Is a link building strategy necessary for a local assisted living business like yours? Well, a local search ranking factors survey found that link signals have increased in importance from 2016 to 2017 and Google has begun to take more interest in businesses’ links in order to rank websites.
The 2016 Google algorithm update, Possum, diversified local results and ensured that spam or duplicate content does not rank. Thanks to the update, businesses related to a keyword within a particular physical location, but whose location is not exactly “within the city,” have begun to experience spikes in their rankings. The searcher’s location has also become very important since the launch of the algorithm.
More about the Possum algorithm
The update was documented but unconfirmed. Even so, its impact was felt in at least 64% of local results on Google, according to a study done on 1,307 businesses. Most of the results affected were local pack and local finder.
Rankings with duplicate business listings also began to be filtered by Possum. If, for instance, an assisted living center with a “Sunrise living” appears alongside another one named “The Sunrise Living,” Google will filter the duplicates and only show one.
Keyword variations are now giving different results as well. For example, if you search “assisted living San Diego” and “San Diego assisted living,” you will get very different results. This was not the case before Possum.
Here’s what appears on SERP when you type “assisted living San Diego”:
And here are the results when you search “assisted living San Diego”:
While the difference might be order of ranking, Merrill Gardens is actually on the second page for “San Diego assisted living” while they are ranked 7th for “assisted living San Diego.” Having a high domain authority won’t fluctuate your ranking as much as the others battling for higher positions.
What does this mean?
Your competition is or has already geared itself up to make Google happy. They are probably using keywords that include physical location to ensure that their businesses rank well in those particular locations. Even if you are still ahead of your competition, Google’s algorithms are ever-changing and there is a high possibility that you are not keeping up with them as well as you think.
Why is link building important for local SEO?
In order to understand the importance of link building in local SEO, BrightLocal performed a study that showed link building was effective for at least 55% of local businesses. The report also highlighted some link building strategies recommended by SEO experts. 90% of experts said that link authority was the most important aspect in ranking. Another 90% said that having a variety of link sources and anchor texts was highly valuable.
The same report suggests that it is becoming more difficult to acquire links; 35% of the experts predicted that link building was going to become even harder in 2018. It is usually easier to find good, quality links in the beginning, but it becomes more difficult if you lack the necessary resources and experience.
Let’s now discuss some strategies that you can use to build links and debunk a few myths about the same.
The myths of link building
1. You get no credit for no-follow links or for links from low-authority sites
A common idea in the SEO world is that links are not created equal. No-follow links, for instance, will not transfer a particular page’s rank to another page. This means that if the link is from a low-quality site and points to your site (which is high-quality and has a good page rank), the low-quality site will not affect your good rank and vice versa.
While it is not clear how much credit Google actually gives for no-follow links, if you link to high-quality, authoritative sites, you could see a significant increase in your own site’s traffic. Even if you don’t link to high-quality sites, no-follow links are easily shareable and increase your site’s visibility. The traffic your site receives based on no-follow links is called referral traffic. A single no-follow link can earn you a second link that can be followed from another site.
Success can come from posting a no-follow link on social media or posting the right content at the right place and time to be discovered by someone else.
A resource or directory guide to the best assisted living facilities can be a no-follow guide, but it can also bring in referral traffic you need.
2. Link building is a one-off thing
Link building is not something you do once; on the contrary, it’s something you must do continuously. There are two main reasons why you must engage in link building:
- Get traffic to your site
- Create authority so your pages rank higher
Depending on locality, keywords, and competition, you’ll need to continue to build links so that your page maintains authority over others.
3. You don’t need link building when you can do citation building
Citation refers to a reference to your business name, phone number, and address. Google uses citations to decide the ranking order of websites in local search results. The concept of citations is built from mentions. A business with a lot of mentions, for instance, is thought to be more popular by Google and should therefore rank higher, and vice versa.
Mentions are also a way for Google to verify the credibility of the contact information that businesses list and allow people to get to know more about your business. Citations can include directory listings such as those seen on Yelp, Foursquare, and Bing Places.
While citations can only improve rankings in local results, links will improve both local search results and organic results that are not limited to a particular geographical region.
As aforementioned, link building is not a one-off thing. You need to do it frequently. The question then, therefore, becomes how? Let’s discuss ways you might do this.
What are the best places from which you can acquire links?
Major News Sites
You might wonder how a small business would attract the attention of such major news sites as The Wall Street Journal. The answer could be easy or complicated, depending on whether you have a great story to provide news sites or simply talk to a journalist about how to take caregiving to the next level.
Oddly enough, the photo above demonstrates The San Diego Union-Tribune’s “caregiver” page, which features an abundance of caregiving information and even an events calendar full of events you might be able to sponsor or collaborate with.
There is a high likelihood that there are local business awards in your area, sometimes covering even larger geographical areas such as the entire state. Ensure that your business gets listed and nominated, if possible. Of course, winning wouldn’t hurt either.
Are you advocating eco-friendly procedures in your business? Why not gain leverage by doing so? Look out for directories that provide a platform for such businesses.
