A couple of weeks ago, Rand went over his general SEO checklist for new websites. It’s a great resource to reference and help give your site that initial advantage other new sites don’t have. Keep in mind, though, that there are other factors at play when trying to rank in the local results specifically, and in many countries, like Peru, targeting local results is one of the best ways to start ranking. On this week’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand outlines some of the specific strategies and actions you can take to target local SERPs specifically (though many of these strategies apply to general SEO as well). If you have tips of your own for ranking in local results, let us know in the comments below!
Hola! Bienvenidos mis amigos! Welcome to the first ever Peruvian edition of Whiteboard Friday. It’s Peruvian because as you can see I am attired in a Peruvian football jersey, which I recently picked up on my trip to Lima, Cusco, and Machu Picchu. I had an incredible experience. I had such a great time for Mozcation. I wanted to say hi and a special thank you and shout out to all of our friends in Peru and South and Latin America. Just amazing time with Mozcation.
I am taking some experiences from the Mozcation we had. I know that there were a lot of questions at the Mozcation event about some of the local SEO best practices. I talked with some folks after the event and in the Q&A about some things we can do from a local SEO standpoint. I realize we did a checklist the other week on Whiteboard Friday about some SEO basics, but we really didn’t target local SEO sites specifically. What I want to do today is give you that local SEO checklist that you can follow for local and small businesses in a regional area, what they can do to improve their SEO. So let’s start.
Number one, registration with major engines. Now, in the United States, in Canada, in most of Europe, in parts of Asia, it’s very easy. You either send a postcard to Google or Google sends you a postcard to your address and you fill out the code that they give you or they call you on your phone and verify where you are. But in Peru, and in many other places in the world, Google does not offer this registration. So the key to getting included is actually going to be step number two. This first step is very easy. Everyone can and should do it. I know you’re going to check that off your list really quickly. The major engines typically are just Google and Bing, but in Russia remember it could be Yandex. In China, it might be Baidu. In the Czech Republic it could be Seznam. I think in Norway there is actually a tertiary engine that is doing relatively well there. Some places you might even want to double check with your Yahoo local listing if that sends traffic too.
But for those folks who can’t do it, and for everyone else, you should also be claiming your listing on all the major local portals. These are the international major local portals. In countries like Peru, one of the big powerful ones there is actually Trip Advisor. You want to be doing this for places like Yellow Pages, YP.com, Urban Spoon, CitySearch, Yelp. In many places, Foursquare is actually quite popular. We found that in South American and Latin America Foursquare was actually huge, and weirdly enough Foursquare was a much more accurate map system than Google Maps. I think probably because of this issue, wink, wink, nod, nod, Googlers hello. So, take care of claiming those listings for your business on all of these portals. If they don’t have you listed yet, remember you can add your business to them.
Number three, get listed on key local sites. This means regional portals. A lot of times these are media institutions. Here in Seattle, it might be KING5.com. It might be TheStranger.com, which is a local weekly publication. It could be The Seattle Weekly. It might by KOMO TV. All of these local regional sites that have listings for local businesses and you want to try and get included in those. Many times, remember that these media stations they love to cover whether it is in the newspaper, the weekly, on their website, or with a TV camera crew, they want to cover new local businesses. So, if you are a new local business, you want to reach out to them, and it is a great way to generate some press. You also want to be considering regional portal sites that may not be specifically local focused. So in the Seattle area, I believe it is Northwest, what is that? NWSource.com is sort of our big local portal for aggregation. These are wise ones to consider as well.
For these three, it is absolutely essential that you have consistency. What I mean by consistency is the same name, exactly the same name. I don’t want to see SEOmoz, Inc. versus SEOmoz Incorporated versus SEOmoz, LLC, versus just SEOmoz or SEOmoz.org. Same name. Exactly the same name every time. Same address. Same format of the address every time. Same phone number with the same phone number format every time. All of those things are critical to the consistency of citations that engines look at to determine is this the same exact business that is being referred to here. Even slight variations can generate those differences and can mean that you don’t get all of the sort of link juice or citation juice that the engines are using to rank things.
