Links are often the most misunderstood part of SEO for small business owners trying to compete in this confusing environment. With recent studies showing inbound links still being a huge part of ranking success, I still have many talks with business owners that think if you just insert keywords on your pages and in your meta-tags, that is all you need to rank. Unfortunately, if it was that easy, we would all rank number one, but of course that isn’t realistic. Google has hundreds of factors it incorporates into deciding which site or URL should show up highest in the rankings for a given search. From my discussions, I would say that link building is the least known by the average business owner, and one might argue it is the most important individual ranking factor. (Google would tell you that user experience is the top factor, but that is a vague thing to measure and incorporates many, many factors)
With all that being said, what are some easy wins a small business owner can jump on to get some “link juice” coming into their site and increase their ranking power? In the world of smaller, local businesses, sometimes just a handful of links can be the difference between page one and just not being found.
First though, a quick overview of why links are important. Google uses links to your site from other websites as signals to tell them about your credibility and relevance to different topic areas. As a business owner, you can almost look at them as online referrals, where another website is willing to send its visitors to your site. There is value in that. Each link tells its own story. A link from a local site may tell Google you are active and involved in the local community that this site speaks to, while a link from an industry site tells it more about the type of work you do. A more general link from a large news or blog site, gives overall strength credibility, showing that a site that is already getting lots of traffic and strength considers your site reputable enough to link to.
Links You Have Already Earned
I tell business owners that I speak with that the first thing you should do is sit down and write down all of your offline relationships, and then consider whether you can turn these into a link. Below are some examples you may not have considered, but in many cases are relevant to your business, and can all help build your ranking strength.
- Your chamber of commerce membership (make sure your profile includes your link)
- Any Industry organization membership or accreditation (likely a link on a list or profile page)
- Local sponsorships (Does that little league team you sponsor have a website?)
- Local charities (same as above)
- University Alumni pages (Some have profile pages on reputable alumni)
- Distributors (does your business offer national products or services that would allow you to be on a list on the national site?)
- Service Organizations (are you or your employees’ members of Rotary or other organizations that may have profile pages on their website)
All of the above are quite common relationships that small businesses may have and haven’t thought to make sure they also include a link. Think it through and make sure you aren’t leaving any potential ranking power out there and unused. At the same time, with these in mind, possibly seek out easy examples of the above. If it is fairly inexpensive to sponsor that little league team that has the website or your local charity, reach out and help one of these groups while also building your own site strength with a link.