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Best Local SEO Tips and Resources for 2017

Local search has become a de facto standard for businesses that service consumers in specific locales. Your online presences is just as important (if not more important) than your offline presence.

If you are new to the scene of Local SEO and search optimization for your local or small business, here are five Google local SEO tips to help you navigate through the steps needed to ensure that your business has the presence it needs to earn the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) results you deserve.

1. Attractive and Click-Worthy Title and Meta Descriptions

This is often an overlooked opportunity by many local SEO campaigns. These HTML elements are customizable features which are used to represent your website in search results. Typically, titles range from 50 – 60 characters and descriptions can range up to 200 characters.

In years past these titles and descriptions were used to incorporate keywords and help with rankings. Current SEO best practices tell us to use these titles and descriptions as an opportunity to improve user experience and attract clicks. Your meta titles and descriptions need to be a clear depiction of your page content, be persuasive, and of course specifically unique. Including your city in the description is recommended. Targeted keywords should be as close to the beginning of the paragraph as possible but not at the expense of user readability.

Use this opportunity to set yourself apart – do you offer 24/7 service? Free shipping? 25% off for first time customers?

2. Keep a Consistent and Prominent Online Presence

Whether your business is brand new or has been around for decades and moved locations several times, it is extremely important to make sure that your business name, address and phone number is consistent and visible across the Internet, no matter where someone may find you.

This consistency instills consumer trust and builds your authority. The consistency also plays a large role in your local SEO performance. The Search Engines want to understand your company and have confidence that you are a legitimate company.

Here is a starter list for online business directories where you can establish your presence:

  • Citysearch
  • Merchant Circle
  • YellowPages
  • Yelp
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Houzz
  • Local Chamber of Commerce
  • BBB
  • Local Trade Affiliations

3. Claim Your Google My Business (GMB) Listing for Full Control

Over the years Google My Business and Bing Places for Business have built their database of business listings. Even if you have never claimed your business listing the Search Engines may still be showing a listing for you!

It is critical for you to claim this listing so that you have full control over proper categorization of your business, description, address, and business hours.

There is a simple verification process for your GMB listing. Google mails you a postcard containing a PIN number you need for verification purposes. This confirms to Google that you are whom you say you are and indeed own the business you are attempting to claim.

4. Manage, Respond To, and Grow Your Reviews Online

Nowadays, both personal word-of-mouth referrals along with online reviews can influence whether or not we stay at a hotel, eat at a restaurant, hire a plumber, or even order a shirt from an online retailer.

The importance of controlling, managing, and growing customer reviews is finally catching the attention of businesses. A BrightLocal survey indicates that:

  • Online reviews are trusted as much as personal recommendations by 84% of those surveyed.
  • If asked, 70% of consumers will leave a review.
  • Positive reviews encourage 54% of consumers to visit a website.
  • Local businesses are trusted more when they have positive online reviews.
  • Less than 10 reviews are read before a consumer forms an opinion.
  • Reviews older than 3 months are not deemed relevant by consumers.
  • Over half of consumers agree that star ratings are important.

Seeking quality reviews on an ongoing basis is good business practice and keeps your brand in the forefront of consumers’ minds, helps you stand out from competitors, and also helps to minimize the one-off bad review you may get.

Don’t have the time or find it awkward to ask your customers for reviews? Consider our online Reputation Management Services that offer a fully automated software system that actually works behind the scenes to grow your reviews.

5. Structured Data Markup for Local

This markup language provides more information about your business to Google once it has been implemented in your website code. Most businesses use only the basic markup. This provides opportunities for business owners to outdistance their competitors by utilizing uncommonly used markup.

Google has a Structured Data Testing Tool you can use to determine if your markup implementation meets the required standards.

Want to learn more about how to win at Local SEO? Here are some additional articles by other SEOs in the industry as well as articles by our own team:

You can also call 1st on the List at 1-888-262-6687 if you have specific questions. We’d love to help you optimize your business for Local Search!

