Did you know that 92% of business owners, marketing VP’s and directors have considered outsourced business services of some sort in the past two years, according to a recent Gartner study? This includes companies as small as mom-and-pop convenience stores and as large as Adobe or Proctor & Gamble.
Brands. They have so many advantages. Multiple locations, huge budgets, inventory. You name it. But as it was written and retold so many times before…David can slay Goliath. Small businesses can beat big brands with local SEO warfare.
“Hello, this is Kate, your Google Local representative, with an important message…”
It’s been nearly 3 years since I’ve founded this company, and still to this day there are bogus local SEO companies calling my phone with auto-dialers. If you’re a business owner (or if you just answer the phone at a small or mid-sized business), chances are you’ve fielded one of these annoying auto-calls. The premise is that they’ll tell you A) your Google places (now called Google my business) page isn’t claimed or B) it isn’t optimized correctly. Usually there’s an offer that rides along with that to “maintain” the page for a low monthly cost, or even provide some sort of reporting along with it.
Bogus local SEO companies like this are a dime a dozen. They know that there are still plenty of uninformed people out there looking to raise their profile in the business community and reach more customers. Don’t be one of those people. Be armed with facts. Aside from knowing that you should always hang up on crummy companies like this, here’s a few things to know:
Fact #1 – if you don’t have a “category fit”, you won’t appear in local listings on Google’s SERPs. Take this image below for instance. Pizza and Restaurant are both category options. Makes sense right?
But what if your company provides hydraulic hoses? Or electric welding equipment? Or any other unique widget that doesn’t fit a standard description? Well…there are no local listings to be included in, that’s the cold truth of the matter. Google has been mum on when they’ll expand their list of categories as well.
Fact #2 – if you don’t have a brick and mortar location, you will eventually get kicked out of local listings. Hey, online biz is great. But the premise of local listings are to help people figure out what’s nearby. If you try to ‘claim’ a PO box or another building as your place of business…eventually you’ll get booted. There’s no real value to be had from this either.
Fact #3 – if you’re in a competitive area and industry, just claiming a listing won’t get you very far. Let’s say you’re a plumber in down town Kansas City. How many plumbers are in a 20 mile radius? More than can fit in the local listings, that’s for sure. Claiming your profile, setting it up correctly, and all that goes with it is important…but it’s just the first step in actually making local search work for you. You still have to slowly and naturally gain positive reviews, build the domain of your brand’s domain strength, and ensure that all of your online citations are accurate/consistent. Bogus search providers won’t tell you this part, they’ll lead you to believe that they’ll “maintain” the listing and keep it updated, and this in itself will bring you business. Know that this isn’t accurate.
Local SEO entails more than just your Google+ page. It requires content made specifically for your local audience. It requires reputation management to ensure that your brand is reviewed positively online in a variety of ways. And of course, it’s building great earned links to your domain over time to build trust and authority.
So, the next time you get a junk call about your Google Places or Google My Business page, just hang up. Fraudulent local SEO providers are banking that you’ll be uninformed. If you really want to harness the power of local search, call us (or a trusted, proven digital marketing company). Local search works well in tandem with paid advertising – including remarketing campaigns – and email marketing. The right partner will give you solutions for all of the above at a fair price. If your marketing isn’t providing you a return, why bother with it?
*Update* If you REALLY want to send a message to these bogus and fraudulent local search scammers, learn as much about them as you can (it will require a few minutes on the phone), and then report them to the federal authorities here. One of the biggest problems with this industry is the lack of transparency, and the ease of manipulation. Let’s work together to bring that to end, with the help of just a little knowledge.
Your online reputation is important, but these clowns won’t know how to help…
There’s a few ultra-important questions to ask before hiring and ad agency for SEO purposes. If you don’t get the answers to these questions, you’re probably setting yourself up for disappointment. Why? Because most digital advertising agencies are focused on delivering creative work, not results. Others have business models centered on billing you for their time (which, again, does not take results into account). That’s not to say there aren’t agencies with strong, proven search optimization chops. There certainly are. But there’s far more who have no clue what SEO really is, yet they’ll bill you for it each and every month. To avoid that ugly scenario, here’s the vetting questions you’ll want to ask, from an online consultant’s point of view. Read More
Local SEO Ranking Factors Are More Detailed Than You Might Think
Business owners tend to fall in to two categories when it comes to Local SEO and what impacts a local SERP. The first are those that don’t know a thing about it, and readily admit that. The second are those that read a few blogs or about.com entries, and think it should be a breeze. To those in the second group…I’ll let my good friend Lee Corso express my sentiment below:
That’s right. Not so fast my friends. The amount of factors that go in to Google’s placement in local search results is deep. I’m talking understanding String Theory deep. Read this 2013 entry from Moz.com to see what I’m talking about.
We can break this out into 5 key top level local SEO ranking considerations. Just to put some “plain English” behind the whole local search ranking factors discussion. They are as follows:
* Being listed in the right categories: This is a killer for a lot of niche business, because there’s no great top level category for them. One of my clients is an IT remarketing company. There’s no category for that. The closest they could get to a reasonable match? Recycling. Blech. The next closest match? Computer repair. You see what I mean.
