Local SEO – Online Marketing Blog – TopRank® http://www.toprankblog.com Wed, 17 Jan 2018 11:30:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.2 A Small Business Owner’s Guide to Local Search Optimization http://www.toprankblog.com/2015/07/local-search-optimization/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2015/07/local-search-optimization/#comments Thu, 16 Jul 2015 10:30:44 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=18927 It’s a restaurant owner’s worst online nightmare – someone is searching for a restaurant in your neighborhood and your business doesn’t appear until page 7 of the search results, right below the creepy deli/gas station hybrid three towns over. According to a 2014 Google study, 50% of mobile users are most likely to visit a [...]

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small business owner

It’s a restaurant owner’s worst online nightmare – someone is searching for a restaurant in your neighborhood and your business doesn’t appear until page 7 of the search results, right below the creepy deli/gas station hybrid three towns over.

According to a 2014 Google study, 50% of mobile users are most likely to visit a storefront within a day of conducting a local search online. Over the next few years it’s very probable that these numbers will only continue to increase. With conversion rates like these, it’s clear that there are revenue driving benefits to optimizing your local presence so that you can be seen online by more of your potential customers.

Small business owners often wear many hats: accountant, business strategist, general manager and marketer. I’d venture to say that search engine specialist likely isn’t at the top of your resume, and it doesn’t need to be if you follow these simple steps to ensure that your local business’s online presence is off to the right start.

#1 – Lock Down Local Directories

Take a few minutes to research what local directories (ex: Yelp, SuperPages, YellowPages, UrbanSpoon, DexxKnows, etc.) are ranking on page one of Google for the keywords you are targeting as part of your SEO strategy. Next you’ll want to identify the top five directories, uncover whether your business is listed on them and take steps to claim the listing or create a new listing for each.

Below is an example of the directories that appear for a local search for “watch repair”. If you’re a watch repair shop in Minneapolis, but aren’t listed on these local directories, or are categorized incorrectly, your business won’t be presented as an option on these sites.

watch repair minneapolis

Tips for claiming and optimizing your local business listings:

  • Standardize your company name. Take the time to ensure your business name is correct and consistent across all listings. This solidifies signals to the search engines that help boost brand-name based rankings.
  • Opt for a local phone number. List your company’s local phone number instead of a toll-free number. Google prefers to see a local number that is consistent with your geographical location.
  • Include keywords. Ensure 1-2 of your priority keywords are integrated into the business description. Priority keywords are generally centered on your main products or services. If you’re a Pizza Hut in Denver, your priority keywords would most likely be “denver pizza delivery” or “denver pizza”.
  • Utilize imagery options. Adding an appropriately sized logo and images of your business will ensure your listings appear official and polished.

#2 – Optimize Google Local Listing

Despite the upcoming changes to Google+ as a social platform, your company’s Google Local listing is still the most important local listing to claim and optimize. This page appears in company-related local searches and in Google Maps results.

cold stone creamery

Tips for claiming and optimizing your Google Local listing:

  • Optimize your business description. Take advantage of Google’s option to hyperlink text within the business description area. Link to your highest priority services pages or products on your website.
  • Be strategic with your login credentials. If you have a company YouTube account, claim your listing using the same Google login. This will allow you to easily feed YouTube videos into your Google Local listing.
  • Upload a high quality banner image. A poor quality image that is stretched or blurry will reflect on the quality of your brand. Aim for an image that’s 2120 x 1192 pixels.

#3 – Encourage Customer Reviews

Customer reviews have a direct impact on local listing search rankings. Moreover, when 73% of searchers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more, it’s well worth the effort to ensure your company offers the third party validation that potential customers are looking for.

Best Seattle Restaurant

Tips for collecting online reviews:

  • Not all at once! Collecting too many customer reviews within a short time period will immediately raise red flags on local directories like Yelp and Google. Slow and steady wins the race.
  • Integrate review requests into your service process. Add “Review us on Google” to your receipts. Add “Request a review” to your service staff’s checklist when serving a satisfied customer. Integrating these requests into the service workflow will ensure a constant stream of user reviews.
  • Accept the good with the bad. You’re going to have a disgruntled customer, and they’re going to leave a bad review – it’s just part of the business. Know that one bad review immersed in a collection of positive reviews is likely to be dismissed by users.

Google allows business owners to respond directly to reviews. Use this feature to draft an attentive, respectful response that offers an apology and helps to remedy their concerns. Potential customers will appreciate your willingness to make things right for unhappy customers.

#4 – Integrate Keywords into Website Meta Tags and Content

Yes, you can do this. No, you don’t need to be a code wizard.

If you have a content management system that allows you to edit the content on each webpage, more than likely there’s an option to specify a meta title and description for each page. When you’re a local business with a service area centered on a large city, adding the city name to your meta titles, descriptions and content will help your ranking for city-related searches.

Here’s an example of how you could incorporate the city name into the meta title of a homepage:

current updated

You should also make sure that your target city is mentioned within the actual content of your website. Include a sentence like this in an introductory paragraph on your homepage.

Bella Bonita

How Optimized is Your Local Presence?

The tips above are the bare basics of local optimization. Although they just scratch the surface of a comprehensive optimization strategy, they serve as an achievable starting point for local business owners that aren’t sure how to approach the topic of local search optimization.

Think you’re getting the hang of this? Take your optimization to the next level by aligning your keyword objectives to your content lifecycle by learning How to Incorporate SEO and Influencer Content.

Header image via Shutterstock

 


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Is Your Local Optimization Landing You New Customers or Leaving Them Lukewarm? – #SESNY http://www.toprankblog.com/2012/03/is-your-local-optimization-landing-you-new-customers/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2012/03/is-your-local-optimization-landing-you-new-customers/#comments Wed, 21 Mar 2012 09:30:18 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=13453 This afternoon I attended the panel presentation titled ” Local Myth Busters – Local Optimization Facts Proven or Debunked” which featured four very knowledgable panelists who provided a great mix of instruction and high level tactics.  This session was very focused on Google Places and finding a way to stand out from your competition. If [...]

