Haddonfield, N.J.-based Archer scored a case that led to a U.S. Supreme Court win via blogging and other local law firms speak of their own client successes created via similar means.
If you’ve followed SEO strategies for any length of time, you know one thing: SEO changes all the time. When it comes to local SEO, it’s more important than ever that you optimize your on-site and off-site SEO strategies for clients and customers who may be searching for your local business. Local competition is heating up, and if you’re not on top of your rankings, you can bet your competitors will be.
Here are five solid local SEO tactics you can use this year to help your business rank higher for local search terms.
1. Title and meta description tags still matter
Title and meta description tags are HTML elements that you can customize to reflect the content of your web page. The text of your title and description tags is displayed in search results. Think of this text as a “mini-ad” that you need to carefully craft.
Last year, Google increased the width of the main search results area to 600px. In light of this, the generally acceptable length for title tags is approximately 50 to 60 characters, and description tags can be approximately 160 to 200 characters. Take advantage of this space and use it wisely — and make sure you double-check that your titles and descriptions aren’t getting cut off in search results.
If you’re not sure how your title and meta description tags will look or how many characters you can get away with, try using an emulator like the one from SEOmofo or Yoast’s SEO Plugin for WordPress:
Writing titles and descriptions is considered an art in the SEO world. In a sea of competing search results, if this text isn’t unique, compelling and descriptive, then your click-through rate will suffer. Additionally, one extra word or character could cut off your text with the dreaded ellipses (…). This may not be a true tragedy, but it does look unprofessional, especially when it shows up in the middle of a sentence, making your title or description less impactful.
The lesson? This space is precious, and every character counts. Here are some tips:
- Never waste space on page names that don’t provide helpful information.
- If you want to reach local customers, include the name of the city your business is in and/or the area your business serves (e.g., “Serving the Corridor of Iowa City and Cedar Rapids”).
- Focus on using one targeted keyword and carefully place that keyword as close to the beginning of the tag as you can.
Remember, if your business shows up in the search results, you have one shot to get that person to click on your link. Don’t blow it by wasting characters that won’t help convince a searcher you’re worth looking at.
2. Online directories and citations
According to Google, roughly four out of five consumers use search engines to conduct local searches. Yet many small businesses have not claimed even a single a local business listing online, which is a huge missed opportunity.
It’s important that you get your business listed correctly and consistently on top online business directories, like Yelp, Merchant Circle, Citysearch and others. You will also want to seek out respectable local directories to get your business listed on. Check with your local newspaper’s website and your Chamber of Commerce to see if they have a local business directory you can get listed on. You can also do a search for keywords like “[your city] directory” to find other local citation sites or directories.
It’s also important to get your business’s name, address and phone number (NAP) on the major citation data aggregators like Infogroup, Neustar (aka Localeze), Acxiom and Factual. Always make sure that your company’s NAP is consistent on as many of these directories and citation sites as possible. Discrepancies like misspellings, abbreviations, lack of suite number and wrong phone number can create havoc when Google can’t determine which information about your business is correct. If Google’s not sure, they may display incorrect information — or not show your business at all in search results.
3. Google My Business: Claim and optimize
Google My Business (GMB) is considered a directory, but it’s a biggie, so it deserves its own section. It’s very important for local businesses to claim their Google My Business (and Bing Places for Business) page. It’s free and can get you incredible exposure if you’re optimized enough to show up in Google’s local three-pack:
To claim your Google My Business page, visit google.com/business. There’s a verification process you’ll need to go through where Google will send a postcard with a PIN to your business’s physical location. (No P.O. boxes allowed.) Then you’ll simply log in and enter the PIN to verify your business.
This verification process is necessary because Google wants to confirm that your business is legitimate, and that you are actually the business owner. Please note that according to Google’s terms of service, only the business owner can claim a GMB page. If you’re working with a digital marketing agency on your SEO efforts, you can then grant them permission to be a manager of your page — that way, you remain in control of your listing if you terminate your relationship with the agency.
The next step is to optimize your GMB listing with a solid description, categories, business hours, types of payments accepted and so on. You also want to make sure to upload your logo and photos of your business, products or services. (It’s generally recommended that you upload at least three photos.)
