Dummy Links: Part of a Smart Local SEO Strategy

https://www.flickr.com/photos/us7thfleet/8092179893/

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:

https://goo.gl/tLl6Dl

 

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!

Moz Local My Business Console Debuts: Quick Facts and Thoughts

Today Moz rolled out the My Business Console, as a part of the Moz Local suite of tools and resources.  Moz engineers Mark Corley and Dudley Carr gave me a tour of it the other day, and it looks useful for multi-location businesses and SEOs.

You can read the full announcement, or my TL;DR version here.

Key points:

  • It’s a way to keep track of and manage who has access to your Google My Business pages.
  • Because that’s only a problem for people who manage multiple locations, it’ll probably only be useful if you’ve got a multi-location business, or possibly if you’re an SEO.
  • You don’t even need a Moz account (free or paid). It uses OAuth to sync up with whatever Google account you use to manage your My Business (AKA Places) pages.
  • I’m pretty sure it works in every country.
  • It’s free, and the Moz engineers tell me it will stay free.
  • As a new tool, there’s room for improvement, so you should let Moz know your thoughts.

Thoughts from test drive:

  • Don’t bother unless you have multiple locations.
  • You’ll want to get your Google-accounts house in order before using My Business Console. It’s great if you have lots of locations and maybe even lots of managers to manage.  But if each of those managers has 5 Google accounts, and they don’t know which one to use, or you aren’t sure which one to grant access to, or if you send an invite to the wrong one, things could get muddy.
  • It may take a while for Moz to authenticate your Google account, so you may be on a “loading locations” screen for a while. You may also need to refresh your browser.
  • Under the “Managers” tab in the My Business Console you can which people have access to which page(s), but you can’t see those people’s email addresses. Apparently that’s a result of Google being stingy with data.
  • There’s no “support” area yet, nor a way to help the less-savvy user know which Google account to use or not to use (like cockroaches, there’s never just one Google account). I’ve suggested to Mark and Dudley that Moz create an easy-to-access FAQs page.  Let me now in the comments if you agree.

Significance:

  • There will be more tools like this – now that there’s the Google My Business API, which lets developers make programs that deal with Google local listings. Moz plans to introduce more.  (Yext recently rolled a different, paid offering.)
  • Maybe don’t grow too reliant on it, in case Google ever kills off the My Business API.
  • I’m confident the My Business Console will stay free. It’s a great lead-gen tool for Moz Local, doesn’t cost them much, and someone else can (and probably will) develop a competing tool.

Questions?  Early feedback?

Leave a comment, so that Mark, Dudley, and other Mozzers can get your thoughts and maybe put them into action.

Announcing the Definitive List of Local Review Sites

Photo used w/ permission of Danny Nicholson of whiteboardblog.co.uk

How complete is your collection of reviews?

To know that, you’ll need to know of all the sites where customers can (and should) review your business.

I’ve found 398 local review sites so far.  Some you already know about – and may even have reviews on – but others are overlooked opportunities.

I’ve put together a handy spreadsheet for you.  It’s not in this blog post: I made a page for it because it’s a little easier for me to keep the list up-to-date that way.

Go there to sit through my preamble, to get your hands on the spreadsheet, and to read my liner notes.

See the list of review sites

By the way, right here is the place to leave comments or questions.  Don’t hold back, now.

Which Local Citation Sources Offer Follow Links?

https://www.flickr.com/photos/superiornationalforest/5062843250/

Pretty much every local listing you create for your business lets you include a link to your website, so that it’s easy for visitors to learn more about you.  But most of those are nofollow links  – meaning Google’s not supposed to “count” them for or against your rankings.

Still, some sites don’t slap a “nofollow” attribute on their links.

I (with the help of my assistant, Danielle) have put together a list of the local-business and industry-specific directories where the links to your site technically count, to one degree or another.  We scoured my Definitive Citations List, plus a few additional sites.

As you might guess, some of these sites are more notable than others.  Some are prominent directories in a niche (e.g. WeddingWire), some represent a cause (e.g. GoGreenWebDirectory.com), and others might just be on your citation checklist anyway (e.g. Brownbook).  But other sites are pretty mediocre and no-name.

Why should you know about – or bother with – a list that includes some mediocre sites with mediocre links?