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google places optimizationThis afternoon I attended the panel presentation titled ” Local Myth Busters – Local Optimization Facts Proven or Debunked” which featured four very knowledgable panelists who provided a great mix of instruction and high level tactics.  This session was very focused on Google Places and finding a way to stand out from your competition.

If you are responsible for local marketing or would like to begin implementing a local/mobile marketing strategy these are some tips you don’t want to miss.  Below I have included what I considered to be highlights from the presentations.

Traditional SEO & Citations: Andrew Beckman (@Andrew_Beckman)

When implementing traditional SEO you’re on the hunt for backlinks.  When deploying a local search strategy you want to populate your “place” data among different channels in a cohesive way.  Citations (or mentions of your business) are key for ranking algorithms from search engines like Google.  How can you determine the value of a particular citation?

  • Page rank of the sub domain citation
  • Content and keyword density on the page
  • Back links to the page
  • Frequency of crawl on the sub URL where citation exists

Traditional SEO tactics are becoming a more important signal for local universal results.  When deploying a local strategy its important that you properly optimize the following:

  1. URL structure
  2. Title tags
  3. Internal citation contact info)
  4. Targeted phrases in content
  5. Back links with anchor text
  6. Deep linking to location pages

Categories, Ratings and Reviews, Microdata: Benu Aggarwal (@MilestoneMktg)

Consistency is key when optimizing local pages and listings across the Internet.  According to Benu the 7 most important fields to optimize include:

  1. Site URL
  2. Categories
  3. Business details
  4. Reviews on third party sites
  5. Ratings on Google Places
  6. Photos and videos
  7. Events and coupons

User generated content in the form of reviews can have a very positive or negative effect on a company place page.  Don’t think that reviews have a significant impact?  Reviews can affect your content in the following ways:

  • Encourages user interaction
  • Supplies fresh content to search engines
  • Reviews signal trust to search engines
  • Enables users to recommend your business on any channel

Optimizing Images & Videos: Steve Yeich (@localsplash)

Steve provided a great series of tactics and instructions for easily optimizing your images and videos on the Internet.  By optimizing your photos before uploading to Google Places you will improve your local SEO efforts.

Photo Optimization Tips

  • Add all 10 photos allowed on Google Places
  • Update these photos periodically
  • Save your photo with a file name that includes your business name and a keyword

Google Coupons

Implementing Google Coupons will translate into specials for your company appearing in search results.  Along with improved SEO there are other benefits to implementing a Google Coupon strategy such as:

  • Creating more complete business information
  • Helps your business stand out in SERP
  • Facilitates more precise tracking of ROI

Mobile vs. deskptop ranking factors: Jeff Cambbell (@CJeffCampbell)

Optimizing your business for local search can be a lot of work all in its own.  On top of that you also have to consider the fact that many of your customers are using a mobile device to find your information.  There are some attributes specific to mobile search which include:

  • Users must be in close proximity to the location in order to effectively interact
  • The completeness of your Google Places page is essential (especially for those using Google Maps on the iPhone)

According to Campbell there are very strong correlations between rankings in Google smartphone search results.  By properly optimizing your place page you will encourage more repeat visits.

Key Takaways

  1. Optimize your place profile
  2. Find out relevant unique categories
  3. Optimize content on your website social network links
  4. Facilitate your customer in leaving revewis on your site and third party sites
  5. Optimize and maximize your use of photos and videos for Google Places
  6. Consider the device your customers are using

What do you think?  Have you fully maximized the use of  your Google Places page as part of a local strategy?  What have you found has worked really well, and what hasn’t?  Be sure to follow us for information during the conference: @toprank, @leeodden, @azeckman, @bslarsonmn.


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5 Tips for Google Places Optimization http://www.toprankblog.com/2011/12/optimize-google-place-page/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2011/12/optimize-google-place-page/#comments Tue, 27 Dec 2011 15:14:23 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=13128 Local and mobile search is being used more frequently by customers on their smart phones and other devices now more than ever.  As local search becomes more and more prevalent, marketers must ask themselves what can they do to incorporate this marketing strategy into their arsenal. According to a recent release by ComScore, nearly 3 [...]

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Google Place Pages OptimizationLocal and mobile search is being used more frequently by customers on their smart phones and other devices now more than ever.  As local search becomes more and more prevalent, marketers must ask themselves what can they do to incorporate this marketing strategy into their arsenal.

According to a recent release by ComScore, nearly 3 billion search queries contain local terms each month.  For companies that have a local presence, top visibility on local search is essential or that traffic will simply go to competitors.  Google Maps is one of the most frequently used local search destinations and even comes standard on many devices including the iPhone.  Google Places provides a great opportunity to begin marketing on a local level to your potential customers.

A best practice approach to local online marketing will greatly increase your chances of success.  The Google Places optimization tips listed below will help you create or modify your Google Places page to become more relevant to both search engines and potential customers.  I’ve also included suggestions on how this .

Consistency Is Key

It is important that your Google Place profile contains the same information as any other profiles your company may have online. Google Place pages create another opportunity to build trust and consistency as part of your marketing strategy. Be sure to audit your other profiles and answer each question as consistently as you can.  There are some additional ways you can create consistency on your profiles such as:

  • Linking: improve searchability by linking your additional profiles together
  • Imagery: utilizing the same imagery on multiple place pages will create consistency
  • Branding: consistency in naming and referencing your brand is extremely important

*Content Marketing Tip: Go back to basics.

  • Are you using the same contact information for each of your social profiles or business pages?
  • Do each of your social profiles or business pages reflect your current management team or employees?

