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Leveraging Local SEO for More Leads

Presented on January 10, 2013

Do your prospective customers know where you are? In a world where over 5 billion people have mobile phones, local searches are prevalent and everyone’s a local expert with customer reviews, it’s more important than ever that your business has local visibility. But helping people to find you locally through search engines is very different than optimizing for national exposure.

In this Local SEO Tips Webinar, Amanda Chaney, Account Director at Search Mojo, will go through the steps to take to help you capitalize on those local searchers who could be choosing your competitors over you.

Presenter: Amanda Chaney, Account Director, Search Mojo

Presented on January 10, 2013

Kari:

Hello, everyone. Welcome and thank you for coming to today’s webinar: “Leveraging Local SEO for More Leads”. My name is Kari Rippetoe, Content Marketing Manager at Search Mojo and I’ll be serving as your moderator for today’s webinar.

Before we get started, I just have a few housekeeping reminders. If you have any questions for our presenter, there is a GoToWebinar question box in the panel and you can input your questions there. We’ll be doing a Q&A at the end of the webinar. Also, as always, we are recording this webinar and you’ll receive a follow-up e-mail when the recording is available, which should be early next week. Finally, if you’d like to tweet about today’s presentation, please use the hashtag #mojowebinar.

Now I’d like to introduce our presenter for today. Amanda Chaney is Account Director at Search Mojo developing SEO and PPC strategies for her clients and managing the daily tactics to improve performance. Her clients have included Mazda USA, BookCircus, DS Cases and Liberty Tax Service. Amanda graduated from James Madison University with a degree in business with a marketing concentration and she is a certified Google AdWords professional and a Microsoft-accredited professional.

A little bit about Search Mojo. The company was founded in 2005 and specializes in all things search marketing, including SEO, pay- per-click, social media advertising, online reputation management and content marketing. Search Mojo is headquartered in Charlottesville, Virginia and we also have an office in Charleston, South Carolina where Amanda is actually based. We’ve been featured in several marketing publications and blogs and we also speak at several conferences, including SMX, MarketingProfs and PubCon. Our clients include a variety of B-to-B and consumer brands, nonprofit organizations and educational institutions.

We’ll just get started today with a quickpoll. “Are you doing any kind of SEO for your website currently?” “Yes, we’re optimizing for both national and local exposure.” “Yes, but we’re not doing any kind of local optimization at the moment”, or, “No, we’re not doing any SEO right now but we’d like to start.” I’ll just give you a few seconds to input your answer.

Okay. Great. And I’m just going to close that out. It looks like most of you have answered the poll and it looks like most of you are not currently doing any SEO right now or aren’t doing any local optimization so Amanda should be able to impart some knowledge and some helpful tips for you so I’ll just turn it over to Amanda.

Amanda:

Cool. Thanks, Kari. It’s great to know that some people are already kind of making a good effort to do some both national and local SEO efforts. A lot of times we see that people are not doing that, which does seem that some of the audience doesn’t but hopefully you learn something today, for the people that are already doing it and the people who are new to it.

Okay. So whether you’re new to SEO completely, like I was just saying, or you’re already putting in some effort, knowing how to do it specifically for local is definitely a different ballgame. There are some things that you can do that will go a long way in getting found locally and enable you to grow your leads or your sales, hopefully both, acquired online or even in your store.

According to Reach Local, 85% of consumers are searching online for local businesses. 92% of those consumers are using search engines and, wouldn’t you know it, 25% of small businesses don’t even show up in the search results. Another study performed by a search engine journal states that SEO leads have a 14.6% close rate while outbound leads, like something like direct mail or print advertising, have a 1.7% close rate. So that’s a big difference. While you have a lot of limited resources as a local or small business, why not use them as efficiently as you can?

So what are some of the benefits of SEO, specifically on a local level? By optimizing your site for search you have the potential to rank higher and definitely be able to better convince searchers to click on yours rather than your competitors. This is even more important when you’re on a local level because people may not just be looking to find you online but they may be going to find you online to then find the nearest location of your business. But being able to be found online give you the opportunity to increase your awareness with consumers and, in turn, site traffic and sales and even marketshare.

