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Local Search Optimization

Local Search Ranking Factors

Ever wonder what it takes to rank high in the search engines? Ranking factors, despite being perceived as a great mystery, are in reality relatively straight forward. Create great content, get people to link to it, make sure your business listings are in order and you’re all set! Of course, I’m oversimplifying things. There’s a bit more to it than this, however knowing what the search engines are looking at provides a perfect place to start.

Every year the top SEO service providers pull their shared experiences, tests, and case studies to produce a Top Ranking Factors list.

For local business owners, this list is a valuable resource for deciding where to spend time and budget to put your business in the best possible position to be found in the search engines.

Check out this infographic on the top Local Ranking Factors.

Local Search Ranking Factors

Sanctuary provides optimization services for local businesses. Let us help you get your business showing up at the top of the search engines.

Search Engine Local Ranking Factors
Evaluating an SEO Agency

The world of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Google always seem to be clouded in mystery. Even though it’s 2016 and Google has been around for 18 years, many business owners or marketing managers have no idea how it works or how to get their companies to show up on Google.

This confusion makes it easy for less-than-reputable individuals to take advantage of those who know they need to be found on the web but don’t know how to get there. These unscrupulous SEO firms throw terms around like Algorithms, Penguin, Penalties, and SERP’s – more to confuse and thus convince clients to trust them.

The end result is a company who pays a lot of money for tactics that, at best, achieve no results and, at worse, cause damages that are difficult to undo.

Evaluating an SEO Agency

Top 5 signs you might be dealing with an “SEO” Agency that doesn’t have your best interests in mind.

#5 No Clear Strategy

If an SEO has no way of articulating their strategy for increasing your visibility then chances are they don’t have one.  A strategy is their chance to explain what and why they will be doing certain things. Always ask what and why.

#4 Lack of Reporting

Reporting is a vital part of business operations. If you can’t report out on it how can you assess the ROI? Any SEO firm that doesn’t provide an account of what they’ve done and how successful or not (which is ok, failure if part of the process) it has been, is not being transparent. Lack of access to analytics (Google Analytics), conversion tracking tools, rank reports etc. are a sure sign things are not being assessed properly.

#3 Magical Results

Everyone wants to see their traffic, sales, conversions etc. grow and grow quickly. But be wary of the ‘magical’ results. Organic traffic can grow fast, but use your gut when you see extreme growth. Often these visitors turn out to be inflated or manipulated and provide no value to your company.

#2 Google Guarantee

Any SEO firm or agency that says they can guarantee an organic ranking is, well, not someone to trust. No one can. Google won’t allow it or Google would be out of business. Certain tactics have proven to be more efficient than others, but there are simply too many factors involved for anyone to declare emphatically they can guarantee rankings.

#1 Laziness

The digital world has changed a lot in the last five years. Google has made over 20 changes to how it interacts with a website in the last two years. If your SEO agency is still using tactics from 2010, they’re being lazy.

 

A mix of proven and innovative approaches always gives a company the best possible chance to succeed. A quality SEO firm will explain the tactics they are using and explain why they are important. If your agency isn’t doing that, you need to ask questions.

These are just a sampling of the things you should use to evaluate your current or prospective SEO agency. Our hope is that your agency passes the test and is providing you with a valuable service. Quality SEO makes the web a better place for everyone!

 

At Sanctuary Marketing Group we pride ourselves on having an open relationship with our clients. Our clients look at us as partners, focused on achieving results openly and ethically. If you’ve had a bad experience with an SEO or Digital Marketing agency, contact us. We are happy to listen to your needs and experience, offer advice and help you get back on track growing your business.

How to Evaluate SEO Providers & Avoid the Sketchy Ones
Internal Linking Plan

Internal Linking PlanWhen reviewing a site from an SEO perspective, one thing I always include on my checklist is internal linking. We can usually tell how well a site is optimized by looking over the linking strategy. Implementing a linking strategy is a key step in optimizing your site, so it should be a part of your overall strategy.

We often assume just because we create a page and publish it that Google will find, index and rank that page. It’s the same line of thought as constructing a baseball diamond in the middle of a corn field. The “build it and they will come” mentality may work if the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson tells people to visit the baseball diamond (Field of Dreams reference), but in the online world this is not the case.

Think of internal links as a network of road signs that will tell Google where to go and what to look at. Driving down the interstate, you look for signs to direct you to your exit, and so does Google. Internal links direct the search spiders down the road of your website. Without these links, the spiders may just ‘drive on by’ the exit and miss your page. Eventually, it may be indexed but to help get the job done faster you need internal links.

