Hey everybody this is Rich Brooks and you’re tuned in for another one of our thirty minute webinars. Today’s topic is local SEO for small business. We’re going to be showing you how you can rank higher when people are doing searches for local businesses or even destination businesses. As always I’ve got about thirty minutes of content that I plan on going through. As you have questions please leave them in the questions box I’ll do the best I can to answer them but I don’t tend to take a break and read them while I’m presenting, I tend to go through the whole presentation and I’ll stick on the line after the presentation and answer all the questions you may have. So feel free to fire away at questions even if you don’t think I’ll get to them until later on.
So with that being said we are going to be talking about how you can improve your local SEO today. As I always do, I am going to mention how we here at Flyte New Media have an approach to digital marketing called the BARE essentials to digital marketing. It is an acronym and a lot of the acronym and the digital marketing does flow nicely into local SEO. The B is for build, basically building a platform that turns visitors into customers and your website is going to be critical to your local SEO. it’s going to be very difficult for you to rank well if you don’t have a website. Attract, how do we drive people to our websites and often that’s through search, social, and digital ads. Of course we definitely have, when it comes to local, we’re talking local SEO today so we’re talking about how do we drive people to our website. Although today we’re also going to be considering foot traffic not just website traffic. Retain, how do you stay in touch with people after they leave your website. Finally, evaluate, how do we measure and analyze results. There are some opportunities within local SEO and local search to evaluate some of our activities as well.
Who is this guy, anyway?
For those of you who don’t know me my name is Rich Brooks. I’m the president of Flyte New Media. We’re a web design and internet marketing company located in Portland, Maine and we’ve been doing this for over twenty years. Also I am the founder of the Agents of Change that is a weekly podcast and an annual conference that takes place both in Portland, Maine and online. So if you’re an auditory learner you should definitely check out the agentsofchange.com to download our podcasts, sign up and subscribe. If you’re somebody who likes attending live conferences, you definitely want to check out our conference that’s going on September 20th and 21st this year in Portland, Maine. I’m also the tech guru on 207 which is the evening news program here on the NBC affiliates in Maine. And lastly I wrote a book called The Lead Machine: The Small Business Guide to Digital Marketing.
What is a “local” business?
So let’s start with a fairly simply question you would think, what is a local business? Basically, if you meet with a customer, face to face, either at your storefront or business or their home or business, you’re a local company. It’s important to note that local SEO, what we’re going to be talking about today, consists of everything from organic SEO plus geography. So let’s take a slightly closer look at this, and before we do as you can see I’ve just included a number of what I consider to be local businesses, we’ve got a natural food store, we’ve got a propane delivery company, we’ve got somebody doing bike tours, and of course we’ve got a digital agency.
So now that we’re pretty sure we know what a local company is, what is local search? Now as you can see here this is a search I did for dance studios. So this is a fairly typical search, somebody puts in dance studios, and google through its infinite wisdom realizes we’re looking for location, for local business. So it serves up at the top of the page in this particular case, what’s called the local pack. These are three local listings of dance studios and also it serves us up organic localized results. As you can see the first two organic results are the Dance Studios of Maine, which happens to not be in one of the local searches, and Casco Bay Movers, another one that’s not in that local pack. It is a local search result, it’s just that in this particular case the local pack appeared above the organic search results. Obviously if I did this search for dance studios while I was in Seattle, Washington the local search results would be different in the local pack and also in the localized organic results. It’s just important to understand the difference between these two. We want to rack well in both these categories so we increase our chances of getting in front of our ideal customers and driving more quality traffic to either our website or our point of business. And because google doesn’t always show a local pack and because localized packs and localized results are so closely linked and it’s important we try and rank for both.
Why is Local Important?
Why are local packs so important? Here’s a search I do for accountant, I pull up three which appear at the top of the page, there were more organic results below, of course I could click on more places, but the thing is if google’s giving in my opinion three relevant results for local businesses i’m probably not going to go any deeper than this. So a big portion of traffic is going to be doled out to these three businesses, so you want to make sure that you are one of these three. Very often people are not going to go deeper than what’s in the local pack, they’re not going to click on more places.
