Everything you need to know about SEO, delivered every Thursday.
How To Rank Nationally With Local Links
When you think “Local SEO”, what generally comes to mind is the 7-pack, reviews, local dominated search results, distance from the centroid, and other miscellaneous terms that mean you can rank for “city keyword“.
Because of this, the strategies between local and national SEO tend to segregate. Not as much as say, PPC and SEO, but the fact that local SEO specialists exist (and thrive) shows that there is a distinct ideology at play there that separates it from national strategies.
If your business has a publicly listed physical address, you have some incredible link opportunities that exist outside your own niche. Every link adds up, and it turns out that there’s a cavalcade of potential link opportunities and quality signals based solely on the fact that you have a physical address and are willing to use it.
Local Organic Splicing
Even when you aren’t doing “city keyword” searches, you’ve undoubtedly noticed that Google has begun to blend localized results into your national searches. This means they are finding websites that are most integral for a given sector based on physical addresses on the page (in my estimation), and returning these results for national searches where it seems appropriate.
What this means for you, the national player, is that you are missing out on a potentially large, localized rankings boost for your major keywords by not having a physical address listing on your website.
It’s very possible Google is pulling similar signals as they do with local SEO results to get this done, so it wouldn’t hurt to submit your website locally and get some local citations in all the standard spots. They also seem to offer more significance to those websites with Seattle in the title tag or URL – but be wary, these kinds of inclusions could also lower CTR and hurt you on a national scale.
I recommend the physical address located on the homepage footer – or at least contact page, of your site – but I don’t recommend giving it more prominent significance in your URL or title tag unless it’s extremely relevant to do so. Doing this could hurt your ability to rank and also attract clickthroughs and links on national SERPs.
After all, people in Pokepsie, New York don’t want to see a link with San Diego in the title tag – it could set off warning bells that the content isn’t relevant.
Physical Addresses As A Quality Signal
Something you as an SEO or webmaster should be very aware of, are the elements that Google, or any search engine, would look at to give your website a potential boost in the SERPs. Something I’ve thought about often and made strong effort to include and recommend for any web properties I might SEO, is the inclusion of a physical address.
Ideally, it would seem a physical, confirmed address backed by the BBB.org, Google Local, or something else with the website as the business name would be the ideal situation, but even if your web property shares a physical address with several others, including it is something that I (if I were a search engine, that is) would see as a great sign that the website wasn’t cannon fodder like much of the other replicated garbage all over the Internet.
Perhaps, nationally, this would give you a small “trust” boost, and when weaved in locally with the regional results, it’s possible you could see some real effects. If and/or when Google looks at this as something that validates your domain as something that isn’t spam – that is, if they aren’t already currently.
If you don’t have a physical address, think about getting a P.O. Box in the nearest major city – by doing so, you’ll not only place your website in a prominent location, you’ll also have the strongest possible centroid from which to get links. The further from a city you get, the less likely the webmaster is to link to your “local” business.
Local & Regional Link Opportunities
There are a variety of domains you can get links from simply because you have a local address that can add up to a national ranking in the SERPs. SEER Interactive has a great post on Local Link Opportunities, many of them don’t require you actually be local-focused and they’re a good start towards thinking outside the box to garner some regional links.
Beyond that, there are several creative ways you can attract links for your company with a local, physical address on your website.
First, you need to understand local significance – if you’re listed in Podunk Nowhere, it’s probably not going to offer many opportunities as it comes to attracting links. However, every Podunk has an adjacent big city, or other mid-sized cities you can find opportunities with, and most won’t exclude you from their directory, especially if it requires paid inclusion.
Establish Relevant Location Variables
So, break down your business into its applicable, provable (see: your physical address as listed on your website) location groups.
- Main city
- Adjacent cities
- Nearest big city
- Districts of nearest big city
- County name
- State name
From there, you have the foundational base to go out and pillage the web of its juicy, location-specific links.
