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In this episode of Marketing Nerds, Mary Bowling of Ignitor Digital and LocalU sits down with SEJ Executive Editor Kelsey Jones to talk about local SEO and what businesses should be focusing on when optimizing for their local presence. They also talked about how the new voice and mobile search technology influences local SEO and what review sites businesses should be focusing on. Finally, Mary and Kelsey discussed content marketing for local SEO and what type of content is going to bring customers to your website.
Here are a few transcribed excerpts from their discussion, but make sure to listen to the podcast to hear everything:
What Businesses Should be Doing About Local Search
Well, local SEO you generally need to rank well on Google Maps in order to get into the local PACS.
If you’re a brand new business you need to work on both sides of that equation. You need to do all the things that we as SEOs know to do to try to rank well organically in Google. Then, we have to layer on the things that we need to do to rank well in Maps. If we can put that together, then that’s when we have our best chance of appearing in those local PACS.
Those local things that you want to do is you want to make sure your Google My Business listing is as complete and accurate as possible, and that the information that you put in there matches what’s on your website. You want to make sure that Google seeing consistent data about your business at trusted places on the web and trust the places off the web as well. Then, you need to make sure your website is clearly conveying to the search engines and to your human visitors where it is and what you sell.
Sometimes, this is not really clear to people when they look at a local business website. People assume too much. You really need to whack people up the side of the head, and let them know that you do what they need to have done in the place where they need to have it done.
Then, you need to set up a strategy to continually get more good reviews. Reviews are huge in the local space.
You also want to try to gain some what we call place rank or location prominence by getting some locally focused citations and links. Links from businesses and organizations that are in the same geographic area that you’re in.
The Importance of Online Reviews
No business can hide from their reputation anymore. It’s on the internet. Other people are going to see it even if the business tries to ignore it.
Reviews are absolutely huge. Not the least of which reason is because of the stars that you can get and the SERPs if you get a lot of good reviews in different places.
You know, we all have to realize that nobody’s going to look at a business that has one and two stars, unless they’re looking for examples of bad reviews, or a business that has poor customer service and their customers complain about it online. We’re all looking for the good businesses.
For that reason, businesses just don’t need to continually ask for more reviews, but they have to be continually trying to make those reviews better and better by listening to the feedback they get from their customers. Then, trying to improve the things that people typically complain about. It is an ongoing process.
Chances are you’ve probably already lost that customer if it was a bad review. When you respond to a review, you’re really trying to show new prospects that you are listening, that you care about what’s happening at your business, and that you are attempting to improve it.
Where to List Your Business
You definitely want to be on all of the more general review sites no matter what type of business you are. By that I mean places like Yelp, the Yellow pages, and Manta.
The reason for that is if you don’t put a listing on there with complete and accurate information, if somebody wants to leave you a review even if they want to leave you a really great review, there’s no listing there to leave it on. They might create a listing themselves just by giving you a review. That happens on some sites. Then, there’s something going on that you have no idea it’s happening. You have no control over it. You have no access to it. That’s one of the main reasons you want to create listings on almost all the general review sites, so that there is a good place there for people to review you.
After that, you really want to focus on the ones that are appropriate for your particular industry. If your a hotel, you definitely want to be on TripAdvisor. If you’re a home service provider, you definitely want to be on Angie’s List.
The best way to figure out which review sites that you want to make sure that you’re on is to search for your big fathead terms, like “plumber Austin” or “counselor in Manhattan”, and see what sites show up on the first page of the results. Then, make sure you get listed on those sites, because those are places where searchers are going to be going quite frequently.
Link Building for Local SEO
It’s almost impossible to rank well organically in the local PAC without having good backlinks pointing to your pages on your website. Just a fact of life.
For a long time in local, that was not true. In local we could get away with not building links, and doing a lot of other things that you have to do with organic SEO. It was only because the Google algorithm was rather rudimentary, and it really couldn’t model the real world the way Google wanted it to.
Now, Google’s algorithm has become so much more sophisticated that we really need to think more about marketing to people who have the potential to become our customers rather than trying to look for loop holes in the algorithms. You really do need to build links.
My rule of thumb when building links is “What would you do to promote your business if the internet didn’t exist?”
If a local business will start doing some of those things, then they will start getting what we call this location prominence. They will get some links that are going to help them to rank better.
You would join business groups in your town. You would network with people on a regular basis and shake hands with them them. Let them know that you are one of the good guys, and that you would appreciate any referrals they can send to you. If you do that, you’re very likely to get links from some of these people. Their websites will refer customers to you as well as their words.
If they would just do some of though things, they’ll be doing more than most of their competitors are doing and will start seeing their rankings moving up.
How Voice and Mobile Search Factor in to Local SEO
There are some clients that are coming to me know that we are starting with a mobile website rather than trying to build them a static website and make it mobile friendly.
It all really depends on the type of business you have.
If you are an emergency plumber, nobody’s going to call you unless they need something right now. They’re probably going to be looking on their phone, because they have their phone with them at all times. For a business like that, I’d say “Yes. Let’s get that mobile website up and going.” Maybe we won’t even need a desktop website.
This rise of the chat bots and things like Amazon Echo—this is how the search engines are learning what people are searching for. It definitely has changed local search outrageously.
Another thing that is starting to impact local search is some of the initiatives that Facebook is taking in their quest to become business-friendly online. They already ave this captive audience that’s online and logged in all the time, so they’re trying to leverage some of their things, like Facebook Messenger and their pay system for local businesses.
Creating Content for Local SEO
Most of them already have some content on their site that’s awful. That is either somebody that they paid ten dollars per hour, went out on the web, looked stuff up, conglomerated it all, and threw it on a webpage, and said, “Google should rank me number one for this webpage.”
Nobody wants to read that webpage.
What I really have to do first is educate them about what we want for content on local sites. I think once they grasp that, that it becomes much, much easier for everybody involved. What I tell them is think about why prospects are searching for a business like yours, and what is it that they want to know. Then, give them that information.
If somebody’s searching for a furnace repair company, they really don’t want to know the history of furnaces. They don’t really care to know what all the parts on a furnace are. They want to know “Can you fix my furnace?” “When can you be here?” “Can you give me any idea of what it might cost?”
If you can answer the questions that people are really thinking about when they’re searching for a business like yours, chances are you’re going to get the first call.
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Think you have what it takes to be a Marketing Nerd? If so, message Kelsey Jones on Twitter, or email her at kelsey [at] searchenginejournal.com.
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