Now to put together this presentation I did a lot of research. A few of the websites I used, in the follow up email I’ll include these in there, one is a 2017 local SEO ranking factors. This is very much based on specific measurable factors. Another site I used was from moz and this was also a 2017 local search ranking factors. This was based more on some of the local SEO experts and they did a survey of some of the top ones in the industry and they pulled in these results. And then lastly, just some elbow grease. The bottom line is we spend a lot of time here at Flyte thinking about local businesses, we optimize or SEO for a lot of local businesses so it’s something we’ve got a lot of experience in as well. I definitely tapped into some of the experts as well when putting together this presentation.
If you believe in what I believe is for local businesses local SEO is incredibly important, then you may be wondering how you’re doing right now.
How Am I Doing Now?
The first most important thing you can do is go into google as a user and what I’d recommend is making sure you’re not logged in with your google account so you can better and more accurate results. Basically come up with all the different search terms you think people are using to find you and pop those into google and for the ones that come up with local results, see if you appear. So if you think you offer boat cruises, say that’s something somebody would search on, go ahead and put boat cruises in and see if you come up as one of those top three locations and do that for all the keywords that you think might be relevant.
Another tool you can use is called Moz Local. Moz is a piece of software that we use quite a bit for a wide variety of search engine needs. They do have a local tool that they own that we use quite a bit, I strongly recommend it for a number of different purposes. What you can do is you can go to moz local and start typing in your business and if necessary add in the postal code, you don’t always need to, it’ll pull you up and once you click on your own listing it will show you how you currently score. So it’ll give you some primary sources, direct network, indirect network, but it’s also going to tell you how complete your rankings are; where your areas of completion are, where your areas of non-completion are, where are there areas of inconsistency, and where are there duplicates. What we’re looking for in a perfect world would be a perfect score of 100. We want to make sure we’re listed in all the different directories and that our information is consistent and there aren’t duplicate listings. This is a key element of local search that you have consistency across all your listings throughout the web.
Improving Your Position
Once you’ve done a little homework so you know kind of where you rank, where your opportunities lie, the next thing you’re going to want to do, obviously, is improve your position. This is a race to the top of google’s first page and you want to get there. There are things in local search that you can’t control and there are things in local search that you can control. Some things that you can’t control include proximity to the centroid. So what does that mean? That means how close you are to the center of town or the center of the area being searched. Unless you move your building to the center of the city that’s not going to make that much of a difference. This has also been one of the factors that has been decreasing slowly over the years too so I certainly wouldn’t move your business right now. The second one is proximity to the centroid of other similar businesses. So in other words, let’s say you’re an antique store and you’re in one part of town where there are no other antique stores but maybe five or six blocks over there’s a group of antique stores all together. In that case that’s going to hurt you a little bit where the centroid of similar businesses is somewhere else. But again, not something you can control. And another thing you can’t control but does affect you in this local SEO is of growing importance, and that’s the proximity to the searcher. This is especially true on mobile devices where google knows exactly where you are. Obviously you can’t move you’re building to get closer to this person, but unfortunately it does have an impact. Sometimes it makes a lot of sense because somebody might be looking for the nearest UPS store or pizza place or cases like accountants it doesn’t make a difference if I’m one block or six blocks away from an accountant, it only matters who’s the best local accountant. These are things that do impact your visibility in local SEO that you can’t control, so let’s instead focus on what you can control to improve your rankings.
Claim and Cleanse
One thing that you’re going to want to do is what we call a claim and cleanse. Now if you’re a brand new business you may not have any business listing. But chances are, if you’ve been in business for any amount of time and if you haven’t spent any time doing local SEO the internet is where you exist. There are directories out there of businesses that get bought up and then put on the web, bottom line is google probably knows you exist. Along with google and as well as some other directories , what you’re going to want to do is to claim ownership of your business or at least the ability to speak on behalf of your business. There’s a few different ways to do it, one thing you can do is go to google mybusiness and basically sign in to your google account and ask them to send you a postcard or make a phone call into your office, either way it will work, but this is one way to claim that you have control over the business and that will give you control over your listing and then you can do a bunch of good stuff to it. This works not just for google+ business but also for a number of these local directories. There are tools out there by the way, because this can be a tedious process because there’s 15-20 of these directories, you can use a tool like moz local to help automate this process, there’s still a certain amount of legwork that has to be done.
