Back to School: Local Link Building

How to Build Local Links with School Partnerships

The end of the school year is here again. While children across the country salivate for the impending arrival of summer, new link opportunities are in full bloom.

Building links through partnerships with local schools and universities is nothing new to the world of Local SEO, but linkbuilders have often fallen into the rut of leaning on scholarship and alumni links at the college level. Let’s walk through some great ways to identify new opportunities with schools of all sizes – and detail how to rely on value-centric messaging instead of ever mentioning a link as a primary motivation for partnership.

Back to School: Local Link Building

How to Identify New Link and Local Partnership Opportunities

There are many ways to go about finding new local partnership opportunities with schools, day care centers, and camps. If you’re a car dealer, start by asking the people at your dealership about the events going on at the schools of their children.

If you have a personal connection, that will really go a long way for building a sustainable partnership that results in a link. After you’ve collected a list of a few schools / events, add those businesses to a list of potential link opportunities.

Another way to identify opportunities is to look at what is already working (your competitor’s link profile). Use Moz’s Open Site Explorer to run searches for all your local competitors – and really think about each and every one of your competitors.

A ton of dealers will focus on only their top-5 competitors for vehicle sales, but there are separate competitors for each specific service your dealership offers. That means your tire price competitors might be different than your list of sales competitors. Make sure you’re doing a deep dive on OSE to find partnerships that all your competitors are currently utilizing. When you run their link profile, you’ll find both fundamental citation sources and niche-specific sites. You definitely need to be listed everywhere relevant to your dealership, but we want to drill down and find the partner and sponsor links as well.

One quick way to identify partnerships is by searching for any links with the anchor text that includes words like, “Friends, sponsor, partner, event details, awards, etc…”. This is going to help you quickly identify domains where your competitors have built partner relationships.

I prefer using the raw exports, but Open Site Explorer does have advanced reports that enable you to filter the link exports to show only links containing the anchor text values you wish to see.

After you’ve identified this list of sites where your competitors are getting partnership links, you now have a pretty solid list of potential opportunities – and that’s just from running a few link exports!

Back to School: Local Link Building

How to Quickly Evaluate a Domain for Acquisition Potential

Looking at your potential opportunities, you need to manually vet each domain, that is, weed out the bad stuff. Check for relevance, quality, and potential for acquisition. Quickly look at the URL of the potential opportunity and check the following things:

  • Is the website from a local or niche-specific organization?
  • Does it look like local people would visit the site?
  • Is there a page for sponsors and partners?
  • Does the sponsors/partners page contain outbound links to the partners?
    • If there’s no dedicated sponsors/partners page, does the organization link to their sponsors in the site header or in a sitewide sidebar?
  • Does the organization link to sponsors on the home page?
  • Does the organization have a blog?
  • Does the blog have posts about specific events that include partner links?

If you answered, “yes” to many of those questions, then you should go ahead and move forward with researching the opportunity in more detail.

If you answered, “no” to most of those questions, then there may be a low potential for link acquisition. Not a big deal, just move on to the next one.

How to Identify the Needs of a Potential Local Organization

Let’s move on to the next step – researching the link opportunity to identify a potential intersect of needs and value. You’ll find that this part of the process can vary wildly from organization to organization.

Some sites will have detailed documentation on their website about sponsorship levels, what you get with each level of sponsorship, et. Occasionally, recreation centers will feature camp sponsorship for their summer programs and they have well-documented levels that are affordable for car dealers.

Some sites will have only a list of logos of their sponsors, but very little detail about what these partners are providing. For those, you have to do a little detective work, then start exploring channels for outreach. You’ll want to reach out for a basic fact-finding call and ask questions like:

  • What exactly does it take to become a sponsor?
  • What are your other sponsors currently providing?
  • Is there anything you need that your other sponsors aren’t providing?
  • Are there any new events coming up that don’t have sponsors yet?
  • Do you have any recurring events that could benefit from additional sponsors?

Quick Ideas on How to Provide Value

My best advice: brainstorm and experiment constantly. You may not realize how much value you can provide until you start trying. Here’s a quick list of three ideas that I’ve seen work with private schools, day care centers, and camps.

Back to School: Local Link Building

Provide supplies for Field Day / School Carnivals

Schools do water balloon throws, pie in the face, watermelon smashes, etc…These are super-fun events to attach your school to and parents often come out to watch the festivities. For the school carnivals, almost every carnival game has a little prize (keychains, rubber ducks, yo-yos, etc…) Contact a representative from the school and offer to provide some of these items. They are normally very affordable and the school is happy to be able to spend their budget on other items.

Hint: if you’ve got dealership-branded balloons or merch, use those!

Help Provide Transportation for Parents Night Out

I’ve seen a ton of success with this one! Many local day care centers provide Parents Night Out services once a month. They often pair with local sports teams, wineries, bowling alleys, golf centers, and other fun date night places to provide transportation.

If you have a courtesy shuttle that can accommodate 10-15 people, offer it up to the day care center. The parents will appreciate saving a little money on ride-sharing and you get a link and dealership awareness with real local people.

Back to School: Local Link Building

Offer your Facilities for a School’s Out or Back to School Event

If you want to go big, host an event where your dealership works with multiple schools (Pro Tip: make it specific to grade levels if possible). A lot of the private schools have a 6th grade, 8th grade, and 12th grade graduation at the end of their school year.

I’ve seen success with dealers who have reached out to 3 schools and hosted a joint appreciation event for recent graduates and their parents. You’ll want to do one for each of the grade levels mentioned.

This type of event doesn’t have to be extravagant. Set up a few product demos for your vehicles, raffle off a few gift cards, set up a photo booth, but mainly make it about providing refreshments and congratulating the recent graduates.

If you plan on doing this for going back to school, go for the kids entering the 6th, 8th, or 12th grade – try to build in the recurrence of it being a fun event for kids to attend at the beginning and end of their graduating school year because of the raffles, cool car stuff, and before/after photos.

Seriously, there are a million ways to find and identify new opportunities. The key is determining where your dealership can provide value to these organizations. As long as you’re focused on providing legitimate value, then the partnerships won’t be hard to obtain.

Also, this isn’t a one-time thing. You have to keep on doing this as long as your dealership is in business. Do not just think of building links as a 3-month project, it is something you must be doing constantly.