Many local businesses freely give to local charities or non-profits. They do so for many reasons: the cause is near and dear to them, an employee or family member benefits from the charity, or they simply want to be good corporate citizens. There can be a side benefit to giving to a local organization: enhanced SEO. For local SEO, Google will recognize a link even if the linking organization doesn’t have clear relevance to your company. Will such linking get your listing from the fourth to the first search page? No, but it can help get your listing from the bottom of the first page to the top. Despite numerous search algorithm changes, link building is still a primary factor in local SEO.
If you want to improve your local search position by increasing the number of backlinks to your site, you have three options:
- The artificial route – General activity which increases the number of links to your site.
- The organic route – Linking with websites that have relevant content with yours or that are within the same industry or niche.
- The natural route – Creating relationships with local organizations which shows your local authority to Google.
Natural links are often difficult to come by for a local business. For example:
- Local editorial stories – While many businesses write editorials on themselves hoping to get them published, most are unsuccessful. Many of these self-promoting articles don’t have the content deemed newsworthy by the target site administrators. Added to that, many news websites have become no-follow sites, meaning that they are not allowing Google to recognize the link. The puts quite a damper on that link opportunity.
- Local awards – Winning a local award is an honor in itself. Trying to get one for the purpose of a link will diminish your achievement and possibly backfire.
- Local industry memberships (can be expensive). Industry directory memberships usually renew every year so any outlay of cash for one will be short lived and expensive.
Finding charity links is less time consuming and expensive.
Sometimes there simply aren’t linking opportunities available in your local area. But there are charities in most towns and cities, and many of these charities have websites where they acknowledge their sponsors.
How to get a link with a charitable organization
- Find the charities or non-profits your company may want to link to. This can be done in a number of ways. A search for “charities or non-profit organizations” in your town or city will produce a list of prospects. Reach out to them, they’re local so a phone call will do. If they service a portion of the community that is compatible with your service or product, that is a way in. A camping store linking with a Boy Scout troop for instance.
- Make a donation. Look for a charity or non-profit that has a Sponsors or Donation page. Generally, you can “buy” a link with a donation of under $100. Most of these are “do follow” links that can really juice your SEO. Be mindful to donate only to the groups where there is a clear relationship between your company and them. The target organization should be located in your community or already be a benefactor of your giving. If you have a logo of a group with the caption “We proudly give to so and so” that would probably assure Google that your motives for linking are philanthropic.
A link from a charity website can be extremely beneficial. Some are “local hubs” which get good coverage. This boosts their domain authority, which can be passed onto you. In some cases, just one or two of these links can push a business right up to the first position of Google. Very often charitable activities generate local press attention. Charity events usually get write-ups on local news sites, and so being part of that can help you to get noticed too.
An important cautionary note
Officially, Google considers making donations for links to be paid links and against Google policies. Clearly, if you give to dozens of random organizations without regard to their cause or location, you are engaging in a link scheme and can expect to be penalized. However, if your motives are altruistic, you keep local, and you don’t go overboard, Google will recognize the difference.
Local SEO and Agencies
It can be difficult for SEO professionals to create local connections that Google rewards. They can find good local backlinks, but intervention from the business owners themselves is often necessary. If you hire an agency to manage SEO for you, consider that when it comes to local links, some of the activity Google rewards simply can’t be simulated. Want more local SEO tips? Read about them here.