If you’ve spent any time on the internet, you’ve probably heard of SEO, a system that somehow allows your website or article to gain more views than your competitor. But how does it actually work? There’s a lot of advice out there about SEO and unfortunately, most of it is total bunk. We manage to rank companies regularly with a few simple techniques. You don’t need some complicated system to rank with search engines.
In this guide, we are going to show you how we help businesses continually rank high in both organic traffic and local traffic simultaneously without relying on those fancy systems.
Here we go…
Keyword Search: Local SEO
You’re going to have to do some research for any SEO campaign no matter what, and local search optimization requires the same effort. For our research, we are going to use Google Keyword Planner with two different kinds of searches. Imagine I want to optimize the search for a local dentist in Charlotte, NC. First, I’ll do a basic search in Keyword Planner, “city + keyword.” For me, that’s “charlotte dentist.” Next, I’ll go to “Ad Group Ideas,” and figure out which combination of those terms gets the most results. That will be our main keyword. Everything we do revolves around that. (And don’t worry. Later in this post I’ll show you how to rank for different combinations without doing anything too complicated.) Alright, I’ve found the combination that gets higher search results than the original “charlotte dentist,” and that’s my main keyword. Now, we want to narrow down to get the best opportunities, so we might search for surrounding cities or certain types of dentists.
So let’s look at cities neighboring Charlotte
Turns out, there’s a lot of opportunity to get customers in surrounding cities in this particular example. If this location gives amazing service to their current clients. Most people will be willing to drive from further away.
Unfortunately this dentist office is only going to get this kind of loyalty if the customer already knows about them and has experienced their service. So when someone does a search for “Charlotte dentist,” they’re given a lot of results, and our imaginary client isn’t the top result. They may not even be in the top five. And that’s a problem. See, the only result that actually matters is one that gives a perceived value to their customer.
(Never fear, I’ll explain how to show more value and win over search engines traffic, too.) So now we have a pillar keyword, and several other options that work well for our example. The next step is to search for other classifications. Since our example is a dentist, that’s what I’ll start with. And right away, I get “emergency dentist,” “cosmetic dentist,” and “pediatric dentist.” Next, I’ll add the word “Charlotte” to each of those and see what happens. It’s a really low search volume, but you aren’t looking for millions of people. You are looking for the one perfect person. You need to think about the lifetime value of that one particular client who is looking for exactly what our example offers. If this one particular client is looking for cosmetic dentistry, and you consider the cost of the most popular cosmetic dentistry procedure, porcelain veneers, then the cost of a single veneer is around $1000. If they want more than one, you’re looking at several thousands of dollars.
Suddenly that low search number is valuable.It doesn’t do you any good to seek high numbers of random traffic that aren’t actually searching for what you offer. Instead, you want a few people who are your ideal audience. It’s better to judge based on this lifetime value model (LTV) rather than just search numbers.
Okay, pillar keyword and surrounding cities. Check and check. Now here’s a really important question. What if you do this and your results turn up zero?
Zero is scary, but don’t worry. This means that your product is extremely niche, which might not be all bad, or you are very new in the industry in your area. Also, not necessarily bad.Here’s the solution. Go back to your keyword planner, and choose “targeting” and finally “locations.” Put your city in place of United States. In the keyword search, type in the generic search term again but without the city extension to see how many people are searching for “dentist” in the same geo-location of your area.
A different way to research is to analyze your competitors. It not only gives you another way to find what people are searching for and what combinations are working the best, but also helps you discover what’s missing from their search methods. If you pinpoint a hole in their marketing, this gives you an edge.
For this type of analysis, I’m going to use two different sites: Ahrefs and Majestic. Another option would be Open Site Explorer, but it usually has the same links as the other two.
This time only three things matter:
- guest posts
- editorial mentions
- geo-targeted directories, resources, or sponsorships
Once I’ve found these, I run them through Majestic to check something called “Trust Flow.” I only focus on those with a trust flow of at least 10.
When I’ve done the research on my top 10 competitor’s link profiles, I look at other aspects of their marketing strategy, asking questions like:
- Are they blogging consistently? Does their blog actually bring value or can we provide better content than they do?
- Are they active on social media? How often are their accounts updated? In what social media are they lacking a presence? How can I leverage this absence?
- Are they on Youtube or some other video source? Is their content educational and targeted to their ideal customer? Can I produce better videos with higher value?
Simple questions, but they give you insight into how the competition is leaving parts of their market untapped.
Researching these helps you beat them in the SERPs, and allows you to focus your resources in areas where you will have less competition overall. Essentially, you work smarter, not harder.
For example, many local businesses are not producing quality blog content (or blogging at all) and they aren’t actively marketing on social media. They definitely aren’t producing high quality videos.
This lack gives your business huge potential.
Most small businesses have small websites. Therefore the on-site SEO is easier since you won’t be dealing with content that mimics what’s already out there.
