Local SEO in 2017: 3 Investments That Offer The Biggest Wins

General Nov 07, 2016 No Comments

local SEO in 2017Actualizing a successful local SEO strategy requires a multi-fold approach that addresses a number of ranking factors and optimization strategies. From citations and backlinks to social media profiles and Google My Business listings, the elements that go into a comprehensive local SEO strategy can be overwhelming.

In this post, I cut out the minutiae and shed light on the SEO strategies and ranking factors that offer the greatest ROI. So as you embrace local SEO in 2017, here are three powerful investments that will offer the biggest wins over the year to come.

1.  Make Link Building a Priority Focus

Because Backlinks Fuel Domain Authority & Enduring Search Rankings

As the fuel behind domain authority (and a site’s overall ranking potential,) link building has proven to be one of the most vital aspects of bolstering your site ranking in Google’s SERP (Search Engine Results Page).

But don’t go running out of the gate looking to acquire just any links. Research has shown that Google’s search engine algorithm crawls and assesses each link’s citation flow and trust flow, which is to say that link relativity = weight in ranking. These two metrics are thought to work in tandem to parse whether the backlinks on a given site are from quality, trusted websites.

Some criteria to consider while gauging whether a site will have a high-rating citation and trust flow:

  • How does the site rank on Google?
  • How relevant is the source?
  • How many sites link to said site?
  • Is the site updated regularly?
  • Is there good user interaction (i.e. are visitors commenting or reviewing?)

That’s great, but how do I generate backlinks?

Outreach Relentlessly

One of the most obvious and organic ways to generate backlinks to your site is by simply reaching out. Consider whether other site-owners might be interested or benefit from linking to the work or service your site provides.

Questions to ask yourself before hitting send:

  • Does your site operate in the same niche?
  • Does the site link to other sites?
  • Will the inclusion of your site add value to those you’re reaching out to?

While outreach is one of the most overlooked efforts in acquiring quality backlinks to your site, there are countless other strategies (i.e. guest blogging, event sponsorship, memberships, etc.)

Without going into detail about the latter mentioned link building strategies, the following SEO components we discuss below can lend to sure-fire methods to increase link popularity.

2. Create Great Content That Sparks Engagement

Taking a More Creative, Audience-Driven Approach to Your Content

In addition to keeping your site fresh and frequently crawled by search engines, another bonafide and necessary strategy for backlink acquisition is simply creating great, digestible content. (This is why we’re here in the first place, right?)

But beyond just great content, you’ll want to focus on audience-driven content that gains the likes, shares, tweets, etc. (social signals) of your audience.

Social Media is the new “News”, and video isn’t the future, it’s the NOW

As we trek forward as a society, traditional news and journalism mediums continue to be outpaced by the explosive growth of social media. Compelling data from Cisco estimates that a whopping 75 percent of online traffic will be exclusively for video streaming by 2020; however, we’ve already started hitting that number!

comScore’s February 2016 video streaming data states that YouTube and Facebook alone had a combined number of over 263 million unique viewers per month. And that’s only from desktop devices. As the world continues to go mobile, these numbers are slated to become even more astronomical across all platforms.

Leverage Rich Media Strategies

You want your content to be highly optimized for social sharing. Be it photo or video, it’s a smart bet to start employing the use of image-based content now. Not only can you dramatically increase your click-through rates, but you’ll add engagement to your site all whilst boosting your site’s ranking potential in Google.

Pick 2 or 3 social sites you’ve found to best connect your business with your audience (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram) and keep output across them cohesive with links to your site within descriptions and captions. (It’s good to use specific page URLs as diversifying links to all of your site’s pages is beneficial). Also, can try using highly visible icon links and calls-to-action in your content to further spur social engagement.

By creating great valuable and shareable content, you’ll encourage organic backlinks from visitors and followers that enjoy your work and want to share it.

3. Increase Local Rankings with Google Maps SEO (and Google My Business)

Optimizing for Keyword + City Search Queries

It’s no secret that an incredible amount of traffic that goes through Google is based on people searching for convenient, close-by goods and services on their smartphones. The more you can optimize your business for local search results (keyword + city search queries) the better you can drive highly-qualified traffic to your site. A powerful way to go about this is via local Google Maps SEO.

google maps SEO

A big step in enhancing your company’s visibility in these local results is by claiming and optimizing a Google My Business (GMB) profile. This is a simple Google-hosted profile where you can list important information like hours of operation, website, phone number, and perhaps most importantly – an address. It’s also the primary asset that contributes to a business’ ranking in the Google local 3 pack as well as ranked Google Maps results.

The GMB profile is also great for displaying photos of your business and client reviews, which both have been known to improve your Google ranking and offer quick insights into your company identity. This easy-access information allows users to make quick decisions about their search query.

Unfortunately, without a physical location, it may be a little more difficult to rank for your preferred local Google SERP; however, there are ways to work around the lack of a business address. Search Engine Land suggests that you create a GMB page on your site that’s dedicated to the city or area you service in combination with the keywords you’re targeting. Linking to this added page from within your site and propagating solid backlinks will help you build authority and improve your ranking.

Although there are many ways to improve your Google ranking, these local SEO strategies will surely give you a great start. They’re also ongoing pursuits to help ensure that your site continues to build authority and social momentum for lasting search engine value.

This article was contributed by Bret Bowerman.

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.