Complete All Information (Even if it is Not Required)

Have you ever heard the expression “better off safe than sorry”?  Take the same approach when setting up or editing your Google Places profile.  There may be questions that you consider irrelevent but could ultimately have an impact on how you are found online.  Make sure that you are filling out all standard information including:

  • Company Name
  • Address
  • Phone Number
  • Website
  • Email Address

Complete All Google My Business Company Information

Adding additional elements to your page such as photos or videos are also an opportunity to optimize your content and share a little bit more about your company with your prospective clients.

Google Places Video and Photos

*Content Marketing Tip: Take an audit of your other local and social based marketing initiatives.

  • Have you completed each profile to the best of your ability?
  • Can you repurpose some of your existing content for your Google Place page?
  • Brand focused images used on other social profiles can be repurposed for your company Google Places page.

Encourage Interaction & Reviews

User generated content can be a very powerful optimization tool.  Actual customers may be using additional or different keywords or phrases to describe their experience with you.  Reviews also add validity to your statements and information written by your company.  Nothing speaks higher of a company than the testimonials of it’s customers.  I would recommend encouraging customers or clients to participate or simply urge them to visit your page and see what they think.  Some additional ways that you could encourage interaction would be:

  • Posting video testimonials on your Google Places page
  • Encourage clients to upload photos of themselves at your establishment or with your team

Example of Google My Business Reviews

*Content Marketing Tip: Moderate, moderate, moderate.

  • Are you currently moderating comments on your blog, website, or social profiles?
  • Are you making a point to interact with your potential customers online?

Local Keywords

Including relevant and purposeful keywords in your Google Place profile is a strategic way to increase optimization.  However, you will want to avoid over stuffing your description with keywords or utilizing keywords in your business name that are not relevant to your offering. Do your research up front utilizing your analytics account to determine what keywords are appropriate for your business.

*Content Marketing Tip: To create an effective strategy you must research, implement, and adapt.

  • Use keywords in your file names to improve optimization
  • Update your information frequently to provide fresh content

Focus on Your Specialties

Do not be afraid to add details about your service offering, solutions, or products that will help your customers find you.  A simple analysis of your google analytics account can tell you what keywords users are searching for to find your company.  Do your best to use those descriptions in your company overview and specialities area.

  • Think of what your customers will be looking for and provide imagery or documentation that will show your expertise.
Example of Google My Business listing

The example included above separates this company from their competition.  I would venture to say that of the companies that came up in my search this for “Tire Repair, Minneapolis” their profile was the most consistent and complete.  Instead of having to further investigate on the company on their website I was given adequate information which would led me to contacting them immediately.

*Content Marketing Tip: People want to know how your solutions solve their problems.

  • When appropriate provide an explanation of the problems that your services, solutions, or products solve.
  • Be aware of what your customers need and tailor your message to meet that need.

An optimized Google Places page is a marketing tactic that does not take a lot of effort but can have a very large impact on your searchability.  As with any online marketing strategy it is important that you present factual and consistent information for your customers or clients.  If you are ready to get started or make some change to your existing profile be sure to visit Google’s Getting Started page which will help you through the process.  Do you have an idea of how many of your customers have found you on Google Places? If so have you encouraged them to interact with your page and share feedback?


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Hello Local, Meet Social – Learning the Basics at SES Chicago http://www.toprankblog.com/2011/11/local-social-media-marketing/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2011/11/local-social-media-marketing/#comments Thu, 17 Nov 2011 12:44:55 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=12984 Proper execution of a local and social media strategy is still a head scratcher for many internet marketers.  The session on “Local + Social: the Future of Promotion” featuring Gregg Stewart and Benu Aggarwal at SES Chicago was a must see to answer several important questions. A Best Practices Approach with Gregg Stewart Did you [...]

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Proper execution of a local and social media strategy is still a head scratcher for many internet marketers.  The session on “Local + Social: the Future of Promotion” featuring Gregg Stewart and Benu Aggarwal at SES Chicago was a must see to answer several important questions.

A Best Practices Approach with Gregg Stewart

Did you know that roughly 20% of all Google searches have local intent?  When you look at mobile data that number is even higher.  These statistics alone should show us as marketers how important a online local strategy is for improving engagement.

Checking the Box Won’t Work

While website All Facebook says that 96% of small businesses are on Facebook, Mashable.com says that 64% of small businesses think that social media is unnecessary.  Part of what this data tells us that many companies are simply checking the box, but aren’t sure how to properly utilize social media marketing channels.

Caution: Mistakes Ahead

Stewart stated that the biggest mistake that advertisers trying to go local make is focusing on the wrong data.  Often advertisers will say that the number of clicks on the website are not improving, or the e-commerce on the website isn’t that great.  Consumers are looking for your business in a variety of places and they expect that information to be readily available and accurate.

Local + Social Best Practices

When implementing a local and social media strategy there are some key factors that are part of a best practices approach including:

  • Accuracy
  • Distribution
  • Signal Strength
  • Enrichment

A “SoLoMo” Strategy by Benu Aggarwal

Presenter Benu Aggarwal did a great job of highlighting the importance of of a social, local, and mobile strategy and the importance of integration between the three.  A common theme for both presenters was the emphasis on consistency across multiple channels.  In addition to remaining consistent what else should you know about a social and local strategy?

The Why, Who, & How of Social + Local

Successful local and social strategies are built upon a strong foundation.  What questions should be taken into consideration when building a strategy?

  • Why should you connect with your audience?
  • Who should you be connected with?
  • How are you going to connect with them?
  • What is your audience talking about?
  • Where are they socializing?

Participate in Active Conversations

Relevant and active participation in online conversations can go a long way.  What are some examples of this interaction?

  • Connect with brand evangelists in your area
  • Respond to direct questions about great places to stay before your competition does
  • Connect with users who have the power to influence others

Exploring Local Trends on Twitter

Twitter’s search capacity is better than you may think.  What are some ways you can better utilize twitter from a local perspective?

