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5 Local Search Tactics You Must Employ Today

This post is one in a series of tips designed to guide small business owners through the challenges of today’s startup environment and is sponsored by Canon MAXIFY – the printer lineup designed to help small business owners increase productivity so that they can focus on everything else that matters. For more information about the Canon MAXIFY printer lineup visit here 

Search is pretty much everything these days.

photo credit: D.Clow - Maryland via photopin cc

photo credit: D.Clow – Maryland via photopin cc

Even businesses that rely on people in their town, coming into their place of business to complete a transaction, are held to the fact that, increasingly, most buying decisions start out with an online search.

The category of local search engine optimization has picked up steam over the last few years as search behavior combined with the rapid growth of smart phone use created a truly mobile search consumer. Services like Yext have cropped up just to help tackle this very specific form of SEO.

Below are five local search tactics that demand your attention today if you are a local oriented business.

Get the NAP right

NAP stands for Name, Address and Phone and the search engines obviously want to make sure that when someone is looking for a local business there’s no ambiguity around what and where the business is.

Google depends upon list and data compilers to make sure this information is accurate and up to date. If you’ve been in business more than a few months there’s a good chance your business is in one or more of the directories that Google depends on, but in addition to adding business to these directories you must make certain that the information is correct and consistent.

MOZLocal is a great free tool for analyzing the current state and gaps in your directory listings.

Local profiles matter

Profiles in social, local and review sites such as Yelp, can be a great place to add lots local information.

While many people are familiar with the more popular networks such as Google+ and Facebook, there are other important directories that might help in giving your local business an edge. MOZLocal is one of the best tools for automating this process.

Localize your content

Many people forget to consider their web content and make sure that they are adding localized content where it makes sense. Obvious things like blog posts with suburb names and maps with directions are a must, but you might also consider adding a community calendar and blogging about events that happen in your town.
The Yoast Local SEO Plugin is an invaluable tool for optimizing content on WordPress sites.

Consider adding location specific landing pages where you might have content specific to a suburb, town or even neighborhood.

Reviews drive local trust

Reviews are one of the many ranking factors Google throws into what businesses show up for a local search. If you search on a term like “SEO” and Google thinks you are in say, in Kansas City, you are going to see a list of Kansas City based SEO companies.

If you do this search yourself take note of the fact that all of the local pages listed also have Google+ Pages associated and while not all have reviews, the ones that do certainly stand out.

Get serious about collecting reviews! Tools like Grade.us and GetFiveStars can help make this process more streamlined.

Local social

Don’t forget to add to your overall local approach by localizing much of your social media activity. As mentioned above, your profiles are a great place to start, but you can go beyond that as you post new content and updates.

Think about ways to curate local content to share in social media. GeoTarget your social media advertising with local personalization. Find and use popular localized hashtags. See if anyone has created local Twitter lists of influencers you can tap into.

When you work consistently on the local search tactics outlined above you can expect to gradually start raising your local search profile to the point where Google may become your greatest source of leads.

 

Canon will be spotlighting several small business owners on its social media channels throughout the next several months, so be sure to leave a comment and share your thoughts on this post using the hashtag #MAXIFY in order to qualify. If you are a U.S.-based small business owner (1-9 employees) and have faced a unique business challenge in your first year on the job, let us know! We’d love to hear what line of work your small business falls within and what you feel is the most important takeaway from this post. We’ll also be rewarding select small business owners with a prize pack including the Canon MAXIFY MB5320 printer as well as other essentials to help you run your business more efficiently. So don’t forget to leave a link to your website or social media pages that way we can see how well you’re marketing your business and get in touch!

How Can I Get My Local Business to Rank Higher in Search?

Friday is “Question of the Week” day here at Duct Tape Marketing. Each Friday I’ll tackle a specific question I received via readers or in places where I’m speaking. Submit your question here and if we use it we’ll highlight you and send you a signed copy of Duct Tape Marketing.

For today’s answer I wish I could say there was some magic pixie dust, but the fact is getting your local business to show up high in the search results takes some work.

For the local business the goal must be to move into what is referred to as the Google Local Pack – those 6-8 listing that show up for a local search. This is particularly important on mobile devices that are often pinpointing local only.

The Google Local Pack

There are many factors and of course a great deal has to do with the competitive nature of your particular industry.

However, there are several tried and true steps that you should take in order to give your business the best chance possible

Clean up your NAP

NAP is the directory acronym for Name, Address and Phone. This data clearly tells that a business is local and guess what – if you’ve been around for a while there’s a good chance some data source has this wrong.