Before I really get started though, I do want to bring up Google Analytics. If you aren’t using it, go ahead and get that set up if you can. It’s a free analytics tracking service provided by Google that enables you to track visitor activity on your site. The insights that you can get from Google Analytics, it’ll take you far in learning where your efforts are best spent. It just kind of narrows it down and you don’t want to spend all of your time and energy into something that’s not really bringing you any new leads or sales. Also, everything I’ll kind of go over today won’t really mean a whole lot if you can’t track what it’s getting you.

First things first, do you know if your site is indexed? This may seem like a pretty simple question but if you’re not sure that your site’s even getting indexed or you can’t find it in the search results, you can do a site search in Google. Like you see here, you just do site: and then your website. If your site is indeed indexed, the various indexed pages will show up here after you do the search.

You can also use this method to see if any new page has been found and indexed yet by typing in that whole URL. So instead of just doing the domain, you can do the domain and the directories and subpages after that and see in that instance, if that particular page is indexed. This is good if you put up a new page and you can’t get it to rank, it may not be indexed yet. Your site has to be found and placed in a Google index in order to have a shot at increasing your ranking so that is definitely step one.

If you find that you aren’t getting indexed or are concerned about individual pages not getting indexed, first definitely check for NOINDEX, NOFOLLOW meta robots tag. This tag is used mainly to block search engine access to your site, which sometimes is relevant but in this case is really not what you want. Then you’ll want to check your robot.txt file. If you have one, it’s likely found at your site.com/robot.txt. Just double check that you haven’t disallowed sections that you really want to be indexed. If you disallow something, it really essentially instructs the crawlers to ignore those sections of your site. So that could be a reason if it’s not getting indexed.

A good way to stay on top of crawler activity is to set up Google Webmaster Tools accounts with Google and Bing. If you don’t already have your site verified with those webmaster tools accounts, it’s really a pretty simple process to get those set up, especially for Google. If you have a Google Analytics account for that site that you’re trying to verify, you can simply choose that option to link them and you don’t even have to worry about any code being put on your site or anything.

Through those profiles, you can monitor, again, like I was saying, all the crawler activity. If they run into any errors it’ll let you know so you can fix those and you can also submit XML sitemaps, which pretty much just acts somewhat like a table of contents. It provides the engines with a list of all the URL’s contained on that domain or that specific subdomain. It’s a really great way to increase the likelihood that more of your pages are going to be found and indexed. You even have the option to submit one specific page if you want to force the crawler to come visit it and index it almost immediately rather than wait for it to come back around again on its own.

After you ensure that you’re getting indexed, you want to do a little keyword research with tools such as the Google External Keyword Tool. This will help you find out relative search volumes on terms related to your business. You may know how you describe your business or your products or services, but this will really help you understand how the consumers search for you. They may be a little bit different than you think.

Once you nail those down, make sure you edit each page for a relevant keyword phrase. You want to work that into the title tag and meta description tags especially since they hold a lot of weight in terms of determining relevancy for results. The title tag is most of the time what you see there in the blue in the result right there, which is what you see on all those search engine results pages and then the description is underneath, which makes up the entire search results. You want to concisely provide relevant information for the searchers so that they know exactly what to expect if they’re going to click through.

Then to ensure relevancy all the way through the searcher’s path, be sure to include the keyword in the body copy if you can on that page. Just beware of keyword stuffing, which is frowned upon by the search engines. This means unnaturally stuff keywords into your content. Be sure it really makes sense for the end user as well as the search engines and it really needs to read naturally.

One last way regarding content that will help you rank better is to create a blog. By creating new content pretty often, it’s sort of a way to ping the engines to come back and see what’s new on your site. Freshness goes a long way in determining ranking results and this is really one easy way to get it. If you use WordPress to do a blog, which is what we recommend, be sure the you install the all-in-one SEO pack. It’s a plugin. It’ll allow you to easily create and quickly create meta descriptions for each post, which will help each individual post rank highly.

