The majority of companies operate locally or regionally. They are hairdressers, tax consultants, burger stalls, physiotherapists, bakers, lawyers, pharmacies, ice cream parlors or fitness studios.
In order to win new customers, the Internet is just as important for these local businesses as it is for large national players such as Payback or internationally known brands such as Zalando.
In order to achieve the necessary visibility, especially in search engines , every company needs its own website. This website should be fundamentally optimized for search engines. An important factor for this search engine optimization (SEO) are backlinks.
With this blog post we provide a comprehensive insight into everything that is necessary for the local SEO of websites. We show what is generally part of local search engine optimization and specifically look at building backlinks for locally and regionally oriented websites.
We have written extensive guides about the topic of link building. Check them out.
Local SEO for small and medium-sized businesses – what are the options? What is part of it?
With a website, every (also) locally or regionally operating company is basically well positioned to be found on the Internet with its products and services. However, since the competition can be quite tough – just think of hairdressers, bakeries or law firms, when creating the website you have to pay attention to search engine compatibility.
Note: If a search engine that is more simply oriented towards text understands a company’s website, then a multidimensional person will definitely understand the website!
And indeed, a smart entrepreneur does not optimize the company website for a search engine, but of course for its users.
And these internet users are not only on search engines like Google , Ecosia , DuckDuckGo or Bing. Many apps are used to find stores – Yelp , Booking.com , Tripadvisor , Google Maps or Jameda . And in cars, it is navigation systems that guide people into shops. Therefore, in addition to SEO, local online marketing also includes this portal and marketplace management.
Local omnipresence is the goal. Search engine optimization is an important contribution to achieving this omnipresence. Links from local internet offers to the store’s website are, in turn, an important part of search engine optimization. And many of these locally focused links come from city websites, apps, and industry portals.
It can be seen from this that all of the measures recommended within the framework of “Local SEO” interlock – enrich one another – and often one does not have a sufficient effect without the other.
For which companies is local SEO important?
It is obvious that purely local or regional providers of products and services benefit greatly from local SEO: the café around the corner, the laundromat, the psychotherapist, the copy shop or the wedding planner.
But chain stores must also have local search engine optimization on their radar. The challenge here: the profiles of the individual branches have to have their content recorded with a local reference, which from a head office – without local knowledge, for example – is not that easy … especially when there are several hundred branches.
Online shops and supraregional, national or even international players can secure an extra bonus in their region with local SEO – the “Local Hero” status. Consumers prefer to give their money to a local, someone from the same city or region. With local search engine optimization, a large company can particularly serve this small group and generate above-average sales in this special customer segment.
Local Search Engine Optimization: How Does SEO Work For Local Businesses?
Local SEO for a company consists of three building blocks:
- there is the optimization of the company website on the combination of trade and location,
- the optimization of the “Google My Business” profile as well as all other company directory entries – which is already part of the local link building,
- and optimizing the handling of ratings on the Internet.
Optimization of the company website
The website needs a clear structure, every product and service needs its own subpage on the website. The metadata (page title & meta description) and the main headings on all pages of the website must contain the location – combined with the respective product or service. A combination of trade (e.g. tax advisor) and location applies to the homepage. In the case of small towns this means the place plus the surrounding area, in the countryside the district, in cities the city name and in large cities also the district.
Link building for this company website
The most important company directories, in addition to Google My Business, also yellow pages and industry portals, must have a company entry for the business. The company entry must be completely filled and the content must be up to date. If possible, it contains specifically named products and services as well as all the advantages for customers.
Collect online reviews for the company
Wherever reviews can be collected for the business, this should be done. A reaction should always be given to new evaluations if this is in all probability expected by the evaluator. This always applies when a complaint is linked to the assessment. It should also be answered if questions can be asked or ambiguities can be resolved by an answer. This shows the reviewer but also all readers of the reviews that the business cares about its customers!
Why is mobile optimization particularly important for local SEO?
For some time now there have been hardly any classic computers in our households. Smartphones and tablets are more than enough these days to do everything online that a family and household can do online.
And we can do all of this anytime, anywhere – our devices are always online thanks to LTE and 5G. People have got used to this always-and-everywhere. Many people no longer see anything on the Internet on a “normal” screen outside of their workplace – for them the mobile view of the web has become the “normal”, a desktop view is the exception.
For classic consumer shops, the baker, the physiotherapist or the piano teacher, this means one thing above all: the mobile view of the company website must be optimal. She deserves the greatest attention, because the mobile version generates most of the contacts.
