When you have a website, you want it to rank near the top of the search rankings for localized searches. In order to get traffic to your site, you not only need a great site but you also need to market your site and optimize your site for search optimization at the local level (for local and regional companies). Here is a conversation I had with a buddy of mine where we discuss the steps we will take to assure such local search optimization and web site marketing in general.
Initially, we do a Preliminary Keyword Analysis using, as you’d mentioned, Keyword Discovery. Word Tracker is good, but KD seems to have a deeper database and more robust association tools, which helps. Based on this, we create a site map that targets content and develop landing pages for primary keywords and keyword phrases. Finally, we go through the entire site, making sure it’s properly optimized on a page-by-page basis for inclusion in the top three (Google, Yahoo, LIVE) search engines. In my experience, these will provide 95% of your traffic, and since Google is the de facto standard for searches, it’s the key place to be. Once this process is complete, I’ll create a Google-specific XML site map, add Google analytics (if it’s not already there), and submit for reindexing by the major engines.
Initial optimization takes about two weeks to complete–the keyword analysis and site map takes about three days to initially complete, at which time we bounce it back to you for review, provide a round of revisions and get the final document back to you for approval by the end of week one. In week two, we go through the site, rewrite copy for appropriate keyword density, then bounce this to you for editorial direction and approval, create landing pages for specific keyword terms, and finish up the remaining technical work.
After this, on a monthly basis, we provide a report that shows current and past positions (after the first month) for each of the selected keywords and keyword phrases on the same day each month–this date will be determined by the completion date of the initial optimization phase. In addition to search positions, it’s crucial to understand the actions that are taken by people who arrive at the site. I’ll provide an ongoing monthly review and report of the conversion rate as well as the bounce rate for people arriving at the site and leaving from that first page they see–the conversion report. Based on these two reports, we provide five hours per month to make changes to the site to both increase rankings for keywords as well as to improve bounce rate. We work with you to identify and move visitors toward taking action–and then constantly improve the frequency and quality of these conversion events. We also reserve some of this time for soliciting appropriate reciprocal links to sites. You might also want to consider RSS feeds, a blog, a YouTube channel for your videos, and a Facebook account for the organization–MySpace skews too young and too downmarket to be of significant value to you.
Local Search Optimization: What and Why
SEO means Search Engine Optimization. In basic terms, Local Search Optimization and SEO is the process of making your website more relevant to the major search engines. Increasing your relevancy will mean that your site shows up higher in their search rankings. Due to its overwhelming market share, Google is usually the search engine you will optimize for.
Local SEO is optimizing your website to rank highly for local based search terms (keywords). Instead of just ranking for a general keyword like “Roofers” (again, without the accent marks), you would try to rank for “Omaha Roofers” or “Omaha Roofing Companies” (without the accent marks).
Local Search Optimization and SEO optimization is becoming an increasingly popular technique, especially by businesses in mid-sized and small cities. There are certain advantages when optimizing for localized search terms:
- Easier To Rank — It is generally easier to rank for a local search term because it is less competitive. You can rank near or at the top of Google for these terms with much less work. For a real-life example, I worked with a business in a town of ~30,000 and was able to get them to the top of Google for a number of localized search terms in a matter of days.
- More Targeted — When people are searching locally, they are more often to be ready to buy. It also makes sure that the people finding your site are local and can actually use your services. If you rank for “roofer” people all over the world will find your site, but if you localize that search term you will be targeting people who are searching from your area. I have found that roofer clients often start their search locally first. If they find someone competent that they feel comfortable with, they often stop searching. When you have a website, you want it to rank near the top of the search rankings for localized searches.
With the explosions of mobile Internet, finding businesses through search engines will only get more popular. At one time, every business wanted to be in the Yellow Pages. Well, the day of the search engine is here and you want to rank for these local terms. With less competition you can rank quicker and with less effort. You will be tapping into a perpetual funnel of local-based web searches.
Local Search Optimization: Keyword Research
In this step, we will walk through some keyword research. Keywords are the words or terms that people use to search in Google. If you do a search for “Cheap Flights” on Google, then the keyword is: cheap flight.
