The recent SMX conference got us thinking about forecasts for future changes that will affect all of us as online marketers. One topic that dominated conversation at the conference was the increasing importance and dominance of local search.
Increasingly, local listings have come to dominate search results pages. For many queries, after paid ads and local results, there is only room for one organic, non-local result above the fold on a search results page. In order to show up above the fold for many of these competitive terms, you either need to pay per click for traffic or totally crush your local SEO campaign.
Furthermore, Google has stated that 20 percent of searches on its properties have local intent, a figure that doubles to 40 percent for mobile search. These factors all point to the fact that if your local business is not ranking in local search, you're almost certainly missing out significantly on visibility and traffic.
Even if you've dabbled in local before, it's a good idea to revamp your campaign at regular intervals. If your campaign has grown a bit stale or simply isn't producing the results you were expecting, it's time to go back to the drawing board. Below I've outlined some tips to help put you on the map (Bet you didn't see that local SEO pun coming!)
Benchmark Your Efforts
First things first, keep up to date with the number of citations you have. An easy way to do this is to do a search for your business name, address, and phone number. By now you know that the more high quality citations you have the better, so keep an accurate count of these and monitor new ones that come in. Doing so will help you identify opportunities and "low-hanging fruit" as well as help you be more effective overall with your link building/citation strategy.
Find Alternative Citation Sources
As Will Scott (@w2scott) from Search Influence put it (paraphrasing here) - "If it has your NAP [Name, Address. Phone Number] info and it's near a link to your website, it's a citation." It's worthwhile to look outside the most common citation sources like Yelp and CitySearch to go after additional, outside-the-box citations.
Below is a citation for Grimaldi's, a classic Brooklyn pizzeria. The citation comes from nycgo.com, a particularly relevant citation source for someone in the restaurant business. Even though this isn't a traditional citation source, it's a valuable placement on a high quality site.
Whenever possible, incorporate your NAP information into your link building strategy.
Reviews should always be organically achieved. Don't try to game the system by buying reviews or enlisting employees to write them for you. It's a better use of time and money to try to inspire genuine reviews from real customers. Leverage email and social campaigns to encourage these reviews.
Amazon does a good job of following up with customers throughout the purchase process - even after the transaction is complete. Amazon's strategy could easily be repurposed for a local campaign - all you need is an email address. Send follow-ups whenever possible, thanking customers for their patronage or purchase and asking them for a review. One SMX presenter recommended segmenting email lists so you can direct logged in Gmail users directly to a Google review page, and Yahoo! Mail users to Yahoo! Local.
If you don't have a large email database to pull from, try reaching out to your social communities. If they love you, you shouldn't have trouble inspiring a number of them to write reviews.
Speaking of Reviews...Diversity Counts
Google does not pull in reviews from other sites to show on their own search results pages, so reviews from Yelp and others will never show up in SERPS. That said, Google has stated that reviews from a variety of sources may be used as a factor to determine the location prominence score of a business. If you only have reviews from one or two sources, make an effort to encourage diversification of review sources.
Local Information On-Site
Securing a large volume of high quality citations can be difficult and time consuming. Luckily, there are onsite factors you can work on to make a difference in the meantime.
If you are a multi-location business, building out single location landing pages as opposed to using a single page format will make a huge difference in ensuring that all locations have a chance of ranking in local search.
Also consider incorporating your NAP information in onsite elements, like title tags and HTML tags, on local landing pages to give strong signals to the engines that you are a local business.
Let us know in the comments if you have any other tips for optimizing local campaigns!