Posted by Casey_Meraz
Another year in search has passed. It’s now 2015 and we have seen some major changes in local ranking factors since 2014, which I also expect to change greatly throughout 2015. For some a new year means a fresh starting point and yet for others it’s a time of reflection to analyze how successful your campaign has been. Whatever boat you’re in, make sure to sit down and read this guide.
In this guide we will cover how you can have a successful local SEO campaign in 2015 starting with the basics and getting down to five action items you should focus on now. This is not limited to Google My Business and also includes localized organic results.
Now the question is where do you start?
Since Pigeon has now rolled out to the US, UK, Australia, and Canada it’s important to make sure your strategies are in line with this no matter what part of the world you’re in. A successful local SEO Campaign in 2015 will be much more successful if you put more work into it. Don’t be fooled though. More work by itself isn’t going to get you where you need to be. You need to work smarter towards the goals which are going to fuel your conversions.
For some industries that might mean more localized content, for others it may mean more social interaction in your local area. Whatever it ends up being, the root of it should be the same for most. You need to get more conversions for your website or your client’s website. So with this in mind let’s make sure we’re on the same page as far as our goals are concerned.
Things you need to know first
Focus on the right goals
Recently I had a conversation with a client who wanted to really nail in the point that
he was not interested in traffic. He was interested in the conversions he could track. He was also interested to see how all of these content resource pieces I recommended would help. He was tired of the silly graphs from other agencies that showed great rankings on a variety of keywords when he was more interested to see which efforts brought him the most value. Instead, he wanted to see how his campaign was bringing him conversions or meaningful traffic. I really appreciated this statement and I felt like he really got it.
Still, however, far too often I have to talk to potential clients and explain to them why their sexy looking traffic reports aren’t actually helping them. You can have all of the traffic in the world but if it doesn’t meet one of your goals of conversions or education then it’s probably not helping. Even if you make the client happy with your snazzy reports for a few months, eventually they’re going to want to know their return on investment (ROI).
It’s 2015. If your clients aren’t tracking conversions properly, give them the help they need. Record their contacts in a CRM and track the source of each of these contacts. Track them all the way through the sales funnel.
That’s a simple and basic marketing example but as SEOs
your role has transformed. If you can show this type of actual value and develop a plan accordingly, you will be unstoppable.
Second, don’t get tunnel vision
You may wonder why I started a little more basic than normal in this post. The fact is that in this industry there is not a full formal training program that covers all aspects of what we do.
We all come from different walks of life and experience which makes it easy for us to get tunnel vision. You probably opened this article with the idea of “How Can I Dominate My Google Local Rankings?” While we cover some actionable tips you should be using, you need to think outside of the box as well. Your website is not the only online property you need to be concerned about.
Mike Ramsey from Nifty Marketing put out a great study on
measuring the click-through rates from the new local stack. In this study he measured click-through rates of users conducting several different searches like “Salt Lake City Hotel” in the example below. With so many different options look where the users are clicking:
They’re really clicking all over the place! While it’s cool to be number one, it’s much better if you get clicks from your paid ad, organic result, local result, and barnacle SEO efforts (which we’ll talk about a little later).
If you combine your conversion marketing data with your biggest priorities, you can put together a plan to tackle the most important areas for your industry. Don’t assume it’s a one-size-fits-all approach.
Third, some spam still works. Don’t do it and rise above it.
There’s no doubt that some spammy tactics are still working. Google gets better everyday but you still see crap
like this example below show up in the SERPs.
While it sucks to see that kind of stuff, remember that in time it disappears (just as it did before this article was published). If you take shortcuts, you’re going to get caught and it’s not worth it for the client or the heartache on your site. Maintain the course and do things the right way.
Now let’s get tactical and prepare for 2015
Now it’s time for some practical and tactical takeaways you can use to dominate your local search campaign in 2015.
Practical tip 1: start with an audit
Over the years, one of the best lessons I have learned is it’s OK to say “I don’t know” when you don’t have the answer. Consulting with industry experts or people with more experience than you is not a bad thing and will likely only lead to you to enhance your knowledge and get a different perspective. It can be humbling but the experience is amazing. It can open your mind.
