Local search engine optimization is a tool for local small to medium businesses that want to target a regional market. The goal of local SEO is to make it that when somebody is searching for services you provide, you’re the one that shows up first.
Note: If you’re more of an auditory learner, you can also take a look at our Youtube video on this subject.
You’ve probably heard of local search engine optimization because you’ve received *that email*. You know which one I’m talking about. The one that says “I took a look at your search engine optimization and I’ve attached a report for you.” It has performance, search engine optimization, and a variety of other different rankings and under SEO it usually says something like C- or D, sometimes it even says F. Unfortunately, this is usually true because most people’s search engine optimization is not optimal.
However, the person who sent you that report doesn’t know much more than you from that report because he used an automated online search engine optimization report such as SEOptimer to generate the report quickly, print it out, and send it to you. He probably hasn’t even reviewed the report. In fact, when you look at the second page of the report, you’ll see a section that usually says keywords and in that section, you’ll see something like ‘5 PM’ or ‘clock.’ Now, unless you’re actually making clocks or watches, I’m pretty sure these are not your keywords. But when you run an automated report and it is not being reviewed with your business in mind, those would be the keywords that you would see. So, what does this all mean?
Well, for one: He’s right, your search engine optimization needs work. So you need to take a look at your website to make sure that the technical details there are correct so that Google properly ranks you for your business in your region. But you don’t want to spend your time on somebody who doesn’t care about your business or simply doing keyword stuffing to fool Google into putting you first.
Google wants your site, or anybody’s site, to show up first when it is the correct site for the search that is being done. So if somebody’s toilet is overflowing and they have a bit of an emergency on hand, and they search for “plumber my toilet is overflowing.” Google does not want to be showing them YouTube videos of hilarious toilets overflowing. What Google wants to show them is a local plumber they can call right away so that their toilet can get fixed.
There is a type of SEO out there called Black Hat SEO, where the goal of it is to fool Google into putting you at the top regardless of whether you are credible or authentic to that industry. These are the people who recommend things such as keyword stuffing, paying for backlinks from blogs that have nothing to do with you, and investing in “link farms”. Sometimes these methods work for a while. That’s why black hat SEO exists. But in many cases once Google finds out that you are implementing these methods and trying to find a way around their system, you get penalized. In the worst case you can get what’s called “sandboxed” in which case you don’t show up on Google at all until you can go through an appeals process.
So how to you show up on top legitimately? Well, there’s over 400 different factors that we’re aware of that Google considers to determine its page ranking. This is why there are many SEO firms out who can help achieve these high rankings. That being said the three factors we’ve discovered over our many years of doing SEO are:
- How authentic are you?
- How credible are you?
- How appropriate are you to the keywords that are being searched for at that time?
If you are doing it correctly and since all of you probably own legitimate businesses, this would be the obvious way of doing it. You want to target both the authenticity and the credibility side as well as all those technical aspects. Now, what is authenticity? It’s things like:
- How long has your business existed?
- How can we know that your business is a legitimate business in the region?
- Where is your business located?
Google’s a robot. They’re not hiring people to go and check every single business, call every single number. They’re looking at existing directories and then from those directories determining whether or not the business has been around for a while, determining whether or not the business is established, and determining whether or not the business is well known. So if you want a good ranking on Google, you need to make sure your Google Business page is set up correctly. You need to make sure that you go through the verification process, where they send you a little postcard with a little code on it, you type in the code and now Google goes “Okay, you exist and you exist at this address. Awesome.” Sometimes Google actually will call you too, but that’s a different edge case.
Google also looks at these aggregators who look at all of those directories online to try to generate which companies are out there. These aggregators pull from other map sites. So once you have your Google business site set up correctly and verified, then make sure you have a Facebook page set up with the exact same address as your Google business site. That means if your address is 123 Someplace Street and you spell it out S T R E E T, then your Facebook page should say the exact same thing. It should not say St. It should say S T R E E T because while Google can compensate for minor differences, we have found that the closer to an exact match everything is, the better your ranking will be. It makes sense. Because if you care about your business, if you’re authentic, you’re going to make sure that all of your directory listings are the same. This is especially important if you’ve moved because from Google’s perspective if it sees two completely different addresses, it doesn’t know which one is correct. You need to spend the time to make sure they match.
Once you have your Facebook page set up then I would recommend you set up a Bing Places page, which sounds silly. Why would Bing influence your Google ranking? Because Bing gets picked up by the aggregators and the aggregators feed Google. So it’s very important to make sure that page is set up correctly as well. It’s also worthwhile getting a Yelp page setup if you can. They will call you endlessly trying to sell you advertising. You don’t need it for most industries. It’s not worth following through on. that’s just their business model. It’s a perfectly reasonable business model but just being listed on Yelp is the important thing.
Outside of that. There are hundreds of other directories that get picked up by these aggregators, including your local Chamber of Commerce, which, if you’re not a member of, I highly recommend you pick up your phone and give them a call. Join Chambers of Commerce, they’re awesome organizations. Once you have all that together, Google can go, “this is an authentic site..” for a lack of better words for that
Next Google looks at your credibility. This is your Google reviews, your Yelp reviews, and your reviews on your Facebook page. Google aggregates all those and goes, “Is this a good business? Are a lot of people going to and reviewing it positively?” Interestingly, having a couple of negative reviews can actually help you a bit in this case, because there are a lot of people who will review stuff., that will give an unusually high number of stars for their review and Google goes, “well, that looks a little iffy. Maybe we’ll dial them back a bit.” If you have a couple of lower reviews, it looks more natural. Google isn’t worried about spam.
How do you get reviews? In this case, it’s really simple: every time you do business for one of your clients, you can write them afterwards with the invoice and go, “Thank you for your business. Please, we would love it if you would review our business.” You can put a little link to your Google page and allow them to review quickly. If you want, you can contact us and we’ll show you how you can get that link quickly to send with your emails. This will allow you to naturally and organically get those reviews and help build up the credibility side of your page ranking.
Now on the third side, keyword targeting, there’s a whole list of ways. It’s a very intensive environment. But the most important thing to get everything working correctly, is to make sure your site is accessible by as many different devices to as many different people as possible.
If you have images on your site with text, Google doesn’t read that text because Google is programmatically going through your site. So make sure those images with text either have proper alt tags so that the text has a programmably readable version, or you get rid of those images and make sure you have just plain text on your side at that point. This is very important, not just for Google, but for any potential customer you have because if, for example, you have a blind customer visit your site, they won’t be able to see that image either. So it’s absolutely imperative that you concentrate on making sure that your site is accessible by as many different people as possible, which will also boost your ranking.
Google also takes into consideration how well your site runs on a mobile app, on a mobile phone, which means you need to make sure that your site is responsive so that when somebody goes to your site on the phone, it’s readable, it’s usable, it works well. Since so many people these days use their phone to look up a business; if they get to your site and they can’t find your phone number because it’s in tiny little text, it’s of no use to them. So Google is not going to promote that site. Once you get these things done, there’s all sorts of other factors. But just those three things will make such a difference for your SEO that you’ll probably actually notice an increase in your organic traffic if you do this correctly.
However, you have a business to run. You don’t want to be spending all of your time doing the technical work. If that’s the case give us a call. We can sit down with you and figure out something that works within your budget so that you can concentrate on growing your business and we can concentrate on helping you.