Wondering how to get your business found in local search?
I asked dozens of local SEO experts from around the world a simple question:
“What is the most Kick Ass strategy you used to make a brick and mortar business go from invisible to unmissable in local search?”
29 people replied and these are the results.
UPDATE: I have updated the post to include a bite sized summary of the key local SEO strategies and ideas gathered from the interview. Skip to the “Local SEO Strategies” summary using this link.
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Skip to your country or favourite local SEO expert using these quick links. Alternatively grab a coffee, get comfortable and commence scrolling!
Daniel Law, Darren Shaw, Daryl Cygler, David Jenyns, David Oremland
James Richardson, Joe Simmonds, Jonathon Monk, John Vlasakakis, Justin Cook
Marcus Miller, Mark Walters, Mary Bowling, Matthew Hunt, Mike Ramsey, Miriam Ellis
Nathanael Vanderkolk, Nathan Whitaker, Nyagoslav Zhekov
Paul Johnston, Perry Stevens, Phil Rozek, Piers Moore Ede
Robert Neu, Ross Dunn
Responses listed by country in the order they were received in:
Bob Jones – Visible
I wouldn’t call this a kick-ass strategy but if you play by the rules, Google will make sure they’ll give you a fair go on their places listings. Just make sure that once you start building citations (Name, Address, Phone number) you stay very consistent with the data you submit. Also make sure that you make the listing as relevant as possible, with the right categories and don’t try to stuff keywords in the listings.
Be aware that if you’re call tracking for your client, you use a system that will consistently show Google the same number across the board, even if visitors are seeing different numbers.
Joe Simmonds – SEO Success Melbourne
My feeling is that the importance of Google Authorship can’t be underestimated these days.
Having authorship set up and getting a good profile pic of the business owner in the SERPs makes the listing stand out massively against the other listings on the first page.
From there, I would always encourage them to network with other local businesses and industry-relevant pages and people on Google+.
David Jenyns – Melbourne SEO Services
There’s just a few steps I would go through to make sure that you get your Google places set up:
Step 1 – Claim your listing
That’s obviously most important. You’ll want to make sure you pin verify it (phone or via mail) and fill it out correctly, including all the different categories.
These days it’s a little bit more difficult to “game” than it used to be, in that you don’t want to do keyword stuffing or anything like that. If it so happens that your business name has a keyword in it, that actually works in your favour, but don’t go out of your way to try and stuff keywords in there just for the sake of it.
When you fill it out make sure you input as much information as you can – photos, videos, and fill out all of the address information.
It’s also really important that you get some consistency across the web on how you write your address – especially important when you start collecting citations (more on that in a moment). For example, if you enter your address as let’s say “Suite One 284 St Kilda Road”, be consistent in using that across the web. Don’t then start to use something like 1/284 for example – there is a difference and Google sees it as a difference. So, choose one and make sure you apply it throughout.
Step 2 – Setup a Google+ page
Now, they’re still very closely interlinked so make sure you setup a business page and you get those two tied together. You’ll actually find that if you set up your website, you claim your Google local listing and you get your Google+ page setup, if done right and you enter the URL in Google the search box, you’ll often see reviews and things like that appearing underneath your search results (called Rich Snippets).
As far as your Google+ is concerned, it’s very similar, you’ll want make sure you fill it out correctly, load in photos and add some additional content. Keep an eye on that, I think it’s going to become more and more important
Step 3 – Get reviews
I’d say at least 5. To do that you’ll need to send people to your Google+ business page and get people to post reviews. They’re going to need a gmail account, but if you do it, it’ll definitely help with your rankings.
Step 4 – Citations
Citations are just references about your business and its address around other websites and directories. Look for local directories that are obviously local to the business – for example, if you’re a Melbourne based business then having a look at something like True Local or Yellow Pages and other similar directory listings.
They’re really the 4 steps you’ll need to get started!
And one more suggestion, it’s a good idea to imbed a map on your contact us page and have the business anchored in there.
Nathanael Vanderkolk – Smart SEO
1. No Local SEO campaign is the same. Each campaign is tailored, optimised and run differently, depending on industry, keywords, search engine and competition. There is no set strategy that must apply to each business, but each customer requires it’s own in-depth strategy before rankings are achieved.
2. Don’t underestimate how important local content can be for your website! The aim for our clients is to make them more relevant to the search engines, particularly for local search results. This makes it very important to have landing pages on your site. If the client is particularly focussing on major cities or suburbs across Australia, then we would generally look at setting up separate landing pages on each direct location. If the business has an office in the location or near that location, we will generally link across to the Google Maps and address and point the customer to the closest location.
3. Use Google+ and build up your social profile. We have had major success with our clients by getting them socially connected and particularly through Google Plus. It is also beneficial to connect with those that are physically located close to your business location.
4. Use Australian directories and citation links and point them back to your maps listing. To rank higher in the local search results, it is important that Google sees your business as the most relevant to the keywords and this will certainly be improved if each of the local directories use the same business address and connect them all together.
5. Repeat your business address in the footer of your site and connect your contact us page directly with your Google+/Google Maps listing.