Last year, I had the opportunity to work with over ten of the industry’s best minds and retained them for site audits on different matters.
The perspective this gives is absolutely incredible and I believe it’s a great way to learn. Everyone in this industry has come from a different background and seen different things over the years. Combining that knowledge is invaluable to the success of your clients’ projects. Don’t be afraid to do it and learn from it. This is also a good idea if you feel like your project has reached a stalemate. Getting more advice, identifying potential problems, and having a fresh perspective will do wonders for your success.
As many of the experts have confirmed, ever since the Pigeon update, organic and local ranking factors have been more tied together than ever. Since they started going this direction in a big way, I would not expect it to stop.
This means that you really do need to worry about things like site speed, content, penalties, mobile compatibility, site structure, and more. On a side note, guess what will happen to your organic results if you keep this as a top priority? They will flourish and you will thank me.
If you don’t have the budget or resources to get a third party opinion, you can also conduct an independent audit.
Do it yourself local SEO audit resources:
- How To Preform Ultimate Local SEO Audit by Casey Meraz
- Local SEO Audit Template by Dan Leibson
- Local SEO Diagnostics by Phil Rozek
Do it yourself organic SEO audit resources:
Alternatively if you’re more in the organic boat you should also check out this guide by Steve Webb on
How To Perform The World’s Greatest SEO Audit.
Whatever your situation is, it’s worth the time to have this perspective yearly or even a couple times a year if possible.
Practical tip 2: consider behavioral signals and optimize accordingly
I remember having a conversation with Darren Shaw, the founder of
Whitespark, at MozCon 2013 about his thoughts on user behavior affecting local results. At the time I didn’t do too much testing around it. However just this year, Darren had a mind-blowing presentation at the Dallas State of Search where he threw in the behavioral signals curve ball. Phil Rozek also spoke about behavioral signals and provided a great slide deck with actionable items (included below).
We have always speculated on behavioral signals but between his tests and some of Rand’s IMEC Lab tests, I became more of a believer last year. Now, before we go too deep on this remember that your local campaign is NOT only focused on just your local pack results. If user behavior can have an impact on search results, we should definitely be optimizing for our users.
You can view Phil Rozek’s presentation below:
Don’t just optimize for the engines, optimize for the humans. One day when Skynet is around this may not be an issue, but for now you need to do it.
So how can you optimize for behavioral signals?
There is a dark side and a light side path to this question. If you ask me I will always say follow the light side as it will be effective and you don’t have to worry about being penalized. That’s a serious issue and it’s unethical for you to put your clients in that position.
Local SEO: how to optimize for behavioral signals
Do you remember the click-through study we looked at a bit earlier from Nifty Marketing? Do you remember where the users clicked? If you look again or just analyze user and shopper behavior, you might notice that many of the results with the most reviews got clicks. We know that reviews are hard to get so here are two quick ways that I use and recommend to my clients:
1. Solicit your Gmail clients for reviews
If you have a list of happy Gmail clients you can simply send them an email with a direct link to your Google My Business Page. Just get the URL of your local page by pulling up your URL and copying and pasting it. A URL will look like the one below:
Once you have this URL, simply remove the /posts and replace it with:
It will look like this:
If your clients click on this link via their logged-in Gmail, they will automatically be taken to the review page which will open up the box to leave a review which looks like the example below. It doesn’t get much more simple than that.
2. Check out a service like Mike Blumenthal’s Get Five Stars for reviews
I recently used this with a client and got a lot of great feedback and several reviews.
Remember that these reviews will also help on third-party sites and can help your Google My Business ranking positions as well as click-through rates. You can
check out Get Five Stars Here.
Another way outside of getting reviews is to optimize the appearance of your Google My Business Page.
3. Optimize your local photos
Your Google My Business page includes photos. Don’t use generic photos. Use high quality photos so when the users hover over your listing they get an accurate representation of what they’re looking for. Doing this will increase your click-through rate.
Organic SEO: Optimize for Behavioral Signals
The optimization for click-through rates on organic results typically focus on three areas. While you’re likely very familiar with the first two, you should not ignore them.
