Archives for category: Local Search

When it comes to SEO, there is literally nothing that beats a series of high quality inbound links. Usually, you are working to attract inbound links through various link-baiting strategies, mainly being that you have something of interest or value to a portion of the internet public at large. You work to attract them to your content of value. If they like it, they reward you with the placement and/or distribution of an inbound link. The more quality links, the more SERP visibility and stability your site can expect to enjoy.

Its a pretty simple equation. Quality Content = Value to others (that whole currency thing we’re always talking). Value to others = Sharing with their peers. Sharing = Other sites saying your’s is a creditable source for such content, Others saying your site is awesome = better Search Engine Visibility. You know the drill…

While this is all fine and good, and rather common knowledge, what happens when your client is 100% local, proudly serving about 3 or 4 counties? And not at all interesting to high value/high PageRank sites like mashable.com or CNN.com?

Don’t fret, all hope is not lost – you just have to be aware of a few of the Realities of Hyper Local Search.

5 Realities of Hyper Local Link Building

1) Query Volume is Lower for Hyper Local Search

  • The traffic and new opportunity volume at the hyper local level is MUCH lower. It does not take an astrophysicist to deduce that if across the nation the traffic volume is 100,000 for a valued keyword and your client’s reach is about 100 miles, the less of that keyword’s potential you can attract and subsequently services. No amount of linking can change that. 

    Use this understanding to help manage your client’s expectations. Since they are servicing a small area, the ROI from your services is a lot tighter. Your goals should be more around long term, sustained Search Engine Visibility instead of a million leads today. The million leads today is a lie and is basically an impossible expectation to make good on. You want to keep the client, so, manage this portion of the conversation appropriately.

2) Competitive Research and Monitoring is More Critical

  • There is lower competitive density in hyper localized areas for many business domains. Because of this, effective on-page and code-level optimization, tucked in as part of a stated content strategy, can accomplish a lot in managing a local site’s Search Engine Visibility.

    Additionally, what these competitors decide to do with their online strategy is going to be one of the main factors producing negative movement in your listings. Monitor them closely. If you move down, check to see if they moved up? If so, what did they change? Reverse engineer it. You should literally plan to know the competitive sites as well as the site you are contracted to optimize. Tools like Raven Internet Marketing Tools make this kind of monitoring way easier.

3) Get the Business Listing Information Right

  • In case you missed it, we wrote about getting Citations for Local Search a little while back. Take some time to understand the concepts of Citations for Hyper Local Search. Those little map packs are not going away anytime soon. To boot, when a potential visitor is using a location modified query, they are more likely to click through to your brand via the maps listing than the SERPs or the Paid Search ads. (data on this later…)

    The fact is, there are a lot of business listing aggregators, like Internet Yellow Pages and OpenList, that the Search Engines use to help validate your business identity. This is part of how the online world helps the brick and mortar world. The more of these Citations you have the better. Claim every business listing that you can, and take some time to make sure that the listing being aggregated is correct. Accuracy matters.

4) Leverage Community Involvement

  • One of the first questions WGH ask during the discovery phase with a hyper local client is around community involvement. What do they support? 5k fun runs? The high school baseball team? Room at the Inn, Meals on Wheels, etc… check to make sure these community partners have sites and if so, request getting a link. Being local, be sure that you return the favor.

    The local Chamber of Commerce is a great source for a high quality inbound link that is often overlooked. Yes, it does cost a few (hundred) dollars normally to be a member of the local Chamber of Commerce, but its money well spent. We’ve also found that having a listing with the local Chamber of Commerce goes a long way in helping establish deep credibility for a local business. (as well as attracting more business!)

5) Borrow Some Brand Equity

  • Don’t be to proud to ride a coat tail. If your business is the local reseller of another brand’s product, make sure you have a link from them. It is going to serve two purposes. One, it will pass a little link juice. And second, it will serve as a way for a potential visitor/customer in your area to connect with your business from the Brand’s site.

Feel free to chime in if there are additional realities that you’ve come to live by when optimizing for hyper local clients.

Whitespark SEO Logo Darren Shaw of Whitespark SEO and Garrett French and Ben Willis from Ontolo have collaborated to launch a promising new tool, Local Citation Finder. Being both an advocate and practitioner of local search, it made me excited to see a new tool like this making its way on the scene. In the event that you need a quick refresher on citations, take a quick pass of the role citations play in local search.

The premise of the tool is rather simple, yet impressive; quickly aggregate citation sources. Ontolo recently published an in-depth post about underlying concepts of this tool. It was titled “Phone Number Co-Citation Analysis for Local Link Builders”. If you have not been exposed to this post, please take the time to go read, study and internalize what they are suggesting.