  • Reach out to users instead of waiting for them to come to you
  • Explore discussions that are happening in your target markets
  • Insert yourself into existing conversations in a productive manner

5 Ways to Enhance your Foursquare Business Page 

Foursquare Business Pages can be tricky.  Aggarwal recommends the following enhancements:

  • Optimize your banner
  • Use keywords and bullet points
  • Link to other key online channels
  • Create list of local interest categories
  • Leave compelling and engaging tips on local businesses

Local + Social Media Key Takeaways

  • Manage your listings effectively
  • Continue to place importance on UGC (user generated content)
  • Users like both search and social media
  • Define your goals, target audience, and know where they are
  • Leverage the most popular channels
  • Optimize across all channels
  • Integrate social, local, offline, and online channels

If executed correctly a local and social media marketing strategy can work wonders for gaining popularity, improving brand awareness, and increasing revenue.  A main focus of this session was on consistency across channels.  Are you incorporating local and social in your online marketing mix? What are some of your best tips?


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5 Ways to Win More Business with Google Places http://www.toprankblog.com/2010/11/5-ways-local-search/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2010/11/5-ways-local-search/#comments Mon, 22 Nov 2010 13:09:27 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=11757 With the rise of smart phone use in the US, (Google Android and iPhone are currently reporting roughly 500,000 activations a day ) it’s more important than ever to have your Google places listing up to speed because when people use voice search on  Android phones, the first results they see are from Google local. [...]

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Local listings & Google Places

With the rise of smart phone use in the US, (Google Android and iPhone are currently reporting roughly 500,000 activations a day ) it’s more important than ever to have your Google places listing up to speed because when people use voice search on  Android phones, the first results they see are from Google local.

Let’s start with a few facts. Did you know that;

  • 73% of all online activity is related to local content (Google)
  • 82% of local searchers follow up with a phone call or show up on your doorstep (TMP/comScore)
  • 66% of Americans use local search to find local businesses (comScore)

Another reason to take Google Places seriously is the recent changes and enhancements that were rolled out.  Now you will notice the map with local businesses appears above the ads on the right side.  Also worth noting is that the local listings are appearing above all organic search results and have taken up more space, pushing the organic listings further down the page.

With the recent Google launch of Hotpot, Google is entering the local recommendation space.   Hotpot combines Google Places, the places you like and the places your friends like making it even easier for people to make decisions about which local businesses to patronize.

Not surprisingly, marketing on Google Places has gotten very competitive. It used to be you could simply fill out your business listing on Google and see it in the 7 pack a few weeks later.  These days, if your listing doesn’t have a 100% score, you can forget about being listed in the first 7 local businesses that Google displays for local results.  That said, here are 5 things you can do to get more business from local search:

1.       Make sure your Google listing has a 100% score – There are more than 20 different fields you in your Google Places listing and surprisingly most businesses don’t bother to fill them all in.  At the end of the day, the difference between showing up on the first page of Google Places or not can boil down to not having a video as part of your listing.

2.       Include product or service keywords in your listing description – I would also list one or two of the cities or suburbs where your target market lives.  As with any content on the internet, be sure not to over use your keywords.  Your description should be written for people with an eye for SEO.

3.       Encourage your clients to write a review on your Google places listing – Think about it, if you and 10 local competitors all have 100% scores on your listing, which is fast becoming the case, what will Google use to rank order these businesses? The one component of the profile that is open ended is the review section so in many cases, the business with the most reviews can win the day.

4.       Make sure you are listed in your local phone book – I know this sounds counter intuitive but the fact is Google looks to established sources of data to both build their database and check for local business information.  If you’re not listed here, it may affect your ability to rank on the first page.

5.       Get listed in the other top local directories like:

  • Yelp
  • Bing
  • Yahoo
  • Best of the Web
  • Hotfrog, and
  • Foursquare

You can go to www.getlisted.org to get a score on how effectively your business is taking advantage of the free listings at the major search engines.

Local listings & SEO have always been important for small business online marketing, but now they’re essential.  If you follow the advice above, your business listing will have a better chance of getting on the first page of the search results and in many cases, may even appear above the organic search results.


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Can Geotagging Blog Posts Increase Local Search Marketing Performance? http://www.toprankblog.com/2010/10/geotagging-blog-posts/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2010/10/geotagging-blog-posts/#comments Fri, 01 Oct 2010 11:45:18 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=11603 This post is one of a series of liveblogs from the 2010 MIMA Summit. When you think of geotagging, or checking in, what do you think of? Probably GPS, FourSquare, Facebook Places or letting a photo site like Flickr know where a photo was taken. But it can also be done for blog posts. Geotagging [...]

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This post is one of a series of liveblogs from the 2010 MIMA Summit.

WordPress GeoTagging When you think of geotagging, or checking in, what do you think of? Probably GPS, FourSquare, Facebook Places or letting a photo site like Flickr know where a photo was taken. But it can also be done for blog posts.

Geotagging in blog posts is still relatively new, but it well on its way.

WordPress.com already supports geotagging on profiles and posts so that you can let others know where you are posting from. They will also soon launch a Geo Search feature that will allow people to find posts based on their location.

If you have a WordPress hosted blog, this functionally isn’t built-in yet, but there are a few plugins that can enable it. GEOTag, OSM and Geolocation all claim to add geo information to blog posts and are worth checking out.

So how does this tie back into local search marketing? Easy. Local search is all about finding the right match for a user based on their location. So when I search for “Audi dealers in Minneapolis”, it filters out any results in Los Angeles, Seattle or New York.

Now imagine that same search in regular search. Search engines will still put local results at the top, but then list out what it believes are the best matches based on their algorithm. If you have geotagging setup, that can be another indicator to search engines that your post is targeting (or most relevant for) searchers the Minneapolis area, and it may then rank better for that specific search.

