Local Link Development: Building Quality Links in Local Search
Sometimes, I find it is easier to think of ecommerce as an extension of traditional, brick and mortar stores. Each business has its own piece of digital or physical real estate used to draw in customers and convert sales. Brick and mortar stores (both local/regional businesses and mass market chains) tailored everything from products to marketing materials to the local market.
With the development of gps and internet enabled devices like cell phones and tablets, this local search marketing has become increasingly important for e-commerce stores. Small, local business are able to create a website with little cost, and larger chains can create content targeted to specific customer groups. With all these sites competing in small regional/local markets, link building locally can be a competitive advantage for any business.
For example, let’s take a quick look at the screenshot below (click on it to enlarge it). It’s gardening season, and if you haven’t tilled your bed yet, then you are behind the game. To get some quick tips, I decided to enter the query “gardening.” Google has read my location as Cleveland, OH, so many of the local results below yield different small and large businesses that specialize in gardening supplies. However, notice the organic results shown in the screen shot below. A few of the results on the first page hit two key variables: the search query (gardening) and the location (Cleveland, OH).
These two pages in the results seem to derive their authority from similar sources. Both are sites about Cleveland that frequently mention phrases like garden and gardening along with related terms, but that is where the similarities end. The Cleveland.com forum can derive significant authority from its root domain, Cleveland.com, which is a one stop shop for Cleveland traffic with information on local sports, weather, and news with a variety of content from forums, blogs and articles on a variety of topics generated by staff and users alike.
However, the second page has just a few quality links. A quick examination of the various linking root domains finds multiple links from from a local blog and two different local universities, which partner with the Cleveland Botanical Gardens on various programs. There are also more links from sites with authority that do not have a local or regional tie like the Earth Day Coalition.
The success of Cleveland.com is the sheer mass of relevant content on a variety of topics. The success of the Cleveland Botanical Gardens is their importance and involvement in the local community and that translates to online success. In this case, the success is quality backlinks.
Now if you are a mass market home supply store, and you want to open a new store, you have to do your research to find the best location to effectively compete for customers. Similar detail and attention should be paid to finding the digital real estate to place a link to your business. Different pieces of digital property are going to provide varying levels of value. For instance, the Cleveland Botanical Gardens received a link on that local blog’s link list because they are both local organizations who care about similar things. In this case, both are committed to local farms, sustainability, and education. At their core, they both care about the well being of the community.
So to build some local link juice, you need to offer something in return. For instance, the Home Depot has a web app called The Home Depot Garden Club, which is a membership service that offers tips, advice, and deals to those that sign up. For local gardeners who frequently visit the local gardening sites, any bit of advice can warrant their attention, especially if it is from a trusted source. A link from a trusted local blog can transfer a certain level of credibility leading to traffic, link juice, and potential conversions.
Now, smaller businesses that don’t have the time and resources to start and maintain something like a National Gardening Club can still capitalize on their relationship in the local business community. As local businesses (both small stores and chains) cooperate with one another to increase the share of the local and regional market or work with local charities, those interactions can garner digital value by getting some online real estate whether it is through a news story, blog post, or a sponsored link from a local charity.
They primary takeaway here is that effective link building does not have to be a mysterious process. The recent updates to Google’s algorithm have sent many into a panic over suspect linking practices. Getting links is key, but the quality of those links matter now more than ever. With the rise in mobile and local search, an untapped market of small, regional sites present a vast opportunity for relevant, local links.
So do your research to understand digital real estate in local markets; change the search location on Google to find local sites for linking opportunities; and give something back to the digital community that has given you some prime real estate.
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