6. Add reviews and photos to your business listing on a regular basis and do your best to interact with your client base.
James Richardson – Optimising
The biggest mistake small business makes is varying accuracy of business details. Citations are a huge signal of authority to Google, and getting it right is one of the biggest wins you can have – and it’s dead easy to get right.
Ensuring all your listings, on all internal, and external web properties is as close to identical as you can, even down to ensuring you use the same format for your area code in every listing. For example, for phone numbers, use either (023) 465 XXX or 023 465 XXX. It’s doesn’t really matter which one, just pick one format and stick with it.
John Vlasakakis – GMG SEO
2 things we focus on with local SEO is besides the NAP which I believe everyone does, we focus on NAP showing up in as many localised websites as possible, Google loves NAP consistency which is localized.
One other method which we focused on is the schema.org geographic markup using div tags on the home page of the site. It is an effective method which we find works a treat.
Daniel Law – Big Vision SEO
First and foremost, sign up to Google+ local and have your profile 100% filled out with as much accurate information as possible.
SEOs should always keep in mind the importance of NAP consistency when submitting across multiple local directory platforms. I’ve also compiled up 30+ of the best Australian citations to give local marketers a head start in their local SEO conquest – http://www.bigvisionseo.com.au/free-australian-local-citations. Create an Excel spreadsheet and document your submissions along with username and passwords in case business details do change in future, this will make it much easier for you to make any necessary changes to your NAP details.
Most businesses have built solid relationships with their clients/customers over the years of operation. Kindly ask your loyal customers to leave reviews on your Google Local page. Businesses who have been in operation for many years can instantly start seeing results if executed properly.
Darren Shaw – Whitespark
I think the biggest impact thing you can do for most businesses is a citation audit and cleanup job.
When there is conflicting NAP (name, address, phone number) information out there, you’re splitting your citation equity, potentially creating duplicate listings at Google, and reducing Google’s trust in the data.
Get all of those outdated citations updated with the current business information and enhance them with as much data as you can for major local search wins.
Traian Neacsu – Pitstop Media
There are two tactics I like to start with when we embark on new clients.
Phone Numbers Co-citation Analysis
The “citation” means you need to analyze which domains list competitors’ phone numbers. The “co” in co-citation means you need to get your client listed on them too.
This is one of my preferred tactics for identifying the quickest opportunities to build some links/mentions – if they list competitors, there’s a chance they will list you too.
Start with a search query which returns local results, and note the phone numbers down.
Additionally, visit each site and compare the phone numbers on their Contact Us pages with those displayed in Google SERPs. If any are different, write those down too.
Set the number of search results to 100 per page; query Google for each phone number, and grab the URLs in a .csv file (you can install browser plugins to extract the URLs). Keep appending URLs to the same file until you’re done with all the numbers that you collected. Trim all the URLs to root, then de-dupe (use Excel for this). I prefer doing this whole process manually, but you could use the Local Citation Finder Tool by Whitespark.
Review each unique domain to assess its quality (spam or not) and check to see if you’re listed there. If the site is good, then find ways to list your business.
A variation of this tactic is to replace the phone number with the brand names.
Competitor Backlink Analysis
This is another of the fastest and easiest ways to identify opportunities, but it requires access to some paid tools.
Collect the backlinks of the competitors who show up in organic listings, as well as on local results. Use the tool(s) of your choice (Open Site Explorer, Majestic SEO and/or Ahrefs). If you collect from multiple sources, don’t forget to de-dupe the URLs first.
Then trim the URLs to root, de-dupe again based on root domains, and start by analyzing home pages (don’t waste time analyzing individual URLs from the same domain – if the home page reveals a spammy site, it will be a waste of time). You need to assess the quality of each home page/domain individually and manually (sorry, there are no tools to replace your brain, yet).
Mark those which are obvious spam as “spam” and those who need more attention with “investigate”.
For those sites that you deemed ok, write down the tactic used (testimonial, blogger, local listing, magazine mention, etc.) and whether the link looks organic or built, and make a quick note on how you think they achieved those links.
Once you do this for all competitors, brainstorm each tactic with your client and pursue those that are achievable.
Justin Cook – Convurgency
The truest strategy I recommend is:
a) run a real business with great service (reviews and searches will follow)
b) have a reputable SEO company optimize your site and local listings in a real way
Simply put, no gimmicks (e.g. virtual offices), and no shortcuts (e.g. fake reviews).
Paul Johnston – Search Gurus
“What is the most kick ass strategy you’ve used to make a brick and mortar business go from invisible to unmissable in local search?” – This is a difficult question to address since the final result for your SEO efforts, in general, remains a moving target. I can say that we really enjoy working with start-ups and helping convert their ideas into an on-line digital presence designed to convert visitors into leads. This type of start-up situation scenario allows for best practices to be applied right from the beginning and we don’t have to worry about previous SEO efforts or negative reviews, etc.
Back in April 2012, Search Gurus Inc. was approached by Pro-Loc Interlocking and Landscape Design, a small company starting a seasonal business. The owners wanted to put all their marketing efforts into on-line advertising. They had no domain name, no hosting, no email, nothing.