For some companies, an app is even worthwhile. Preferably a “Progressive Web App” (PWA) – that is a website that can also be an app on the smartphone at the same time. Because apps are now the most common way to access the Internet for many people – be it via Chrome, Facebook, Google Maps, SPIEGEL Online, YELP or something as simple as the pre-installed e-mail app.
What does Local SEO have to do with Google My Business?
The knowledge of the increasing internet access via smartphone apps such as Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest is also clear to Google as the largest search engine operator. For a long time, Google relied solely on the browser as the gateway to the Internet – but soon realized that this would no longer be enough. Therefore, after the development of an operating system for smartphones (Android), the development of a browser (Chrome) and then the attempt to develop a social network (Google+) followed.
With all the considerations about a social network, Google had “forgotten” what people are mostly interested in: their current immediate surroundings, their neighborhood, it’s about networking. And for that matter, Google already had an app with around 1 billion daily users: Google Maps.
The social aspects of the Maps app were neglected by Google until 2015. There were hardly any good ratings for shops, in addition to the address data, only little additional information about products and services of the shops, the daily users could hardly do anything with the app apart from navigating. There was also nothing useful for shop owners apart from a poorly functioning backend. There was a lack of added value for all sides.
Local visibility 4.0 – involvement of users
Today, a few years after 2015, this is significantly different. Users are firmly integrated – they are asked to rate the shops, upload pictures and videos and are rewarded as part of the ” Local Guide ” program. Shops has since been with ” Google My Business ” a real marketing tool given to the hand that the computer or an app can be controlled. In addition to address data, companies can describe their range of services in detail, publish offers, advertise news and events and enter into dialogue with their customers. Even appointments and table orders can now be made using the Google Maps entry.
Smartphone users love this variety. Google Maps is one of the most popular apps among Americans. You use maps not only for everyday tasks in the neighborhood at home, but also more and more often on vacation. Then you look for places to stay, the best restaurant for dinner for two or the opening times of a museum in the neighboring town.
That is why the well over 1 billion daily users also include customers for each of the stores listed in Google Maps. Anyone who wants to be _really_ visible locally cannot avoid a strong Google My Business profile!
What are backlinks and why are they important for local search engine optimization?
For a truly omnipresent local visibility, a company should be locally networked as widely as possible. And networking on the Internet mainly consists of linking and mentioning .
That is why good search engine optimizers collect as many links (backlinks) and mentions (citations) as possible for a locally or regionally operating company, which have a strong relationship to the company’s (immediate) environment.
The linking begins with entries
- in local company directories,
- in apps with an emphasis on regional information and
- on web portals that fit well geographically.
And it ends with connecting with the local business association and the local soccer club.
Everywhere there, a connection between (very) local web offers and your own company website can be established either by simple entry or by a clever cooperation. And exactly this connection is a backlink.
And again: It doesn’t always have to be a link. In the local press, the company is perhaps “only” mentioned, the boss is named and referred to a service. This mention (citation) also makes the local importance of the company clear. Why else should a local reporter report about it after all?
How important are backlinks for a good ranking in search engine results?
With every new backlink and every local citation for the company website, search engines learn where the company “belongs”. Search engines are very interested in delivering an optimally personalized search result for each individual searcher. For this, every possible answer must be evaluated intensively enough.
Search engines look particularly carefully at websites whose content is particularly relevant for local searchers. The aim of the analysis is to identify which website should definitely be used as a search result for which local research.
So if a user searches for a kite shop in New York city in a search engine, then the machine – among many other criteria – also looks at how many backlinks from the city and region point to the websites of the various providers. The kite shop with the best local network will always be part of the TOP10 search results for such a local search query.
Why is strategic link building a crucial criterion for good SEO?
If link building and backlinks are mentioned again and again, this implies active action. Both terms indirectly assume that you are making targeted efforts to create new links through entries in company directories or to create online partnerships .
But the reality is often very different. For most local and regional companies, links tend to happen randomly . However, connections are seldom created that place the company geographically and thematically strong enough.
If you want to change the local and regional visibility in search engines with a strategic goal in mind, you cannot avoid a link building strategy:
- It must be clear which links are already available ( current state ).
- There has to be an idea of what backlinks must be there in order to be listed well in search engines ( TARGET status ).
- The difference between the TARGET status and the ACTUAL status results in a list of links that need to be established.
