Factors Study 2017 Local SEO Moz

Dan Leibson of Local SEO Guide, who contributed to the report highlights how although earlier ranking signals still appear to be making an impact, it’s link building which is really gaining results in local search;

“I’m still amazed that having your keywords in your business’ name has such a drastic impact on how you rank. To me, it shows that there is still a part of the local ranking algo that is very “immature” and based on their very early local ranking technology. Other than that, link building continues to be the name of the game in terms of what I’m seeing move the needle for local businesses.”

Here at Impression, we’re also focussing heavily on acquiring links for our locally focussed clients as part of our local SEO strategies. Specifically links from other local sources. We’ve seen that even a small amount of trusted, locally focussed links can make a big difference to organic positioning – and with relevant links, our clients also receive the benefit of valuable referral traffic.

Local Link Building Opportunities

With a well-rounded strategy, acquiring local links doesn’t have to be hard work. Below, I’ve compiled a list of techniques which can be leveraged in order to build domain authority and boost local rankings.

Leverage real-life relationships

Believe it or not, one of the easiest ways to obtain a link back to your website is by simply asking people you know personally to do so. Given the fact that the real-life relationships are already there, the chances of success are high.

Of course, you’ll need to find a way to make this happen logistically on their site, but this could work by providing a testimonial to anyone who has provided your business with a service, and by checking to see if their sites contain resources or partners pages.

The most important part is asking.

Local business events

Many local businesses host or participate in local events. This in itself is a perfect opportunity to gain some online visibility and generate some locally relevant inbound links.

Obviously, I wouldn’t recommend running an event purely to generate links, but if you’re running events, then make sure they are well promoted to the local press and industry-specific online community. Doing so will often result in links back to your site naturally.

For example, Impression participated in an event hosted by Nottingham Trent University at which we offered strategic marketing support to local businesses. The event was published on the university’s website, with several links back to our domain;

Strategic Marketing with Impression Digital Nottingham Trent University

Event sponsorship

Sponsoring events, particularly if they are of a high profile and industry-specific, brings many benefits; increased brand visibility/awareness, web traffic and potential leads. If the event is established, it will have its own website which will link to your businesses website.

At Impression, we’ve sponsored several events, including leading search industry conference, Brighton SEO and the local search marketing event, Ecommercial Conference – both resulting in a links back to our site from well trusted, industry relevant and in the latter case, locally relevant sites.

BrightonSEO Sponsors BrightonSEO Conference

Local education

As a business, we engage with local schools, colleges and universities for many reasons including CSR activity and graduate recruitment.

As a positive side effect, we’ve managed to gain online visibility. Our activity with these educational institutes is often covered on their websites, resulting in links back to our site.

As a local business, consider if it’s possible to work closely with local schools and universities. In our own case, one of our Founders, Aaron enrolled in a growth programme facilitated by Nottingham University. This resulted in both coverage and extremely trusted links from the University’s website;

Digital PR

Digital PR is about getting your voice heard online. In practical terms, a combination of press release distribution and opportunity sourcing can lead to increased exposure for your business, and often links back to your website. In order for Digital PR to work well then you’ll need good stories and newsworthy content. This could be things such as business wins and successes, staff promotions and CSR events.

Targetting the local press with your newsworthy content is a great way to get local visibility and generate local links.

As a business, we’ve built good connections with the creative industry press in the Nottingham area, meaning they are happy to share our news and celebrate our successes.

Local citations

Although there’s an overall shift of focus from more “traditional” Local SEO techniques, building local citations shouldn’t be overlooked.

A citation doesn’t need to contain a link back to your website in order for it to be valuable, however many trusted and authoritative business directories provide that option, with the links, often “followed”.

Undertake a citation campaign, ensuring you list your business on the most trusted of sites and include a link where possible – our tool of choice for this exercise is Bright Local.

Resource pages and useful assets

This technique fits within the wider concept of creating useful assets on your website that has a chance of attracting links naturally. If done well, local businesses can create resources within their niche which the local community and related industries may find useful.

This can work particularly well if your business has any specific data on the local area that can be published on your site.

Recruitment opportunities

If your business is recruiting and has a jobs page on the site, then promoting these openings can be a potential quick win for local link building. You’ll likely be aware of the main national job posting sites, but there are likely to be more locally focused sites who may also post your job openings – a quick Google search should uncover the best ones.

As mentioned previously, graduate recruitment often provides a good angle with universities often happy to post openings and lists to specific recruitment pages. The more comprehensive you can make your offering, the higher chance of universities featuring your jobs.

Here at Impression, we actively recruit graduates and have developed a dedicated area of the site to cater for this activity. As a result, local universities are happy to engage with us, share our content and ultimately link out to our job listings.

Impression graduate recruitment page

To summarise

Hopefully, this list provides you with a good starting point in order to get started with local link building. Although some manual techniques such as citation building can be leveraged, the best results are often obtained when businesses actively engage with the local community and capitalise on their “real-life” business efforts, by ensuring that digital opportunities are followed up on as a matter of course.

Feel free to let us know of any ways that you’ve managed to gain links for your local business in the comments below!

Sean Burton

SEO Strategist

Sean is an SEO Strategist at Impression. Interested in all things search, with a focus on account strategy & technical SEO. Family man, beer taster and Sheffield Wednesday fan.

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