It’s important to audit even small websites, just to be sure that you are providing the best value. There are three tools that I use.
- Siteliner: This will help you identify duplicate content, and also find broken links.
- Screaming Frog SEO Spider: This site finds duplicate META information, or information missing altogether. This includes codes like 404 errors, 301 or 302 redirects, and “nofollow” or “noindex” tags
- SEO Quake: Here, you can check the META information and keyword density for each page.Let’s talk about what some of these things mean.
META tags are the first things that build the relevancy of pages on your website. Ideally, every page has unique META information because if it doesn’t, Google and other search engines crawl a page and assign that information solely based on what they seem to find. What really matters is your title and description.
Title and Description:
Meta titles are critical, and it’s essential that your primary keyword (from the research method we did above) be in that title. If you want to rank for multiple keywords, then fit as many of them as you can into the title. Keep in mind that you can’t just cram them anywhere. Google only displays the first 55-60 characters, so it does no good to manually force keywords into the equation if it lengthens your title. For description, you’ll get about 160 characters, so whatever you aren’t able to logically fit in the title, you can put here.
So back to our dentist. Here’s how I would leverage META information.
Title: Charlotte Pediatric and Cosmetic Dentist – Dr. Dentist
Description: If you’re looking for the top dentists in Charlotte, look no further than Nate’s Dentistry, orthodontics, Invisalign and more.
Now, the dentist will rank for different variations of our target keywords. If you consistently aren’t ranking the way you want, you can change the META information to match your keyword research more closely. This won’t automatically shoot you to number one in rankings, but it can bring you into the top 30-50.
Now, let’s talk about the call to action at the end of the description example. The reason we don’t directly reveal how to contact the dentist is because we want people to see the result and click through. It’s not enough to come up in the search results. People have to consistently choose your listing. The more people choose your listing, the higher your perceived value. Calling you directly is great, but clicking through is going to prove more profitable in your organic rankings.
Things to remember:
Local searches don’t have as much competition, so attempting to rank for multiple keywords on one page isn’t going to penalize you.
On big searches, however, such as those ranking nationally, there’s a lot more competition. This requires extremely targeted content for just a single, primary keyword.
A final method:
If you are willing to do a little extra work to increase your click through rate, you can create an individual page for each city you’re targeting. Google hates over-optimized doorway pages. If you think you’ll have to cram a lot into a page to rank highly enough, counter-intuitively this will hurt your rankings. Instead, you are going to provide value to a specific targeted group, a geo-specific keyword from your research.
Here’s an example: https://www.tannergrey.com/seo-company-asheville-nc/
According to Google, I’m only ranking around third or fourth for this particular term, but my click through rate is making my link perform as if I were the number one entry.
This is what to do:
Think about what your target client is thinking, and format your page so that it’s easy for them to find. My particular page is highly targeted towards any business in the Atlanta area prospecting for a company who does SEO. My page even offers extra value that they may not have known they needed, specifically how to avoid common SEO scams.
You can apply this to your page. Make sure you know who your ideal client is. This isn’t the time to be general. And create a piece of content that gives value on top of what they were originally looking for.
Keyword Placement and Density
Once you’ve optimized your tags, you have to place keywords in prominent places on the page, such as the title, and the first and last sentence of the copy.
It isn’t necessary to cram keywords in, either. Google doesn’t respond well to pieces that are too obviously targeted for SEO, so keep it between 1 and 3 percent.
Your website is just like a building and you want the structure to be sound. Good architecture is the best way to improve your rankings without searching for inbound links.
So what’s good site architecture? Your site needs to flow logically between the most important pages and funnel users to those pages without being spammy.
Basically, natural user friendliness.
Before I show you, remember:
- Don’t use menu, side bar, or footer links site-wide
- Keep it user friendly
This is what you should do:
- You need to create a “locations” page
- You need to use keyword rich anchor text
You need to use keyword rich anchor text:
- You should link between content whenever possible
- Your blog should be a place to build the authority of your homepage or other monetary pages
Here’s a diagram:
From the diagram you can see that everything links naturally together and encourages people to flow from one page to another. You can also use this system to build internal links from your blog posts to your main monetized pages. This kind of site architecture makes it simple for search engines to determine the high value of your site, and that makes all your links more effective in rankings. You’ll get better results for your website without having to use as many links.
Name, Address, Phone (NAP) Information
Although you shouldn’t have site wide internal links, you should have site wide NAP links.
The best method is to place it in a footer, like this
205 Regency Executive Park Drive Suite 450
Charlotte NC, 28217
Call us: 844.500.1339
so that users can easily find your contact information. Once you add that footer, make sure that all your business information online has the exact same information.
And if you actually serve customers at your physical location, it’s good to embed a Google Map widget in the footer alongside this information.