Additional Local SEO Marketing Tips and Articles:

Why & How Search Engines Choose Their Top Listings

Methods for top listings in the search enginesThe search engines are a great resource for information and they offer us the ability to have our web pages listed for free, but keep in mind that the search engines are in a multi-billion dollar industry. Because of this, the search engines are compelled to list only the most relevant web pages in their top 10 listing results.

The Quality of Your Web Pages Is a Reflection on the Search Engines

The listing results that the search engines deliver to their users are a reflection of that engine and web searcher’s have come to expect nothing but the best. When they conduct a search, searchers expect the most relevant listing results possible. This is what the search engines attempt to deliver.

Some search engines perform better than others. There have been situations where a search engine’s top listings consisted of sites that had no real information, or the pages didn’t load properly; or most of the links were not working.

The last thing a search engine wants is to have their searchers make an assumption that this search engine shows poor results. The search engines don’t want to risk losing searchers to another search engine, since that equates to lost revenue.

Understanding Search Engine Algorithms

The search engines are not biased as to who gets top rankings. Each search engine has their own set of algorithms (criteria) to help them determine which web pages best fit their pre-set criteria and which web pages don’t.

Those web pages that do a better job of delivering what the search engine algorithms are looking for tend to perform better in the search engine listing results.

The higher your pages are listed (especially in the top 10 listings) on a search engine:

  • The greater your website visibility
  • Which will attract a greater volume of highly targeted, highly qualified traffic
  • Which in turn, can mean greater sales

The goal for any website wanting to have their web pages rank well in the major search engines is to try to fit the mold (as set by the search engine algorithms).

In order to fit the mold you need to understand what factors the search engines use to make this determination.

When trying to figure this out, keep in mind the following;

  1. The end result is that the search engines want to show the most relevant results to a searcher’s query
  2. So your web pages must provide actual information (unique content) based on what the searcher is looking for (the search term used by the searcher)
  3. As a top listing, your web page must also provide a good user experience once the searcher has left the engine and entered into your site

Optimize Your Site & Server for the Search Engines

The major areas that search engines look at when determining how they will rank and list your web pages include your server and your site.

SERVER

It is imperative that your server is search engine and visitor friendly. This means that your server should:

  • Have a fast response time
  • Provide your site with a unique IP address
  • Have an impeccable up time percentage
  • Have a reverse DNS that is working correctly
  • Not have open DNS
  • Ensure your nameservers resolve correctly
  • Be ready for high traffic volume if the search engines send you a large volume of traffic each day

Important Note: If your server is slow, or not responding for any reason, this can also create a poor user experience, which makes it less likely that the search engines will even consider allowing your site to rank in the top ten for important search terms (or keyword phrases) found on your web pages. These type of server issues can have a significant negative impact on your web page rankings. View more information about server related issues and SEO.

SITE

When they come to visit your website the search engine robots will look at your site’s structure; all of your web pages individually and then your website as a whole.

In order to ensure good user experience, there are various areas of your website that the search engine robots will look at. Does your site include (or have):

  • A custom 404 error page
  • A robots.txt file
  • Broken links
  • Slow loading pages
  • Duplicate content
  • Or pages with very little or no content

Remember that the search engines feel that your website and your web page content is a reflection on the way searchers/users perceive the search engine’s results, which is a reflection on the search engines.
If the search engines allow sites with broken links, slow loading pages, page errors and pages that don’t provide what the user is looking for there is a higher risk that the searcher/user will go to another search engine to find what they need.

The search engines use artificial intelligence as a part of their algorithm to try and determine not only what your web pages are about, but to also ensure that you are not using any “black hat” underhanded tactics to try and have your web pages look more relevant than they actually are.

The more web pages that you have that support what the overall theme is about the more relevant your web pages will seem to the search engines.

A website that has 500 pages dedicated to a particular subject will likely be seen as more relevant than a website with only 5 pages dedicated to that subject. This is why it is important to continually add new content to your site on a regular basis that is unique, as well as informative.