Search engines are all about giving the best search results to their searchers and location is increasingly important. Not all users know to search Google Maps for local results, so search engines have to interpret local intent and the location of the searcher into regular search results as well. If you are geotagging your blog posts, this can be one more indicator to search engines that your content is a good match for a geographically specific search query.

As geotagging continues to evolve, chances are that search engines will roll that into their algorithm as well as the other geolocation signals currently considered. It’s also very possible that location specific search engines will start popping up and show results based purely on geotagging. Getting geotagging setup now might help get your blog content ahead of the game.

This post idea was sparked by the I <3 WordPress discussion with Peter Fleck and Toby Cryns at the 2010 Mima Summit.


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Best Practices In SEO And Marketing: IMS MN 2010 http://www.toprankblog.com/2010/05/seo-marketing-best-practices/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2010/05/seo-marketing-best-practices/#comments Wed, 26 May 2010 12:27:06 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=10219 At the recent Minneapolis Integrated Marketing Summit, TopRank Online Marketing CEO Lee Odden moderated an exciting panel of a diverse group of SEO professionals: Alex Bennert – Chief Search Strategist at The Wall Street Journal Brian Kleisner – Search Engine Marketing Manager for FindLaw Bill Leake – CEO of Apogee Results The focus of the [...]

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At the recent Minneapolis Integrated Marketing Summit, TopRank Online Marketing CEO Lee Odden moderated an exciting panel of a diverse group of SEO professionals:

  • Alex Bennert – Chief Search Strategist at The Wall Street Journal
  • Brian Kleisner – Search Engine Marketing Manager for FindLaw
  • Bill Leake – CEO of Apogee Results

The focus of the panel was on search engine optimization best practices, and panelists discussed everything from leveraging web analytics for decision making to how to scale efforts and many topics in between.  Following is a summary of each presenter’s top points:

Alex Bennert – Chief Search Strategist at The Wall Street Journal

Alex spoke on the important of using data to make decisions, including leveraging sources such as Google webmaster tools.  The information provided in webmaster tools has grown significantly since they have implemented it.

Her favorite addition is the “breaking data” feature, which tells you all of your top keywords driving traffic to the site.  You can use this to see terms that gain a high volume of impressions but a low volume of clicks.  From this, you’ll know that the page can be optimized better to potentially get more clicks.

And it doesn’t even have to be on page or changing keywords.  Sometimes, just testing changes in meta description can help gain additional clicks.  It’s something we have control over and can see near immediate results for changes.  Leverage meta descriptions for clicks, and to help promote your brand and spread key messages.

Have you given access of webmaster tools to members of your team?  You should consider this so they can act on data.

Additionally, branded searches and navigational queries are extremely valuable for a brand and should not be discounted.  At the WSJ, hundreds of thousands see our search result monthly from brand terms.

Alex then proceeded to speak on sitemaps.  She noted, if you have a large enterprise level site with frequent information that’s added/deleted, a sitemap is vital.  That’s because you don’t have to wait for search engines to re-crawl your site, you’re providing it to them in a format they’ll immediately get.  At the Wall Street Journal, we organize our sitemaps into specific types of content – i.e. stock queries, articles, etc.  Then we can see immediately when problems crop up.

In terms of getting “old school” reporters to create additional content, like to help them see the value of SEO by showing examples of their own content.  For example, I find a headline they wrote and show them how not at all findable in search, whereas others are easily findable.  By showing examples, Alex is able to be persuasive and help reporters create SEO friendly content.

Brian Kleisner – Search Engine Marketing Manager for FindLaw

Brian spoke on the balance between search, and how search interacts with usability.

“Arriving from search is to enter the unknown:”

1.  The searcher’s expectation for what they think they’ll find must be met.

2.  Information must be presented to enable a decision or make choices.

3.  The next steps must be clear.

4. The entire experience must feel safe, secure, authentic and believable.

Usability and search both share common concerns:

  • Findable
  • Credibility
  • Usable/useful
  • Valuable/desirable
  • Offering choice

Addressing this, Brian went on to cite several SEO tips:

SEO Tip #1:  Use a keyword oriented tagline with the “Who” and “What answered.

SEO Tip #2:  Use content to answer the questions naturally making sure to include the appropriate keyword.  For example:

  • Where is your company located?
  • When is the next release for “keyword”?
  • Why are you an expert on “keyword”?

Asking these questions helps generate fresh content, better defines anchor text, provides new ideas for navigation text link labels and increases understandability for humans, search and those using assistive technology to interact with your website.

SEO Tip #3:  Consider local SEO

Local search has special rules for SEO:

  • Claim your listings on the search engines and beyond (Yelp, CitySearch, etc.)
  • Be consistent, use the same address and phone number across the web.
  • Monitor and manage you and your competitor’s reputation.

Bill Leake – CEO of Apogee Results

Bill spoke about integration opportunities between Search and other marketing tactics.

He started by speaking at a high level, and that “more arrows are generally good.”  Marketing works best when it works together.  As we talk about ways to improve search, remember it is just another piece of marketing.

Start by defining what you really want from your marketing efforts and create a key objective.

Bill then shared integrated tactics that will improve ROI of search.

1.  Integrate paid media and “earned media” for better results.

2.  Consider event and name driven paid and natural search.

  • Leverage a national events and names for dirt cheap search traffic.

3.  House list/direct mail tie-ins:  integrate online marketing with more traditional focused direct marketing (think online mail-merge).

4.  Create a more integrated search – use PPC traffic with your web analytics and your lead forms for list building and enhances lead generation.  Leverage services such as

  • DemandBase
  • Jigsaw
  • Other list building via web traffic

Most B2B terms are not looked at “for fun” they are looked at due to pain points on the part of the searcher.

5.  Improve spending by using down-funnel data.

One client was spending 110K per month with well understood and optimized CPL metrics.  They started doing PPC optimization using human scrubbed lead data (not web forms).  Results:  43% shift in PPC spend allocation, 31% software sales uplift.

