If you have a brick and mortar store, a service area business or a home-based business, sit up and pay attention. Even though I’ve written about this important topic, I’m sharing with you the tips I learned while attending Rich Owing’s presentation at WordCamp Asheville titled SEO Goes Local SEO, because it has been so helpful for our clients. There are lots of great tips and important reminders that we may already know but need pounding in a few dozen times before we help ourselves by doing them.
In his previous incarnation, Rich had one website, all about GPS devices, and it let him live in style with a six-figure income. But don’t think Rich sat around on his keister eating bonbons or laid out under a tiki hut in the Seychelles working four hours a week.
One reason his site did well was that people wanted and needed information on GPS (no longer necessary with GPS now built right into our mobile phones). But the real reason Rich was able to live well off his website was that he became an expert on tweaking things on and off his site so when someone searched the web for information on GPS devices, his website came up on the first page. He was in the right place and the right time—and he worked it.
When standalone GPS devices went the way of the dinosaurs, Rich turned to what he had learned. Because he no longer had to work on his own site (may it RIP), he could help the people who wanted to get SEO results like his.
So what does Rich actually do for his clients at his business, Local is Where Its At? Rich told me that most of his time is spent cleaning up the company’s directory listings around the Internet, working out problems with claiming pages and consolidating duplicates, strategizing with clients who have multiple locations and things such as that.
I wanted to know more. I recently wrote about the importance of getting your local business set up with a Google’s Local Listings and Google+ page. But did you know there are a great many online directory sites that can help your business get found and link back to your website—all in one fell swoop? And by the way, links to your website from legitimate sources are a very good thing for Google to know you are an authority. By sending real people to your site, these legitimate links verify that you are real to search engines, and you will rank higher because of it.
Weirdly enough, your business may already have one or more listings on many of these sites. You’re listing is there because these sites are using your business to their advantage. They build out their site by using whatever data they can scrape from the web. Unfortunately, this information may not be up to date or accurate. It is pretty straightforward to check these sites, add or claim your business and update your listings with your correct information. By matching other legitimate information about your business online, you now have attracted search engines that recognize those listings as one business. Bingo, more authority for you.
A very important triad of information for identifying your business online is its name, address and phone number (referred to as NAP, in SEO circles). The robots realize that a listing is actually your business when the NAP is the same everywhere.
If you sometimes use an acronym for your business name, and other times you spell it out, choose one name and stick to it everywhere. Use the same domain name and website URL everywhere. Search engines love consistency.
On your website, make sure your NAP is in text on every page; in graphic image form, the search engines cannot read it. A footer widget is a good tool for this task. Your full contact information can go in the footer widget.
When you go to get a Google Local Listings account, you will need to submit an actual address. If you have a home business, don’t worry. You can request in the sign up form that Google should not show your actual address. On your website, omit your street address and instead include your neighborhood, city and zip code.
Don’t sign up for a Google Local Listing with a post office box. Skip the POB on your contact forms or on your website. You can direct people to pay invoices to a PO box, but your NAP information should match the address you gave to Google (minus the street information).
Rich said it really does help to check for your business on more than just your Google Local Listing. There are many of them. By claiming your business with these sites, you can provide them with the correct NAP, your hours and include images, at no charge to you. The directory might solicit you for a paid membership, but you don’t have to spring for it—unless it is to your benefit for other reasons.
Here is a partial list of directories for you to get started.
- Merchant Circle
- Trip Advisor
- Yellow Pages
- City Search
The next thing Rich emphasized was the importance of asking for and getting reviews. I didn’t know that the star rating on Google Local Listings only comes up, and looks so good, when a business has more than five reviews.
On my bed and breakfast site, I have 59 Trip Advisor reviews, but only three reviews on Google. That meant I was missing getting the stars by just two reviews. When I found that out I got busy and wrangled two more reviews. If you currently have fewer than five reviews, beat the bushes and get a couple more so you too have the star review next to your business on a Google Local Listing.
The businesses that have a lot of reviews have somehow baked in a process where they ask their clients to go review them. By making it easy for clients to leave a review, you will get more of them, which will help your ranking move up the Google Local Listings.
Don’t You Dare
So there are a few things that you should not to do. For instance, don’t stuff keywords or zip codes or cities you serve on a webpage. Google will actually give you demerits for those shenanigans.
If you have multiple locations that you’d like to rank for, it is more work. You need a landing page with unique content for each location that you’d like to rank for. Don’t create these pages all at one. Tackle one or two and then when you begin to see better search results, try adding another page.
Of course there are other things important to SEO, such as onsite optimization of content for certain keywords, getting real links back to the content on your site from legitimate sources and having citations about your site on other sites or publications. But those are topics for another day. And in the meantime, here is a post I wrote with a little more info: There is a New SEO in Town.
When people think of SEO they are often mystified about the process, even though a lot of the work is simply digital house cleaning. Because things have changed so much over the past few years, your competitors likely are not applying good basic SEO practices. You can pay Rich a couple of thousand dollars to clean up your digital house or you can get to work on it yourself. It’s time consuming and somewhat tedious but worth it for the results you get. Put in a little elbow grease today to gain the advantage—and quickly see your listings move up.