Search Results for: cities

You Offer 10 Services and Serve 10 Cities, So You Create 100 City Pages? Why City-Page Proliferation Is Dumb

You want to rank for a bunch of keywords in a bunch of cities.  You don’t have a physical location in each city – which makes you ineligible for Google My Business pages in all those places – but you figure you can “optimize” as many pages you need.  Your competitors do it, so why shouldn’t you?  What have you got to lose?

Let’s say own an HVAC company in the Dallas area.  You offer 10 main services and want to reach customers in 10 cities.  You crank out 10 city pages for “heating repair,” with page names like:

/heating-repair-dallas-tx
/heating-repair-fort-worth-tx
/heating-repair-plano-tx
/heating-repair-arlington-tx
/heating-repair-richardson-tx
/heating-repair-irving-tx
/heating-repair-garland-tx
/heating-repair-mckinney-tx
/heating-repair-denton-tx
/heating-repair-grapevine-tx

Then you need pages on AC repair, so…

/ac-repair-dallas-tx
/ac-repair-fort-worth-tx
/ac-repair-plano-tx
/ac-repair-arlington-tx
/ac-repair-richardson-tx
/ac-repair-irving-tx
/ac-repair-garland-tx
/ac-repair-mckinney-tx
/ac-repair-denton-tx
/ac-repair-grapevine-tx

 And so on.

Before you know it, you’ve got 100 pages.  (Or maybe you only offer 5 services and in 5 different cities.  That’s still 25 pages.)

All the pages are nearly identical, except you swap out the city names and keywords from page to page.

Like the microsite strategy, the cities x services = number of pages strategy is shortsighted and likely to end in one kind of failure or another.

In a minute I’ll tell you what I suggest you do instead.  First, here are the problems with your rapidly reproducing pages:

  1. Even if the 100 “city” pages aren’t too good and you just squirt them out, it’s still a lot of work to build them all.
  1. What if you make a mistake in your master copy and want to fix it? Whatever it is, do it 100 times.
  1. It’s hard or impossible to incorporate the pages into your navigation – and not annoy visitors.
  1. It’s hard or impossible to incorporate the pages into your internal linking – and not annoy visitors.
  1. Do you at least want the option of writing and building the pages in-house – without spending so much time on them that you drop the ball on everything else?
  1. Google’s “Doorway Page” update – meant to keep useless “city” pages out of the search results. Now, those pages still pop up too often, so to me Google hasn’t been too serious about running them out of town.  But if and when that changes, you don’t want to be the one to find out first.
  1. What if the pages don’t rank well? Then what?  How will you make 100 pages more informative and in-depth?  What if you conclude you need to rustle up some good links?
  1. What if they rank well but don’t get any traffic? What is your plan to make more people click through to those 100 pages from the search results?
  1. What if they get traffic, but the traffic doesn’t convert? You’ll need to make 100 pages convert better.  You wanted those city-service permutation pages because they were quick to pump out.  Do you have time to fix 100 failures?
  1. What if you want to rename the pages or rework the URLs later? Lots of redirects and/or updating your internal links.
  1. What if some customers see 5 pages that all look the same except for the city? Are they more likely or less likely to call you?
  1. Do you want to be able to point customers and would-be customer to those pages easily – and verbally, if you want to?
  1. Do you want competitors, marketers, and customers alike to admire how you market yourself, or conclude that you’re just another hack?
  1. Your competitors have probably sunk to that strategy already. What makes you think you’ll do the same thing they do but enjoy more success than they’ve had?
  1. If your competitors haven’t cranked out 100 city pages yet, and they conclude your pages work great for you, how will you stay ahead of them when they follow your lead?

 

Enough for now about what you shouldn’t do.  Here’s what I do suggest:

  1. Have an in-depth page on each specific service you offer. Have some blurbs on your service area, and link to your pages on each city (see point #2, below), as appropriate.
  1. Have an in-depth “city” page on each of the main cities you serve. Apply my 25 principlesThis spreadsheet may help, too.

The idea is your service pages should have plenty of “city” info, and your city pages should have plenty of info on your services.  If you offer 10 services and serve 10 cities, that’s 20 pages.  Much more manageable, and it’s at least possible you can make each one good over time.

Any drawbacks of the “cities x services = number of pages” strategy that I missed?

Anything to say in its defense?

Any examples of great or hideous city pages?

Leave a comment!

16 Ways to Create Unique “Local” Content for Cities Where You Want to Rank

Are you creating pages on your site that target specific cities where you want to rank well in the organic search results for local businesses?

If so, you’d be crazy not to spend a little time making those pages unique – that is, clearly and substantially different from each other.

I’m going to show you a bunch of ways to make your “city pages” unique.  As opposed to having a page for “city1 + keyword,” another page for “city2 + keyword,” etc.

Differentiating your pages will help you avoid (1) possibly being penalized by Google and (2) annoying and repelling your potential customers.

