We are one of the local SEO’s that subscribe to the idea that Google ranks brands. Although it is possible to perform this local SEO strategy independently, because of the time intensity and complexity, we definitely recommend outsourcing this part to one of our partners, Web20ranker. 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 3 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 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 indexation rate and power up any of the accounts that will pass link equity.
Data Aggregator Listings: 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 and Acxiom submit 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. We use tiered links here as well to help increase the indexation rate.
Local Press Release: We 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 we 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 Authority
For Phase Two 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.
Guest Posts: We use guest posts in local SEO sparingly. Most sites need no more than one or two high-quality guest posts a month. We 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. We always build 10 – 20 tier two network links to my guest posts, which is where we 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, we like to use these to target the homepage, service pages, and internal silo pages of the target site. We 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 we don’t over-target the location or home page but can still pass link equity through internal links and silos. We 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: We 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 this strategy is a naked URL in the contact section of the release. Typically, we will include 3 contextual links using tier one properties as the target URLs using a variety of brand + close match keywords.
Tier 2 Network Links to Tier 1 Links and Profiles: We build around 5 budget private network links to each niche placement link using a variety of anchor text types. On tier 2 links we tend to use an assortment of partial match, page title, and brand+ variations. The purpose here is to build out and theme the backlink graph of your important tier 1 links. This will help your tier 1 links pass more link equity and relevancy to the target pages.
We believe building tiered links to select tier 1 branded profiles is hugely beneficial for local maps SEO. This strategy is backed by the numerous Google local search patents that specifically mention the backlink authority of an entity’s “brand docs” as a part of the local prominence score. Reading on, you find that brand docs are no more than your entity’s tier-one profiles which Google has assigned to your cluster doc identifier (the GMB listing CID). In this way, the backlink graph of your brand profiles acts as a part of the local ranking factor.
Phase Three – Establishing Local Brand Docs
Phase Three of our Local Link Building Strategy is Brand Map Signals. This includes a round of signal creation focused on building links to and creating relevancy for a selection of GMB and Maps related target URLs. We found that when these properties are boosted with active links, it can correspond to increases in local 3 pack rankings. We use web 2.0 blogs, media sharing platforms, social sharing platforms, Google properties, mapping platforms, and private network links to create a hive of mentions surrounding the GMB listing, the entity, and additional targets mentioned in this article.
Brand Map Signals
Local Brand Links: Using brand authority links – and sometimes combining two months at a time for a serious push – we begin to build an influx of local signals. Here we are targeting the GMB CID URL, GMB Site URL, and the top two brand accounts using keyword anchor text on all platforms that allow such. In cases where anchors are not permitted, we use naked URLs. We are also adding the Google Map embeds in such links as allow them, as well as adding the full NAP and completing the local business details section. We strongly believe that these types of unstructured NAP citations using web 2 properties move the needle, as well as any local link building, can be expected to do so and that they are a fast and affordable implementation option for boosting local rankings and relevance.
Google Stack and Cloud Links: Another powerful staple of our local link building campaigns is the Google Stack. Again, the main target here is the GMB CID URL. You should also expect to get secondary links to the local YouTube video, brand social accounts, top citations, and multiple Google Map embeds throughout the segments of the stack. The Google Stack is important because it will act as a hub, interlinking all of your Google properties to your other important entity properties.
Local YouTube Video Links: A recent addition to our monthly GMB campaigns, our created YouTube video links primarily to the GMB CID URL using a naked link in the video description. It is important that the video is optimized in order to get any traction from this method; but when done correctly, it can create some powerful and nearly instant rankings for your GMB listings. The description needs to contain the NAP and should interlink the top entity profiles.
Niche Network Links: 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 are exclusive to our GMB SEO Campaigns.
Geo Network Links: Another local link building strategy we use is to create Web 2.0 blogs themed around a specific geo-location, written from the perspective of an unaffiliated organization and mentioning your local brand as a member of their local organization. These geo-nets are extremely powerful for creating geo-relevancy. Geo Networks are most impactful when targeting specific areas like zip codes, neighborhoods, and small communities. We are using these networks to create hyper-localized unstructured citations in which we link to the naked website URL as a part of their NAP citation, as well as contextually with a keyword anchor to the GMB CID URL.
Tier 2 Network Links to Brand Docs: Here we’re building on the start made in phase two by targeting the top tier one brand profiles in order to build out their backlink graphs and boost the link authority of the entity. In this segment, we’re working on boosting the relevance of our entity with our top keywords (here co-occurrence comes into play again) and will do so by building between three and five links to the top ten brand profiles using brand + keyword anchors. We easily identify which of our profiles to use from Google’s indexed search results from a branded company search.