As you gain control of your listing or in fact creating a brand new listing, almost all these directories have the same fields that you want to fill out as you go through this. A lot of times when other people have filled out this information on your behalf, it may not be exactly the way you want it to go, so owning this and taking control of this makes the most sense. What I want to do is go through some of the key things you want to fill in and also some do’s and don’ts with each one.
Business name seems pretty straight forward, I’ll just mention, you really want to put it in as is, so for us it would be Flyte New Media. No keyword stuffing, so it’s not going to be Flyte: SEO, social media, email marketing, small business. That’s just not going to be okay and it’s that kind of stuff that can actually get you in trouble. Also no geography in your business name, so it wouldn’t be Flyte New Media Portland, Maine. You really want to be accurate with your business name and make sure it’s consistent across all these websites.
Obviously your address is going to be critically important and again this is going to be an as is. You do not want to use any P.O Boxes here , even if that’s where you get your mail, you’re going to want to use your physical address. You’re also not going to use any UPS stores, not that many people use UPS stores for any other reason, google really wants to show where you are in business. A lot of people work out of their homes or maybe just a service area so what they did to get around this was they would go into the UPS store and get a box and put the UPS store down as their address. Officially, you are not supposed to use any address where you don’t see customers. If you are somebody like a locksmith, where nobody’s going to come to your business, then you are service area business and we’ll talk a little more about what your options are as we get through this presentation. As I mentioned before, you must serve customers at this address.
Next is your phone number and I’ll just say that it should be a local number that you’re promoting here. You definitely don’t want to be putting in an 800 number here, it will work against you. And avoid any kind of vanity numbers; so if it’s 1-800-MATTRESS or even 1-207-MATTRESS, that’s not what you want to put in, you want to put in your actual local number and consistency is key.
You’ve got an opportunity to put in your website URL so you definitely want to enter in your website, I recommend your homepage, this is not a page where you want to put in your social media profile or any other address’. If you do have multiple locations, multiple stores, and you have individual pages on your website for each store, which I would recommend, then I would enter a website URL for each one of your businesses. Each one would get its own listing and each unique address would point to the individual page on your website.
The next field is categories. This is in some ways the most critical of all of them and often when we don’t rank well in local search it’s because we haven’t been paying attention to the categories for our business. Google recommends you chose the field that’s most refined. So if you are a Mexican restaurant, they want you to chose ‘Mexican restaurant’, not ‘restaurant’. Definitely don’t want you to chose restaurant and Mexican restaurant. For google at least you can chose up to ten categories but they ask you to chose as few as there are correct. There’s some debate in the SEO community on whether or not you should use all ten or if there’s some sort of dilution factor, the more you use, the more it counts against you. So use your best judgement. If you can’t find a category that describes your business, then try and get as close as possible. Use some of the other things like description and some of your local SEO optimization techniques to get closer to that category.
There is a description field where you can talk a little bit about your business and services and what you do, it actually does not display at google even though google asks you to put in a description. However it can appear elsewhere and the way you should think about your description is it’s a simple elevator pitch. Why are you important, what kind of services do you offer, who do you serve, that kind of thing.
There’s afield for social profiles and here’s where you want to lay it out; your facebook, your twitter, and every other social platform that you’re on.
And then there’s also images this is another critical piece to the puzzle in terms of increasing visibility and increasing engagement, which in turn helps google rank you higher. So you definitely want to put images into your account, again you can’t do this until you’ve claimed your account, but once you do these have a major impact. I would regularly add new photos to your accounts as you can. It raises engagement, which is something google is measuring, so if people are clicking on little thumbnails and taking a look at the photos. These photos can be anything related to your business, we often take photos of recent websites we’ve just created, screengrabs, and share those, other businesses who might sell product could put up the product, you might put in pictures of your people, pictures of your customers, whatever seems relevant for you. These days there’s opportunity to add video in there as well and again, all of these things you just want to be adding as much content as possible. All these things increase your visibility.
