Searcher locality is starting to influence regular search results for almost every query. Because this location is auto-detected you can't omit it from a search. You can only change is to another location within your country.
Even very generic searches are influenced in extreme ways. That is why local links are getting more important, also for your important keywords.
The example below shows how a very generic search for "www" (which I use to get generic authorities from Google) returns "dortmund" specific authorities first, just because my proxy is located there.
You can try your own examples in English on Google.co.uk (Google.com only works for US readers, while UK allows locality for everyone). Set your "Search tools" -> "Search near …" to any UK city to see how that influences the results. https://www.google.co.uk/#changed_loc=1&q=www. Non-UK visitors need to set it manually, but UK visitors aren't able to get results without their locality as a personalization factor.
How Does This Change SEO
To dominate a search theme for every visitor from any location, adding city-specific pages and texts to your website increases your chances. City-specific links also seem to increase your chance, even when you leave out any textual reference to the city on your site.
So what is local link building and how do you acquire locality relevant links? For years I've been active in local link building for websites like job portals, business listings, and other sites that cover multiple locations.
Link Building for Location Relevance
Location relevance needs to be addressed city-by-city. Some cities will have a positive effect on their boroughs and neighboring cities, so it is logical to focus on larger cities first.
When you Google for just a city name you get results like:
- Local government and public services (e.g. town hall, fire department, and local transport).
- Universities and schools.
- Tourist information.
- Sport clubs and associations (e.g. football club, hobby clubs, and churches).
- Local news (e.g. papers, radio, TV).
- Recurring local events (e.g., marathon or conference).
These websites are the most important link partners for a city name. A strategy focused on a service in one city can probably be copied to the same service in each individual city. Here are a few examples:
- Sponsor the local fire department: For a job portal I created information about hiring volunteer and on-call firemen that can be summoned at any time for emergencies and need to train often and hard. This requires a lot of flexibility from employers, so we created a list of attractive employers that would hire on-call people. Many fire department websites added our information and links to their "join the brigade" sections.
- Sponsor a couple of smaller local events: Bigger events might bring you more link value, but their sponsorship can also become very expensive. If link value is the thing you are after you can probably sponsor smaller material things that the organization needs and still get a link in return (just not on the main sponsor page). Smaller events are often much happier with your sponsorship and they don't realize that they can bring you some hard to grasp concept like local link value. You can ask for almost anything on their website.
- Buy old campaign websites: Local government often links to information campaigns that are no longer active and local elections also involve domains with no future use. Contact the current owner and take control over all that link value.
Even if you offer your services nationwide, Google has hereby declared being local an important ranking factor. Do whatever you can to cover the most important cities before some smaller local player takes your place. Prepare for the increasing role of local!