 

The top 5 ways I approach internal linking

1) Use Main Navigation

Internal Linking

Putting links on pages that are in the main navigation means that those pages are just 1-2 clicks away. A page that is 1-2 clicks away from the homepage can carry some of the link equity through from the homepage. It also helps bring pages that are deeper in the site up on the IA ladder. However, filling the main navigation with links to every page is a bad idea, so don’t do that. Read more about User Friendly Navigations.

 

2) Use Your Homepage

The homepage is typically the most visited page on a site. This means a large portion of traffic is flowing through here. Utilize the homepage to gain exposure to high-value pages. This will do two things: First it will tell your visitors what is important and direct them to pages that are going to make you money. Secondly it will send a signal to Google and other search engines that these are important pages for them to crawl, index and rank. Links on a homepage are as important as the design of the homepage.

 

3) Capitalize on Popular Pages

This is my favorite tactic for starters. Capitalize on popular pages within your site. Find out which pages have the most external links (and presumably the most authority), pull this list together, and start dropping links to these pages throughout the site. This is a great way to build and share the link equity. External links are a completely different discussion but work in a similar manner. There are many different ways of gaining external links, just watch out for Google Penguins when doing so.

 

4) Use Breadcrumbs

A breadcrumb is a perfect place to capitalize on anchor text using targeted terms. Breadcrumbs also allows for several pages to link directly to each other. They can have 3 or more levels of links which allow for link equity to flow through each page. We always recommend using a breadcrumb whenever possible. They are part of our Best Practice for local SEO and rankings.

 

5)  Develop a Content Hub

Develop a hub of content that is similar or related. This hub will allow for curation of content that can be linked together. When content that is related is linked together, it provides context for the users and will help link equity flow between the pages. It also allows pages to be linked together that might never be connected otherwise. Blogs, related post plugins, categories, and pagination are all ways to achieve this.
These are just a few ways of executing good internal linking. Remember, internal linking is the thread that connects different pages of your site no matter how they are separated. With proper implementation, a good internal linking plan can be another notch in your SEO belt and provide one more signal to Google that you are ready to be found.

 

Get Help with Internal Linking & Digital Marketing for Your North Canton Business

Sanctuary Marketing Group in North Canton can help with developing a strong internal linking strategy. Give us a call @ 330-266-1188 or contact us here to talk with our strategist. We specialize in helping North Canton, Ohio businesses grow through effective digital marketing.

Internal Linking Tactics

no-yellow-pagesPeople are continually asking my opinion about the Yellow Pages. My first question is “Which Yellow Pages”? Are you talking about the book that shows up each year (that ends up in my recycle bin) or are you asking about YP.com, Superpages.com, Switchboard Yellow Pages, Yellowbook.com, yellowpages.aol.com, or even some mutant local yellow pages site like the one provided by our local newspaper.

What exactly are you buying when you buy the yellow pages?

In my local area, the Yellow Pages means YellowPages.com or YP.com. They have an army of people with the sole purpose of convincing you that they’re the perfect choice to build your website (seriously?) and market your business online. Their employees go through extensive training on how to convince you that if you don’t stick with “old reliable” that you’ll be lost to the world.

The problems with The Yellow Pages:

The Yellow Pages is a machine that’s built to sell. But what they don’t tell you is that their influence is waning… and they know it. That’s why they’re being so aggressive with their sales and marketing. It’s the last battle charge before they get mowed down by the conquering army. (more…)

Why the Yellow Pages is not an Internet Marketing Strategy

mike-ramseyI recently met Mike Ramsey (Briefly) at the GetListed.org Local University (#LocalU) in New York City. I don’t know Mike and I would hesitate to even consider him a friend at this point. But I was thankful to make the connection and maybe we’ll connect in the future. His company Nifty Marketing is a great example of a firm to follow in the future.

I was fortunate to hear Mike speak on local search and specifically his tactics related to improving internet marketing agency processes. Mike took the time during a round table conversation to offer me some great advice on taking my business to the next level, and, although I already knew the things he recommended to be true, it was great to have another professional echo and support what I already knew. It all helps to light a fire under my ass and continue to do the things that I know are right — regardless if they’re painful or not.

Some of those things include: (more…)

The Big List of Local SEO’s (Hat tip to Mike Ramsey)

keyword researchKeyword research is essential but I’m often challenged by the fact that it’s hard to get good local information for a local key-phrase using the Google Adwords Keyword Tool. Maybe someday they’ll get better at showing us the valuable nuggets of information hidden in the dark niches of their servers. But for now we have to live with what we have.