  • Mediocre “follow” links have their place in the world. In the early stages of a local SEO effort, they’re signs of life that Google might observe.  They might help you rank for the one obscure search term that gets you the one customer who helps keeps you in business for long enough that you can do RCS.
  • Again, some of the sites are pretty prominent, and you may want to get listed on them for non-SEO reasons.
  • In case for whatever reason you don’t want listings on local directories that offer follow links, you’ll want to know what those sites are.
  • Maybe you’re just a curious cat, like me.

This post hits on a sticky topic, so I’m going to make you read even more preamble before I get to the actual list:

  1. Don’t rely on any one type of link or one strategy to get links.
  1. Don’t expect these “follow” links to make a huge difference by themselves.
  1. Do realize that most of the links you’ll want to earn over time will take hard work.
  1. Do use your best judgment.

austin-powers-behave

Anyway, here are the general local-business directory sites that include a follow link when you create a listing:

2FindLocal.com

6QubeDirectory.com

Bizyhood.com

BrownBook.net

CBSYellowPages.com

Cylex (on request – see Imi’s comment)

DirectoryCentral.com

DiscoverOurTown.com

EventCrazy.com

GoGreenWebDirectory.com

IndependentWeStand.org

Infignos.com

Kudzu.com (sometimes)

Lacartes.com

LocalPages.com

Opendi.us

PegasusDirectory.com

SmartGuy.com

SocialRaves.com

TicketBud.com

USBDN.com

WherezIt.com

YellowOne.com

YelloYello.com

(Note that TicketBud.com and EventCrazy.com are sites you can publicize events on.  Now that can be a good way to earn links.)

Now for some industry-specific sites that offer a follow link.  Even if you ignore the first list (above), there’s a strong case to be made for these because many of them are (1) review sites and (2) have some visibility in Google. (FYI, some of these may be paid listings.)

AutoMD.com

AWDP.org

BailBond.com

CyberAtty.com

DealerRater.com

DoctorOogle.com

Frommers.com

GetMowed.com

HomeStars.com

Justia.com

LocalGranite.com

LuxuriousLandscapes.com

MenuPages.com

MyZipPlumbers.com

OpenTable.com

Sortfolio.com

SportsTavern.com

TheBestDesigns.com

TherapyNext.com

WeddingWire.com

Zagat.com

Other sites that offer follow links are “powered by Yext” – meaning probably the only way you can get a listing there and a link is to use Yext.  These sites include eLocal, Switchboard, Topix, WhitePages, Yellowise, and others.  As Dan Leibson has noted, there may be some value in those listings / links as well.  I didn’t include those.

Local Chambers of Commerce tend to offer follow links, too.

Great discussion here, by the way.

Do you know of any sites I missed?  Any that I should definitely remove?  (I’d love to keep this list up-to-date.)

To what extent do you agree with me that “mediocre links have their place in the world,” in the sense that they can help you get the ball rolling?

Other local-citation-link-related words of wisdom?

Leave a comment!

P.S.  Thanks to Tony Wang, Michael Doran, and Kathy Long for contributing to the list with their helpful comments, below.

Quick Initial Review of Moz Local Insights (Beta)

Moz Local has come a long way in the last 20 months.  It’s a handy option for getting some of your most-important listings up and running, especially for new businesses.

It isn’t a one-stop shop for all your citation needs – nor is it meant to be – but it can often eliminate serious legwork.  It’s affordable ($84 / location / year, as of this writing.)  I often recommend it.

David Mihm just announced some new features – called Moz Local Insights.  It’s a combination of 3 dashboards that show you stats on where your business falls in the local heap.

It’s a beta release, so my initial take is probably what you’d expect: there’s a lot of promise in these new features, but they need some work.  (That’s true of any beta release.)

This post isn’t meant to be an exhaustive review, but rather just my lab notes so far.  I may add updates as I notice new things in Moz Local Insights.

Anyway, let’s go through the three new tabs, one at a time:

 

 

 

Update 11/14/15: The “Performance” area is working for me now – as a result of either Moz’s fixes or my realizing a couple senior moments I’d had, or both.

I can’t say yet what I think of the “Performance” area, because I couldn’t get it to connect with my Google Analytics accounts (where I’ve got most of my clients’ GA dashboards).

