Local SEO in 2013

Leora’s Introduction: Persistence pays – Thomas asked more than once to guest post, and he has left several insightful comments on Websites for Small Biz. After several emails back and forth, we agreed on the topic of Local SEO. Enjoy, and for those of you that serve a local market, I expect you will gain from the useful ideas in this Local SEO post.

Eddie's Diner in Boise, Idaho

Eddie’s Diner in Boise, Idaho – photo by Thomas McMahon

A few years back, Ben Hook wrote a great guest post for Leora about SEM and small businesses with information that is still applicable today. Ben shows how small businesses can utilize Google to drive more traffic to their sites by getting listed locally, having products show up within “Google Shopping,” and how title tags can help search engines find and rank your pages, but there is a lot more you can do for local search engine optimization to help drive traffic and customers towards your businesses.

Get Listed in Directories

The only time I’ve used a phone book in the last five years was when I needed a fire starter on a particularly cold January evening. Paying for a full page Yellow Pages advertisement used to be worth it, but those investments are quickly going up in smoke as people simply use Google to find local listings. However, this doesn’t mean that the CEO of Yellow Pages is broke and alone with only old phone books to warm him. Now you can get listed on online directories like yellowpages.com. This is usually free and all you have to do is jump through a few hoops to “claim” your site in order to edit relevant information. This is important because Google, and other search engines, crawl these directories and actually rank them, plus people will directly use directories to search for what they’re looking for. In a Google search for “Boise Italian restaurants” the first three natural listings were all from directories.

Boise Italian restaurants

In this case, Urban Spoon, Yellow Pages, and Trip Advisor are listed. The first two point to a listing page for Boise Italian restaurants, but the third link points directly to a listing for Gino’s Italian Restaurant on Trip Advisor. Getting listed in local directories is easy – try starting with these big names.

Reviews, Ratings, and Google+

Creating online profiles for your business opens the option for customers to review your business. This can be a scary thought, but if you’re running a reputable business and already have good customer service you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. In fact, Google takes reviews and ratings into account when ranking local businesses in the “Local Listings” section. Google+ is also becoming a factor in Google SERP rankings.

Boise dentists in Google search

In a search for “Boise dentists” the local listings all feature sites with Google reviews or at least a Google+ page. Modern Dental ranks at the top with a 29/30 score and 27 Google reviews, while some pages list with only a Google+ page. SEOs all across the board are seeing more traffic and influence when they interact heavily in Google+ which is starting to build some traction as a decent social networking platform.

On Page SEO

Ranking locally for search terms via directories or Google’s local listings are fine and dandy, but ranking naturally is also important. Check out Leora’s introduction to SEO for a refresher about what makes good SEO. You need to keep these in mind with a local strategy as well.

  • Keywords: Make sure your keywords include the town, state, or area that you want to be associated with. Often overlooked but important “keywords” are the phone number (especially with the area code), zip code, and full address.. A good way to include these naturally on every page is to have a footer that lists your address and contact information.
  • Incoming links: Any good SEO campaign should include a link building strategy. In the case of local link building, focus on getting links from local sites. Generally I would promote relevancy first link building and suggest staying within your sites niche when building links, but think of “local” as a niche. This opens up a wider demographic of sites to target than just local competitors.
  • Content: Establishing a blog on your site is a great way to produce fresh, relevant, and keyword dense content. Great content also naturally builds link as sites link to it. If don’t aren’t a wordsmith, consider hiring an experienced writer or blogger to develop content for you. Anything on your site needs to read well not only for visitors, but for Google’s crawlers as well.

Things to Check For

Ranking locally is usually easier than ranking for a highly competitive keyword, but your efforts need to be focused and planned out. Here are some things to check for that are often missed or disregarded.

  • Make sure all of your contact information (especially physical address) is the same across all of the directories, social media profiles (remember Google Plus!), and the website.
  • Also make sure that you’ve put your business under the correct category in the directories as well. If you can, keep the category the same. Don’t label accidentally label your concrete foundation business as “cuisine” and miss out on searchers.
  • Respond to reviews. It takes time and can be a rude awakening, but respond to good and bad reviews alike. This not only establishes a connection with the reviewer, but shows the community you are engaged and are willing to solve problems. This can also help boost the number of reviews you get which can help rank you higher in the local listings.
  • It can be easy to accidentally overuse keywords so make them appear naturally within your content.

