Dummy Links: Part of a Smart Local SEO Strategy

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What I like to call “dummy links” are links that you can get with a little commitment of resources, but without having to think too hard.

You’ll need to earn some good links (from other, relevant sites to your site) if you want to rank well in the local search results.  If you’re in a semi-competitive market, that is.  If you’re trying to rank for “Tulsa taxidermist,” you’ll probably do just fine without.

Too many business owners – and their marketing companies – think local SEO is just a matter of citations and on-page optimization and your Google My Business page and maybe getting a few reviews.  What gets overlooked is how much overlap there is between “local” SEO and classic organic SEO.  Links affect not only your rankings on the map, but also your rankings for search terms for which Google doesn’t show the map.

In my experience, links are usually the main reason that big ugly corporations fare better in the local search results than they should.

Still, most people who know links affect their visibility never really try to get them.  Business owners don’t know where to start, don’t want to pay for work with long-term payoff, or don’t want to invest much at all.  Marketing companies don’t know what to do, either, and don’t want to bill their clients for work that takes thinking, that has only long-term payoff, and that maybe doesn’t look as good on paper as “Built 50 links this month!”

I’ll assume you’re different: you’ll do what you can to get relevant, non-spammy links, if you just know roughly what direction to go.

That’s why I’ve put together this list of doable, straightforward link opportunities:



They’re link opportunities that may require a few minutes of research on your part, but that don’t require you to think, “OK, so what do I write, and then how do I do outreach to try to get someone to read the damn thing and link to it?”

They’re also not the types of links that any dolt could buy by the thousands on Fiverr or Upwork or ODesk – the kind Google usually likes for about a two months before putting your site in the box.


I’ve listed real-life examples, where possible.

Are there other ways to earn high-payoff links?  Of course.  (Here’s an excellent resource.)  Building an audience and becoming an “authority” is great.  Assuming you’ve taken care of first things first, I’ll be the last guy to try to talk you out of that.

The point is you don’t have to try something that takes years or that has a steep learning curve, just to get the kinds of links that can help your local visibility.

Grab 10 link opportunities from the list and try to execute on them over the next few months.

Any other good “dummy link” opportunities you can think of?

Any questions?

Leave a comment!


  1. Hey Phil,

    Great list of ideas here. Actionable, relatively easy to create and cheap.

    In addition to your list, Ive had decent success with creating infographics (though most infographics are shit). They have to be relevant, industry specific and create some sort of emotional attachment or they dont work as well. Also had good success with creating local maps within communities and sharing them within the specific communities. For instance, a map showing the most dangerous intersections in a city, the biggest crime areas, best bicycle routes, etc. Find a niche within a community and the people who are passionate about the subject will share and link all day long.

    For me, scholarships are not working as well as they used to. I think the market is over saturated with crappy scholarships.

    Thanks for putting this together!

    • Hey, thanks, Brian.

      I agree infographics can be great. Not what I’d call a “dummy” opportunity, though OTOH they don’t have to be clever – just useful.

  2. avatar Phil Barnhart says

    One link resource on your list is a poor move. Those Better Business Bureau accreditation links are EXPENSIVE, those BBB pages get no traffic, and they are all no-follow. They provide zero value in SEO terms.

    • Let’s agree to disagree, Phil. There are non-link-related reasons to get accredited.

      See this:

      • Not sure how the BBB operates in other states.
        1. Here in Los Angeles, it’s free to get listed. You don’t have to be accredited.
        2. As for traffic, Los Angeles BBB gets 880 visits a month. Not killing it but not terrible either.

        Meetup.com is $9.99 a month. Pursuant to Phil’s salient point, it goes beyond links. Does that qualify?

    • I believe the BBB are very creditable links. They are a little high priced but do give you return. I have a few customers that see a fair amount of traffic from the BB Links. Great article

      • When I first started my window cleaning business I got in with the BBB for added credibility since I was so new and wanted to show that I’m accountable and take responsibility.
        I dumped them after 3 or 4 years because I don’t think I needed that anymore.

        While I was with the BBB, I did get calls specifically because I was with them. Actually, out of the sorry…2 years and 11 months I got 21 clients and 3 of them I still service after 9 years.

        They are expensive in my opinion. But so was that yahoo 300 dollar a year listing that I paid for for like 4 years.

  3. Can you share your process for getting a link in the local city newspaper website?

    Typically I wouldn’t call that easy at all.

    Perhaps though, you have a much better process for it than I am aware of.

  4. As always, great stuff here, Phil. I just have a question on scholarship outreach. I posted over in the Local Search Community on G+ that I struggled to get any results from two years of scholarship outreach for a client. We only managed to get 50 .edu links and our rankings didn’t budge. A fair amount of people responded that “scholarship link building” is dead and they advised me to stop doing it (as I was wondering if I should do it again for another year or can it). Do you have any evidence that scholarship link building works? I was hoping it was still a valid strategy but based on my experience and the responses I got over at G+ it appears to be dead. What say you?


    • Hey Travis,

      As with any strategy to earn links, it’s only effective if part of a larger strategy. Scholarship link-finagling can’t be the only tool in the toolbox.

  5. Another really good one from you, Phil. I love real-life examples!

  6. avatar Andrew Wilkerson says

    I’m still laughing too much to leave a comment sorry. That video clip is great! I was in ‘the box’ once, I never want to go back there, we must keep Google happy or suffer the consequences!

  7. You can never overstate the value of web 2.0 links and other related authority links you can get like Jesse mentioned using local business directories.

    Oh and you’re dead on with the BBB accreditation. This is is something that Google absolutely for sure takes into account. And anyone that screams “It’s a no-follow so it does nothing for your SEO” doesn’t really have a clue how to do SEO 🙂

    Having a foundation of socials/citations with many being no-follow is what builds domain authority (making linking from somewhat risky sites much much safer)

    • Hey Chase,

      I do think you can overstate the value of Web 2.0 links. Anyone and his granny can get them, and many people and their grannies do. Kind of neutralizes the edge.

      BBB does have its place in the world (which somewhat pains me to say). Solid link, and it’s not always a no-follow (depends on the chapter), and it’s a good review site.

  8. Currently working for a local Plumber in The Netherlands. With a little research I found out he was already registered or mentioned on several Authority “quality specialist” websites. Advised him to make contact to these website owners to replace just the text (business name) into links. Worked for 2 of his services.

  9. That’s a great list of ideas in your spreadsheet Phil which doubtless I’ll be referring to again and again. I’ve just linked to this article and your spreadsheet. Interesting case I came across this week. My local chamber of commerce has blocked its members’ directory from search engines, so the links therein are useless for search purposes. I’ve explained this to them and they’re going to change it. Win-win! An easy way for them to provide a significant additional benefit to local businesses at virtually no cost and increase their website traffic and subscriber revenues in one fell swoop. I’ll sign up when they’ve done it and also recommend it to some of my local clients.

  10. You make our jobs easier Phil – thank you 🙂

  11. Thanks for this list Phil. I’m doing SEO for a local disaster cleanup company, and one of the ways I’m looking to build links is with the other companies we partner with, like plumbers and contractors.

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