Here’s how to assure you have an accurate NAP listing in as many places as possible.

Go the USPS site and get the correct address format for your business

Check with these major data providers to ensure your listing is complete and accurate.

Get listed

Now that your listing is accurate with the data folks, make sure that you listing in some of the more popular online business directories. Claim enhance these profiles.

One of the best tools for doing this is getlisted.org – this free tool will find your listing or lack of in some of the major directories and lead you to the place where you can edit and add.

Brightlocal is another very powerful paid tool for improving your local presence.

Get reviewed

Reviews carry a lot of weight, both with search engines and would be customers. You must get serious about this aspect of local search. Note the image above – the site that ranks #1 in Google has the best review profile.

The three most important place to focus your review work are

  • Google+Local – Google want your business on Google+ so they’ve moved the local pages there. Start building your local page and focus on getting more reviews.
  • Yelp – On top of being the biggest review site Yelp provides Bing Local results.
  • Foursquare – this location based check in site is working hard on becoming a local directory and should not be ignored.

Bing local listings

Localize your pages

One of the most overlooking opportunities is the local nature of the content on your site. Make sure you:

  • Add your NAP in Schema.org format to every page
  • Add local terms such as suburbs, neighborhoods, places and events in your titles and subtitles.
  • Create localized happenings and news pages
  • Create site sections or landing pages dedicated to local phrases.

For WordPress users one of the best things you can invest in is the Local SEO for WordPress plugin from Yoast. This plug in will handle a great deal of the techie stuff for you and let you do some nice things with maps and directions.

One Simple Tactic That Can Give You an Unfair Advantage in Local Search

Showing up in local search results is a pretty big deal if you’re any sort of local business. When people search online locally, but plan to buy offline locally, being the organization they find first and find when mobile could mean the difference between growth and death.

While lots of people publish tips about Google Places pages, local web content, address citations and the sort, not enough people are talking about the power of local video when it comes to gaining an advantage in local search.

Many people are talking about video from a content standpoint and I agree, but what about locally optimized video for SEO. I’ve seen this intentional tactic produce some pretty incredible results in a very short time – particularly when it comes to a Google and YouTube combination.

See, here’s the deal – Google wants to give people interesting search results and as often as possible that includes a mix of local Places pages, videos, products, images and blog posts all mashed together on page one for specific search phrases.

Local businesses that get good at producing and optimizing video can find their YouTube videos zapped to page one for highly competitive search terms with very little effort.

I did a little test over the weekend to prove this theory. Granted there may be other factors at play here, but here’s what I and I believe you can do it too.

I am hosting a couple workshops in Kansas City in June. Since this is for me a rare local play I wanted to see what could do to get some local search results. So, here’s what I did.

  • I created a very brief video recorded directly to YouTube.
  • I even did a little bit of editing using the new YouTube Tools
  • I named the video Kansas City Marketing Workshop and Training
  • I added a description with this term
  • I added keywords that related to the term
  • I saved the video
  • I embedded the video on a page on my site.
  • I pointed to the video on YouTube from my Facebook page

Total time invested was about 15 minutes. About 30 minutes later this video showed up on page one for the search term – “Kansas City Marketing Workshop”

Kansas City Marketing Training and Workshop video

A day later it moved to the #2 position for the search term and #4 position for the term Kansas City Marketing Training. I conducted these searches logged out of my Google account and even received the same results using private browsing in Safari.

There’s no telling how long this video will stay at the top of the results for my search term, but it certainly reinforced the idea that this is a powerful way to gain additional local search results while creating useful content.

Below are tips to keep in mind as you explore this tactic:

Do the keyword research

Use a tool like WordTracker or Google Keyword Tool to hunt for some search phases that make the most sense. You’re not looking for hyper competitive terms like “Marketing,” you’re looking for longer, less searched phrases that you can quickly impact.

Also keep in mind those frequently asked questions. Focus on making videos that address those issues.

Create multiple videos

The idea behind this approach is to create dozens of simple videos that allow you to build a library of content that addresses many of the things your prospects are searching for.

Make the videos sell

Make sure you add URLs and annotations to your videos so you can send people to pages that give them even more information.

Optimize for specific terms

Use the search phases you uncover as your video titles, in descriptions and as keyword combination. Do a search on YouTube for the phrase you are trying to win and see what comes up. Once you find the top videos in your search term make note of the keywords and borrow liberally.