Here’s a screenshot I nabbed from David’s announcement post, just to show you what the “Performance” tab should look like:

It appears to be a slick custom Google Analytics dashboard, essentially.  Although geeks like me find it fun to sift through GA data, clients often don’t, so I think this will add value there.

It would be nice if Moz Local could attribute clicks you got as a result of your Google Places 3-pack rankings, if you’re using a tracking URL to track that stuff.

 

 

 

You’ll probably want to play around in the “Visibility” tab.  By default, Moz Local will track the categories you specified as the keywords you want to track.

The search terms you want to rank for are probably pretty different from the categories you want Moz Local to use for your various listings.  That’s why it would be nice if they sent you an email or showed a pop-up that says “Hey, update your keywords!”  (I hope you can track more than 5 of them in version 2.0.)

Maybe they emphasize that step more if you’re setting up Moz Local for a given business for the first time; I set up my clients in there pre-Insights.

The bottom line is: be sure to click that “Add and Manage Keywords” and update your keywords before you do much else in the “Visibility” tab.

 

 

 

 

The “Reputation” tab doesn’t seem to reflect accurately (yet) how many reviews the business has, and where it’s got those reviews.

Here’s one example of a client who’s got reviews on a bunch of sites, including several that show up on page one when you search for him by name:

But here’s what Moz Local shows:

The “Reputation” tab has a nice, clean layout, so I think it will be useful as a reporting tool that clients can easily log into.

At that point it won’t be too different from the Google My Business reviews dashboard, but of course the issues with Google’s dashboard are (1) many clients can’t figure out how to get in there, and (2) with Google’s new interface it’s gotten even less intuitive.  That this will be under the same roof as Moz Local’s other reporting features is nice.

One add-on I’d like to see in here is the ability to export your reviews: the text, the ratings, the reviewers’ names, where the reviews were written, when they were written – the whole burrito.  (There’s an ORM tool out there that has this export feature, but I can’t remember which one.  ReviewTrackers gives you that ability.  Thanks to Darren for reminding me.)

An export would be a handy feature partly so your reviews don’t go poof if they’re filtered or otherwise lost, and partly so it’s easy to mark them up with Schema and put them on your site (yes, even on Google+ and Yelp that’s OK).

In a nutshell: Moz has some work to do, but I like where “Insights” is headed.

What do you think of it so far?

Have you left them feedback on the beta version yet?

Leave a comment!

10 Ways to Use CrazyEgg for Smarter Local SEO

https://www.flickr.com/photos/thomaseuler/3656514979/

CrazyEgg is like night-vision for your website.  It’s an inexpensive, easy-to-install tool that shows you where visitors click, how far down the page they scroll, and much more.  I’ve used it years, on my site and on clients’ sites.  I recommend it in my audits, and to anyone with a site that’s supposed to support a business.

It shows you that intel in a heatmap for each page you want to track.  You study those heatmaps to make decisions as to how to improve your site – how to make it better at giving visitors what they’re looking for.

But CrazyEgg’s insights on clicks can also help you improve your local visibility in Google and elsewhere.

You can discover content ideas, which review sites your visitors care about most (or want to review you on), how visitors who found you through Google Places behave once they’re on your site, and much more.

By the way, there are other great click-analytics tools, like the up-and-coming HotJar, but I’m focusing on CrazyEgg because I’ve got the most experience with it and it’s been good to me for a long time.  (No, I’m not an affiliate.)

Here are all the insights (I know of) that CrazyEgg can give your local SEO campaign:

Insight 1:  Do your pages compel visitors to go deeper into your site?

You want a low bounce rate, “long clicks,” and in general for people to use your site the way Google expects they would.  The jury is out on this as a ranking factor, but in my experience it does matter.

Study CrazyEgg’s heatmaps, starting with your most-important / most-trafficked pages.

Do most visitors click where you expect and want them to?

Do they click on links / buttons for specific services you want to promote (and if so, which services)?

Do they even scroll far enough down the page to see what you want them to see?

You may have some surgery to do.

Oh, and don’t forget to re-launch your CrazyEgg test on a page once you’ve made any changes to that page.

 

Insight 2:  What FAQs-page questions are the most popular?