(If you want, you can skip right to my suggestions for how to make your pages unique.  But maybe first you need to get up-to-speed – in which case just read on.)

I’m going to assume three things about your business:

(1) You’re trying to rank for a “boring” service;

(2) You only have one physical location (but also a service area that may encompass many cities/towns), and that

(3) You haven’t been able to think of much to say about the various towns in your service area (other than that you serve customers there).

If any of the above isn’t the case with you, great.  So much the easier for you to make your pages unique.  But I’m working under the assumption that yours is a head-scratcher case, where you just aren’t sure how to make anything but cloned pages.

My suggestions are also applicable if you have multiple physical locations and aren’t sure how you can differentiate your pages (or sites) from each other.

 

Why you might need city pages

Why might you want to go after organic rankings when you can get visible in the classic local search results?  (AKA Google+Local and Bing Places.)

Because sometimes there are towns in which you just can’t rank in the local search results.

Let’s say you’re a contractor located in a little town that’s 15 miles from three bigger cities.  Maybe you rank well in the Google+Local results within 5 miles of your office, but you haven’t been able to rank in the local results in the bigger cities because you’re just a little too far from where the action is.

What do you do?

You create pages on your site that target each of those cities you want to rank in.  Your aim is to snag some rankings in the organic results – the ones for local businesses.

 

Why you need unique city pages

It’s pretty easy to get organic rankings in nearby cities, right?  Just whip together a page, clone it for as many cities as you want to rank in, swap out the city names on each page, and watch those rankings roll in – right?

Maybe you’ve seen clone pages work for your local nemesis.  That schmuck has 25 pages on his site that are nearly identical, with only the city names differing from page to page, and he outranks you.

So why shouldn’t you create a bunch of near-identical “city pages”?  Why not build your very own clone army?  For at least four reasons:

1.  There’s a good chance it won’t work.  After all, you only see the cases where Google doesn’t penalize businesses for putting out a bunch of garbage pages.

2.  Even if it works now, it’s not going to work forever.  Google is slowly but surely getting more teeth with which to penalize sites that are long on “optimization” but short on helpful info.

3.  Even if you get the rankings you want, who says your pages will bring you phone calls?  (For that matter, who says your competitors are making money off their clone pages?)  Your customers aren’t stupid.  They can tell when you’re just paying lip service to their city.

4.  It’s lame.

The good news is it can be quick and easy to make your city pages different from each other – in a way that’s Google-friendly in the long-term and customer-friendly always.

 

16 ways to make your pages unique

Here are all the ways I know of that you can make your city pages unique from each other.  Some of these (probably the first 6) will be obvious to you, whereas you may not have thought of others.

On-page elements

1. Title tags.

2.  Description tags.

3.  Page names.  Don’t have these run too long.  A name with more than 4-5 words may look fishy to Google.

4.  H1s, H2s, etc.

5.  Internal links.  For example, you could link to a blog post you wrote about a job you did in your “target” city.

6.  Outbound links.  You could link to the town’s website, to the site of a charity you support in the town, or to a blog post that someone else wrote that’s relevant to the town and to your services.

Content

7. Write a simple case-study on a job you did in your target city.  (All the credit goes to Matt McGee for this idea.)

8.  Write about what you like about working in your target city, or what you like about its residents.

9.  Write a blurb about any employees of yours from your target city.  Better yet, have them do it.  Just something that shows at least a small (but real) connection to that city.

10.  Write about any local laws or regulations that your potential customers might want to know about.  (Hat tip to Marcus Sheridan of The Sales Lion for this technique.)

11.  Photos.  If you don’t have pictures of jobs you did in your target city, maybe have a picture of a local landmark.  Reflect the “local” subject matter in the names of the photos, and maybe in the alt tags and title attributes.

12.  Videos.  Each city page can have a different video.  Assuming you’re the one who created the videos, you can include in your YouTube descriptions a link to your city page, and you can geotag the video.

13.  Testimonials.  Mention the city of the customers who wrote them.  Depending on what your business is and how close you are with your customers, you might also be able to weave in relevant photos (e.g. “Fred’s front yard” or “Before-and-after of Sara’s smile”).

14.  Rich snippets.  You can mark up customers’ testimonials with Schema or hReview, so as to get those nice review stars to show up in the search results.

15.  Offers or giveaways that are tailored toward the residents of your target city.  Depending on how you approach it, this might also help you to track leads / conversions.

16. Make some Google “My Maps.”  See if you can make a few custom maps that potential customers might find handy.

 

Examples of good city pages

LandscapeGuys.com/white-bear-lake-landscaping.htm
(see search results here)

AttaboyPlumbing.com
(look under “About” tab)

(Note: I’ve worked with both of the above companies; I’ve done some consulting for Attaboy Plumbing, and Palumbo Landscaping is a long-time client.)

 

Great resources

(If you don’t read anything else, at least be sure to read the first two posts.)

