There are many moving parts to a local SEO strategy. Just because you’re competing in a smaller market, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have to tick all the boxes for a properly optimized website. Besides a clean Google My Business listing, local SEO backlinks are another key part of topping your local searches.
But what are these backlinks and how do you earn them? Today, we’ll share everything you need to know about backlinks for local SEO.
What are backlinks?
A backlink is a link from another website to your local business website. When another website adds a link to yours in their content, it sends a message to search engines such as Google. The message is that your website is trustworthy and as a result, search engines rank your website higher in SERPs.
Most backlinks are built rather than earned passively. This means that either you or an agency has to reach out to these website editors on local blogs and ask for a link back to your website. The average backlink costs anywhere from $125 to $450 per link. However, as we’ve shown in our link building cost analysis, the return on investment is pretty good.
With a healthy backlink profile, your business can stand out against the competition in local searches and help you reach your target audience more easily.
Why are backlinks important?
High-quality backlinks send a signal to Google that your website is trustworthy and that it should rank higher in search engine results. All other things equal, backlinks are one of the key ranking factors that can help you rise above similar websites in local search results and boost your website domain authority.
That means that if you build links from other websites to a page that is important to you (for conversions), that page will rank better as you add more links to it. Google’s algorithm changes constantly, but backlinks remain a constant ranking signal throughout the years.
Local SEO backlinks vs. backlinks from non-local (but relevant) websites
You can build links from other local websites in your area. For example, getting a link from local newspapers to your restaurant’s website is very relevant and can bring a boost to your local search rankings. However, this does not mean that local link building is everything you should do.
Getting a backlink from a non-local (but relevant) website is just as good. For example, an outdoor review website linking back to your local store that sells sporting goods. This is a relevant and valuable backlink.
However, an online magazine about shoes linking to your local barbershop… Is not a very good or valuable link.
Just like all other link building tactics, the key is relevance and context, as well as some SEO metrics, but more on that some other time. Let’s get to some actionable advice you can use today.
Strategies to get local backlinks
We’ve already determined that backlinks will help you rank specific web pages as well as benefit your entire website. The good news is that you can build those links yourself – or hire an agency.
With an SEO tool such as Ahrefs, you can analyze your competitors’ websites and see who is linking to them. That’s one amazing thing about SEO – you can take a sneak peek at your competitors’ strategy without lifting a finger.
In Ahrefs, you can see who linked to your competitors, when they added a link, to which page and under which anchor text. Armed with this information, you can start doing outreach to those same websites and ask for a link. If they are linked to a competitor, there’s a high likelihood they will link to your website too.
HARO or Help a Reporter Out is a platform where journalists come to ask for insights to include in their articles. You can sign up with your small business as a source to provide these insights and if they get published, you can get a (technically) free backlink from their article.
HARO link building has been a popular way to get publicity and new backlinks for businesses of all sizes for years now. All you have to do is sign up and answer a few questions every day and you can get some high-quality link opportunities. However, it may be a time-consuming process, so we suggest letting an agency participate in HARO link building on your behalf.
Claim unlinked mentions
There is a high chance that local news outlets and local bloggers out there have talked about your business and mentioned your business name without linking to your website. This is prime link building real estate. The mention is already there and all you have to do is ask for a link to your home page or landing pages.
Simply do a Google search to find out who mentioned you and then reach out to editors at these websites and ask for a link in that piece of local content. You already have your foot in the door with the mention, so it’s all about finding a relevant person to reach out to on these websites.
For future mentions that you don’t want to miss, the first step is to set up a Google alert for your brand mention. That way, you’ll get notified every time someone talks about you and you can check if there is a link or not. Alternatively, you can sign up for a digital marketing mention service such as Brandmentions to get real-time notifications for brand mentions on websites and social media.
Reclaim lost backlinks
Using an SEO tool such as Ahrefs, you can quickly check if there are websites that previously gave you a link and deleted it at some point. This can happen for various reasons, such as site migrations, content updates, new editors joining the company, etc.
A list of lost backlinks for website LeadQuizzes, as found in Ahrefs
Once you have a list of websites that gave you a link and removed it, you can start reaching out to editors and ask to have your link back in a certain piece of content. In most cases, it should be an easy ask, especially if your mention is already there. The biggest obstacle is finding the right person to reach out.
Launch a scholarship
This is one of the oldest tactics in the local SEO link building book. A scholarship is an amazing way to help out students in your local community and get some press release coverage and links along the way.
The principle is simple – you set up a scholarship fund and make sure the right people see it. Your scholarship can be a one-off or a recurring one that happens annually. You can also set the amount to anything you feel comfortable giving out but sums as low as $1,000 can be a great starting point.
When you launch a scholarship, you can get links and mentions from local universities and schools, local news sites, blogs, and all types of websites listing you as a resource for their students. Not to mention that parents and students (even influencers) may do PR for you to help out these students.
Last but not least, local citations are a form of backlinks but slightly different. A citation is when a directory adds your business to its website. For example, a local events website listing all businesses that deal with hospitality.
Local citations are incredibly powerful as they help you get on the map. Not only is it a (usually free) backlink to your website, but it also confirms the accuracy of your data for potential local customers and searchers. This brings us to our next point.
NAP stands for Name, Address, and Phone number. You need to have all three of these crucial bits of business information the same on every local citation, as well as your Google My Business (GMB) profile. Having the correct NAP means your customers can find you on Google Maps. Besides Google Reviews, this is a key local search ranking signal.
When your NAP is consistent, this is sending a signal to search engines that your business is legitimate and you have a better chance of outranking your local competition. However, updating your NAP and business profile manually may be a bit much for the average business owner. This is where Brightlocal comes in.
Buying citations through Brightlocal
Brightlocal is a tool that helps with local SEO and we specifically recommend it for citations. Simply sign up for their citation builder and you can pick and choose local business directories to add your citations. You can also use Brightlocal for the optimization of your existing citations and to make sure they are all aligned.
It starts at $2 per citation and it’s an incredible value for anyone who wants to clean up and improve their local SEO presence.
Local SEO is an afterthought for many businesses because of how expensive and time-consuming it may be. Link building is traditionally known as expensive and complex, but it doesn’t have to be. With these tactics, your local business can get up to speed and create an amazing link profile quickly and at a low cost.
But you don’t have to do all that hard work. Book a free call with us today and find out how we can help you get local SEO backlinks quickly and at a low cost!