6.  Choose keywords on conversion metrics, not on search/reach/volume metrics.  If you have paid search data, use that to determine what the money keywords are.


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10 Easy Local SEO & Online Marketing Tips http://www.toprankblog.com/2010/05/local-search-tips/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2010/05/local-search-tips/#comments Thu, 20 May 2010 11:45:46 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=10150 There are currently 29.6 million small businesses in the U.S. (SCORE). 63% of consumers and small business owners use the Internet to find information about local companies and 82% use search engines (Webvisible & Nielsen).  That means there’s a lot of opportunity for local SEO. Recently I attended GetListed.org’s Local University in Minneapolis which focused [...]

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Google Places Pin There are currently 29.6 million small businesses in the U.S. (SCORE). 63% of consumers and small business owners use the Internet to find information about local companies and 82% use search engines (Webvisible & Nielsen).  That means there’s a lot of opportunity for local SEO.

Recently I attended GetListed.org’s Local University in Minneapolis which focused on how to optimize web sites for local search.  Out of all the good information that came out of the event, here are 10 easy things you can do today to optimize sites and content to attract local customers.

1. Claim your profile.
It’s as simple as logging into Google Places, Bing Local and Yahoo Local and walking through the verification steps which include a phone call or post card to verify your address.

2. Upload Pictures.
The local sites listing services like to provide their users with pictures of your business. To help ensure that they see some good pictures, upload your own. They don’t have to be professional photos, but they will represent your business so make sure they are decent.

3. Control information across the internet.
A big part of local search optimization and marketing involves obtaining information from other sites. Local listing aggregation services search the internet far and wide to find pictures, reviews and any information they can on your company. Submit your info to services like LocalezeinfoUSA.

The downside here is that if something is incorrect on another site, it could find its way back into your local listing. If that happens, you have to go back to the source and ask them to fix the issue and then wait while the fix makes its way into local sites.

4. Ask for reviews.
Most local sites, except for Yelp, are fine with you telling your customers to review you. So do it. On your contact form thank you page, on invoices, on email communications, make a point to say “Hey we’d love it if you gave our business a review on Google/Bing/Yahoo Local.” These reviews, good or bad, make your business more creditable to future customers.

5. Bad reviews are good.
No company is perfect, so when users see all positive reviews, something looks wrong and they may actually choose a different company. Bad reviews are a part of any business and a few bad reviews can make the good reviews that much better. Obviously, you don’t want to encourage bad reviews.

6. Add local phone number.
On your website, be sure to publish your local phone number in text vs within an image or not at all. 800 numbers may be nice, but on their own they don’t give any kind of location indication.

7. Have a full physical mailing address on all pages of your website.
Your address is important and it should be on all pages of your website to re-enforce your geographic location.

8. Think like the searcher/customer.
What would your customers put in a search box to find you and buy your products?

Lets say you own an outdoor sporting good store; like hunting, camping, hiking and fishing. If a searcher puts put ‘shoes’ into a search box, they probably aren’t a good match as it’s such a generic term. If they put ‘running shoes’ you’re still not a match as your sporting goods store doesn’t focuses on running. If they put in ‘hiking shoes’ then you want to target them.

Business owners often get caught up in popular keywords or keywords that will drive a lot of traffic and forget to focus on less popular keywords that have a higher probability of making sales.

Remember to think like the customer.

9. Multiple locations need multiple landing pages.
Local sites don’t like a business having more than one local listing, but if the business has two locations, than that’s OK. However, you should ensure that each location links back to a page on your website that is all about that location and what it has to offer. Sending both local listings back to the same page, or homepage, isn’t ideal.

10. Treat Customers ‘Righter’
Everyone knows that they need to treat the customer right, but with social media, review sites and the ability for good, or bad, news to spread like wildfire, you need to treat your customers really good or “righter”. This includes online and offline customer service.

Local search takes into account information business owners put in their local profile, information it finds on other sites and information on the business’ website. Even what happens offline can be taken into consideration as customers may bring back those experiences in the form of online reviews.

Local search is it’s own unique entity as no one can control everything that appears on their local listing, but business owners can take steps to ensure that what gets listed is a good representation of the company. For more information, here is a list of local SEO blogs that we’ve reviewed in the past for TopRank’s BIGLIST with many, many more tips.


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BIGLIST Update: Local Search Marketing Blogs 010710 http://www.toprankblog.com/2010/01/biglist-local-seo-blogs-010710/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2010/01/biglist-local-seo-blogs-010710/#comments Thu, 07 Jan 2010 20:41:34 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/?p=8067 Welcome to the first BIGLIST review of SEM and SEO blogs for 2010!  What a year it will be. We reviewed hundreds of marketing blogs in 2009 and well over a thousand since we started the original list. Today’s BIGLIST update focuses on a few local search marketing blogs we’ve recently discovered. <a href=”http://www.toprankblog.com/search-marketing-blogs/”><img style=”border: 0px [...]

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BIGLIST SEO Blogs

Welcome to the first BIGLIST review of SEM and SEO blogs for 2010!  What a year it will be. We reviewed hundreds of marketing blogs in 2009 and well over a thousand since we started the original list. Today’s BIGLIST update focuses on a few local search marketing blogs we’ve recently discovered.

<a href=”http://www.toprankblog.com/search-marketing-blogs/”><img style=”border: 0px initial initial;” title=”BIGLIST SEO Blogs” src=”http://www.toprankblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/05/biglistseoblogs.gif” alt=”BIGLIST SEO Blogs” /></a>
Absence makes the heart grow fonder and we know online marketers already like the <a href=”http://www.toprankblog.com/search-marketing-blogs/” target=”_blank”>BIGLIST</a> of online marketing blogs reviews.

Expand2Web Blog – The design winner for this BIGLIST Update Local SEM Blog Edition goes to Expand3Web by Don Campbell. This blog offers a rich mix of WordPress and Local search marketing advice as well as how to screencasts & videos as well as a podcast.