Understand and Rock the Google Venice Update – Mike Ramsey

How to Create Local Content for Multiple Cities – Matt McGee

The Anatomy of an Optimal Local Landing Page – Mike Ramsey

The #1 Problem with Local Blogging – Matt McGee

The Nitty Gritty of City Landing Pages for Local Businesses – Miriam Ellis

Matt Cutts and Eric Talk about What Makes a Quality Site – Eric Enge

Guidelines on duplicate content – Google

Policies on keyword-stuffing – Google

Do you have any tips on how to make pages unique?

Any really good examples of city pages?

Any city-page woes that make you sing the blues?

Leave a comment!

Local Citations / Business Directories for Specific Ethnicities and Identities (US)

Any business owner who’s tried to get visible to customers in local search has noticed the huge number and variety of citation sources out there (AKA places to list your business).

We all know that people who own businesses in America are of all different stripes – some who identify as a minority, some born in other countries, some multilingual, etc.  That’s one of the very best things about this country.

What most local business owners and local SEOs don’t know is that there’s also a variety of local-biz directories geared toward many of the different ethnicities and identities of people who’ve built businesses here.

These sites are important for two reasons: Because “local” business owners (1) want to attract the “right types” of customers and (2) need to gather as many local citations as possible in order to get visible to those customers in the local search results (mostly Google+Local and Bing).

I’ve rounded up a list of ethnicity-specific / identity-specific sites, some of which you may want to list your business on.

I didn’t know about these sites, partly because this topic gets zero attention – even in local-SEO circles.  But that doesn’t mean your customers don’t know about them and use them.  Plus, chances are good Google views them as high-quality citations, which could help your local rankings.

This post is for you if your services cater to people of a particular origin, or if you’re trying to find more customers who have a similar background to yours – and who might be looking for someone like you in the same way.

A couple of notes:

1. I’ve only included directories that are (a) free, (b) available to people in any city in America, and that (c) don’t require you to place a reciprocal link on your site.

2.  There’s no good way to categorize the sites, so I’ve simply listed them alphabetically.  Most of the site names are self-explanatory, but I’ve added little side-notes to the ones that might not be.

 

Sites:

AlbanianYellowPages.com

AmericanIndianBusiness.net (Native American)

AsianBizOnline.com

BizPronto.com (Latino)

BlackBusinessList.com

BlackDollar.org

BlackOwnedBiz.com

BlackPagesOnline.com

Chinese411.com

CopperPages.com (Indian & Southeast Asian)

DesiWebUSA.com (Indian)

DoJewish.org

FilAmBizPages.com (Filipino)

FilAmPages.com (Filipino)

GreekAmericanBiz.com

HispanicSMB.com

IndianVillage.com (Native American)

IndoUSListing.com (Indonesian)

IranianHotline.com

iZania.com (Black & African American)

Jewocity.com

LatinaMarketplace.com

Latin-Businesses-USA.com

LebaneseinAmerica.com

MakBiz.net (Macedonian)

MinorityProfessionalNetwork.com

MuslimBusinessUSA.com

MuslimDir.com

NAOTW.biz (Native American)

RUList.com (Russian)

RussianImpact.com

SaigonNet.net (Vietnamese)

SupportBlackBusinesses.com

ThaiYellowPagesUSA.com

TurkishBiz.com

US4Arabs.com

Yasabe.com (Spanish speakers)

YaSas.com (Greek)

 

And a couple of good sites for US Armed Forces veterans:

VeteranOwnedBusiness.com

VeteransDirectory.com

(If you’re a vet or know one, check out my pro bono Visibility for Veterans program.)

 

By the way, you can find paid-membership sites if you do a search in Google along the lines of “[ethnicity] american chamber of commerce”.  There are also a ton of LinkedIn groups, which you can find if you type things like “[ethnicity] American business network”

If the list doesn’t have a directory geared toward a particular type of person, it’s either because I simply couldn’t find such a directory (possible) or because I didn’t think to look (not likely – I spend 2-3 hours combing the web).

In any case, I’m sure there are some great sites out there that I missed.  And I just know there must be a lot of non-US sites similar to the ones on the list (I’ve stumbled across a few so far).  I’d really appreciate any suggestions.

How many of the above sites apply to your business (or a client’s business)?  Any thoughts on how to make the list a little better?  Leave a comment!

Is Your Local SEO Person Shell-Shocked, Gun-Shy, and TOO Afraid of Angering Google? How to Avoid the Phobias

https://www.flickr.com/photos/salisasaki/194846206/

SEOs often have a hard time with moderation.  They tend to sit at extremes and take an all-or-nothing approach – to getting links, building citations, creating “content,” jamming keywords into pages, and so on.  If they were actors, they’d be William Shatner.

