Module 3, Step 2:
Getting found online – Local SEO
Getting found in searches
Our first priority is to be found organically (free) on the first page of search results. This is entirely possible for a local company following the practices outlined here. And if your industry is very competitive online and there’s a lot of money to be made per conversion (I’m thinking about a plastic surgeon client from a few years back), then you need to really commit to these best practices, so you don’t have to spend money on Facebook Ads, Google Adwords, LinkedIn ads, or even traditional adverting, which gets very expensive very quickly.
On-page Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Regular, quality blog/social media content
Properly structured ORIGINAL blog and content is incredible for your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and keeps your prospects and clients engaged. It also tells search engines that you’re an active expert in your field. Moz.com, the leading SEO authority, rates websites like this with an Domain Authority score (1-100), which is a good indicator as to how you will rank on Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs). They also have an algorithm to rank individual pages.
Make sure that you re-title and add descriptive “alt tags” to your photos when you import them – this is usually overlooked, so beat your competition to the punch.
And don’t forget — don’t copy content from other sites — you’ll get severely penalized. So, what do you blog about? Case studies — that’s your expertise and your credibility. These should be quick and easy for you to create and they will naturally contain all the keywords that you’d like to rank well with. Don’t forget to include the name of the city where the client resides. This will help your local searches tremendously.
Social media: There are lots of ways to engage with your audience on social media and automatically pushing out your blog content to your channels is a value added no-brainer. I usually use a plugin called Social Networks Auto Poster (SNAP). Here is an 18-minute video on how to set it up.
Best practice use of your headings/subheadings
These are your H1, H2, H3, H4 tags. Your most important one is your H1 Title Tag – this is what you make the title of your page or post and will show up in the search engine results, so take some care with how you word these. For instance, DON’T simply title your page “Services”, but add an appropriate keyword or phrase that is more descriptive, such as “Hair cut and color services” if you’re a beauty salon, and so on.
Assuming you have a WordPress site, the plugin Yoast is a MUST. The free version is enough to guide you through SEO best practices.
Here is a fairly easy 20-minute video with complete instructions on how to set it up and use it.
A word about Schema
Schema is a code that developers put into website headers to help search engines identify important information such as your NAP (Name, Address, Phone) and your product or services, so this really helps the more industrious rank higher in SERPs (Search Engine Results Page).
It’s also always been frustrating and ambiguous to use as it has little decent documentation. Just now, I pulled up Google Structured Data Markup Helper to show an example… but it’s not pulling up the pages that I’m inputting (this is Google’s tool to generate Schema).
For now, I recommend installing the WPSSO Core Standard plugin for WordPress sites. Fill out its “Essential” information. You’ll be able to link your social media channels, but perhaps more importantly, you’ll choose your “Default Article Topic”… which is basically your industry.
After that, download the WPSSO Place / Location and Local Business Meta Add-on plugin. It will prompt you to add your NAP info, along with industry and hours and wraps it in Schema Markup.
By next year, I’m sure I’ll have a completely different recommendation.
Off-page Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Assuming your website isn’t penalized by Google for trying to cheat their algorithms with “borrowed” content, overstuffing keywords, or links to/from websites with bad Authority ratings, then the #1 thing you can do to increase your SEO is something that 56% of your competitors HAVEN’T done:
Register or claim your Google My Business page
GMB is a free tool that lets you manage how your business appears on Google Search and Maps. This will only take about an hour or so of your time, but it’s incredibly important that you take it seriously. Not only is it your direct pipeline to the world’s #1 search engine, but all the other referring directories (in our next step) take their cues from the main information that Google asks you. For this reason, I’ve supplied an interactive Worksheet for you to fill out as you fill out your GMB page – not only so you can use it for the next step, but so that you copy/paste the EXACT NAP (Name, Address, Phone) information into your social media channels, website and referring directories (PS: I corrected this for a client a few years ago and he went from worst to first almost over night).
Here is a 5-minute video on how to claim your Google My Business listing. Don’t forget to copy/paste your answers into the interactive Local SEO Worksheet.