Pro-Loc Interlocking and Landscape Design had no website before working with Search Gurus. In a previous business venture by the same owners, their business website was outdated and not converting website visitors into leads or customers. Moreover, if you Googled their previous business name, their website wouldn’t show up until the third or fourth page, or worse. If you searched for relevant Interlocking Brick Contractors in Toronto and the GTA, they were absolutely nowhere to be found.
With that in mind, Pro-Loc Interlocking and Landscape Design and the Search Gurus decided to come up with a grass-roots internet marketing campaign that would essentially grow organically from scratch. Once the domain www.pro-loc.ca was decided upon, we focused on the basics: Framework, Design, Content and site maintenance. The first step was to create a new search engine friendly website, followed by submission to all the local search directories, create a social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube, and finally, regularly update their website and social media outlets.
Today, as a result of our grass roots organic marketing strategy, you can Google “Pro-Loc Interlocking and Landscape Design”, “Pro-Loc Interlocking” or even “Pro-Loc” to find their business dominating not only the first page, but the first several pages. You can Google pretty much any “Interlocking” related keyword phrase and find them on the first page of all major search engines. Pro-Loc Interlocking and Landscape Design now dominates the search for their local keyword terms and the total number of goals completed are constantly increasing. We have bumped the competitive incumbents off their pedestals and maintain great exposure for our client.
Matthew Hunt – Small Business Online Coach
The most kick ass strategy, eh? I don’t know about a “Kick-ass” strategy. I have to say most SMB’s biggest problems is missing the basics.
But if I had to narrow it down to one, then I suggest they get more than 5 positive reviews on their Google+ Local listing because then they get those beautiful review rich snippets showing up next to their listing. Having golden stars showing up next to your listing will greatly improve their CTRs, assuming they are ranking on the 1st page already for their main “money” local terms. If they are not ranking yet, then they need to make sure they’ve claimed their Google+ local page and claimed all their major local directory listings (referenced as citations in our industry)… keep that NAP (Name, Address, & Phone) info clean and consistent when doing it. This will build enough mentions/links about that local business that often they can rank well locally for their main terms.
Some dirty (or slightly grey hat) things you can do is to steal secondary rankings in your space by building links to your citation listings… and you can build some crappy links to those pages too without much worry. Take your Yelp page listing (usually well optimized for onpage seo) and tap it with some cheap backlinks bought off Fiverr.com or your Yellowpages listing, etc… I’ve never nuked one of those pages. If you do this, then sometimes you can also get those listings to rank well too, thus controlling more of the google first page real estate on for you local terms.
Ross Dunn – StepForth
Step 1) Our first step at StepForth is always to ensure our client’s NAP is stated throughout their website and that it is equally consistent on key 3rd party sites. I say key because the process of conforming the NAP across all citations can be extremely time consuming so we ensure we have prioritised the list beforehand to target the sites we are relatively certain have the most impact in Google’s local algorithms.
Step 2) We work with our clients to brainstorm appropriate methods of requesting reviews on a regular (but not annoying/heavy-handed) basis. I should note this is surprisingly difficult for the majority of clients and most find it difficult to implement and maintain despite our help; frustrating for us since the positive impact on results from reviews is noticeable.
Step 3) Local presentation is a key aspect of building the local credibility of a given company in Google’s “eyes”. Here are a few methods we use to do this whenever possible:
a) Depending on the business and their potential to be active in their community we often recommend building their exposure in offline and online news sources; either through charitable participation/contribution and/or making connections to increase the odds they will be covered in a news column or two.
b) Contact local bloggers of note and ask if there is any opportunity to obtain some exposure on their site through either an interview or providing content that would be of value to their readers and relevant to the client’s business.
c) Ensuring the client’s blog is regularly updated with shareable (AKA high quality) content. This can be done on a casual basis with a minimum post rate of one per week or by using a well planned content schedule to take advantage of each seasonal boost in need/desire for their products/services.
Step 4) Metrics! The one major SNAFU we have to deal with is Google has not made it easy to quantify ROI from local SEO; Google Analytics doesn’t highlight traffic that comes from the local pack in search results. As a result, we try to setup goals and advanced segments to specifically provide insight into the value proposition of this investment in local SEO.
Nyagoslav Zhekov – NGS Marketing
Back in the days when Google was showing the “More about this place” section at the bottom of Google Places listings, I noticed that there was extremely high correlation between additions to the timing when additions to this section were made and increase in organic rankings of the listing.
These changes usually occurred during the so-called “index pushes” (when Google pushes all their collected citations data to their business clusters index) and was the most accurate way to understand when these pushes were coming.
What I discovered, however, is that some citations were being added to the section faster, and thus rankings also increased faster.
The most notorious examples of such were Judysbook (yes, not Citysearch, or any other site of the City Grid network) and Qype (long before Yelp bought it). This was especially the fact when there were reviews associated with these listings.
In general, reviews significantly increased the time a citation was associated with the corresponding Google Places listing.
So my advice is – create an actionable, coherent, fitting-your-business-model strategy for obtaining reviews not just on Google, but also on other review sites. Reviews on specialized sites (such as RateMDs, DealerRater, Wellness.com) could give you an added advantage.