And now on to the other Local Search Marketing additions to TopRank’s BIGLIST this week:

  • GEO Local SEO – Steve Hatcher aka Stever recently branched out from his main blog to this new local SEO focused blog that offers specific, firsthand and actionable tips for local search marketing. The first posts focus on Google Local & Maps and promises to cover “just about anything pertaining to local web marketing”.
  • Optimized! – Mary Bowling  is an experienced online marketer who writes for a Local Search Marketing column for ClickZ. She’s also blogged her observations and insights about a range of SEO topics and of course, local SEM since December 2007.
  • Mihmorandum – David Mihm is a well known local search marketer and designer out of Portland that blogs about his involvement in the search marketing industry and offers opinions and observations of what small businesses should know about local SEO. This blog is well worth adding to your RSS reader.
  • Local Search Simplified – Shagun Vatsa is a consultant in Toronto and with her blog, she focuses on adding value to tried and tested online marketing strategies and offering quality advice on how small businesses can leverage local search, Google maps, SEO and SEM.
  • Local Search Optimization – Netherlands based Martijn Beijk blogs about local search optimization, Universal search, mobile, Google’s Local Business Center and location-based services.  He also reviews tools, which is handy and a definitive guide to KML and sitemaps for SEO.
  • Search Marketing Insights – Dev Basu is another Toronto based search marketer and he promises “no BS marketing strategies for small and big biz alike”. He writes about local search, small business marketing, online yellow pages and social media. He also writes about industry involvement such as speaking at conferences like Search Engine Strategies.

For reference, here are a few Local Search Marketing Blogs already included in TopRank’s BIGLIST:

If you’ve been included in the BIGLIST of SEM Blogs, then be sure to add some BIGLIST Badge flair to your blog.

What Local search engine marketing or online marketing blogs would you add to BIGLIST?

BIGLIST Development Note: We’ve been working to develop a more effective and interesting way to organize and manage the BIGLIST of marketing blogs, which will offer categorization, sorting and ranking as well as many other pieces of information about each blog. The all new BIGLIST will launch in February 2010.


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Search Engine Optimization for Small Business http://www.toprankblog.com/2007/12/search-engine-optimization-small-business/ Fri, 21 Dec 2007 14:36:25 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/2007/12/search-engine-optimization-small-business/ Recently I did a podcast for AllBusiness.com , recently acquired by Dun & Bradstreet, along with their Marketing Director, David Saries. The audience for AllBusiness.com is small businesses, so the questions were flavored toward the perspectives many do it yourself or hands on web site owners and online business owners have. The podcast discusses a [...]

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Recently I did a podcast for AllBusiness.com , recently acquired by Dun & Bradstreet, along with their Marketing Director, David Saries. The audience for AllBusiness.com is small businesses, so the questions were flavored toward the perspectives many do it yourself or hands on web site owners and online business owners have.

The podcast discusses a variety of topics ranging from a definition of SEO to common SEO mistakes. We also discuss emerging online marketing channels and whether small businesses can “do SEO in-house” or not. You can listen to the full podcast here: “The Fundamentals of Search Engine Optimization”

Most companies are aware there are things they can do to improve their visibility on search engines. Some may have even heard the term, “search engine optimization” (SEO). But how many really know what that means?

The challenge is that the rules change often and while many small business marketers may have a basic understanding, they often do not have the resources to stay on top of what’s current – resulting in a reliance on out-dated information. This podcast will help dispel some of the common myths about SEO and offer a few actionable search engine optimization tips.


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SIS Session: Leveraging Local Search on a National Basis http://www.toprankblog.com/2007/12/sis-session-leveraging-local-search-on-a-national-basis/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2007/12/sis-session-leveraging-local-search-on-a-national-basis/#comments Thu, 13 Dec 2007 19:43:15 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/2007/12/sis-session-leveraging-local-search-on-a-national-basis/ 10:45am: Leveraging Local Search on a National Basis with: Moderator: Aaron Goldman, VP, Marketing & Strategic Partnerships Marc Barach, CMO, Ingenio Mike Margolin, VP, Interactive Marketing Director, RPA Christopher Knoch, Principle Consultant, Omniture Consulting Group, Omniture, Inc. Aaron excitedly shows slides/stats from eMarketer supporting that budgets are going to local, “local is here”. 20% of [...]

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Aaron Goldman

10:45am: Leveraging Local Search on a National Basis with:
Moderator: Aaron Goldman, VP, Marketing & Strategic Partnerships
Marc Barach, CMO, Ingenio
Mike Margolin, VP, Interactive Marketing Director, RPA
Christopher Knoch, Principle Consultant, Omniture Consulting Group, Omniture, Inc.

Aaron excitedly shows slides/stats from eMarketer supporting that budgets are going to local, “local is here”. 20% of all queries are local based but over half of all queries are for local info but do not include geographic terms in the query (according to SEMPO)

Leveraging Local Search on a National Basis

Local campaigns
Chris describes the importance of having locations of all offices your company operates in as well as having a store locator. Don’t overuse brands and use geo phrases in ads.

Aaron: What are some best practices for online-only retailers?

Chris: If you want to buy geo modified phrases that’s fine, but you better have some call out to things like “free shipping”. Position against some of the benefits from brick and mortar retailers.

What about local targeting?

Mike: The businesses are divided into tiers: national, regional, individual advertiser at the local level. There’s a place for all 3 tiers in both geo modified and non geo modifed phrases. Parse out keyword sets to see what goes to national, what goes to regional.

Chris to Mike: Did you ever run into conflict between the brand and dealers wanting the same keywords?
Mike: The brands offer a variety of tools that are not found on dealer sites, creating distinct keyword sets.

Aaron: The major engines offer local search, how can marketers get away from that to other services for reaching local searchers?