Okay. So if you’re a company that operates on a local level, then you most likely have a location, either multiple locations or one location that you’re going to want to have ranked. So whether you’re a large or small business, be sure that you create separate or static pages for each of your locations. So when consumers look for you locally, you’ll be riding the most relevant results for them, taking them directly to your nearest store page rather than not finding you at all or you could take them to your main homepage, which is not really what you want. You want to take them to the most specific thing that is relevant to what they are looking for, which in this case is the nearest store to where they are located. You don’t want them to have to do more work than is really necessary.

A good example of somebody who does this well is Sports Authority. As you can see here, those people have a dynamic store finder page, which is great if someone’s looking for location on your site. But if they’re searching outside of your site it doesn’t really do them much good and this will definitely help in that arena.

One great way to improve click-through rates on your search engine results pages is by making your results stand out, which you can do through the use of rich snippets and schema markup. By adding a little bit of code around certain types of content, the results will display really differently than your traditional result. Other than the fact that it’s been clicked on right here and the link is purple, the authorship markup on our blog allows our posts to really jump off the page, which draws your eye to it a little more than the other results, as you can see here.

You can learn about the various different types of schema markup at schema.org but here are just a few examples. Here’s an example of video markup, which shows the video title, link, description and thumbnail along with some other information. Here’s, again, the authorship markup, which shows the article title, date posted, description and link and an author thumbnail. Here’s an example of recipe markup, which shows recipe title, rating, reviews, time, description and you can even put in a thumbnail image and some ingredients, in some cases.

Here’s an example of event markup, which shows separate events right there on the search engine results page with the corresponding dates. It not only provides searchers with more information about you and the company but it allows your result to stand out more on the search engine results page, drawing people’s eyes to you. Studies have shown, on average, that results with structured markup have a 30% higher click-through rate than the same result in the traditional format for retailers online.

This is something that you can definitely look into depending on what type of business you are, what type of content you have. You can put it around things like videos, things like people. If you’re a doctor, they have a specific type for that so that you can be found. They have schema that can go around addresses to help you find that even better so that’s something that would work really well for local SEO.

Okay. And I think, Kari, that we have another poll at this point.

Kari:

Yes, indeed, we do. So our second poll for today and I will just launch that is, “Do you currently have a Google+ for Business page? Yes or no or maybe you don’t know. Maybe someone else is managing that for you and you’re not sure if you have it so I’ll just give you a few seconds to input your answer.

Okay. Great. And I’m going to go ahead and close that poll out and share those results with you. Many of you already have a Google+ for Business page and so you might be surprised to know, Amanda will be able to provide some information to help you use that.

Amanda:

Very nice. That’s good to see. Okay. So when you want to rank well on Google, you should definitely take advantage of everything Google has to offer, which in particular for local businesses is Google+ Local. Take advantage of the opportunity to keep these pages up to date and bring in reviews. Reviews are everything these days. They have a lot of weight in terms of getting your Google+ pages found in the search results.

You’ll want to create a Google+ page for business, which a lot of you have, which is great. Once you’ve done that, you want to identify your business as a local business. When you choose local, Google will bring up the local place pages with your name associated and you can simply choose the one that’s yours. Then you’ll get a confirmation postcard in the mail, which will give you the information you need to finalize the linkage between the two, the Google+ for Business and Google+ Local.

For more information on how to set up a Google+ for Business page for those of you who have not done that yet, you can check out our infographic at search-mojo.com/infographics/googleplus-business- page.php. It’s a pretty easy, five-step process and that just kind of breaks it down for you.

Okay. So at some point or another you’ve probably done this search on Google and seen a block of local results like this one. If you get reviews on your Google+ Local page, you’ll be much more likely to show here and if you link it to your Google+ for Business page, you’ll be able to then post status updates to that profile, instead of just being a standalone page about your location and things like that. So make sure you link those if you can.

Again, when you’re updating your contact information anywhere across the web, especially on the Google+ pages, be sure that your contact information and your business name is consistent and accurate so searchers can easily and quickly find you and Google knows it’s the same business. If you have your address listed on a couple different ways, even just slightly, it takes away from the weight that it could have.