A lot of meetups happen in a week. Sponsoring as little as one meetup is a smart way to build links. But it’s important that you only sponsor events related to your niche.
You could also sponsor community events, or events happening on particular themed days. Examples of events you could sponsor include how to plan retirement, health education and therapy, and how to help influencers and decision makers create an emergency plan of action. You could also sponsor or donate to a local club or organization relevant to your business. As a positive consequence, the meetup organization will add a link to your site.
Press Release or Local newspaper
Associate your activities with press releases and local newspapers to create a proactive brand awareness within your community. Since the majority of local newspapers are now online, you can use these leads as leverage and direct traffic to your site.
Links from other stakeholders in your niche
If you have partnerships with a few businesses, you could get links from those manufacturers or distributors. Manufacturers like to refer their customers to specific trusted locations, and you can easily gain leverage from those referrals.
How many links should you build in a month?
In a recent Q&A Thursday Session by Neil Patel, Patel answered that the number of links built in a month is different for each website. However, he cautioned that Google would likely become suspicious if you get a surge in the number of links pointing to or from your website after having few to no links at all.
Patel said about building links, “Slow and steady wins the race.” It’s not really about building links fast; it is about building links over time, especially when you take into consideration the fact that sites do not rank on the top of Google’s search results as soon as they have links. Google does not crawl and index sites daily.
Using tools like Ahrefs, however, makes it possible to project how many links you should build by allowing you to see the number of backlinks that you and your competitors currently have. Depending on the resources that you have, you may break this down to the number of links that you can build monthly, weekly, or even daily. You may find that you need to build only 3 links per week.
Remember, the emphasis here is on quality, now quantity. Even if your competition has thousands of links, you may just need 100 very high-quality links to outdo them.
Types of Link Building
By now you understand where to get links and the number of links that you should have, but what types of links are there? Which ones are relevant to your industry? Which ones should you focus on?
It’s important that you understand the types of links that you can use on your site. Let’s dive right in:
Traffic generating links
These links expose your website on higher traffic pages in an attempt to attract traffic from that site to yours.
Page rank boosting links
These links help you boost page rank. They could be directory submissions, link requests, or blog comments.
Reputation building links
These are anchored with your name or company name. These link to your site, blogs, and social profiles. They are aimed at showcasing information about your business in the search results.
Which are the most valuable link sources for boosting search rankings for local businesses?
According to a local search ranking factors survey by BrightLocal, local relevance remains the most valuable link source. 75% of the experts involved in the survey cited local community websites as the most valuable source, even more valuable than local news and industry sites (which come in at 70% and 45%, respectively).
Top Link Building Tactics for Local Businesses
By now, you must be aching to know the link building strategies that you can use in your local business. We have mentioned some as we talked about the sources and places to get links.
The best link building strategies revolve around creating good relationships with your neighbors (especially if they are influential) and participating in the community in a way that your presence is felt.
Let’s look at some ways to build good community relationships:
Sponsorships or donations to local charities, clubs or organizations
Local SEO experts see this as the most valuable way to get local links. How do you identify these organizations and which particular need to address?
Begin by identifying clubs or organizations that are related to your niche. Find out if they have any local chapters, be they at the state or district level. Some may even have chapter websites. Reach out to the sponsors of the organizations and see what they may be looking for. You might even visit a local organization that lacks a presence in other physical locations and see how you can become a sponsor.
In the assisted living niche, for instance, you may sponsor a Red Cross club or other health-related clubs or organizations in your local area. You will definitely get backlinks from the clubs or organizations that you have sponsored, giving you some significant exposure.
Creating valuable resources with a local focus
70% of local SEO experts see this as another valuable way to build SEO links. You may be wondering what kind of resource your community would find relevant and relate to, in which case a brainstorming session would help.
Let’s look at the assisted living niche.
You may want to include a section with the best parks in the city where the patients can relax. You would need to create the linkable asset, which means it needs to have visual appeal, and the content needs to be valuable and relatable. This way, other websites will find it worthwhile and link back to it.
Once your linkable asset is ready, you can share it on relevant social media pages. For the example used above, social media pages that celebrate the particular physical location where your center is located would be appropriate. You can also promote it on pages or sites run by the featured towns or cities, or even where your target audience is likely to spend some of their time.
As your asset continues being shared, you will continue getting links back to your site.
Monitor brand mentions and request backlinks
You may use tools like Awario to monitor your brand mentions. You can then reach out to those mentioning your brand and request backlinks.
Sponsoring a community event
This is another way to get backlinks. Just like when sponsoring a club or organization, you may choose to sponsor specific events that are related to your niche. This is one way to get exposure and mentions. Again, you could request backlinks.
Regardless of which link building strategy works best for you, it is best to have a diverse link portfolio. You may want to combine all the above strategies in order to see good results.
Sponsoring a club establishes a relationship which you can benefit from from time to time, while an event gives your brand the hype it needs to get attention. Monitoring mentions helps your brand to ride on the already existing exposure that you may not have directly worked for.
It is important to note that the links need not be high authority; when it comes to local SEO, relevance is key.