Fully populate each and every relevant section so that your listing is complete. If you’re a service business and don’t have a location customers or clients can visit, don’t worry; you can choose to hide your physical address as you’re setting up your Google My Business listing.
As mentioned above, Bing also has a comparable page for local businesses called Bing Places for Business. The process is very similar to GMB, and you should definitely have your business present on Bing’s local directory, too.
4. Online reviews matter
Businesses are finally starting to realize the importance of online reviews from their customers. According to a recent survey, 84 percent of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation, and seven out of 10 customers will leave a review for a business if asked by the business.
There are several reputation marketing software and tool options you can use to track, manage and proactively try to get reviews. Here are some to check out:
- Reputation Loop
- Get Five Stars
- Trust Pilot
Additionally, many social media platforms, like Hootsuite and Tiny Torch, allow you to monitor and get alerts any time your brand is mentioned. Whenever a review is left about your business, positive or negative, be sure to respond to it. That shows other people reading the reviews that you, the business owner, care what your customers think.
Two places where you should focus on getting reviews are your business’s Facebook page and Google My Business page. These are big ones. Many people turn to social media to see what their friends and family think about a business, so having good reviews on your business’s Facebook page can help to draw in prospective customers. Getting positive reviews on your Google My Business page is crucial because these reviews show up on Google when someone searches for your business.
Google also notes that “[h]igh-quality, positive reviews from your customers will improve your business’s visibility,” which implies that reviews might factor into rankings on the local pack.
5. Use local structured data markup
Structured data markup — often referred to as “schema markup” or “schema.org markup” — can be added to your website’s code to provide search engines with more information about your business, like the products you sell, reviews you’ve collected, services you offer and so on.
Only 31.3 percent of websites are using this markup — and most are only using the basics. You can make your local business stand out (and possibly rank higher than your competitors) if you add structured data markup to your site where appropriate.
Google wants you to use structured data markup because it helps their spiders better determine what your site content is about. Google even offers a Structured Data Testing Tool so you can check to see if your markup is properly implemented.
If the thought of coding freaks you out, you can also use Google’s Data Highlighter to mark up content with your mouse. (Note that your website will need to be set up with Google Search Console in order for this to work.)
This is just of the tip of the iceberg when it comes to local SEO. Implementing the five local search tactics above will give you a head start on your competition. Get started today!
- [Source:-Search engine LAnd]
Even if you’re already familiar with how to optimize your website for local search today, you probably know that the state of local SEO is always changing.
Between updating your Google My Business page, understanding schema markup, and setting up the right monitoring tools on your own website, keeping up with local SEO can be a bear, an infographic from On Blast Blog points out.
But fear not: The infographic also provide tips on how to succeed with local SEO now and prepares you for some possible upcoming changes.
For example, although customer reviews are already important, they may gain even more weight moving forward, the infographic predicts.
To see more tips on how to set up your website for local SEO success, check out the infographic:
If you’re not a tech expert, local SEO can be daunting. From the outside, it may seem like a lot of speculation and experimentation without consistent results. And yet, it can have a big impact on your business success. Just consider these statistics:
- 93 percent of online experiences begin with a search engine
- 75 percent of users never scroll past the first page of search results
- Search is the No.1 driver of traffic to content sites, beating social media by more than 300 percent.
Related: 5 SEO Techniques You’re Doing All Wrong
Here’s the good news: If you don’t know much about local SEO, but are ready to put it to work, you’ve come to the right place. Below are tips from 12 SEO experts to help you dominate your local search engine rankings.
1. Chris Rodgers
“Save time and money — and boost rankings — by outsourcing the labor-intensive task of managing bulk local listings. Local SEO can be tricky to manage; it’s time-consuming work that can end up being quite expensive for the client. The truth is that outside of citation-building, traditional SEO factors such as on-page content, back links and technical crawl health have a very big impact on local SEO rankings.
“At our agency, we’ve found that using tools and outside resources can minimize the cost in managing local listings. Rio and Bright Local are two platforms that stand out as good options for managing bulk local listings. Beyond local SEO platforms, we also work with clients’ in-house resources to perform listing management under our direction.
