Local SEO: Going Beyond the Directories with Link Building


Local SEO
Ever since Google rolled out the local results in their search engine result pages (SERPs) everyone has been trying to find out ways to get their businesses site to show up in the local listings since it appears above the natural rankings. Most of this was done by focusing onsite SEO for local keywords and claiming the business on directories like Yelp or Yellow Pages, and this worked great… that is, until Google rolled out ‘Local’ within Google+.

Now ratings and reviews on Google+ get precedent over third party directories. Being featured in directories and making sure those local keywords are featured on your site are great starts, but you can still actively perform off-page SEO in the form of link building with a local focus, and here is how.

Your Niche is Now ANYTHING Local

If you’ve been link building then hopefully you’ve been focusing on quality link building strategies rather than trying to do anything remotely black hat. If not, stop living under a rock and realize that relevancy to your industry is key to building an effective links list. However, this changes when you start using local link building strategies.

Rather than being limited to your industry niche, you can target any local site as long as they have the local name as a prominent keyword, or even have their physical address listed somewhere on the site. Once again, ANY LOCAL SITE. This is a hard pill to swallow for white hat link builders who regard relevancy as the holy grail of link building, but the fact of the matter is targeting local means the relevancy shifts to local and ultimately trumps industry niche.

Finding Local Sites

Local SEO

Image by ‘Mr. T in DC’

This sounds easy, but it’s harder than it sounds. To look for guest posting opportunities, try the classic search queries like “guest post” OR “write for us” KEYWORD. However, this will tap the most basic sources quickly and you’ll be scrambling to find more websites.

You need to get creative in your search queries so try searching for sites with ‘inurl:KEYWORD‘ in front of the previously mentioned search query (for example inurl:LONDON). ‘Inurl:‘ will show any site with the keyword in the websites domain name, but this has limitations as well since the keyword has to be separated. Use inurl:*KEYWORD*.

* in your queries to find sites with the keyword in the domain name that mashed together with other words. For example, inurl:KEYWORD would find examplesite.com/KEYWORD but it would not find exampleKEYWORDsite.com while the wildcard (*) search query would. Once those start drying up try using ‘intitle:‘ but be careful of non-local sites that are just featuring content about your locality.

Some other search queries to try might be “here in KEYWORD” or “its great to be back in KEYWORD”. Get creative and don’t forget about natural sounding language. Also try searching for specific neighbourhoods or parts of town within the area you’re trying to rank for, especially if it’s a larger city.

Other Local Tidbits

I consider “local” as anywhere that the site covers or the business serves. If a business serves multiple cities in an area, Manchester for example, then links coming from any sites based in any of those cities would be relevant as long as the keywords are reflected on both sites.

The best local sites will have their physical address complete with zip code and phone number (with area code) in a footer at the bottom of every page of their site, or at least listed on their contact page or about page. Web crawlers see this and it’s a giant green flag that this site is local, and links coming from these kinds of sites. I think it can be much easier to get successful link bait in a local setting. Things like sponsoring a scholarship for a local high school or university, offering discounts, outrageous changes to the store front or marketing campaigns, anything that the local community would find interesting can help build links for you.

If you’ve attempted local link building, how did you go about it and what did/didn’t work for you? Please let us know by leaving a comment below!

About Thomas McMahon

Thomas is a link builder by day, black hat SEO fighter by night. When Thomas isn't making lame catchphrases you can find him writing for Page One Power, a relevancy first link building company. You can learn more by following him on Twitter or Google+.

  • Andi Leeman

    I am going to have to be honest here, I have never done any local SEO apart from a test website I built for a small town and unused keyword which I managed to get on the first page of Google for that search, not really surprising when you consider that no one was searching for it or competing 🙂

    Great post with some useful tips I have never used before so thanks for that Thomas, ideal for people wanting to offer services to build websites for small local businesses.

    • Thomas McMahon

      It’s great how well you can rank for extremely long tail keywords or noncompetitive ones – unfortunately they don’t drive a whole lot of traffic 🙂

      Thanks for reading and for the comment Andi, hope the article helps you out.

      • A lot depends on the keyword I suppose. Some posts can become quite popular if optimized correctly with the right keyword/keyphrase.

        Even if posts don’t rank too well for certain phrases, as you add more content, it all starts to add up.

    • I suppose Local SEO is (surprisingly) better suited to local businesses. It makes sense to have sites optimized locally for customers to find you.

      Blog’s like ours that get world wide traffic aren’t really affected, though let’s say that I wanted to start a local web design business off the back of this site, local SEO would come into play.

  • Clair Trebes

    Oh Matt what another great post from your site …. this is something I am 100% going to be doing for my family business, to help with the SEO – I’m really enjoying learning more about SEO now, again thanks to your help and support, and looks like I’ll be spending my time in G+ tomorrow morning working on this!


    • Cheers Clair! (Though it’s Thomas you should be thanking) 🙂

      Your family business is a great example of one that would benefit from local SEO. Though customers can find you naturally by searching Google, they will find you much more easily with local optimization.

  • Lee

    I am just starting a new business. What is the difference between
    Google+, Google+ Local, Google maps and Google Places?

    How do I get a Google + local account for my business? Do I
    still have to get a Google Places Page?

    I’m confused, please help!

    • Hi Lee,

      Whilst all these things have different purposes, they all can work in conjunction with one another. That’s one of the reasons I love Google!

      ‘Google+’ is a social media site. It’s a little bit like Facebook where you have your own profile and can share content, pictures, videos, etc. with your friends.

      ‘Google+ Local’ is aimed at local businesses that have a physical address, such as a cafe or hair salon. People can search for these local businesses on ‘Google+’ in an area and make recommendations, rate them and share it with their friends.

      ‘Google Maps’ allows you find out where you are and what is around you. By verifying your business with a proper address, you can get your business to appear on the actual Google Maps when people are looking at a local area.

      ‘Google Places’ is now no longer available, as it has been merged with Google + Local to serve the same purpose.

      To learn how to create a Google+ local page for your business, go here: http://support.google.com/plus/answer/1713911?hl=en&ref_topic=2489960

      • Lee

        Thank youso much for clearing that up for me.
        I am a Music Ed major and teach private voice and piano at the student’s home to help pay for my college.

        So according to what you said, I can’t have a Google+ Local Page
        for the business unless I open up a studio. Is there any way around that?


        • Honestly, I’m not sure. You have to verify your address to qualify, but I suppose you could use your home address or register at a local community/business centre.

          There is nothing stopping you from creating a Google+ Page (not local) though. I do the same for my website, I don’t have a physical premises for my business as I work from home.

          Try looking to find out what other music teachers do online with their own G+ page

          • alex business directory

            hello,good posts,i learn a lot from reading good updated posts please keep them comming

  • Finding local sites is very hard step. You must pay a lot of times in this step but after completing it we can have a big promotion

    • have a big promotion???

      • I was confused after reading that comment too 🙂

  • I am looking for position! and I will travel in colombia nearest

  • I was confused after reading that comment too 🙂