Local SEO

Local SEO: It’s Important Too!

If you have a local business and a website you need to invest in local SEO if you want to have any local presence on the web at all.

Find Your Business Category
One of the first tasks you need to do is figure out how your business is categorized. You will need to know this when filling out information to join local directories, etc. Go to Moz's local categories list to help you choose the right category for your business.

Keyword Research
Next, come up with the terms that describe the main products or services you offer. Then do some brainstorming about the top questions customers are going to ask and do this until you feel you have covered the majority of questions. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and think of how he/she would phrase search queries.

Now use Google Adwords free Keyword Planner tool to find out your keywords average monthly searches, competition and minimum bid. You can login with your Google credentials at Google Adwords. You will find the Keyword Planner in the Tools dropdown menu. Under “Find New Keywords” click “Search for new keywords using a phrase, website or category.”

Google Adwords
Next enter your keywords either one at a time or several at a time (of the same theme) separated by commas. Be sure to set the Keyword Filter Options to “Only show ideas closely related to my search terms” and you can target a specific geographic area if you want to. Then click “Get Ideas.”

Google Adwords Keyword Planner
Once the list comes up, click the “Keyword Ideas” tab to see a list of related searches. Be sure to organize them by clicking Avg. Monthly Searches to see those with the most searches listed on top. To the right of the Avg. Monthly Searches column you will also see the Competition column and Suggested Bid column (which you can ignore unless you plan on purchasing an advertisement on Google).

SEO keyword ideas
Your goal here is to find keywords that are relevant to your website/webpage, have a high search volume, and low competition. Do this for each of the keyword phrases you came up with to describe your products/services, and I would suggest you also you do this for some of the terms you found using this tool. This way you will be able to come up with a good keyword phrase for each of your product/service pages.

Local Modifiers
Since this is local SEO, you will also want to find effective keyword phrases that include a local modifier, such as “search engine optimization Chicago.” Just as you did with your keyword research, you can take a look at the popularity of locations near you as they relate to your target keywords.

The best way to do this is to use the “Multiply keyword lists to get new keywords” option. Enter your keywords in List 1 and your locations in List 2. I suggest you pick a list of the most popular locations near you, enter those into your list modifier (List 2), and figure out which ones have the best monthly search volumes.

SEO local modifiers
Once you do this, you should use the same strategy as I previously stated: find keywords that are relevant to your website/webpage, have a high search volume, and low competition.

Assessing Your Competition
Now that you have identified your keywords, you can use those to discover your competition. What you are looking for is an understanding of how successful the competition is on that keyword phrase and you want to figure out what their strategy is. If you identify any areas of weakness, you can improve those features on your own website.

So type in your most popular keyword phrase (and include a local modifier) into Google.com and that will give you a view of your competitors. You will be able to see things like how many reviews they have, what business category they put themselves in, etc.

Click into your competitors’ websites and look around to see any SEO advantages they have and develop a strategy. You may also see places on their sites where they could have done a better job, which is a wonderful find for you. Use a browser plugin such as WebRankPage: In-Page SEO Analysis (find it at Chrome’s Web Store) to do a really quick analysis of what your competitor is doing right and what they are doing wrong.

You can also use Open Site Explorer from Moz to research your competitors. Put in each one of their URLs one at a time and click “Search.”

What you will get is an overview of your competitor and the things that they're doing in their SEO. Over on the left side of the screen you can see their domain authority and page authority. The higher these numbers are, the harder it will be to compete with them on the web.

Conduct an analysis of each of your competitors. The more information you gather, the better your strategy will become.

Organically Optimize Your Website
The next task you need to perform is to optimize your website. See July’s blog entry “SEO: The Essential Marketing Tool Many Website Owners Forget” to review how to optimize a website/webpage for the keywords you want to rank for.

Take your keywords and build conversational content around them. Your goal is to find a way to organically indicate to Google what the most important topics are and then build around those topics with some supporting language. Letting people know where you are located and what type of local services you provide is helpful and affirms that they haven’t clicked on the wrong site. You really do want all of your content to be as user-friendly as possible and natural (i.e., not stuffed with keywords).

Understanding Local SEO Ranking Factors

  • Get a Google My Business profile.
  • Have relevant on-page content (see above).
  • List your business name, address, and phone number (NAP) around the web (citations).
  • Collect great links to your site, especially to second and third level pages.
  • Get reviews, especially Google and Yelp reviews.
  • Use schema markup when displaying your NAP in your website’s footer or on the Contact page.
What is a Citation?
A citation can be a:

  • A listing in an online directory
  • A listing on a Chamber of Commerce page
  • A review on a blog
It is important to spread your NAP citations across the web. It doesn’t require a link back to your site to be significant, but each entry of NAP you list out on the internet needs to be consistently formatted whether it is on Google My Business, Yelp, a listing in an online directory, etc. This is ABSOLUTELY imperative.

Good Sources for Citations

  • Forums
  • Social media channels
  • Press releases
  • Q&A websites
Integrating Social Media
What social media does is drive traffic to your website and build awareness of your business and your overall brand. The more people talk about your brand on the web, the more likely they are to leave a review, share a link on their blog, etc. I believe it is very important to have a social media plan as a part of your marketing efforts. When you post your Facebook or Twitter (or Instagram, Pinterest, etc.) icon on you website you should make sure it is a link to Like or Share that specific page.

Directories You Want Your Business Listed In

  • YP (Yellow Pages)
  • Yelp
  • Superpages.com
  • Citysearch
  • Yahoo Local
  • Manta
  • Better Business Bureau
  • Angie’s List
  • MerchantCircle
  • HomeAdvisor
  • Facebook
Be sure to look for local directories in your area and industry directories too. Use these two sites to manage your NAP across the web:

Securing backlinks
Be sure to reach out to other websites that would benefit from listing your business via phone or e-mail. Also, take a look at what your competitors are doing in Open Site Explorer (described above) by looking at the Linking Domains. This will give you some ideas about websites that may link to you if asked. Of course you will be securing backlinks from your social media pages too.

Reviews
Google displays the highest rated businesses first when people are searching for local vendors. In other words, if you search for a donut shop, Google's going to show you the one with the highest quality reviews first, so it will benefit you to ask customers to write reviews of your business.

One thing I also suggest is if you right-click on the Google/Yelp "Write a Review" links and copy the link addresses, you can place those links on your website to encourage people to leave reviews when they visit your site.

Schema Markup
Schema is a type of markup that tells search engines about the content of your website. I encourage you to use it with the NAP entry you put in your site’s footer and/or Contact Us page. Use a MicroData Generator to apply schema markup to your NAP for you so that you don’t have to code it yourself.

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