Knowing which questions visitors click on most can tell you what content you might be missing, and which pages you should beef up so as to answer those questions.

Create a giant FAQs page (here’s a great example), and make the questions clickable links that take visitors to the answers.  Either the answers expand, or you put them lower down on the page.  If you’re using WordPress, consider a plugin like jQuery Collapse-O-Matic.

Then let the CrazyEgg test run, until you’ve got a couple hundred clicks.  See which questions people click on the most.  Then create more content or tweak what you’ve already got (or both).

 

Insight 3:  See how your Google Places traffic behaves.

Use Google’s URL builder to create a tracking URL and add it to the “Website” field of your Google Places page.  (More detail in this post from Dan Leibson.)

Then set up a CrazyEgg test for your landing page (without the tracking parameter).  Let it run for at least a couple weeks.  Then pop open the “Confetti” view in CrazyEgg and see where your Google Places visitors tend to click.

You can even compare the types of traffic you get from practitioner Google Places pages (e.g. “John Doe DDS”) and practice pages (“Doe Dental Center”), if you’ve claimed those Google pages and added different tracking URLs to each.  This may tell you whether you should try to bury that practitioner page or spruce it up and get reviews on it so as to develop it into more of a traffic source.

 

Insight 4:  Are your “city pages” effective?

If nobody seems to click or scroll, Google may consider them garbage, too.  Help those little guys.

 

Insight 5:  Are your microsites or exact-match-domain sites just online paperweights?

(Spoiler alert: probably.)

 

Insight 6:  How many visitors show interest in your reviews?

Do they click on links to your reviews, or click on your review widgets or badges?  That might tell you a few things, like that:

(1) They probably came straight from Google.

(2) They probably didn’t see enough of your reviews in the search results.

(3) They care about reviews in general, and you could probably get more traffic and clicks (which seem to affect rankings) if you pile on the reviews.

(4) Maybe you should put your reviews on the page where currently you just link to them.  (They won’t get filtered.)

 

Insight 7:  How do reviewers (past and current customers) act once they’re on your “reviews” page?

Let’s say you give your customers a link (on paper or in an email) to a page where you’d like them to write you a review.  Which links do they click on – that is, which sites do they try to review you on?

If everyone clicks on the same site or whichever one’s listed first, you probably need to provide guidance (e.g. “Have a Google+ page? Please go to Google+”).  If people don’t seem to click at all, they may not know there are clickable links.  Do reviewers have to scroll down to see all the choices – and might miss some?

There’s a story there, if you’ll listen.  What you learn can help you get more reviews on the sites you want.

 

Insight 8:  How many people look up driving directions?

I’d hazard a guess and say that this matters a little, if you’re a bricks-and-mortar business.  Bill Slawski has written about this – that the combination of driving-directions lookups and an influx of reviews might be a ranking factor, according to one of Google’s patents.

Encourage visitors to look up driving directions.  Don’t forget to embed the right kind of map: a Google map of your business, rather than of a generic address.

 

Insight 9:  Does anyone actually click on your social-media “share” buttons”?

Rather than ask visitors to share on Facebook and Twitter and Google+ and Pinterest and LinkedIn and Reddit and create a Squidoo lens for you, you might make better use of their attention by linking them to further reading, or to your reviews, or to your contact form.

This harkens back to Insight #1 – about how you want to get visitors deeper into your site.  You also want those visitors to become customers.

 

Insight 10:  Look at each traffic source and see how those visitors behave.

Is most of your traffic from Google.com – meaning most visitors find you in the search results?

Do you have any significant traffic from sites where you’ve got reviews?  (If so, keep racking up reviews there and elsewhere.)

Do the links you’ve earned from other sites actually send you traffic – or just “link juice (you hope)?

Study the different dot-clusters.  Do all the oranges click your “Read Reviews” link?  Does it seem that none of the blue-dot visitors clicks at all?

Bonus insight: You might conclude, finally, that Yahoo Local is a total waste of time.

Can you think of other ways that click-analytics can help your local SEO?

Any tips on those – or on CrazyEgg in general – you’d like to share?

Leave a comment!

Facebook Local Business Categories List

Pick the wrong Facebook categories or not enough of them and your local-search visibility will suffer.  Not only in Facebook, but also likely in Google (because Facebook results are often all over page 1).

