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Monday, April 8, 2013

10 Step Beginner's Local SEO Guide

Local SEO Guide - 10 Easy Steps

This resource is dedicated to the hard working small business owners who know the importance of SEO and Online Marketing but don’t have the budget to hire a professional.  At Digital Key Design we know what it’s like to be the little guys and we want to help out in any way possible.


If you are a new business starting out fresh the process will be a little different from an established business who may already have listings. This Local SEO Guide will be a great starting point and reference for you on your journey.  This guide will help you to develop a strategy to rank your business in  your local area using a combination of Brand Message, Search Engine Optimization, and Social MediaDigital Key Design will introduce a few unique acronyms in this guide which are as follows :

GSK – Geo Specific Keyword
   TK – Target Keyword
 TLK – Target Local Keyword

Happy Hunting!


LOCAL SEO GUIDE OVERVIEW


 1.  Find Target Keywords
 2.  Research Your Local Market
 3.  Analyze Your Market
 4.  Make a Plan
 5.  Update & Delete Listings
 6.  Grow Your Citations
 7.  Verify Your Local Listings
 8.  Local Navigation
 9.  Reviews
10. Local Up Keep    



1. Find Target Keywords


Keywords are important, very important. Starting with keywords is a solid base to build any SEO campaign. The goal is to find the most relevant words for your business that also have the highest local monthly search volume. There are plenty of other great articles on the net about keyword selection so I won’t go too deeply into the process. Local keyword selection consists of adding Geographic Specific Keywords (GSK) to your Target Keyword (TK).
 

GSK + TK = TLK (Target Local Keyword) 
Example: 
GSK = Albuquerque
TK = Wedding Flowers
TLK = Albuquerque Wedding Flowers


An Example Would Be as Follows :




You may also want to find variations using state, zip code, and neighborhoods in addition to alternating the Target Keywords and GSK in location.  A great way to find a target zip code  is to use the data that is freely available at the US Census. 


Example TLK:  Albuquerque SEO, SEO Albuquerque, New Mexico SEO, SEO New Mexico, SEO NM, NM SEO, 87174 SEO, SEO 87124, etc. etc…




2. Research Your Local Market


      Once you have your Target Local Keyword, you can begin doing some research. I recommend opening up all three major search engines: Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Then sign out of any associated accounts that may alter your results (Gmail, Ymail, Hotmail, etc.). Search your Target Local Keyword in all of the engines and begin examining the results. Who ranks #1, #2, and #3? I recommend setting up an excel spreadsheet for each engine and recording the top 10 for your TLK.  Record all of the local and top organic results up to 10 total spots. Record the business name, linked URL, total number of reviews, reviews of each star level, and business address information. 

 

3. Analyze Your Market

Visit the top ten ranked websites and various profiles, then browse around a bit. What kinds of info and text do they have? What other internal pages do they link to? Are they running specials, sales, and promotions? You’re not looking to copy anyone, you are just getting an idea of what other business' that are high ranking are doing. Are there any consistencies across the top ranking pages? Is there anything you saw you really liked? Is there anything you really didn’t like? Read the reviews good and bad. What are the fans saying? What are the critics saying? Are there any areas you excel in which your competition is weak? Are you able to spot any potential weakness of your business that you can address before you get a bad review?




      4.  Make A Plan

Based on what you previously found, it’s time to build a plan for your local campaign. Building local listings consists of creating an account and adding contact info. You should spend some quality time developing content for these profiles. Often times users will make buying decision based solely on local listing and never even visit the company website. This is why a quality brand message is important. Start with a Tag Line and short description that’s one to two sentences long. Then you should development a much more in-depth, long description. All of the above should incorporate the following in some way :

Who your company is and what you represent.
Why is your business unique, special and/or better than the competition.
What are the products and/or service that you sell?

Record this information in a new file so you can quickly reference it. Copy and paste will be your best friends. 
Keyboard hot keys are Ctrl+C for copy and Ctrl+V for paste.

