Local search is changing rapidly. Thanks to Google’s use of IP addresses, user-logins and Geo-targeting software, the search engine is able to anticipate what their users want by determining where they are.
This means that, in some cases, users don’t have to use location-specific searches. They can simply search for what they want, say, “ice cream” and get results specific to their location (rather than, say, the Wikipedia entry on the history of ice cream).
For local searches, where the competition is fierce, Google is integrating content from Google+ Local pages and delivering it via carousel:
This makes for a great user experience – you not only get images from places near you, but reviews of those places. Users can click through for typical “places” fare – an address, phone number and map – as well as additional Search Engine Page Results for the place they clicked through to:
That makes having an optimized Google+ Local Page a pretty powerful tool when it comes to winning the local search game.
To win though, you’ve got to have the type of content that users click through to. Namely, images and reviews.
Even if you’ve never taken the initiative to build a Google+ Local page, you likely have one. Last year, Google+ converted existing Google Places pages into Google+ Local pages, pulling in content from Zagat, UrbanSpoon, and other sites from around the web.
This is mostly user-generated content, but you don’t want to leave it up to the users of third-party sites to populate your Google+ Local page. And you don’t have to. Simply verify your page to begin managing it – uploading photos, linking to your website or connecting your Google+ Local page to your Google+ Social page (if you have one.)
Then, you can encourage the fans you already have to leave reviews on your Google+ local page. The best way to do this is simply ask. Send a note to your fans via Twitter and Facebook with a link to your Google+ Local page. Most people are happy to share news of an excellent place, product or service, and need no other encouragement.
You don’t have to have a Google+ social page to participate in Google+ Local. But, if you do have a Google+ social page, you can pull your social stream onto your Google+ Local page – taking even more control of what users see, and how their impressions of your business are formed.
Google+, Google+ Local and Google’s Search Engine Result Pages change all the time. In the near-future, there will likely be additional opportunities to optimize your Google+ Local page. So, don’t set-it-and-forget it. Check back to see how your business’ digital life is going, and what new opportunities may exist.
If you’ve been ignoring SEO in favor of other marketing efforts, it may be time to change your strategy. In its annual report, out this week, Forrester Research stated that more survey respondents found websites by organic means then any other method — up 4% from 50% in 2011 to 54% in 2012. In other words, the importance of SEO continues to grow.
The report also indicates the growing influence of social media marketing, as its own numbers climbed 7% from last year to 32%.
While this doesn’t mean you should dump your Adwords budget in favor of SEO, it does mean that it’s time to take an “all in” approach to internet marketing — combining SEO, Social and PPC marketing — for a powerful cocktail that creates the kind of ubiquity needed to build brand recognition and drive conversions.
How Do You Get Started?
SEO is a complex combination of technical configurations, on- and offsite keyword optimized (and user-friendly) content, and website popularity.
Before you do anything with content, it’s extremely important to make sure that there are no technical configurations standing in the way of having your content seen — and crawled — by the search engines. Then, it’s time to determine how your users are searching — and what they want to know.
Then and only then should you begin creating content. This content should live on your site and on other relevant sites, including social networks.
While time consuming, SEO is an extremely rewarding marketing method. Should you ever again doubt the importance of SEO, just look at the numbers. And ask yourself: How important is it that the majority of your potential customers find your website?
How do you stack up against your competitors? Request a FREE Search Engine Visibility Report.
As SEO awareness has grown over the years, more companies from all walks of industry have striven to address it in some capacity in their marketing programs. Unfortunately, they sometimes turn to strategies that are outdated and/or do more harm than good. These are some common “strategies” we’ve seen from clients and around the web that your company should avoid:
Content spinning — “Content is king” has been a rallying cry in the SEO world for years, but the phrase should be revised to “original content is king.” Content or article spinning involves taking an article about a topic related to your business, creating multiple, slightly different versions of that article, then distributing them across the web. This was a popular technique for fledgling SEO programs years ago. But as data shows, such shady strategies aren’t effective for very long. Google and other search engines have consistently gotten better and better and recognizing and penalizing spun content. It may take more time and effort, but the payoff is much better when you write original content that is posted to relevant websites. This is important to remember when starting a link building program.
Commenting on blogs — Everyday, millions of bots spam the comment section of blogs across the web. Most blog platforms enable “no follow” links in the comment section by default. So, not only are such spam posts quickly deleted/filtered by site moderators, but they’re not even effective while visible. It’s possible for blog commenting to be an effective form of marketing, but the process is beyond the scope of any spam bot. Write a thoughtful, in-depth response to a blog that includes a relevant link to your site. By doing so, you establish credibility and interest for other readers, who are then more likely to click on your link.
Outsourcing your SEO to the wrong talent — SEO is a complex field with lots of variables that contribute to success. If you decide to outsource your SEO, make sure to vet your vendor carefully. Talk about the goals you have for your website, ask about the kind of campaign you could run to achieve those goals, and of course, check the vendor’s previous experience and clientele.