Local businesses often think that “SEO” is only for the big, international sites but that simply isn’t the case. Putting in the effort to rank locally can drive high quality traffic to your site for fairly cheap if you have the time and a little bit of know-how.

Thomas McMahon

Thomas McMahon is a writer for Page One Power, a relevancy first link building company. When he’s not writing, you can find Thomas experimenting with fire as he tries to stay warm on frigid January nights.

27 Responses to “Local SEO in 2013”

  1. Geek Girl says:

    Thanks for this post. This is something so many just plain overlook.

  2. Kelly Wade says:

    Great information. The internet has become an amazing space for businesses and companies to attract customers and open up a world of marketing techniques to increase sales. Having areas where customers can review products and services and basically provide free marketing is vital.

    • Leora Wenger says:

      Kelly, so true – one has to make use of the marketing on the internet, or another local business will make use of it to the detriment of those that don’t.

    • The free marketing is great as long as you can get it, but you have to be careful online since not everything might be praise. Review sites aren’t like a “Testimonials” page on your website where you can choose what you want to feature. You really need to know how to address negative feedback – and sometimes social media marketing can backfire tremendously… check out the McDonald’s #McDStories Twitter campaign that crashed and burned.

  3. Susan Cooper says:

    The is an great post. I’m with Cheryl. We sometimes overlook the simplest things in our effort to do the big stuff.

  4. I don’t have a local retail business. But buying Google ads for a particular geographic area is not all that expensive if you don’t have much competition. A colleague’s husband is an attorney with a very narrow niche and gets a lot of clients in his city for $100 a month. That’s because so few people do what he does and when people search there he is.

    • That’s a great point Jeannette and a perfect example of how simply adding your geographic region to your keywords can generate some high converting long tail keywords. In larger cities like New York or Los Angeles, you can even try ranking for specific parts of the city to narrow the niche down even more.

  5. Jeri says:

    Thanks for the great tips, plus the pictures and listings for Boise made me think of home… can’t say I am missing all that snow, but I do miss the Treasure Valley.

  6. Mark Brody says:

    Nice post. I agree with the other comments that sometimes small business really need to stick with the basics to improve their traffic. I must say, your picture of the roadside diner really drew me into the blog.

    Thank you for sharing!

  7. Susan Oakes says:

    I don’t have a local business but I have found when Google moved businesses over to Google + many still have not filled out details.

    • Leora Wenger says:

      Susan, I think people in the know are aware of the importance of Google Places, but many businesses need to be told to pay more attention to their online listings, especially those on Google.

      • I can’t reiterate enough how important it is to be engaged on Google+. It may be a way for Google to strong-arm people into using their social media, but there are real benefits. New pages that are linked to from Google+ are indexed immediately which means they’ll start showing up in the SERPs(search engine results pages) much sooner.

  8. Atish says:

    On-Page SEO is must to achieve your SEO goals. Listing in Google maps is one of the best Local SEO practices I can say. Thanks for such a nice post. :)

  9. Catarina says:

    Great article that I have saved Leora. Will use those strategies for my new company.

    What Jeannette says about Google ads is also absolutely correct.

    Since I have lived and worked all over the world for most of my life I didn’t fill in location on social media. Eventually did end of last year and and it is making a huge difference. People contact me on Linkedin and want to meet me. Some even want to discuss if I could be an advisor to them and one women is sending me a book she wrote about leadership that is being used at one Swedish university. If I had remained a “citizen of the world” none of that would have happened.

    • Leora Wenger says:

      There is an expression about think local, act global (or is it the other way around) that implies one should be doing both. I enjoy working with local businesses, but I can just as well work with a business that is 6000 miles away (as I have a few times).

      Thanks, Catarina, for your “worldly” input and reflection.

  10. Dorothea says:

    Thanks for the great check up, Thomas. Most directories you mentioned are indeed powerful and very important in your local SEO strategy, unfortunately they are restricted to the USA. Do you know of any local directories that work for businesses in Europe as well?

  11. Thomas – This is an eye-opener for several of us who often neglect our SEO practices. Yes, I agree with you that local listings are a must for any sized business and it will lead to better prospects.

    Thanks Leora for publishing this wonderful guest post.

    • Thanks Praveen. It is very possible to over think SEO and have it take away time from generating content, but some effort should be made if you want your site to do well. Hope it helped!

      And yes, thanks for Leora for being a gracious editor.

  12. Richard says:

    A great read! Plus some good ideas. I never thought of using my location as a keyword. Or listing my website on local directories or blogs. thanks

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