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Search engine results matter.

Higher visibility online ultimately means more targeted traffic and sales. Leads generated from search engines also tend to be more targeted than other marketing channels. The reason why is because users enter in search queries to find a solution to a problem.

A study from Google found that four out of five people surveyed have used a search engine to conduct a local search. Not surprisingly, a large majority (88%) have used a mobile device to search for information such as business hours or directions. This is why local SEO is so critical.

So how can you improve visibility in the search results?

In a previous blog post, we examined local search factors in more detail. And link signals were one of the most important ranking factors.

Why Backlinks Matter

Links are essentially like a vote.

The more you have, the higher your pages rank.

But not all links are equal. Spamming thousands of links to your site is likely to result in a penalty. Focusing on quality over quantity will have a bigger impact on rankings as a link from an authoritative source carries much more weight.

Links go beyond simply improving rankings as they can also:

  • Increase referral traffic
  • Generate sales and leads
  • Build online visibility

Inbound links boost the authority and relevance of your site which in turn improves rankings while increasing your reach online. With that said, the following is a link building guide to improve your local SEO.

1. Start With Your NAP
NAP stands for Name, Address, and Phone Number.

It is absolutely critical to start here first before beginning your link building efforts. Google and other search engines look at NAP signals as a local ranking factor. Determine the format of your NAP and update all instances across your site so they appear the same.

2. Submit to Local Business Listings
The next step is to claim your business listing with each of the major search engines:

Follow the steps carefully to verify your business and pay close attention to the NAP. Google My Business is perhaps the most important listing as your information (e.g. address, phone number, hours) shows on Search, Maps, and Google+. But also make sure to completely fill out your profiles on Bing Places and Yahoo Local.

3. Claim Your Business on Social Media
Social media is another great marketing channel.

It builds online visibility and increases linking opportunities. Each post you share has the potential to go viral and reach thousands of influencers. But it also means you need to be active with your profile and actually interact with your audience.

Here are some of the top social networks that allow you to create business listings:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • Google+

Really put in the time to make your profile stand out and add the same NAP to each. Be sure to also include a picture of your business.  Creating a consistent image across all social media channels is important.

4. Submit to Business Directories
Local citations are another key ranking factor.

An example of a citation is a mention of your business from sites such as Yellow Pages, Foursquare, and Angie’s List. Google relies on this information to confirm certain information about a business.

Search for your business keywords (e.g. SEO specialist in Austin) and scroll through the listings. Which local citation sources appear in the search results? Write down the sites or open them in a new tab. Then manually create a profile each.

You could also create accounts on the most popular directories. Here are the top local citation sources in the US:

Popular Citation Directories

Manually creating a profile at each can be rather time-consuming. Consider working with an SEO company to manage this aspect of your link building efforts.

Link Building Conclusion

Accomplishing all the above will give your site a significant competitive advantage. Even doing half is already much more than what most local business owners do.

But your job is far from over.

Your rankings could still slip in the search results. Continue building links to further improve online visibility. Sponsor an event, write a local resource, donate to an organization, join a local association, conduct interviews or reach out to industry influencers. Remember to focus your efforts on quality over quantity as relevant links will help reinforce your rankings.

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