“Since this part of local SEO requires a fairly low-skill set and is quite time-consuming, finding a way to outsource effectively can save clients loads of money that is better spent on more challenging aspects of SEO.” — Chris Rodgers, of Colorado SEO Pros
2. Chris Everett
“There’s no hard, fast rule about local landing pages. Deciding how many to add to your website depends on your location and what’s being targeted. Sometimes, the thought of creating a bunch of local landing pages can cause a little bit of panic among clients. But if you want to optimize your site for multiple locations, you have to take the leap. It’s just a matter of taking into account what’s being targeted.
“For instance, if a company has a dozen statewide locations, then it makes sense to have a landing page for each location. However, if a company operates in one small area, and the surrounding municipalities have a low population, a dozen landing pages is overkill. Instead, stick to targeting the one city and surrounding areas on the same page.” — Chris Everett, Atlanta SEO Consultant
3. Chris Lara
“Take advantage of a directory submission services for relevant link-building. Directory link-building is a valuable factor if you want to boost rankings. But it needs to be strategic and intentional — and requires a lot of manual time and effort as a result. To help build links that scale, use a site like directorymaximizer.com.
“Outsourcing to a service like this saves time by finding the most relevant web directories for your unique site. It also manually submits to each directory. That way, you can quickly and effectively build a diverse link profile while also focusing on other SEO and business priorities.” — Chris Lara of Lara Master Creations
4. Will Guthrie
“The domain name you choose plays an important role in SEO that can impact your rankings. When you’re first launching your business, think through the domain name you choose. The one you decide on can ultimately have a big impact on SEO. You might think that including targeted keywords is a surefire way to boost SEO. But that approach has actually lost ground in recent years.
“Today, Google likes authenticity and uniqueness. So, focus on promoting your brand through your domain. Just make sure it’s easy to spell, short, relevant and memorable. Also, keep in mind that any name you select will take at least several months to rank.” — Will Guthrie, of Blue Laser Design
5. Erick Carlson
“You can get high rankings from just effective, quality content. If you want your site to rank locally, you need good content. Don’t know where to start? Take a look at the top five or 10 ranking local sites in your industry and use them as inspiration.
“Also, create 500-to-700 word pages based on each targeted keyword (such as “plumbing repair”). Include pictures with alt tags, along with reviews or testimonials. Every single product and service should have its own page, complete with a description, pictures, tags and categories.” — Erick Carlson, of WebTechs.Net
6. Kyle Sanders
“Claim multiple listings on page one of Google by leveraging untapped authoritative directories in your industry. Find three or four well-known business directory websites in your industry and check the first four pages of Google for your target keyword and see if those websites currently show up in the search results.
“If a directory website does not show up, list your business on that site and thoroughly complete all of their requested fields including a full description, as many photos as possible and several customer reviews. Finally, build links to that specific directory page, and eventually it should rank, based on the existing domain authority, industry relevance, added content and growing authority.” — Kyle Sanders, of Complete Web Resources
Related: 4 Things Every Entrepreneur Needs to Know About SEO
7. Andrew Hagni
“Optimizing your website for search engines starts with great on-site content. There isn’t any secret formula or magic trick for getting organic SEO results. You need to have the best content possible, along with creating a great design and user experience for your customers.
8. Andrew Tuzson
“Accurate and consistent citations are critically important because Google uses them to evaluate the online authority of your business. When I’m working with a new client, the very first step in the process is to check their citation information. This includes any mention of their business details, such as name, address and phone number, on any web page.
“Citations can be structured, like on Yelp, or unstructured, such as in a news article. But what I’m looking for is to make sure they’re all accurate, up-to-date and consistent. This is important because search engines rely on the consistency of your online business information. If it’s not consistent, it can impact results.” — Andrew Tuzson, of Evol Empire Creative
9. Gayatri Patel
“Link-building and keywords are fundamental components of good SEO. If you could only focus on two things, I would say aggressive link-building and identifying the right keywords to rank for. Once you have your keywords in mind, then you need to create unique landing pages for each set. Also, don’t forget to update meta titles and meta descriptions to correlate with the keywords.
