:: By Travis Bliffen, Stellar SEO ::
Last week we covered some of the most important elements of local SEO, one of which was link building.
Local SEO link building has changed quite a bit over the past few years, shifting focus from creating citations in high volumes to building a combination of high-quality citation and links. Here is what you need to know to effectively build links and citations in 2016.
1. Local Citation Audit
Before you build any citations you need to know what is already out there for your business and ensure that each existing citation has the correct name, address, and phone number list. If you do not have a citation finder tool like Whitespark, you can search Google using allintext:”your address” to find a list of your existing citations. You should also check every site for an existing listing before creating a new one.
2. Surveying Your Local SERPs
Local search results are dynamic and can vary greatly based on the search terms and location. Search for auto insurance 90210 and you will see something like this:
Is Google in the lead generation game now? Above you can see the option to get quotes through Google. That being said, you should always start by looking at the SERPs for your keywords so that you can have an accurate expectation of the value of ranking for various terms based on expected CTRs.
3. Setting up Google My Business Listing
The first citation you should create is a Google my Business listing. Simply follow the steps and you can have your profile setup within a few minutes. Once you set it up, you will need to wait for a postcard to verify your listing and then it will be live. At this point be sure to record your name, address and phone number so that you can list it the exact same way across all of the future citations you will create.
4. Identifying Top Ranking Citations Sites
If you are just getting started and are not sure where to list your business simply start by searching for your keyword + location and make note of the directories that show up on the first and second page.
Refer back to how you listed your name, address and phone number on your Google My Business listing and be sure to list it exactly the same way on the new citations. As I mentioned earlier, you can use tools like Whitespark.ca to find additional citations sources based on what your competitors have. Another great resource is the BrightLocal citation list of 1,000 citation sources sorted by niche.
5. Building Unstructured Citations
Most citation guides discuss directories where you can list your site but unstructured citations are also beneficial to local rankings. One easy way to build several of these citations is through the use of a press release. In the past press releases where useful for organic SEO and were used to pass link juice to money sites. While Google has stated that press releases for this purpose are no longer helpful, they are still great for local rankings. Web 2.0 sites setup to be niche relevant are also a good source of unstructured citations and built correctly, can pass link juice to your website safely.
6. Boosting Citation Strength
One common practice is local SEO is citation boosting. Many people do this using automated programs, Sape or private blog network links. If you are going to use automated link building to boost citations, you should check to see if the link on the citation source is do follow. If so, you should not build spam links directly to the citation as it may pass negative signals to your website. A better way to boost citations is by linking to them from guest posts, Web 2.0 sites and other better quality links. Increasing the distance between your site and any spam is more important in 2016 than in the past when spamming Web 2.0s and directories was commonly done.
7. Increasing Website Trust
Google looks to promote sites that are actual brands over sites that are not authentic. One way to generate brand signals is to set up profiles on the top social sites and link them back to your business website. You can do this manually or you can use a service like KnowEm to have these profiles setup quickly. Remember to list your name, address and phone number on these sites to gain additional citations.
8. Link Building
At first citations was all it took to rank locally but now Google also looks at inbound link signals. Unlike a traditional link building campaign, you can actually lower your standards for local SEO. I am not telling you to build spam links but I am telling you not to overlook great local sites because of low metrics. Look for local bloggers, small local papers and for business associates that have websites. If a site is relevant to your niche or location, think carefully before you pass up on a link from them. As with citations, you should also look at your competitors to find link opportunities. Guest post links are also great to add to your link building campaign.
For these, niche relevant links are great and they do not need to be location specific.
There you have it, a fluff free plan that will help you boost your local rankings in 2016.
Over to You…
What is your favorite trick for finding a great local link or citation opportunity?