The frequently shifting local search arena can make it difficult to stay on top of best practices and get your website to rank on the first page.
This post can get you started on the right track to increasing your traffic, business leads, and conversions.
In a recent webinar with Travis Bliffen, of Stellar SEO, he shares his expertise around local and organic search marketing.
Today’s SEO goes well beyond ranking a website for a few keywords, and this is the focus of the following post. We’ll examine what you see when you view modern day search results. How this impacts your business and the approach you can take to improve your online presence.
In the case of local search, the end goal is getting more people in the door. You want more form-fills, more phone calls or more walk-in traffic.
To do that, we need to test and measure our results. We need to understand:
Even if you do not currently measure your marketing approach, you’re going to want to start heading in this direction.
Google has begun to place more weight on local directory listings and review sites. So you have sites like Angie’s List, Yelp, the Better Business Bureau, etc., showing up higher in the search results. And with this change, you have an opportunity to list your website to get more exposure online. This is a pretty simple way to drive more traffic to your site in a short period.
Now, of course, this isn’t going to drive the same amount of conversions that your main website would because your competitors will also appear on these sites. But it is still worthwhile to take the time to create these listings, and this works especially well for any service related business.
If you want to show up on Google’s map results, you need to create a map listing. If you go to www.google.com/business and fill out the information about your business, they’ll send you a verification postcard. Getting your business listed should be a top priority.
The next area you will want to get started with involves citations. A citation is an industry term that refers to directories, such as the Yellow Pages, where you list your name, address and phone number (NAP). Some of them will link to your website but to be a citation, it only has to include your NAP.
So for example, when you build a Google Plus page, you’re actually creating a business citation. These are what Google looks at when it’s determining if your business is in the area, how you show up on the map results and whether or not you have a legitimate business. These can include things like:
– Yellow Pages
– Better Business Bureau
– Industry-Specific Citations
– And More
If you’re a local business, and you haven’t gotten started with citations you should definitely look into them. For industry-specific citations, just type in “[your industry] citation sources,” and you should get a whole list of directories. This strategy will quickly give you more exposure, and it is inexpensive compared to ranking your website.
You also want to make sure that you’re being as accurate as possible. Since Google search has become extremely personalized, there are big variations in the types of citations you will find even in two neighboring cities.
Although it’s pretty simple to find citation opportunities, this is an area where a lot of people mess up. They might stumble across a site that they want to list their business on, and they decide to list their main office line as the phone number. And then on their next listing, they put down an alternate office line, which creates the problem of inconsistent NAP information.
Before you get started with citations, it’s important to choose a single name, address and phone number to use. And it needs to be listed in the SAME way on every directory. It’s also beneficial to use a local phone number rather than an 800 number.
If you’re trying to track phone calls (which you should be), then you can use DNI call tracking to avoid hurting your SEO with an inconsistent NAP. With call tracking, you can tie your phone calls back to specific keywords, ads, channels, referral sites, etc., without damaging SEO.
The great thing about citations is that you can rank them just like you can a regular website. Go to free listings. List your business and generate some phone calls.
Citations can also help you if you already have a website that ranks. Doing something simple like this could double the traffic you’re receiving to your site.
Up until this point, we’ve only discussed things that you can do offsite to get search engine traffic.
It’s obviously important to work on your business website’s ranking as well. So now we’re going to look at three things you can do to help you achieve better local rankings in Google.
1) Organizing Multiple Locations
One super common mistake involves businesses that have multiple locations. If you only have one location, then you can link your Google My Business listing to your homepage. However, if you have several office locations, then you should have separate pages on your site for each location and link them to a Google My Business Page created for that particular space. Each location should have a separate page and also have an individual citation.
2) Meta Data
When it comes to on-page SEO, you should have the city and state mentioned in the H1 and H2 tags. Just don’t make your URL, page title, H1, and H2 identical because that will over optimize your site and damage SEO. For example, if your H1 tag is ‘plumbing services’ then your H2 tag can have your city name.