10. Shailen Lodhia
“Ranking No. 1 is pointless without a positive impact on conversion and sales. Unless SEO leads to conversions, it’s worthless. So, if someone clicks on your site and immediately leaves due to weak content or a poor user experience, then all the optimization in the world doesn’t matter. You need to be focusing on conversion once a prospect gets to your website.
“I measure it by how many people go to the “Contact” page because they’re going there for a phone number or email address.” — Shailen Lodhia of EXPRESEO
11. Steve Schawb
“Use your business network as the foundation of your local link-building effort. Get the basics right first, including local link development. If you don’t know where to start, just look to your network of contacts. This includes business owners, suppliers, vendors, chambers of commerce, business associations, charities and non-profits you work with — and your local newspaper — as well as local bloggers.
12. Skyler Malley
“There isn’t any one tactic that’s going to help you increase rankings. Take a multi-dimensional approach built on the basics. I recommend taking a three-pronged approach to SEO. First, make sure your Google My Business page is optimized and correct and also has the right business name, address and phone (NAP).
“Next, use a local syndication service like Moz Local, Yext or Advice Local, to make sure the correct NAP is on all the major local websites. And, finally, invest some effort into traditional link-building. This is really still where you’re going to get the biggest bang for your buck in terms of rankings.” — Skyler Malley of Firestarter SEO
Related: These 9 SEO Tips Are All You’ll Ever Need to Rank in Google
Don’t be intimidated by SEO. It can be your best friend if you use these simple, yet proven, strategies from the experts to boost your business’s online visibility. When you do, you’ll be well on your way toward building your brand, expanding your reach and ultimately gaining an edge over the competition.
You get the point. There are a lot of reasons and variables which can influence a local SEO campaign. However, even though it is difficult, you can see a great impact from a well-executed local SEO campaign.
If you are not getting the results you want from your local SEO campaign, then it could be your vendor. Here are the top reasons your local SEO company isn’t getting you the results you want:
Reasons Your Local SEO Company is Failing
Disconnect Between Client & Vendor
This seems to be the biggest reason for failure: an overall lack of understanding SEO. Back in 2010-2013, I audited a lot of SEO companies’ reporting of campaigns, mainly due to the client not knowing if the vendor was providing results or not. The reporting was always very advanced, cookie cutter, and automated. Almost 100 percent of the time the issue was it was too advanced, cookie cutter, and automated — it was hard for the client to understand.
The clients were all the same. They were small business owners who did not have time to learn SEO, which is why they hired an SEO company. Then, after they hired the SEO company, they received this automated report which they didn’t understand. Half of them didn’t understand what “organic search” meant in Google Analytics. There was this huge disconnect between “success” from the point of view of the SEO company and the vendor.
Your campaign could be performing and you wouldn’t know it! If your reporting and measures of “success” are different from the SEO company — i.e., you care about phone calls and they care about keyword rankings — set up a meeting to discuss the different key performance indicators and make sure you are aligned. Make sure you get monthly calls scheduled to review the data and make sure your key performance indicators are being measured.
Local SEO is hard to report, being that the local search pack skews results and you have to track them all. I have found ranking trackers really help show keyword performance, and most of them can incorporate local search pack and the web results as well. So, if you rank for “Atlanta Plastic Surgeon” in the local pack and the web results, it would track both. That would be a big win!
Some SEO companies also report organic search traffic and phone calls from organic search traffic. In theory, this is a great idea, right? Well, not exactly. Usually, a lot of people search for your brand name. This is much more so, in general, than for an eCommerce business or someone selling products online.
You could run TV shows, radio spots, or other offline marketing, which creates people searching Google for your name to find your local business. This traffic and these phone calls can go up and down depending on thousands of factors outside of whether SEO is working for you or not.
To combat this problem, I suggest looking at Google Webmaster Tools data and deleting all branded keywords so you know if it is working or not. Alternatively, if you don’t have a lot of people searching for your brand name, then organic search traffic, calls from organic search traffic, and submission form requests are good key performance indicators.
Lack of Knowledge
There are a lot of SEO companies out there, the reason being it is very easy to make an SEO company and be in business immediately. All you need is a laptop, a WordPress site, some business cards, and every networking event you can attend. Best of all, SEO takes a while, so, even if you are bad at SEO, you usually get 4-6 months of a retainer until the client leaves you! It is the perfect business, which is why so many people are in it.
