Whichever direction the shifting sands of Google’s search algorithm blow in, one thing remains constant: if you want to rank, you need links, and the more the better. However, not all links are made equal. Quality matters if you want to avoid tripping spam filters, and your link sources help to define the character and purpose of your site in Google’s eyes.
As a local business, you probably don’t wish to compete with the Amazons and eBays of this world, but rather to reach customers within your immediate area. This means, in part, weaving yourself into the local online community, and an excellent way of doing this is to acquire high quality, locally-focussed links.
Local Business Organisations
From the local Chambers of Commerce to the Better Business Bureau, many organisations exist to promote local, reputable businesses. If your area’s branch features an online list of certified members, the reputational benefits of getting yourself listed are worthwhile in themselves, and any link that comes with the package will be entirely legitimate in the search engines’ eyes.
Local Non-Profits and Charities
Most small non-profit organisations such as schools and charities are happy to accept donations from members of the local business community, in exchange for a mention in their online and offline literature. If you make a donation, you can quite reasonably ask for a link to your site in exchange, but you will also enjoy genuinely valuable exposure to potential customers in your area.
In a similar vein, there are usually plenty of opportunities to sponsor a local sports team, community event, or other activity in your neighbourhood. In return, you will usually be rewarded with a link or mention on the organiser’s site, but even more valuably, other community sites that publicise the event will often provide unsolicited links as well.
Build a Resource Page
If you can put together a page on your site that’s of genuine interest to your local community, as well as being somehow related to your business niche, you stand a good chance of pulling in some good local links. For example, a building contractor’s site could put together a page detailing examples of historic architecture within visiting distance, and this can generate links from local tourism sites and visitor guides.
Local Business Awards
Many local organisations offer awards of some kind to local businesses, whether it be for boosting the local economy, generating innovation, or providing a valuable community service. Apply for any such awards you can find, and if your business is eligible, you’ll generally find your link is included on the awards listing page.
This technique is really just traditional public relations, but it still works – and will generate links. Think of a way to be newsworthy in your community, such as by setting up a free event or function. If you can gain press coverage, the inbound links will start to flow.
Utilise Local Relationships
Although artificial linking schemes are a definite no-no, if you have genuine relationships with local suppliers or customers, it’s legitimate to exchange links, so long as this is done in a non-spammy way that provides some real value to a visitor. Even better, try and develop one-way incoming links from your local business contacts, through tactics such as offering to provide a testimonial in exchange for a clean link to your site.
Don’t Forget High Quality Directories
Lastly, although the golden age of general web directories is well and truly over, there is still space for local resources. Try and be listed on any directories that are focused on your area, although nowadays it’s perhaps best not to devote too many resources to this. However, being listed on the same page as other local businesses can provide a strong pointer to your location for the search engine algorithms.
As with all link building efforts, generating local links is a mixture of imagination and putting in the hard yards. However, for a business operating in a limited geographical region, the benefits can be especially valuable.