4 Local SEO Experts Share Their “Ace In The Hole” Technique For Ranking In Competitive Markets

Local SEO | SEO

Like most online marketing strategies today, SEO (and more specifically, local SEO), is a system.

It’s not a flash of genius or a spark of creativity. It’s the process of implementing a series of proven procedures that get results. If you are struggling to achieve results from organic search, there is a 90% chance it’s because you haven’t done the fundamental legwork or simply aren’t aware of what a successful SEO campaign looks like.

That said, for particularly competitive local markets – usually high-income markets where all the top players are investing heavily in SEO – sometimes an “ace in the hole” technique is needed to break through the competition and get to the top of Google’s front page.

Accordingly, I searched out 4 local SEO experts and discovered their “Ace In The Hole” technique for going past the standard system and breaking into highly competitive markets.

Here’s what they had to say.

1. “Go Content Crazy”

Content marketing is bigger than it’s ever been. More and more online businesses are investing heavily in a steady stream of compelling content intended to attract their target audience.

Yet the concept is almost unheard of for local business owners.

For many business owners and the marketers they hire, the only content that gets put up on the site is a handful of brief informational pages. While this might fly in less competitive niches, it is a big problem if you are trying to get traffic in a more saturated market.

Enter Brad Campbell, local SEO expert and co-founder of the Job Killing training program. Brad explains that his “ace in the hole” strategy for highly competitive niches is to do what none of his competitors are willing to do – write a ton of in-depth content on his landing pages.


Brad Campbell, co-founder of JobKilling.com
You know, it’s not the sexiest of strategies, but here’s what I do. In highly competitive local markets, I go content crazy. I will usually write 2,000+ words for every optimized landing page.

Next, I get high-value backlinks from the Chamber of Commerce, Better Business Bureau (lame, I know), a city-relevant blog with high traffic (via a guest or sponsored post), a niche-relevant blog with high traffic (via a guest or sponsored post), and then I go from there. I’m an essentialist, so I focus on “less but better.” This process alone – lots of in-depth content and a handful of high-value links – is usually enough to rank my sites at #1 in even the larger, more competitive cities I target.


So what exactly does going “content crazy” look like?

Well, as Brad mentioned, length is a big factor. Google wants to give users in-depth, authoritative content, and while more isn’t always better, Google will give you bonus points in its algorithm for lengthier content.

In order to get the most search value from your posts, it’s important to also go through the full on-page optimization process we discuss here. With a slate of lengthy, SEO optimized landing pages on your site, you will begin to see the results you’ve been waiting for.

2. Sponsor Posts On Key Sites

One element Brad mentioned that many business owners may not have even considered before is sponsored posts.

A sponsored post is a post that you pay to place on a target site. It is formatted similarly to a normal blog posts, but since it is essentially an advertisement, you are able to make it a bit promotional for your business if you so desire. Most higher quality sites will mark sponsored posts with a “Sponsored Post” tag or something similar to indicate that is has been purchased.

Let me just clarify right out of the gate that many sponsored post strategies or sites that accept sponsored posts are extremely spammy. SEO post farms were a big deal as recent as a decade ago, and some of these still remain, tricking businesses into paying them for completely worthless posts.

To get any sort of return via sponsored posts today, you need to be very specific in the opportunities you pursue. To explain this, we have Be Top Local‘s very own local SEO expert Ben Jensen, who has achieved big time results for his clients using the RIGHT sponsored post strategy.


Ben Jensen, head of SEO at Be Top Local
For businesses that are in more competitive niches, the biggest determining factor is their backlink profile. Instead of just buying random links and potentially getting penalized, I look for the types of websites that will actually send real traffic and customers to the business. Asking, “Will a link on this site actually send relevant traffic to the business?” is a great litmus test for identifying the right types of sites for sponsored posts.

In the local Utah market,  KSL.com is a perfect example. The site has an 83 DA and millions of monthly visitors. A good sponsored post on the site can send 10,000+ visitors in a 24 hour period and generate actual customers, plus you get a couple huge DA links back to your site. And because this is such a relevant, high authority site, Google is never going to penalize you for getting a sponsored article on a site like this. We’ve run posts like this for clients and generated around $10k in leads for them in addition to the backlinks.


So how do you practically go about getting sponsored post placed on a site like KSL.com? The process can be quite time consuming, and to be honest, I would recommend outsourcing this to your marketing consultant, but if you want to give it a go, here’s the process I would use to get posted on KSL.

  1. Think of a topic that will be interesting to KSL’s audience AND relevant to the service you offer.
  2. Find the right contact information, which for KSL would be Roman Budilov’s email listed here.
  3. Make sure the article topic is acceptable to KSL and get info on budget and timeline.
  4. Either write the article yourself or hire a freelance copywriter to draft a fantastic article for you.
  5. Submit the post with links and a CTA back to the most relevant landing page on your site.

Sponsored posts like this can be an incredibly affordable way to get local consumers on your site while also boosting your backlink profile.

