Six simple ways for small businesses to build good local links
Everyone wants a link from a high authority site like the New York Times or the Drum. But if you’re a local business, are you sure that that’s more valuable than a local link?
Think about it. If you’re looking to build local relevance, it’s those lower authority local sites that you should be targeting. Those are pure gold for local relevance.
Sure, those local organisation or newspaper sites have a significantly lower authority than the New York Times, they might even be ugly-looking and passé but they’re laser-focused on your local area. That means that a link to your site can be incredibly powerful in proving your local relevance.
What’s more, since most big businesses ignore these small local sites, as a small business owner you can easily dominate the search engine results pages in your cities by grabbing a few of these local links.
If you’re just getting started with local SEO, check out this great guide on local SEO for local businesses.
Before we review six practical ways to earn local links and to get your business at the top of the local rankings, you first need to understand why local links are so important.
If you’re looking for extra help, this guide goes into more details on promoting a business locally.
Why local links matter
Local links help you to avoid the trap of targeting the same sites that all the other businesses in your niche are targeting. Instead, you are earning relevant links from other sites in your city, which not only shows that your business is part of the local community but it also proves your commitment to local customers.
So, if you’re looking to attract more local customers, it’s definitely worth the time and effort to invest in local link building. In addition, if you’re targeting consumers in a specific city, Google is likely to boost your site in search engine results for searchers in your area.
What makes a link good?
A good link should have the potential to:
- Drive relevant traffic to your site
- Drive paying customers to your site
- Build your site’s visibility with your target audience
- Build your reputation and credibility
These are the types of links you should be chasing. In this article we’ll discuss how you can earn good links and achieve one or several of these goals.
Ready to build some links? Let’s get started.
Six ways to build local links
1. Get in the news
You might think it’s easy for the big guys. They have huge advertising budgets and brand awareness. It seems like every time they twitch, some journalist jumps in to write up a story.
But here’s your advantage: local newspapers and news sites are constantly on the lookout for local content. Unlike major publications, the barrier to entry is often lower, while the links you gain can be just as valuable.
However, if you want newspapers to write about your business, you need to give them something worth writing about. No matter what your idea or campaign is, keep in mind that what matters most is how you put it into practice, how you advertise it and how you pitch it later on to your local newspapers.
The idea here is to do something that no one else has done before. It’s one of the best ways to ensure local newspapers pick up your story.
Here’s an example:
A rock radio station in Glasgow came up with a creative and low-budget idea to promote its launch and to engage its audience. The station set up empty guitar racks around the city with a sign reading: “Free Air Guitar. Take One”. It was clever enough to get noticed as photos of the racks popped up in the local newspapers, on social media channels and blogs.
After you come up with your idea and a creative way to market it, make sure you also create a dedicated page on your website to support it. This will allow local newspapers, bloggers and your audience to link to you for more information.
2. Offer to be a spokesperson
Once you’ve got in the news you can start building stronger relationships with the local press. You can offer to be a spokesperson for your topic of interest whenever local newspapers have stories for which they need an expert opinion.
So, start by finding out which reporters have the most influence and invite them for a coffee to pitch your idea. You will not only increase the visibility of your brand but also gain good links every time your name is mentioned next to a quote or an article.
You can even ask if there’s an opportunity for a weekly or monthly column in a local newspaper or niche magazine. For example, if you’re a lawyer you can share weekly legal tips; if you’re a Yoga instructor you can explain how to do Yoga poses correctly and if you’re a florist you can explain which flowers to choose for a wedding or a specific event.
You can also get started on your own website by creating useful resources and articles related to your industry and your city. Just make sure to optimise your content with relevant local keywords so they are easy to find online.
3. Earn a local business award
Whether your business has been around for decades or is just getting off the ground, winning an award is a great way to generate positive PR for your brand. Awards can also bring you prestige and more traffic, and they enhance your credibility as a business as it tells customers that you’ve been vetted by a third party.
