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Let’s just say, straight out of the trap, that building backlinks with the intention of “manipulating” Google’s search results “offends” the Internet’s moral Gorilla, Google’s terms and conditions! If they find you doing such a dastardly deed they may put you on the “invisible step” again!:-(

So if Google’s stance is so clear cut… how does a small business owner in Cumbria or the North East boost their visibility without upsetting the Big G? How can you create, generate or encourage good backlinks to your website and stay in the land of the righteous and keep your valuable website safe? Well, for local businesses it’s relatively straightforward if your marketplace isn’t too fiercely competitive: you’ll be relieved to learn. There are a few relatively straight forward methods that are safe for you, helpful to search engines and which give you benefits in the form of brand visibility.

Citations Can Be Useful Backlinks Too!

yell.com - a useful local citation site with backlinksOne of the easiest and safest places to create links from, is the whole ecosystem of citation, listing and directory sites that are out there. That doesn’t mean put your website link in every single, 2-bit listing website – there are thousands of them that will do more harm than good. However, keeping up to date in the most important ones and finding some good local directories as well as some listing sites in your own industry are perfectly valid things to do. This helps to reassure the search engines that you are indeed a genuine business; in the place that you say you are; and that you take care to keep your information up to date.

freeindex is another citation site that gives a reasonably authoritative backlink to your business.I’ve lost count of the number of businesses who have a listing in the likes of Yell, or FreeIndex and never bothered or were unaware of how to, put their website link into these directories. These are websites which have pretty decent domain authority and are trusted by Google & the other search engines as reliable sources of local information. These are easy to create so build up your footprint! These citations do more than 1 job! A listing adds to search engines’ confidence about your local footprint! It will usually give a link through to your website. Additionally, these listings can refer people to your website as well spreading your brand’s visibility to an extra audience.

Thomson local are another source of a great citation with link!Here’s Whitespark’s summary of the 30 – 50 most powerful general citation sites to look at in various countries. Local Data Company, Market Location and Infoserve are fairly expensive subscription sites with powerful marketing data value adds. They also feed citation sites further down the food chain with reliable data. Most of them come with price tags in the order of £299+ pa, if you want them to take responsibility for keeping your listings up to date and accurate. However, it IS relatively easy to do most of this for yourself to keep the cost down and put your own data into the listings from the 2nd tier directories and below. Once you’ve updated details in all the basic directories it’s time to find industry and locally relevant directories. Here is Whitespark’s compilation of the most effective directories in the UK and if you want to see the full set for the USA Canada and a few other countries you can get their original data here. (Link to https://www.whitespark.ca/top-local-citation-sources-by-country)

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Right – off you go and start building backlinks safely!

Links From Blog Comments

Another useful method for local businesses to develop their backlinks; that is easy to do and often brings some extra traffic to your site is to find GOOD blogs about your industry and or your locality: AND where you have something USEFUL to add to the article or to any developing conversation!

Don’t just add the super spammy “I love your blog blah blah… vomit!” It REALLY isn’t cool any more!

…add a comment that genuinely provides value. If you can’t; it’s better not to comment at all.

The classic layout for a blog comment section.

Classic blog comment section which you should not be afraid to use… but remember – Don’t spam!

Generally speaking, people tend to be in the habit of simply adding the website homepage to the “Website” field that most of the straight forward comment systems have. This can be a little spammy if it’s the only type of weblink you bother to do.

A better way of using blog comment links, if you have a useful page on your website; (or you can create a page / post to fill the gap) where the reader can get a different point of view or a clarification, is to link to the specific page on your website, from within the text of the comment. It will generally be more relevant and give the user a better experience.

Trustworthy Local Testimonials

How many other local businesses have you done business with in the past couple of years? Who cleans your office? Or… did a fab job of painting it before you moved in? From your handyman with a tiny little website to your local car dealer who kitted you out with a super economical hybrid; all of these people will be pleased with a testimonial. So why not give the company a call and sort something out?
Big Beans a graphic Design agency in Carlisle have used their testimonials well, but the clients are missing out on a useful backlink.

There are a couple of ways to go about this! You could just send them your testimonial to place on their site and ask them to put a link back to your website. Alternatively, you could set up a page on your own site where you recommend local companies or give testimonials to the ones you’ve worked with. Give them the heads up and say they might want to link to the page for their visitors to be pointed in the right direction! It’s not a bad way to develop your relationships with the local business community. And – as you expand your network… you could even pick up a few useful referrals on the back of it.

Finding Broken BackLinks That You Can “Fix”

This is a bit more technical and requires a little serendipity to discover broken backlinks: unless you set your local SEO guru loose on it for you!

  1. Backlinks often die off on the Internet. A business closes or a website is replaced and content vanishes off into cyber space never to be seen again. Links that don’t point anywhere are referred to as dead links. Next time you are surfing for anything that is connected with your website’s business, make a note of any links you follow that don’t take you to a live page. It’s usually pretty clear when you see the frustrating message “Error 404”, instead of the answer to your problem! You might be expecting a page that lists “will writing” horror stories from Northumberland. What you land on is just the dead (404 Error) home page of a will writer whose company’s gone away.
  2. You may very well have a set of case studies of real Northumbrian (or Cumbrian or anywhere else!) horror stories about wills that went wrong which would be a great place to point people to.
  3. Contact the business owner and let them know that there is a dead link and that you have just the kind of page that would make the link useful to that website’s visitors!

This helps the website you came from; as it gets rid of a dead link that they probably hadn’t realised was there. It helps you; as it often passes “Google Juice” and potential visitors to your website. It tends to be a win win for both parties 🙂 !

These are just a few of the backlink building strategies that can help you push your company’s website up the rankings and into the view of your ideal local customers and clients. If you would like to learn more about link building / generating / earning strategies pop along to this article by Nifty Marketing’s Mike Ramsey.