It’s No Secret… Link Building In Local Search Is Different

LinksHaving spent so much time over the past year reading about SEO, in an effort to figure out the best-practices of great SEOs; I have found one principle that comes up time and again: Symmetry. I think great SEOs look for single tactics that provide a turn-on for the site’s visitors and the search engines.

The simplest example of this would be… to state what the site is about in clear writing and then highlight it in some fashion, the h tags are mentioned quite a bit. This will help search engines to know what the site is about, while preventing folks from hitting the back button because they weren’t sure they were in the right place. However simple that is… I think that is an SEO best-practice.

But what about link building…? Can I find symmetry for a local service business?

In an article, co-authored by Eric Ward, Robin Nobles and John Alexander titled Over 125 (Legitimate) Link Building Strategies, written over 5 years ago (I think), it states:

“Our position is pretty straight forward…it’s not the technique that we are concerned about, it’s the intention.”

What this quote means to me is that I should not try to get links to the site with the sole “intention” of ranking the site. That, I should instead, find some legitimate business reason for that site to link to mine and then my site will naturally move up in the serps. In other words: find symmetry.

The symmetry that I find most referred to in link-building is to find links from topically related authority domains that will provide high quality traffic. It is difficult to argue with this tried and true method from the traditional-link-building-vault: except that it really won’t work for a local service business.

Why? Because the best traffic producing links for a local service business are from Internet Yellow Pages, but they won’t help a website to move up naturally in the serps. (I recently made the mistake of trying to explain to someone that links are an important part of ranking on Google, but IYP links don’t count; I thought their head was going to explode).

Of course, the local service business should still get links from IYPs, paid or otherwise, depending on ROI, traffic needs etc., but where does that leave us with respect to the symmetry we seek.

Are there other sites in such a geographically narrow space that I could rely on for quality traffic? I’m sure there are, but I might need to begin measuring conversion rates in years and decades instead of weeks and months.

What is the very best link building strategy for a local service business?

Here is what I believe to be the answer to that question:

In the same way that the best links for traditional websites are those that help with traffic, the best links for a local service business are those that provide help with conversions.

I have seen empirical evidence that the mention of associations to which the business belongs in print ads can lead to more phone calls from that ad. The Better Business Bureau is the most obvious example of this type of association, others are chambers of commerce etc.. But I think there are even better ones. Most preferably, they would come from organizations that have huge barriers to entry and are topically related to the service provided by the business.

They are the ultimate spamguard for search engines because no spammer is going to study Landscape Architecture for 4 years just so that they could get a link from the American Society of Landscape Architects. So, they should provide an advantage over other types of links in ranking, while at the same time make a visitor more likely to hire such a business when that membership is displayed prominently on the website.

That feels like the link building symmetry for a local service business that I’ve been seeking.

Any membership or association that would help a visitor decide to do business with that business qualifies.

Multiple associations and memberships displayed prominently on the site raises the credibility of the business owner. And this could create a predisposition to hiring the business with less sensitivity to price. Which is the basic symmetry of all advertising.

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17 Responses to It’s No Secret… Link Building In Local Search Is Different

  1. MiriamEllis says:

    A very good piece, Tim. I agree about the BBB links, and most small business owners we’ve worked with are very proud of the little badges they get to show they are members in good standing. Smart.

    Your image of the client whose head was about to explode made me laugh. Well, though IYPs might not provide juice, I’m sure they absolutely do provide citation value of the kind Bill Slawski has spoken about.

    Out of curiosity, Tim, which IYPs do you favor at this point?

  2. I would agree with that citation statement and also they can help a business can indexed.

    I think with IYPs though, you pick ‘em for traffic, but that’s kind of a cop out so here goes, rememmber not a ton of testing behind this.

    Allpages – Only those with a business line can get in… typically with a link (mention) the harder it is to get the better it is. I have also recently found some links here that may count, wow… now I want to figure out how to get ‘em. Could be a future post. – The link on the Business Profile. Google only spiders the profiles not the site. This appears to be a redirect, not a no-follow. Which could mean something or nothing as far as a citation… hard to know. – flat out no-follow. At least the free one is… might help get indexed but I would be dubious of a citation. I would be very interested to read what Bill Slawski has written on this.

    Glad you stopped by Miriam…

  3. earlpearl says:

    Tim: My experience is that it is tough to get local links….and requires lots of consistent effort. A link from an association, such as your landscape architect example is a nice idea.

    Suppose you want links from businesses that are complementary or somewhat associated.

    Its a job. The biggest problem is that most small to medium businesses with websites aren’t really websmart.