- This list should be prioritized and written down in a task plan.
The implementation of the task plan must be checked regularly. If this succeeds, one can speak of strategic backlinks building !
Does link building have a positive effect on other local SEO measures?
Search engine optimization of a website is a complex matter. Since far more than 200 factors influence whether and where a website is placed on a search results page, many optimization steps are required.
In addition to link building measures that can have an “external” effect on rankings, the website must also be optimized in terms of structure and content. If the main aim is to achieve very good rankings in local search queries, offers such as Google My Business and YELP must also be used.
All these optimization steps are usually tackled in parallel in order to achieve the first positive effects as quickly as possible. Optimizing the website itself creates the basis. External signals, including backlinks, confirm the reputation of the website operator and the relevance of the website content.
Link building has a positive effect on other local SEO measures. But not very much can be achieved with just building backlinks – the “fertile ground” on which the links should land is then missing. Accordingly, the measures are mutually beneficial and contribute to the achievement of goals.
How long does it take for backlinks to affect Google ranking?
The effect of a backlink depends on an insane number of criteria – the question about it starts with “whether at all” and ends with “how strong”. In between is “how long does it take”.
The ” if at all ” is difficult enough to answer. This can best be clarified from the logic (or illogic) of the links. How likely is it that the link provider would voluntarily – in this way and at this point on his website – set a link to the link recipient with exactly this link text? If there is – if you are honest with yourself – about a clear “yes” to this question, then the link will probably have no effect at all.
If it can be said that the link was set with full authorization at the said point, then the question arises as to ” how strong ” it is now. This is mainly determined by the reputation of the link provider compared to the link recipient. If there is a great thematic or geographical proximity between the link provider and the link recipient and the link provider is a real authority in his field, then the link should be significantly noticeable. The effect is also increased if the link provider is a “real heavyweight” on the web and the link recipient is rather “a little light” in comparison.
And ” how long does it take ” before the effect is achieved? That can be done quickly. It often doesn’t even take 24 hours for the link to be recorded by search engines. Then the search engines need a few more days until the new backlink signal has been completely processed and the consequences of the new signal have been calculated. From then on, the backlink takes effect.
At this point, people like to ask where exactly one can read off the exact value of the backlink, i.e. its leverage. The answer is nowhere! Since all optimization steps for a website are mutually beneficial, the leverage effect of a single measure can never be assessed “without disruption”.
Video: How Long Does Link Building Take To Work
Analysis of existing backlinks: How do I rate the quality of my existing backlink profile?
If you are thinking about backlinks, link building and strategic link building for the first time, you ask yourself the question of the status quo :
- Does my website already have any backlinks?
- Where do any existing links come from?
- How valuable is the backlink inventory?
Searching for answers to these questions is a good idea. After all , active link building only makes sense if you know what types of backlinks are (still) needed.
The (further) procedure for building backlinks depends on a thorough backlink analysis. If the inventory is recorded and saved in a clear Excel list, a battle plan for more quality and quantity in the backlink portfolio of your own website can be derived from it.
Are there any “SEO tools” that can help build backlinks locally?
Without the support of certain online tools, no website operator can find out whether there are already backlinks for their own website. Without the appropriate tools, neither the amount nor the sources of the backlinks can be determined.
The starting point for backlink research is provided by the Google Search Console (GSC) and the Bing Webmaster Tools (BWT) . Both of the search engine operator’s tools, which can be used free of charge, show the “domains” of all “top referring websites” in the “Links” and “Backlinks” reports. The lists to be found here can be downloaded for Excel from both tools.
Unfortunately, just a list from a tool is not enough. Because none of the tools provide complete lists. It is therefore worthwhile to pull data from several tools into a common Excel list.
In addition, neither Google nor Bing grant access to a complete list of all backlinks on a website. If you really want to see everything, then you cannot avoid tapping into other sources. However, these can only be used for a fee.
Ahrefs delivers the best cost / benefit ratio. The backlinks analysis of this American tool provider works very thoroughly and offers most website operators a good addition to the downloads from GSC and BWT. All you need is a 7-day test account for 7 dollars – this gives you the list you want, including a download function.
These three sources are sufficient for local and regional companies. If you need more link data and have an SEO tool such as Sistrix , semrush or XOVI available, you should also use their backlink tools. If you need more, you can’t avoid specialized solutions like the Link Research Tools. However, these tools are among the more expensive.