In fact, a lot of website design agencies, IT businesses, and other businesses also do SEO to complement their internet marketing services. Some are good, but the majority are really bad and a waste of money.
When doing your due diligence, make sure the agency you choose has a good track record of success, does the right things when it comes to SEO, and has clients you can talk to. You can also see if they have any employees who just do SEO or who are working on your account. The majority of the time they outsource it all, and you are just paying a premium for usually an outsourced overseas company to do the work.
In the same boat that they do not have knowledge, their strategies might not work at all. This happens a lot when companies use outdated strategies, outsource the work, or never update their strategies. If they are going in and adding meta keywords, you are throwing money down the drain. Make sure you know exactly what they are doing and, if need be, consult other SEO companies about whether it is the right thing to do. Just take their work with a grain of salt, as they will most likely try to say anything to get you in the door.
Competition can also be a reason for not producing results. Everyone likes to think they can just leapfrog everyone and go straight to the top. Every time you rise in the rankings, someone else drops. Real estate in Google is extremely competitive, and you are not just going to go in there day one and jump to the top. Usually, businesses in the first 20 results for a highly competitive keyword are using SEO companies. Maybe even the same company you use!
To beat them, you really have to think outside the box, and it takes time. For some of our local clients, it has taken 1-3 years before they are 1-5 for their main phrases. SEO is tough, and if you use a company which says they will get you there in no time, it usually means there is no competition or they are just saying whatever to earn your business.
Overall, local SEO is not impossible, but there are a lot of failures compared to success stories. As long as your local SEO company avoids these 5 points above, you have a much better chance of success.
[Source:-Small Business Trend]
When using local search engine optimization, a company should add localized keywords to a website’s posts, create responsive webpages that are compatible with mobile devices, post listings on Google Places, position backlinks on websites that are associated with a company’s geographic region and develop citations that feature incoming links. Typically, local SEO is able to improve a webpage’s conversion rates, increase traffic, boost the amount of customers who post reviews about a business and augment the number of visitors who follow the company’s pages on social media networks.
Examining the Importance of Local SEO
According to one study, more than 64 percent of individuals utilize search engines in order to find local companies. Within one hour of generating leads, approximately 47 percent of local customers answered phone calls from nearby businesses, replied to an email, completed a local company’s contact form again or made a purchase. When local visitors are using smartphones, at least 82 percent of the potential buyers followed up with companies after they initially generated leads.
A recent report indicated that less than 28 percent of businesses have created listings on Google Places, and by establishing an advertisement on Google Places, a company can commonly position the listing above the search results for several localized keyword phrases. The advertisement will feature a link to reviews of the business, the company’s address, the URL of the business’ website, the company’s phone number and the store’s business hours.
The Effects of Local SEO
Many reports have shown that a company can typically improve the positions of localized webpages in the search results more easily than pages with keywords that are used nationwide, yet localized search results produce substantially higher conversion rates than results that are related to generalized keywords. Moreover, local customers are more likely to post positive reviews of a business, make multiple purchases and refer a friend to the local company.
Implementing Effective Strategies
A business owner can integrate keyword phrases into the meta tags and the headers of pages. When creating backlinks, a proprietor should add keywords to the anchor texts of the links. Ideally, marketers can position incoming links on websites that feature blogs, local directories, the social media profiles of local companies and news stories.
A company may also use software that will determine a website’s rankings for searches that are related to local keyword phrases. Many cutting-edge tools can indicate the geographic areas of a site’s visitors, the percentage of guests who are using smartphones, the number of visitors who like the local company’s pages on social media networks and the parts of a webpage that each guest clicks.
In order to augment the conversion rates and the profits that local customers generate, an entrepreneur should analyze strategies that leading industry publications describe. Likewise, Search Engine Land’s experts have evaluated techniques that may help business owners to boost local traffic. When visiting the site, marketers can examine a guide that allows advertisers to analyze links, encourage customers to create reviews, optimize a localized page for the search engines, establish citations on multiple websites and evaluate the strategies of competing companies.
