10 Tips for Site OptimizationAugust 29, 2011

By Marketing Genius, August 10th, 2011

As a small business owner (SBO), we’re taught to thrive on the do-it-yourself attitude, so we thought it would be an excellent post to show the basics for do-it-yourself online marketing for local businesses. We often hear: “Why should I pay someone if I can do it?” Of course, that’s if we had the time! Unfortunately, optimizing our online presence can become time consuming quickly, due to the complexity of the search market. It's possible for SBO to work on it a few hours each month to improve their rankings on Google Maps, or improve their Yelp profile (online reputation) to reach new traffic, or add fresh content, images, videos, or a blog to their website SEO (Search Engine Optimization) in order to improve their Google search rankings. Prioritize your efforts based on what you’re trying to achieve and the amount of work that goes into each effort. Many of our clients ask questions, so we put together this list and prioritize it for those that are just getting started. Local SEO in the context of this article is the activity of updating your company’s business listings and content (on both local search sites and your website) in order to improve your rankings on sites like Google Maps/Places, Yelp, and other local sites and search engines.

1. Claiming your listing can have an immediate impact on improving your rankings on Google Maps and others. Also, taking control of your listings for effective online reputation management. Be sure to perform a search of your business on Google Maps, Yahoo Local, Bing Maps, etc. Add listings where you’re not listed and claim all the listings you found. You can purchase a consolidated list of all the sites from Marketing Genius here: . You will need to go through a simple verification process via email or postcard or phone call.

2. Where do you rank when you search for your primary category and local city? Are you in the first couple pages? Start by getting a good understanding of where you rank today in order to set some goals and track your performance. If you have a website, check your web search rankings for your category/keywords. Even if you don’t really need a website to drive business, it will help with validifying your business and listings for local search optimization. You can get a very basic pretty cheap these days.

3. Update your listings. Be sure your information is accurate and consistent. Consistency of your business details is important throughout the web. Add photos and videos. Create/add a video on YouTube and link to it on your Google Place Page (How to Claim Google Place’s Page video available here: . This content can help improve your rankings, but will also differentiate you from others and provide with control over your online reputation. This content improves how a client sees you, motivating them to take the next step. Be sure to update your categories as well. Add as many categories that are relevant to your products/services. Complete all information fields and maintain accuracy. This will help you with both improving rankings as well as online reputation.

4. Consistency across the web when it comes to your business details. There are many sites with your listings today – you’ll be surprised especially if you’ve been in business for a while -- it can become overwhelming. If you move or change your business, then old data can still be on the web. Most business listings come from 3 primary listing databases. Consistency will help search engines aggregate all references to your business -- creating “trust” for your listing and can help improve your rankings for your local business. If a site has conflicting information it can’t be tagged to your business properly as a citation, losing the value of that reference. Add/update listings on these top 2 databases.

LocalEze: http://webapp.localeze.com/extranet/createaccount.aspx
InfoUSA: http://dbupdate.infousa.com/dbupdate/index.html

5. Be certain that search engines can find your location data. Your contact information should be in clear HTML. To comply and ensure that search engines can find you, provide your contact information add a KML to the site or in an hCard. You can create a KML file (like a sitemap) to Google directly via the Google Webmaster Tools.

hCard: http://www.wolf-howl.com/seo/hcards-microformats-address/
KML: http://www.martijnbeijk.com/tutorial/using-kml-for-local-seo/

6. On your home page and throughout your site, be sure to include targeted keywords in the title tags along with your most targeted keywords (cities, neighborhoods, etc). You may also want to have your internal site links/URLs updated to have some of these keywords integrated there as well. This will let search engines understand what you do and the locations you serve, resulting in a greater relevance to these keywords. Greater relevance will results in higher rankings for the keywords targeted. For your contact page, be sure to have your business name in your title tag and listed on your page near your business details. If you have multiple locations, create a separate page, URL and title tag for each location. (For example: www.MyBusiness.com/contact/YourTown) When a user searches for your services or information in that city, you’ll be highly optimized for that specific location.

7. Citations are references to your business including your email address or phone number and they can have a big impact on improving rankings on Google Maps. Inbound links are other sites that link to your site and this can tell search engines how important/respected your site is by others. This, in turn, can impact your rankings on general web search results. Hopefully you’ve had some articles written. Effective strategy today is about what is going on “offsite”. Meaning that search engines use content & tags found throughout the web about your site to help validate it and increase the value of your site. The other important thing to understand is that different sites that point to yours have different values. Quantity is important too. For building inbound links and citations, take any of your competitor’s sites and see where they have links and ask for coverage. Yahoo’s Site Explorer is free and one of the most comprehensive. A well-known paid tool is available from SEOMOZ called Linkscape.

8. If you don’t have any reviews, get them. If have some reviews, go get more. Drive a review campaign monthly. If you have a client database, send out an email. You can also print some business cards with reminders on them for clients to review when they get home. Put it on the back of your appointment reminder cards. Make it easy. You can offer an incentive, but this can be a fine line, be careful with this approach. Suggestion: just give great customer service and just ask politely for a review! Be sure to have your reviews posted spread across various sites, including Google, Bing, Citysearch, etc. Not only do reviews do have an effect on local search rankings, but more importantly, they create a positive online reputation for your prospective clients needing your services. Address all negative reviews immediately by reaching out to customer and try to turn that negative into a positive. Offer to write a pre-fab review and ask if you can send it to them for their approval. Many people simply don’t have the time to write it themselves.

9. Scope out the competition in order to get some clues on what’s working for them. For mapping sites, review what competitors are in the top 7 on Google Maps. Things to look at include:
• Citation -- quantity and quality, such as Chamber of Commerce
• Review quantity and quality -- client rating
• Website content -- photos, videos, hours of operation, email, categories
• User Content -- # of times the end user has tagged the listing
For general web search, you’ll want to look at some of the following. There is a lot more analysis that can be done once you’ve tackled this.
• Page Titles -- do they include keywords for services and localities?
• Page Description -- do they have an effective description of the site so searches are inclined to click when they see it in the search results page?
• URLs -- do they have keywords included in any urls?
• Keyword density -- are they repeating keywords evenly throughout the copy?
• Fresh content -- do they have a blog and/or regularly post new articles?
You can also take your competition’s websites & check them out at www.keywordspy.com to get a list of keywords and see if they have any pay-per-click marketing. In addition, you can try www.websitegrader.com, which will give you a sense of what they’ve done for optimization.
10. The most important aspect to any effecting marketing plan is the ability to measure your results. The value of analytics to measure performance and learn what is most effective for your business is key. Be sure to check your Local Business Center for reports on your Google listings. A great tool for your website is Google Analytics. It’s free and easy to use plus very comprehensive. If you’re driving traffic to your site at all, then you must have a measurement tool in place. These tools can be great ways to measure the effectiveness of your marketing strategy.

Now, you’re well on your way to a do-it yourself online marketing strategy or your ready to call for assistance. If you’re interested in a FREE Consultation with an industry professional, then please contact us today.