Are Citations an Important Part of Your Local SEO Strategy?

Local Search SEO Checklist

With all the talk about links; too many links, not enough links, good links, bad links, natural links, unnatural links, links as Penguin food … it is easy for people to forget that good Local SEO should include citation management.

What are Citations?

Citations are “mentions” of your business name and address on other web pages, usually directories.  Citations are also known as web references.  Citations are not necessarily links and citations are not necessarily a direct result of your efforts.  There are thousands of directories that include your business information without your knowledge and if the data is inaccurate it can lead to confusion among potential customers and could potentially harm your ranking.

Citations are a key component of ranking algorithms used by the major Search Engines.  If all other factors were equal, businesses with a greater number of citations with an exact (or close) match, will probably rank higher than a business with fewer citations.

The Best Citations

Citations from well-indexed directories such as Yelp, Superpages.com, MerchantCircle.com, MyLocally.com and YellowPages.com can improve your Local Search Engine rankings.   Don’t forget to add and claim your business in Google Places, Yahoo! Local Listings and Bing Local Listings.

Citations are a great way for both customers and Search Engines to authenticate your validity.  Membership in associations, chambers of commerce, groups, business directories, and local newspapers or popular blogs are great citations.

Citations are important for ALL industries, but have a greater impact for industries where business owners are less SEO savvy and often don’t have a website for themselves.  Without much other information, the search engines rely heavily on whatever information they can find and citations are a great source.

Managing Citations

You don’t often get to decide what online properties your business will show up in or how accurate the information is.  But that doesn’t mean as a business owner you should just throw your hands up in frustration, you should make it part of your (or whoever is managing your online presence) Local SEO check list.

One suggestion for managing your on line citations is to periodically search your business name.  Check how and where your business is listed and make certain it is accurate.  Don’t forget to also search your business address and phone number, you might be surprised with what you discover.

Claim and update it as many places as you can.  Be certain to take a few minutes to analyze the features of these directories and create a strategy for which ones provide value and warrant your attention.

Now search your competitors listing and determine if they show up in industry directories and whether you should add your business.

Don’t forget to search for directories using a local search query for your industry, ie. Plumber in Temecula, CA.

Conclusion

The latest changes to Google’s algorithm reinforces good old fashioned network building, but in addition to old fashioned hand shaking in the community, today’s business owners need to make sure that their name is consistent and ever present on the Internet through careful management of business citations.

 

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5 Tips for Using Facebook to Increase Your Business

Many businesses do not use social networking and social media to their advantage. For example, Facebook can be an effective way of increasing business.

If you want to increase business through Facebook, there are a few tips you can use to ensure you get the most from social media.

1. Offer customers something for liking your Facebook page. For example, make certain promotions exclusive to Facebook users. Give your customers a reason to go to your Facebook page by offering discounts on products or services.

2. Don’t make your Facebook difficult to read. Make getting information from your Facebook page easy for customers. Don’t use confusing jargon, and keep it straight to the point.

3. Give customers information about the company, as well as trivia facts. You want to build a trusting relationship with customers by offering honest information.

4. Place a share button on the Facebook page. With a share button, customers who visit the page can share information you post with other people.

5. Keep the Facebook page updated on a regular basis. An important aspect of maintaining and increasing business is keeping your customers updated on new happenings with the company.

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How to Build Natural Links to Your Website

After you have built a website, one of your most important tasks is draw traffic to it. One way to do this is to get other blogs and websites to link to yours. This draws people who click on the links to your site and can increase your search engine rankings. There are services on the web that guarantee you hundreds or even thousands of links for a price. Unfortunately, many of those links are low quality and could actually hurt your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) efforts.

It is far better to grow your links naturally. The first thing to do is join the discussion on similar blogs and websites without spamming them. Comment on blog posts or bulletin board discussions and become a part of the community. This may lead to the webmaster or blogger happily linking to your site. It also builds your reputation among your peers, which increases your likelihood of getting more links later.

Try using videos and tutorials on your site. People love content that teaches them something new or how to solve a problem. They will link to your site if they know your content is useful and well prepared. Great content will also draw natural traffic to your site and build your search engine ranking.

Many websites are filled with useful content, so trying something a little different may set you apart from the pack. Humor is one way to distinguish your content. If your articles or tutorials get people to laugh, they will not only remember your website but recommend it to others as well. The more popular your site becomes, the more links you are likely to get.

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Understanding Your Target Audience for Local SEO

“Local” Optimization

Marketing/Advertising 101 teaches us two basic principles; you need to know your target audience and you need to know how to get your marketing/advertising efforts in front of your target audience.  The same applies to Local Internet Marketing.

Most small business owners are local in nature, and with over 2.75 million SMBs in the United States all vying for that coveted spot on the first page of Google, Yahoo!, or Bing in a local search query (which accounts for 20% of all U.S. searches or 3.83 billion a month), knowing how to get found is paramount to a successful online advertising campaign.