1. Title tags: optimize them for the user and engine
Optimize your meta title tags to increase click-through rates. Each page should have a unique title tag and should help the viewer with their query. The example below (although fabricated) is a good example of what NOT to do.
2. Meta descriptions: optimize them for the user
Optimize your meta description to get the user to click on the search result. If you’re not doing this just because Google may or may not pull it, you’re missing opportunities and clicks.
3. Review Schema markup: add this to appropriate pages
Schema markup is still a very overlooked opportunity. Like we talked about above in the local section, if you don’t have reviews coded in Schema, you could be missing out on getting the orange stars in organic results.
Practical tip 3: don’t ignore barnacle SEO
I firmly believe that most people are not taking advantage of barnacle SEO still to this day and I’m a big fan. When I first heard Will Scott introduce this term at Pubcon I thought it was spot on. According to Will Scott’s website Search Influence, barnacle SEO is “attaching oneself to a large fixed object and waiting for the customers to float by in the current.” In a nutshell, we know that if you’re trying to rank on page one of Google you will find others that you may be able to attach to. If Yelp results come up for a lot of your search terms you might identify that as an opportunity. But there are three main ways you can take advantage of this.
1. You can try to have the most visible profile on that third party page
If Yelp is ranking for LA Personal Injury Attorneys, it would suit you to figure out how the top users are showing up there. Maybe your customers are headed there and then doing some shopping and making a selection. Or maybe they’re using it for a research platform and then will visit your website. If your profile looks great and shows up high on the list, you just gave yourself a better chance at getting a conversion.
2. You can try to get your page to rank
Hey, just because you don’t own Yelp.com or whatever similar site you’ve found, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put in the effort to have it rank. If Google is already showing you that they trust a third party site by ranking it, you can use similar organic ranking techniques that you would use on your own site to make your profile page stronger. Over time you might add this to your bio on interviews or other websites to earn links. If you increase the visibility of your profile on search engines and they see your website on the same page you might increase conversions.
3. You can help your Google My Business
If the site you’re using passes link juice and you earn links to the third party profile page, you will start to see some strong results. Links are a big factor in local since Pigeon this year and it’s an opportunity that should not be missed.
So how can you use this advice?
Start by finding a list of potential barnacle SEO partners for your industry. As an example, I did a search for “Personal Injury Attorneys” in Los Angeles. In addition to the law firms that showed up in the results on the first page, I also identified four additional places I may be able to show up on.
If you were attorney, it would be worth your while to explore these and see if any make sense for you to contribute to.
Practical tip 4: earn some good links
Most people get too carried away with link building. I know because I used to do it. The key with link building is to change your approach to understand that
it’s always better to get fewer high quality links than hundreds or thousands of low quality links.
For example, a link like this one that one of our clients earned is what I’m talking about.
If you want to increase your local rankings you can do so by earning these links to your associated Google My Business landing page.
Do you know the URL you entered in your Google My Business page when you set it up? That’s the one I’m talking about. In most cases this will be linked to either a local landing page for that location or the home page. It’s essential to your success that you earn solid links to this page.
Simple resources for link building
- 33 Links and How to Get Them by Justin Briggs
- Event Link Building – Build links by hosting an event.
- HARO – Help reporters with their inquires. Get interviews and earn links.
Practical tip 5: have consistent citations and remove duplicates
Identifying and correcting incorrect or duplicate citations has been getting easier and easier over the years. Even if you don’t want to pay someone to do it, you can sign up for some great do-it-yourself tools. Your goal with any citation cleanup program is this:
- Ensure there are no duplicate citations
- Ensure there are no incorrect citations with wrong phone numbers, old addresses, etc.
You can ignore small differences and inconsistencies like St vs. Street. I believe the importance of citations has been greatly reduced over the past year. At the same time, you still want to be the least imperfect and provide your customers with accurate information if they’re looking on third party websites.
Let’s do good things in 2015
2014 was a tough year in search altogether. We had ups like Penguin refreshes and we had downs like the removal of authorship. I’m guessing 2015 will be no different. Staying on the roller coaster and keeping with the idea of having the “least imperfect” site is the best way to ring out the new year and march on moving forward. If you had a tough year in local search, keep your head up high, fix any existing issues, and sprint through this year by making positive changes to your site.
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