Point to the videos

Google loves it when other sites point to videos that are hosted on YouTube. You can give your videos even more juice by linking to them from your web site, Facebook and other video hosting sites.

Experiment with the intriguing little tactic and you may uncover some pretty fantastic results for frequently searched terms that might not otherwise stand a chance of competing for.

5 Ways to Improve Local Search Results for Business

“This article originally appeared on the OPEN App Center. Visit www.theopenappcenter.com for more information and resources for streamlining and growing your business.”

Local SearchIncreasingly, when folks turn to a search engine, they aren’t looking for something around the world, they’re looking for something around the block. The good news for local businesses is they aren’t just looking; they’re jumping in the car, going out and buying what they find when they search.

Make it a priority to improve search results for your business, because this new way of finding and buying locally means that your business better show up in the top results when people turn to a search engine to shop locally.

Below are five local search engine optimization and search engine marketing plays that you can do today to improve your chances of coming up big in the local search game.

Be Geographically Complete.

Search engines want to return the best local search results, so make sure you have lots of local markers on your pages and pointing to your pages. Things like addresses, city names, suburb names, neighborhood names, zip codes, area codes, maps and directions are all markers that say your business is local. Sprinkle this kind of data liberally throughout your site and make sure you use city names in high priority text such as internal links and headlines.

You should also have geographic links pointing to your business. You can do this by adding local links and descriptions that point to your site in social media profiles and exchanging links with other local businesses and strategic partners.

Lastly, make sure the location data in the primary directory and data service providers is accurate and complete. Two of the best ways to accomplish this little technical piece is to visit GetListed.org or use the annual listing service of UBL.org

Be a Community Resource.

Another powerful way to improve local search results and amplify your local search opportunities is to create content that is related to your community, regardless of whether it directly relates to your products or services.

A great example of this might include coverage of local sporting events or festivals. A B2B example might include maintaining a calendar of networking events or business related seminars.

Using a little RSS magic and a bookmarking tool like Delicious, you could even automate the aggregation of news and other related content for neighborhoods with very little work.

The net effect is that you’ll improve local search results by creating content that offers value to local readers and this is just the kind of information the search engines value the most.

Create Neighborhood Pages.

If you serve a number of communities in a large metropolitan area, it’s probably a good idea to add suburb- or neighborhood-specific pages with extra information personalized to that part of town.

Some of your information on these pages might be identical, but try to make them as unique as you can so that the search engines see them as different pages or you won’t get them seen. You should add unique images with local descriptions, unique geographic terms and neighborhood descriptions or news.

You can also use these pages as landing pages for offline ads as well. If you want to promote your business in a suburban newspaper, for example, you can send readers to the unique page you’ve created for that suburb and create a more personalized experience.

Encourage Ratings and Reviews.

The local search directories created by Google, Bing and Yahoo play a large role in the local search results. If Google, for example, is convinced someone has a local intent in their search, either based on physical location or a geographic term in the actual search, they will return results of local Google Places pages.

It’s critical that your business claims and enhances its Google Places, Bing Local and Yahoo Local pages, but you must also start to proactively build reviews from happy customers on these pages as these reviews are a key contributor to a business showing up high in the local results.

Simply asking for reviews and pointing people to your Google Places page is a good way to start the review ball rolling

Take Advantage of Local Real Estate.

The final local search suggestion involves placing videos, images, and slides in a number of sharing sites such as YouTube, Picasa, Slideshare or Flickr. These free sites allow you upload videos and other assets. You can use these sites to host and stream your videos on your own site, but you can also use the fact that many people search these sites to draw local search traffic.

When you upload your files to these sites make sure you give the file local names, tag them with local terms and describe the content of the file with rich local descriptions. Most of these sites also allow you to geotag where the video or image was shot.

The various tactics to improve search results described above may seem like little things taken individually, but collectively they can add up to big results in the increasingly competitive local search engine game.

Making Local Reviews Part of the Content Strategy

Reviews from customers must be seen as an important part of the overall content strategy for any business, particularly local businesses. The fact that prospects have begun to expect to find reviews and rely heavily on those reviews when making buying decisions combined with the data that suggests search engines seem to be using reviews as a major component in local rankings, requires a major mind shift when it comes to addressing the category of reviews.

It’s no longer enough to sit back and hope you get some nice reviews from all those happy customers. In today’s increasingly competitive local search environment, you’ve got to make reviews a significant piece of your content strategy and build processes to make sure your business is focused on leveraging every review you can acquire.