Nathan Whitaker – eMagic
Local Search First Page Domination…
We have a client who manufactures and supplies grappling dummies used for MMA (mixed martial arts) training. They have a .com domain (gTLD) which meant the search engines gave their site less weight within other country specific search results such as Google NZ (one of their main target markets).
The first thing we did was change their domains geographic target to New Zealand to help the search engines understand which target location to associate the .com domain with (nothing out of the box here but the results were immediate). Next a local link building strategy was executed. This focused on gaining high authority, New Zealand specific links to improve their sites authority and relevancy within Google NZ.
Now that the site had top organic rankings the next step was to leverage referral traffic sources to increase their brand awareness, and obtain multiple first page listings (the real magic begins). We did this by optimising a YouTube video targeting their main product keyword. We then created an SEO optimised press release and distributed it to two of the top news sites in the country.
This resulted in four first page listings for their main keyword, a 713.79% increase in organic search traffic and 401.12% increase in sales.
Piers Moore Ede – Barefoot SEO
Our current golden tactic is not exactly rocket science because it’s been widely written about, but is still very powerful.
We add geo-specific alt attributes text to a client’s logo, as well as Schema Markup in the hope of making it into Google’s knowledge graph box.
We also go so far as to optimise the EXIF data of the image itself to include the location, too, and then we ensure that this same logo is used wherever the client’s site is mentioned on the web.
We always use the author tag, too, in the hopes of capturing the maximum real-estate possible. Powerful stuff!
Jonathon Monk – Max Your Web
The Foundation to All Local Search – Keywords on Your Website
There are lots of strategies that will make a website fly locally; and in truth it is normally a combination of many that will yield the very best results.
Though the first place we always start when looking to help a company rank for local searches is their website; specifically identifying keywords they would like to target and where these should be placed on their website.
It may sound obvious, but Local Search is defined by local searches, searches such as plumber in Croydon, plumber in Oxted and electrician in Dartford; so the first thing we do is determine what local searches the client would like to be found for, and then simply arrange their website to target these searches.
This post will be a ‘nuts and bolts’ run through on the steps we take to identify keywords, then how we plan out a website to effectively target these keywords.
This is basic fundamental SEO, though the steps we go through in this post have not been carried out for the majority of Local companies websites that we see; so whilst the points I raise below are not new, sexy or exciting, get these right and already you will be ahead of your competition.
1. Identify Your Local Keywords
This is the first part of the brainstorming phase where you are identifying the sort of phrases the people might put into Google when searching for you products and services. Remember to think of words that your customer would use and not industry jargon:
a) Ask the Obvious Questions
- What you do (Chiropractor, Physio, Podiatrist…)
- Where you do it (Bristol, Redland, Clifton…)
- Who your customers are (Sportsmen, Baby’s, Pregnant ladies…)
b) Brainstorm Keyword Combinations Using Excel
The brainstorm phase is a very important part of finding suitable keywords to target, we make sure the client is involved in this process and lots of combinations are tested – we constantly find effective keywords that resulted in really outside the box thinking about the products and service a client offers.
So for this stage take the raw keywords and start to arrange them in Excel as below, listing many variations according to service and town:
c) Google Keyword Planner
After you have a range of set of keywords to Google’s keyword planner to both assess the number of searches for these term, as well as getting more suggestions for possible keywords.
d) Download Suitable Keywords
After you have selected a nice long list of relevant keywords, with searches, download these as a CSV file, for you will then be able to arrange these onto logical groups in Excel.
2. Arrange Keywords Into Logical Groups
Download all relevant keywords and arrange into logical groups within Excel; these groups will form the basis of pages on the website:
You can see from above how page names / themes are coming out from the keyword groups: Physiotherapy Bristol as one page, and Chiropractor Bristol as another.
It is also worth noting that we will usually target a number of related keywords per page, such as Physiotherapy Bristol, Bristol Physio and so on; we make sure it is very clear to Google the each page is about a specific subject.
3. Planning the Site Into Themes
For our Clinic example we had over 40 different keyword groups & potential pages.
One of the big mistakes that many websites make is to have all these pages linking directly from the home page; this is not efficient from an SEO point of view, Google likes websites with clear themes – main headings and sub headings; such as the site plan developed in Excel below:
The topic of website themes (or Silo’s as they are also called) is a large one, and for further reading see SEO Siloing: Building a Themed Website by Bruce Clay.
Once you have decided on the main themes you can expand the site plan to include all keywords:
You now have a road map for developing your site into a local SEO machine! You now know:
- Precisely what to call and write about on each page
- What anchor text to use when you are linking from one page to another
- The most valuable keywords to target with future SEO activities
4. Linking Anchor Text
Anchor text is simply the words contained within a link to another web page; such as Click Here, More Information, Physio Bristol, etc.
Anchor text is though a great way of telling Google what the page you are linking too is about; so Click Here, does not tell Google a lot, but Physio Bristol on the other hand could be much more useful.
Use of your keywords in your anchor text for links to different parts of your website can be a very effective way of boosting the keywords you are targeting.
I’m afraid I cannot use the clinic client site as an example (for confidentiality), but looking at our website see how we target keywords by using anchor text.