Knowing your target audience – Most businesses know who their target audience is and what they are looking for in their products or services. For example, Home Security Systems have three targeted audiences; single women in their mid 30s to mid 50s who want protection for themselves, men in their 30s through 50s who want to protect their families, and elderly who want the extra protection or whose middle aged children want to be certain they are safe.  For this business, the average customer earns over 40,000 and owns a home.

To try to determine what your target audience is, you only need to think about your product and who you receive the most calls or walk ins from; women or men?  Does the price point require a certain income, marital status, or home ownership?  I recently found a good article  on About Us that explains the process of understanding your target audience with Internet Marketing.

Reaching Your Target Audience and Knowing How to Get Found

Once you understand your target audience, you need to focus on how to get your business in front of those customers.  A well crafted billboard on an untraveled road is not effective marketing.  With Internet Marketing and SEO for Natural Organic Results, specifically understanding Search behavior is equal to placing your billboard on a busy highway filled with your target audience.  One important way to get your business found is to understand consumer search behavior.

When searching for a local business:

  • Males use ZIP codes as part of their Search queries.  Does this have something to do with the old belief that males are better at math than women?  Not sure, but using zip codes (sparingly) in your content can help drive results to male searchers.
  • While zip code searches currently account for less than 3% of Search Engine referrals, as the use of hand held devices increases, so will the significance of zip code driven Search Results.
  • Females use Town Name and/or City Name.  Including geo targeting by combining keyword/geo or geo/keyword can help if your product or services are directed toward females.
  • Younger searches focus on generic search terms without geo modifiers, allowing the Search Engines or Mobile to handle the localization. (see point two in reference to zip codes)
  • Older searchers almost always focus their search queries on search terms with local modifiers and tend to take the time to write out a full statement or question.  As a result, always including the answer to their question in the content is helpful.  For example; Where can I sell my car?  What type of plumber fixes leaky pipes? or even the spelling of a state name can help attract the “older” generation.
  • Only 6% of all searches include a neighborhood or region, but very few businesses are targeted for these searches, so if you include it in your content, you are likely to get found by those 6%. (ie: Inland Empire, Middlesex County Tri-borough)
  • Adjectives and superlatives still help.  Remember that understanding your target audience means that you will know what they are looking for.  If they are budget conscious, they will be looking for an affordable (maybe even cheap) solution to their needs.  If they are quality conscious, then they will desire quality products and services.  According to a “marketing” friend of mine, the word BEST is beyond cliché, but words like quality, superior, distinguished, and fine can help not only with Search results, but with conversion.

Wrapping it All Up – Understanding your audience and their search behavior is key to getting found and to growing your business.  A well rounded Local SEO campaign should use as many of the “tricks of the trade” as possible, but including too many tactics can result in poor results as you may be seen as scammy. Instead focus on well thought out, targeted content written for the types of customers you want to attract.  Build a great billboard on a busy street and they will find you!

About the Author

John J. Buzon is currently the Content Manager at eLocal Listing, he and his team are responsible for the creation of thousands of pieces of highly ranked content being published on the Internet for thousands of businesses of all sizes.

 

 

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Blogs – Not Just for Nerds Anymore

To Blog or Not To Blog

Just in case you have spent much of the last few years under a rock blogging has gone main stream. Blogging once belonged to political fanatics or nerds. In the age of twitter (the world’s most famous micro-blogging site) where micro thoughts allow everyone to be famous for fifteen minutes everyone blogs….even me. The key question is does blogging help the average business owner’s bottom line. According to Hubspot, the answer is YES!

In a recent survey Hubspot asked companies what marketing efforts resulted in an increase in new business leads. The highest value was attributed to good old fashioned Search Engine Optimization (something eLocal Listing knows a thing or two about) which gets the credit in 75% of the cases.

Surprisingly, just behind SEO is blogging at 69% and somewhat lower is social media at 47%. Shockingly according to Hubspot, paid search advertising trails almost at the back of the pack with just 16%.

Why is blogging so effective?
Blogging gets credit for driving search engine visibility, which in turns drives new clients.

Blogging drives repeat traffic where your message is interesting people come back for more.

If you drive a visitor to your site through your blog, they may stay on your site and perhaps then become a lead. A blog may even go viral, which is perhaps the best possible result. All this activity tends to lend authority to your site which in turn drives more business.

Blogging is at the heart of our new platform MyLocally. On MyLocally local businesses can blog about their businesses, clients can post reviews and all that blog content contributes to search engine visibility. It’s interesting to note that although, SEO, blogs and social media get credit for driving new business, ultimately all of this effort pays of high search visibility.

Blogging, not just for nerds anymore!

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Social Media; the new Paul Revere

One if by Facebook, two if by Twitter and three if by YouTube!

To paraphrase Longfellow’s historically inaccurate poem outlining Paul Revere’s warning that the “Red Coats” were coming, so did Social Media warn New York that a revolution of sorts was about to take place on Wall Street.

Appropriately dubbed “Operation Icarus” after the boy who flew too close to the sun despite his father’s warning, the movement sent a clear message to bankers and other CEOs that their hubris has caused the American public pain, and that they won’t stand idly by.