Marc: Brings up Ingenio as a way that marketers are using alternate channels for driving leads. Also mentions internet yellow page provides that sell calls as welll as clicks. There are segments in the local space that are not well served, so it should be a goal for marketers to create services that meet that demand.

Chris: Yellow page listings showing up in organic search is due to Universal search not being flushed out. Going to see more with mobile, advertising with local.

Aaron: What are some interactive examples? Like Saturn tour of dealership through Google Maps.

Chris: Gives example of being able to virtually walk down a street.

Audience: Asks about ads tailored to the searcher that’s local vs the searcher searching locally.

Chris: Advises to use geo phrases that are unique to the area. A “local” will search with different geo names than someone that is searching in general of a geographically specific place. Example: “hotels new york” for someone visiting NYC. “hotels Tribeca” for someone that lives in NYC. It speaks to the person on a more individual level.

Mike: This isn’t easy stuff. It’s smart stuff. Need to provie it out, show ROI. It’s something everyone shopuld be considering.

Aaron: What are some of the tools provided by search engines for local search marketing?

Mike: Tells story of Honda where certified cars were not getting the visibility dealers expected. Microsites were constructed and hosted outside Honda and implemented in concert with Yahoo and Google as co-branded sites using tools the search engines had created.

Chris: Use tools within Google for geo-targeting based on where foot traffic comes from.

Mike: The whole idea of geo segmentation goes further than local brick and mortar businesses and online companies targeting locally. Geo segmentation nationally is absolutely critical.

Marc: Run multiple local campaignsn to account for pricing variances in different markets. Example: Glass replacement in Omaha pricing will be very different than in Chicago.

Chris: Before you step into the local search arena, make sure you understand the local nuances of each market.


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Local SEO with Event Promotion http://www.toprankblog.com/2007/09/local-seo/ http://www.toprankblog.com/2007/09/local-seo/#comments Wed, 05 Sep 2007 12:00:06 +0000 http://www.toprankblog.com/2007/09/local-seo/ Editor’s Note: This week we welcome the first of a series of guest posts from client side marketers about search marketing. Paul O’Brien gets things started with a post focusing on how optimizing for local search engines is about more than directory listings and geographic modifiers. Event based local search marketing provides an additional boost [...]

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Editor’s Note: This week we welcome the first of a series of guest posts from client side marketers about search marketing. Paul O’Brien gets things started with a post focusing on how optimizing for local search engines is about more than directory listings and geographic modifiers. Event based local search marketing provides an additional boost in reaching target audiences. Companies like Paul’s current employer, Zvents, provides a platform for this kind of event promotion as well as a local search destination.

paul-obrien.jpg

Countless SEO guides provide the most important considerations: title tags, keywords, straightforward navigation, and structured content but local optimization requires several unique considerations:

  1. Directory listings are often alphabetical so write titles with the first letter earliest in the alphabet
  2. Your address is as important as the name of your business
  3. Include local parlance: SoMa, West Village, Downtown
  4. Put your location in the footer of ALL pages
  5. Build links with local influence as well as authority and relevance
  6. Use both abbreviations and full names: CA & California, St. & Street

Approximately 63% of U.S. internet users searched for local content in July 2006, a 43% increase from 2005. Local context applies to more than 20% of all queries with users looking for local businesses, news, and information on traditional engines intended for searching the web. With such a demand, according to Borrell Associates’ Online Local report, online local ad spending has exceeded $7.5 billion, a 32% increase from 2006 (compared to 21% growth in general online advertising). With such demand, though you’ve optimized, are you still missing out?

As important as unlocking the door to your store

Directory listings are more important to local search optimization than website optimization; people actually use SuperPages. Optimizing your site and getting listed in these directories is as critical as unlocking the door to your store so people can enter. More people are going through directories than directly to your website, so ensure your business is listed with:

Now optimized and listed, consider again the impressive growth numbers. Is it logical to conclude that the growth in searches and increase in ad dollars is correlated? No. The growth in local search is a reflection of demand, not only for your business but also for weather, news, and information. Site optimization and those listings help those that know about you find the door but you advertise to draw people in.

Zvents helps you optimize that which draws the consumer.

This is why you should come in

When you read the newspaper or put down the TiVo and actually watch commercials for local businesses, notice that events are advertised, not the business itself. You don’t just open the door; you put someone on the doorstep saying, This is why you should come in.” Mattress stores to auto body shops advertise Sales while, brands like Williams-Sonoma, Nordstrom, and REI promote grilling demonstrations, fashion shows, and kayaking classes. Financial services and real estate entrepreneurs promote educational series. Restaurants highlight live music and entertainment. Bookstores host celebrity book signings and toddler storytelling. Consider too that not only local businesses can take advantage of this local optimization. Events are ripe for co-branding; Toshiba promoting the release of their new tablet PC at Circuit City to Lexus marketing their Summer Sales Event.

With the exception of a grand opening (which, is also an event), few advertisements promote just the business. So don’t stop with the typical local optimization of business name, address, and listing. The event is where it happens.

Zvents is the local search engine for discovering things to do by connecting people with their favorite interests and events (concerts, fairs, conferences, shopping, sports, etc.). You can search for events, venues, movies, restaurants, or performers. The platform enables businesses to freely add, share, and promote event information which Zvents structures, normalizes, and optimizes, in turn getting events heavily promoted on Google and Yahoo.

Further, Zvents index is syndicated through over 100 media partners including major newspaper and local destinations such as LA.com, The San Jose Mercury News, Boston.com, and the Denver Post.

Those who list their businesses and local events with Zvents benefit from a free locally targeted announcement of those events, which would otherwise be paid through mass media promotion. Additional benefits include tremendous reach through dozens of sites and papers, web and store traffic, and authoritative links to their site and event pages.

That’s local SEO.

Paul O’Brien is currently Director of Marketing for Zvents, was head of interactive marketing for HP Direct and managed advertiser programs at Yahoo! He writes about search and online marketing at seobrien.com.


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