3. Get More Customer Reviews

If you are a local business owner in the 21st Century, you have undoubtedly discovered firsthand the importance of online reviews.

What you may not have discovered, however, is that you are not limited to simply waiting and hoping that customers will review your business. You can make legitimate review acquisition an active part of your business and marketing process, and you SHOULD!

Ecommerce SEO expert Carl Hendy explains how he helps clients proactively seek reviews as part of his “ace in the hole” local seo strategy.


Carl Hendy, ecommerce SEO expert at CarlHendy.com
I would be encouraging reviews from customers on the Google review platform wherever possible. Google is displaying these reviews alongside the map listings and also in the sidebar for branded searches. Google is trying to understand sentiment of reviews, links and citations across the web, so it’s important to try and manage your reviews effectively.

There are many ways to manage your reviews to ensure bad reviews are dealt with before they arrive online and also to ensure that good reviews go straight to your Google business page. There are many 3rd party platforms that offer review services, however some simple javascript and marketing automation would allow you to effectively manage your reviews without any long-term contracts or monthly costs.

Any local business can benefit from positive reviews online, no matter what vertical they are on. Having positive reviews in map listings and the search sidebar will also help increase the click-through rate to a business.

Capturing reviews can be as simple as setting up a landing page on your website – for example, yourwebsite.com/reviews – and ensuring that your customers leave reviews. This can be done by having your review page on the back of our business card or other paraphernalia. A dry cleaning business, for example, could have the URL on the tags attached to clothing after a completed job.

Another easy way to encourage positive reviews is to ask for a review in return for a discount/coupon/freebie on next purchase. This is very common with ecommerce retailers but could be applied to hotels, mechanics, butcher shops, or any type of local business. As customers are leaving the store, ask them if they were happy with the service and then offer them a discount on their next visit in exchange for leaving a review.

Most people are perpetually logged into their Google account via their smartphone, so stuff like this is a lot more realistic nowadays. It would only take them a a minute or two to pull out their phone, find your business, and leave a review. A lot of local businesses owners are afraid to ask customers for reviews, but they shouldn’t be.

4. Create The Biggest Content

So let’s say you’ve done all of the above.

  1. You’ve turned all your landing pages into 2,000 word, optimized pieces of SEO brilliance.
  2. You’ve published sponsored posts on high-quality, authority websites in your niche.
  3. You’ve acquired a boatload of reviews from your customers.

If you have done all of this, there is a very high chance you are beginning to see some serious results. If, however, your niche is SO competitive and SO saturated that you are still not getting to the top 3 spots on Google’s front page, we have one last trick up our sleeve to help you steal home base.

It’s called the Skyscraper Technique and it comes to us courtesy of Brian Dean, SEO expert and teacher at Backlinko. When Brian is targeting rankings on a national level, he leapfrogs the competition by creating the biggest, baddest most in-depth content on the web.


Brian Dean, SEO expert at Backlinko.com
Have you ever walked by a really tall building and said to yourself: “Wow, that’s amazing! I wonder how big the 8th tallest building in the world is.”

Of course not.

It’s human nature to be attracted to the best. And what you’re doing here is finding the tallest “skyscraper” in your space…and slapping 20 stories to the top of it. All of a sudden YOU have the content that everyone wants to talk about (and link to).

Here are the 3-steps that make up The Skyscraper Technique:

Step 1: Find link-worthy content

Step 2: Make something even better

Step 3: Reach out to the right people

[First, find] content so awesome, so incredible, and so useful that people can’t help but login to their WordPress dashboard and add a link to your site.

But how do you know if your linkable asset is going to be a huge success…or a total flop? That’s easy: find content that’s already generated a ton of links.

Your next step is to take what’s out there and blow it out of the water. Make it longer, more up-to-date, better designed, and more thorough.

[Finally,] email outreach is the linchpin of the Skyscraper Technique. It’s similar to straight up link begging, but with a VERY important twist. Instead of emailing random people, you’re reaching out to site owners that have already linked out to similar content.

When you qualify prospects like this, you know that:

1. They run a site in your niche.

2. They’re interested in your topic.

3. They’ve already linked to an article on that topic.

Now it’s just a matter of giving them a friendly heads up about your clearly superior content.


Successful SEO is a process. If you are just getting started, don’t waste your time with these advanced techniques.

Start with the basics by following the process we outline in this Utah SEO case study – the same process Be Top Local used to turn an $8.5k budget into $100k profit in a single month.

If you’ve been grinding away at the fundamentals, however, and are still having difficulty cracking the top #3 spots, the 4 “Ace in the Hole” strategies we’ve discussed today are an incredible way to break through that plateau and get the results you need.

  1. Make your landing pages crazy long, in-depth and SEO optimized
  2. Purchase sponsored posts on key niche websites
  3. Prioritize getting reviews from your customers
  4. And create the biggest, baddest, most linkable content in your niche