This is a great option to get found and get the case that you can’t get your domain ranking on the first page. Sometimes smaller local businesses are competing against really well-established national brands and people tend to gravitate towards this block of results when it does show up and as you can see here in this example, even the number one spot on the page for the regular results is below the fold so that’s likely going to go unnoticed in this instance.

Along with Google+ you want to be sure to create a few other social profiles to help you own your branded results. A lot of today’s recommendations are to help your website rank better so that people can find you when doing non-brand searches. This tip is really to help you own those results when someone searches for your brand specifically. You’ll want your website to rank naturally but then you want the other results to be about you too and preferably you want to be able to control those rather than have them be bad review sites or bad articles that are showing up.

So this pretty much essentially works as a type of preventative online reputation management tactic as well. You want to go ahead and get well-established and own those, especially the top 10 and even some on that second page if you can so that it’s harder for bad reviews, heaven forbid any ever come in, but in case they do, it’s harder for them to make their way into that first page.

So go out and claim your business profiles on various social media profiles like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, SlideShare and LinkedIn, among others. Most of the reactions we get from this recommendation is, “We honestly don’t have time to manage those profiles,” so you’re definitely not alone if that’s what you’re thinking. But even if you can’t post updates or consistently, actively manage it, at least go out and claim your profiles and fill out the bios or the “about us” sections, depending on what they have.

This will also help people find you if they’re searching on those specific social networks. If somebody’s looking for you online, you want to make sure that you can be found so you want to do as much as you can to show up everywhere. Some networks also have tools that you can use to even schedule posts so you don’t have to do it consistently. You can schedule them for later or you can link several accounts to post the same thing on other profiles. So for instance, you can link your Facebook and Twitter or your Twitter and YouTube. So if you post something on YouTube, it sends out a tweet and vice-versa. It’s really great to save some time. A lot of small, local businesses don’t have the manpower or the time to do that kind of thing.

One local business client we recently worked with was actually having trouble getting their Twitter profile to rank in the top 100 results on a search for their brand. They ended up linking their tweets with their YouTube updates so every time they posted something on YouTube it sent out a tweet and they almost immediately saw their Twitter profile ranking in the top 10 on search for their brand on Google. So that’s just one great example of how easy it can be. A little bit can go a long way in that instance.

Citations, these are essentially mentions of your company name and address across the web. They’re definitely becoming more and more important in search engine ranking algorithms. You want to be sure that you’re consistent with how you [refer to] your address, like I was talking about earlier, even down to whether you abbreviate “Street” or spell it out completely. The more consistent these instances of your address are, the better. Citations are really just a way for Google to know that you’re out there and that people are talking about you and they want to know, like I was saying earlier, your business name and your address are consistent across the web as much as possible.

You can go out there and edit these sites and any citations across different sites or, if you’re not there, then you can create them. Some example sites, some really good ones that you want to start out with, especially, are the Better Business Bureau online, online Yellow Pages, Yelp, Hotfrog, your local Chamber of Commerce site, Insider Pages, City Search, Angie’s List and the list goes on. There are places where you can look online to find huge lists of citations that you can go out and get but a lot of these you may have already just because you are a local business, you want people in your city to find you even if it’s not through Google search but having these out there will definitely help you rank better, help your place pages and things like that rank better as well.

So if you’re ready to get started with local SEO efforts and are really interested in agency partnering, you can reach out to us here at Search Mojo. Please give Janet a call at 1-800-939-5938. She’s at extension 101 if you’re interested in our services or even just learning more about local SEO.

Kari:

Great. Thank you so much, Amanda, and just to let you know about our next webinar before we head into Q&A and please, if you have any questions, put them into the questions box now. Our upcoming webinar is harmonizing branding and search to achieve optimal results and that will be January 24th at 2:00 p.m. Eastern and you can register today at www.search- mojo.com/branding. If you have any questions for Amanda, you can feel free to contact her directly and there are all her modes of contact there.

So right now we’ll leave it there in case you want to take down any of that information and we will go ahead and ask a few questions we have coming in.

Amanda, what are some ways that you can optimize a social profile for SEO purposes?