    The best way to get links in this capacity is to set up a fairly large list; contact all of them, be persistant, have something of value to give to them….and keep working at it.

    If you are persistant over a couple of months you’ll pick up some percentage of links from your targeted hit list. While the links may not be as strong as others they could be advantageous for rankings in G maps. They also result in spreading your visability within a targeted region.

    A second clever way is to set up a resource page for products/services in your region.

    Link to complementary businesses. Let them know what you are doing.

    Two things can happen. The business site in question gets wider exposure for local searches for complementary products/services for which you are marketing. Secondly, the business that initiates the resource page could pick up reciprocal links, links that describe the resource page….and possible business from the complementary businesses that are referenced.

    Either method is a bit of a job…but they both spread awareness of a business and its site.


  4. Dave, that is great information. I love you when you drop by… the information you provide really adds to the topic!!!

    I think link-building is the toughest job for local sites, white hat, hard hat or otherwise.

    Any luck asking busy business owners to start a blog?

  5. SPK says:

    Having built 4 websites for start-ups and having an affiliate business, building organic/SEO type traffic was going to take too long and was too complex to really dive into.

    When I read your comment on redirect, no follow and look there’s a bird (ok you didn’t say that) you know now why all my google ads were offline in 2 weeks.

    You really seem to have something here. Target businesses who need to advertise locally, get them found organically and through optz, get some sales made. When can I refer my clients to you to start making them some money?

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  7. earlpearl says:

    that “love” part is a little wierd…;).

    Its so hard to get any business owner to do anything…geez…never asked that of one. I know one guy that rebuilt his marketing from old school print ads to pure email ….and email list building.

    Most owners don’t think about this stuff too much. Or have someone else do everything for them. Have you tried that or gotten someone to do that for them?

  8. I’m going to try with someone I’ve been working with… I’m going to ask because it matches his personality and I want to experiment with it. He is such a social person, that I think he will genuinely enjoy getting social on-line. I’ll let you know.

  9. earlpearl says:

    Tim: Let me take that back. I’m focusing now on sites that represent businesses we own and operate. I’ve got a new business and site. We are blogging on it.

    Couple of issues.

    The blog is picking up traffic. Its tricky, though. I’ve got to focus the blog/service/product topics on the region to get relevant traffic.

    I submitted some stuff to stumble that I knew might attract traffic and it did; about 3500 visits over a couple of days–but I doubt that few of the visits were for my region…and it didn’t do any good. It was general stuff that was funny.

    Now I’m trying to build the sites strength for competitive phrases in the region and generate local blog posts that will resonate within the region…and getting them to stick.

    frankly I’m working my way through potential web interest groups in the region to possibly attract attention. It will take some time.

    Over the past few weeks though the blog is attracting traffic. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look to me like a single visitor who converted with a contact did so, during a visit where they started on the site via a blog post.

    Many of the conversions occur during 2nd and 3 visits…but to date I haven’t tried to account for that to see if the blog visitors turn into conversions.

    To date the conversions are coming primarily from targeted keyword searches that are on target. That is no surprise

    It does attract traffic, though, and expands keywords, so we’ll keep doing this.


  10. earlpearl says:


    A little update. So far no conversions have come from the blog. They are all coming from search, or close alternatives to search.

    Its sort of the YP mentality. Searchers who key in on the most commercial phrases have a potential sale in mind already.

    The blog posts are more informational.

    May need to change the character of blog posts to reflect that.

  11. Dave, that’s cool. I’m very interested in this… how about links? Has the blog helped with visibility for the overall site?

  12. earlpearl says:

    Tim: Its new and experimental for me so far. The links have been almost nonexistant except for a couple of stumble and digg links per Yahoo.

    I’ll have to focus on real link bait for that and come up with something catchy and clever.

    For me at least it’ll be a work in progress. I’m in the process of reading everything I can on link bait, social media, yadda, yadda, yadda.

    I may have to put lots more thought into each blog entry to move them into a more commercial capacity and/or get link bait.


  13. Ya, I’ve been thinking more and more about blogs being part of the future of link building for local sites.

    For the right type of business owner it should work. They should be able to find communities on owning a small business, their niche, whatever and build links naturally; And at the same get better at what they do through the learning. That’s essentially what you and I’ve done, right?

    I’ve also considered doing the writing on the blog. That I’m a little weary of.

    Me writing a blog on home improvement is laughable… I’ve almost taken down a wall hanging a clock. The lesson?: you don’t need a molly bolt to hang a clock; and you definitely don’t pull the molly out of the wall with sheer force.

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  17. TOEFL iBT says:

    What about link building from local languages sites? I mean my site is in English but I want to obtain some links from local language sites different than English.