Video: How to Do a Basic Backlink Analysis on Your Competitors
Build local backlinks – what does a balanced link profile look like?
If the existing backlinks have been downloaded from all available tools, then it makes sense to summarize the download results in an Excel list. A subsequent duplicate check ensures that each backlink source is only found once in the Excel file.
Now it’s time to evaluate the backlinks. The focus is on the domains, i.e. the central Internet addresses on which backlinks to your own website can be found. How many domains are there that refer to the website with a link?
In addition to this absolute number of referring websites, what matters most is their quality. When classifying a local backlink portfolio, the evaluation of the individual referring websites is essentially achieved by assigning them to these four clusters:
- Backlinks from websites that geographically confirm the company associated with their own website – for example a local internet business directory,
- Backlinks from websites that professionally confirm the company affiliated with the website – for example, the entry of a lawyer on the website of the lawyers’ association,
- Backlinks from websites that confirm the company affiliated with the website both geographically and professionally – for example, the listing of a marketing agency on the website of the local marketing club,
- Backlinks from websites that neither geographically nor professionally confirm the company affiliated with the website and often also look dubious – that is backlinks junk that no website needs.
If you have assigned each website with a backlink to your own web project to one of the four categories, then the backlinks in groups 1 to 3 should make up at least 50 percent (or more) of the total amount of backlinks. And of course: the more, the better!
Especially the backlinks of groups 2 and 3 are exciting because they contribute to professional confirmation. This is particularly important to search engines. These links indicate that the technical promises on a website could also be kept by the associated company. After all, search engines don’t want to endorse scammers.
If there is a lack of professional confirmations, this must be specifically replenished. If the majority of the identified backlinks can only be assigned to group 4, then countermeasures must always be taken.
Measures Against Junk Links? That’s easier said than done. Most of the time, nobody feels responsible for websites with only junk backlinks. The links remain there until the respective website disappears from the network.
Countermeasures are therefore only possible through the targeted development of backlinks for groups 1 to 3. Over time, the percentage of group 4 links is (significantly) below 50 percent!
Tips for local link building for geographic confirmation
All of the “Yellow Pages” offers are among the Internet pages that generate classic “geography” backlinks. This is what the “Yellow Pages” website itself means, but also offers such as “The Local”. But there are also countless alternative business directories on the internet, for example CYLEX. A free basic entry is worthwhile everywhere.
Links from official city websites are also particularly exciting. With Metropol offers, it has become difficult to get an entry without paying for it. The websites of smaller cities and counties are very often more accessible. You want to map all local companies with complete contact details and links in specially set up commercial directories.
Anyone who is a member of the local IHK or HwK should definitely check whether the local chamber already has an online directory of members. If this is the case, then one should push for an entry. If there is still no option to include a link, it is worthwhile to initiate this.
If you don’t know exactly which Internet portals are important for your own city or district, you can simply search for the city name on Google. All web portals that are among the first 30 hits should be exciting as a local backlink source.
Those who strive for more such “hyperlocal” links will achieve a lot through local community involvement. You can sponsor the annual town festival, run a mulled wine stand at the Christmas market and support the local sports club. All of these offers have an online presence on which the organizers present their supporters in great detail – including contact details and a link.
Building local backlinks through link building with geographical and thematic confirmation
Quite a number of the geographically confirming websites that you “come across” during an intensive backlink source research also confirm thematically the company behind a website.
First of all, specialist portals should be mentioned that see themselves as THE business directory for a certain industry. Therefore they are to be understood in a similar way to the “yellow pages”. Due to the industry focus, not every company gets an entry here.
As a result, every entry in such a company directory creates a thematic confirmation via backlink in addition to the geographical one.
You can achieve something similar by participating in local or regional performance shows or job fairs. This also applies to the consciously brought about membership in professional associations, from the BVMW to the lawyers’ association to the METALL entrepreneurial association.
Wherever the company is a customer, it can offer itself as a satisfied customer testimonial. A tax advisor who is named as a satisfied customer and is linked on the website of a tax advisor software receives a thematically strong confirmation, accompanied by a geographical one.
Anyone who also offers thematically appropriate meetups, company meetings or evening seminars on site can open up additional online networks and event websites, some of which are very local. The associated backlinks gild a company’s link portfolio … quite apart from the direct contact to (future) customers that comes about through such events.
Ideas for building backlinks for thematic confirmation
At the beginning your own events can be such a “gateway”. Journalists like to write about them when a series of events is established. An interview with the makers is part of it.