The trouble is once you’ve picked the basic “Local Business” category, you can’t see all the subcategories available to you.  You have to type in a category you think Facebook has, and see if you’re lucky.

With almost 800 categories to choose from, you probably won’t pick the 3 best ones for your business.

Problem solved.  Here is a Big Ugly List of all the subcategories you can choose for your “Local Business” Facebook page:

https://goo.gl/K618Jn

Best way to use it?  Skim through the list and find the 3 categories you think would be the best to list your page under.

If that sounds tedious, may I suggest the Laphroaig Triple Wood.

Huge thanks to Alex Deckard of CAKE Websites for doing most of the research.  He’s a smart SEO and a good guy.

Some related resources:

Facebook Reviews Now Get You Rich-Snippet “Review Stars” in the Local Search Results

Moz Local Category List

Mike Blumenthal’s Google Places Category Tool

Apple Maps Local Business Category List

Business Categories Lists for Major Local Search Sites

Any category-related tips on Facebook?

Are there any categories that Facebook should have but doesn’t seem to?

Any categories I’m missing?

Leave a comment!

Best Search Operators for Digging up Duplicate Local Citations

https://www.flickr.com/photos/rocketlass/42689311

To claim your seat at the Local Feast, your citations need to be more or less correct.  But you can’t fix those listings if you can’t find them.

Tools are unreliable.  Even the excellent Moz Local should just be a first sweep in your search for all the listings you need to fix.

Meanwhile, searching in the sites can be slow going.  You usually have to search several times to see find all the listings you want to find.

Let Google help you.  Use search operators to dig up duplicates faster.

Search operators won’t work on every site you need to deal with (more detail on this in a minute).  But they’ll save you time and frustration – partly because they do work on many of the packrat sites where the duplicate listings pile up.

Here are the best search operators I know of for uncovering duplicate listings:

 

Google

site:plus.google.com name of business “about”

site:plus.google.com (###) ###-#### “about”

You’ll probably find any Google Places duplicates with Michael Cottam’s duplicate-finder tool, but it’s worth popping in those two operators just to be sure.

(Yes, I know we don’t call Google Places a “local citation” source, as the title of the post would suggest, but that was the first title that popped into my head.)

 

Yelp

site:yelp.com/biz name of business

Hat tip to Nyagoslav for the Yelp operator, which he mentioned in a discussion on Google+.

 

Facebook

site:facebook.com (###) ###-####

site:facebook.com (###) ###-#### “reviews” -m. -m2

Try the 2nd one if the 1st one gives you more results than you’d like to sift through.  (That might happen if your business name isn’t too unusual.)

 

YellowPages

site:yellowpages.com (###) ###-#### intitle:”business name

site:yellowpages.com intitle:”business nametwo-letter state abbreviation

CitySearch

site:citysearch.com “name of business” two-letter state abbreviation

site:citysearch.com intitle:”name of businesstwo-letter state abbreviation

As with Facebook, try the 2nd one if the 1st one returns too many results.  Also, for the 2nd one you may want to try a couple common variations of the business name.

SuperPages

site:superpages.com (###) ###-####  intitle:”business name

Better Business Bureau

site:bbb.org (###) ###-#### “business review in” two-letter state abbreviation

site:bbb.org name of business “business review in”

Angie’s List

site:angieslist.com (###) ###-####

 

A few notes

  1. Swap out only the underlined parts with your business info or your client’s.
  1. Keep the quotation marks exactly where they are.
  1. By “two-letter state abbreviation” I mean “MA” for Massachusetts, “NY, for New York, and so on. Hope that was obvious, but it’s an important point.  Without the state name you may unearth a bunch of listings for your namesake business 2 time zones away.

Where search operators don’t (seem to) work

https://www.flickr.com/photos/compujeramey/80010576

Remember how I mentioned search operators don’t work on all the sites that you’ll need to deal with?  Well, here are the bad kids:

Apple Maps

Bing Places

ExpressUpdate.com

Factual

FourSquare

LocalEze

MyBusinessListingManager.com (Acxiom)

Some of those sites (like Bing and LocalEze) appear not to let Google index their listings.  Listings on other sites (like Factual) seem to be indexed, but impossible to find with search operators.  At least you now have a short list of sites you know you’ll have to stick a whole arm into.

