SEO Basics, Part 1 of 3: 10 Tips for Local SEO … Plus Some Jokes

 

Google Appliance as shown at RSA Expo 2008 in ...

At Superb Internet we offer – along with hosting, colocation, and various other services – several different Search Engine Optimization (SEO) packages. SEO, like many other Internet presence services, has been much maligned due to the number of shoddy packages offered by individuals who might not even know all that much about the service they are selling. Like anything, it’s sometimes hard to determine the quality of a package when we ourselves aren’t rudimentarily educated on the topic.

Furthermore, SEO is becoming more and more complicated as Google changes its algorithms and as quality content has become so crucially important to determining your prominence online. You might be at the top for certain keywords for a period of time. Then Google releases a new modification of its algorithm, and suddenly your pages have become irrelevant. High levels of expertise and attention to developing trends in SEO are required to get your site high rankings on the most crucial keywords searched by your potential customers.

The good news is that SEO is heavily dependent on content – such as articles, photos, and videos – which can then be promoted to your social media fans and email newsletter recipients as well. Quality content is as simple as blog posts and as complicated as posts that will get broad attention from a large web audience that fits your target demo. If constructed meaningfully, it builds your site and your credibility; and it keeps people engaged with your business. It’s a matter of you showing off what’s great about your business and drawing on needs that customers have, with content geared to inform and/or entertain.

This three-part series on SEO intends to give you a basic education so you can make a wise decision about how to invest your SEO dollars. We’ll talk about local SEO first – part 1 of the series. Part 2 will cover international SEO. Finally, we’ll get into what content marketing is, and why having a large quantity of useful and articulate content on your site can help you rise to the top and stay there. You want “stickiness” – getting visitors to stay on your site rather than stay on it for a couple seconds and bounce away.

Also, we will talk about several nontraditional ways to immediately grab people’s attention when they first get to your site. Here is the first of these outside-the-box solutions:

Outside-the-Box Attention Grabber #1: GIF of a Cartoon Cat Drinking a Cocktail and Burp-Singing

It’s beyond me why more websites do not utilize a looping GIF of a cat drinking a mai tai and burp-singing the Swedish national anthem. This type of content works on several different levels:

  • Draw in the international community by use of a Californian mixed drink based on the Tahitian word for “good.”
  • Get a larger Swedish audience by presenting their beloved, folk-tune inspired anthem “Du Gamla, Du Fria” (“Thou Ancient, Thou Freeborn”) in a context they’ve never seen it before.
  • Give yourself a chance to work with the feline community, the real overlords of the Internet. And this goes without saying, but be very polite to the cat, or all your work will be in vain. Cats live in a tight-knit community, and once the cats have turned against you, you’re through.

10 Tips to Building Local SEO

Here are 10 tips to improve your local SEO. Note that steps 5 through 9 are vaguer than the others. Each of those items is from advice for local search companies themselves; they’re included because it perhaps offers broader, more prescient insights.