In the same file, create a section for your business address. The goal is to have a consistently listed address across multiple local listing and directories.  I recommend using an official post office long listed address. Most directories are smart enough to shorten and abbreviate your long listing style if needed. An Example of a long listing would be :


Business Name
123 South Main Street North East
Suite A7
City, State Zip Code


This also includes your phone number. If you have multiple phone numbers pick one phone number to be listed across local listings, directories, and your website. Along with the actual number you chose, select a consistent style preferably the conventional +1 (555) 555-1234


 

      5.       Update & Delete Listings

If you already have local listings, start by making a list of accounts, login names, passwords, and associated email addresses. If you don’t have or can’t remember the user names and passwords associated with the accounts you will have to manually search for your business listings. The best place to start is the major search engines and their Local Listings. To find additional listings for your business search each of these engines for your business name in quotations. “Business Name” This will return only results that match your business name exactly. I recommend first making a list of all of your listings and then going back and making changes. This is a much easier and more thorough way to track your progress.

Once you think you have everything, try an additional search using the following advanced search operator intext:”Business Name”. This will return additional sites that have an exact match in their page’s text of your business name. If you have changed your address or business name you want to go a step further and search for both the current and old addresses as well as the old business name. If you have previously listed several phone numbers across the web it may be a good idea to do a search for all of those numbers.

Once you have an extensive list built you can begin the process of claiming and updating your listings with your newly developed brand message, clean up address listings and preferred phone numbers. Make sure to update your list of user names and passwords as you claim listings so that you can login in to make updates in the future.

Delete any duplicate listings, old address listings, and old business name listings. Sometimes you can contact sites' editors and have these listing merged to pass on some of the old listings' authority and keep any good reviews that may exist. This can be a long and daunting process that is well worth the effort if you are willing to make it.

Digital Key Design also recommends submitting your updated address and contact info to all of the major information providers the various search engines get their data from, including InfoGroup, Localeze, and Acxiom.




       6.  Grow Your Citations

If you are just starting out or don’t have many current listings you will need to build them.  Even if you have quite a few, you will want to continue to grow the amount of places that list your address and contact info. Most of these sites and directories link back to your website, which has value of it's own. Additionally, having your address and info listed consistently across the web reinforces its accuracy and thus increases trust. Not to mention that not everyone searches the same way and the more places that people can possibly find your business the better. Here is a list to get you started. 


Search Engines
·         Google Plus
·         Yahoo Local
·         Bing Local
 Social
·         Facebook
·         Twitter
·         Foursquare
·         Tumblr
·         Stumble Upon
·         Digg
·         Delicious
·         Reddit
Other Local Directories You May Want to Consider
·         Insider Pages
·         Local.com
·         Merchant Circle
·         Urban Spoon
·         MojoPages.com
·         Super Pages
·         White Pages
·         Yellow Book
·         Yellow Bot
·         Yellow Pages
·         Yelp
·         Express Update
·         Best of the Web
·         Nokia
 

To find local directories specific to your location simply try a search for the following terms + your GSK. 


Business List, Listing, Directory, Guide.
Example: “Albuquerque Business List” “Albuquerque Guide”  “Albuquerque Directory”, etc.


You can see how you could potentially take this process further and further, doing more and more in-depth searches as your heart desires.

Another quick way to find new places to be listed is by simply doing the research involved in step 5 on all of your competitor’s business names. Then compare your competitor’s citations with the list of your own. Doing this for all 10 of your previously recorded competition’s businesses should return some new results and hopefully some new ideas on where to look in the future. To take this even one step further continue to do the same research for the second page of search results, the third, the fourth even. The main thing to keep in mind here is that just because a site isn’t ranking well doesn’t mean it can’t teach you something new.



7. Verify Local Listings


Some of these listings will update quickly, instantly even. Others will take some time, anywhere from days to weeks to months. That is why it’s really important to keep an updated list of all your business’s citations, login, information, and dates of last updates as well as change verification dates. To verify your listings accuracy I recommend always checking them manually which is why it is a good idea to also keep track of your listings' direct URLs. A great free tool can be found at GetListed.Org in which you can quickly verify your listing on all the major sites.