The interface is straight forward. You type in the location centric citation keyterm you are wanting to research. In this case, “Burgers and Fries Nashville”. Then pick Google.com or Google.ca and hit submit. Your request is thrown in the system’s queue and in about 10 minutes (or less), you have a lovely little email with the compiled data for your requested citation keyterm. By hand, this is something that can take hours, if not days to fetch and compile.

Local Citation Finder Email ResultsThe results are very clean and easy to sort. They include results for the local listings, (i.e. the map pack), unique domains where the citation term can be found, and a relatively comprehensive list of the specific URLs where said citation keyterm is. Each section has a lovely little stick count as well to help you get a quick sense of the density of results relative to your requested citation keyterm. As if that weren’t enough, this data can give you some really solid ideas on potential sources for your future citation development efforts!

This tool is effortlessly providing high value data that offers huge benefit to those in the Local Search community. Though, the presentation/portability of this data is a touch limited at the moment, I would speculate (really, speculate, as I do not know) that the smarts behind the Local Citation Finder are sorting out things like .csv downloads and possibly API accessibility for future updates. For now, we must be patient and use the Local Citation Finder often to help encourage future enhancements.

If you do anything with local search, I would encourage you to take the time to sign up for this exceptional new tool.

If you’ve paid any attention to your Twitter and possibly Facebook feeds, you’ve seen an influx of “I’m At….” updates courtesy of Foursquare, Gowalla and possibly some others. Location-based social-gaming (where users are rewarded with virtual points and badges based on checking into venues) has exploded in use with Foursquare poised to reach 1 million users faster than Twitter.

While the buzz topic during SxSW 2010 was who will win the Check-in War, Gowalla took top honors at South By (the hip way to say it) over its rival Foursquare in the Mobile Website Awards.

Yet Foursquare is nearly synonymous with the gaming platform, much like Google is to Online Search and Twitter is to micro-blogging. And of course with the popularity come the detractors. Foursquare has attained the critical mass to have incurred a backlash from some bloggers who are upset that they are starting to notice other users in their Twitter feeds.

This of course means Location-Based mobile gaming, regardless if it’s Foursquare, Gowalla or a rose by any other name is going to be around for a long effing time.

For small businesses, location based social gaming should be embraced as it promotes competition by repeat business. We here at WGH would like to offer a Location Gaming quick-start guide for small businesses.

Don’t Avoid Foursquare (or other social/location apps)

With the rise of smart phones and tablet computing, the mobile web is going to explode this year. Applications like Foursquare and Gowalla are going to be the new Yelp and CitySearch (Yelp knows this which is why they’ve added check-in functionality to their iPhone app). And it will be as disruptive to national brands as the Google Local Business Listings were on the SERPs. You’ve already got an advantage on Foursquare because the players that discover more places are rewarded.

Make an offer worth frequent check-ins

Detractors claim that there is no real-world benefit to checking-in on Foursquare and Gowalla except one’s ego at the top of the leader board. Many businesses on Foursquare are adding offers to patrons after so many checkins. Some Alamo Drafthouse movie theater are offering Free Admission to the respective Mayors. Whatever the offer, make sure it’s worthwhile and timely for the gamers. One free drink per 10 check-ins is not motivation enough except to your most loyal customers. It’s tantamount to running a national Pay-per-Click campaign on a $500 budget, and then saying PPC doesn’t work. Yeah, you played with it, but not really.

Add tips to your location

This is especially important for restaurants with seasonal menus. If you have something new on the menu, by all means add it as a tip for customers to find. Foursquare users are encouraged to check off that they have tried certain entrees or partaken in certain events specific to the locations. Let the audience know of your Friday Special. And in the case of the spirit of the law, that doesn’t mean add 600 tips. Add one or two, and let the Foursquare users find them.

Check the listings frequently – merge when applicable

Sometimes the GPS on the iPhone isn’t working correctly, or for some odd reason your already added business may not appear in the listings. This can lead to users adding more listings for your business. Also since users are rewarded for finding new venues, some gamers are taking advantage of the points and leader boards by adding venues that aren’t really venues. Foursquare has built in a way to merge listings of locations for those who have attained “Super-User” status. If you are not a super user, you can log into the Foursquare forums and report that the erroneous listings be merged with yours.

Employees can’t check in

If you are making tangible offers for Foursquare users, do not let your employees check-in to your venue. It’s no fun when an employee of the establishment is the Mayor. The idea is to give a reason for more people to return. If they cannot ever receive the offer, then it stops being fun.

Foursquare is not the magic answer

Don’t think that Foursquare is the magic bullet for your online presence. People aren’t going to show up just because you’re on Foursquare. And by all means, do not equate Foursquare check-ins with increased revenues. The number of check-ins is equal to Facebook Fans and Twitter followers; it’s the new “hits.” Check-ins are an arbitrary number. You might have a lot of activity in the social gaming world, but that doesn’t mean the people are spending money. Your bottom line is the real KPI.