Keyword brainstorming and research is an important first step in any Local SEO plan. These general steps will get you off to a good start.
- Brainstorm — Sit down and make a list of every keyword term that someone would search for to find your roofer writing business. Don’t worry about local terms right now — just think of what people would search in any part of the world to find a service like yours. Write down as many terms as possible. Think of a wide variety of terms, all the way from one word terms (short-tail) to 3+-word terms (long-tail). I would also ask friends and family for their input. This will give you an outside perspective from an everyday person. If you get stuck thinking about terms, you can get some help from Google itself. Just take one of the keyword terms you thought of and enter it into the Google Keyword Tool. This will give you a list of related terms and their estimated search numbers. Keep in mind we will localize these terms, so the amount of searches will not be directly applicable — but it still gives you an idea of what keywords are searched more often. Spend a good chunk of time on this, and try to get a list of 30-50 keyword terms.
- Consolidate — Go through this list and take out your five most-desired keywords. You can use personal preference, a hunch, the search results from Google Keyword Tool, and common sense. Until you actually test your terms, you won’t know much about them. So take these five terms and write them down on their own. Keep your other keywords handy though! These will be the five you will start with, but eventually through the power of blogging, you will be ranking for all of the terms.
- Localize — Now that you have your list of five terms, simply localize them. Add your location (town or city, maybe the state/province if you are in a city with common name). If your résumé writing services are in demand in a number of towns, then add the other towns in front of the keyword as well. For example…
City One + Keyword One
City One + Keyword Two
City Two + Keyword One
City Two + Keyword Two
So each new town you use will be another five local keyword terms. Once you have localized your keywords, you will now have a list of local keyword terms that you can begin ranking for using Local Search Optimization. While this is a basic form of keyword research, it is leagues ahead of most of the online marketing that local businesses do.
Local Search Optimization: Search Engine Optimization Basics
While breaking down Local Search Optimization and SEO completely would be a book on its own (I actually purchased a 330 page eBook on this subject once!), I will go over some basics. if you have built your website using WordPress, you could do some of the on-page steps yourself. If you went with an HTML design, you might have to get your web designer to make a couple of changes. The changes will be quick though, so it shouldn’t take too much time.
Search Engine Optimization can be broken into two main categories: On-page and Off-page.
On-Page: On-Page means exactly what it says. These are the steps you take on your actual site or blog to make it more friendly to the search engines. While there are many things to consider, some great first steps include:
- Title Tags: You might have to get your web designer to fix these for you if you use a traditional HTML website. These are simply the titles of each page and are the first thing Google sees when it finds a new page. The “title” in this case is what is displayed ABOVE the address bar in your Internet browser. It is at the very top of the browser. On Google.com, “Google” is the page title. If you are familiar with HTML code, this is usually accomplished with the <title></title> tags near the top of the code. If you are savvy enough, you can change them yourself — just remove what is in between them and paste in one of your keywords. In WordPress, you can handle this even easier through uses of plugins like All-in-One SEO. Each page of your site should have a different title tag. Make it one of the keywords that you created in the previous step. In some smaller towns, this is all you will need to do to get to the first page of Google for localized terms. If you use WordPress, you can access Permalinks through the Settings and create a custom structure like: /%postname%/. This will make the title tag of every post you create to be the same as the Post Title. So just name your blog posts with keywords and you will automatically have keyword rich title tags. Another point for WordPress.
- Content — You want to mention your keywords in your content, but not too much. You don’t want your content to seem low quality and unnaturally stuffed with keywords. Remember, your web content should be written for your visitors, not the search engines. Good quality content that naturally mentions your keywords will engage people, make them more likely to share your site. It will also seem more natural to Google.
- Navigation — You should have proper navigation on your site. You want it to be both logical and working. Broken links on your site are a big “no-no.” A broken link in your navigation is especially glaring. You want Google to be to easily find your whole site with no broken links. This includes linking to other parts of your own site.