Still, most companies will find a decent match. In fact, most companies should find several. That’s right. It’s estimated that more then 25% of in-house marketers don’t pick more than one category. Mind blowing. If you don’t nail the categories, nothing will matter from that point forward.
* Having all your citations claimed, and being consistent: From Yellow Pages online to Foursquare to niche-specific business directories…make sure your business has claimed ALL their online profiles and citations. And make sure that they all say the same thing. What does that mean? For starters, your address should be the same for all of them. If your business has moved over the years, make sure all the citations are cleaned up. Do you have a few keywords associated with your business? A tagline or positioning statement? It should be the same across all of your listings. Locally relevant domains like the city newspaper or the local BBB are especially important here. Consistency is key here.
* Having quality and quantity in your online reviews: G+ reviews, Yelp reviews, YP.com reviews…they all matter. Not just how many, but how good they are and how evenly they are distributed over time (this is called the “velocity” of reviews). Reputation management is a key element of lead generation anyways, so if there isn’t a campaign in place to actively acquire reviews, there should be. Having the location AND the product or service keyword in the review is gold. Not that we’d advocate forcing someone’s statement, but letting them know what you are after is part of the ask. It makes a difference.
* Being close to the searcher (or the city center): This is another one that a lot of local business gets tangled up on. If you are in a suburb that’s 30 miles from a metro city center, it’s going to be hard to get on the local listings. Likewise, if you’re out in a different neck of the woods than where the searcher is right now (assuming they’re on a mobile device), that’s going to be hard to overcome as well. Not insurmountable, but it will add to the degree of difficulty. Just something worth noting.
* Having good links to your domain and your places page: We can file this one under the common sense category for local citation ranking factors, but many people don’t consider if there’s any inbound links (quality links, not spam) to their places page. This ties in to the domain authority of the overall website as well – not just the homepage, but the entire collection of web pages. Many of our clients who’ve came from second-tier SEO firms have a ton of links to their homepage, but virtually none to key interior pages. I won’t even get started on the lack of anchor text diversification that usually accompanies this…we digress. Links are important to your site AND to your places landing page. The more (and more qualified), the better.
Within these 5 local SEO ranking factors there’s a lot of sub-categories, plus considerations we didn’t even touch on (like having Rel=publisher markup included, social sharing signals from G+ and keeping local info in your title tags). It’s a details game, but understanding the core elements above can help you understand what goes into it. Professional search engine optimization companies have to do more than just get links (or develop great content to get links), they have to be reputation management experts as well.
Is your SEO company letting you down in the local rankings? Give us a call or drop us a line today, and get started on your path to a better understanding of local SEO.
Back in the 1980’s, you couldn’t turn on the radio without hearing a song by Darryl Hall and John Oates of Hall & Oates fame. With 6 number one hits and 34 Top 40 singles, it’s clear that the duo’s soulful rock music struck a chord with audiences. To this day, they credit their success to their ability to combine the best of both of their talents into songs that resonate with their audience. Read More
SEO Is Anything But…Dead
It seems there’s never a shortage of people saying that “SEO has died/is dying/will die”. We group these people one of two ways…people who don’t understand search engine optimization, and people who USED to understand search engine optimization when all it required was creating junk links and stuffing keywords in each of them. Those practices (thankfully) fall into the dead/dying/will die category, but the practice of optimizing a website for search engines will live as long as search engines live. Interestingly, some of the people that cry the loudest about SEO dying are actually competing for search dollars themselves. This infographic from SEO WORLD helps clarify:
SEO as a whole has morphed, indeed. But that’s a far cry from dying off. More than anything, more professionals are focusing on a subset of search. Local SEO. E-Commerce SEO. International SEO. Not to mention professional Content Marketing – that backbone of any good off-page SEO strategy – is certainly alive and well. So much so that it stands alone as its own practice regardless if an outreach strategy for link acquisition is filled in behind it.
What’s really happened is that semi-professionals and hacks are being forced out, as they don’t have the skills or professionalism to gain links, generate traffic, acquire leads and drive sales like true professionals do. Search engine marketing has evolved over time, but the organic traffic from a strong web presence will always be at the core. It’s a key component of any lead generation that an outsourced digital marketing firm will put in place.
SEO’s now require a more diverse skill set and understanding of what drives search…one such area is the importance that web design has on search rankings. It’s getting harder and harder to rank a sub-par site (and with good reason). Search engines want to reward a great experience that leaves the searcher satisfied. Hence the push for many businesses to develop responsive web designs with a true UX focus. I call this a caveat because it’s technically outside of the realm of most SEO’s to develop websites. Another big driver is video. Many business owners are surprised to learn that YouTube is the second largest search engine out there – and it certainly isn’t dying any time soon. Video can be optimized just like a website.
Before you let a Public Relations firm or Social Media “expert” sway you from considering Search Engine Optimization as part of your digital marketing mix, make sure you understand their perspective…and which of the buckets above they fall in to!