November 19, 2014

Local SEO Tips for Small Businesses

Local SEO Tips for Small Businesses

Hi All,

In checking and trying to install Google Authorship for some of my clients, which is what makes your picture show up next to your search engine listings, I recognized most did NOT have a personal Google+ account, only a Google+ Local (map listing) for their business. This likely applies to many of you then as well, so I thought I would take this opportunity to share some local SEO tips.

Here is how I think Google+ is going to work in the future and why:

Like Facebook, going forward, Google is not going to allow a business to have a Google+ Business page (which is equivalent to a Business Fan page on Facebook) unless it is connected to a personal Google+ profile. (Google+: https://accounts.google.com/SignUp)

Facebook is stealing PPC revenue from Google because of their ability to serve highly targeted ads based on people’s personal interests and conversations. Not just my opinion – This is the main reason Google created Google+, to compete with Facebook. Eventually there will be paid advertising on all Google+ accounts, but first they have to get everyone to sign-up and use it. However, it is so confusing compared to Facebook (what I myself think and what others have routinely expressed to me), it’s not happening voluntarily as fast as they would like, so they are going to force us to use it by making it count towards Google rankings. Now Google +1s, which are equivalent to Facebook Likes, are definitely counting in the ranking metrics for Google (and so is Google Authorship, which is personal profile related).

Now that it counts everyone will be signing up, who has a business and cares about rankings on Google anyway… And in the future to have a business account or a local map listing even, you will have to have a personal account that your business listing is claimed under. From what I’ve heard and read, all Google+ Business pages and Google+ Local map listings NOT eventually claimed under a personal account will go away. It’s one more step to ensure authenticity, prevent spamming, and the perfect way to force as many people as possible to use Google+ personally as a social platform whether they like it or not.

Here’s what needs to happen:

You need to create a personal Google+ for yourself if you haven’t already (using your current Google login if you have one (the one you already use to manage your Google+ Local map listing, Gmail account or other Google services).

You need to claim or create a Google+ Business page under your same login and fill out both profiles as much as possible so they are 100% complete.

You need to get in as many Circles as possible and acquire Followers who will hopefully interact with the things you post, both to your personal and business profiles.

Once you have both a personal and a business page, then Google+ Authorship (personal) and Publisher (business) rich snippets code needs to be installed on your website, so that both Google+ accounts are officially connected/credited to your website and your personal profile picture can start showing up in your search engine listings. You can test your site here with Google’s Structured Data Tool.

Your Google+ Local map listing and Business page need to have your legal company name listed in the company name field and NOT a keyword phrase. Your company name needs to be established as your brand, which is partly accomplished by making sure it matches on your website, Google+ Business page and Google+ Local map listing, Twitter, Facebook Business Fan page, and LinkedIn business page… Yes, even LinkedIn now has a separate page for your business you can create which is connected to your personal LinkedIn profile. What a confusing bunch of spread out mess to have to manage (that’s me putting it nicely and not cursing). You may need help getting all this set-up properly and integrated into your website (God knows I could use some help!)… whether that be through in-house training or hiring someone to just manage it all for you.

CITATIONS ARE ALSO CRITICALLY IMPORTANT TO YOUR LOCAL SEO

All your citations, which are listings on directories and review sites like Yelp and Yellow Pages, likely need to be cleaned up. You can see what I mean by going here and entering in your company information – name, address, phone number, url. It will scan all the worthwhile directories Google looks at and considers to be important sources of 3rd party information, and will show you if you have mismatched company information or other local listings issues that need to be cleaned up. All information about your business – name, address, phone number, url – needs to be consistent across the web including on your website and social media sites. This applies to each and every location/address you have.

Yext has a partnership with most of the important directories and provides a convenient control panel where you can fill out one profile to sync and manage all of your directory listings from a single place. If you are my local SEO client and want me to help you with this, I can set you up under my Certified Partner account. You would still have full access to your own control panel so you can work-on and manage your own profile yourself, but the advantage would be a little cheaper pricing. As a matter of fact, only through a Certified Yext Partner can you get the option to pay monthly.

