Hardcore Local SEO Tactics

February 28, 2012
By Lisa Barone in Internet Marketing Conferences

GOOD MORNING, SMX! And, of course, good morning to our friends playing along at home. I am super amped to kick off Day 1 here in San Jose  It may  have been my run around the city this morning. Or that I’m getting to see lots of old friends. Or that I’m just insane and I live for this stuff. Either way, I don’t care – I’m psyched!  We’re about to have an awesome day here so I hope you’ll stick with our coverage and hang out with us. It’ll be fun., Promise.

Up on stage right now we have Thomas Ballantyne, Manish Patel, Mike Ramsey, and Chris Silver Smith to tell us all about hardcore local SEO tactics. Because isn’t “hardcore” how you want to start your day?

Chris Sherman is up doing some moderating and says that he truly believes that mobile and local has arrived. The opportunity is quite huge if you’re really into it.  I agree.

Up first is Mike Ramsey. Everyone say hello to Mike.

A year and a half ago you could rank in Google Local without a Web site or any on-site tactics at all. That has changed completely. Onsite has become the new king.

Onsite does three things for you:


  1. Helps your Google Places Ranking
  2. Helps your organic ranking
  3. Increase conversions

We like that because its means you get more phone calls. Mike says the bad things is you get less time playing Angry Birds at work. That will make Angry Birds sad (or, er, ANGRY) but you happy because you’re making more money.  Dude, no joke, the guy next to me on my flight from Albany to Cleveland played Angry Birds the entire flight.  I judged him. And now I”m mocking him publicly. BEWARE STRANGERS!

URLs and Local Search

For a single location company, use your homepage URL as your Places URL.

Once you determine your five categories, build pages for each of those categories that are linked through the home page and the navigation. Once you assign a page with Google Places, it cannot rank both organically and in Google Places.   So if you want to get those double SERP listings, you have to do what Mike tells you.

For a multi-location company, build landing pages for each location and use THAT as your Google Places Web site link and then build out services pages the same way you would for a single location company. Or you use your home page to rank alongside of that.  This will get you multiple listings in the SERPs, but he says he doesn’t see too many people doing it. He thinks its totally under-utilized. Target keywords with two pages, people.

Titles Tags & Meta Descriptions

Commonalities for local businesses that rank well:

  • 76 percent had their city and location in title tag
  • 82 percent had keywords in the title tag
  • 78 percent had business name in title tag

These are very common factors for people ranking in the top position of Google Places.  He recommends using this structure:

main keyword/location first, your business name, and then an additional supporting keyword/info.

In the description text he recommends putting your phone number. It becomes click-to-call for Skype/Android phones.

Calls To Action

Most missed thing on local business Web sites. If customers don’t know where to find  something or what to do on your site they’re just going to wander around.  Make your CTA BIG enough to matter. Don’t do a small “call us today”, that doesn’t work and it’s lame. Make your calls to action form and phone compatible.  Not everyone call call you, you have to let them fill out a form.  Never stop testing. Test your calls to action. Test your colors. Test your size. Test what the action is.

It’s easier to get leads from the traffic you already have, than to double your traffic to get leads in the local market.

No. Stop and read that again.  Got it?

This is especially true for local businesses because you’re dealing with a finite area. Make sure that if you walk away from this conference with one thing, test your conversion optimization rate. Test it with your forms and your offers.

NAP (Name, Address, Phone number) + MAP

Create a custom map. Visit. google.com/maps and follow the above instructions.  They work across all browsers. They click to direction. You can do all sorts of cool things with them.

They can be properly coded in both Scheme and hCard on a site.

Use these tools to create the code

Use geositemapgenerator.com to create a geo sitemap and KML generator.  KML data can be a factor in getting “Landmark Status” in Google Maps.

Imagery That Works

  1. Images of you and your staff. Most business takes place offline. Help people to feel comfortable with you. Don’t use stock photos.  Have real images.
  2. Images of your location and vehicles
  3. Images of your service or product

Test your images for conversion

Add national and local trust symbols to your Web site.  Markup your testimonials in hCard format.  Testimonials are not as trustworthy as third-party reviews but he shows an example of one leading to  52 percent increase in conversion because it added the 5-star review in the SERPs. So that’s pretty sweet.

Test all your markup with the Rich Snippets Testing Tool.

Next up is Thomas Ballantyne.

He’s a pest control guy. Like…actual pests. As in, bugs.  He also just threw a T-shirt at some dude’s head. Aside from being a pest guy, he’s also a “give away T-shirts” guy, I guess.

How do you get reviews?

Fake Reviews: They’re everywhere. He doesn’t advise doing this but you can buy them on Fiverr if you’re so inclined. He shows a fake review showing up 11 different times on Yelp and ranking all over the darn place. He shows some fake reviews a competitor of his created on Google.  Calling out competitors, FTW! ;)   Then he makes a sex joke that I’m not sharing here. You’re welcome.

He shares some stats about how is company really benefited from online reviews but…to be honest, I was still wincing at the sex joke and missed the first couple. So there’s that.

He does say that his company found a direct correlation between review count and customer referral rate. Asking for online reviews increases your customer satisfaction. Business owners really need to get into the review mentality for your business. It’s not just going to help your marketing, it’s going to help you be a better business because you’re communicating and engaging with your customers.

When a customer writes a review, they believe you are a good company so they are more likely to review you, as well.