Google My Business
One place where you’re going to want to spend more time is google my business. If you google the phrase ‘google my business’ you’ll get right to this page and you can just sign in and get to work. The first thing you’re going to want to do is claim your business and as I mentioned before you can do this via postcard you can do this via phone call as well. Just make sure that if you are going to go through this process and you’re ready to get a phone call just make sure you tell your team about it, in case they call a main number and it’s routed to somebody else, I’ve definitely seen that happen. And let people know there’s a postcard coming, small nondescript postcards have definitely been tossed as junk mail more than once, just be ready for that. You can see here the google my business for Flyte New Media; we’ve put in some categories here, make sure you’re putting yourself in the right categories.
To do this, I couldn’t find any listing for all the different categories so I started typing out some of our keyword phrases and then you can see some of the opportunities there. Like I’ve said before, we consider ourselves to be digital marketers, not internet marketers these days, but there is no digital marketing right now so we go with internet marketing services. Just trying to get as close as possible, and as you start typing out certain things and you see something that seems relevant to you, just click on that and it will be added.
Adding photos in google my business is pretty easy. There is a cover photo, there is a profile photo as well and then the rest of them are basically gallery photos. Take a photo or image whether from your phone or computer and upload it to your google my business and it will be added. And as you can see there’s opportunities for 360 photos of your place of business, there’s opportunity for video, you can categorize things as interior pics, exterior pics, so on and so forth, even photos from customers.
Be a Completist
I would definitely just focus on getting everything done. Be a completist. The more information you fill out, the more points of data there is for google to figure out what your business is about and serve you up as a relevant result. Definitely include all your working hours, for URLs make sure those go in there, and google now, this is fairly new, has an appointment URL so I put in our contact form, we don’t exactly have an appointment page on our website but this is about as close as it gets. This is something new that’s only been launched in the last month or so, you can put in new services for what you offer so we put in different web design we might do and types of digital marketing we might do. And then the description. Just putting in as much information as possible, working in my keywords, the things we do really well, such as SEO, social media marketing, so on and so forth. When I talked to John in my office, who actually does most of the day to day stuff with local SEO, I asked him as I was going through this presentation, what would you include? One of the things he said was incredibly powerful was the google my business or GMB Insights.
In other words the analytics GMB provides us. So this was something after working with a client a few months, in the previous quarter you can see there was almost 3000 actions people took and this is just from the local pack. So people who clicked through to visit the website was basically one in 1500 people, 880 requested directions, and then 338 called you and that’s based on the people who clicked through the phone number on their mobile device. This is another one I thought was kind of interesting and you can see where people are requesting directions, this might give you a better idea of where your audience is and maybe where you want to target your ads; whether they’re google ads, google maps ads, or facebook ads. So you can see people who requested directions were from Portland, Westbrook, South Portland, and so on. Definitely some neat stuff and if you are a local business and this is your livelihood, then this is really the kind of stuff you want to focus on.
A few other things that are critically important to your success in local search one of them is reviews. Reviews are a major ranking factor, I cannot overstate this, getting people to regularly review your business is critical. Better reviews are better, but any reviews are good. Again it’s just more points of contact for google to see and understand what your business is all about. A few tips about reviews; never pay someone to write a review for you. You can definitely ask people in most cases to write a review for you, but never pay for that. Never spam, or in other words never go in pretending to be someone else and leave a positive review for your business, never ask you web developer or digital agency to go in there and make fake positive reviews, and absolutely never write negative reviews for your competition. You can definitely encourage people to leave reviews and there’s a number of ways to do that and we can talk a little more about that as well. Let people chose the platform, like sometimes we might say I’d really like you to leave a review on yelp or tripadvisor or google, but the bottom line is, unless there’s an area you really need to pump up, let people chose the platform that they want to. Respond to all reviews. This requires you to go onto all these websites; yelp, google, whatever, and claim ownership of the business so that you can leave responses to reviews. And it’s been proven, time and again, that people who leave a review, positive or negative, they prefer when the business owner or representative responds to them. Plus, even if somebody leaves you a negative review, very often you can kind of win that person over or show people who come see that review later that you take these reviews seriously. That can make a huge positive impact as well, so you want to respond to every review.
