Archive for "January, 2013"

Most Important Off-Site Local Ranking Factors Moving Forward

General Jan 28, 2013 1 Comment

Search engine optimization, and business for that matter, is about staying ahead of the curve. You always want to be the one setting the trends while your competition follows in your footsteps, not the other way around.

In a field that is as quickly-changing as SEO, this is even more important than in other industries. Things that were commonly accepted as industry-standard a year ago could easily be obsolete today.

David Mihm posts a list of the top local search ranking factors on his website every year. The survey is done by asking a number of local search experts to rank 90 possible positive factors and 18 possible negative factors.

Off-site factors will always be huge in ranking, and I don’t think there is a person in the world that will disagree with that statement, so I am going to go over the top 10 off-site factors and try to see which ones will be the biggest moving forward.

The top 10 Off-Site Factors in the 2012 survey (2013 list will probably be released in summer again) were as follows:

  1. Quantity of Structured Citations
  2. Quality/Authority of Structured Citations
  3. Consistency of Structured Citations
  4. Quality/Authority of Unstructured Citations
  5. Quality/Authority of Inbound Links to Domain
  6. Quantity of Inbound Links to Domain from Locally-Relevant Domains
  7. Quantity of Unstructured Citations
  8. Quality/Authority of Inbound Links to Places Landing Page URL
  9. Quantity of Inbound Links to Places Landing Page URL from Locally-Relevant Domains
  10. Quantity of Inbound Links to Domain

I don’t think many people (anyone?!) in the local SEO industry would debate that these factors are important today. But since we are trying to stay ahead of the competition, which factors are going to the most important down the road, 2 years from now, 5 years from now, and even 10 years from now?

The two that stand out to me, and the ones that I am going to be focusing my efforts on, are #2 – Quality/Authority of Structured Citations and #6 – Quantity of Inbound Links to Domain from Locally-Relevant Domains.

As you can see from the list, citations, both structured and unstructured, are a huge local ranking factor. However, I feel like the quality of the websites is going to be more important than quantity moving forward. Anyone who was in the SEO industry two to three years ago knows that everyone was preaching quantity of links as the most important factor for ranking.

“Get as many links as you can, from as many sources as you can! It doesn’t matter if the sites are spammy and unrelated to your niche”, someone once advised me. Advice like that was common (although short-sighted), but it really was true: if you had more links than your competitor, you were going to rank higher than him/her.

After the Panda/Penguin updates obliterated those websites who had been obtaining tons of low-quality links using over-aggressive with anchor text, it finally became ingrained in marketers heads that quality is the key to staying in this game for the long-run, not quantity. Of course, the person with the largest quantity of quality links is going to outrank the person with a smaller number of quality links, but for now, I would focus on getting quality links and citations from related sites. Local online newspaper and magazine articles are great citations to obtain, so I will be spending a good deal of time on brainstorming ways to get those for my business.

Having said all that about quality, I move into #6 – Quantity of Inbound Links to Domain from Locally-Relevant Domains.

The reason I don’t think you have to be picky looking for quality sites that are in the same vicinity as your business is that all visitors coming from that site to your site are going to be, by default, extremely high-quality. There are just not many spammy local sites, period. Not only will links from locally-relevant websites help your business rank higher, but the visitors arriving through that link will almost all be interested in your business/service, since they clicked the link in the first place. For my business in 2013, I am trying to get as many links and citations from websites in my city as I possibly can.

I am fully expecting Quality/Authority of Structured Citations to be #1 on the 2013 list of local ranking factors. I also think Quantity of Inbound Links to Domain from Locally-Relevant Domains is going to move up a place or two. Google seems hellbent on making Google+ relevant too, so we will probably see a rise in importance of the Google+ Local pages just like we saw in 2012.

About the Author

Brian KlemmBrian Klemm is an SEO and inbound marketer at Northbound Digital, based in Chicago, IL. He specializes in local SEO and content marketing.

Feel free to connect on Twitter @NorthbndDigital or Google+.

SEO: Link Building in Depth – Building Links – Two Types

General Jan 28, 2013 No Comments

Link BuildingI like to think of linking as two separate games, creating two different types of links. These two groups may be thought of as the real links on the one hand and fake or contrived links on the other.

What do I mean by real links? The real thing, a real link, is a type of link that the major search engines really want to see. It’s a link pointing to your website from another site, but it exists because the owner of that other website really wants to create a link.

The owner has found the reference page to be in some way useful or amusing or interesting or engaging in some manner. These are the sort of links that the search engines are most interested in because they are genuine votes for your site.

On the other hand, there is the fake links. Not fake in the sense that the link is somehow not real in the technical structural sense, they are real HTML links, but fake in the sense that the purpose for the link is fake. The link isn’t there because the person owning the site linking to yours particularly cares for your site. The link is there because you want it there and have somehow managed to convince the site owner to place a link on his site pointing to yours. Or put it another way, because the site linking to your site has some kind of incentive to place the link there.

Here is example of what I think of as a real link. Let us say, you create a glossary of terms related to your business, something genuinely useful to other people in your industry. A few bloggers discover the glossary think it’s worth talking about so they mention it in their blogs and link to it. Those are real links, this kind of strategy, building something on your site in order to encourage people to link to it is often known by the term link bait.