What you want is the Power Listings service, which you can learn about here. Normally the price is $527 per year (I believe). The price through me is $499 annually per address if paid in advance or $45 monthly per address (yes monthly costs a little more). This does NOT include my time for filling out and optimizing your profile. You can do that yourself pretty easily. If you are a current SEO client of mine, you have the option of paying for 1 hour of my time for set-up per address, and I’ll handle it for you (currently I’m $150 hourly). If you are on a monthly SEO services plan with me, there will be no additional charge for set-up, I will consider it included. You will just need to pay the $499 annual fee or I can add the the monthly cost to your current recurring payment. Contact me if you are a client and want to discuss it.

Now a Little About Social Signals

You should have a sharebar installed on all of your static webpages in my professional opinion, and not just on your blog pages, to make it easier for people to interact socially with all of your content. You can see what I mean if you go to my site www.bestdallasseo.com and look in the content heading area of all my static pages.

You need to get as many people as possible to +1, Like, and Tweet your site’s content pages. For example, if you have a Facebook Fan page for your business and people go to it directly and then click Like, those Likes are not what is counting or being tallied in the ranking metrics. The ones that count are for your actual website domain itself. If you have a sharebar on your site’s pages, and I go to your home page or any page of your site and click Like, +1, or Tweet from there, those are the social signals that count towards your website’s search engine placement. At least that’s how it appears across all of the optimization reports and software I have looked at. It’s all about people socially interacting and sharing your actual website domain content.

When you write and post an article, it should be posted on your physical website, not on one of your social sites only, like Facebook directly. Once it’s posted on your site or your integrated blog, you need to then click on your own sharebar icons, i.e. Like, +1, Tweet, LinkedIn and PUSH your articles OUT to your own social sites. This way if your Friends, Circles, Connections, Followers etc. interact with it, it not only counts as a social signal for your social site, but for your website domain as well, and is how you go about creating natural links back to your website from the social sites of all those who interact with your content. When they share it, they are sharing a page that originated on and links back to your website itself. This is what you want to happen and NEED to be working on. It’s crucial to the future of your rankings and is already affecting them.

Thanks, and I hope this information helps clarify some things for you as a small business website owner! If you found this article useful, PLEASE show me some love by Liking, Tweeting or +1-ing it.

All the best,

Shelley Cates
Dallas SEO Consultant
(214) 212-2495

Follow-up to this article originally written in July 2013

Since I wrote the above, as you may be aware, Google’s Matt Cutts has put out a video stating that Google +1s do not count towards rankings on Google. It seems I was not the only SEO that formed that opinion, based on comparing numerous local top ranking sites, across a variety of industries for multiple keyword terms (after the release of the Penguin 2 algorithm update on May 22, 2013). Many of us were commenting on how sites with Google+ Authorship installed, especially those with the most Google +1s, seemed to come out of nowhere and start ranking in the top 5. It has been a huge topic of debate recently. I imagine, if +1s do count, that it might be considered an unfair trade practice (certainly seems bias to me). Bottom line, it is my own personal opinion after careful observation, but that doesn’t mean it’s fact and I do not want to publicly say anything that may be considered libel.

I am not an SEO that seeks the limelight, speaks at conferences, or frequently expresses my opinion publicly, as often times what I think is controversial and not of popular industry opinion, which Google seems to largely control concerning SEO now. They appear to me, to be pushing their own agenda(s) for the sake of profit, and not so much for their claimed reason(s) of making their results of a higher quality for end users. The things they do certainly do not always seem to serve the best interests of web surfers, small business owners, and especially not my industry, which has somewhat become their enforcement crew. To disagree with them will often times get you labeled as being “black hat” by other SEOs. It feels like they are using us, SEOs, to carry their messages of conformity to websites owners, and at the same time causing us to kill our own industry, by promoting the fear of being banned for using any kind of method to manipulate their results… which is of course what we ultimately get paid to do.

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