The following screenshots are all links to a page that is targeting the main keyword Local SEO Marketing
a) Keywords in Your Main Menu Anchor Text
b) Keywords in Your Page Copy Anchor Text
c) Keywords in Your Footer Anchor Text
d) Use a “Breadcrumb” to Target Your Primary Keyword
One great way to boost your primary keyword on your own website is to have a link from every page on your site linking back to the home page with the primary keyword as your anchor text.
Each website will have a primary keyword that they are looking to target; for my site its Local SEO, and for the Clinics site is was Chiropractor Bristol.
The easiest way to do this is to use a breadcrumb on your site, like I have below:
5. Keywords In the Copy On Your Web Pages
Finally you need to write relevant copy on your web page which may include the keywords that page is targeting.
Fundamentally you need to write a well written page that your website visitors can engage with, and will also entice them to call you or make an enquiry.
For guidelines on how to write great copy for your website see our blog post SEO Copywriting Specification.
What I’ve written about in this post is very basic SEO, the principals of which have not changed since the advent of the search engines.
Though for whatever reason the majority of Local Businesses Website are just not set up in this way and make it really difficult for search engines to rank them for their chosen keywords.
This may not have been the most revolutionary post you will read about Local SEO, if you do this on your website you will get results.
Marcus Miller – Bowler Hat
Well, if only, if only there was one “kick ass” strategy that worked for every client, if only it were that easy but as with natural search, organic search can be a complicated beast to take on. We see differences across keywords, locations and some industries are incredibly easy whilst others (hotels etc) can be brutally tough. That said, let me give you two of the essential approaches we use here at Bowler Hat to help our local clients get found.
1. A Local SEO Audit
If we want to help someone we need to know a couple of things first.
Where are they currently?
Where do they want to be?
What does the competition look like?
What are the sites strengths and weaknesses?
By looking at the sites standing in organic search, local search and social across Google, Bing and Yahoo (natural and local) and by reviewing how well optimised the site is, the Google+ Local listing and the external factors for organic and local (links, citations, brand) we can determine what needs to be done and where the easy wins are. We form a report that then informs our approach going forward and we measure the results looking at rank in local and organic along with impressions and clicks to make sure we are going in the right direction.
So, our first killer strategy is to build our approach on a bedrock of intelligence so we can make sure we go for the easy wins and do the work that will get our client found rather than any typical generic local SEO approach.
2. Citation Consistency
It is a sad fact that most companies will take a fairly generic approach to local SEO and start just adding more citations. So, our first job is to perform an audit looking at all the important factors but the next killer strategy is to look at historic business information.
Let me give you an example looking at Bowler Hat:
4 x Addresses over our history
3 x variations of our name (Bowler Hat, Bowler Hat Internet Services Ltd, Bowler Hat Solutions)
2 x phone numbers
2 x web addresses
So, if NAP consistency is important then we have a few possible variations here:
4 x 3 x 2 x 2 = 48 possible NAP variations
Now, imagine a larger company with several offices, a few moves, a rebrand, a new web address, lots of phone numbers – this can get pretty complex pretty quickly.
So, our second killer strategy is a detailed review of any and all existing citations that use historical name, address, phone number or web address details. Often times we can find as many old citations with old details as new opportunities and it can be an easy win to get these updated. We increase total citation count and we increase NAP consistency at the same time – win win.
I like to think of this as sending a clear transmission to Google and any incorrect listings act as interference on that signal. The more citations we create the stronger the signal anyway but if there are a lot of listings with old details then most generic local attempts don’t address that signal noise to create a strong, clear and consistent NAP signal.
So, a single killer strategy? I wish it were that easy. Ultimately, we have to look at the basics, get our on page right, get our Google+ Local profile right, make sure our citations are dialled in and then look at our marketing to make sure our site is doing everything else we need to do to raise us above the competition. In some cases, local is not enough and we have to get our organic and marketing right to compete, in others we have helped folks generate enough work to keep them busy without even needing a website and from a Google+ local listing.
Perry Stevens – Blend Local Search Marketing
I would without a doubt say video is the best SEO strategy for a bricks and mortar business to go from invisible to unmissable in local search because they work on so many levels.
Firstly, If a client introduces their business on the homepage of their website with video it allows visitors to get to know, like and trust them by putting a face to the business. This works very well on a psychological level as the medium of TV/video is very powerful. In addition, video is great sticky content, i.e. keeping people on the page longer, this is good for SEO too.
Secondly, video’s on Youtube (and other video sharing sites like Daily Motion, Metacafe etc.) when set up correctly, are also great for Local SEO and help to achieve multiple listings for your geo-targeted keywords. The video description should also include client NAP’s for citations. For more information about video marketing for local SEO click here.
Mark Walters – SEO Mark
Getting links for local business websites (plumbers, electricians, etc.) that other local businesses in the same area don’t already have (like those from directories, newspapers, etc.) can be difficult, especially if those businesses don’t have any content on their sites beyond sales type pages.
Creating on-site guides and tutorials is an obvious way to create linkable content, but lots of businesses either don’t have the time and/or writing skills to do that.
