It is now official that Google has launched Penguin 2.0 on May 22. Penguin 2.0 is a much “deeper” algorithmic update with increased focus on flushing out sites that were benefited from link spam. It also promises that more sites will be positively impacted by this than by its predecessor, which was launched in 2012. That update kept the websites with unnatural links in check.
Penguin 2.0 is especially focusing on backlink patterns, anchor text uses and manipulative link building tactics which can misguide the end users. Already the Penguin update of 2013 has scared many small or local business owners as they get confused about what to infer from its huge impact on local search results.
An Unexpected Boost to Local Results
Penguin 2.0 brings good news for local business. With the onset of the Penguin 2.0 update, some massive changes were observed as to how Google treats local search and results. Trevin Shirey was first to notice that Google seems to have been integrating large numbers of localized results into organic searches for broad search queries like “coffee”. It is also seen that traditional places listings may not even show up.
This is definitely a great bonus for local businesses. Small regional businesses could gain from an update like this as it increases their exposure for informational queries. For example, a local coffee shop has no chance at ranking for a keyword like “coffee” but Google appears to be ranking local businesses more importantly in this new update.
I think this is a high time for local business to radically increase their local marketing strategies to maximize from this update. This guide lists the practical activities that need to be performed if you want to be sure that your business is found in the search results in this post-penguin world. I hope these takeaways are something you can immediately put into action for your own business websites.
1. Obtain Local Citations
Original penguin algorithm already showed that quality citations had a promising future and now it is clear that along with links, local citations or brand mentions will also matter a lot – post penguin.
Citations play a key role in local search ranking. This simply means that the more your NAP – mentions of your Business’s Name, Address and Phone number, is found on websites related to your niche and location, the higher your local search ranking will be. As the citation building is the essential ingredient of your local SEO, it will be very beneficial to build a strong citation profile for your local business all over the web.
It is also important to ensure that all your citations are correct on the sites like Yellow Pages, MapQuest and City Search, as it will help you in establishing your business locally. Furthermore, citations help in authenticating your business as it is nearly impossible to fake a membership in the chamber of commerce, a city or county business index, a mention in local online newspaper, or on a popular blog. Local citations will give your business information to the sources – which are relied upon by the Search Engines for valid and reliable business information.
2. Guest Blogging
You need to focus on your branding citations for your SEO campaign as much as you need to focus on local NAP citations. For that you will need to create and distribute relevant content (with using NAP) on high quality trusted websites with natural backlinks to your site.
Guest Blogging is one of the most powerful and beneficial link building techniques in play at the moment. Local businesses consider guest blogging as a highly valuable asset as it makes their brand and content more visible. Guest blogging allows contextual links back to your website which boosts authority and local organic search rankings especially when the websites and blogs have geo-local presence.
#Bonus Tip: If the webmaster allows, add your Name, Address and Phone number (NAP) in the post. This is known as unstructured citation and its quality/ authority is an influential off-site local search ranking factor.
3. Create a Page for Each Location
For business with multiple locations, Google Penguin 2.0 makes it necessary to create location specific pages.
In the past, Google used to segregate the local search results in the listings. Local search results used to appear as Google Places results and the results weren’t localized unless users added specific locations. The scenario is different with Penguin 2.0, as it makes local results more integrated now. It seems like Google is making concentrated efforts to give users local results whenever possible.
If your business has multiple locations, then you need to make sure that a separate page is allotted to each location in order to optimize your chances of ranking higher in local search results. All such pages must include relevant information about store and services offered in that local area, in addition to the contact details and address. This is applies to any location where there is a physical presence.
4. Google+ Local Reviews:
Google is giving more and more importance to social signals like online customer reviews to confirm business’s relevance and position. Organic search engine position is becoming more natural by heeding what your customers have to say about your organization rather than what you have to say; reflecting the real world action.
The best way to ask for reviews is to shoot out personalized emails to your customers asking them to write reviews on your Google+ Local page. You can also consider to setting up a specific landing page with a link that leads your customers to your Google+ Local page to post reviews.
Next, make sure to have a specific testimonial and review page where you can incorporate these reviews using rich snippets as part of the information available on your products and services
5. Use hReview Rich Snippets Markup
Adding rich snippets is another great idea for improving the presentation and visibility of your web pages in the search results. One way of doing this is by adding structured markup to your review data to familiarize search engines with the nature of content and helping them to correlate it with your business. You can use hReview micro-format to structure your review data, as it is a best way to display review data in the search results.
Successful implementations of rich snippets ensure that golden stars are displayed beneath your search listings, depending on the keywords searched. Such rich snippets definitely have better click through rates.
6. Optimize Your Google+ Local Page
Google+ Local listings offer local small businesses a huge opportunity to claim a prime visibility location on the local SERPs. The Google+ Local listings displayed in the search results have dramatically increased (with location specific keywords) and with that, local businesses cannot take the risk of ignoring Google+ Local as a part of their SEO campaign.
7. Apply For Google Authorship
In the recent video by Matt Cutts, you can clearly understand how it helps Google to understand the credibility of the individual who has posted a piece of content, by using the rel=”author” structured data. This actually helps Google in identifying a spammer from an author with a lot of authority and credibility.
In this way Google shows the details of the author of the content on a specific page in the search results. Such details will include the headshot of the author, link to his Google+ profile, number of Google+ circles of the author and a link for more search results of the author. Authorship and a picture of the author shown in search results will undoubtedly give rise to CTR and traffic.
To know the steps involved in making your author profile and headshot in the SERPs, read this post by Graham Charlton.
