The world of guest blogging is getting crowded. So many suppliers vying for your attention and so many folks out there pounding the inboxes of everyone from lower level webmasters through to the upper echelons of the blogosphere. You’ve got Google hinting they might crack down and you’ve got people asking you to open your wallet. Guest blogging isn’t dead though, it just requires you to evolve – actually deliver some useful content, dig deeper into veins of link opportunity and explore other themes beyond ‘standard guest blogging’.
I have talked very briefly before about the abundance of great link opportunities that there are in local i.e. local blogs and those local news sites that nearly every large town in the UK, US, Canada and Australia seems to have. Today I want to cover these opportunities in a bit more detail, explain why you should go after them, how to find them, how to get in touch with the right person and what type of content you should try and pitch them.
What are the benefits?
- Local bloggers and news editors invariably love to get content – most are under-resourced so unlike so many other bloggers out there will actually be delighted to receive guest contributions (particularly well formulated ones!).
- News sites in particular often belong to a larger network (not in that way) and good pieces with a more regional or even hybrid local+national feel may get selectively syndicated to their parent sites which often means seriously trusted links and a much wider audience.
- Authoritative and trusted sources of links.
- They target a local audience which means there is great potential for referral traffic and conversions.
- Frequently there are ongoing opportunities to target the community audience as a expert columnist.
- Opportunities to establish greater credibility for you or your client through association with a trusted local brand.
It’s worth me reiterating at this point, my opinion on links that are “from afar” e.g. a .com if you are based in .ca are really (from our experience at least) just as valuable in an SEO context. Whilst having all local links is quite nice, it does somewhat limit the link market for you to go after. Diversity in our link building approach is really the aim here.
Finding local linking opportunities
There are quite a few ways you can unearth these localised guest blogging & other link opportunities but instead of providing a massive list (to impress you the reader) of all the ways we’ve tried and failed. Instead I’ve narrowed it down to the 3 that we use time and time again.
1. Find regional newspaper and corresponding websites
In most of the countries that we work in somebody has had the good idea of putting together a list of all the newspapers (and corresponding websites) by state, area, county etc. Here’s some of the ones we use frequently…
As I say, it really isn’t all that difficult to find these local news sites, but the local link opportunity doesn’t end there because there are a plethora of hyper-local, local and semi-local bloggers who cover areas that you’ll be missing out on if you just target the news sites.
2. Link Prospector
I’ve talked about the Link Prospector software from Citation Labs before and just how much my team and I LOVE this tool. Once again it can help with local link building because not only does it have the functionality to sniff out professional and trade organisations (just add local keywords) built in but you can also add custom footprints to try and identify way more opportunities beyond these.
You might be thinking,’trade organisations’… I didn’t get this far through your blog post for you to show me how to do directory submissions. Well, I’m not talking directories here, the Better Business Bureau in the US for example will accept guest contributions from local experts (see here for example).
The built-in guest blogging report type in Link Prospector is also really useful for finding local opportunities because you can throw in some local keyword phrases and get back plenty of prospects to go after.
If you want to take this to the next level and dive deep into the pool of local link opportunities then you need to research around your ‘market’ a little by finding some nearby places.
How to find nearby places (& use them to your advantage)
I built this very rough tool in Google Docs to find nearby places in the US. Dealing with clients in the UK is relatively easy as my team and I have a firm grasp of most of the major towns and cities (and their surrounding areas) in our small island nation. Working with US clients is a very different story so I hacked together this handy little tool in Google Docs which allows you to enter a place and the state it is located in and it will then output a list of places nearby.
Try it for yourself…http://skyrckt.com/nearbyplaces
- How does it work?
When you enter the name of the place and a state, the tool goes off and finds the state code and then combines that into a URL to search Distance Calculator and using importXML, it pulls in a list of places that are within 50 miles. Takes mere seconds and it scratches my itch at least.
- Why use it?
*If you are going to use it, PLEASE ensure you create a copy first before playing with it*
As I said, internally we had a need to quickly find nearby places to where our client was located. This is because we have been hunting down localised link opportunities and we quickly found that we were missing out on adjacent areas to our client. I mean finding websites that are local to Las Vegas is great but what about some hyper-local ones in one of the smaller towns nearby or an equally juicy opportunity in cities that are a mere 20 miles from Las Vegas?
Granted, my team and I aren’t all that familiar with a number of areas in the US but I suspect even some of our US friends aren’t all that familiar with surrounding towns to cities in states far away from where they live so I think there will be some value for most people reading this.
Like I said, it only works for finding nearby places in the US and sometimes it doesn’t quite work properly (nothing in Google Docs ever does!) but it’s free and it’s there. Feel free to suggest ways we could improve this.
Granted this isn’t quite as “scalable” as the previous 2 ways but a quick use of the Followerwonk ‘search Twitter bios’ section using some local place names (including the nearby towns) usually turns up a handful of golden contact opportunities.
A number of the social media management platforms out there also have the ability to search for individuals near to a certain location – SocialSignin for example has what they call “shopfront search” which doesn’t just go hunting in bios to show you Tweeters nearby but also mines location data taken from the Tweets themselves – so you can cast your net over link prospects that haven’t explicitly mentioned their live in Austin for example. This has power beyond link building (…social listening to reach tourists in your town?!) but that’s a post for another time.
At this point, Anthony Pensabene’s posts on “Who’s your competitor?” is a very pertinent read.
How to find the right person
For this element of the guide I am just going to cover the news sites because getting in touch with the very local bloggers tends to be quite traditional in that many have readily accessible contact forms or email addresses and in fact you could go and meet them. Let me be straight with you though, 98% of the time we have no face to face interaction with the local bloggers we’ve worked with because quite frankly they are distributed too widely across the globe for it to be practical. We simply piggyback off of the local presence that our client has. I’m not ‘bragging’ about that, just trying to offer some perspective to anyone who thinks they can’t do this because of distance.
To get in touch with the right person at the local news site you can largely follow a similar pattern…
- Look through the site to identify the most relevant section (think how you might relate this back to the content you want to pitch… see the next section of this post)
- Find one of the staff writers or the section editor
- Open your eyes to score their contact details – most local sites actively encourage feedback from their readers so have their email addresses readily accessible.
If you are genuinely struggling to see their email then you could always use the Linksy.me email finder – awesome little tool (use it wisely!).
Types of content that work
When we first started doing this, I’ll be honest we went about localised link building in much the same way as other forms of content-led link building. We would try to craft a content pitch that fitted the triangle of being good for the website, good for the client and good for the reader.
When it comes to pitching local sites though we’ve found that actually you need to be really specific. It sounds obvious now but you have to pitch them content that REALLY appeals to their target audience – the locals. Not all of their audience are going to be interested in X, Y or Z but most citizens are interested in things that affect their everyday lives.
Their location is what ties this audience together so regardless of what you talk about, it needs to relate credibly to a genuine local issue. Most of the local news sites already have the issues, you just need to find out how you can relate them back to the subject you want to talk about.
A good example might be freak weather in a certain city which is causing a new kind of bug to be in town, how likely is a local news editor to agree to a post from an expert on pest management which explains about that bug, what local residents can do about it etc? The answer is very likely indeed.
As always, I welcome any comments and questions if you’ll care to add them below.