 

You can have too much of a good thing.  Most SEOs take practices that are good in small amounts and overdo them.  Some of the most cautious, by-the-book SEOs I’ve known once had a black hat or a gray hat, until Google penalized their sites, or until the overplayed strategies just stopped working,

Some SEO practices get an undeserved bad rap.  I think that’s mainly because some people have overused or abused those practices, and because most other people aren’t sure what’s “just right” and what’s too much, and don’t want to make a judgment call (especially with clients’ sites).

Some caution around those practices is good, but you shouldn’t be so cautious you don’t go anywhere near them.  That’s why I’ll refer to them as phobias.

Below are 10 practices I’ve found to be good in moderation, or in certain cases, or both.  The underlined parts denote my advice.  By the way, in case it’s not obvious, I want to stress that all of this is based on my experience as a full-time, long-time local SEO dweeb – on what I’ve seen work and not work.

 

Phobia 1: “Having lots of internal links is spammy.”
If they’re heavy on exact-match anchor text, or aren’t relevant to what’s on the page, or you’d waste a visitor’s time if he or she clicked on them, then I agree: You don’t want those.  But if you’re hyperlinking a search term you’d include on the page anyway, and the page you link to also is relevant and useful, then I say pile on the internal links.  I’ve found that beneficial for rankings, at least for my clients, and especially when trying to get subpages to rank in the organic results (as opposed to the homepage / Google My Business landing page in the 3-pack results).

 

Phobia 2: “Even footer links to relevant pages are spammy.”
Same response as to phobia #1: how you do it is what matters.  The type of footer link I recommend most often is a short-to-medium list of links to the pages on your most-important services (or products).  Maybe 5-20 of them, though having more is probably fine.  (If clients’ competitors and other sites are any indicators of what’s OK, then Google’s pretty forgiving even of spammy footer links.)  I’d put only the name of the service, and not include the city name in the anchor text of every link.

 

Phobia 3: “Don’t describe the service area in the footer, because that’s spammy.”
Then that’s pretty ineffective spam, because you won’t rank in all the places you mention in your footer.  You probably won’t even rank in half of them, especially if you serve a large area, and especially if you’re in an industry with a high density of local competitors (e.g. roofing).

So why do it?  Well, besides the possibility that it may still help you a little even for competitive terms, I suggest you specify your service area (or a partial one) on every page for two main reasons.  One is to make it clear to people (not Google) that you serve their city or area.  (You can’t assume they’ll go to your “Areas Served” or “Locations” page, or will want to.)  The other reason is that it does seem to help you rank for niche terms, especially in cities/towns where the density of competitors is lower.  At least for niche terms, Google doesn’t need much content to grab onto to (1) understand what you offer and (2) where you offer it.

 

Phobia 4: “Why should I describe the service area on the homepage if I have a ‘city page’ for each place?”
Because some people may want to know what your service area is.  Also because – at least in my experience – the homepage often is more likely to rank for any given search term (and for a wider variety of terms) than “city” pages and other subpages are, if the guts of the homepage make it clear what you offer and where you offer it.

Just stuffing keywords and place names onto your homepage usually isn’t enough to rank for much.  (You’ll probably also need some links from solid and relevant sites, for starters.)  But if you don’t even mention basic points like where you work, Google won’t necessarily play gumshoe, especially if your competitors have made their service areas clear everywhere.

 

Phobia 5: “Why would I link to other sites and risk bleeding off PageRank or looking spammy to Google?”
I’ve never seen that it matters either way, much or at all.  Most of my greatest-hit, most-visible posts include links to relevant other resources, and that’s also true of many of my clients best-performing pages and (sometimes) blog posts.  Does a page or post do well because of the outbound links?  I doubt it, if only because that’s too easy, and too easy to overdo at the expense of users’ attention spans.  Don’t link to another resource just because you think Google likes that, but because you think that resource is useful for your visitor.  If your page is less useful because it doesn’t lead anywhere else, it’s a dead end, and is less likely to get links or anything else that Google pays attention to.  That can limit its rankings eventually.

 

Phobia 6: “‘City’ pages are doorway pages, and doorway pages are spam, so you shouldn’t create ‘city’ pages.”
Don’t belch out pages full of boilerplate, that say nothing more than “Pay us, pay us, wherever you are.”  Create pages that show people the experience you’ve got in their city or town, or that explain why you’re in a uniquely good position to help them.  Even great “city” pages shouldn’t be your whole strategy for ranking in more of your service area, but they can be part of your strategy.

 

Phobia 7: “Play it safe and don’t let title tags go over 70 characters.”
Usually the concern is that Google will truncate a long title tag and only show a piece of it in the search results.  But that concern isn’t too applicable these days, because most of the time Google rewrites your title tags.  It dynamically generates what it “thinks” your title tag should be (based on the search term) and shows its preferred version in the search results.  Like speed limits on the road, the title tag you specified is just a suggestion.  That’s how Google handles it, anyway.