Note – If you’re more smart phone savvy, Google just released an app, Google My Business. You can claim and update your business listing from there.
Note 2 – You cannot have more than one website for each address/phone number. You will at least need a different phone number to show that it’s truly a separate business.
If you get stuck at any point, reference this very simple, but comprehensive guide for every aspect of GMB
Register with your most important social media channels and online directories
Social media: Using the information that you copied/pasted from your Google My Business, double check (or sign up for) your social media channels to make sure first and foremost your NAP (Name, Address, Phone) information is exactly the same, but also your categories and description are as consistent as possible. Search engines triangulate this information – the more of it and the more consistent it is, the more credible your website will rate.
Please download my Social Media Stats PDF below, so you can see where your audiences spend most of their time.
I know there’s a lot of resistance for some of us to set up social media channels, but they have become extremely important to Google’s algorithms. Most search results for services include a lot of Facebook pages today. Most search results for people include a lot of LinkedIn pages. But, Pinterest and Instagram are growing in importance as well. You don’t have to frequent these channels to benefit from the credibility they provide.
The major local data aggregators
Local data aggregators are large consumer and business data gathering companies that source, clean up, and distribute individual and business name, address, and phone number (NAP) data to publishers, marketers, and location-based service providers like search engines, local directory sites and social media sites.
Making sure these data aggregators all have your CORRECT and consistent information is as important as claiming your Google My Business page.
In the United States, the three* major data aggregators are:
- Factual (www.factual.com) – must use citation building service
- Infogroup (www.expressupdate.com) – easy to claim/update
- Localeze (www.neustarlocaleze.biz) – must use citation building service, or pay $79
What is a citation building service?
I used to manage the above data aggregators sites myself, but they made it fairly impossible recently. I suggest you check your listing and if your info is listed correctly, move onto the other online directories below and save yourself some money. If you need to add or change info, you’ll need to pay for a citation building service such as Yext, Moz, Bright Local, Advice Local, or Whitespark to do it for you. I’ve used Moz in the past ($99/month) because of their trusted reputation, but found their interface to be fairly confusing and it gets expensive. I’m looking at using Bright Local for my next client ($29/month) — it seems to have a little more bang for the buck.
Citation building services have a serious racket going on. When you get started with one, you’ll find a serious bump up in the rankings, and as long as you’re willing to pay the monthly bill, it will stay that way. But, if you decide to quit, you will take upon task of managing and correcting the directories that will fall into misinformation. For this reason, I suggest trying to build your Local SEO yourself through the means I supply here (and the Directories below, plus industry-specific ones as well).
*NOTE: In May 2019, the fourth major aggregator, Acxiom quietly announced it would be retiring its directory services at the end of the year. While concerning at first glance, it is likely this will have little impact on business listing data distribution and may, in fact, help simplify an already overly complex local search ecosystem.
20 other online directories you should list your business on:
If you decided to pay for a citation building service, they’ll eventually feed your info to most of these recommended links. If you’re going to DIY it, using your Local SEO Worksheet, register for as many of the following directories as possible in one hour. Perhaps set another hour aside in the near future and knock out several more. I recently revisited all of these to update my information and made a brief note of my experience so you can start with the easiest ones.
QUICK TIP: The real hassle about registering for all of these is creating all the new User Names and Passwords… and keeping track of them. I highly recommend the tiny, $40 1Password app. I’ve been using it for years as I have hundreds of things to keep track of — including credit card and bank info. Everything is completely secure.
If you decide not to go this route, create one very secure User Name and Password and keep it on your Local SEO Worksheet (very bottom). It’ll make your life a lot easier.
If you properly subscribe to most of these directories and use proper on-page SEO, you’ll improve your rankings with the major search engines. But, under the most competitive of circumstances where some of your competitors have accumulated a lot of quality content, you may have to take on ninja SEO efforts. Here are some higher level SEO tactics you may want to look into:
- Finding your best keywords for which to rank.
- Creating quality articles for these.
- Registering with Google Search Console – to track/fix errors
- Add Schema Markup
These are outside the scope of this training, but I think some people would like to be aware of them.