local-SEO

 

Despite the fact that local listings have basically finished their move from the Yellow Pages to the web, many local businesses are still satisfied with the idea that having a website will get them in front of the maximum number of potential customers. While this mistake probably resulted in missed opportunities when searches via PC ruled the day, it is magnified today as mobile searches now outnumber those executed on PCs.

 

The opportunity presented by mobile device users for local businesses is highlighted in a variety of studies, particularly one between Google, Ipsos MediaCT and Purchased, which assessed smart phone behavior with over 5,000 users. That study found that 50 percent of mobile device users who search for local businesses end up visiting a physical location within one day. Another study found that 46 percent of searchers use their mobile devices exclusively when doing research on products and services. The net result for local businesses is that missing the mobile consumer could be costing a fortune in missed sales. If you haven’t optimized your site and your content for this new type of consumer, there are three steps to take now.

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            Answer the questions of mobile users – Mobile users typically pose their search queries as questions, and Google rewards sites that deliver the answers to those questions with higher rankings and visibility. This is a change that went into their ranking algorithm in the second half of 2013, but many local businesses still aren’t aware of it.

        Offer great content – Simply composing content that has some relation to your products but focuses more on keywords that used to deliver traffic has been the target of Google algorithm changes for several years. If you’re still using keyword-loaded content on your web pages there are two distinct disadvantages; Google is not paying attention and the mobile users that find you will likely jump to sites that offer a better experience. Instead, Google now surfaces content that is proven to deliver value to searchers and your site has a much better chances of getting valuable backlinks from authority sites. 

         Re-build your site with responsive design architecture – Delivering a user friendly interface on mobile devices is critical in keeping these searchers on your site after they have landed. Text that is difficult to read, navigation links that are hard to find, and pictures of products that are too small on mobile viewports will typically have users headed for a sight that is mobile friendly. Re-building your site with responsive design architecture can display an optimized interface for mobile users that presents web page information that has been adjusted to the size of the screen of each mobile device.

 

Local businesses now have a huge opportunity to attract mobile consumers. Make these changes as soon as possible to get in on the action.            

Being seen by your customers when they search online for your business, either by category or by name, can make the difference between having them buy from your business and heading off to do business with a competitor that has higher local visibility. Here are 3 steps you can take now to make sure that your business gets seen when local customers search for your products/services.

 

* Incorporate your location into your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts – Most local inquiries will include the name of a city, county, region, etc. with the product or service that is being searched. For example, people looking for pizza places that are nearest to them in Daytona Beach will use a search term such as “pizza Daytona Beach”. By tailoring your SEO efforts to the most commonly used search terms for your product/service in your local area, your business’ visibility will improve dramatically.
* Claim your listings in local directories – Google’s “Places for Business” and Yahoo’s local directory are two of the major local directories that people use to find local businesses, but there are many others as well. Don’t assume that your business will automatically appear in these listings, even for searches that specify you by name. Claiming your local directory listings and populating them with basic information can usually be accomplished in a couple of minutes, so take the first steps as soon as possible.
* Get social – More people are using social media platforms to find and get recommendations on local businesses. Developing a presence on selected social media sites will raise your business’ visibility and will also contribute to your overall SEO efforts.

 

More of your customers are using local search every day. Help them find your business by taking these three steps today.

Featured News

  • User Experience and SEO

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    Prior to Google’s implementation of the Hummingbird algorithm in the second half of 2013, search engine optimization and delivering a positive user experience with published content were distinctly different practices. Despite Google’s mission to surface high value content, its algorithms were easily manipulated with SEO tricks that didn’t necessarily deliver the information that the search engine users were looking for. At the same time, content that delivered relevant information often earned lower rankings than poorly written articles that prioritized packing in keywords over adding value.

     

    Hand it to Google, the search engine has stayed true to its commitment to deliver improved user experiences and is now far less vulnerable to manipulative practices. Its ranking algorithm now factors a variety of signals that result from positive user experiences, including:        

            

            Links from authority sites – Content that contains valuable source material, topic-relevant information or delivers a positive user experience in general can earn links from authority sites to provide additional information or to be cited as a reference. These links carry an increasing amount of weight in the ranking algorithms due to the quasi-vetting process from originating authority sites. This is a completely different ranking methodology than the one which rewarded web pages that had thousands of spammy backlinks purchased for a few pennies each.       

            Social actions – When content is posted to social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, user can elect to share that material with their friends and/or followers. Sharing or liking posted content is referred to as a social action, which is an indication that the content delivers a positive user experience, whether it’s entertaining, informative or a combination of the two. Steady and/or increasing social actions with specific web pages can then boost rankings due to the implied legitimacy of independent referrals.    

             Active and positive comment threads – Quality content draws engagement in the form of active commentary threads. Content that is generating shares and likes will also elicit commentary, with the actions reinforcing each other when being weighed by search algorithms. While these reinforcing actions are great for SEO campaigns, they are equally capable of driving higher rankings for negative content, such as news stories.    

     

    In today’s SEO campaigns, manipulating the algorithms has become increasingly difficult. This is due in part to the growing sophistication in algorithm methodology that can detect spammy links and content. It is also due to the evolution in the way people communicate and share information on the web. The paradigm change now forces SEO and content distribution campaigns to focus on the same primary goal; delivering a positive user experience. 

  • One SEO Change to Implement Now

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    As the sophistication of search algorithms continues to increase, search engines are improving their understanding of what their users are looking for with their inquiries. Prior to replacing its search methodology with the Hummingbird algorithm in 2013, search results typically showed results that had a high percentage of the same keywords included in users’ inquiries. While the pages that were returned based on keyword matches generally reflected some relevance to the search, there were also results that had nothing to do with the nature of the inquiry.

     

    Two of the primary reasons for these unrelated results were black hat techniques that were used to trick the early algorithms into granting high ratings, as well as words that were spelled the same but had different meanings, known as homonyms. An example of a homonym is the word “lead”, which can either be a noun as in the metal or a verb as in “to guide”. An inquiry such as “lead dog” could list sculptures of dogs made of the metal as well as dog teams in the Iditarod race. Refining the search to “what is a lead dog Iditarod” could still return mixed results. With the implementation of the Hummingbird algorithm, searches provided results based on the context of the inquiry, rather than trying to find pages with identical keywords.

     

    The change to contextual search, in addition to providing a higher percentage of relevant results for all users, was also influenced by the more conversational nature of inquiries from mobile device users. When voice commands are used, it’s more natural to ask a question than limiting inquiries to a few key words. As the search phrases became longer, keyword-based algorithms struggled to return listings that answered the questions that were being posed, which required follow-on searches and lead to a less than optimal user experience.

     

    For businesses that have not changed the foundation of their SEO initiatives to the new search methodology, previously high rankings are likely to start falling, if they haven’t already. The key to success in context-based search is to modify content so that it answers the questions posed verbally by mobile users. As a simple example, a searcher may pose the question “Where is a pizza place in Anytown?” Content that answers that question, which would earn a higher search listing, would include something like “Jack’s Pizza is located at 123 Main Street in Anytown.”

     

    As Google and the rest of the search engines try to deliver the best user experience possible, the focus is on eliminating listings that don’t deliver the answers sought by searchers. To that end, the listings that are presented will increasingly address the full context of inquiries with the delivery of specific answers. In this environment the SEO campaigns that are modified to answer questions, rather than match keywords to searches, will deliver website and storefront visits which will drive revenues.  

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