I wouldn’t let a title tag run on for 300 characters, and I’d still think hard about what to put in it.  But I’ve have never seen that pages with title tags longer than 70 characters do any worse in the search results, and many of them perform just fine.

 

Phobia 8: “Those pages need to be under a subdirectory, like ‘/services’.  It’s not OK for subpages to be at the root level.”
I’ve seen both rank just fine – on my clients’ sites and on others’ sites.

If you’re putting up a new batch of pages, or a new site, or redesigning your site, and it’s relatively easy to stick your pages under a relevantly named subdirectory, then yeah, I’d probably nest the page in a subdirectory.

But if you’ve got a page that ranks OK at a URL like yoursite.com/nameofservice, I wouldn’t change it to yoursite.com/services/nameofservice or yoursite.com/doctors/nameofdoctor  just because your person says it’s a “best-practice.”  That’s unlikely to bump you higher up page one, and it’s not worth needing to mess with your 301 redirects, or having to fix broken links,  or both.  Separate the SEO from the OCD.

 

Phobia 9: “We want the homepage to load faster, so it’s never OK to add something that may slow down the load-time.”
Too many SEOs have a fast fetish.  They won’t add the perfect photo because of its file size, or embed a YouTube video because of its iframe, or install a useful plugin because it’s another plugin.  If speed was the most important thing, Amazon’s homepage would be the fastest of all, but it’s not.  Customers need stuff to look at and interact with.

 

 

Fast-loading pages should always be a consideration and a priority, but not the only consideration or only priority.  Always see what you can cut, but that doesn’t mean you should cut everything or never add anything.

 

Phobia 10: “Don’t keep pages or posts that rank for irrelevant terms.”
Keep them around for long enough to try squeezing some benefit out of them.  I’ve had success with that on occasion, but I’ve never just deleted pages and seen the remaining pages move up.  As far as I know, you don’t get points for perfect tidiness.

 

What’s an SEO practice that gets a bad rap, but that has helped your local visibility?

Was there a time you flew too close to the sun?  What happened?

Leave a comment!

The Local SEO Data Jackpot You Missed: Google Analytics – Search Console Integration

https://www.flickr.com/photos/mwichary/2994623248/

If you’ve never done so, log into Google Analytics, then go to “Acquisition,” “Search Console,” and “Landing pages.”  There you’ll find a mashup of (1) Google Analytics data on landing pages and (2) Google Search Console data on how specific pages perform in the search results.  Whether you do local SEO yourself or you do it for clients, you’ll the usefulness of that data in pretty short time.

You’ll need to integrate Google Analytics and Search Console first, but that’s easy, and you may have done it already.

I haven’t heard my fellow local SEOs talk about this tucked-away area in Analytics.  Not sure why.  (Maybe they did and I missed it.)  It’s an area I overlooked until more recently than I’d like to admit.  People outside of local search have discussed the Analytics – Search Console tie-in a bit (and Search Console alone to a greater extent), but not how it can benefit your local SEO campaign.

Click to enlarge

In case you’re wondering, the info you see in Search Console is not the same.  You can see a page’s click-through rate and number impressions in Search Console (“Performance” -> “Pages”).  But those metrics aren’t paired with the useful page-specific metrics you see in Google Analytics, like bounce rate, pages per session, and conversion rate, etc.   You can get similar insights by looking at Search Console and Analytics separately, and not using the integration, but that’s a hassle.

The big, obvious benefit of the Analytics – Search Console mashup is that the metrics are in one place: you don’t have to flip between Analytics and Search Console.  That’s convenient.  It also lets you sort and filter your data easily, if you want or need to.  That’s good whether or not you do local SEO.

But the GA-GSC integration is uniquely useful if you do local SEO, for reasons that include:

  • You can see how many queries contain a city name or other place name. That means less speculation on which terms your visitors typed in, and gives you a better sense of where they’re located.
  • You can identify which specific pages are chopped liver in the search results. (High impressions + low CTR.)  That will tell you which title tags and description takes may need a facelift.
  • You can tell whether your “city pages” amount to a hill of beans, or not even that. You’ll determine whether to continue or scrap that strategy.
  • If you’re multi-location, you can see which “location” page gets the most or fewest clicks (and impressions). Of course, you can map that to whatever you know about which location does worst or best in terms of getting new customers.
  • You can compare what you see in the Analytics-Search Console mashup to the data you see elsewhere: AdWords “search term” reports , Google My Business “Insights,” and any rank-trackers you might use, to name a few examples.
  • You can see how many of the queries that get people to your landing pages in the organic results also cause the local 3-pack to show up. Do you appear both in the organic results and on the map for that term?  If not, should you make your GMB landing page a little more like the one that ranks in the organic results?  Lots of questions to ponder, depending on what you find.
  • It seems to have more-complete data than what Search Console alone has. If you go into Search Console (under “Performance” -> “Pages”) you may see performance data only on a few pages.  Whereas the “Search Console” -> Landing pages” VIEW in Google Analytics may pull in data on more of your pages – more pages than you’d see data on if you just stayed in Search Console.

