11 No-Outreach, No-Content Ways Local SEOs Can Help Businesses Rustle up Good Links

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Too many local SEOs and their clients take an all-or-nothing approach to link-earning, and that’s a shame.

Most SEOs casually take the “nothing” approach and don’t help their clients with links at all, and wonder why their clients’ visibility doesn’t improve.

Most of the others – the SEOs who know how much good and relevant links matter – assume the only way they can help is with a swashbuckling approach that involves hundreds of outreach emails and thousands of dollars spent on “content” that people may or may not even glance at.

Business owners often fall into those traps, too.  Even if they know they need to rustle up links, they assume a third party can or should handle all of it.  It usually takes at least a little teamwork to earn the kinds of links that can help your local rankings and overall visibility.

If you do local SEO for a living, you need to be able to help your clients in ways other than “Pay us to handle everything” or “We’ll skip links and just focus on crappy citations and spammy city pages.”

If you’ve hired a local SEO person or company to help, it’s reasonable to expect help on links other than on an all-or-nothing basis.

To that end, here are 11 ways a local SEO-er can and should help a business scare up some good links – without necessarily pouring infinite time and resources into “content” or outreach:

1. Research specific link opportunities. (As opposed to “just write great content.” Not real helpful.)  This questionnaire can help you determine what’s practical.  Beyond that, where you do look?  Some practical ideas here, here, and here.  Work together on as many of the link opps as you can.  Once you’ve exhausted those, research more.  Repeat every few months for as long as you work together.  Even if you do nothing else, at least dig for doable link opps for your client.  Whether all your other local SEO work actually pays off may depend on it.

2. Keep an eye out continually for PR opportunities, and pass them along. If you’re not sure how, start by monitoring the Google News feed and HARO. In general, keep your ear to the ground, pass along anything you see, and do what you can to help your client chase down any opportunities.

3. Look at the business’s current publicity efforts/stunts and offer suggestions on how you might get links out of the deal. Most businesses don’t do much to get publicity, but the ones who do are already doing the hard part. If you simply know what’s going on, you’ll probably see a way to finagle a relevant link or two.

4. Create a Google Drive or similar collaborative spreadsheet to keep track of the link opps you’ve dug up and might be working on. Each tab can be just a big ugly list of URLs, maybe with a column for “next step” and another column for “who’s working on it?”  Then you might categorize the link opps by creating a few tabs, like “ideas to discuss,” “working on,” “dead ends/not interested,” and “got.”  That’s just an example.  You should use whatever works for you.  Even if you don’t use it much personally, it may help your client (if your client is the hands-on type).

5. Look for unlinked profiles, lapsed memberships, and broken inbound links. Does the Chamber of Commerce “member” page not include a link to the site? Did your client forget to re-up this year?  Did you find a great link with a typo in the URL?  A link saved is a link earned.

6. Offer feedback on your client’s link ideas, and always be available to kick around ideas. There’s a chance your client is the type to keep an eye out or birddog for link opps, and maybe to ask you what you think. That’s a great situation, and it’s something you should encourage.  Always offer your professional opinion on whether it’s relevant and worth pursuing, and on what might be involved in doing so.  (Also, check to see whether it’s a nofollow.)

7. Pull Ahrefs or Majestic reports on the business’s link profile and on competitors’ link profiles. Probably a no-brainer if you help people with SEO for a living. What may be less obvious is that you should not go after any and all of the crappy links your competitors have.  Just because they have a certain link doesn’t mean it’s helping them, or won’t hurt you.  Anyway, pass along to your client whatever you find, if your client is interested in that sort of thing.

8. Track the business’s and competitors’ links in Ahrefs or Majestic. Just to keep tabs on new links and lost links. It’s a good way not to forget about links, and to keep your antennae out.

9. Consolidate sites and pages that don’t do well, but that may have a few decent links. If you conclude you’re spreading your content and efforts thin, you might want to claw back those links by pointing them to whichever site or page you want to keep and focus on.  301-redirects may come in handy here.

10. Help the client to stop wasting time on dead-end or dumb link strategies. Citation-building will not get you any or many good links. Nor will squirting out 16 blog posts (that nobody reads) every month.  Nor will “To hell with it – I’m buying some Fiverr gigs.”

11. Twist your client’s arm to get him or her motivated and maybe more involved. Much easier said than done, of course. How you should go about it depends on whom you’re working with, and I don’t know that person.  All I can say is you should try to impart that without good links good rankings tend to be one Google update, Google test, or one tough competitor away from disappearing.  Easy come, easy go.  Also, try to set the bar low at first, so that initially the goal is just to get a few links that are relevant to your client’s industry or area (or both).  More likely than not, those’ll help the rankings/visibility just enough that your client gets motivated and starts gunning down link opps right next to you.

What are some other ways a local SEO can/should help with links?

Any success (or failure) stories you’d like to describe?

Leave a comment!

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:

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!

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!