Most people know this already, but let’s say it again. A slow site can hurt your revenue. To fix, this consider moving your hosting from shared hosting, or hiring a professional developer to increase site speed. When your site loads fast, it makes both users and Google happier. One site you can use to test speed is Pingdom.
Currently, almost 50% of all searches are done on a mobile device. If your site isn’t optimized for mobile, not only are customers not going to bother working through your site, but Google will notice the lack of engagement. This will hurt your rankings. Don’t miss out on up to 50% of your possible traffic by missing this step.
Broken links are annoying, and given enough of them, a potential customer will leave your site forever. Make sure to run an audit every so often (I recommend once a quarter) to clean these up.
All your content should be unique though sometimes duplications happen if you have pagination issues, or if you keep all your categories, tags, and archives indexed in Google. You can use a site like Siteliner to check on these issues.
If you are using WordPress, you can install SEO Yoast or All In One SEO pack so you can remove archives and tags from the index.
Google understands your business through structured data, but only markup data that is visible on the website. At the minimum, you should markup your NAP footer.
If you need to find out how to do this, this article will help.
Google + Business Page Optimization
Your Google+ Business page is the foundation of your entire campaign. Everything should match your listing on Google.
Especially make sure that you NAP information is correct and is the same as presented on your website.
All the above information also applies to your business name. When giving your address, you have two choices:
-“I deliver goods and services to customers at their location.” You should check this if you don’t serve customers at the address listed for your business.
-“I also serve customers at my business address” Check this option if you serve customers at your listed business address.
Your contact information should match the website, as well. Your URL should be the page you target for your geo-location. Typically this is the homepage. The hours aren’t as essential for your google ranking, but it should still be absolutely consistent across platforms. Once you’ve filled this information in, it’s time to fill things out.
The introduction is brief, but should include your primary keywords you discovered from the first task in this article. I usually link back to the website with a branded anchor text. I also link out to any important accounts for social media.
Populate the Site
Once all this is complete, make sure you constantly populate the site with new content. These could be photos, updates, or new posts. Whenever you write a new post, make sure to share it on your business page. Google likes to see current content.
It’s important to build business citations, but you have to make sure to clean up any that already exist. One resource I use is Bright Local to do a citation audit, but others are White Spark, Moz, or Yext.
You can fix citations yourself, or you can outsource to one of the sources I mentioned. I like to outsource because the process is time consuming and you have other pressing things to keep up with.
Building New Citations
Again, you can do it yourself or outsource. You have better things to do than build citations. I always take the outsourcing route.
Social Media Profile Development
Your social media profile impacts your ranking. If your NAP information is consistent across all your social profiles, and can be easily found by Google, then that’s one more citation in you favor.
All these previous steps built the foundation for your link building, but to reach the top five (or even number one) you can’t stop there. You have to build links back to your site.
There are two important types of links:
These kinds of links are the best of local SEO and you get them by finding things like:
- local sponsorships
- Chamber of Commerce
- local blogs and directories
- expired local domains
Prospect in your own city first, and then expand into surrounding areas second.
Niche Targeted Links:
Targeting links for your particular niche is another critical part of local link building. Some types that I look for are:
- niche profiles and directories
- niche forums
- guest posts
- expired local domains
- expired niche domain
And finally there are a last few things to check before we are ready.
It’s not necessary to be aggressive with anchor text when doing local SEO. In fact, in my anchor text post, I explain why you should keep exact match anchor text below 1%.
Linking is first in building your ranking, but user signals keep your position on the first page. Google analyzes SERP click through rates to see how users are interacting with websites. If people perform a search in Google and click on your result without staying on your page (bouncing off or clicking the back button, otherwise known as pogo sticking) it will affect your rankings. Although some SEO experts disagree, others believe that this pattern causes Google’s algorithm to flag your site as providing less value and will move you from the top of the list. Other similar patterns are your bounce rate, pages viewed per visit, and the time a client spends on your site.
Seems like manipulation, but basically Google is looking for things that prove you are offering quality content, things we talked about above, for example, such as prominent NAP information, plus testimonials, or reviews add value. You can use the “featured in” strategy if you’ve been published elsewhere or referenced. And if your business is results-based, then make sure you publish those studies.
If you are new and don’t have these yet remember:
- don’t lie
- get your first client/customer and give them a great experience
- interview them for your site
Someone Googling a solution to their problem is more likely to stick around on your site with these things, and that impacts your ranking. Making your customers and clients happy adds perceived value to your site.
Google+ business page is where you want the most prominent reviews, but don’t forget others like Yelp and Yellow Pages. You can’t coerce these rankings, so make sure that you just offer the best experience to your current clients and encourage them to review you. Eventually this will pay off.
SEO doesn’t have to be difficult. Don’t do anything crazy; just make sure your site is optimized, you’ve done your research and your information is consistent across platforms.