Local Search Optimization Guide - gShift Labs
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Local Search Optimization Guide - gShift Labs

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Optimizing a local Web presence is SEO with a local twist.

Optimizing a local Web presence is SEO with a local twist.

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Local Search Optimization Guide - gShift Labs Document Transcript

  • 1. Local Search Optimization Guide:Google+ Local & Getting Found in Your NeighborhoodgShiftLabs.com | @gShiftLabs | facebook.com/gShiftLabs | sales@gShiftLabs.com
  • 2. gShiftLabs.com | @gShiftLabs | facebook.com/gShiftLabs | sales@gShiftLabs.comHow Do You Get Found in Local Search and Stay There?As you’ve likely noticed when searching on Google over the past year, there is a distinct and growing focuson providing searchers with localized results. Depending on the search term, and particularly if you includea geographic identifier like the name of a city or town, you may be presented with a map on the right that isdotted with those familiar red Google pins, and the listings associated with those red pins as the results onthe left. In many cases, these results supersede organic search results, quite often displacing things like localdirectories and focusing on the most relevant local websites based on their algorithmic rules.Initially, those red pins simply represented a Google Place (now Google+ Local) page, but over time Google hasenhanced these results by combining them with organic website data (URLs and meta descriptions). Thus, thecontent displayed for these results is now a combination of Google+ Local page content and the organization’swebsite content.So now the question for companies focused on a local audience is, how do you get to and stay on top of yourlocal map?This guide provides some local-specific web presence optimization tips to help you ensure yourbusiness gets found in local search. Topics and tactics covered include:• Keyword Research• On-Site Optimization• Google+ Local Page Optimization• Online Customer Reviews• Researching and Obtaining Local Citations (Backlinks)• Participating in Social Media• Mobile and Local Search• Measuring and Adjusting Your Strategy
  • 3. 1. Keyword ResearchBefore you can begin to optimize your web presence, you have to identify the keywords you want andshould be focusing on. Keyword research (the topic of a previous gShift Labs Keyword Workbook) involvesunderstanding what keywords your prospects may be using to find you. There are several keyword researchtools available - including those incorporated into gShift Labs’ Web Presence Optimizer™ (WPO) - to helpyou understand which keywords typically receive the highest volume of search. The popular Google AdWordsresearch tool enables you to see both global and local (by country) monthly search volume.gShiftLabs.com | @gShiftLabs | facebook.com/gShiftLabs | sales@gShiftLabs.comLocal keyword research should include an analysis of both the primary keywords (e.g. restaurant, restaurants),and those same keywords combined with local identifiers (e.g. Toronto restaurant, restaurant Toronto, Torontorestaurants, restaurants in Toronto). At the outset of your project, you likely want to monitor the differentvariations of your keywords to see how you are positioned for each in the search engines and which may bedriving traffic and/or conversions on your website. A tool like gShift’s WPO will enable you to quickly review thetop 50 positions as well as any local positions for all of your keywords as often as you like.Using analytics in this way is another practical form of ongoing keyword research. Focus on those keywords thatare actually producing results in terms of traffic or conversions on your website. You may be surprised to findout some of the keywords people use to find you online.Keyword Research in gShift Labs’ Web Presence Optimizer™
  • 4. 2. Optimize Your Website for Organic Search with Local-Oriented KeywordsOptimization of your primary website should be the first step in any web presence optimization project. Usethe keywords you discovered through keyword research (e.g. Toronto restaurant) at the front of title tags andheading tags, body content and internal links within your website.Also make sure your site has appropriate, prominent and easily accessible calls to action to increase yourconversion rate (e.g. phone number/contact us form, information request, get a quote, etc.).Meta descriptions, while not heavily weighted in terms of SEO, can play an important role in attracting andconverting search-based leads. The meta description is generally incorporated into the search results presentedfor a page by Google, therefore you should use the opportunity to present a solid call to action including a phonenumber. This is particularly important from a mobile search perspective, as searchers will have an opportunity tocall you directly from your search results. This may not result in a measurable click through to your website, butwe will presume the end goal is to secure the lead no matter how it is obtained.Including phone numbers in meta descriptions makes it easier for people to connect with local businesses. Ifmeasuring these leads is vitally important (and it really should be if you are serious about understanding whereyour leads are coming from), then you might consider setting up a tracked phone number. There are hosted calltracking solutions, some of which are integrated with Google Analytics, which will enable you to track the phonenumber right back to the search term originally used by the caller.Any actual address information displayed on your site should be formatted using standardized HTML tagscalled schema, which is a way of specifically identifying address information as such. More on schema and theother types of content that can be tagged using this standard protocol can be found at http://schema.org/docs/schemas.html.3. Create and Optimize Your Google+ Local PageEvery organization can create a Google+ Local (formerly Google Places) page at http://www.google.com/places, which is effectively your marker on the Google map and now also the page which will be accessed andinteracted with via Google+, where Google has now added a special Local area (and yes, we have a guide forGoogle+ for Your Business and SEO as well). This page will also be the first of your online pages most peoplewill access via their mobile phones, which is increasingly becoming the way people conduct local searches.gShiftLabs.com | @gShiftLabs | facebook.com/gShiftLabs | sales@gShiftLabs.com
