We recently posted an article about the top things to do in order to rank in SEO. 1st on the list was backlinks. If you are a hyperlocal digital publisher – serving up relevant and topical content about things going on in your community – what’s the best way to get backlinks to your site?

What is a backlink and why are they important?

It is an indication of “quality” from a search engine perspective. If you have good content that other people (websites) want to share, search engines will assume that content is high quality or relevance.

As a publisher, you generate high-quality editorial content daily, and a lot of that content is read and hopefully shared on social media and via email. But how many people put a link to your stories on their own site? How many people are sharing your content vs. linking to your content?

Part of a publisher’s Local SEO strategy should be ways to make it easy for people to link back to them. There are three easy ways to get started:

  1. Create a business directory of all the businesses in your community, and create a “badge” that the businesses can add to their own websites to point to their own listing in your directory.Many publishers think that a business directory is an easy way to get local authority. It can be, if you use it correctly. The reason that Yelp is so authoritative is not because it has a lot of directory listings. It’s because those listings change regularly, and that a lot of businesses link back to Yelp. A business directory that has very little new content (other than the NAP info) and no inbound links will never be viewed as authoritative by search engines.

    Therefore, the two things you need to do are (a) get activity in your directory, and (b) give out a badge that local business owners can use to link to their directory listing on your site. Remember, many business owners may want to sign up on your site solely to get a backlink to their site by adding their URL to their directory listing page. If you are offering this, it seems only fair that they should link back to you, right?!

  2. Create “cornerstone content.” Some people will call these landing pages. The idea is to have specific pages that will always have important information on them. A popular type of cornerstone content is Top 10 lists. If you have a “Top 10 restaurants in our town” page, and you always keep that page updated, that becomes a cornerstone page that people will want to bookmark, share and link to. A few more examples include:– Events page – have a global landing page for Events that people can start from
    – Promotions page – have a page with local promotions that can highlight different businesses on a regular basis
    – Domain expertise pages – if you focus on restaurants, have a restaurant page. If you’re all about Realtors, have a page just for realtors.

    Make sure these pages are easily accessible on your own site, and that you link to your own landing pages too!

  3. Make sure that leaders in your community are aware of all the great pages they should be linking back to. Work with your local Chamber of Commerce, Business Groups, the Better Business Bureau and others that already have local authority – and give them valuable links they can add to their site. This should be a part of your ongoing outreach into your community.

The old days of adding keywords and repeating phrases in content to get SEO benefits are long gone. Search engines are looking for signals that your content is valuable to others, and backlinks is one of the strongest signals out there. It’s not enough to write or have great and valuable content. Others must share your belief that it is indeed valuable, at which point you will rule in your local community!