Thoughts on Local SEO and Marketing Online for Small Businesses
Over the course of the past year, we’ve seen the search engine result pages that Google returns for Local Intent searches get more and more complex. The year before the big change was Google blending in traditional organic rankings with the local Google Places rankings and the introduction to Google+. We also had some pretty big organic ranking updates with Panda, Venice, & Penguin.
Fast forward one year later, and we see deeper more aggressive updates in all those same areas. The blended local & organic is pretty much common place now. The Venice update made it very clear that Google believes search have local intent. They now present local results for many searches they never did before. They’ve also merged many of the double listings that used to show twice on the first page of local search results pages, so if you used to rank organically with your website and rank with your places pages you’ll most likely see only one listing fused.
Google Plus Local is finally coming into it’s own. It’s obvious Google is all cards in on their social engine to be the backbone of all their products. Google is phasing out the previous Google Places and it’s old dashboard. They offer solid support for local businesses now.
The Penguin updates have gotten even more aggressive, it continues to take down a lot of websites who’ve participated in link spam. Particularly targeting sites that were getting anchor text editorial links on low quality blogs or better known as “splogs”. It’s now official, if you get the wrong backlinks you can do more harm than good to a website. SMB’s need beware of low quality link builders/SEO’s.
Best Practises for Google Local
The basics still remain. Claim your Google Local Plus listing. Fill it out to the fullest or pimp it out. Choose your categories correctly. Make sure your NAP info is clean across the web. NAP inconsistency is probably one of the number one killers of local SEO…. be sure to read the 10 commandments of local search. Get as many quality citations with clean NAP info on all the major review & YP sites. If you don’t know how to build citations you can read this article here.
Encourage your customers review you online. Here are five good ideas on how to ask for reviews. Have your NAP info clearly marked on your website (ideally in schema markup). Be sure your website has local keywords in the Title Tags, Titles, H1 and/or H2 tags and some mentions of local words within the content (of course write for humans first). If you cover that, then you’ve covered 90% of the basics. Once you do start to own the rest of your web equity. And if you want to get super geeky then learn more about all elements of local SEO here.
Best Practises for Google Plus Local Pages
Google Plus still has not taken off with the masses yet, but that doesn’t mean this should be ignored. I think there are 500 million users and growing. Also lets not forget it’s tied to the biggest search engine around I don’t think is going to be a project Google scraps.
I’d suggest treating your Google Plus Local page like you treat your Facebook Page. It’s all about building community and fans around your brand. Post useful content regularly to it. Leave comments on other related or community Google Plus Pages related to your location or industry, plus one items, etc. Do whatever you can to build a community around your brand and to get your page more “circles” and “reviews” because personalized search is creeping in more and more. Over time and those that create a larger community that has “circled” their Google Local Plus Page will have a greater or an additional reach over those who didn’t. Just imagine if you started Facebook marketing before everyone else and how much further ahead you’d be over your competitors. Jump in now while most of your competitors are sleeping and ignoring the obvious.
Already logged in Google users can sort in local by the traditional “everything” SERPs or by “from top reviewers” or by “People like you” or by “Your circles”. I think if you read between the lines you know where this is going. It’s all about choice and to bring in personalized recommendations from people’s friends, family, co-workers, peers, etc. There is a very good guide here for business to understand how to leverage Google Plus.
Best Practises for Local Content – Venice
In the past you’d see a lot people spamming Google Places by setting up fake listings in many cities with mailboxes or hijacking listings to get a local presence. Google has pretty much squashed that loophole over the last year. They kinda went too far for a bit by deleting many SAB business listings to get at all the spam. I also saw an aggressive attack to shut down virtual office locations on Google Places in the last year.
Now with the Venice update and blended search showing up you can still have a local presence without needing to spam Google Local. You can do it with traditional on-page SEO (Title Tag, Meta Description, Url, Title, H1 & H2 tag and of course mentions of local keyword and landmarks in content. Matt McGee does a good job of explaining how to do this here. You see companies like Yelp.com, FindLaw.com, & UsedCars.com accomplishing it by creating awesome on-page content and making sure it’s optimized for local.
Best Practises for Organic Rankings – Penguin
Once you get the basic on-page SEO down, rankings are still about your backlinks, citations, co-citations/links, mentions, etc It’s obvious with the recent Penguin 2.0 updates that Google is becoming smarter and smarter about backlinks as the years go by. Trust me, I miss the good old days when you could point 200 exact match anchor text backlinks to a page from a bunch of splogs for $50 bucks and kill it in the rankings.
Over the years they’ve just devalued links from low quality directories, link networks, paid link brokers, linkwheels, etc … but now Google is not just devaluing those low quality spammy links anymore, but actually passing severe penalties. Trust me these penalties suck. I’ve been all shades of grey in the past when it comes to link building and I’ve officially learned it’s easier and better to be a white hat SEO.
It becomes increasingly more important that SMB’s partner with Local SEO’s who really understand the value of HIGH TRUSTED links and building domain authority. Right now you can do more damage than good by building the wrong backlinks. It’s super important you have the highest editorial control over your backlinks and partner with a Local SEO who know how to identify and qualify the best targets for their clients.
To me SEO has become more about being a traditional marketer/publicist with a SEO approach. Sometimes you have to do it all wrong to get it all right. These new breed of SEO’s will know how to help SMB’s diversify with traffic and help them invest in their biggest asset their website and website’s content. When it comes to internet marketing ‘organic search engine” traffic is only a part of the puzzle. If you have no idea how backlinking works or what it is, then start by reading this guide and reference these link building strategies.
So there are some of my thoughts of the top of my head this Saturday morning June 29th, 2013. Why not share your thoughts in the comment section below.