Get A Review Strategy

  1. Don’t suck: You may want to conduct some internal surveying prior to jumping into this.
  2. Ask for reviews: Find a way to get your customers to review you. You are ALLOWED to ask people to give you a review
  3. Make it easy: He has a page on his Web site that encourages people to say “compliment your tech”.  It then links off to a bunch of different review sites for customers to use.  I love this idea.
  4. Pay for reviews? Google says not to but it’s up to your company. He has a different philosophy on it. He thinks when you offer money for something you cheapen the relationship.

Which do you believe most?

  • I am a good kisser
  • I hear he is a really good kisser
  • I have kissed him and he’s a good kisser
  • I am the head chearleader and he’s a really good kisser (he paid me to say this)

Obviously you want number three.

Real Reviews

Yes, Google and Yelp both remove real reviews.

Bad reviews can be good for you. If you have a problem with your service and you get a bad review – engage it and fix it.

Engage your bad reviews

  • Start offline. Hunt them down. Call them up
  • If you can find them and call them then fix the problem
  • Once you have successfully fixed the problem, ask them to update their review
  • If you cannot find them offline then make a polite response online and invite them to contact you so that you can resolve the problem
  • If you are not going to be polite then don’t respond

Reviews make marketing easy.  You want reviews because they increase your referral rate, they increase customer satisfaction, and they give you more fire in the marketing department.

Next up is Chris Silver Smith.

Local Search Ranking Factors

  1. Relevance: Keywords in business name, keywords in classic Website SEO, business category match
  2. Distance: Radius of distance from city centroid, city/zip code outline regions, user’s geolocation (IP address/ cell phone)
  3. Prominence

He’s not going to talk about Relevance and Distance. If you do your due diligence, you can get those covered and there’s not much more to do in that respect. Prominence is a bit hazier. It’s essentially what is the relative popularity of  that business compared to similar businesses?  They look at Relative Popularity, PageRank, Mentions or Citations, and PlaceRank (popularity of location)

What Are Citations?

  • Mentions of the business name
  • Mentions of the street address
  • Mentions of the telephone number
  • Links, too!
  • Mentions of the URL

Biz Data Sources = Basic Citation Sources

  • Online directories
  • Business directories
  • Vertical directories

These all feed into Google Places. They’re the basic places you go to list yourself when you start a business.  If you’re not doing this, you shouldn’t be doing anything more complex.

He recommends analyzing competitors’ Place Pages to discover more citation sources. If Google mentions any sources for data, check to see if you’re listed there too.

Unorthodox Citation Sources:

  • Wikipedia Articles. If you’re business isn’t noteworthy enough, is the business noteworthy? Is it in a big shopping center? Is the founder well known enough?
  • Offering a wifi hotspot can get you listed in local directories.
  • Geocache locations
  • National register and state historical marker locations
  • Chamber of Commerce Web sites (and other member orgs)
  • Pressed penny machines
  • ATM locations
  • Weather Monitoring Stations
  • Specialty directories

Non-intuitive citation-building tactics

  • Write a book
  • Host a wedding or charity event
  • Offer special discounts to local groups

Rapidly developing location popularity Signal: Check In Services.

Next up is Manish Patel

Key Challenges

  • Understanding the Local Ecosystem – Mobile/social still an afterthought
  • Assume – ranking well for branding terms
  • Quality/ Consistency of local data
  • Analysis Paralysis: Likes, Fans, +1, Searches, CTR, KPIs, Events, Actions and so on

Key Challenge 1: That’s Not My Department

They create a diagram that helps businesses to think of themselves as a broadcaster. You have to do the work and push your information out far and wide.  The levels look something like this:

  • Owned Platforms: The platforms you control. These can include TV, desktop, Mobile, Tablet.
  • Further out Owned Platforms: Google Places, Yelp, Facebook, Yahoo Local
  • Earned Platforms: Honda, Toyota, Verizon

They talk about consumer path to purchase. People are starting their search at a variety of places. They’re looking to find basic things like hours, menus, etc, and they want to take an action.

Local Facebook Integration: Facebook referrals accounted for more than 15 percent of traffic to individual store location pages for a national QSR. Pinterest is another one that’s blowing up.  Users can ‘pin’ locations and have their friends discover them.

Key Challenge 2: No need to defend my turf

He shows an example for [Krueger locations chicago] you’d have a situation where they only show up in position 4. The others are scrapers stealing their traffic. They need to make the effort to put in those local pages and show up.

Local Microsites – 1 per location

Local Landing Pages should be the center of your universe. Google Places, Yelp, AdWords Campaigns, Display Ads, Mobile Searches, Facebook likes – they can all go to that page.

Key Challenge 3: Quality & Consistency of Data

Prescribe the pain:

  • Take random SERP pages
  • Pull ranking reports
  •  Show social data divide – what’s happening on other social sites

He shows some national chains who all had missing locations, bad phone numbers, poor geocodes or were just duplicated. These are the basics you have to get down.

Data acquistion and cleansing

Syndication & Claiming Challenges

  • Limited Resources: Brands must max data syndication efforts. Brands are not aware of the problem/opportunity
  • Format location files to each search engine: Note everyone accepts Enhanced data, Bing via Live Technology doesn’t have a console, Google can’t export Analytics, Yelp doesn’t understand brands, etc
  • Manual work still required: Find missing data, changes. Adding lat and long columns to your bulk upload file. Monthly update maintenance

Key Challenge 4: Analysis Paralysis

Show your team things by channel.

Reduce friction points: Map, directions, business hours, phone numbers, etc

Measure engagement – interaction with map, print out, link a coupon, check in, send local info to email/sms

They take all the data and plot it on a map.  That allows them to focus on an area you can’t get access to if you’re looking at tabular information.

Read the rest of our SMX West 2012 liveblogging coverage for more insight.

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