While the crowds were not as large as Anonymous (an activist magazine) had hoped, it was a rallying cry for the public to get involved.  Now I have to admit that while (like John Hancock and Samuel Adams) Anonymous is a bit of a trouble maker, it reinforces the power that Social Media has in uniting people against politicians and companies who do not take their role as stewards for the common man seriously.

If only Longfellow were still around …“Listen my children and you shall hear about a thing called Social Media …….

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It’s Google’s world; we just live in it!

As I began to do research on Google’s gobbling up of Zagat, I found a quote from Paul Saffo, Managing Director of Discern Analytics, that I just couldn’t resist “borrowing”.

In its continued effort to capture more of the online local marketplace, Google announced the acquisition of Zagat for an estimated 200 million dollars.

For those of you who may not know, Zagat was the Yelp of yesteryear whose reviews could make or break a business.  Formed three decades ago by Tim and Nina Zagat with the notion that “normal” people could review a restaurant or hotel, it revolutionized the way consumers made choices.  It doesn’t seem that long ago when travelers would never think of venturing on vacation or to a restaurant without their little burgundy book and its short and witty reviews.

This acquisition of Zagat is another sign that Google wants to (control the world), I mean to crack the local business market and to keep competitors like Facebook from gobbling up a share of the estimated $140 billion that small businesses spend on local advertising each year.  Google wants to become the go-to guide for consumers researching local businesses.

 It also reinforces Google’s emphasis on unique, relevant content; reviews; and consumer participation as part of a good user experience.  Marissa Mayer, in charge of Google’s local strategy, comments that “Zagat is something where the Google spirit, format and process of reviews come together, I just love the user-generated content nature of it.”

What this will mean to those of us who focus on Local SEO is still unknown.  My hunch is that those SEO companies that focus on good, unique content and on providing a good user experience for both small businesses and consumers will probably fare ok with this new acquisition and the on-going strategy changes at Google.

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A Groupon Coupon for College – Creative Marketing

Social Media and online coupon deals are quickly becoming part of the fabric of our daily lives, and businesses of all sizes are beginning to embrace them as part of their overall business and advertising strategies.

Each day I scour the Internet looking for the latest deal, directory, or gimmick to see how companies are effectively using social media, contests, Twitter, Facebook, or coupons to grow their businesses, and I marvel at the ingenuity of some marketing companies and entrepreneurs. In my search today, I came across an article in the Chicago Sun-Times about colleges and universities using both Twitter and Groupon as part of an on-going advertising campaign.

In one article I read, a university was offering a scholarship to the applicant who could convince the school through Twitter why they would make the best candidate for their program.  Hmmm, I recall having to write more than 140 characters to the admittance board of my graduate program.  As college tuitions continue to rise and horror stories about the debt incurred from financial aid are being broadcast on television, I guess it makes sense … Had I been given the chance to go to school for free, I would have sung like a canary!

In another article, I read that National Louis University is offering a Groupon coupon for 60% off of a course entitled: Introduction to Teaching.  While Groupon has offered coupons for exercise and art classes in the past, this is the first time that they have offered a coupon for higher education.  This deal marks the trends that businesses are taking in order to thrive in an increasingly competitive environment.  The university’s president Nivine Megahed points out that in order to reach students, the university needs to “speak to them in a way they are used to speaking.”

It is a fact of life that more and more people are “speaking” through social media, blogs, reviews, and daily deal sites.  For those business owners who want to stay competitive, they must embrace this new world and speak the “language”, or -like the buggy whip, yellow pages, and perhaps the U.S. Post Office- face a dismal economic future.

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MyLocally on track with Local Search and Social Media Trends

As the launch of MyLocally.com fast approaches, we see affirmation that our strategy combining Local Search and Social Media into one product is in line with current Search trends every day and we grow increasingly more excited for its launch.

BIA/Kelsey recently launched their Social Local Media (SLM) advisory service, focused on the “growing significance of social platforms” and has appointed Andrew Shotland of LocalSEOGuide.com to act as their associate program director.  Mr. Shotland is a respected social and local SEO expert, and consults for eLocal Listing with our new product offerings such as MyLocally.com. BIA/Kelsey’s SLM advisory service will focus on monetization models for social networks (something SMBs have been struggling with for years), metrics that measure social transactions, social commerce, and Facebook’s continued evolution as an effective online marketing tool.

Another sign that MyLocally is on track with current Search and Social Media trends, especially with our focus on its community Market Place pages, is the introduction of BuddyPress; Social Networking in a box. This new free and open source web product allows communities to build an integrated solution in which participants are connected through blogs, updates, messaging, and more. Exactly the direction that MyLocally.com is taking.

MyLocally.com is a new online community that allows its participants, both businesses and consumers, to actively participate in deals, reviews, blog posts, and Q&A.  The more they participate, the higher you appear on the Market Place Page or the better deals you will receive!

Our current launch date is September 25, 2011; until then, keep coming back for more updates.

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