So what are our options for local keyword research?

We’ll, if you get lucky you’ll actually get some results using the Google Adwords Tool. But the results will be hit or miss unless you live in a large metro area.

As I mentioned previously, Google actually does provide you with a decent tool to study trends with their Google Insights For Search Tool. This is a great option to study industry and local trends and see how different terms compare.

But what’s great about this tool is that it does actually show you the relative keyword volume for terms that are fairly niche queries in smaller cities.

For example, I live close to Canton Ohio, a small city about an hour south of Cleveland. Therefore, I might be working with a local bakery that wants to rank locally for what they do. Everyone loves baked goods but how many people REALLY search online for a local bakery in Canton? (more…)

Keyword Research for a Local Business

I’m taking a little detour from local search marketing to discuss and recommend a solution for project management and CRM software.

crm-softwareThe Problem

I’ve used project management software for many years now and recently developed my own system that made sense to me. But recently I’ve realized that there are major things missing and that I needed to look around for a robust system that allowed me to do what I do best (internet marketing) and let others build and maintain the software that I use to manage my business.

The problem is that I have a long list of requirements. What I really need is one online system where I can manage my staff’s tasks and time tracking, view and understand their workload, easily manage my projects and tasks, my sales leads and collaborate and organize and store all of my company’s procedural documents. I know there is stuff out there that does all this but the devil is in the details. Let me be a little more specific. (more…)

Online Project Management and CRM Software System Review

Sometimes I step back and breathe a sigh of relief about what I do for a living. It really does seem that the future is bright. Barely a day goes by that I don’t hear about how having a website is essential for every business or that internet marketing spending is growing in leaps and bounds. Everything from social media to seo and mobile to conversion are all things that people are talking about and doing more of.

Checkout the TopRank Blog for many resources related to the future predictions of our industry.

Also, here are a few quick highlights from the recent Hubspot blog post 33 stats that paint a picture of the future of marketing.

  • 84% of B2B marketers use social media in some form.
  • Currently, marketers allocate 7.6% of their budgets to social media. CMOs expect that number to reach 18.8% in the next five years. (more…)
The future of internet marketing

Google-Local-Optimization-300x220In a video and comments regarding local search rankings, Jeremy Sussman of Google Maps described Google’s local algorithm as having three main parts: location, relevance, and prominence. The information contained within your Google+ Local Business listings data is a major piece of how Google determines these three factors and ultimately who shows up first in the local listings.

Google+ is one of the best ways to improve your local search rankings so we’ll focus on some specific tips and recommendations for this first. But it’s not the only site or tactic that you should be concerned about. We’ll discuss my additional recommendations in part 2 (coming 8/31/12) that go beyond Google+ and it’s mapping products. (more…)

20 ways to take your local search rankings to the next level (Part 1)

Research is an important part of effective local optimization. At the base level you need to know if it’s worth your time and effort to even attack a niche and if you’ll ultimately survive as a business. Getting that data is sometimes hard for small, local businesses due to the lack of data at the micro level. But here’s one good strategy to gauge the demand for your services locally.

Google Insights is a valuable tool to study search trends. If you live in Canton Ohio like I do, getting data about your niche or industry is going to be difficult. But by using Google Insights for Search you can checkout the trends for larger cities in your region or even trends in large metro areas in New York City to get a good idea if you’re industry is on the rise or on the decline. You might even find out that searches are increasing in one region but not another.

For example, I’m working with a local furniture store. It’s hard to get data for furniture shopping in their area. It’s one store, in one city in Ohio.

But can we learn more about furniture shopping in Ohio or the country in general?

Searches for furniture stores New York: (Ouch!)

(more…)

How to check what search terms are being used by potential local clients

The world of social media can be daunting for a small business owner. Even the mention of the term probably makes your brow furrow at times, right? So who needs ANOTHER social media site to deal with? Well, stick with me on this because this is not just another “how to succeed with social media” post.

Have you heard of Google+? If you haven’t please let me tell you why you should drop what you’re doing now and learn more. Here are some top level stats:

  • Google+ Local Business PageGoogle+ now has over 26 million users and growing daily.
  • Google+ has grown by 821% from the week ending on July 2
  • As of July 16, 2012 Google+ is the 638th most-visited site on the web.

Maybe you’re still saying “who cares”? It’s just one more thing to deal with. Well, let me give you a few reasons why you should care and why you should take an hour out of your day to claim and optimize your personal and Google+ Local Business Page. (more…)

5 Reasons why you need a Google+ Local Business Page