Most digital marketers understand the value of Local SEO, but local businesses are often ill-informed and oblivious to the demands of local search optimization. Another problem area lies in faulty directory listings which can spread like wildfire, ruining your chances to rank in search engines.
Here, we will touch upon some real-life examples of local businesses excelling at local SEO & citation work, as well as look at some valuable advice from leading experts.
Lesson 1: There’s no substitute for extensive research
The no.1 lesson in local SEO concerns keyword research & analytics.
A lot of you may have come across the widely popular Hauser-Ross Eye Institute & Surgicenter case study. However, every time you read the case study, you can learn something new. The Hauser-Ross Eye Institute study is a text-book example of how keywords (or lack thereof) can make or break your campaign.
The most valuable lesson I gained from the case study, is that there is no substitute for hard work, communication and research. The SEO team for Hauser-Ross’ sat down with coordinators to understand audience demographics including language, age & location, and then focused on the pattern of their questions and topics. The first helped them to get the audience personas right, and the second to figure out suitable long-tail keywords.
The second part of research involved their website analytics. They found out which keywords were driving traffic to their site. Sadly, they didn’t rank high for valuable procedure (product / service) related keywords but unsurprisingly they ranked for their brand name.
The third and the final part of research involved the use of Google’s Keyword Planner. This helped them to estimate competition for each keyword, find other relevant keywords & estimate traffic volume for each.
Based on this, they optimized their site structure, content & listings on various directories which combined to them bring <300% more revenue and increased patient numbers during their off season.
Lesson 2: Love your local directory listings
Almost all of the local SEO case studies I have come across cited local directory listings as a huge problem area. The effects of faulty directory listings have been felt by many local businesses, including Buffalo Wild Wings, highlighted in a LocalVox case study.
Buffalo had invested in TV advertising but when consumers searched for their business online, they were nowhere to be found, thanks to inconsistent and incorrect information across the major online directories.
So, once you are done with keyword research, you should set out to clean-up existing listings & build new citations. Buffalo Wild Wings had to deal with over 500 directories, but you might not have to deal with as many depending on your location / type of business.
Also, do remember that citation clean-up is not a one-off task. New sites pop-up & existing sites can get your data from multiple sources that you don’t control or even know about! You should continuously monitor your citations and be prepared to fix inconsistencies month after month.
Nobody ever said local SEO is an easy job!
Lesson 3: Rome can’t be built in a day
But a website’s visibility can be increased in just 3 months.
Again a famous case study, this time from SweetIQ, but with a new lesson. The most important lesson you can learn from Avella is that you can significantly turnaround a website’s ranking & performance within a limited time – as long as you have a good SEO strategy.
In Avella’s case, it took a 3-PHASE approach to improve their local search rankings, directory listings, link distribution and number of online reviews and ratings. Nevertheless they were able to improve results in just 3 months.
- Phase 1 – they identified all listing sources and updated them, as a corrective measure;
- Phase 2 – they created new listings on relevant channels, i.e. pharmacy and health related channels which led to increased rankings for local and organic search;
- Phase 3 – they boosted their interactions on social media and review channels.
Within just 3 months, they were able to increase the visibility of their website by 53%.
Lesson 4: Always start with on-site SEO first
Listings can wait.
This Cute Smiles Case Study provides a valuable lesson to SEO professionals worldwide. No matter how eager you are to get started with off-site optimization practices like link building, reviews, citations, etc, don’t start until you have completed on-site optimization.
In the case of Cute Smiles, all services were bundled together on one main service page (rather than separate pages) and they had no inbound links to speak of.
Their meta data was in chaos, their content was devoid of any keywords, and the images were not optimized.
Therefore, their visibility report looked something like this:
Once they had optimized the website, only then did they set out to improve directory listings. It’s an important point to remember whilst forming your local SEO strategy.
Lesson 5: Ask for directory reviews, but nicely
Another piece of advice comes from AJ Ghergich, Founder of Ghergich & Co. He well understands the value of reviews on directories and asks businesses to monitor and respond to reviews and criticism. He also suggests that businesses should first provide value and then ask for reviews.
Here’s a sample email from him that shows how:
I hope you are enjoying your new immersion blender! Did you know you can use it for a lot more than just soup? We just released a detailed guide with tons of creative ideas I think you will love. (Link)
We would love to hear more about how you are using your immersion blender on Amazon (Link) or Google Reviews (Link).”
Bonus Lesson: Beware fat thumbs
This important piece of advice comes from Matthew Hunt of Powered by Search. Matthew puts across a very important lesson for Local SEO – having a responsive website doesn’t always mean you have a mobile-friendly website.
According to Matthew, mobile users not only suffer from “fat thumbs” but are at the time are also “technologically handicapped”, so it makes sense to put all the information in an easily accessible way. Ensure that all the most important business information, such as physical address, phone number, business hours, etc. are where they are most visible. Also make sure that all your links and buttons are well-spaced, so your website doesn’t meet the fat-thumb-fate!
Although Matthew’s advice is not so much so about local SEO listings, it does have a lot of value for local businesses who are still on the fence about responsive websites.
Case studies have the advantage of helping us to learn from real world examples, not just expert advice. Within these examples above, there are some valuable lessons:
- Do extensive research FIRST & and then optimize your listings
- Citation Building is not a one-off task. Be ready to clean-up listings, update images and monitor reviews in each directory.
- You can tighten deadlines for small local businesses. Most most won’t take years to improve, but if your website is taking too long to rank, you might want to change your SEO strategy
- Always begin with onsite optimization first
- It is very important to monitor and respond to reviews
- Have a responsive, mobile-friendly website
Author Bio: Vivek Patel is a Local Search Specialist at E2M, one of the fastest growing digital marketing agencies in India, committed to meeting the highest ethical standards of digital marketing services to encourage and drive strategic and sustainable business growth. He covers local search optimization, link building tactics and Social Media Marketing Services. You can find him on twitter: @vivekrpatel.