  1. Check Your Keywords: Do your keywords show up on Google local search results (also called a 7 Pack because it contains 7 results)? These results, tied to Google Maps, will show up automatically when you search for a type of business combined with a city — “auto mechanic San Diego,” for example. If it’s not showing up, keep conducting keyword research. A large part of the SEO process is trial and error; the research and analysis component is huge.
  2. What is Your “City”? You may have a much easier time ranking for your suburb or neighborhood than for your entire metropolitan area. Google gives the highest preference to businesses that are closest to the GPS coordinates that represent the center of a city. If that’s not you, it’ll be tough. Consider a more specific local focus.
  3. Look at the Competition: Take a look at the first business in the 7 Pack. Copy the business’s NAP (name, address, & phone – or even just the latter two) into a Google search, and place quotation marks around it. How many results show up? That’s a ballpark (alongside quality of backlinks, Google reviews, etc.) of the number of citations and directories where you’ll need to be listed to have the top ranking.
  4. Directory Work: Get listed in as many directories as you can: Yelp, Google Places, your Chamber of Commerce, etc. Truly local sites such as that last one are important because they give your own site additional local relevance. A link is great, but at least get your contact details listed as many places as you can.
  5. Consistency: You need to make sure you are consistent with your NAP details in each of the directories – and it should mirror what’s on your own site. Many businesses vary NAP details. Don’t. Remember that Google is simply processing data when it determines your rankings. Though that process is complicated, you never want a directory listing to appear to be a second business.
  6. Mobile Sophistication: Think about strategies to specifically address the needs of mobile users. Access of local directories on mobile devices is rapidly increasing, up from 6% to 27% year-over-year between December 2011 and December 2012. Compare that to a rise from 7% to 15% for the Web as a whole. For local, then, mobile is incredibly important.
  7. Improve SEO by Looking Offline: Great SEO is not just about rankings. It’s about looking at offline behavior of your customers. Think of ways to measure offline behavior by people who found you on the Web through your SEO efforts. Regarding online behavior, what do your customers do after the click-through?
  8. Who is Visiting, & When? When assessing your SEO campaigns, look not just at how many people are visiting your site, but what their locations are and what time periods experience the heaviest traffic. This research will allow you to integrate your SEO into a general online marketing strategy. Consider adaptations to frame your SEO strategy within the context of site visitors. If the visitors are not from the locations or timeframes best for your business, adjust your strategy.
  9. Social Media’s Influence on Local Presence: Consider Facebook’s stats on local businesses and how important they are for your online presence: 645 local business Facebook page views each week, with 70% of people liking one or more local business(es). Per Facebook’s Dan Levy, think of social as an extension of your offline efforts. Make social “word-of-mouth” as easy as possible.
  10. Start a Conversation: 1999’s The Cluetrain Manifesto discusses how the business world changed from conversation (as it had been historically) to more of a one-way soapbox for most of the twentieth century. Now with the Web, it’s changed back to a two-way discussion. Focusing on this mutual exchange with customers is called “conversational marketing.” The following tactics can help to start a conversation with your audience to promote engagement through your online presence:
  • Make sure that your business has a strong, quality presence on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+; also consider LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr, and Instagram. Monitor your profiles and pages closely. You may want to implement a social media policy for your employees that delineates what’s acceptable and what’s not regarding discussing their jobs.
  • Blog regularly. It’s not just a voice-box but a great central hub to tie together the content on your social media as well.
  • Use the social media as more than simply as a promotional platform. Filter for any mentions of your brand. Discuss topics that draw in interaction, such as questions and polls. Don’t just advertise.
  • Use tools such as Klout and Kred, and study your analytics – not just your general social presence but how much social traffic is hitting your site.
  • Young does not mean wise when it comes to social. Don’t entrust your social image to a college intern. Social media has serious potential. Don’t let it be sloppy or careless. Have similar policies in place for social as you do for you website and business in general. As you train your social manager, focus specifically on the importance of public relations, not just on the functionality of social sites.
  • Though the term “social media expert” is often viewed as silly, make sure that whoever is handling your social knows what they are doing. It’s like everything: familiarity and expertise can enhance your business’s image.

Outside-the-Box Attention Grabber #2: Cryptic Muttering Audio Track

It’s always helpful to build a sense of mystery into your site. A great way to build a sense of enigma is with disoriented, unintelligible muttering for the first 5 minutes a new visitor hits your site. The muttering track should not have anything to do with your business – or for that matter, with any element of reality. To disturb and bewilder is to build toward the sale. Here are three sample directions the muttering could go:

  • Free-verse poetry featuring 1970s hockey scores between teams that don’t exist
  • Snippets from the third chapter of Wuthering Heights read backwards
  • Rapid-fire political rants in which each word is from a different language.

Conclusion:

Succeeding with local SEO (and you could do that with Superb Internet) — is challenging, but it’s a step-by-step process like anything else: Consider the parameters of the 7 Pack and how to get your business into it; add yourself to directories, and be sure to always use the same details. Get specific about users, such as where they’re accessing your site and where they’re located. Cater to mobile visitors, and incorporate offline behavior into your understanding of your online presence. Get more sophisticated and integrated with your social approach, and do your best to start conversations. After all, you don’t have to do all the work!

Next up: International SEO (Part 2). Then we’ll discuss what content marketing is all about (Part 3).

by Kent Roberts and Richard Norwood

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