Google recently publicly mentioned the top three ranking factors in their search engine. One of them, RankBrain, is machine-learning technology that experts will spend countless hours trying to figure out, but I’m guessing Google will stay one (or 100) steps ahead of them. The other two ranking factors should come as no surprise – content and backlinks.

It’s been generally known that best practices around SEO are to build authoritative and original content, and to get others to link to that content. But this is the first time that Google has made it so clear that content and backlinks are weighed highly in Google’s algorithm. With this new information, what should you do?

We work closely with hyperlocal digital publishers, and one of our mutual goals is to make their sites the most authoritative local site in their community. The great news is that these publishers write consistently great content, so they have one piece of the Hyperlocal SEO pie figured out quite nicely. But what about backlinks?

If you think about the most popular platforms out there today, one thing they do very well is make it easy for people to link back to them. How many sites have the Facebook and Twitter icons on them? Yelp and TripAdvisor are currently the most popular review sites out there, and they proactively promote people linking back to their sites.

In fact, up and coming sites such as Thumbtack have been penalized by Google for being overzealous in their quest for backlinks.

Local publishers have plenty of content on their sites that other folks in the community should link to, but do they? Here are some examples:

  1. A business directory listing page – A local business can have a link on their own website to their own page on their local publisher’s site. Bonus points if that page includes helpful information such as hours of operation, address, directions, promotions and special events.
  2. Landing pages – A weekend calendar of events page. A top 10 list of places to eat or shop. How to pages. There’s growing research that with all the social sharing going on, more and more people reach a publisher’s site through a “side door,” not the home page. Make those side doors widely available and popular, not single articles that will stop getting clicked when that news cycle ends.
  3. Areas of interest – police blotter, school district information, perhaps even a local community chat page. Information that is unique and certain demographics would have an interest of highlighting it on their own sites. Then go to the groups and organizations around town and offer them a logo and link back to those pages. While a simple hyperlink is fine, a visual cue is much more engaging!

We all know the adage “If you build it, they will come.” We also know it’s generally not true. Simply writing great content is a wonderful start and advantage for being authoritative online, but it’s not enough. Focus on backlinks and well-structured content as well to make sure your awesome content gets the audience and SEO recognition it deserves.