By the way, here’s another fun area in Analytics: “Acquisition” -> “Search Console” -> “Queries” -> “Term cloud” -> “Impressions.”

We all know Google’s propensity to kill off useful features and to make useful data harder to get at, so feast on this while you still can.

 

Anyway, you don’t need more advice from me on why you’ll find that data useful, or on what to do with it.  Just go check it out.  Again: Google Analytics -> “Acquisition” -> “Search Console” -> “Landing pages.”

Any useful resources other people have written on this (especially from a local SEO angle)?

When did you first stumble into the Analytics – Search Console integration?

What are your favorite insights to dig out?

Leave a comment!

10 Types of Ninja Pages You Can Sneak up the Local Search Results

https://www.flickr.com/photos/cuatrok77/9958782363/

People who do local SEO are pretty resourceful at rubbing keywords all over pages they want to rank. They’re less creative with the types of pages they try to get to rank.

Often those pages are limited to the homepage, a few “service” pages, and maybe some doughy “city” pages.  Those types of pages matter – as do other good standard types of pages – but other kinds can surprise you.  “Ultimate guides” and infographics and other kinds of theoretical link-bait are fine, but even if they rank well, the people who click on them tend not to be local to you.

Here are 10 kinds of pages that can rank better (and maybe more easily) than you might think, and that you might want to create on your site:

1. “Service Areas” or “Location Finder.” Don’t just plop down a list of cities and ZIPs. Also describe your service area in at least a couple of paragraphs, describe your experience in some of the communities on the list, link to your pages on specific services, link to any “city” pages you might have made, maybe include reviews from a few customers, and see if you can work a “near me” angle.

2. “About” or “Bio.” Usually you can optimize them for “Attorney” or “Doctor” or “Agent” or “Master Carpenter” or “Expert” or similar local search terms. Describe in detail the person’s experience, and exactly what makes him or her at whatever line of work, and link to relevant other pages on the site.  Don’t just describe hobbies and preferred breakfast foods.

3. “Certified” or “Licensed.” In some fields certification or licensure isn’t applicable, or nobody cares about it. But if you’re a home inspector, a hypnotist, an arborist, an electrician, or pretty much any kind of contractor (to name a few examples), the chances are good that at some point some of your customers will search for who’s qualified – not just for who’s nearby.

 

4. “[Service] for [person].” Think “massage for pregnant women,” “divorce attorney for men,” “cosmetic dentist for kids,” etc.

5. “Reviews.” Some people add “reviews” or “reviews of” to whatever local search term they type in. You’ll want to create a page that shows off your reviews anyway, so you might as well try to get it to rank for something.  (Note: this page should be different from your “Review Us” page.)

6. “Voted Best.” The catch is you probably need to win some distinction first. But if you do, you can probably snag some “best ____ in [place]” rankings.

7. Photo gallery. Depending on your niche, you may be able to get some rankings for “photos of ____” or “examples of ____” terms, but I mention photo galleries here because if you play your cards right you might make one that ranks for broader search terms, too. Especially if you don’t only slap up photos, but also describe what’s in the photos.

8. “Bilingual ____” or “[Language]-Speaking _____.” If you or someone who works for you speaks more than one language, and whips out that language when helping customers / clients / patients, create a page all about that.

9. “Discount” or “Coupons.” You could have one for each service, if you wanted to. It could be paltry.  Or if it’s not paltry, maybe you don’t offer it to everyone.  (Maybe you only offer it to veterans, or students, or seniors, for example.)

10. “Commercial” versions of “residential” pages, or vice versa. Let’s say you’re an electrician who offers 20 different services. You’ll want a page on each specific service, of course, but if you also serve business owners and if a residential customer has different needs from those of a business-owner customer, you’ll probably want 20 pages on your residential services, and another 20 on your commercial services.  Each can be your secret weapon.

Can you think of other “ninja” pages that can quietly climb up the local search results?

Any good examples of ninja pages that seem to work well for your competitor(s)?

What’s an overlooked kind of page that’s worked well for you?

Leave a comment!

Google My Business Shakes up Service-Area Businesses: What Has Changed and What to Do

https://www.flickr.com/photos/rothwerx/1404435911/in/photolist-3976Sg-39774k

Using Google My Business long has been a murky matter for owners of service-area businesses.  Most people have wondered what kinds of addresses are eligible, how many GMB pages they can have, whether to “hide” their addresses from showing publicly, and how big of a “service area” to specify (or whether to specify one at all).

Google just made some changes that may make things simpler for service-area businesses long-term, but that make things even more confusing for now.  The changes appear to have happened today. (Thanks to Tim Colling for the intel in his forum thread.)

What’s changed?

1. The entire “address” field now appears to be optional.

If you’re creating a page for the first time, it’s not clear to me whether still you need to specify an address to get the verification postcard sent to you.  Even if you need to specify an address initially, you can wipe the address after you’re verified.