- Sitemap — This step is more important for WordPress based websites, because a sitemap is needed more for a dynamic site. A sitemap is basically a list of your website pages. Search engines like Google will use it to discover your entire site. It is more important for websites that are updated with new pages often (i.e. WordPress blog). In WordPress you can easily add a sitemap to your site with a plugin like “Google XML Sitemaps.”
SEO and Local Search Optimization is a major area of study online, and there are a lot of other steps you can take, but the above ones are a great on-page start to any campaign. Since ranking for localized keywords is easier in general, these steps should suffice for most résumé writing businesses.
Off-Page — In many people’s eyes, off-page optimization is where you should spend most of your time. I personally disagree, though. I think consistent high quality on-page content (aka blog posts) is the most important step. That said, off-page optimization is still very important and probably more important than every on-page step besides content creation.
When it comes down to a basic level, off-page optimization is really about one thing — getting backlinks. Backlinks are simply links on other sites that point towards your site. Google values these highly, and it is one of the major ranking factors. When you are starting a backlinking campaign, there are a couple of terms you need to know:
- Anchor Text: The anchor text is the actual text that makes up the link. When you see a link that says “Click Here,” then click here is the anchor text. Links that have your keywords as the anchor text are more valuable. An anchor text that reads, “Click here to contact an Omaha resume writer” is more valuable.
- Page Rank: Google gives pages a rank from 0-10. This rank isn’t quite as important as some people make it out to be, but it is still a good guide. The higher the page rank of a website, the more valuable the link on it is. (You will sometimes see this referred to as the “PR” value — or page rank value.)
- NoFollow/Dofollow: Two different kind of links. If a link is nofollow, it means that Google doesn’t pass on the power of the link to your site. There is some argument on this though. I don’t think someone should ignore a potential backlink because it is nofollow. It contributes to a natural backlinking profile, and can still drive traffic. (You can do a search for “nofollow/dofollow” on Google to find out more about this.)
These are some of the basic terms you will come across when you are looking for backlinks or learning more about them. There are a lot of blog posts out there about backlinking, as well as free guides, etc. When you are searching for backlinks, there might be times when you need to use code to build your links. Don’t panic. The code is pretty simple. In general, you will need HTML code or BBCode. The BBCode will usually be found if you’re building links on forums, and the HTML code will be used on your own sites, or other places that aren’t forum-based.
<a href=”your full website link”>Your Keyword</a>
[url=”your full website link”]Your Keyword[/url]
Where Can You Start Getting Links to build up your Local Search Optimization?
There are a few steps you can do to get your first backlinks. While these might not be enough to get you to #1 on Google (it might be for some terms), it is still a very solid start.
- Dmoz.org — Dmoz is a great backlink. It is free, easy and powerful. Just visit the site and follow their instructions closely. Make sure you choose the proper category. When they ask your for your Site Title, use a Keyword because this will be the anchor text of the link. It takes a notoriously long time to get your site in DMOZ, but don’t reapply too often. Check every 3-6 months and reapply at that point.
- Yahoo Biz Directory — This is the only directory I would ever consider paying for. It is another high value backlink.
- Free Directories – While free directories are not that valuable anymore, there is still a little bit of value there and you can find lots of free options. Never exchange links with a directory though. If a directory wants you to link to them before you can submit, then move along. Never pay for a directory spot. Do not pay for mass directory submissions either.
- Your Existing Websites/Blogs — If you have other websites, or have built a blog off site — then link between all of them. This is a pretty simple step but I have seen people miss it time and time again.
- Your Personal Network – As a résumé business owner, you probably have a bit of a local network. Contact your fellow résumé writers, individuals you do business with, and/or any friends and family members with websites and ask them for a backlink. I have added links to a number of friends who have asked for it.
- Social Media — Make sure you drop your website link in all of your social media profiles (i.e. Facebook/Twitter). Even if these links are nofollow and not keyword rich, they can still drive traffic and could have some effect on Google ranking. Other social networks like Linkedin and Digg will let you add keyword-rich, dofollow links in your profile.
You will find a lot of information on backlinks if you just look for it. These basic steps are a great start for your off-page optimization, and might be enough to get you to #1 for your localized terms.