Amanda:

That’s a great question. So on top of just simply making sure that you’re pretty active in sending out updates, you want to make sure that in your bio you, again, list out your address consistently like you are across the rest of the Web. If you have any specific services that you can incorporate your keywords into your description and things like that after you do your keyword research and determine what are the best phrases that people are searching on, that are also very relevant to what you’re offering, try to incorporate those as well.

If you can link to your site through your status updates, that’s great. It’s just more links pointing towards your domain. That’s a good signal to Google and if it’s a new page, I recommend to clients a lot of times if you put out a new blog post or if you put out a new page of content, somewhere out in the social networks send out an update linking to that page. It just kind of lets everybody that follows you know that there’s new content there as well as the search engines will kind of get that indicator that there’s something new on your site.

One other thing to make sure that you do is to try to put in your bio on various sites, especially Google+, links to all of your either websites that you own as well as all of the social profiles that you have so that the any sort of search engine bot, when they come to those profiles, they can keep crawling the rest of the links that are there and find everything that’s associated with you. And again, just be consistent with everything.

Kari:

Okay. Great. And here’s another question. We just have a few minutes left. How do you know if a lead came from your local SEO efforts?

Amanda:

That’s a great question. A lot of times this is very difficult for people to attribute where exactly leads come from. But one thing, like I mentioned earlier, is implementing Google Analytics if you haven’t already. Analytics tells you a lot of information about where your visitors are coming from, what they do once they get to your site, so if you implement it and have everything set up correctly, which is a big issue with a lot of people that we see, is that you can go in and look at all of your leads that you’re tracking.

You have to set up specific goals in Analytics and there’s some tutorials and things within the Analytics help center that can help you set those up if you’re not sure how to do that. We typically do a lot of talks about it as well. But as long as you have those established, you can kind of work backwards and find out exactly what sources they came from so you can see if they came from LinkedIn and then converted on your site. You can see if they came from Google organic search or paid search or anything like that. So it just really depends on how you’ve got everything in Analytics and if you’ve got it set up correctly, you can tell pretty much exactly where everybody came from.

Even if you’re running ads or things like that or even if you want to tag posts that you do on different social profiles, you can use the different parameters that you can add onto the end of your URL’s that you’re sending out and do something like “utm_source=LinkedIn” and then you can do your medium as post and your campaign or keyword as whatever you’d like it to be so that you know exactly what it came from. So you can just kind of keep track of everything that you’re sending out so you can track back exactly where it came from.

Kari:

Okay. Great. And we have time for just one more question and, Amanda, maybe you might be able to provide a really quick, high- level overview for this question. How do you determine what keyword searchers are using?

Amanda:

Sure. There’s a tool I kind of referenced. It’s the Google External Keyword Tool. So if you just Google that, you’ll be able to find a link to it. You can just put in either your website or a specific page on your website or you can just put in a very overarching, broad keyword and Google will spit out lots of recommendations of synonyms and things like that. It’ll also tell you the average monthly search volume on Google for phrases that are pretty similar to it so you can find out, for instance, we had a client once who always wanted to refer to their hatchback as “a five-door car”.

Most people, even though that was the correct terminology and people in certain countries did refer to it like that, in America, most people would search “hatchback” instead. So we wanted to make sure that they had “hatchback” on their site as well as “five- door”. It’s just little things like that that you may not even realize that other people are searching for in a slightly different way.

Kari:

Great and, Amanda, you had mentioned a specific URL for our Google+ infographic. Would you mind quickly posting that in the answer part of the Q&A and sending that to everyone? And what we’ll do is include that in the follow-up e-mail, which we’ll also include a recording of the webinar and that will be sent out early next week. We can also insert it into a slide, which we will be posting the slides on SlideShare probably today, at the latest tomorrow, and we’ll be tweeting that out as well and making that available. So all of that will be provided to you.

I know some of you may have come in late and today was a short webinar. Today was a 30-minute webinar rather than a one-hour so we did go by rather quickly. But we definitely appreciate you all coming today and thank you for your questions. Don’t forget to sign up for our next webinar at search-mojo.com/branding and we hope to see you again soon. Thank you for coming.