It’s that time of year again. The air becomes crisp, the crack of the bat fills the stadium, the crowd roars — Chicago Cubs fans like me get that old, familiar feeling of foreboding. Major League Baseball’s playoffs are upon us, and in the spirit of the postseason, it’s time we explore how the great American pastime applies to building a successful career in local SEO.
The right stuff
If you aspire to local SEO success, you’ve got to have the right stuff. The competition in the industry is fierce, and it’s not easy to stand out among your peers. If you’re looking to wow the scouts, or if you’re considering lacing up your cleats for the first time and joining the local SEO game, these are the qualities and skills that talented young SEOs must have:
- Adaptability. The local SEO landscape is constantly changing. SEOs need to be comfortable with the fact that each day they log on in the morning, it’s a whole new ballgame. What was relevant yesterday might no longer be relevant today. Google alone updates its algorithms over a thousand times a year. If you’re looking for consistency and predictability in a career, local SEO is not it. However, if you thrive on the challenge and excitement of never knowing what Google will throw at you next, you might just have what it takes.
- Hunger for continual improvement. You’ve got to have that hunger, that desire to constantly learn and improve your SEO skills. Good is never good enough — not if you want to rise to the top. There’s always a way to improve SEO performance. Find it!
- Become a stats fanatic. Search algorithms are so complex and have so many variables that once you’ve learned the SEO basics, any additional performance gains come through constant experimentation and complex data interpretation. A successful SEO relishes A/B testing and digital sleuthing. Embrace the stats. SEO is a lot like the movie, “Moneyball” — though it’s more Jonah Hill than Brad Pitt.
- Talk the talk. Communication is an absolutely critical skill to local SEOs. Maintaining quality relationships with both clients and the other departments within your organization requires effective oral and written communication skills.
- A knack for behavioral science and psychology. At all times, a local SEO must have three groups in mind: 1) the end user who actually uses the search results, 2) the brand you represent and 3) the search engines. Local SEOs who can intuit the needs of these three groups are setting themselves up for a long career of SEO success.
- Specialize. Whether you focus on enterprise brands or SMBs, it’s important that you play to your own strengths. Just as in baseball, there are different positions and skillsets; find your own niche, and play to your strengths.
Learn from the best
If you’re looking to get a leg up on the competition, it’s important to learn from the best, from those who lead and define the industry. In local SEO, you’ll find that there are a few who stand taller than the rest of the field. If you’re not already following local search experts like David Mihm, Mike Blumenthal, Mary Bowling, Linda Buquet, Darren Shaw, Mike Ramsey, and the other local search columnists at Search Engine Land, now’s the time to start.
But it’s not just the league leaders you should be paying attention to. If you’re just starting out, look to the veterans on your own team. The quickest way to develop your skills is to work alongside someone who can show you the ropes. Likewise, look to the communities and forums for help and insight, especially after any major algorithm updates. The collective knowledge of local SEOs is a powerful tool. Use it.
Local SEO often feels like you’re up to bat with Google on the mound, and the search engine giant is staring you down, and you’re left trying to guess the next pitch. You might be expecting a fastball, but inevitably Google will throw you a curve and change up the algorithm on you. The result: a swing and a miss.
Here’s an important lesson for all local SEOs (and for all SEOs, for that matter): failure is an unavoidable aspect of the SEO game. The search algorithms are so complex and change so often that after you’ve mastered the basics, it’s mostly trial and error to achieve significant gains after that.
If something you tried didn’t work, dust yourself off, study the data and try something different. Remember, it’s a long season. Tomorrow is another day. Learn from your last at bat and try something different the next time. Striking out every now and then is inevitable. Failing to learn from that experience is unacceptable. Just don’t fail too often or you’ll be out of the job and out of the league. No pressure.
Be a utility player
Though it’s important to specialize in your given field, that doesn’t mean you should be a one-trick pony. When it comes to local SEO, the hat you wear today might not be the hat you wear tomorrow. Things change so rapidly in this business that you should expect your role within the team to constantly evolve.
For example, cleaning up geocodes and manually placing pins is a time consuming process. But that doesn’t mean tomorrow Google won’t come out with an update to the Google My Business API that will allow us to automatically update geocodes. If that day comes, acknowledge the change, adapt, improve, and look for the next area to put your effort into.