On the other hand let’s say you buy links, you pay other site owners to link to your site. Those are the fake kind of links. The site owners don’t really care about your site they don’t care what the link is pointing to. They are simply placing the link in exchange for money. Of course, it’s often difficult for the search engines to determine the difference between a real link and fake link which is why fake links often work well, though not always and why the whole fake link business is so big.

Here is an example, let’s say you pay a blogger to write about your site and link to it. How can Google for instance tell the difference between a real link to your really useful link bait and a fake link to a not so useful site that was placed in return for cash? Often it can’t, which represents a huge dilemma for the search engine companies because on the one hand they have tried to discourage fake links in particular the purchasing of links yet at the same time they reward the strategy. Millions of sites have done very well using a variety of strategies for building fake links. In fact, mostly link campaigns are really fake link campaigns. It’s actually often the case that a fake link is more valuable than a real link because of the problems the search engines have in distinguishing between the two.

A real link from a low page rank blog for instance will likely be less valuable than a paid link from a high page rank blog. However, in general a real link strategy is more valuable than a fake link strategy for a variety of reasons. First the search engines are continually getting better at figuring out the difference. As an example when Google discovers a site containing paid links it often devalues those links perhaps totally ignoring the links and could even remove the page from the index. Another example is reciprocal linking, while many proponents of reciprocal linking would put such links firmly in the real link category, claiming they provide value to site visitor, in fact most reciprocal linking is clearly done for SEO reasons and the search engines know it, which is why reciprocal links generally have little value these days.

There is also no fine line between real and fake links, sure on the one end there’s links to genuinely useful link bait and on other purchased links but in between there are all sorts of other things such as press releases, article syndication, friends and family links, links from partners and so on. With links getting more valuable as you move along the continuum from paid links to link bait links.

In a general sense it’s worth being aware of these two basic link strategies, real and fake links, and understanding that search engines are more interested in real than fake and are continually getting better at assessing the difference.

3 eBooks to Benefit Your Local SEO Strategy

General Jan 10, 2013 1 Comment

Local SEO has become a highly regarded Internet marketing strategy, particularly for small businesses. These local businesses thrive on local consumers, and investing in a local SEO program has proven to be one of the most effective means of growing highly qualified search traffic from users in a targeted geographic area.

Because small businesses are typically budget conscious, some of these businesses try to take on their local SEO efforts on their own. While there are many awesome resources out there to educate business owners on topics and strategies for local search, eBooks are definitely a great resource to get informed on what strategies you should invest your time and effort into.

Below you’ll find 3 eBooks that discuss local SEO and small business SEO that we found useful for small businesses who wanted to take a shot at optimizing their local SEO strategy on their own.

7 Steps to a Successful Local SEO Campaign

7 Steps to a Successful Local SEO CampaignThis local SEO eBook covers 7 great topics for local business owners who want to optimize their local search campaigns and features many great takeaway points from optimizing your Google+ Local page to building citations, understanding the value of links and ways to build those links naturally to promote higher search results.

Written by Local Atlanta SEO Consultant Chris J. Everett, Principal of Captivate Search Marketing search engine marketing firm, the local SEO eBook offers step by step instructions on claiming and optimizing your Google+ local page, as well as instructs small business owners on how to seek out guest blogging opportunities to promote greater brand visibility for their companies.

Among the other topics covered in the eBook are soliciting reviews from your customers, joining local business directories, and the power of social media in local SEO.

Get Your Copy of 7 Steps to a Successful Local SEO Campaign

The Complete, Step-by-Step Guide to Local SEO

The Complete, Step-by-Step Guide to Local SEOWritten by Traverse City SEO guru Tyler Tafelsky, The Complete, Step-by-Step Guide to Local SEO dives into the very basics of local SEO campaigns, discussing keyword research techniques to help business owners uncover the most relevant keywords they might want to target in their campaign.

The Complete, Step-by-Step Guide to Local SEO also covers other major touch points in local search such as claiming and optimizing your companies Google Places and Yellowbook pages, as well as points business owners to other online directory sites such as Yelp and Merchant Circle to help build out more relevant citations online.

This local SEO eBook also touches base on such local SEO strategies as earning client reviews, claiming and optimizing your Yahoo! and Bing business listings, and using a uniform Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP) throughout all of your listings.

Get Your Copy of The Complete, Step-by-Step Guide to Local SEO

SEO for the Small Business Owner

SEO for the Small Business OwnerThe final eBook we’ll discuss is SEO for the Small Business Owner, an eBook written by John DiBella of NetLocal, a small business SEO firm in Philadelphia. DiBella’s eBook gives small business owners a background on local SEO and why it’s important to include in their overall marketing objectives.

SEO for the Small Business owner also discusses keyword research and discovery for local SEO campaigns using the Google Adwords Keyword Tool. DeBella’s eBook also dives into such on-site optimization strategies as optimizing Meta Tags (Title, Description, Keywords) and the on-page content and structure, and how to write for the search engines.

Of course, because of it’s importance to Local search, SEO for the Small Business Owner also has a section that covers Google Places optimization techniques.

Get Your Copy of SEO for the Small Business Owner

If you’re a small business owner who is looking to get informed on local SEO and strategies to help your website get more traffic from local consumers, these three eBooks are a great way to get acquainted with the topic.