The Local Advantage
One advantage that a local company has over a purely web-based business is that their relevance is extended to their entire community, independent of the niche that they operate in. For link building purposes, simply being a local company means that your relevance becomes more about your location than the services you provide (though that is still hugely important), and that can really open up a lot of opportunities for you.
At the end of the day, there isn’t a whole lot of difference between building links for a local business’ website and building links for any other website. Both are extremely hard work, and a lot of strategies can be successful for both. However, there are a few opportunities that local businesses can leverage better than a company with no local presence could.
1. Local Directories
I planned on leaving this out of this article because it has been covered ad nauseam already, but I decided I wouldn’t be doing an article about local link building any favors by omitting this completely, so I’ll get it out of the way early.
Local directories are one of the best places for any local business to get links. They’re easy to find (most of the time) and plentiful. They’re among the easiest links you can get, and, best of all, most of your competitors are probably failing to get them because they’re scared of the word “directory”. I’d say this is true for a solid 90% of local clients that I’ve built links for. Despite literally every Local SEO article mentioning local directories, people still ignore them. There are a ton of easy to get local directories out there, and you need to be on them. Period.
2. Create Local Resources
For small businesses with budget restraints, I can be a little hesitant to recommend creating content for the purpose of attracting links because this can be expensive, time consuming and risky (not all content will attract links). But if you’re a company whose location is a huge part of your brand identity, this can be a great strategy.
For example, if you’re a local brewery it might be a good idea to list some of the top bars and restaurants in your area (even if they don’t sell your product). However, if you’re in a little more of a “boring” industry, let’s say car windshield repair, this can be more challenging. In a case like that, it may be worth your time to compile resources of other companies in your area who provide related services, such as dent repair or mechanic services. This kind of content may not be as “linkable” (which is why I’m often hesitant to mention this as a link building strategy) but it can lead to other opportunities such as...
3. Leverage Relationships
Every intelligent local business does its best to make friends with other companies in the area, but not enough of them leverage these relationships for links. Chances are, you probably have a few of these already, so identify the ones with websites where you could naturally ask for a link, such as a “preferred vendors” or “partners” page.
You should also be trying to create new relationships. You can create content like the example mentioned above, or you can pick up the phone and ask some related companies if they’d like to come by and leave a few of their business cards at your front desk. Get the conversations going, create some friendships with local businesses and there will be lots of opportunity to get links. I need to stress that the ultimate value here is not in the links, though. Building legitimate relationships will be more valuable than any link ever could be, but they are a nice bonus.
4. Provide Testimonials
Testimonials can be a great way to get links from other companies in your area. As a local business, it’s a great idea to do a majority of your shopping locally. Don’t hire a national chain or franchise company to replace the screens on your windows or paint your office building. Instead, hire a local company and then let them know how much you loved their work. Ask them if they’d be interested in featuring a testimonial from you on their website. Chances are they’ll be thrilled to share your kind words with their customers.
5. Sponsor Clubs
It’s hard for me to think of many industries that don’t have at least a small handful of really passionate people revolving around them, or at least revolving around something that is closely related. Even the most boring topics can have extremely dedicated groups of people who would love for your brand to reach out and help support the small communities they’ve built. This sponsorship can be in the form of sending them free products or something as simple as offering to buy them food for their meetings.
Let’s use the car windshield repair example again: I know this is a relatively boring industry because one of my first jobs was in my grandfather’s glass shop and I would literally fall asleep in the back of the shop on slow days (thankfully my grandpa doesn’t know how to use the internet). If I would have known then what I know now, I probably would have told him that buying the local car clubs a few pizzas a couple times a year would be a good idea. “Do it for the links, grandpa!”
This is very similar to sponsoring clubs in your area. Meetup.com is a popular website where you can find a group of people who share interest in just about any hobby you can think of. I bet within 30 seconds of searching this website you can find a group relevant to your business that you can help support. Lots of them link to their sponsors. Lots of them also have websites. Double whammy!
7. Offer Discounts
Aside from the offline benefit such as community appreciation or word of mouth, providing various discounts can be a great way to attract links. There are a ton of websites which happily list and link to companies that offer discounts.
For example, a quick Google search reveals several pages linking to websites who offer veteran discounts. Offer a student discount and you can reach out to colleges in your area who will be probably happy to share your discount with their students (assuming your discount would be of interest to them). Your local fire department might even have a webpage listing community benefits for their firefighters. You get the idea.
This can even be combined with club sponsorships. To (re)reuse a previous example, I’m sure there are several car clubs who would have been pumped to get a discount on windshields.
Lots of manufacturers feature stores that sell their products on their website. A quick Google search for all of the brands that your store carries might reveal a few who have a list of local places where people can buy their products.
Try some search strings such as these:
[brand name] + where to buy
[brand name] + distributors
[brand name] + vendors
[brand name] + merchants
[brand name] + retailers
[brand name] + stockists (I’ve found this is a good one for .uk websites)
9. Broken Links
This is more of a site finding “tactic” than something you can leverage for links, but it is definitely still worth a mention.
As unfortunate as it may be, chances are high that there is a constant stream of companies failing in your area. For link building purposes, they don’t necessarily need to be your competitors or even related to your business for you to use this to your advantage. Every time you hear about a company in your area going out of business, backlink their website and see where they were getting their links. You can even make it an active strategy by using search strings such as this once a month: [location] “going out of business”.
Link building for small local businesses is definitely not without its challenges, but with a little inventiveness you can definitely attract some great links!