In local SEO, it’s important to constantly look to the future and anticipate it. The Penguin update was predicted long before it actually arrived. All signs point to AMP being the future of mobile. The signs are there for those willing to look. Begin laying the groundwork for looming industry changes now and you won’t get caught flatfooted when they do come to pass.
Play the local SEO game the right way
“Say it ain’t so, Joe,” but integrity is an important aspect of both baseball and local SEO. Sure, you have your cheaters in both domains, but eventually they get caught and punished. Google is constantly getting better at catching spam links and bogus local listings. You might be able to stay ahead of the search engines for a while, but eventually you’ll get caught, and you’ll have to pay the consequences. Play the local SEO game the right way, and you’ll be much more likely to have success in the long run.
And that brings me to the most important lesson about local SEO. There are no shortcuts. No easy ways to the top. To gain expertise in local SEO, you’ll have to earn it, you’ll have to grind it out. But hey, that’s part of the fun.
[Source:-Search Engine Land]
Enterprise brands with a major brick-and-mortar presence have a unique challenge in digital marketing: connecting with consumers online, with the intent of ultimately encouraging them to visit a physical business location to make a purchase.
By creating a more user-focused experience that includes individual location landing pages for physical business locations, franchise systems and multi-location brands can turn user queries into business visits.
Developing location pages that are an extension of the primary brand domain allows brands to capture valuable real estate on search engine results pages (SERPs) and rank more prominently on hyper-local search terms above online directories like Yelp, Insider Pages and more.
Often, during the initial research phase of the customer journey, a consumer is looking for a product or service but is brand-agnostic. Leveraging this type of local SEO strategy can help drive in-store sales from these brand-agnostic consumers by tapping into coveted geo-specific, non-branded search terms and phrases.
However, many brand teams and franchisors have adopted a policy of allowing their franchisees and location owners to create their own landing pages and website domains instead of creating location pages on the primary brand domain. This type of independently executed approach can be found across a variety of industry verticals, and it can lead to the creation of domains like this:
As you can see, the domain is branded, but with a geo-modified URL.
Another version of this singular approach can involve using a non-branded, geo-modified domain, like this one for a men’s salon in Glendale, Colorado:
There has been a debate going on for quite some time as to whether brands should take an approach that manages local SEO from the top down or allows individual locations to manage SEO on their own — a “centralized strategy” vs. a “decentralized strategy.” Let’s take a look at both approaches and evaluate the pros and cons.
Establishing a decentralized strategy essentially involves allowing your individual franchisees to run their own digital marketing programs by themselves, with no guidelines, management or oversight by the brand or corporate teams. This approach can include both paid and organic media strategies and is often summed up in a fashion that resembles a “wild west” scenario with each franchisee responsible for its own local digital marketing.
When it comes to SEO specifically, the use of many domains — such as xyzdenver.com and xyzdallas.com — creates the challenge of having to manage each domain separately, costing the brand the opportunity to build valuable ranking authority around one primary domain. Each property also ends up needing its own web analytics setup, content strategy and more. Multiply that by thousands of locations, and you’re looking at a scenario that requires a massive amount of resources to manage.
Furthermore, if these sites are managed by a third-party vendor who decides to delete those previously indexed URLs when your relationship ends, you could find yourself in serious trouble trying to gain back the SERP equity you’ve lost.
The “holy grail” of search engine marketing is to drive incremental visits from consumers who are not familiar with your brand and thus tend to find you when searching with geo-modified and/or non-branded terms, such as “hardware store near me.” Trying to compete for these desired phrases on thousands of different domains creates a vastly more complex world for your SEO practice. It necessitates vast amounts of content production to populate and maintain multiple sites.
Additionally, this strategy means that valuable links to your brand will be spread across many local domains instead of being concentrated on one central source. This creates an environment that ultimately doesn’t build a tremendous amount of ranking authority because the search engine signals are being spread too thinly across multiple domains.
Note: Some multi-location brands have employed a tactic that leverages subdomains for location pages, where the local property shares a root domain with the main brand website but is sitting on an entirely separate IP block. There is some debate over whether Google treats these subdomains as separate websites versus a single website, and it seems to depend somewhat on how the subdomains are set up. Use caution if employing this strategy.