Number four, do competitive research on listing sources of high-ranking sites for your keyword. So, let’s imagine that one of your keywords is Seattle plumbers. So, you do a search for Seattle plumbers, and you see here are the guys in the top eight spots. Where are they getting listed? Now, it used to be very simple. You just click on them and you could see a big list of all the sources where Google pulled data from. Not so simple anymore. They will still show you some of the sources for the images, so it might say Yelp or Insider Pages or Zagat or something like that, Gayot, but now it is much harder because they will no longer show those. But it is easy. You just have to make a quick tweak. What you want to do is take the name of the business and the address and search for that, possibly minus the site colon of the actually business’ listing, and that with show you all the places where the address is. So, for example let’s say I wanted to find all the local places where SEOmoz was listed, I would do a search like this. I would do a search for “SEOmoz (11919 Pine Street)-site:Seomoz.org”. I am going way off on the side here, but that’s okay. The reason that this is going to work is because it is going to show me all the places where there is a listing for SEOmoz not on our site that includes our address. That’s what you want to do when you are doing this competitive research on those high-ranking websites, and it is going to show you a ton of different sources where you should be listed for your local business to help with your local SEO.
Step number five, review your reviews. What I mean by this is you want to go through all the places, all the listings that are popular, your Google Profile, your Yelp Profile, Insider Pages, City Search, wherever you are listed, Trip Advisor. If there are reviews for them, see what they are saying and see if there are ways that you can get more people commenting on the positive stuff and fewer people commenting on the negative stuff. For example, if someone says, “I was very frustrated that I didn’t get a receipt.” Great. So make sure that the folks at the front desk know they need to be giving out receipts. If someone says, “Hey, I had a fantastic experience when I ordered this particular thing,” great. Tell your wait staff, “Hey, guys, people seem to love this thing. Feel free to recommend it when people ask for a recommendation,” and then when they do, great. Maybe there is something special that your restaurant, that your business, that your service offers and does that really gets people excited and you find that when you do it for people, they are much more likely to leave a positive online review. Great. Do that thing. This is your customer research. This is telling you what people think about your business, and it is a great way to learn, grow, and become a better business.
Number six, last one here, for goodness sake, maybe I should put this in number one. It’s so important. Audit your site’s usability, accessibility, and content. Now, a local website does not need to go through all of the steps of inbound marketing and thought leadership that a scalable B2B company or a startup or someone who wants to take over the Web in their category needs to go through. A local business can stay relatively focused on their local niche, and you can earn top rankings with just a lot of the first five things that I have talked about here. However, however, you want to make sure that usability, meaning your site is phenomenally simple to figure out the places. I hate when I go to a local restaurant’s website and I can’t find the place for reservations. It is not on the contact page or the about page. Where is it? I am looking for this. Have those key buttons that drive users to say, oh, right, these are the seven things I can do on the website, those are the seven things I want to do on the website. Have buttons for all of those. Have pages for all of those. Make those easy to access. Make sure there is not a Flash intro that is blocking someone or an experience that can’t be, for example, seen on a mobile phone or by search engines. This happens all the time with a lot of local business websites.
Then finally, make sure that you have the right content. You can do this, very simply, by when people come into your business, if you’d say, “Hey, we will give you a 5% or 10% discount if you can take this little survey for us or send it to ten of your friends, or email ten of your customers that you have got.” That survey should simply say, “What are the top five things you would look for from us on our website?” The top five pieces of information. People will tell you the same things all the time. It will be things like I need your hours, I need directions, I wish you had a little Google Map built in where I could just plug in my address. They’ll tell you that they need a list of services. They almost always want prices. If you can provide these things, you’re just going to do a phenomenally better job of converting people faster once they find your website through the great local SEO that you’re going to do.