Test Results: Implementing the Local Link Building Strategy
We used this Local Link Building Strategy for the example company that was featured in our free Google My Business training course on the LCT website. Like we said earlier, this is the link building strategy which we use across all our local campaigns. We have adjusted, modified, extensively tested, and rely on it to move the needle for us both locally and organically.
Below is the step-by-step process we used, completely outlined. You can see live link examples, links to the exact services we used, the exact anchors that we used, and best of all the tremendous results we achieved by following a logical approach to our local backlinks.
Phase One Brand Foundation
Brand Social Accounts
- Social Accounts built for the Campaign: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1HiM7DiKVPVLJhY6ooAPuCEtiCCAmC-j56X1Wuv2kNEo
- Link to the Service I Used: https://web20ranker.com/product/social-essentials/
Data Aggregator Listings
- Data Aggregators built for the Campaign: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1EWx4DjnUpQTjGq8rHK3wt2ecIQV2dybb
- Link to the Service I Used: https://web20ranker.com/product/big-data-aggregators-local-visibility-package/
- Citations built for the Campaign: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1WEbMe4X51xTClztYwQ49-1YAOv9lmFVdVql_OOXB8yU
- Citations built for the Campaign: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1ElOuEYQgATvLiPfeOO1012F6Nw4eki_S66_h0zY4JdA
- Link to the Service I Used: https://web20ranker.com/product/order-country-specific-citations-usa/
Premium Press Release (example of a syndicated release)
- Press Release for the Campaign: http://www.digitaljournal.com/pr/4227485
- Link to the Service I Used: https://web20ranker.com/product/premium-press-release/
Phase Two Brand Authority
- Guest Posts built for the Campaign: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1gw48sHUCFA-gEcRMmWhwMd7eStwOQlNhQ0621USaRBA
- Guest Posts built for the Campaign: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1V54_kLe5s3SCn86K70txyYWktg4bV4pG7NAsD3d_D0Y
- Link to the Service I Used: https://web20ranker.com/product/buy-standard-guest-blog-links/
- Niche Links built for the Campaign: https://seoreports.agency/index.php?user=client_report&id=SGFub3ZlciBBZGFtcyBhbmQgWW9yayBQYWludGluZyBDb250cmFjdG9ycw%3D%3D
- Link to the Service I Used: https://web20ranker.com/product/authority-niche-placements-1-time/
Tier 2 Network Links to Tier 1 Links and Profiles
- Tier 2 ‘Budget’ Network Links built for the Campaign: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1-6ZNkR7Y17_XUZzk8egDafoAqX4FJSHYnXFUdzWqfI0
- Link to the Service I Used: https://web20ranker.com/product/order-budget-network-links/
Phase Three Brand Map Signals
Local Brand Links
- Local Brand Authority Links built for the Campaign: needs a link
- Link to the Service I Used: https://web20ranker.com/product/one-time-premier-brand-authority-links/
Local YouTube Video Links
- Local YouTube Video Link built for the Campaign: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xVYtHlQYNeY
- Link to the Service I Used: The YouTube Local Video Link is only offered in the DFY GMB Service
Niche Network Links
- Niche Network Links built for the Campaign: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1EQioK7xxpkww7DMyK4WHWv1e-Jnv_NsbLwDQAwb42Fc
- Link to the Service I Used: The Niche Network is only offered in the DFY GMB Service
Geo Network Links
- Geo Network Links built for the Campaign: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/19cFcqyUnlZ05JE_55e8gU9EuuA-n7IelAV_4GCRUGLM
- Link to the Service I Used: https://web20ranker.com/product/order-geo-networks/
Tier 2 Network Links to Brand Docs
- Tier 2 Budget Network Links built for the Campaign: https://drive.google.com/open?id=18IdjBsIbaRwj9DOKvOwK0UE4XvYif67uAS6ubyTE5EQ
- Link to the Service I Used: https://web20ranker.com/product/order-budget-network-links/
3 Pack Results
There are hundreds of different solutions on the market for ranking your GMB listing in the 3 pack, most of which are either shiny objects that mass produce worthless spam signals or outdated shots in the dark. And when those don’t work, they’ll tell you that GMB ranking has too many components and factors, making it a mysterious beast that can’t be tamed.
But ranking locally doesn’t need to be a veiled mystery when you combine great local link building strategies for the entity with solid website and listing optimization fundamentals. If you aren’t incorporating some or all of these strategies into your local campaigns, there’s no better time than right now to start doing so.