Links, as the name implies, are the ties that bind web pages together. Search engines and marketers use links to discover new pages, evaluate a page’s popularity, and determine its relevance. From an SEO standpoint, building a strong link profile is a critical component of a successful online presence.

With that being said, earning backlinks from good sources is time-consuming. Generating links can be especially challenging for local businesses trying to target a geo-specific audience. Not to worry, we at Applied Interactive have some practical strategies to share; strategies proven to help businesses gather links from locally relevant sites.

Create Controversy

The most obvious way to get links from local sources is to create some controversy and get in the news. However, advice like “create some controversy” shouldn’t be interpreted as “cause drama and incite squabbling just to get attention”! Instead, identify universally familiar, potentially polarizing causes that your business can support – and then add your voice to the dialogue.

Real people (i.e. potential clients) enjoy discovering conversations on real issues about which they are passionate. Posting “controversial” content will attract attention and potentially merit coverage from local news publications, giving you added publicity.

Once you have chosen a position on the issue at hand, create an online asset to support it.

Write a blog. Issue a news release. Contribute to the conversation in a manner consistent with your company’s image, then pitch that asset to a local newspaper. If the story gets picked up, it surely won’t hurt to submit a tip about the article to a few major publications. Links to your website from high authority news sources is also a great way to build a positive link profile. Lastly, don’t forget to share all of this on social media with groups who might be interested in the topic!

Pursue Local Business Awards

Quite a few local media outlets sponsor local business awards, another great way to earn high-quality links to your site. If the local paper doesn’t have one, look to the local municipality itself. Almost every city and town has some sort of recognition award designed to promote local businesses. These are most commonly run by a local website, chamber of commerce, or civic organization. The awards could be anything from “Best of…” categories to “Top 10” lists. Take a look at the possibilities and make a pitch for the ones that make sense.

The key is to find the opportunities that best fit your business and get listed. A well-worded entry into a search engine can yield a lot of potentially lucrative results. Examples might include:

  • “Nominate a business”+”STATE NAME” (Example: “Nominate a business”+”Colorado”)
  • “City Name”+”Nominate a business” (Example: “Los Angeles”+”Nominate a business”)
  • “best of STATE or CITY”+”nominate” (Example: “best of Colorado”+”nominate”)
  • “best BUSINESS TYPE”+”nominate”+”city” (Example: “best restaurant”+”nominate”+”denver”)

Once you have your curated list of award categories, apply for each directly. Typically, there are forms you can fill out to be considered for a nomination.

Community Involvement and Sponsorships

Hosting community events in the real world is another valuable way to benefit your online profile. If you want to start small, is a reliable resource to connect with like-minded people through events called ‘meetups’. If you have a good grasp of your target audience and where they hang out, you can get in front of them relatively easily. For example, an outdoor equipment retailer could host a rock climbing meetup or a crafting store might host a painting lesson.

Your company can also sponsor an existing meetup group. Simply search for groups that are likely to appeal to your target audience. Join the group, attend their gatherings, and network. If possible, approach the group owner and earn their approval for sponsorship. This will get your business logo, name, and – most importantly – a link in front of a large group of likely prospects.

If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, you can host large scale events where the entire community is invited. Open classes, grand openings, seasonal parties, and fundraisers are all great lures for larger groups to come visit. While hosting a large, community-wide event can be costly and undoubtedly takes some time to plan, the potential rewards are enormous.

Events should be approved by the town and scheduled a minimum of 60 days in advance. During that interim period, your business can build links with locally relevant websites in the form of citations on local event calendars. All you need to do is find these pages and submit the information for your event to them. Make sure to create a page on your website that contains all the pertinent details. This affords yet another opportunity for a link coming from a reputable source.

For maximum exposure, invite the local press to cover your event.. You can also promote your event using unique hashtags on social media, encouraging people who attend your event to do the same.

Events like fundraisers can also tie into another link building exercise: sponsoring and donating to local clubs and organizations. Many communities have causes or groups that are near and dear to them. If your company is able, supporting these organizations or donating to events that they host is a great way to gain exposure and build rapport within the local community.

There are plenty of opportunities to sponsor a club, organization or charity. Large, non-profit charities or organizations will also have web pages where they list charitable donors. These links help to build authority for a company’s link profile, especially if they are well-known and respected. Don’t be afraid to let your community know when you’re giving to a good cause!

If you are looking to establish your business as a trusted authority within the local community, then creating a resource page that is geo-specific can be a useful strategy. Content such as “Best of…” lists or calendars noting upcoming local events can earn your website backlinks on news outlets and even hotel or travel sites.

Local Information Resources

Create a local resource page featuring information about the area that pertains to your business. For instance, a bike shop might have a page titled “Best Places to Ride” featuring a list of notable trails in the area. Once you have developed an idea and created the asset, you can promote your guide on social media where it can get noticed and shared by the local community. In some cases, even city- or town-owned websites will be willing to promote your content.

Network. Network. Network.

Inevitably, what this all comes down to is networking. Complementary businesses will be your best networking option as they are most likely to mutually benefit from linking to your page. If you can find businesses in your area that complement yours, or if you regularly refer customers to another business, it only makes sense to collaborate online as well.

Building relationships with local influencers such as news publications, politicians, or even your competition can be a difficult, but worthwhile, networking angle. Attending events and conferences hosted by organizations you want to work with is a solid way to network with well-connected people. Your job at these events will be to find out what interests them and how your business can help.

Effort = Reward

No matter how you go about it, building a positive link profile takes time, planning and effort. However, it doesn’t necessarily have to be all that difficult. Common sense and instinct will go a long way in guiding your efforts.  In the end, establishing strong relationships with local web pages and organizations will have long-lasting, positive benefits for your business.