  • 5. Do some quick research to see if a Place Page has already been created for you by searching for yourorganization’s name followed by your town/city name. Sometimes services like the Yellow Pages or localdirectories may have created these pages without your knowledge. If this is the case, be sure to takeownership of your page by obtaining a PIN from Google via phone call, SMS or post card. Once received, thisPIN must be submitted to Google to verify your ownership of the Google+ Local page.Once you have taken ownership, be sure to validate/update all of the content on this page:• Point the website address on this page to your primary website, not a landing page or directory listing, inorder to derive maximum benefit.• Select as many relevant categories (up to 5) for your organization as possible.• Populate your Google+ Local page with as much current, relevant and keyword-rich content as the pagewill allow including Hours of Operation, Brands Carried, and Amenities Offered.• Add your logo, several product or service related photos and videos to the page.At the bottom of every Google+ Local page, Google displays “Related Sites” which may be the websites of yourcompetitors. By filling the top of the Google+ Local page you push related sites lower down the page wherethey may not be seen by those who don’t choose to scroll.gShiftLabs.com | @gShiftLabs | facebook.com/gShiftLabs | sales@gShiftLabs.comGoogle+ Local Page for Barrie Condo Team
  • 6. gShiftLabs.com | @gShiftLabs | facebook.com/gShiftLabs | sales@gShiftLabs.com4. Solicit and Manage Online Customer ReviewsGoogle is increasingly using social signals, like online customer reviews, to determine organizations’ relevanceand position. Organic search engine position is becoming less about what you have to say about yourorganization and more about what your customers have to say, which is really no different than the way it worksin the real world.Reviews are a key component of the Google+ Local page you see above. Reviews can be submitted directlyon the Google+ Local page by anyone logged into their Google account (i.e. via Gmail, YouTube, etc.). Manydirectories - including Yellow Pages, Yelp.com, Trip Advisor and Foursquare - also enable consumers to provideonline reviews, which can in turn appear in search results and on Google+ Local pages.Organizations who are proactive in soliciting and obtaining reviews will certainly benefit. Be sure to monitoryour reviews in order to respond should there be any which are negative. A quick and effective response to anegative review can be as valuable as a positive review. Asking for reviews, provided you are offering a goodservice, will presumably result in more positive than negative reviews.5. Research and Obtain Local Citations (Backlinks)Backlinks from other relevant websites are also strong signals to the search engines of a website’s authority.Backlinks represent third-party validation of your website existence and influence. Local websites (e.g.Chambers of Commerce, Local Associations, Local Partners, Events Calendars, Directories) are all good potentialbacklinking sources for those who are locally focused. The search engines are no doubt looking for andrecording the interconnectedness of local businesses as a further means of validating their location.In terms of directories, research and identify local directories that rank high for the keywords for which you wantto be found. Many of these offer free listings and relevant local backlinks (inbound links). Only consider paidlistings in directories, which appear on page one of Google for your keywords, those which can provide proofof the website traffic they are able to deliver, or those which will provide multiple backlinks to your website.gShift’s WPO can quickly help you determine the top 50 results for any of your keywords, which is an excellentresearch tool for identifying potentially high-value backlinking sources. You might also wish to understandwhere your competitors have their backlinks in the event that they are out-positioning you in the search enginesfor any specific keywords. Perhaps you can piggyback on some of those same sources.TIP: Consider setting up a specific landing page with a link directing customers to your Google+ Localpage or to another appropriate review site for your business (e.g. Yelp), where they can post a review.Display the address of this landing page prominently in your store, restaurant (perhaps as a QR code to beread by mobile devices), or on a customer invoice so it can easily be accessed and used to generate yourreview. Don’t be afraid to ask.
  • 7. gShiftLabs.com | @gShiftLabs | facebook.com/gShiftLabs | sales@gShiftLabs.comObtaining high-value, relevant backlinks can be a long and tedious process, but one which will certainly pay offin the long run.6. Participate in Social MediaWhile many small local businesses may still be shying away from social media, there is no disputing its influ-ence on our everyday lives. People young and old use Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Foursquare and even You-Tube to follow, share and comment on products and places they Like on a daily basis. The search engines real-ize these activities play a role in determining the authority and popularity of places, businesses and products. Assuch, social signals are increasingly being factored into their position algorithms.At the very least, every local business should create an account, secure a page and/or their name in the topsocial networks to ensure they own it if and when they are ready to become active in social media.For newcomers, there are three important aspects to social media – listening, following and engaging, in thatorder.Listening – Search using your keywords and your company’s name on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook,Google+, Foursquare, LinkedIn or Pinterest (depending on where you feel your audience is most likely going tobe spending their time). Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest can work for B2C or B2B focused businesseswhile LinkedIn favours more of a strictly B2B audience.Following – Search again in the social networks for your local competitors, partners or industry leaders to seewhether or not they are involved. Follow and/or monitor how these people or organizations are leveraging socialmedia within your community.Engaging – Once you are comfortable with the “social scene” and feel you have something of value tocontribute (e.g. tips, recipes, stories, case studies, events, etc.), engage the community and begin to build afollowing of your own.In terms of practical local social media tactics:• Add social media follow icons for all of your social media accounts to the header of your website, to youremail signature, and to any of your distributed offline marketing materials. Let people know you are active.• Add social media Like and Share icons to each page of your website for people to like and/or share yourcontent.