The next thing you want to do is place your NAP on your website. And it should be an exact match to how you have it listed on Google My Business. The second thing is using schema markup, which is a bit of code that tells Google how to read what you’ve placed on your site. So when Google crawls your website it can identify the correct address that matches Google My Business.
3) Speed and Mobile Responsiveness
Another thing you want to consider is Google My Business landing page speed. If your website is too slow, this translates to a bad user experience and high bounce rate. This means that Google will push your website lower on the Search Engine Results Pages, and your traffic will go down. You can use Google PageSpeed Insights to find out if your site is too slow and it will tell you what you need to do to fix the problem.
In addition to a slow website, you also don’t want to have a site with poor mobile optimization. Google has a mobile usability page tester, so just throw you landing page in there and check on that. Make sure your pages are mobile friendly and up to speed because these two things make a big difference.
For quite a bit of time, you could write content, and if no one read it or shared it that wasn’t a problem.
You could still rank with that content.
Today, Google measures a variety of factors including what is known as ‘dwell time.’ This term refers to the amount of time a visitor spends on a particular site. So, for example, let’s say you type ‘Lawyers in Salt Lake City” into the search bar. You click on the first result and then click back after being on the page for three or four seconds. You then click on the second result and stay on the page for several minutes.
A page’s dwell time indicates to Google that the second website is providing a better user experience with stronger content, design, etc. The time spent on a page can actually push the second website up and knock the first website out of its number one spot.
It’s critical to create content that your audience finds engaging.
You can achieve audience engagement with a broad range of content and depends on your industry. You could share some news that’s relevant to the community, create a how-to article that teaches prospects something useful about your business or even create content that is relevant and entertaining.
It’s also important to keep keywords in mind as you’re creating your content. If you’ve delved into SEO before, you’ve probably heard people mention long-tail keywords. These types of keywords help you understand your client and their intent behind the search.
For example, someone who types ‘what is SEO?’ into the search bar is looking for different content than someone who searches for ‘local SEO services.’ The first searcher is probably in the research phase and wants to learn more about what SEO is and how it can benefit their business. The second searcher is likely in the buy phase and is looking for agencies that can provide the services they need.
The type of content that you create for each of these keywords will obviously serve a different purpose. And keep in mind, even if some of your content is only for educational purposes if it is valuable to your visitors then they will probably come back to your website when they are ready to buy a product or pay for a service.
When you’re in the process of building links and trying to get people to link to your website, stop and ask yourself:
“Who is likely to do business with me in real life?”
If they have a website, these are the types of people that you want to link to your business. It’s better to have fewer links that are coming from high authority and quality websites than a ton of low-quality links that are unrelated to your business. You want to focus on building a backlink profile that seems very natural and shows Google that your website is providing enough value to encourage people to link back to it.
With paid search marketing there are a bunch of routes you can take. Some of the more traditional options include pay-per-click advertising (which you can now add call extensions to), mobile ads and call-only campaigns. While PPC advertising will usually result in a higher number of clicks, campaigns that focus on phone calls, typically have higher conversion rates.
If you’re implementing them the right way, these types of paid search strategies work very well for local businesses.
This section is imperative.
Unfortunately, there are many people involved in all types of advertising and marketing strategies that have NO IDEA what is working.
By failing to set up proper tracking these companies have a hard time distinguishing between the ads, keywords, channels, and tactics that are working from those that are not.
In addition to tracking where the bulk of your traffic is coming from, you should also know how much of that traffic is converting. How many web visitors and phone calls are resulting in appointments, reservations and sales?
Without this data, you won’t know what is working for you, and you will likely be dumping money and time into marketing that isn’t generating any new business.
You need to break down the sources that are sending you traffic and leads. Is it social media? Referral sources? Organic search? PPC ads? These are questions that you want to answer.
When you look past these initial numbers, you should analyze behavior. Do people from social media convert more or less often than people from paid advertising? Once you know these things you can optimize each channel to produce the best ROI.
You can track this data in many different ways such as with Google Analytics for web visitors and call tracking for business phone calls.