2. Radius-targeting is gone. No longer can you target everything within a specific distance from your place of business.

Now you have to specify cities, or states/provinces, or ZIP/postal codes, etc.

Google’s updated rules read: “You can no longer set your service area as a distance around your business. If you previously entered a distance around your business, you won’t be able to edit it. Instead, you’ll need to specify your service area by region, city, or ZIP code.”

3. Now you update the “Address” and “Service Area” settings separately, in two separate fields, rather than mess with your service-area settings in the “Address” field.

4. Certain businesses in service industries no longer have their addresses showing in the local 3-pack, even if those businesses never chose to “hide” their address from showing publicly. It’s not clear to me whether that’s because Google doesn’t want businesses in certain industries to have their addresses show up in the 3-pack, or because (more likely) those business owners simply haven’t gone into Google My Business today to mess with their address and service-area settings.

My (early) take and suggestions

It’s not yet clear (to me) why Google has made those changes.  Nor is it clear whether they’re only the first in a series of changes.  Often there is another shoe to drop.

My tinfoil-hat theory is Google wants to make it easier for more businesses of a certain type to have a Google My Business page that doesn’t break a rule or three, so that more of them can use Local Services Ads and get into a PPC bidding war with each other.  Guess we’ll see.

For now, I don’t see a downside to your specifying an address AND a service area, assuming you’re not the owner of a home-based business and are concerned about revealing your address.  If you do run a home-based business and have privacy concerns, there doesn’t appear to be a drawback to scrubbing your address out of the “Address” field of your Google My Business page.

When Google makes a big change like this, business owners are slow to adapt (and many never do) and Google knows that.  This is a good time to experiment, while your competitors don’t even know there was a change.

Any early observations?

Any bugs or problems you’ve run into?

Leave a comment!

Want to Guess How Many Local Businesses Use Google My Business Posts?

https://www.flickr.com/photos/idletype/430895151/

Google My Business posts have been around since mid-2017.  They seem to have caught on – more than many of Google’s “local business” features have – mostly because the payoff is clear: GMB posts stick out in your brand-name search results, and can nudge people toward the next step you’d like them to take.

Should you use Google My Business posts – for your business?  On the one hand is the “Why not?” argument.  You can give GMB posts a try for a few months and see if they’re worth the (small) effort.

On the other hand, the “Why bother?” argument also has merit.  To wit:

  • If most businesses use GMB posts already, won’t customers tune them out?
  • If few businesses use GMB posts, have most business owners just concluded they’re a waste of time?
  • If few businesses use them, will Google retire GMB posts soon?

You probably don’t need another distraction – another thing to keep you from focusing on the stuff with clearer payoff to your local visibility.

This is where it helps to know specifically how many businesses use – or ever have used – Google My Business posts.  I couldn’t find any numbers on that, and when possible I like a better understanding than, “Umm, not many” or “A lot, I guess.”  So I did some research.

I looked at 2000 businesses in the Google Maps results, in 100 local markets.  Those 100 markets covered 10 cities across the US, and focused on 10 categories of businesses.  (More on my methodology in a minute.)  I counted how many businesses had created a GMB post recently – within the last 7 days – and how many businesses had ever done a GMB post.

Here’s a summary of what I found – the numbers on businesses’ adoption of Google My Business posts:

Q: How many businesses have ever created a Google My Business post?
A: About 17%.

Q: How many businesses have posted recently and seem to post regularly?
A: About 4%.

Q: How many businesses posted at least once, but seem not to keep up with it?
A: About 13%.

Q: Of the businesses that do post on GMB, how many seem to do it regularly?
A: About 1 in 4.

Q: In how many local markets has at least one business (in the top 20) ever tried GMB posts?
A: About 91% of local markets.  In only 9% of markets (that I looked at) nobody had ever posted.

Q: In an average first page of “Maps tab” results (20 local businesses), how many have ever tried GMB posts?
A: About 3 businesses.

Q: How saturated do local markets get, in terms of how many local businesses post on GMB?
A: The most I ever saw was 10 businesses out of the top 20.  There were a few nines and a few eights.  Again, the vast majority of businesses I looked at have never posted.

You can download my spreadsheet here.  If you look at it, I’d love to hear any insights you glean that I didn’t mention.

Methodology and limitations

1. I looked only at businesses in the US. I imagine the adoption of (or dabbling in) GMB posts is a little lower outside of the US, but of course it just depends on the local market.

2. I looked only at larger and medium cities in the US. In some cases Google Maps drew results from the suburbs, but I didn’t search there or in less-populated areas. In my experience, adoption of Google My Business features (and the like) is lower outside of the larger cities.