  • 8. gShiftLabs.com | @gShiftLabs | facebook.com/gShiftLabs | sales@gShiftLabs.com• Create and distribute new, keyword-rich content that links to other content you maintain. For example,create a blog post that links to a product page on your website for more detailed info – This tactic cannot beoverstated in today’s online world. Relevant content your audience is willing to read and share is SEO gold.• Curate and share relevant local news and events to show you are engaged in the community and toencourage those who posted the content to follow and/or share your content.• When posting to Twitter or Google+ specifically, be sure to use keywords and local identifiers in yourhashtags (e.g. #Toronto #restaurant) to highlight your post for those who are paying attention to locallytagged content.• Tag the location of photos and videos you upload to Facebook.• Tag the location of videos you upload to YouTube.• Create and post detailed Events in Facebook and Google+.When you become even more comfortable with social media you can:• Run contests to build your following on Facebook, Google+, Foursquare,Twitter or Pinterest.• Actively solicit feedback on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or Pinterest.• Comment and guest post on other relevant blogs.• Host live Twitter chats or Google+ Hangouts on relevant topics.For more about SEO and Social Media read: Social SEO: Creating a Conversation with your SEO Strategy.7. Be Mindful of MobileA recent study found that 1 in 4 Google searches are local and a fair percentage of these (approximately 15% inGoogle) are conducted on a mobile device.{Relevant Content}your audience iswilling to readand share isSEO gold
  • 9. gShiftLabs.com | @gShiftLabs | facebook.com/gShiftLabs | sales@gShiftLabs.comFor this study, Chitika Insights studied millions of ad impressions across the US and Canada served via the threesearch engines (Bing, Google, and Yahoo), September 21-27, 2012.Small businesses must be aware of whether and how they are being found via search on a mobile device. Usea tool like Web Presence Optimizer™ to understand what percentage of your website traffic comes from mobiledevices.
  • 10. gShiftLabs.com | @gShiftLabs | facebook.com/gShiftLabs | sales@gShiftLabs.comBefore building a mobile-specific website, local businesses can and should incorporate some basic mobile bestpractices into their existing site:• Use standards based XHTML and CSS which will naturally render on most mobile web browsers.• Incorporate telephone numbers into the meta descriptions of your most visited and/or ranking pages sothose who are searching via a mobile device have the option of simply clicking on your phone number to reachyou directly from their search results.• Again, make sure your Google+ Local page is up to date and accurate as this may be the primary searchresult returned and/or people may be searching via Google Maps.• Again, establish accounts and leverage mobile-specific networks/services like Foursquare and Yelpwhich offer the opportunity to check-in, like and comment on your business.8. Measure and Adjust Your StrategyMeasuring what works and what doesn’t is crucial to you being able to effectively manage and assign value to alocal search optimization program. You can utilize tools like gShift Labs’ Web Presence Optimizer™ and GoogleAnalytics to understand how you are positioned in Google, locally or otherwise, for the keywords you want to befound for.On your website and then within Google Analytics, identify your key goals/conversion points (e.g. time spent onsite per visit, number of pages per visit, submitted contact form, downloaded document, etc.).Start by taking a baseline measurement so you have a basis for comparison over time. You can then identify:• Which keywords are the most effective at delivering traffic to your website.
  • 11. gShiftLabs.com | @gShiftLabs | facebook.com/gShiftLabs | sales@gShiftLabs.com• Which and how many specific pages of your website are positioned in the top 50 search results in Google,Bing, Yahoo or YouTube.• Which social media networks are the most effective from a social signal or traffic referral perspective.• Which keywords are the most effective at driving conversions.
  • 12. About gShift LabsgShift Labs provides Web Presence Optimization Software giving SMBs and agencies control over theirorganic search campaigns. Companies across North America are achieving top organic rankings in searchengines using gShift’s Web Presence Optimizer™ (WPO), which simplifies, demystifies and standardizesthe way a website gets found on the internet. Organizations of all sizes benefit by reducing the time andresources required to analyze and improve organic search optimization.For more information, please contact us at 1-866-743-5960 or sales@gShiftLabs.com.gShiftLabs.com | @gShiftLabs | facebook.com/gShiftLabs | sales@gShiftLabs.com• How you are progressing in relation to your competitors or if any new online competitors are entering thearena.With this information in hand, you can make informed decisions about where and how to focus your SEO effortsmoving forward.In ConclusionGoogle is putting a great deal of emphasis on local search, effectively replacing the need for traditional YellowPages or other directories. Mobile search is also becoming the norm, particularly at a local business level wherepeople are trying to decide where to eat, where to buy a pair of shoes or which mechanic to take their car to.Businesses have an opportunity to take control of their local web presence. Following these SEO tips will helpyour business get found in local search, particularly if your competitors are not up to speed on Google’s newdirection.