3 Insights to Help You Rethink Your Local SEO Strategy in 2014

General Dec 28, 2013 No Comments

Local SEO Insights for 2014Local SEO is a unique subset of search engine optimization. The way in which Google determines local business listings (paired with the map and little push-pins) is different from traditional organic SEO.

In 2013, local SEO strategies centered on citations and ensuring your business is listed on several top directories (i.e. Google+ Local [formally Google Places,] Yelp, Yahoo! Local, etc.) While investing the time to get listed on the top local business directories is important, it will only take your local SEO efforts so far, especially if your in a competitive marketspace.

In short, you need start looking at your local SEO efforts from a different perspective. Below are 3 significant insights to keep top of mind when embracing local SEO in 2014.

Be Active and Involved on Social Media Sites

Although many local businesses see the importance of having a presence on social media sites, many of them fail to be active and involved. The narrow-minded SEO perspective would think “Okay, our Yelp page is built. We now have a citation and a link back to our site. Done.”.

But what if you could do more to increase the authority of your Yelp page, and thus the SEO value of that citation and link back to your site?

You can.

By being active and involved with your audience, and optimizing your social media pages from every angle, you can greatly empower their SEO potential. How, exactly? Start by:

  • Reaching out and connecting (following, liking, encircling, etc.) with other respectable businesses and professionals
  • Optimizing images and uploading them to your social media pages
  • Encourage reviews from satisfied customers (perhaps by implementing an incentive program)
  • Build a following (or better yet, a community) and engage with your audience
  • Take advantage of promotions via social media networks (like Google Offers or Facebook Coupons)

Social media business pages offer immense authority for local SEO. Heck, there are some business Yelp pages out there that have a Google PR (PageRank) of 5 (and the link is DoFollow!). That’s some serious link juice compared to commonly stagnant PR 1 Yelp pages.

Lastly, earning social credibility (or social authority) is becoming a strong factor that Google uses to determine search engine rankings. Many organic SEO experts are seeing a correlation between search engine rankings and the number of Twitter and Facebook followers, Google +1’s, etc.

Local Citations Are Good, But Links Are Better

Just like traditional SEO, the amount and quality of external links pointing to a website is ultimately the greatest influence of its search engine rankings. Once you’ve gotten your business established on the top local business directories for SEO, spend some time determining various link assets for your business’s website.

Some of the best assets for local SEO include:

    • Investing in a membership at your local chamber of commerce. Members often get a listing (and a link) on the chamber website (which is both authoritative and locally relevant.)
    • Reaching out to other local businesses and professionals for guest blogging opportunities. Building these relationships are huge long-term asset for not only SEO, but marketing in general.
    • Becoming a local source for news, information, or advice. If people see value in the content you’re publishing, you can actually earn links back to your site. Think of your business as the online authority figure of what you do. If it’s DUI law, own it with videos and articles that help individuals understand their legal rights.

The last tip above stems into our next insight: becoming a content marketer.

Create Purposeful Content That Offers Value

You may be familiar with the old SEO catchphrase “Content is King!”. While that concept still holds true, its focus has changed.

It’s less about writing 700 word webpages that are jammed with keywords. Rather, it’s more about producing purposeful content that offers value to your target audience. More bluntly put, it’s all about mastering the craft of content marketing and creating meaningful content that resonates with other people.

Get yourself in the right mindset by contemplating the following questions:

        • What problems, issues, or questions does my target market have?
        • How can I help those individuals based on what I know and the resources that I have?
        • What forms of content would best get my message across in the most engaging manner?

Think about the local businesses that are owning it in both Google Search and social media sites. They are typically businesses that are constantly producing awesome articles, blog posts, videos, graphics, or podcasts, and they’re actively promoting this content on social media.

Rethink Local SEO in 2014

To rethink your business’s local SEO strategy in 2014, view your organization’s entire marketing plan. How much time and money do you have invested in traditional forms of marketing and advertising?

Perhaps you can generate ideas that can put greater emphasis on building an online content marketing strategy and building a legit social media presence. Although these efforts might seem like exclusive tactics, both most certainly influence local SEO (and will even more in 2014.)

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.