A great, easy alternative is to create an ‘Images To Use’ type page, for which you ask the client to take 50 or so photos of things (common faults, jobs completed, tools, etc.) related to their industry, publish those photos on their site on one page, and then make those images available for other websites to use (state this at the top of the page) so long as they link back to the client’s site as the source of the photo.
If proper descriptions (one line will do), file names and alt tags are used for those images, then they’ll naturally show up in Google image searches.
You can also be more pro-active by contacting businesses (who have no / few / poor photos on their site) in the same industry in other locations and offering them usage of the photos in return for a link.
Over time, some people will use the images without linking back, so every couple of months a reverse image search should be run to chase up links.
Daryl Cygler – Jellyfish SEO Services
For me it is not about a kick ass strategy, that is sometimes dependent on the clients objectives and more often than not, budgets.
Google and Bing Local does enable local businesses the opportunity to complete with the big boys on the search landscape. Unfortunately local businesses do not always have the budget to compete against big business with a sustained med-long term SEO-digital marketing strategy.
With this view it is imperative to do the fundamentals well. These fundamentals for local search are good informative Google and Bing business listings. The key being to utilize all the features within the listings.
Spend the time adding images, videos and features of the business, all with optimised information. Nothing ground breaking but this alone has delivered really good returns for the Jellyfish SEO team.
Example of one clients listing below. This is from the listing alone, no other supported off site work. Nice numbers going on here, all from a standing start.
Robert Neu – FAT Media
In my experience the best things you can for a local business are as follows:
CLAIM EVERYTHING. Literally claim EVERY listing you can for them. Google+, Yahool Local, Yelp, Bing, SuperPages, CitySearch… on and on until you’ve got them all. You can use something like GetListed.org to help but there’s plenty out there beyond the usual suspects if you spend some time searching. Make sure everything is 100% accurate and matches the data in the USPS database. If there are errors in data that’s floating around, get them fixed! Consistency is REALLY important.
Once you’ve got the wheels turning on that, you need to set up local business schema.org data on your site and include a local sitemap. Again, being consistent with your data is extremely important. Make sure everything matches the profiles you’re setting up. We usually just Yoast’s Local SEO plugin now since it makes things a lot faster.
Finally, start blogging. Localize your content. Answer questions that your customers will be asking. One tactic that I’ve found useful is to set up a LiveChat widget on the site and monitor the chats for questions that come up more than once or twice. If you’re getting people asking you questions in the chat, you need to write a post about it. Make sure you don’t forget to link out to other local businesses, local resources, etc.
If you do these three things and do them correctly you’ll dominate almost any local niche. There’s other stuff you should do on top of that, such as find ways to encourage people to leave reviews on the profiles you’ve claimed, but these are my must-dos for local SEO.
Caleb Donegan – Balihoo
Local search is a gorilla, and to explain all tactics used to help local businesses rank well would be a novel. That being said, when I take on a new client I start with three foundational tactics that set the stage for success: NAP consistency, local registrations, sitemaps (XML,KML).
Name, address and phone in the title tags and in the HTML of the sites is integral. This includes hCard formatting and placing details in the footer. The consistency across the site, and in off-site citations is where the local results are going to be fueled the most.
Local registrations, Google+ Local specifically, is a direct way to influence rankings in the various Google localized features (local pack, carousel, maps, etc…). Complete the registration as thoroughly as possible, and ensure that your homepage URL is included as a link back.
Finally, sitemaps have been somewhat of a silver bullet. IN optimizing for national sites, this is obviously an important step, but the results seen on on the local level seem to be amplified. The XML is a must, and the KML will again emphasize that location data that is necessary for the local business.
Tackling these three tactics will provide a strong foundation, presenting the opportunity to begin utilizing additional optimization strategies.
Andrew Shotland – Local SEO Guide
Well, besides hiring my firm :)?
Just have a decent site, make sure the majority of your citations are up to date, you’ve claimed your Google+ page correctly, figured out how to squash all of the dupe listings and do something interesting, like marketing or something. Bottom line, most brick and mortar businesses just need to do the basics right before worrying about “kickass” strategies.
Miriam Ellis – Solas Web Design
In my work with local business owners, I have found that the most poorly understood, and yet most powerfully influential concept, is that everyone who steps onto the web to market their business has just become a publisher.
Without content, you have a blank book, a magazine with no pages, a TV commercial with no narrative and a website with no power.
Given the huge influence a local business’ website has on its overall rankings, content development has to be priority #1. Too often, it is treated as an irksome chore or an afterthought.
If you want to outrank your competition, you must out-write them. You must be more organized, more persuasive and more thorough. This is the secret sauce (that should be no secret at all!) which I employ for my clients and see work time and again to set them apart from lazier or less educated competitors. If no one on staff can write – and write really well – I do all of the writing and optimization. If someone in the organization can write, I act in an editing and optimization capacity.
This is a process that should never stop. Whether for static pages, a blog or off-site outreach, your local business should act like a publishing house and never stop publishing.
See silence as the enemy and words as your solution.