Local SEO is one of the best online activities a résumé business owner can invest time or money into. These SEO steps are a basic primer that should help the average résumé business owner begin to see the benefits of local Google domination.
Local Search Optimization: Setting up Google Places
Another step towards dominating Google Local Search Optimization locally is making sure you are represented on Google Places and have claimed your business.
Google Places is NOT Facebook Places — it isn’t the same thing at all. Have you ever done a search on Google and a map pops up with businesses plotted on it? This is Google Places in action. Many people don’t realize that you can claim your business and control the information Google shares in this manner.
In this step we will look at how to sign up and add/claim your business.
First you have to visit Google Places.
- Sign in with your Google Account — If you don’t have a Google account, sign up for one now. Google has a number of free tools that are must-haves for individuals who want to market their businesses online. Google Places is just one of these.
- Check Out Some Information — Once you have entered your Google ID, you will be taken to a new page. On the left hand side is an “Add a Business” button — but before you click that, you can learn a little more about Google Places from some of the links and videos on the right side of page. When you feel comfortable moving on…
- Click Add a New Business — You will be taken to a page where it will ask for your country and business’s main phone number. This is to find out if a listing already exists. If it does, you will be taken to a page where you can click “edit” and you can fill out more information. If it doesn’t, you will be taken to a form to fill out to add your business. Fill out as much info as possible in either scenario and click “Submit.”
- Verify — Once you click submit, you will have to verify your Google Places listing. You can do this three different ways: via a phone call to your listed business number, a text to your listed cell phone number, or a postcard to your listed business address. The phone call and text will be instant, but you will have to wait 2-3 weeks for the postcard. Sometimes the phone verification won’t work with some phone systems, so you will be forced to go with text or postcard. Either way you do it, you will receive a code, and once you enter that, your listing will be live.
Now, you have either claimed or created your business profile on Google Places. You have taken another step towards building a great online presence. The next step will share some best practices to keep in mind when using Google Places.
Local Search Optimization: Google Places Best Practices
Since you now have your business claimed and verified on Google Places, we can look at some techniques to make sure you use your listing properly. First off, Google Places isn’t really a service you “use” per se. It isn’t like Facebook Places in that regards. When I say “use,” I really mean how you should set it up to get the most advantage from the search engines. Essentially these Local Search Optimization best practices are steps to take to ensure your listing shows up above other businesses.
Google Places ranking depends on a number of items, including (but not limited to):
- Claiming Your Business — I will assume you did this last step, but if you didn’t, here is a good incentive to do it. Claiming your business is one way to raise it in the Google rankings. Generally speaking, claimed businesses show up before unclaimed ones.
- Choose City Center Locations — If your résumé writing business has multiple locations (for example, a home office and a business office), list the one that is closest to the heart of the city. While it might be impossible for you to control, Google does lend weight to a businesses proximity to the city center.
- Categorize Properly — You can choose a number of categories for your business, and I suggest using as many categories as possible. The catch is they have to be legitimate categories. Don’t reach too far for categories, because if they aren’t related to your business, Google could penalize you by ranking your site lower in Places.
- Fill Out Your Profile — Fill out as much info in the profile as you can. Include payment types, hours, and other information — like parking, for example. Google definitely prefers profiles to be more filled out, because it means more value for their users.
- Add Images — Google gives you 10 spots for images, and I suggest using every spot. This will not only make your business listing look better, it will contribute to the “fullness” of your profile. You should have your business logo and your photo, at a minimum. You might also have a photo of the outside of your office (if you work from a commercial location). You can also include logos for professional organization affiliations (PARW, NRWA, CMA, CDI logos, for example) as well as for résumé certifications (ACRW, CPRW, NCRW, CRW, etc.).
- Reviews — People can review your business right on Google Places, so encourage some of your favorite customers to write you a review. It will look great on your profile, and help your listing show up at the top. Google Places also looks at review sites on the web. If applicable, make sure your business is reviewed on sites like Yelp.
Google Places and Local Search Optimization is only gaining in popularity. Tapping into it today and optimizing your listing with the tips above will ensure your business has a prominent place on it.