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:
- To get your creative juices flowing, as the business owner.
- 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: https://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!
Jamie Diamond says
Phil – great post as usual. Questions:
1 – Do these links need to be from places/organizations that are also local to your business or totally doesn’t matter – a link is a link?
2 – What do we do with these links – add them to a particular page on your .com site?
1. Ideally you get a mixture of links that are “local” and some that aren’t. But either type can help.
2. Most of the time when you get a link, the webmaster of the other site will just link to your homepage. If it’s a good link it’s not one that you can “place” or “add” yourself; someone else does that.
Jamie Diamond says
OH, “linkbacks” right, like when my clients get interviewed and the reporter is kind enough to hyper link their site?
That’s not the kind of thing you can count on, of course. But it can happen (as a couple of my clients can attest).
Great list of resources Phil – Garrett’s post has been very helpful brainstorming ideas. I especially like his list of ‘Here’s our working list of local websites that often exist at scale”.
Thanks, Matt. Yeah, Garrett puts out some great stuff.
Dino Basaldella says
Solid list of questions Phil.
The “Are you willing to pay…” conjures-up penalty concerns for me. What do consider to be a “safe” placement?
Thanks again for another great resource!
Joining local Chambers of Commerce, industry associations, BBB, or just donating a little money to a cause.
Dino Basaldella says
Yep. That makes sense 🙂
Gyi Tsakalakis says
You have outdone yourself shidoshi.
Robin Moody says
I love this. I have a lot of these on our intake questionnaire, but there are a few I didn’t have, like the “have you ever been interviewed?”, “what causes would you donate to and what would you donate?”. Great great article Phil!
Hey, thanks, Robin. I’m sure I’m missing some good questions, so I’d be curious to know if you see any gaps.
Awesome stuff, Phil. Thanks for sharing. The links at the end are full of win as well.
Thomas Rogers says
I currently use a version of this list with what our company calls the client information sheet. Yours however includes a few more items such as the scouts and the 4h which I think I will add to mine. The problem that I am facing is clients taking the time to be detailed about the information. Right now we hand them the client information sheet after contracts are signed, I communicate with them the importance of the sheet three times. However 1 in 5 take the time to complete it thoroughly. I am not sure if there is a better way to do this. If I walk through it with them I am worried they wont have time to think about it their answer. Do you have a comparison between sending them these questions in a written document or verbal interviewing the client. Kind regards and as usual you rock Phil.
I hear you, Thomas. Most of my clients complete it thoroughly. Not sure why. Maybe I’m just really good at nagging and being a pain in the neck. But I also tell them that the more effort they put into filling it out, the better able I’ll be to dig up good link opportunities.
But yeah, if they’ll give you the intel you need over the phone, definitely do the phone. Just depends on the client.
Terrence Forbes-Taylor says
Great post Phil. Link building is always a weak spot for me unfortunately. This list of questions will help me out alot with new clients. Thanks again for the quality info!
Thanks for saying so, Terence.
What a fantastic post, Phil! I’m totally bookmarking this … you’ve surfaced opportunities almost any local business can act on. What a great piece!
Thanks a lot, Miriam!
Andy Kuiper says
This is good basic SEO link building work Phil… and you make it all so easy 🙂 Thanks for sharing this.
Hey Andy, thanks.