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Many SEO strategies still rely on link vendors and private blog networks (PBNs) for local clients. A private blog network is a gray hat/black hat link building tactic of using a set of sites under an SEO’s control to implement links to other sites (your “money sites”).

If you or your SEO company is promoting your site via PBNs, you are essentially gambling. Sites that are on a PBN that are caught by Google run the risk of being de-indexed, meaning consumers cannot find your site – a potentially devastating result.

So, I am going to tell you exactly how I would build white hat links if I only had $500 per month.

Citations & Directories

A local citation is any online mention of the name, address, and phone number for a local business. Citations can occur on local business directories, on websites and apps, and on social platforms.

Citations help Internet users discover local businesses and can also impact local search engine rankings. This mention may or may not include the address of your business and a link to your website. Either way, citations are flat out awesome for local sites for a number of reasons:

  1. Most local websites have little or no existing links – citations provide a great opportunity to pillow a profile with branded and naked URL links.
  2. Citation links are web based phone books. They help establish a website with a physical location – this is huge for local SEO and ranking in the local pack.
  3. They’re cheap and easy to build.

Citation links get a bad rap as being spammy, and sometimes when you outsource them they can be spammy. But when you put in the work to find the opportunities and build them yourself, they’re not spammy at all.

Here’s how you can do it:

1) Find Citation Opportunities via Whitespark

Whitespark’s local citation finder tool helps you find opportunities based on your location and key phrase.

Simply enter keywords related to your business (i.e. chimney service) and the tool will return a massive list of quality results.

You will still need to create your business listing, but this task can be easily outsourced.

  1. Hire a virtual assistant on Upwork
  2. Put together a spreadsheet with your business information
  3. Instruct your VA to build a business listing in all of the results from Whitespark

Total Cost:

  1. Whitespark is $20 per month for unlimited citation results
  2. Most VAs range between $4 – $8 per hour
  3. They can build about 15 citations an hour
  4. So for 150 citations, you’re looking at $40 – $80

2) Finding Directory Opportunities

Using a list of search operators can help you find any directory that you’d need. You should be sure to limit the number of directory submissions to around 40 for your area, though, so your brand doesn’t come off as spammy.

A good search operator should always contain two components:

  1. A root operator such as “add your business”
  2. A Search Modifier or keyword, such as “Raleigh”

So, you’d want to Google Raleigh “add your business”. But be sure you don’t just rely on Google, or one version of Google for that matter. You can use,,, Duck Duck Go, Bing, Yahoo, etc.

Additionally, for local link building, we want the modifier to contain local keywords. Get specific with it – instead of just using your city (i.e. Raleigh), dig into neighborhoods, counties, towns, etc.

To sum it up, build a list of prospects and pass them off to your VA to build

Total Cost:

  1. Most VAs range between $4 – $8 per hour.
  2. They can build about 10 directory links an hour.
  3. For 40 directory links (we don’t want ANY more than that), you’re looking a $16 – $32.

Local Blogger outreach 

There are TONS of link building opportunities right in your backyard.

Local bloggers and local influencers are a great resource for link building, and there are probably thousands of bloggers, with large followings, creating relevant content.

Most bloggers probably have a relatively low domain authority, however, they do have active blogs with top notch social followings that not only help build links, but grow traffic as well.

Plus, finding bloggers is easy! All you have to do is look through Google using search operators, such as:

  1. Raleigh Blogger
  2. Raleigh List of Bloggers
  3. Best Blogs in Raleigh

Using your own city as the search modifier, of course.

When prospecting, it’s important to remember that:

  1. You’re probably not going to find a blog with a high domain authority and that’s okay. These local bloggers might not be as “authoritative,” but they do create quality content on a regular basis and promote it hard through social networks.
  2. You’re probably not going to find blogs relevant to your “niche” and that’s okay. These sites provide local relevancy, which as you know, is incredibly important for your local rankings.

Local blogger outreach is something that either you can do, or instruct your virtual assistant from before to do.

Once your VA has built a list of prospects, it’s time to contact them. There are two great ways to do this: guest post exchanges & sponsored posts.

Guest Post Exchanges

Guest post exchanges work well in competitive verticals like legal, finance and marketing because for the most part, sponsored posts are out of the question.

Keep your pitch simple and to the point. Try something like this:

Hey [blogger name],

My name is [your name] and I’m a [your job] based right here in [your city].

I came across your blog [insert blog URL] and really like what you’re publishing. As a means to help each other grow our practices and brands, would you be up to do a post exchange (I write for your blog, you write for mine)?

If you don’t have time to write a post, I’d still love the opportunity to contribute to yours.

Here’s a recent example of an article I wrote for [who you wrote for]:

[URL of post]

Let me know your thoughts. Have a great day!

Once you send out the outreach emails, you can either hire content writer or write it yourself.

Total Cost:

  1. Most VAs range between $4 – $8 per hour.
  2. They can find about 10 opportunities an hour.
  3. For 100 opportunities, you’re looking at $40 – $80.
  4. Most content writers charge between $40 and $80 for 1,000 words.
  5. You’re looking at up front investment $40 – $80, plus an additional $40 – $80 per link.