The participation in “foreign” events can lead to such notices and links. Be it the blog post on your own website about these events, to which other websites refer … or it is the commitment as a speaker or sponsor, which can also lead to reporting with mentions and links.
Once you have a conversation, interviews become possible. Guest contributions are requested. The participation in parades or blog talk shows is increasing. And every time there is a chance to be mentioned and linked – extremely topic-related.
The establishment of thematically confirming backlinks is almost always like a fight. The “opponent” in this fight: The editor, past or with whom the piece of Internet content is created, in which a backlink is to be integrated.
That is why it never hurts to establish, nurture and maintain good contacts with journalists, influencers and industry giants and decision-makers. This means that when you have questions about your own topic, you are always just a phone call away from people with reach.
Build backlinks by buying or exchanging links?
The longer you run a business and the wider the company’s contact details are publicly available, the more often you get acquisition calls. There are cheaper electricity prices, new cell phone tariffs and always one or the other type of search engine optimization.
With such SEO telephone offers, there is often talk of valuable backlinks, which are urgently needed in order to achieve good rankings in search result pages. For a fee, then
- Blog posts offered,
- offered participation in link exchange programs,
- SEO press releases touted or
- Openly sponsored links are advertised in already existing “technical articles”, in which the identification as paid links should be generously dispensed with.
All links created in this way are a violation of the webmaster guidelines of the search engine operator. And a lot of it is absolutely unnecessary if you are already doing everything that has been suggested in the three previous chapters.
Above all, the quality of the environments in which such bought or exchanged links are created offer neither a (even remotely meaningful) geographical nor a (sufficient) thematic confirmation.
If you keep this in mind, then you usually only use such a link building procedure to build scrap links that have been bought at a high price.
Does backlinks increase trust in the entire website domain? The EAT principle from Google!
If a company succeeds in achieving good rankings in search engines with a website that is focused on the needs of its customers, this is always due to several factors.
On the one hand, the customer focus plays a major role. How structured are the company’s products and services presented on the website? How is the use of the products and services argued? Are all aspects mentioned in the product and service texts important for a customer’s purchase decision?
If all these questions can be answered with a clear “yes”, then search engine users will either not return to the search results page after clicking on this website or only after reading the content intensively. This satisfaction of the users will have a positive effect on the rankings in the search results pages in the long term.
In addition, this satisfaction of the users will also be noticeable through an increasing number of links to information, products and services on the websites of third parties. So one thing leads to another – the measures are mutually beneficial. The success of good content leads to backlinks, more backlinks to more traffic, more traffic from satisfied consumers to more word-of-mouth and more links.
Over time, the expertise (E) of the company becomes more and more clear. The company is perceived as the authority (A) for its topic. The search engines develop trust (Trust – T) towards the company.
This “EAT” principle is an important cornerstone for the long-term evaluation of websites by the search engine operator Google. Only those who pass this “test” will achieve a reasonable ranking in the long run. Backlinks play an important part in this.
Can you actually increase contacts to new customers (leads) and sales through local SEO?
Search engine optimization is not an end in itself. Search engine optimization shouldn’t be started solely for “TOP rankings on Google”.
A good ranking alone brings neither more sales nor an increase in profit. But these two aspects should be decisive for an investment – and a local SEO project is definitely an investment.
The goal of an SEO project must always be to trigger more sales-relevant actions on the website by significantly increasing website visits from search results pages :
- Contact requests,
- Appointment bookings or
- direct visits to the store.
If a local SEO project is commissioned with this objective, the investment will pay off if it is implemented well. For this, it is important to make everything measurable from the start :
- the clicks on phone numbers and email addresses,
- sending the contact forms and
- the tools for appointment bookings as well as
- the actual store visits.
What sales and profit can clearly be traced back to good search engine placements must be able to compare favorably with the expenses for the local SEO project.
Keeping this objective permanently in mind ensures that the efforts of a local SEO project will generate more new customers, sales and profits.
Conclusion: Local SEO is more than just backlinks, but difficult without backlinks
From everything written here it is clear that link building is without a doubt an important part of local search engine optimization. In addition to good content and the right selling points, a local company website cannot do without the links and mentions on “other people’s” websites.
These references confirm the reputation of the company behind the website to search engines and their users. They make their expertise clear, show their authority and help build trust.
We are sure that with the tips contained in this extensive blog post for optimal backlinks building, your locally and regionally operating company will also be easily found on search engines.