8. Local Navigation


Some people may be searching for your business using navigation devices such as TomTom, or even their cell phone/carrier specific navigation such as iPhones navigation system: Apple Maps. While this technically isn’t Local SEO or SEO even, I thought it important to include in this guide. Navigation is often an overlooked aspect and can be an easy win over your competition. The major players for GPS are as follows:  NAVTEQ, TeleAtlas, and InfoUSA.
     

9. Reviews


As you can image reviews are a big deal to both your customers and the search engines themselves. Having a few Good reviews can drive sales through the roof just as one Negative review can stop them dead in their tracks.

1.       Getting Reviews

It’s important to get reviews especially good ones and because of this I highly advise you to avoid buying and or creating fake reviews like the plague.  The review filters are strict and you run the risk of losing your real reviews along with your fake ones. The best approach to getting reviews is to simply ask and occasionally remind your real fans to review you. You may put a sign near the register that says “Don’t forget to check in while you’re here and review us if you liked our service.” Be general don’t ask for specific review sites, let the user decide. This way they will post on the platform most familiar and most used by them. This means others in a similar demographic and niches are more likely to see the review. It also helps you avoid a filter if the user is active on that platform.

2.       Sharing Good Reviews

Now that you have a few good reviews share them with the world. Don’t be scared! This is where our social platforms come into play. In addition to adding to the authority of listings, social media platforms are a great way to share your positive reviews with fans and followers. Oftentimes if the user who left the review is a follower and sees you have shared their review they will share it with their friends too! This is not something you want to overdo but done in moderation can build up positive brand recognition and add great content for any social media campaign you may also be running.

       3.       Responding to Bad Reviews

Bad reviews happen, even to the best of us. It’s always better to respond quickly and publicly than to leave a bad review unattended. Tell the reviewer you are sorry! The customer is always right. Provide contact information and an offer to make it right explaining this is not what your brand believes in. Oftentimes having a bad review and responding shows how great your service/guarantee is and can be better than not having any bad reviews. It helps build trust in the buyer that if they are unhappy they will be taken care of.  Also don’t be afraid to call out a fake bad review if you seen one. Report it through the proper channels and publicly call it out as a fake also providing the previous offer of redemption if they are in fact a real customer.



4.       Dealing With Filtered & Hidden Reviews



Because of the importance of reviews, they are quickly taken advantage of by both business owners hoping to game the system with fake reviews and crush the competition with fake bad reviews. This means the search engines and directory listings have to be extra careful about the reviews they publicly publish. They have in place both automatic (robot) and human review filters to ensure accuracy.  Unfortunately what appear to be fake reviews and what actually are fake reviews aren't always the same thing. Prevention, as stated above, is the best method of keeping reviews from being hidden. If you do have reviews that are filtered there's not much you can really do, but you can try to plead your case to the powers that be, in hopes that they listen. The only other option is building a page on your own website with screen shots of both the hidden and shown reviews linking to the real reviews. Frequently even the hidden reviews can be found and linked to the exact location. Then you can write in your business’s description “To read what others have to say view our review page: http://www.example123.com/reviews” This way if the platform allows one, links will be automatically created, and if not, the URL address will be provided should they choose to inquire further.


10. Local Up Keep


Now that we have selected keywords, researched our market, analyzed our competition, built a plan & brand message, updated profiles & listings, built new citations, verified our listings & changes, updated GPS info, built good reviews, shared our reviews, responded to bad reviews and dealt with hidden reviews, it's time to keep the process in motion.  Now that you have made an extensive list of profiles it is important to keep up with these reviews, good and bad. You should also continue to look for opportunities to be listed with your address and contact info along with a link to your site.  Some other ideas on where to look for these listings are:
·         Organizations & Associations
·         Local Chamber of Commerce
·         Events & Seminars
·         Fundraising & Sponsorships
·         Speaking Engagements
·         Networking Groups

While I have tried to make this guide as complete as possible there is always more. Business citations are very important to local SEO but are really only one of many Local SEO ranking factors.  If you would like even more information on Local SEO there are a number of other articles and guides on the topic that may be of use.  And you could always try a quick search in the good ole search engines…..

Remember, if this all seems too overwhelming or troublesome you can always hire a professional. Check us out if you happen to be in the Albuquerque,NM area.