Mary Bowling – Mary Bowling
Having plenty of consistent citations at trusted sources
Marrying website on-page SEO to Google Places categories and subcategories
Getting a few decent links
Getting 10 reviews directly at Google+
Phil Rozek – Local Visibility System
1. Do not rest until all your NAP info is consistent across all your citations. Make sure you do a complete audit of your citations every couple of months.
2. Beef up your site over time. Google doesn’t favor wispy, anorexic-looking sites. At the very least, make sure you have a separate page for each specific service you offer. Better yet, do that and PERSONALLY write blog a couple blog posts each month – posts that tackle a problem your potential customers might have, and that showcase your expertise.
3. Try to get reviews on as many sites as possible – not just Google+, not just Yelp. Ask some subset of your customers to go onto InsiderPages, Yahoo, and maybe an industry-specific site or two (e.g. HealthGrades, Avvo, DealerRater, etc.). Never, ever, ever stop trying to get reviews, and always be willing to experiment (ethically!) to see what works best for you and your customers.
Mike Ramsey – Nifty Marketing
I know this isn’t going to sound really crazy or anything but associating the Google+ Local listing with a unique local landing page with well optimized title tags and site content brings amazing results to multi location businesses. Time and time again.
Also, ensuring that you are filling out category choices on ALL citations sources completely as google crawls other sites for category information as well.
David Oremland – Bartending School
I’ve circled in red the search phrase “bartending school” and urls that reference this smb, including the core urls, Facebook, and Yelp urls. The ppc ad is circled in black.
Important phrase: service/city.
I believe there are currently 7 competing smbs in the area for this ranking.
For some reason Google isn’t showing a map for this query at the moment. I’m not sure why. It occurred recently. Here’s an earlier screenshot showing how the same search query appeared with a map from May 2, 2012:
Why is it doing so well?
It’s down to links and its relative link strength compared to the competition.
The smb has had a ONEMAP for that search phrase, its been at the top of a PAC, and when the maps show with just smbs in the city itself, it has been sometimes #4 as it isn’t in the geo area for DC being one mile outside of the city borders.
Google changes and alters the perspective on maps from time to time.
What has worked?
Take all the elements of SEO including local:
Disregard the social signals. (Although this site has far more followers commentary and likes than competitors) I think they are still too new to be significant in most cases. Same with reviews, (though the reviews for this business are real and strong).
Ultimately in this smb case it’s down to links – its relative link strength versus the competition.
We do have a reasonably greater amt of citations than our competitors.
We have reasonable on page attributes…but the competitors are not dramatically different with regard to on page and citation elements.
We even have a structural issue that is on page related that hampers our site (and is currently going through revision).
So the biggest difference is link strength in this case.
How did it occur?
1. We became aware of link importance back about a decade ago and have been building links ever since. Clearly much of what we did back then has ended up penalizing the site: particularly anchor text or free meaningless directory types of links. Both of those elements have been devalued and penalized by Google.
2. Beyond that we always worked to add links, even clearly weak ones. We also always worked to create a quality service, even when we didn’t realize it, this generated commentary and links that went back to our site, and spoke well of us.
3. We have continuously worked local media for years, and worked various verticals. We have received links from them. We have also received links from business and community elements where appropriate.
That accounts for quantity. Now as to quality.
4. We are a small business in a frankly disreputable industry, which mostly carries a bad reputation, even as ours is good. What that generally means is that we can’t easily get links.
5. So we have had to do “out of the box” kinds of thinking, content creation, commentary and actions to get relatively few, but immeasurably better links than any of our competitors…both locally and to a large extent nationally. We have managed to do that.
More about Links
In the last two years we received traffic from just under 900 referral sites per GA. They aren’t all referral sites despite the way GA presents them.
Traffic from google.com.ca and every nation in the world is search traffic. Take out those and some other search oriented sites mis-categorized by GA and we still had something like 800 different sites referring about 18% of traffic with a few sites generating the lions share of volume.
Links work in more ways than assisting on higher rankings.
HUGE thanks to everyone who contributed to this mammoth interview and special thanks to Phil Rozek for helping get some big local SEO players involved! Please share if you think this resource is KICK ASS!
If you enjoyed this post you’ll love this: 55 SEO Experts Reveal 3 Favourite Link Building Tools, and if you’re inspired to do your own expert roundup read about how I reach out to busy people and get responses here.
