Obtaining citations and links for a local business are important components of local search engine optimization. Yet, many businesses struggle with how to get links and mentions of their place. Here are 10 unorthodox ideas that could help you nab a few more valuable links.
As you may know, citations can be instances where people mention your business’s name and address (or phone number) in plain text on a webpage. Google can treat these citations just as they have treated links pointing to a webpage for determining its popularity or PageRank score. The numbers of pages mentioning a business, and the relative importance of those pages, could be used to calculate a relative popularity score (dubbed “Place Rank” in Google statements and patents).
While I’m oversimplifying Place Rank, an important concept to keep in mind is that an address or place can have popularity that may be otherwise separate from a business that may be located there. For instance, it’s possible that businesses located next to the famous tourist attraction, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood might benefit from proximity to it. So, if you can beef up the popularity of an address, it may result in some ranking benefit for businesses located at that address — sort of like how a rising tide lifts all boats at the same place.
Also, there are indications that links may have become even more important in ranking determination following the launch of Google Place Search. The blending of local search results with web page listings could explain how more traditional page ranking factors may have become more influential in Place Search. Prior to the launch, business listings without an associated website could rank, whereas they seem to no longer be there following the launch.
For local businesses, link-building and citation development is extremely challenging in many cases. Virtually all local search marketing professionals recommend adding/optimizing listings and profiles in major online business directories and internet yellow pages. Yet, once you’ve gotten citations from these foundational local sources, there are limited options for developing more natural links and references for a business. If your competitors have done the same groundwork you have, there may not be much signal to differentiate your company’s popularity versus theirs.
I believe the best kinds of link-building strategy may involve inspiring others to link to you spontaneously, and finding unique incentives for linking. With this in mind, I’ve created a handful of ideas that could get you more links and citations.
10 Unorthodox Ideas For Local Citation & Link Development
- Start hosting weddings and parties or club/community/support-group meetings at your business facility during off-hours. Event invitations posted online often include address locations, so if you have a facility that could lend itself to some extra uses, it could result in more sites mentioning you. Imagine getting listed in a number of couples’ wedding blogs!
- Provide an ATM or Redbox kiosk at your business location.
Special service vending machines can provide yet another reason for your location to be listed in special directory pages.
- Is your business located in an old building? See if you can assemble documentation to have the building declared an historically significant place on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). Once your address is listed there, many sites will pick up the data and refer to your place by address, improving your significance profile — this alone could gain you hundreds of address citations! If you don’t meet the guidelines for NRHP, see if you qualify for an official historic building designation with your State or City historic entities.
- Write a book! I’ve described before how books can be sources of local citations. So, write a book about your unique methods and expertise related to your industry. If you’re lucky, you might even get the various critics around the country to mention your business location when they review your book!
- Provide free Wi-Fi service at your business. Once your address is a free Wi-Fi hotspot, it qualifies to be listed in a number of hotspot location directories, such as JiWire’s registry.
- Sponsor a local festival or charity race. Quite a number of local area festivals will include the sponsor’s logo on their homepage, linked to the sponsor’s website. Festival websites are often one of the more popular types of local sites. For example, check out the Nederland Chamber of Commerce’s festival website for “Frozen Dead Guy Days” — local sponsors achieved some really nice links from this.
- Offer some of your products for sale online, and provide feeds of your inventory to make it easy to syndicate. Quite a few shopping engines and guides will be inclined to accept syndicated product inventories, helping distribute links back to the product pages on your site.
- Host a geocache on your company property. Doing so can get your location listed in geocaching sites and forums, like this McDonald’s in Titus, PA.
- Offer special discount deals for local groups and clubs. Give a special deal to your local Rotarians, Shriners, Freemasons, or another association, and they may mention it on their website or post a notice in their newsletter. Association newsletters are often posted on their websites in PDF format these days, and links within PDFs also count in ranking evaluations.
- Integrate special badges or provide a local guide of places in Foursquare. Offering checkin deals at your locations in Foursquare can encourage interaction activity at your location, too. It appears that Foursquare only provides a business’s Twitter links on individual location pages (see the Dominican Joe Coffee Shop Foursquare page, for instance). However, if you provide a guide of places, you can apparently get a website link among others. See the page for the Dallas Observer, for example.
Hopefully this list will give you a few new citations. If none of these would apply well for your particular type of business or location, perhaps the types of link/citation development tactics can inspire other similar strategies that would work for you.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.