The last one is to develop an ongoing program. It’s not just enough to do this once, you really want to have an regular program to encourage people to be leaving reviews and to be leaving reviews and then follow up with them.
At Flyte one of the things we may do is after we finish a website usually a month or two later we give them a tour of their google analytics to make sure they understand everything and check in with them, and very often if a client says what a positive experience they had I ask them if they would leave a review for us in google. I tell them if you google the name of our business and then you get this little knowledge panel and further down in the knowledge panel you’ll actually see there’s a place to write a review if you can leave a review there. We’ve started doing this with a little more regularity and people are leaving reviews and that is helping us increase our visibility, it’s that simple. Just telling people what to do and giving out people virtual or physical cheat sheets or how to leave a review as well at different types of websites.
Another critical thing is called citations.Citations are basically any mention of your business online.this could be just business name, this could be name and address, could be name, address, phone number, could be name, address, phone number and website, sometimes it’s a link to your website, but it doesn’t need to be. Even though links are very important, google is actually looking for any points of data it can basically learn more about your business. The more of these data points and the more consistent these data points are, the better for you. Citations help because they verify to the search engines that your business exists, especially when multiple sources have the same accurate information. Think of it almost like triangulation for your business.
So there’s different types of citations, I kind of want to got through these it’s a little bit geeky, but there’s the primary data sources. These are data aggregators that collect and validate data from multiple sources and then distribute them. Some examples include infogroup, axiam, localease, and factual. If you’re not already in these you’re probably going to have to pay to get in them, but I would strongly recommend that these are worth it if local SEO is important to you. Then there’s what’s called tier 1. These are prominent on google and very often these are used by people who are searching for a type of business or a type of business in a certain place. This would include yelp or facebook or the yellow pages, tripadvisor and they could also be more specific to a business like lawyers.com or they could also be more specific to an area like denver.com. These are great places to get your business listed. Then there’s tier 2 which is similar but of less importance. So once you’ve gotten all your tier 1 websites out of the way then you can look at sites like yellowbook, merchantcircle, and hotfrog. Then there are tier 3 and tier 4 and these are just lesser and lesser known sites, often these are the free ones to get into. Again these might not be worth the energy it takes to get listed here. Very often there’s a downward flow of information so I’d focus first on primary data sources, and then got to tier 1, tier 2 is really up in the air whether you want to do it.
As I mentioned, links are citations, links from other websites to yours are citations. Also, as I mentioned before, local SEO is a lot like organic SEO but there’s the geography component of it. In other words what’s good for organic search optimization is good for local optimization and because of that links are of critical importance. When it comes to getting links from another website to yours you want to focus on quality, it’s not just about getting as many as humanly possible. It’s also a good idea to get a diversity of links. Getting links from multiple websites, even if it’s one or two places is not that fantastic. You want to get a diversity of links, then you want to get as many local links as possible. Links from other local businesses to yours can be key to increase your visibility.
I want to talk briefly before we wrap up about service area businesses. These are businesses where you don’t necessarily have a home office but you’re out there visiting people. A lot of people ask how do you get any visibility in local SEO. unfortunately, recognize this is an uphill battle. I would recommend that you get reviews from the towns you service and then ask them that they make sure to mention that town in the review. So if your in Portland and you want to get seen in Westbrook when you do a job in Westbrook and they like you you best ask them to leave you a review and ask them to give details about what you did and the town that they live in. you can also create strong landing pages for each city you service on your website. Make sure each of these pages is unique, with unique content on them. You can also, assuming you’ll answer the phone 24/7 is set your hours to 24 hours. That can give you advantage over other types of businesses. I also want to mention that sometimes you can just buy your way to the top. For example, this was a search on chiropractors and you can see here that we have Jacobs Chiropractic Acupuncture that didn’t appear in the top few listings, but because they’re buying google adwords they get to chose to show up here in the maps area as well. I’ve also noticed that on mobile devices these as are appearing even in the first listings, not even when you go through the maps, but this is also in the local pack you can advertise here at least on mobile devices.
