By: Rand Fishkin
At first glance, local links and local citations might seem unnecessary for non-local websites. On a closer look, however, there are strong underlying benefits to gaining those local votes of confidence that could prove invaluable for everyone. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand explains why all sites should consider chasing local links and citations, suggesting a few different ways to discover opportunities in your areas of focus.
Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to talk about why websites — every website, not just local websites — should be thinking about tactics and a strategy to get local listings and local citations.
Now, this might sound counterintuitive. I’ve actually encountered a lot of folks — especially online-only businesses or even blended online and local businesses — who think, “Are local links really that important to me, or are they off-topic? Could they potentially cause problems and confusion? Should I be trying to get those?” I’m going to try and make the case to you today that you absolutely should.
Recently, I got to visit Scotland to talk to several folks. I visited Skyscanner. I spoke at the Digital Excellence event and spoke, of course, at the Turing Festival, which was a remarkable event in Edinburgh. We actually landed in Glasgow on a Saturday and drove up to a little town called Inveraray. So I’m going to use some examples from Inveraray, Scotland, and I apologize if my accent is miserable.
A few of the businesses we visited there: Loch Fyne Whiskies, they have their own living cask, where they essentially add in whiskies and blends to this cask that keeps evolving; Whisky Shop, which is an online-only shop; and then Inveraray Castle, which is a local business, entirely a local business centered around this lovely castle and estate that I think, if I understood correctly, is run by the Duke of Argyll, Argyll being the region around there. Apparently, Scotland still has dukes in business, which is fantastic.
Local & online business
So for a local and online business, like Lock Fyne Whiskies, they sell whiskies in their specific store. You can go in — and I did — and buy some stuff. They also sell on their website, I believe just in the United Kingdom, unfortunately, for those of you watching around the rest of the world. But there are certainly reasons why they would want to go and get local links from places that link to businesses in Inveraray or in Argyll or in Scotland as a whole. Those include:
- Boosting their Maps visibility, so that when you’re searching in Google Maps for “whisky” or “whisky shops,” potentially, if you’re near Inveraray, Google Maps will make their business show up higher.
- Boosting their local ranking so that if you’re searching for “whisky shop Argyll” or “whisky shop Scotland” or “whisky shop near me” and you happen to be there, Google will show this business higher for that ranking as well.
- Boosting their domain authority, meaning that those local links are contributing to overall ranking ability. That means they can rank for longer-tail terms. That means they can rank more competitively for classic web search terms that are not just in local or Maps.
- Sending valuable traffic. So if you think about a listing site, like thelist.co.uk has them on there, TripAdvisor has them on there, a bunch of local sort of chamber of commerce — it’s not actually the chamber of commerce there — but chamber of commerce-type sites list them on there, that sends valuable direct traffic to their business. That could be through foot traffic. It could be through referrals. It could be through people who are buying whisky online from them. So a bunch of real good reasons why a local and online business should do this.
But if you’re an online-only business, I think a lot of folks make the case of, “Wait a minute, Rand, isn’t it true that if I am getting local links and local citations, those may not be boosting my relevance, my ranking ability as much as they are boosting my local ranking ability, which I don’t actually care about because I’m not focused on that?”
So, for example, whiskyshop.com, I think they are also based in Scotland, but they don’t have physical locations. It’s an online-only shop. So getting a local link for them in whatever part of the region of Scotland they are actually in would…
- Boost their domain authority, giving them more ranking ability for long-tail terms.
- Make it harder for their competitors to compete for those links. This makes link acquisition for an online-only business, even from local sources, a beautiful thing because your competitors are not in that region and, therefore, they can’t go get those same links that you can get simply by virtue of being where you are as a business physically located. Even if you’re just in an office space or working from home, wherever your domain is registered you can potentially get those.
- Yield solid anchor text. There are a bunch of local sources that will not just point out who you are, but also what you do. When they point out what you do, they can link to your product pages or your different site sections, individual URLs on your site, and provide anchor text that can be powerful. Depending on how those submissions are accepted and how they’re processed, some local listings, obviously, you’re not going to get them, others you are.
There’s one more that I should include here too, which is that…
- Local information, even citations by themselves, can be a trust signal for Google, where they essentially say, “Hey, you know what, we trust that this is a real business that is really in this place. We see citations for it. That tells us we can trust this site. It’s not spammy. It doesn’t have these spam signals around it.” That’s a really big positive as well. So I’d add that — spam trust issues.
Lastly, a local-only business — I think this is the most obvious one — we know that it…
- Boosts Maps visibility
- Boosts local rankings
- Boosts your long-tail ranking ability
- Sends valuable direct traffic, just like they do to a local and online business.
Easy ways to find citation/link sources in your locale:
If you’re going to go out and look for some local links, a few quick recommendations that are real easy to do.
- Do a search for a business name, not necessarily your business name — in fact, not your business name – anybody, any of your competitors or anyone in the region. It doesn’t have to necessarily beyour business. It could be someone in the county or the territory, the state, the city, the town, minus their site, because you don’t want results from their site. You’re actually looking for: What are all the places where their business is talked about? You can add in, if you’d like, the region or city name.
- Search for one local business and another one. So, for example, if I was Whisky Shop and I were in Inveraray or I were in Argyll, I could search for “Loch Fyne Whiskies” and “Inveraray Castle,” and I would come back with a list of places that have both of those on their website. That often turns out to be a great source of a bunch of listings, listing opportunities and link opportunities.
- Google just by itself the city plus the state, or region or country, and get lots and lots of places, first off that describe that place, but then also that note notable businesses or that have business listings. You can add the word “listings” to this query and get some more great results too.
- Try out some tools here — Link Intersect in Moz, or Majestic, or Ahrefs — and get lots of results by plugging in two of these and excluding the third one and seeing who links to these that doesn’t link to this third one.
- Use business names in the same fashion that you do in Google in tools like a Mention, aTalkwalker, Google Alerts, or Moz’s Fresh Web Explorer and see who is talking about these local businesses or regions from a news or blog or forum or recent perspective.
So with that, I hope you’ll do me a favor and go out, try and get some of those local links. I look forward to your comments, and we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.