It may seem like I’m being a bit overly dramatic here, but the reason I believe this is going to take a mind shift is that it’s also going to take some work, but right now the organizations that are working this angle hard are winning.

Here’s a mini case study to help illustrate this point: (This story is courtesy of Postling)

Park Slope Eye has a very fully developed Yelp business page

Dr. Justin Bazan of Park Slope Eye in Brooklyn has embraced social media and review sites with enthusiasm and it appears to be paying off. Park Slope Eye has over 100 positive reviews on Yelp and is approaching that number on Google Maps as well. Do a Google search for Brooklyn Optometrist and Park Slope Eye come up number one in the local listing.

An emphasis on reviews and social media is paying off for this local business

According to Bazan reviews are so important that they justify the extra work that may come with embracing the tactic. For example, Yelp has a review filter that holds reviews from people that don’t appear to be very active or have a level of credibility on Yelp. This filter is one of Yelp’s tools to keep people from gaming the system with fabricated reviews or reviews generated though campaigns. (The filter isn’t perfect, but it’s there.)

Credibility, in Yelp’s definition, evolves from the level of activity from the Yelper (ie. the level of engagement of the review, and a few other factors like how complete their profile is)

Since Park Slope was putting so much emphasis on reviews on Yelp, they were receiving them, but many were getting stuck in Yelp’s review filter and, while Buzan could see them in his account, they were not available publicly, so he added this step to his process.

“To get reviews out of the filter I went into my filtered reviews and pulled up the reviewer’s individual review of Park Slope Eye. I began to engage that review and reviewer. I sent the reviewer a compliment, a message, and voted the review as useful, funny, or cool depending on the context. I did that for all of the reviews. Lastly, I added them as a friend, which you can do as a business owner. After doing all of this the review was taken out of the filter and is publicly accessible.”

Okay, now understand that in order to get the kinds of reviews they get, they’re doing a few other things right, but this is a great example of how a local business, doing great things, can get great results for very little money using a customer content strategy and social media tools.

In fact, their own website is totally downplayed and somewhat ineffective (except I dig the Dave Brubeck music), but it doesn’t really matter because in their particular case, the reviews from Yelp and Google rise to the top when someone does a search, local or otherwise. (They even point to their Yelp page as their website in their Google Place page and on Facebook)

This kind of engagement around reviews and taking their creation on as a content strategy is the kind of grass roots marketing that every local business must embrace.

Rethinking Keywords and Mobile

Google mobile search and Google search are two different animals and understanding more about both has become a necessary evil. Currently, the results returned when doing a search on a mobile device can vary greatly from those done on a desktop (SEORoundtable)

The biggest difference being that Google figures if you’re on a mobile it’s likely your intent is more local focused – plus it’s easier to know exactly where the search is being conducted.

The other issue is that people turning to the mobile browser tend to search on that device a little differently, think more abbreviated, than they do on the desktop and that’s something we all need to understand a little better.

The Google Keyword Tool is a tool that every marketer must have in the toolbox as a quick way to understand some data on the kinds of things people are actually searching for – or at least the actual words and phrases they use most when looking for what you offer.

Google Keyeword Tool

You access mobile data through the "Advanced options" link

The tool recently received a nice little update with the addition of mobile search data. Using this tool is the first step to understanding the keyword differences inherent in mobile search. The reason I think this is such an important topic is that at some point mobile search will be the dominant form of search – it’s already there for some industries. (BIA Kelsey Report)

It’s time to start thinking about blending some of your keyword strategies to make them more mobile centric – and of course getting serious about local optimization. (5 Ways to Make Your Website Scream Local)

Some observation’s from playing with the tool

  • If you sell something that is mobile related or found primarily via a phone you’ll get far better keyword ideas
  • You can now have a much fuller picture of the search volume for phrases – mobile is doubling and tripling volume estimates
  • This is a pretty significant piece in the local search optimization game

Here’s Google’s official help page for using the Keyword Tool.

5 Ways to Get More From Your Google Place Page

I write a fair amount about local search because it’s an important topic that’s only going to become more important as millions upon millions of folks move over to smart phones to do their browsing and shopping.

The undisputed leader in all things search is Google and so it’s important to pay close attention to the shifting landscape of local tools and services created and supported by Google. You might want to start with this overview video from Google – How Local Search Ranking Works.

Google Place Pages

In today’s post I want to cover the Google Place page and make sure you understand some of the ways to get this centerpiece in the local search game working hard for you.