Sponsored Posts

Honestly, sponsoring posts is definitely a gray hat tactic. Afterall, you are buying content with the purpose of providing a link.

Sponsored posts are ideal for fashion, travel, entertainment, and lifestyle niche sites. If these type of blogs seem a bit off topic compared to your site, all you need to do is determine a single link between your site and the blog’s site. 

Once you identify your angle of attack, you can start sending pitches. Just like the guest post exchanges, you’ll want to try and keep this pretty simple. Something like this:

Hey [blogger name],

My name is [your name] and I’m a [what you do]. In an effort to build online exposure, I’m looking for some local bloggers to work with.

Do you accept any form of advertisements on your site?

All I’m looking to do is get links from your site to mine. That link doesn’t need to be in a new article, you could simply add it to an old article.

If interested, let me know. Thanks!

You can either pay for a new post or use an existing post. This will allow you to add extra value to them by not intruding on their audience and to select a post that’s relevant.

Total Cost:

  1. Most VAs range between $4 – $8 per hour.
  2. They can find about 10 opportunities an hour.
  3. For 100 opportunities, you’re looking a $40 – $80.
  4. Most bloggers will charge between $50 and $200 for a link (NEGOTIATE!!)

Guest Posting

If none of the above works out for you, just guest post. This is a very simple concept that is very self explanatory, but here’s how you can do it:

  1. Search for ‘your keyword + “write for us”’
  2. Click through the search results
  3. Send them an intro email
  4. Write a great piece and submit it to them for publishing
  5. Write an awesome piece of content and submit it for publishing – or hire someone!

The trick to doing this at a large enough scale to be effective is to stay organized. You can create a spreadsheet to easily keep track of your work. It should have at least four sections:

  1. Status – where you are in the outreach process (i.e. contacted, approved, writing draft, creating images, submitted for approval, live)
  2. Site URL – The website you are working to get published on
  3. Guidelines URL – This will be on the “write for us” page, which is the place you can go to easily find information on the word count, suggested topics, etc.
  4. Contact Information – this should be the email address of the person you need to be in contact with. You can use Chrome add ons such as Rocket Reach or Hunter. Or you can use FindAnyEmail, which costs $49 for 5,000 email credits per month.

Once you’ve got this simple template setup, you can move on to filling it up with opportunities.

Use your VA to find opportunities

All you need to do is give your VA a list of search operators and keyword modifiers. For example, let’s say you’re a Raleigh based real estate agent, your core search operators would be:

  1. keyword “write for us”
  2. keyword “guest post”
  3. keyword “become an author”

Your search modifiers (aka “keyword”) in the above examples, would be:

  1. Raleigh
  2. Real Estate

Give this list to your VA and instruct them to find opportunities and fill out the spreadsheet accordingly. When done properly, you can get a few hundred results for about $100 (25 hours x $4).

Send a pitch to your opportunities.

Next, go down the list and send a simple email pitch. All you really have to do is copy and paste the same email over and over. I’d suggest using something like this:

Hi [their name],

I’m sure you get a ton of spammy submissions, so I’ll get straight to the point – I’d love the opportunity to submit a post for publishing on your site.

If you are still accepting posts, please let me know and I can put together a draft for your approval.

Thanks for your time.


Again, this is perfect work for your VA. If you’re pressed for cash, do it yourself. Either way, you can save a lot of time and money using the Yet Another Mail Merge Google sheets add on. You can send 50 per day for free or pay $24 for the full license.

Optional: Get your content written

At this stage, guest posting can get expensive. Depending on your niche, good content is going to cost you anywhere from $50 – $150. Obviously, if you are on a tight budget, you can do it yourself, but you should read up on copywriting to make sure your content is engaging.

If you go the route to outsource content writing, I strongly suggest putting aside $200 or so each month for content writing. That amount alone can get you 4-6 posts that will turn into 4-6 quality whitehat links.

Remember: The true key to guest posting is quality – if you’re creating quality content, you can pretty much link to whatever you want. Before submitting the post to the editor, review it and add additional insights.

Total Cost:

  1. Most VAs range between $4 – $8 per hour.
  2. They can find about 10 opportunities an hour.
  3. For 100 opportunities, you’re looking at $40 – $80.
  4. Most content writers charge between $40 and $80 for 1,000 words
  5. You’re looking at up front investment $40 – $80, plus an additional $40 – $80 per link.


    Let’s take a moment to review what we’ve covered:

    1. 150 local citations – $40 to $80
    2. 40 directory submissions – $16-32
    3. 1 local guest post exchange – $40-$80 up front, $40-80 for each post
    4. 1 local sponsored post – $40 to $80 up front, $50 to $200 for each post
    5. 1 guest post – $40 to $80 up front, $40 to $80 for each post

    Basically, you are looking at an up front investment of only $240 to find opportunities and a variable cost of up to $200 for every link you want to build. All you’ll need to do is spread these costs out across the life of the campaign to stay within your budget.

    By following these steps, staying persistent, and remaining confident in yourself, you’ll be sure to rank your site in your city.