Are Backlinks Important for Local SEO?
Yes, backlinks are crucial for local SEO. Google considers backlinks as one of the most significant ranking factors for both local and national pages.
Fundamentally, local SEO isn’t much different from traditional SEO.
All key principles, including backlinks, apply, with some minor but vital location-based nuances.
It’s important to understand that you won’t need as many backlinks to rank a local business website compared to a nationally or globally oriented site.
However, there are exceptions, especially in highly competitive professions in large cities.
For instance, ranking for ‘New York lawyer’ or ‘Los Angeles realtor’ without a significant number of high-quality backlinks is a formidable challenge.
How to Know if Your Local Business Website Lacks Backlinks
To assess if your local business site has a weak backlink profile, analyze your competitors ranking for your desired keywords.
Analyze the SERPs for your ‘money’ keywords and note down the domains listed.
Then, use this free backlink checker to analyze these domains individually. Here’s what you’ll find:
The tool provides the Domain Rating (DR) score, number of backlinks and referring domains, including the percentage of Dofollow links (which pass on link equity, unlike Nofollow links).
For a quick overview, just note the displayed numbers.
The tool also lists up to 100 URLs with backlinks to your competitor, useful for a deeper analysis of their link building strategies and successful content in terms of link acquisition.
Replicate these insights for your site.
If your competitors have stronger domains and more high-quality backlinks, and assuming all else is equal, you need to bridge this gap to outrank them.
The tool will also list up to 100 URLs containing the backlinks to your competitor.
Use those for a more thorough analysis that of your competitor’s backlink profile if you want to get a glimpse into their link building strategies as well as what content works best for them in terms of link acquisition.
You can use both for your site.
Now, if your competitors have stronger domains in terms of DR and more high quality backlinks, all other things being equal, you’ll have to close that gap if you want to outrank them.
Quality content can carry you far in local SEO, but even a strong content strategy falls short if your backlink profile is lacking.
If by some chance you still haven’t created your website, consider the ‘hack’ of Exact Match Domain (EMD).
EMDs, like ‘lawncaretulsa.com’ for a Tulsa lawn care business, can give your domain significant authority for your target search term.
You can even super-charge this effect by literally naming your business Lawn Care Tulsa, for example.
It won’t guarantee you the top spots on Google, but you’ll have a much easier time ranking.
If your analysis shows competitors with stronger domains and more high-quality backlinks, it’s time to start building your backlink profile.
Before diving into strategies, let’s first define what high-quality backlinks are, so you know exactly what to aim for.
What Do Ideal Backlinks for Local SEO Look Like?
Ideal backlinks for local SEO should embody relevance in terms of niche and location.
The degree of relevance can vary.
Taking a Tulsa lawn care business as an example, the most relevant backlink would theoretically be from other Tulsa lawn care businesses.
However, this scenario is highly unlikely to occur—competitors typically don’t link to each other.
The next best option is a backlink from a website tangentially related to your field. For instance, a gardening site based in Tulsa would be highly relevant.
Moreover, the stronger the domain, the more beneficial the backlink.
As relevance to the niche and location decreases, so does the value of the backlinks.
Best Ways to Build Backlinks for Local SEO
Let’s discuss effective link building methods for local SEO, as many of these methods yield guaranteed results.
It’s advisable to use a variety of methods to maintain a natural-looking backlink profile and avoid suspicions of link manipulation, which Google closely monitors.
Local Citations and Business Directories
Local citations and business directories are foundational backlinks that inform Google about your business’s existence and operation in a specific geographic area.
Local citations are online listings featuring a business’s name, address, and phone number (NAP), whereas business directories categorize businesses by location or category.
Both types of listings are instrumental in improving local search rankings and driving traffic to a business’s website.
These citations and directories can be structured or unstructured and sourced from directory listings, social media platforms, review sites, blogs, and news articles.
Linkable assets are high-quality, valuable content pieces designed to attract backlinks naturally, thereby boosting a site’s credibility and search engine ranking.
They can be in forms like blog posts, visual content, videos, online tools, or downloadable documents.
Popular linkable assets include infographics, statistical posts, case studies, e-books, interactive tools, calculators, and checklists.
Here are three specific examples of linkable assets for a local business:
- Home Improvement ROI Guide: Analyses of return on investment for various home improvements, based on local market data.
- Tax Guide for Local Businesses: A comprehensive, annually updated guide on local tax obligations and tips for small businesses.
- Seasonal Lawn Care Tips: The ultimate guide to lawn care and maintenance, tailored to the local climate and flora.
Scholarship link building can be a powerful tactic for boosting local SEO through partnerships with local educational institutions by offering scholarships to area students.
This strategy not only builds strong local connections but also enhances local partnerships and mentions, significantly improving visibility in local searches.
The advantages of a scholarship link building campaign include acquiring high-quality .edu backlinks, which boost a website’s credibility and authority, thus contributing to a comprehensive SEO strategy.
Local scholarships typically range from $50 to $500.
By sponsoring local events, teams, or organizations, businesses can secure backlinks from the sponsored entities’ websites, enhancing online visibility and local authority.
This method not only generates publicity but is also an efficient way to acquire local backlinks.
It’s crucial to ensure that such sponsorships are ethical and align with the brand’s values.
Testimonials and Reviews
Testimonials and reviews are effective for gaining backlinks for local SEO.
Providing testimonials for local businesses or services can often secure a backlink in return, boosting online visibility, credibility, and establishing a strong local link profile—key for local SEO success.
Turning Unlinked Mentions into Backlinks
If your business has been around for a while, it’s likely been mentioned on local websites and online publications without a link back to your site.
Reaching out politely to these websites to ask for a link where your business is mentioned can often result in gaining valuable backlinks with minimal effort.
If you’re monitoring your backlinks, you might notice they sometimes vanish due to various reasons, such as websites shutting down or content being deleted or updated.
If the site is still up and your backlink is gone, reaching out to the site owner could help.
Often, they’ll reinstate your backlink immediately or explain why it was removed, opening the door for negotiation to get your link back.
The availability of podcasting opportunities can vary widely by population or industry in your area.
Take advantage of every opportunity, as appearing on podcasts not only boosts exposure for your local business but also connects you with podcasters—who are often business owners themselves and have websites where they post show notes and episodes, potentially linking back to your site.
Create a Local Business Association or Networking Group
Bringing together local businesses and organizations fosters connections with other business owners in your area.
Such networking can lead to valuable backlinks over time.
Moreover, these initiatives often attract local media attention, almost guaranteeing backlinks from various local publications.
A Word of Caution When Building Links for Local SEO
Google disapproves of any inorganic link building schemes and acts to invalidate them upon discovery.
This could lead to backlinks being ignored (rendering them useless), algorithmic penalties, or manual penalties which can be challenging to resolve.
Hence, extreme caution is advised when building links for your local business.
The two main mistakes local businesses make are building links directly to their service pages in large numbers or using the same exact rich anchor text repeatedly.
Both practices are unnatural and leave obvious traces, as this is not the typical way people naturally link to content.
For instance, overly optimized anchor texts like “best lawn care business in Tulsa” are often indicative of paid backlinks, which Google can detect.
Similarly, overloading your service pages with backlinks is advised against, as it’s rare for natural linking to occur in this manner.
The safest approach involves linking to your homepage using branded anchor text, such as the name of your business or your own name as the business owner.
That’s the key takeaway.
Furthermore, avoid relying solely on one strategy outlined in this article.
Vary your tactics to maintain a diversified and natural-looking backlink profile.