Also, those search operators will work on many other sites where you can and possibly should have citations.  I listed only the most-important sites, because you may have other things you’d like to accomplish today.  But you can check out my list of citations if you’d like to use search operators to sniff out duplicates on other sites.

By the way, here’s my bread-and-butter search operator, which works pretty reliably from site to site:

site:nameoflocaldirectory.com (###) ###-####

(Of course, you’ll want to try it with every phone number that the business has used.)

 

More resources

Google Search Operators – Google Guide

NAP Hunter Lite – Local SEO Guide

Top Local Citation Sources by Country – Nyagoslav Zhekov

Advanced Local Citation Audit & Clean Up: Achieve Consistent Data & Higher Rankings – Casey Meraz

Local Citation Audit Tip: Use the New Sitelinks Search Box – me

Local Citation Cleanup Hack: Check BBB – me

Do you know of any reliable search operators I didn’t mention?  (I’d love to keep adding to the list.)

Any hacks for quickly finding listings on those tough sites (e.g. ExpressUpdate)?

Leave a comment!

The Best [BLEEP]in’ Local Link Questionnaire

You need at least a few good links to rank well in Google Places and beyond.  Especially post-Pigeon update, and especially if you’re in a competitive local market.

But that’s easier said than done.  Where are the opportunities for a business like yours to scrounge up some good links?  Who knows enough about you and your business to know what ideas are practical and doable for you?

Look in the mirror.

Nobody knows your situation as you do.  Nobody’s business is exactly like yours, and nobody runs your business just the way you do.  You can take advantage of that fact, and get links that others cannot, will not, or would not think to get.

(Or you can ape whatever your competitors are doing for links.  If you’re lucky you’ll nip at their heels in the rankings, but you’ll probably never pull ahead.)

Get the creative juices flowing with my link-digging questionnaire.  You can use it in (at least) one of two ways:

  1. To get your creative juices flowing, as the business owner.
  1. To help your local SEO-er / “link person” dig up good opportunities that you can execute on.

You can download my questionnaire on Google Drive.

Or if you prefer, below are the 25 questions I ask my clients when it’s time to earn some links.

(I’ve added some notes below some of the questions – in case you’re wondering where I’m going with some of them.)

1.  What specific causes have you donated time or money to in the last few years?
(I ask this question because if you’ve already contributed to a cause, it’s a little easier to ask for a link.  See this example; notice how all the donors’ names aren’t hyperlinked?  Well, my client used to be one of them.)

2.  What specific causes / places / programs do you really care about?
(If you’re going to donate resources of any kind, might as well be to a cause you might see yourself getting more involved in, or that you might already be involved in.)

3.  Are your children in Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, or 4H, or play sports, or anything like that?
(Possible donation opportunities.)

4.  How might any employees of yours answer questions 1, 2, and 3?
(Maybe your wheels are spinning.  Not a problem.  Ask someone else.)

5.  What specific brands of equipment do you use? Any produced by a small company?
(A small company might want a testimonial.  And because anonymous testimonials like, “B. Smith – Cleveland” suck, you can include a link to your company’s site as part of your “signature.”  Unless the people receiving your testimonial are total clods, they’ll include the link.)

6.  Have you ever written a testimonial for a product, service, or business?
(If you’ve already written a testimonial you’ve probably earned a little good will, and are in a better position to ask for a link as a way of citing you.)

7.  Are there other businesses you sometimes refer customers to, for one reason or another?
(This can be tricky, because you don’t want to do a dumb old link-exchange.  But let’s say you’re a dentist and you often refer patients to a periodontist for deep-scaling treatment.  It’s reasonable to ask him/her for a link.)

8.  Do any of your family members also own a business?

9.  Where did you go to school – and do you consider yourself an “active” alum?
(Some colleges have “where are they now?” -type profiles of alums.)

10.  What are some industry directories or business associations that you are a part of, used to be part of, or have considered joining?
(Some are pretty big and well-known (e.g. NARI.org), whereas others are pretty niche (e.g. Marble Institute of America).  But there’s almost always at least one membership you can have, and the link is usually very good.)