Least valued link building strategies versus highly valued link building strategies
What about blog comments, webinars, sharing content on social media, and creating infographics? Aren’t these ways to build links? Indeed they are, but they aren’t particularly valuable for local SEO.
Best local link building outreach processes
After having invested some time and money into the highly valuable link building strategies, you should possess a database of link prospects. What is the best way to reach out to these prospects and acquire links?
Short and personalized emails are the most effective way to reach out to people interested in your brand or niche. If the short email is positively received, it can be followed by a longer, more detailed (yet still personal) email.
Slow-burn relationship building
Slow-burn relationship building means that the relationships built among the community are built slowly and deliberately, with real people, and are based on what the business already does. You may not have many links from this approach, but they could be very valuable.
Challenges with link building outreach
This approach is not foolproof. Some challenges include:
- Not knowing whether emails are being delivered or opened
- Emails being delivered to the wrong person or filtered as spam
- Measurement of the conversion rate or ROI of the outreach, as well as how much the outreach costs
Overcoming these challenges
One of the ways to overcome these challenges is using CRM software like MailChimp, Mixmax, and Mailtrack. These allow you to track the following:
- Delivery rate: this is the number of emails delivered as compared to those sent and those that bounced. Higher delivery rate equals less cost.
- Open rate: the number of emails as compared to those delivered. It is usually a percentage and helps you split test subject lines and body text as well as subject line effectiveness.
- Opt-out rate: this is a percentage of the people who have subscribed vis a vis those who opened your email. This is a strong signal of poor outreach.
- Click to delivery rate: the number of clicks in the emails delivered. This will help track the quality of body content.
- Response rate: a percentage of the total number of first time responses vis a vis opened emails
- Micro conversion of your outreach campaigns
- Overall quality of outreach campaigns
- Conversion rate: the total number of links earned through outreach. This measures the ultimate outcome of your outreach efforts.
- Outreach ROI: a percentage of the cost of outreach subtracted from income from SEO efforts divided by the cost of outreach
- Cost of outreach: a number calculated by the cost of sending the emails out added to the number of hours spent in outreach multiplied by the link-builder’s hourly rate
What KPIs do you track then?
What cannot be measured is not worth doing. What do you look for when performing local SEO in order to know whether your efforts are bearing fruit?
Traffic: check for whether or not there has been an increase in either local or organic traffic, and the main sources from which to get traffic. Pay close attention to the traffic quality as well. Are there any pages that generate traffic on the site? How many? Has non-branded search traffic increased? Has there been an increase in traffic in particular regions? Is there a percentage increase in referral traffic?
SERP Rank: have you seen any changes in page rank since you began your local SEO efforts? Check for this KPI across all major search engines, e.g. Google, Yahoo, and Bing.
Domain authority: link to websites with high domain authority as discussed earlier in the article
Reviews per location: Where do most of your reviews on directories or Google+ come from? What is the average rating?
Rank on third-party sites: how does your business rank on local directories? How about general directories like Yelp? What about on niche specific directories?
Mentions: do you have more mentions? Is your citation data accurate?
Average link quality: a 5-point scale is used to determine average link quality. The factors to consider here are site authority (page rank, the age of the site, and SEOMoz domain authority); site and linking page relevance; prominence of the link on the page based on the number of links; and the possibility of attracting future links from the site. The points are allocated as follows: 2, 2, 0.75 and 0.25.
Conversions/Click-Through-Rate/Impressions/engagement metrics: what is the percentage increase in organic conversions/impressions/CTR/engagement metrics? What is the percentage increase in referral conversions?
The total amount of links/links from authority sites/links from highly relevant sites: refer back to the discussion earlier in this article regarding required number of links to build for your website
While the focus here is on link building for local SEO, the above discussed KPIs need to be coupled with overall web metrics when it comes to digital marketing efforts. A marketing dashboard may come in handy.
Here are some overall KPIs to look out for:
- Rank for secondary benchmark keywords (both local and organic)
- Moz domain authority
- Majestic citation flow
- Moz page authority
- Rank for main converting keywords (both local and organic)
- Majestic trust flow
So, what makes a good backlink?
Good backlinks fulfill each of the below requirements:
- Points to other localized links from your area
- Is niche-specific
- Actually earns clicks
- Has few high-quality links on the target page
How do you gain really good backlinks?
Phone calls: You may need to call and ask people whose event you have sponsored to actually give you backlinks.
Know your targets and whom you are pitching to: Make a list of prospective people whom you would like to link to. You many need to work with local PR agencies who have already built relationships with publications, for instance.
Train your team in various link outreach methods: Never forget to personalize your outreach.
Always offer value in your outreach: One example is using original research relevant to your audience.
The importance of successfully engaging in link building cannot be overemphasized. Again, it is not a one-off process; in fact, you may even need a department or team dedicated specifically to handling SEO. SEO agencies might be your best option for optimizing links.
Does your Assisted Living Facility have a link building strategy? Share with us in the comments your link building successes and challenges.
As always, if you are interested in professional help, do not hesitate to contact me today.