The world of search engine optimization has been shaken up a great deal in the last few years. Google particularly has been targeting spammy and aggressive link building in an attempt to thwart those who use manipulative practices to rank websites.
This has led to many people declaring the death of SEO, or frankly being scared off the whole idea. While this is certainly understandable, and anybody with a website they care about should be careful when building links, the bottom line is that links pointing to a website are still the number one factor in ranking that site.
This is unlikely to change anytime soon, so pursuing links and good organic ranking is a worthwhile investment for any local business. The key is to maximize the time spent as well as the return. That means finding valuable targets quickly while avoiding those that have little value, or worse, are spammy and likely to negatively effect your rankings.
But, fear not. Below are three effective and safe methods for generating a long list of potential candidates for building links. Use these methods to create a master list that you update from time to time as new ideas come up and you’ll never run out of places to look for safe and valuable links.
One of the simplest ways to figure out what links Google thinks are important in ranking a site like yours is to look at your competitors. Make a list of a half-dozen or so of your competitors who rank both above and below you. Now comes the fun part.
At this point, you have two choices:
- Do the link analysis yourself by signing up for a tool like aHrefs or Majestic SEO.
- Pay for a link analysis at Fiverr and have it delivered to you within a day or two.
If you’re like me and you can geek out on backlink analysis for hours, then go for option one. For the record, all the tests I’ve seen give aHrefs the nod when it comes to the overall size of their link index. Personally, I like Majestic for their Trust Rank metric.
On the other hand, if you’re busy and would rather spend time working on your business rather than in your business (probably smart), then simply go over to Fiverr, search for “backlinks analysis,” and you’ll find multiple options.
You’ll get a spreadsheet report with all the found backlinks to a particular website. You’ll probably be able to sift through these and get rid of quite a few fairly easily. Sort the list by the authority and trust metrics, and see what jumps out at you.
Do you see some obvious relevant and local websites that you’d never thought of, such as a local club with a Sponsors page? Maybe your competitor has a nice link on a national vendor’s site, or funds a scholarship at a local university and gets a link that way.
These types of links are gold, and just what you should be looking for in order to rank your local business in the increasingly competitive results. To quote Steve Jobs quoting Picasso: “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” So, be a great artist and go pick through your competitors’ link profiles. I guarantee you’ll find some gems.
If you’re a local business, it’s a no-brainer that your local community is where your customers are. Chances are, you’ve already built relationships within that community just by being in business.
When it comes to ranking locally, links that are both local and relevant to your niche are hard to beat. So, now is the time to do some brainstorming to come up with local organizations that fit the bill.
If you own a bike shop, is there a local cycling club where you can get a link in exchange for a discount? Think along these lines and you should be able to come up with several local options without too much trouble.
Meetup is a very popular site where you can obtain a link just by sponsoring a local group. If you know where your target market is found, this can be a great place to get a very relevant link on a highly authoritative site.
You will need to get the Meetup group owner’s approval first, so your best bet is to make sure the group is one that will benefit from what you can offer.
- If you’re a health care professional, is there a healthy lifestyle group of some sort in your area?
- If you own a sporting goods store, look for groups that get together to hike, cycle, run, etc.
- If you’re in the construction trades, is there a home improvement, new homeowner or charity group that works on low income homes?
Those are just a few ideas, but pursue this path more and I’m sure you’ll find multiple interesting groups.
Build a local resource
If you really love where you live and you’ve been there awhile, this can be a great idea to invest some serious time into. Build a local directory resource for your area that will earn you valuable links from newspapers and travel sites.
There are many possible alternatives, and the best idea is probably the one that appeals to you the most. The key here is to make it a really good, linkable resource so that when you go to promote it, you don’t have to work to get those links.
So, I would recommend that you focus on what you’re passionate about in your niche. If you own a restaurant and you’re a serious foodie, how about a guide to local farmers’ markets and gourmet food stores where people can find the highest quality goods in your area.
That’s just one idea of course, but the trick is to create something that’s valuable, looks great, and serves a real need. Once that’s done, seek out the community on Facebook and other social media and promote it.
Figure out where the influencers in this community are and promote it there. You may even be able to get links from local town and city websites if your resource is good enough.
There’s no two ways about it, authenticity sells on the interwebs. Personally, I think this has a lot to do with the low barrier to entry and all the consequent spam and shady offers we all have to endure because of it.
Consequently, you need to build trust to succeed long term, and one of the best ways to do that is by being authentic.
There’s another excellent reason to be authentic though, and that’s because you want to target your ideal customer. Unless you own a Walmart, you don’t want to market to everybody. Even Walmart doesn’t do that. And at the end of the day, being authentic just takes a lot less work.
So, don’t be afraid to speak your mind and even cause a little controversy. But be sure that it speaks from an authentic place.
For a much more in-depth look at using controversy in content marketing I highly recommend taking a look at this article on WordStream. It should assist you in coming up with some good relevant ideas, while at the same time avoiding some of the pitfalls that can come up when you try to separate from the pack.
The bottom line is that links still matter, will probably always matter to some degree, and building or earning valuable, relevant links can be a relatively fun part of your marketing process.
Keep three words in mind: trust, authority and value. Look for these in both the websites you’re getting links from, as well as the what you’re providing in exchange – whether it’s a piece of content, a donation or your valuable time and expertise. Do this and your link profile will blossom.
I hope that helps shed some light on safe and effective link building practices. As always, hit me up in the comments below with any questions.