11.  Are you willing to spend a few hundred dollars for a membership or to make a donation?
(See my Meetup.com and BBB suggestions, for starters.  Thanks to Dave O. for helping me improve the wording of this question.)

12.  What is some content that you put a lot of time into writing? Is it published online or published offline (or just collecting dust for now)?
(Maybe all you need to do is promote it.)

13.  Do you have a “little black book” of info that you put together for internal use only? Any checklists, lists of phone numbers, questionnaires, or anything like that?
(You may have the raw materials for a great piece of content that you can pimp out, in the way I mentioned in question #12.)

14.  Have you ever been interviewed? Was it in print or with a microphone?  Tell us where we can find it, if possible.
(For starters, you might be able to get another interview very easily.  Or you could cite it if you’re pitching a story or interview to someone else.)

15.  Is there a specific blog, forum, or other website that pretty much everyone in your industry reads or pays attention to?

16.  Do you offer any discounts (e.g. for seniors or veterans)? If not, would you consider offering one?

17.  Have you ever created a product, tool, or knickknack?

18.  Are you currently hiring? If so, what type of position are you trying to fill?
(There are job boards.  Also, because people are hungry for good jobs, that bit of news might have “legs.”)

19.  What are your certifications? (List everything, no matter how trivial it may seem.)
(For instance, if you’re a home inspector and you’re ASHI-certified you’ll want to make sure you’re on their “find a local inspector” page.)

20.  What awards or accolades have you won?

21.  Would you be willing to donate your products or services to worthy causes in your area? If so, what do you think you could offer?

22.  Are there any specialty schools for your line of work? If so, what are some notable ones?

23.  Would you be willing and able to host events at your business location?
(See Casey Meraz’s great post on hosting local events.)

24.  What are some “complimentary” businesses to your business? For example, a real estate agent might send business to mortgage brokers or moving companies. Do you already work with some other businesses to help each other get more business?

25.  Do you have any arrangements with other businesses where you offer promotions or deals to their customers?

I hope that got the creative juices flowing, at the very least.  Some of the questions / lines of thought will be dead-ends for you, but others will lead somewhere.  My clients usually answer at least 20 of the questions, and that always helps me dig up more and better opportunities.

Here’s the link to the more-compact version of the questionnaire – without my lovely notes: http://bit.ly/1D0LVpR

Are you in the zone now?  Do you need more?

Well, here are some more resources to help you dig up local links:

Questions & Checklist for New SEO Clients: A Collaboration – Jon Cooper

The Importance of Initial Research Prior to Link Development – Julie Joyce

The Best Darn Local SEO Questionnaire – me

Link Building Tactics – The Complete List – Jon Cooper

The Guide to Local Link Building Campaigns – Garrett French

35 Local Link Opportunities You Missed – Adam Melson

The Lazy Man’s Way to Find Meetup.com Local Link Opportunities (in 5 Seconds Or Less) – me

Thanks to Darren for nudging me to turn my questionnaire into a post.

What are some creative “local” links you’ve got?  Any that you want to get, but haven’t yet?

Can you think of any questions to add to the questionnaire?

Leave a comment!

Apple Maps Local Business Category List

Apple has finally given business owners (and SEOs) a self-serve way to add or edit listings on Apple Maps.  You can do it at MapsConnect.Apple.com.

For over two years there have only been workarounds that don’t always work.  So the recent news was good news.

But you’ll still have to make sure your listing has the right categories – whether you’re adding a new listing or claiming and fixing an existing one.  There’s not too much more Apple Maps SEO you can do, so you’d better nail your categories.

There are 671 Apple Maps categories to choose from.

You can pick up to 3.

Have no fear.  I’ve put together a list of all 671 Apple Maps categories.  Here it is, on Google Drive:

http://goo.gl/lsqfEU

As you can see, it’s broken up into 3 columns.  That’s because – as it is when you’re picking out your categories on Yelp and on other sites – you have to pick a category in the left column, then a subcategory in the next column, and then a sub-subcategory if applicable.

Flip through the categories list and see if you can find your perfect 3.

Any gripes about Apple’s category selections?  Do they have a category for you?

What’s been your experience with Apple Maps Connect so far?

Leave a comment!