No matter how small the city you’re targeting, it probably has some type of local business awards. These may be run by a chamber of commerce, by an organisation or even by a local newspaper or magazine.
Here are a few tips to get you started.
Firstly, you will need to find the right awards to apply for. Make sure you target awards that are not only relevant to your industry but also to your specific city or region, as this will matter more to your local customers.
For example, if you are a lawyer and you are serving customers in London, run a search on Google using keywords or keyword phrases like “best lawyer”+“nominate”+”london” or “nominate a lawyer”+”London” and see what comes up that is relevant to your business.
To make sure you are focusing on the right awards that can help grow your business, follow these tips:
- Choose industry-specific awards:Go after awards that will highlight your expertise. For example, a web designer should target web design awards while a food coach should target nutrition-related awards.
- Focus on your strengths:Focus on awards that relate to your strengths as this can increase your chances of winning. For example, if your business excels at customer service, go after awards that focus on this specific aspect. If your employees keep saying that you provide a fantastic place to work, why not nominate your business as the “Best place to work in London”? This is great for publicity and for attracting new talent.
- Analyse your competitors:Take a look at your competitors’ websites and see what awards they have won. This will give you a good starting point for the awards you should be targeting.
- Focus on your people:Don’t just focus on awards for your business or your products. Look at the people who are helping your business grow and see which ones you could nominate for awards.
Once you have your list of awards, follow the procedure to get listed (this usually involves filling out a form or sending an email with your pitch).
If you’re nominated for a shortlist, or better yet, you win, don’t forget to promote this. Distribute the news in a press release, share it on your social media channels, and also display the award logo on your website’s home page. The more visible it is, the better your small business will look.
4. Sponsor a meet up group
A meet up is an event where like-minded people gather and do activities together. Arranging meet ups is a great way to increase brand awareness and to establish yourself or your business as the “go-to” person in your industry.
The easiest way to find groups to sponsor is to go on a site like Meetup.com and find a relevant group that you’d like to sponsor. In addition to being a social organiser, Meetup has become a powerful brand-building tool as it allows businesses to reach their targeted audience via sponsorship of gatherings.
For example, if you own a sports equipment store you could sponsor a local meet up walking or jogging club. If you’re a nutritionist you could sponsor a clean eating meet up club.
Sponsorships take a lot of shapes, but all involve a monthly donation to the group to cover organiser fees, buy coffee or just provide a free venue for a salsa dance club. The idea is to keep it small, cheap and simple.
5. Join a local movement or support a cause
Whether you decide to have your coffee shop join the “suspended coffee” phenomenon or the slow food movement, supporting a cause shows that you’re part of the community. You’re not only building brand awareness but you’re also giving back to the community that’s helping you grow your business.
So, run a search online to find local causes that could use your support or donation, reach out to the organisers and see how you can help. You could even go on a site like Localgiving.com to find causes that you can sponsor:
Need an example? Let’s say that your local community is organising an event to encourage people to buy more locally grown food. If you have a small printing shop, you could definitely get involved by printing flyers and brochures to promote the event. You can get your name on there and on the organiser’s website as well.
6. Offer discounts or free workshops to students
If you have schools or universities nearby, take advantage and offer some student discounts. Educational or .ac.uk websites are typically viewed by Google as trusted and authoritative sites, and links from these types of websites will often pass that trust and authority to your own site.
So to build .ac.uk links, you can create discounts for the students, faculty, or staff of the local colleges in your area, and then reach out to these schools and let them know about the discount. If you build a landing page that explains the discount and provides information, oftentimes the universities receiving the discount will include a link to your discount page from their websites.
For example, if you sell web programming training courses you could offer discounts to students who want to become programmers and want to learn how to get started building a website. If you’re a photographer you could offer a free workshop every three months to students who are interested in art and photography.
Now that you have a few ideas about how to build good local links, get out there and start earning them. It’s that simple. Throughout the process, remember this: link building is about finding local influencers and authorities, creating positive interaction and bringing your offline relationships into the online world.