What’s the secret to getting a top ranking in Google for your local business these days?
That’s a tough question.
You probably look at the Google rankings and wonder – how does my competitor get such a good ranking? How do they get all that traffic?
You’re probably thinking they’ve got some secret weapon.
Maybe they have, but usually the simple truth is that they have taken the time to build some easy backlinks to their website.
The thing is that in recent times, link building has had its fair share of bad publicity. This is mainly due to the ongoing arms race between Google and SEO experts trying to trick Google into giving their sites a better ranking.
Google finally pressed the nuclear button in 2012 with its Panda, and subsequent Penguin (and other), updates.
But once the dust had settled one thing was still clear – high quality links from relevant websites are still a key factor in achieving a good rank.
So why are links important? If we could strip away the hardware of the internet we would be left with the logical structure which consists of data connected together by links. Links are like bridges and paths that map it all out and help Google navigate its way around.
So whatever the pros and cons of the argument, links are still vital to Google. What it has got better at doing is working out which links lead down blind alleys or bad neighbourhoods.
Link building starts at home
Most people who are unfamiliar with SEO will have heard about link building and assumed that it only relates to links from external sites. But linking to all of your internal pages is also really important and should be your starting point.
This is within your control and it helps Google to index your internal pages. These are easy wins for you, so take advantage.
A few points to note:
Make sure you link to all internal pages. These links don’t necessarily all need to feature on the homepage or on each page leading to every other page. It needs to be natural and done in such a way that you are thinking about helping a human navigate through your website rather than trying to “game” the system.
Whenever you link to other pages in your website you should include your keywords in the link. This is referred to as ‘Anchor Text’. For example, let’s say you have the keyword “office furniture Madrid” on your list of keywords you want to rank for.
The Anchor Text must say the keyword or phrase you’re trying to get a ranking on. In our example, the link must include the keyword “office furniture London” and when you click on this, it must then go to your office furniture page.
In our example, the HTML for the link would look like this:
<a href=”http://www.YOURDOMAINNAMEHERE”>Office Furniture Madrid</a>
But don’t just focus on one keyword. Mix it up a bit and use a variety of options.
Go for the quick wins
If you’ve heard that link building is complex or should only be performed by experienced practitioners then relax. There are some quick wins for many small businesses that involve nothing more than sending an email.
If you look around you there are loads of opportunities on your doorstep. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Social Media Profiles
The obvious place to start is with your social media profiles. When you sign up for Google+, Twitter or LinkedIn you can link back to your website so make use of this opportunity.
Testimonials for Local Suppliers
Every business needs suppliers. Who do you use that would appreciate a genuine testimonial? Here are some examples:
- Web Designer
- Web Host (hopefully Pickaweb!)
- Graphic Designer
- Event Organizer
- Office Space Supplier
- Stationary Provider
- Office Furniture Supplier
- IT Supplier
- Facilities Management/Cleaning Company
- Direct Mail Supplier
- Corporate Gifts Supplier
- Car Rental
- Insurance Broker
- Chamber of Commerce
- Health and Safety Consultant
- Training Company
- Networking Group
- Software Suppliers (eg: Live Chat, Helpdesk, Productivity Tools, etc.)
- Payroll Provider
- Logistics/Warehousing/Fulfilment Company
- Equipment Hire
- Building Contractor
- Business Consultants
- Solicitor/Legal advice
- Estate Agent
- Telephony/Virtual Telephony
- Transport Company
The list goes on. A genuine testimonial that highlights the benefits of using their service will be most welcome. OK, not all of them will show it, but it doesn’t take long to prepare and send a quick email, and you’ll be surprised at the take up.
One way to absolutely nail it with testimonials is to offer a video testimonial. Why? Because your competitors just won’t do it. A genuine and honest 30 second testimonial filmed on a smartphone is only going to go in one place – slap bang onto the homepage of whoever you send it to – hopefully with a link back to you.
Local Directories (NAP Citations)
Your Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP) are important for Google and the other search engines.
The reason for this is that they want to present relevant and legitimate businesses to their users in their search results. Your NAP details are the main way that they determine this.
They also take into account any ‘citations’ or mentions of your NAP details (i.e. NAP citations) on other websites. These don’t necessarily need to be a link – just a text mention is sufficient.
Therefore, the more consistent your NAP citations appear across multiple sites, the more confidence the search engines will have in you, and so this is something worth spending time on.
You can get NAP Citations from a number of places. Mainly you will get them from directories, but this isn’t the only place. Press releases, forum signatures or profile descriptions will all help too.
However, the main places you should be looking to add your NAP details to are reputable local directories.
NAP Citations are something that you should work on consistently over time for the best results, and you should aim to amend any that are incorrect.
This is easy stuff, but it is a long term activity that just requires patience and dedication.
Sponsoring a local charity, event or group is another quick win. A link from a well-respected local organisation sends a good signal to Google. It’s a win-win – not only are you helping a good cause, but you’re helping yourself too.
Are there local business groups or associations that you could join? It could just be that you’re a member by default (e.g. if you are in a shopping precinct/mall) and you just need to claim your link. But there are loads of local business groups that would welcome you with open arms, and usually for a low fee.
What about your local council or newspaper? Are there some regional agencies or government sponsored initiatives dedicated to promoting your area? There are loads of places that want to promote local businesses so take advantage of these easy opportunities.
Just using these two techniques alone will get most local businesses more than enough links to make Google sit up and take note.
Directories have also had a bit of a rough ride in terms of their SEO reputation and you should avoid the temptation to base your link building on directory submissions.
However, not all directories are created equal and some stand head and shoulders above the others and should definitely be considered as a valid link building tactic.
The only fly in the ointment is that there is a fee to be paid. But your time is valuable so they are still worth it. Here are several to consider:
Curated Local Directories
Likewise, if there are genuine, local directories that are curated and cared for in your community (and there will be) then these should also be considered. Just be wary of uncared for, spammy looking directories. Just a run through their listings should be enough to tell you whether or not you want to be listed there. If you are not sure, just move on.
Another rich seam to mine is niche directories. In most industries there will be genuine and well curated niche directories focused on a particular sector. Again, use your discretion when choosing whether or not to get listed, but the tighter the focus on your niche, the better.
So good luck and if you have any other suggestions for getting backlinks for your local business please share them below.