1) Claim – The first step of course is to claim your Place page. There’s a pretty good chance that a listing exists from a phone record so start with Add Your Listing page and see if you can locate by phone number. Once you do you’ll be given the chance to edit the listing. You will have to verify ownership and any changes to basic information will require that you verify again, but make sure you do it. Take the official Google Place Page tour here.

List your business name exactly as it is, don’t get cute by adding geographic terms as Google may whack you for this. List your address and even if you have a toll free number list your local number as the area code is a big location signal for Google (You can list more than one number.)

Home based business or businesses that want to designate a wide service area can choose this option in Service Areas and Location Settings and then list zip codes or service distance and then hide the home address from the listing if they like. – This video describes service areas.

2) Keywords, Categories, and Description – During the process of enhancing your profile you will get the chance to pick the category that best describes your business. You get to use 5 and you should add them all. Make sure you use the most accurate terms suggested by Google in their list, but you can create custom categories not on the list if they are indeed accurate. This is a place where Google gets a little miffed if you try to stuff location words in so be careful and don’t get too creative.

Use your description to get your important keywords and location terms in – blah blah blah a keyword and keyword service serving city, suburb and neighborhood – but don’t stuff, make these read well to human eyeballs.

3) Add Video and Images - Google gives you the ability to add photos and video and you should take advantage of this. In fact, you absolutely should add at least one photo, even if it’s just your logo, as it will show next to your listing in place searches. You get the chance to upload a photo from your computer, but consider adding images to Google Picasa or Flickr and taking the time to geotag them. This way when you add the photos by giving Google the URL to the photo you get some extra geographic data.

You can list up to 5 YouTube video URLs and my feeling is that if these are described, optimized and geotagged well on YouTube (a Google company) it can only help your cause. Video embedded in your page also makes for a more engaging page when someone shows up too.

4) Google Tags and Google Boost - Tags and Boost are two new local advertising options for your Place Page and they do cost money. By purchasing either of these options you won’t enhance your chances to show up higher in Google’s index, but you can make your listing stand out and they may be worth the fairly low cost.

For a flat monthly fee of $25, businesses can enhance their listings that appear on Google.com and Google Maps with a yellow tag that emphasizes specific information such as a coupon, video, website, menu, reservations, photos, or a custom message.

Boost enables business owners to easily create online search ads from directly within their Google Places account. This way your local ads show up in the sponsored results and you get a blue pin instead of a red one. (Not available everywhere yet – use this form to get notified when it’s available in your city)

5) Rate and Review – Anyone visiting your Google Place Page can write a review as long as they have a Google account. Ratings appear to play a fairly significant role in getting your Place Page to rank well although Google won’t say much on the subject. Getting lots of positive reviews, even if they weren’t a ranking factor is good for business. While you don’t want to create anything that is fake you do want to put some energy into stimulating reviews.

  • Any time a customer compliments ask for a review, post those reviews in other prominent places such as your store and website.
  • Go through your list of customers and highlight those with GMail addresses – there’s a good chance they are can more easily participate.
  • Get in the habit of reviewing your business customers, suppliers and partners – check out the Google Hotpot tool.

The local search game will continue to evolve, but don’t pass up this chance to start building your local foundation right now!

Google Place Search Changes the Local Game Again

Last week Google reshuffled/revealed its local search strategy by introducing something called Place Search.

Place search eliminates the local search 7 box and blends local and organic results in a way that clearly demonstrates how important local search is to them – and consequently to your local small business.

Google has been steadily improving its ability to predict your location and offer up local results even without the use of a city name or location in your query. (It’s very interesting to experiment with this function one letter at a time in Instant Search.)

Google Place Search - note the map has moved too

One thing that’s certain from this new look is that you must claim, optimize, amplify, and participate on your Google Places Page. If you thought this was a nice thing you would get around to someday, stop right now and go get this in the works. It will be very hard for a business to rank well for local search lacking a dynamic Google Places Page.

Once you claim your Places page you must go to work on the elements that will give your page a competitive advantage

1) Add images, video and product/service descriptions to your page. Add custom fields to get more relevant content. Spend time getting the right Places categories.
2) Get listed in other second tier directories – here’s the easiest way
3) Get involved in the ratings game – on Google, Yelp, CitySearch, InsiderPages – reviews on your Google Places page and from other major review sites are a key ingredient for higher local ranking and have become an expectation from shoppers.

Ratings and reviews are an important ranking factor

4) Start routinely using the Places Posting feature to add fresh content
5) Add coupons and try out the Google Tags