If you are looking to have your website rank for competitive searches, you will have to adopt a viable link building strategy. Links have always been a major ranking factor for Google and other search engines. Since links are such an important part of Google’s core algorithm, it is highly unlikely Google will move away from using links as a means to calculate authority and rank. 

That doesn’t mean just build links anytime and everywhere. Just like any other part of local SEO, there are best practices, and poor SEO practices. In this article we are going to help you better understand what those best practices are, and why link building is still an integral part of search engine optimization.

What Is Link Building?

Definitively speaking, link building is the act of acquiring hyperlinks from other websites to your own domain. Links are the fundamental means for users to navigate the world wide web. It is links that help users find what they are looking for, whether it be information, products, or services. 

Google and other search engines use links to crawl the world wide web. They use these links to better understand user search intent, relevancy, and how to provide proper authority for a website. It is that authority that helps a website rank for keywords and phrases. 

There are natural ways to acquire backlinks, and there are some ways to “build” backlinks. We will go over both in this article. 

Why Is It important for Local SEO?

Think of a backlink as a recommendation. If you have a law practice website, and a site like Reuters.com links to your content as a source, that is Reuters’ way of recommending their readership to your website for more information. Google and other search engines look at these recommendations as a signal of trust from one domain to another. Search engines then use that trust to help assign domain authority, which leads to improved rankings on the search engine results page (SERPs). 

So, if you want your business to rank locally, you must utilize a link building strategy that will help improve authority, but also focuses on relevancy. 

Type of Links To Acquire

Local Citations such as Google My Business, Yelp, SuperPages and Yellow Pages are created to help users learn about a business, their services and customer approval (reviews). The core facets of a local citation are a business name, address and phone number (NAP). Local citations can have a positive or negative impact on your local search rankings and visibility. The quantity, quality and accuracy of the citations you have for a business will help search engines determine the level of accuracy and trust it will provide to not just the website, but the Google My Business listing as well. 

Niche Citations or industry-specific citations are citations that are unique to certain industries such as Health, Car Dealers, Attorneys, etc. Much like Local Citations, Niche Citations core components are the business name, address and phone number, as well as their website. This will help users discover a specific service that meets their needs. 

For example: A woman who was injured in a car accident is looking for an injury law practice near her. So, she uses FindLaw.com to type in “car accident” and her town or city. From there she can choose from a list of law offices near her.

Findlaw Homepage Image

Local Online Publications are sites like your local tv station, local newspaper or magazine. Acquiring a link from a local publication is more challenging than simply filling out business information for a local citation. If your business ever does something newsworthy like hosting a charity event, you could reach out to your local publications to be featured in an article, as they are always looking for new stories. It isn’t a guarantee, but it is still worth the effort, as these sites tend to carry a lot of authority that will surely increase rank, as well as brand awareness. 

Charity Sponsorships as mentioned before as a way to help acquire links from local news sites, it is also great to obtain backlinks from highly valuable .org domains. Any local organization or charity that you sponsor is worthwhile to ask if they can link to your business website. Most will do this without asking, either with an image of your brand, or a simple hyperlink. 

Chamber of Commerce is another great way to obtain a valuable .org domain backlink to your business website. There are other local business directories that are created, but the majority of them hold little to no value. In fact, many are created and managed by foreign entities. These directories have likely received a penalty from Google, and because of that it is highly recommended that you stick to your local Chambers, even if it does cost a membership fee. Membership fees can run anywhere from $500 to thousands per year.

Partnering with Local Schools has incredible benefits, far beyond just the value of the link you can acquire. It is a great way for any business to increase awareness locally, and could be a great means for finding young talent. 

Creating a program like an internship or scholarship is one way to obtain a valuable .edu link. There are also local resource pages you can have your business added to. Another option is to offer discounts to local universities, colleges or trade schools. 

How To Build & Acquire Backlinks

There are links that are paid for, and there are links that are acquired naturally. Natural backlinks are when another site chooses to reference your business site as a trusted source. This is the most preferred method to receive new backlinks. But it is also the most challenging method.
Prospecting or building citations is the most common link building method. As mentioned above with “Type of Links To Acquire”, it does require some elbow grease and formal outreach, or money in regards to a Chamber of Commerce membership. 

Then you have blogs or guest posting that is commonly used with SEO professionals as a way to build new backlinks from authoritative and relevant sites. This is also a practice that has become abused by many in recent years, and Google has made efforts to penalize sites that pay for backlinks from low authority or quality blogs and private blog networks.  

Even still, there are proper ways to find linking opportunities with blogs. One such way is using a tool like Help A Reporter Out (HARO). HARO allows you to subscribe to daily emails where journalists seek reliable sources for articles they wish to submit for publication. They will usually quote you, and then link to your business website. HARO is a great way to be featured as an individual, as well as acquire a link for your law office. 

Final Thoughts

Are backlinks an important commodity with Local SEO? The answer is yes, and likely will always be yes. 

There are plenty of ways to build or acquire backlinks in a safe manner that will not jeopardize your website’s authority and rank via a Google Penalty. Even if your website is penalized, it is no longer a life sentence, and rebounding from a Penguin penalty can be done with much greater haste by completing a manual backlink audit. Nearly 90% of the websites we have completed backlink audits for saw a rebound in organic search within 60 days. A few years ago, that wouldn’t have been possible.

You can avoid all of that by simply adopting any of the strategies we have mentioned above. When it comes to search engines and Local SEO, you must always remember quality is more important than quantity. This is true with content, and it is true with backlinks. There are no shortcuts in SEO, because search engine optimization isn’t a sprint, but a marathon.