So my takeaways for today what you really want to focus on is do the claim and cleanse, you need to own your listing. Then go about getting more citations and more links and really focus on getting as many reviews, make this a regular part of your local SEO plan. Local SEO is not a one off. This is an ongoing battle because one of your other competitors are going to step in and do what you’re not doing. So either you’re going to catch up and stay ahead or someone else is going to pass you by.
That’s the content I have for today in terms of local SEO. if you want to stick around and ask me any questions you have about local SEO, SEO in general, or any tactics and techniques that local sites might use to increase their local traffic and their foot traffic, I’m happy to hang around for a little while and answer those questions.
Q: if you have multiple locations do you suggest having multiple business accounts or is the way to merge them to have multiple address’ under one listing.
My understanding is that you’re going to want to have specific listings for each one of your businesses. I would have a page on my website for each one of my locations and I’d also want to make sure that each one of those had its own listing. And yes it’s more work but it’s definitely a dog eat dog world out there and you definitely want to focus on what’s going to make the biggest difference out there and local SEO is going to be one of those things.
Q: We’re a small community bank with just two branches when I searched bank in wakefield we came up first in the local results, when I searched bank we came up as the fourth result. Any idea reason that might be?
Yes. I basically my guess would be you asked for a barely specific search term the first time around and when you went a little bit broader, there’s just more competition for that. Maybe you’ve done a little bit better for optimizing for the phrase ‘bank in wakefield’, or ‘wakefield bank’. So when you just search for bank you might be pulling in things that are a little less localized to you.
Q: Can you elaborate on links? Do I need to ask another business, membership, etc. for a link to them?
Just to be clear, what you want is for other people to be linking to you, not necessarily that you’re linking out to them. There’s a number of things you can do. One is you belong to a chamber of commerce my guess is, any membership organization, especially paid membership organization, is going to link out to you as a member, so there’s some opportunity there as well. Link building is kind of a challenging thing, maybe that should be a topic for another webinar. Let’s say I was looking for a pet store, so I would do a search for pet store on my laptop computer or phone and I’d look to see what kind of directories and guides and services pop up for that listing that rank well and those are the ones I might concentrate first on in terms of getting incoming links. Being like hey I noticed you’re linking my competition but not to me, would you be willing to link out to me? Another thing you can do, I mentioned this in my organic SEO webinar from a few weeks back which is available to you on demand, ad in that I talk about another product called moz open site explore. In using open site explore you can see how many people are linking to you, but you can also use the tool to see how many people are linking to your competition. Then you can go to those websites and give them a reason why they should link to you. Another good way to get incoming links is a tactic called guest blogging. Which is where you blog for free at another blog. So you may want to find out if there are any local blogs around or any local businesses that have blogs and pitch to them why you might be a good person to write for them. A lot of people love getting others to write at their blog so this can be a really beneficial thing for them because they get free content on their site and your payment is a link back to your site.
Q: Both listings having the same website online store is okay? Or should I be making different landing pages for online store from the google location listings?
What I might do, I think you do want to have unique links, so I would link each location to a location page on the website for each location.
Q: when looking at the map and seeing all the red dots for each location is for the category you searched, why are some dots red and some dots red with white in the center?
I believe the ones with dots in the center are actually pins and those are the ones that showed up on the map. So I believe what google is telling you is there’s a lot more than these three in this area, but here are the three we think are most relevant in your search.
If you think of a question later on, feel free to write to me, there’s my email address on the screen. Also in the next 24-48 hours I will be sending out an email to everybody and there will be a link to where you can watch this webinar if you missed it also where you can get the slides, even if you just want to listen to the audio as well. Feel free to hit the reply button and ask me any question you might have. We are going to be having another 30 minute webinar, I’ll link to that as well. The next one is about how to generate more conversions at your website.
One last question I got was can I list my google voice phone?
I think the important thing to think about is you want a local number, which google voice can do, and you want to be consistent across everywhere. So if you are going to link your google voice phone in your business listings just make sure it’s the same one on your website and everywhere else.
Consistency is key, citations are key, reviews are key, links are key. That’s what’s going to be pushing you further and further up the ladder when it comes to local search and local SEO. I want to thank everybody for your time and attention today, have a great one!
If you’d like someone to help fine-tuning your own SEO or need help developing a digital marketing strategy, please let us know.