Location-Specific Directory/Link Page Searches
To start, you should try to track down every location-specific directory and link page for your given city. These are almost always spam-free as they aren’t as riddled with abusers like many other general directories.
I suggest frequently including the state name in the query, such as “Seattle, Washington business directory”, as sometimes city names themselves will be difficult to find good, refined results for. Hat tip to SEOMoz’s Long List of Link Searches for query creation assistance.
- [KEYWORD LOCATION directory]
- [LOCATION business directory]
- [LOCATION business listings]
- [LOCATION shopping directory]
- [LOCATION directory]
- [intitle:directory “LOCATION”]
- [inurl:directory “LOCATION”]
- [LOCATION * directory]
- [directory * LOCATION]
- [“list of LOCATION sites”]
- [“list * LOCATION”]
- [“list * LOCATION * sites”]
- [LOCATION websites]
- [LOCATION sites]
- [“LOCATION sites”]
- [“LOCATION websites”]
- [“recommended links” LOCATION]
- [“recommended sites” LOCATION]
- [“favorite links” LOCATION]
- [“favorite sites” LOCATION]
Location-Specific Blog Searches
Once you’ve run through that list, the next step is to find bloggers in your area. These bloggers will have one of two foundational structures: They either blog exclusively about the region you’ll be searching for, or they care enough about the location to list that area prominently.
- [LOCATION blog]
- [intitle:blog LOCATION]
- [inurl:blog LOCATION]
- [intitle:tag LOCATION]
- [intitle:post LOCATION]
- [“Local Blog Directory”] (with local results enabled)
- LoadedWeb’s Local Blog Directory
Here, the stereotypical phrase “content is king” shifts somewhat to be a combination of your website/business value and also the proximity you have to their location, rather than simply the value of your website itself. Once you have a local target, there are several different ways you can go about attracting a link:
- Inviting them to your offices for a personal tour
- Supplying free products (costs are lower because shipping is little to nothing)
- Sending personal, customized pitches using your location as a selling point
- Creating a “Best Bloggers in LOCATION” Widget to Offer Them and Others Regionally
- Guest Blogging about business/operations in that Location
- Create a local outreach program/invite them to lunch/coffee to talk/procure a link by building a business relationship
Forum & Comment Links
Although much lower quality, it’s also possible to find several location-specific forums, and also, specific posts discussing your business location. Some of these will also uncover other location-specific blogs as well. These queries are just a few ways you can get started:
- [LOCATION forum]
- [“LOCATION forum”]
- [intitle:forum LOCATION]
- [inurl:forum LOCATION]
- [“add comment” LOCATION]
- [“post comment” LOCATION]
- [LOCATION members]
- [LOCATION join]
- [LOCATION tag]
- [LOCATION group]
- [intitle:group LOCATION]
Remember – Local Links Also Mean Weaker Links (Generally)
Time is money, though, so it’s important that you value links appropriately and don’t waste five hours of your time enticing action from a blogspot blog that has never seen an inbound link. Evaluate each opportunity rigorously, but as always, know that links aren’t easy to get (especially natural ones) so weigh the difficulty of your vertical – and their content offerings – accordingly when deciding whether or not to pursue a link.
As a general rule, the quality of blogs you find will follow proportionately to the size of the location you’re searching – so, it will be much easier to find an authoritative San Francisco, California blog than it will be for Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. Similarly, the difficulty you’ll have procuring a link will increase as the value of the blog increases, so judge and approach accordingly.
The most important (and valuable) takeaway to pull from this strategy is a new way “content is king” takes shape. “Strong content” isn’t always the intricacies and depth on page; sometimes, “content” partially becomes the address on your contact form – making procuring links in those taboo verticals (and any other, for that matter) a little bit easier.
For those local focused businesses, using this link building strategy makes ranking easy, and can also go a long way towards building genuine business relationships, as well as foot traffic, from your link building efforts.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.