8. Local is Mobile
With rapid rise of local searches on mobile devices, it is absolutely inevitable for small businesses to optimize their website for mobile. This is because most of the users who undertake these searches end up viewing the local business’ website. Search results on mobile devices are more geocentric than desktop-based search results.
If you want the mobile visitors to find your business and want them to be converted as your patrons, make sure you have a mobile version of your site. Studies show that 40% of the customers shift to your competitors to do business if they are not happy with the mobile experience of your website. Along with mobile version of the website, consistent local SEO strategy is also important for the mobile website.
9. Local Content Marketing
There are many platforms available such as search engines, mobile and social media, through which small businesses can leverage content marketing. The technique here is to first research what your target audience is seeking and then provide them with relevant info through blog posts, articles, news and infographics.
Tailored content marketing should also be used by local businesses to optimize their sites for local searchers. The advantage here is that local content marketing will enable you to engage audiences along with getting more natural links and social indicators. Thus you get quality local leads rather than just having increased traffic.
10. Local Video Marketing
It is bewildering to know that video marketing is still an unnoticed marketing strategy for local businesses. Video can prove to be a powerful tool for local SEO campaigns. Video gives you a rare opportunity to interact with your customers and allow them to know your business better and be comfortable with you. You can either upload your video on YouTube or directly on your website.
Here are the benefits and limitations of both.
As Google owns YouTube, well optimized videos will have an excellent opportunity to rank further than other websites on the Google search results.
You need to create a YouTube channel for your business to start uploading your videos. Make sure you have optimized your videos to provide local value, before they go public. This involves adding appropriate tile to the video for targeted keywords, adding Citation details (NAP) and a link back to your landing page in video description without fail. Furthermore, video allows mobile users to call your company directly from the SERPs.
#Bonus Tip: Now YouTube allows you to set the location for each video. To do this, just navigate to Video Manager > Advanced Setting > Video Location. You can the location to be the same as your local business address. Google then gets another important local signal.
Self Hosted Videos
There is nothing wrong with YouTube, but it will put you in competition with yourself. On the other hand, self hosted videos on your website will give you opportunity to use rich-snippets for video and your video will get a preview in SERPs that link to your website. This will also increase click through rates, user engagement and visitors will linger on your page a little bit longer.
Google will also recognize that you have put enough efforts in creating a nice informative video, and your chances of getting ranked higher with more visibility increases.
Here is how you can show your video preview in search engines.
- You can host video on your own server
- Integrate video into your landing page
- Mark up correctly with rich snippets
- Use HTML5 supported video player
- Submit a video sitemap in Google webmasters tools
11. Blog for Business
Most local businesses are not using blogs to fuel their Local SEO and sales efforts. It is possible that they might not know how to work its magic for their business and this may lead them to doubting the ability of the blogs. The smart local businesses can turn to guest blogs to outperform their competitors.
Google pays more attention to websites that produce fresh and unique content regularly. Search engine spiders consider blogs as their FOOD and doing it often will get their attention. Blogs can also help small businesses provide solutions to the problems faced by their customers. Interactions with the audience are also possible through the blogs and such interaction signals are given prominent importance in Google local algorithms.
When your blog is informative and its content is helpful to the viewers, they will not only interact with you on your site, but they will also tell their friends about it. Such unsolicited publicity and links will make your website unique and it is really appreciated by Google.
12. Local PR
Press releases are the most effective way of getting higher ranks in local news searches; they also bring awareness and create a local buzz. Consider creating and distributing press releases if you have something news worthy. Examples include special local events, community involvement, launch of new product and other significant accomplishments.
Hire a local writer from the local news paper and it will get a very powerful exposure if it gets picked up by local newspapers. If you include NAP, then you will get quality backlink and citations as well. Make sure that your press releases have geo-specific keywords in the title.
Apart from this, you can also write something that goes viral. The local news papers, free papers and news shows are always in search for a material that tells a great story about the city.
13. Social Media
It is apparent now that social signals play a vital role in influencing the ranks of local search queries. In order to get the social signals you need, make sure you’re taking advantage of ocial media sites like Google+, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Foursquare and Pinterest.
Social media is not just about getting a boost in SEO ranking. It gives you an opportunity to connect with your current and potential customers and it allows you to be found in addition to strengthening your brand awareness. Immense opportunities will be available to create relationships and leverage them into connections. Your fans, followers and friends will spread a word-of-mouth publicity to pull more business in quickly.
14. Cleaning Up Your Link Profile
I also suggest creating backlink reports using multiple tools like ahrefs, Majestic and Google’s Webmaster Tools on regularly basis. You can give the status (Good, Not Sure, Bad) to each backlink to make sure that you are not removing any good links or leaving out any bad ones. You can contact publishers and ask them to take your link down. You should use Google’s Disavow Tool to disavow any links that haven’t been removed after multiple contact attempts.
The following are list of practices which you should Avoid OR Pay Attention to get success in the post penguin 2.0 era.
Things You Should Avoid
- Paid Links
- Article Marketing Spam
- Link exchanges
- Keyword Stuffing
- Forum Profiles Spam
- Over Optimization
- Unnatural Links
- Duplicate Content
Things You Should Pay Attention to
- Produce Quality Content
- Brand Mentions
- Social Media Signals
- Google Authorship
- Author Rank
- Local Listings
- Content Marketing
- Follow Webmaster Guidelines
- Diverse Anchor Text
- Remove Links with No Value
What else are you willing to put into your local SEO strategy? Share your thoughts in the comments below.