local link building guide

Local Backlink Strategy to Boost 3 Pack and Organic Rankings

Complete Local Link Training, plus Live Example Campaign


I am one of the local SEO’s that subscribe to the idea that Google ranks brands. At the core of the entire local SEO link building strategy is the concept of establishing a local entity and then strengthening the authority of said local entity using, along with other tactics such as content clusters and relevancy, this local link building strategy.


This strategy has evolved over the years, but the basic concept has served us well in our local GMB and maps SEO campaigns, allowing us to see great gains in keyword market share and local listing visibility across most of our local campaigns.

For illustration purposes, I broke the strategy into 4 phases but they don’t need to be mutually exclusive, we have run campaigns that didn’t follow the exact order but still hit the major points and eventually built the same local and brand signals, so please don’t think that you must follow the points in this guide exactly as shown, feel free to mix things up a bit and see which pieces of the strategy work best for you.



Phase One – Establishing the Brand


Phase One is where we begin to establish a trusted online entity by creating the Brand Foundation. This phase is heavy on branding, brand mentions, and brand account creation with fewer links that use keyword-rich anchors and fewer do-follow links. So while this phase does not push a lot of link equity or keyword-rich anchor text to the targeted web pages, it does focus on creating the basic brand mentions necessary to secure your entity knowledge graph, create strong foundational and pillow links to season our target pages, and begin the process of establishing link velocity to various pages of our brand site.


Brand Foundation


Brand Social Accounts: Our team manually creates 80 Social Profiles using keyword-optimized descriptions, tags, and content – as well as fully completed categories and service areas –  with the intent of increasing co-occurrence. Google will scrape some of these accounts and add category and service area information to your listing based on this information. The links tend to be naked URLs, but you should otherwise be using a branded anchor. Expect most links to be no-followed, although some platforms will still offer do-follow links. I also tend to use tiered links when building social accounts in order to help increase the indexation rate and power up any of the accounts that will pass link equity.


Brand Networks: Are Created from super web 2.0 blogs, our brand networks consist of blogs with multi-pages linking to the GMB CID URL, GMB Site URL, Google Site URL, and target webpage using brand anchors. These are themed entirely around the brand and are authority mini-nets.


Data Aggregator Listings: Data Axle (formerly InfoUSA / InfoGroup) is the most trusted source of entity data. Normally, it takes 3 Trusted Sources for Google to create a corresponding entity in the Knowledge Graph, but a verified InfoGroup profile by itself can result in an entity being created. Additionally, Localeze submits company info to Amazon Alexa, and Factual submits to the Apple/Siri voice search ecosystem, making these invaluable for local branding. The links will be naked URLs.


Business Listings: Our account builders submit business information to 65 Top Tier Business Directories and GPS Platforms, as well as more than 100+ secondary directories. We choose our citation lists based on the likelihood of the listing being indexed by Google. Most links will be naked URLs, but you would otherwise want to use a branded anchor and link to the webpage URL attached to the GMB listing. I use tiered links here as well to help increase the indexation rate.


Local Press Release: I still use press releases with consistently positive results for local maps SEO, but I use a very different linking strategy than most. The caveat of using any press release effectively, in my opinion, is ensuring that the press release title contains the business name and local keyword to create co-occurrence. The most important link to include in the body of the press release is to the GMB CID URL, using a keyword as your anchor text. The link to a website is constrained to a naked URL in the contact section of the release. You can include a second contextual link within the release, in which case I would choose a link to the GMB site URL or a top citation like Yelp or an Accredited BBB listing, using a keyword variation as the anchor text.



Phase Two – Establishing Relevancy


Phase Two consists of signals from topically and niche relevant documents that competitors in the same niche would also be likely to be found. At its core, this strategy satisfies the assumption that websites in the same niche tend to share certain core links related to the niche, first seen in the Hilltop Algorithm for getting “linked to from a set of “expert” web pages that are organized by niche topic.” Niche relevancy has since evolved to encompass a range of signal creation.


Niche Relevancy


Niche Business Listings: Help secure relevant industry mentions for your brand. We select the top online business directories to list your business with. These authority listings are suitable for any website that wants to establish a strong digital brand be it a local, national or even e-commerce website. Each one of these directories can drive real traffic and click-throughs to your site making them essential citations for your brand.


Niche Networks: Created from super web 2.0 blogs, our niche networks consist of blogs with multi-page linking to the GMB CID URL, GMB Site URL, Google Site URL, and target webpage using brand + niche anchors. These are themed entirely around the targeted keywords and niche and are authority mini-nets. Niche Networks were exclusive to our GMB SEO Campaigns but now are available as a standalone service.


Phase Three – Establishing Authority


For Phase Three we shift our focus with dual intent: establishing keyword relevance to several of our target pages while simultaneously building Brand Authority. We achieve this through careful use of quality outreach links and niche placement links run to targeted pages of the website with the intent of boosting the backlink authority of the page and establishing relevance using anchor text. We then run affordable network links to some of our top brand properties and created tier one links in order to build the backlink graphs of these pages, thereby helping to increase overall local entity authority.


Brand Authority


Guest Posts:  I use guest posts in local SEO sparingly. Most sites need no more than one or two high-quality guest posts a month. I will typically target the homepage or location page, based on which is connected to the GMB listing. I rarely use anchor text in my guest post links, but rather prefer to use branded anchor text or brand + geo anchors since I am targeting the top-level pages of the site and want these links to be as safe as possible. I always build 10 – 20 tier two network links to my guest posts, which is where I will get more aggressive with the anchor text, using a mix of keyword and partial match anchors to help pass topical relevance through the backlink graph of the guest post page.


Niche Placements:  These are contextual editorial links placed on niche relevant webpages. As such, I like to use these to target the homepage, service pages, and internal silo pages of the target site. I will also spread these links around the site, to the extent that the budget will permit. Overall, link authority is said to be part of prominence, one of the primary local ranking factors, and I use a “deep linking strategy” to make sure I don’t over-target the location or home page but can still pass link equity through internal links and silos. I try to base my anchor text strategy for any given page and any given search term on competitor parity, so every campaign will require a unique anchor text strategy to determine the appropriate ratio of brand|partial match|exact match|generic keywords.


Do-Follow News Links: I prefer to use these links for tiered link building above all else. These work great to power up our best tier one links, such as guest posts and top brand profiles such as Avvo. The only link to the website for thi