Now here’s a summary of the top tips and ideas gathered from the interview:
- Run a REAL business with great service – reviews and searches will follow
- No gimmicks, virtual offices & fake reviews
- Work local media and various verticals. You will receive links from businesses and community elements
- Build exposure with offline news sources
- Get involved in local charitable participation and contribute to the community to increase exposure and likelihood of links
Onsite Structure & Content Optimisation
- Arrange website’s structure and pages to target keywords you want to be found for
- Make a separate page for each specific service you offer
- Don’t rush out your site with empty content. Content development should be a top priority
- If you want to outrank your competitors you must out-write them, more organised, persuasive. Never stop publishing
- Beef up your site over time
- Marry on page SEO to Google places categories
- Spend the time adding images, videos and features of your business, all with optimised info
- Create SEO optimised press releases and distribute to top news sites in the country
Run a Localised Blog
- Maintain a blog (at least a couple of posts a month) and localise your blog’s content
- Set up a live chat on your site and note down frequent questions
- Answer questions your customers frequently ask on the blog
- Don’t forget to link out to other local businesses, local resources etc
- Blog with a well planned content schedule to take advantage of each seasonal boost in need / desire for products / services
Create “Link-bait” Content
- Write onsite guides and tutorials – many businesses don’t have time or writing skills to do this, so make the effort to be helpful and it’ll work in your favour
- Make an images to use page, e.g. photos of things like common faults, jobs completed, tools, etc, related to your industry. Make these images available for other websites to use as long as they link back to site as source of photo
- Chase up links with a reverse image search
- Optimise a YouTube video targeting your product / business’ main keyword
- Video will help achieve multiple listings for your geo-targeted keywords
- Put a video on your site’s homepage to help customers get to know you and match a face to your business
- Video is sticky content and will keep people on the page longer (good for SEO)
Citations – Name, Address & Phone Number (NAP)
Citations Consistency is Key
- If there is a difference between addresses Google can see it, e.g. Suite One 284 St Kilda Road VS 1/284 St Kilda Road
- Make sure you decide on the format of your business name, address, phone number and STICK WITH IT
- When conflicting NAP you’re splitting your citation equity, creating duplicate listings and reducing Google’s trust in the data, so just DON’T!
- Ensure all listings on internal and external web properties are identical or as close to identical as possible
- Include NAP in the html of the site and in the footer
- Look for local directories local to your business, e.g. for Australia, True Local & Yellow Pages
- Use directories and citation links and point them back to your maps listing
- Try to get your NAP to show up in as many localised websites as possible – Google loves NAP consistency that is localised
- Find out which domains list your competitors’ phone numbers and get your local business listed there to
- Do competitor back link analysis to find more even more domains to get citations
- Resource for Australian businesses: 30+ list of best Australian citations to give local marketers a head start in local SEO
Updating & Auditing Citations
- Do a complete audit of your citations every couple of months
- Get all these updated with current box info
- Log all your citations in excel including usernames and passwords so you can easily go back and change in the future incase your business details change
Claiming Your Listings
- Claim everything. Literally every listing you can get, Google+, Yahoo, Local, Yelp, Bing, CitySearch…
- You can use GetListed.org to help
- Claiming as much as possible is a great way to influence rankings in various Google localised features (local pack, carousel, maps, etc)
- Ensure your homepage URL is included as a link back when you complete registrations
- Pin verify your listing (phone or via email)
- Fill out correctly including all the different categories and make it as relevant as possible
- Don’t stuff keywords!
- Include photos, videos and all address info
- Associate your Google+ local listing with a unique local landing page with well optimised title tags brings amazing results to multi location businesses
- If you have offices in several cities/suburbs setup separate landing pages on each direct location
- Setup Google authorship
- Having a good profile pic of the business owner will make the listing stand out
Google+ for Networking and Link Building
- Setup G+ page (fill out as much info as possible, add photos and additional content)
- Network with other local businesses and industry relevant pages & people
- Connect with those physically located close to your business location
- Link build from localised and industry specific sites
- Creating a quality service will encourage links
- Links don’t just help with rank, but also pump through traffic
- Contact local bloggers and ask if opportunity to obtain exposure on their site through either interview or content valuable to readers + relevant to your biz
- Get better links than your competitors, both locally and to a large extent nationally
- Implement schema geographic markup using div tags on home page of site
- Submit site maps because results on a local level are amplified. The XML is a must and the KML will again emphasise location data
- You can use Yoast’s local SEO plugin to make things faster
- If you’re domain name is .com but your business is local to New Zealand for example, change your domain’s geographic target to NZ to help search engines understand what location to associate the .com domain with
- Add geo-specific alt attributes text to your logo as well as schema markup to make it into Google’s knowledge graph box
- Optimise the EXIF data of the image to include location and ensure the same logo is used wherever the client’s site is mentioned of the web
- Imbed a map on your contact us page so your biz location is anchored in there
- Brainstorm ways for appropriate methods to request reviews on a regular basis
- Get more than 5 positive reviews on Google+ local listing (then you’ll see rich snippets appear)
- Send people to your G+ biz page and get people to post reviews on your local page
- Interact with your client base regularly on social media
- Reviews will significantly increase the time a citation is associated with the corresponding Google places listing
- Don’t just get reviews on Google, get from other review sites to get an added advantage
- Ask some subset of your customers to go on InsiderPages, Yahoo and some other industry specific sites, e.g. HealthGrades, Avvo, DealerRater. Never stop trying to get reviews (ethically of course)
And…that’s a wrap! Don’t forget to check out how I put this local SEO interview together in just 5 days, and please share if you think this resource is KICK ASS!!!
Oh, and if you want to avoid making mistakes with your local SEO strategies check out Jason Chesters’ case study about his failed attempt at local SEO. Learning what NOT to do is often the best way to learn! And for even more Local SEO AWESOMENESS, don’t miss this amazing small business guide to local SEO from Marketing Exchange:
What is the most Kick Ass strategy you used to make a brick and mortar business go from invisible to unmissable in local search?