Establishing a centralized strategy involves ensuring the franchisor or brand management team is in ultimate control over the decision-making on key aspects of both national and hyper-local strategies. These key aspects can include the brand position, messaging, important seasonal and direct marketing initiatives and more.
When a single primary domain continues to build authority over time, you afford yourself a much better opportunity for improved link acquisition, which is one of the main signals that helps drive up your rankings by allowing you to appear higher on non-branded geo-modified queries.
From a local search standpoint, it’s also important to create metro and location pages so that your brand appears in SERPs for non-branded and geo-modified phrases. Those pages (e.g., Google Maps, Apple Maps) can also be associated with your local business listings by using the appropriate location URLs. It’s important to ensure that those pages also have the appropriate content, metadata and structured data in place to appear on organic local search queries.
When using the centralized approach, an ideal location URL would look something like this:https://www.yourbrand.com/new-york-city-ny/325-manhattan-midtown-east.
Notice the location page is set up in a subdirectory of the root domain (not a subdomain) so that the root domain can assist this page with internal linking strategies to drive more ranking authority. If your brand is selling products in a physical store, creating pages under the primary location page to show things such as updated inventory by store location can help give the consumer more useful information as they decide where to make a purchase.
Furthermore, creating metro pages within the main brand domain also allows a brand or franchisor to go after larger geographical and regional phrases, such as “Brooklyn athletic club,” by populating several locations under one domain and structuring the content to focus on those larger regional phrases.
An example of this type of metro page structure looks something like this:https://www.yourbrand.com/metro/new-york-city-ny.
In doing so, your brand now has hyper-local, regional and state-level structure in place to compete on all geographical levels.
Local landing page subdirectories can be very beneficial for the overall health of your local SEO strategy, particularly if your brand has a multitude of brick-and-mortar locations. As Google continues to evaluate and leverage different ranking factors, centralizing your efforts with a focus on one primary domain will benefit lower-level location pages, giving the physical business locations a sound SEO foundation that is set up to allow for more prominent organic rankings.
As search engines continue to refine their ranking algorithms, the battle to drive greater traffic from the SERPs becomes more critical as time goes on. Having a solid, centralized foundation that focuses on developing individual location pages can give your brand the edge in helping capture the attention of brand-agnostic consumers in an attempt to turn them into your customers.
[Source:-Search Engine Land]
Managing online citations, claimed and unclaimed listings, landing pages, reviews and ratings, and data feeds for hundreds or thousands of locations has become time consuming and costly for enterprise brands. Automating local marketing processes through LMA tools can provide numerous benefits.
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If you are looking to adopt a local marketing automation software platform, this report will help you through the decision-making process. Visit Digital Marketing Depot to download your copy.
Mike Blumenthal reports that Google has updated their local business reviews guidelines around when you can use the schema markup on the reviews and when you cannot.
Here is the new list of guidelines:
- Snippets must not be written or provided by the business or content provider unless they are genuine, independent, and unpaid editorial reviews.
- Reviews must allow for customers to express both positive and negative sentiments. They may not be vetted by the business or restricted by the content provider based on the positive/negative sentiment of the review before submission to Google.
- Reviews cannot be template sentences built from data or automated metrics. For example, the following is not acceptable: “Based on X number of responses, on average people experienced X with this business.”
- Reviews for multiple-location businesses such as retail chains or franchises can only be submitted for the specific business location for which they were written. In other words, reviews for multiple-location businesses cannot be syndicated or applied to all business locations of the same company.
- Aggregators or content providers must have no commercial agreements paid or otherwise with businesses to provide reviews.
- Do not include reviews that are duplicate or similar reviews across many businesses or from different sources.
- Only include reviews that have been directly produced by your site, not reviews from third-party sites or syndicated reviews.
The big change here is that when you include third-party syndicated reviews that are not “directly produced by your site,” you should not mark up those reviews with schema. Only “directly produced by your site, not reviews from third-party sites or syndicated reviews” should be marked up, according to these guidelines.
This may impact a large number of websites that have implemented local reviews markup.
You should read all the new guidelines above, but again, the biggest change and the one that probably will have the most impact right now is the third-party prohibition.