3. I searched in Google Maps – in the “local finder” – so I could look at a larger sample of businesses. The alternative was to look at the top 3 businesses on page 1 of Google’s main search results, but Google’s main search results don’t show who’s using GMB posts. I’d have to click on each listing anyway.  In the “Maps” view, I could pull up a list of 20, and very quickly check each business and see whether it had any GMB posts.

4. I focused on 10 industries, by way of 10 search terms: “dentist, “family lawyer,” “auto repair,” “roofing,” “animal hospital,” “preschool,” “electrician,” “real estate agent,” “music lessons, and “plastic surgeon.” Could I have looked at 100 industries? Sure, but I’d still be missing some categories, because there’s an infinity of them.  So I chose to focus on the more-competitive spaces, with a bent toward the brutal markets.  I’ve been in local search for 10 years, and picked the least-bad core sample I could.  (If you do a study like this one, but look at different categories, I’ll be your biggest cheerleader.)

5. What about the red search terms on my spreadsheet? Those represent cases where the search term I originally chose (e.g. “Boston animal hospital”) didn’t produce a full page of 20 businesses in Google Maps. That would have shrunken the sample size a little, and skewed my data a little, so in those cases I just picked a different search term – one that did pull up 20 businesses on the first page of Maps.

6. Over time the number of businesses with a “fresh” GMB post (i.e. posted within the last 7 days) may decrease, or just not grow as quickly as the % of businesses in the “stale posts” column. The reason is simply that most businesses don’t stick with posting on GMB. Today’s business with a fresh post is next week’s business with a stale post.

7. Which categories of businesses post the most? I don’t know, because I’d need to have looked at all or at a couple hundred industries. But I can say that, of the categories I looked at, dental practices seemed the most post-happy.

8. How closely does GMB-posting activity correspond to rankings? I don’t know, because that wasn’t what I set out to find out here. That’s a discussion for another day.  In any case, it would be tough to say, because a business owner who bothers to post on GMB probably has other local SEO irons in the fire.

9. What about the businesses that didn’t even make the first page of Maps results – the businesses ranked #21 and lower? I didn’t look at those. I suspect they post a little less than do businesses on the first page of Maps.

Observations (beyond the numbers)

Most businesses don’t keep up with Google My Business posts.  Of the businesses I looked at, only 4% had posted within the past week, versus 13% that had posted at one time or another (less recently than within the last week). They don’t keep the posts coming.  Google’s mother-hen reminders don’t work too well, apparently.

Because Google sends you a reminder every time your post is about to “expire,” my guess is business owners think that creating a new post is a big chore and a pain.  Maybe they have few good photos to share, or they think a GMB post needs to be like a Facebook post.  Or maybe they choose to post every 2 weeks.  In any case, Google should add a “re-post this post” feature, or something like that.

Customers aren’t drowning in Google My Business posts (at least not yet).  Do some businesses post too often?  Yes.  Are most posts well-done and worthy of searchers’ and customers’ attention?  No.  But most businesses haven’t overdone GMB posts, because most businesses (over 82%) haven’t used GMB posts.

Given how hard Google is pushing GMB posts, if there’s ever a time to give them a try, I’d say that time is now.

Enough businesses seem to use Google My Business posts that Google probably will keep the feature around, and maybe add to it over time.  17% may not sound like a high percentage.  But if my cross-section of 2000 businesses is at all representative, then many millions of business owners have tried GMB posts at one time or another.

Google often kills off products and features both popular and unloved, so we can’t assume GMB posts will be around forever.  But when I think of how slowly most business owners adopt new features, and how (relatively) new GMB posts are, I’d say the chances are good GMB posts will stay out of the Google graveyard.

Good further info on GMB posts

How to Create a Google My Business Post That Will Win You More CustomersBen Fisher

12 Things to Know to Succeed with Google PostsJoy Hawkins

Do Google Posts Impact Ranking? A Case Study – Joy Hawkins

Any researchable numbers or facts you’d like me to cover?

If you’ve looked at my data, did you reach any different or additional conclusions?

What’s the lowdown on Google My Business posts in your local market?

Any success stories?

Leave a comment!

Generic, Local-SEO-Friendly Business Names: the Pros and Cons of Using One

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ftmeade/21716408891/

You’re considering a change of one size or another to the name your business, in the name of better local rankings.  The basic plan is to get a “keyword” and city or other place name into your name.

To make that change you might feel the need to keyword-stuff your Google My Business name, to use a fake name on your Google My Business page, to register a “doing business as” (DBA), to rename your business entirely, or to name your new business with local SEO in mind from the get-go.

The first two options aren’t wise, and the others may be wise.  Depends on your situation and on how you’ve weighed the pros and cons.  Here are the pros and cons you’ll want to weigh before you mess with your name:

Pros of a generic, “local-SEO-friendly” name:

  • You may rank for that search term (and maybe similar terms) more easily and quickly. The name of your Google My Business page affects your Maps rankings more than it should – partly because Google often isn’t good at telling brand-name searches from broader searches.  Your name also matters to your organic and non-Google rankings, to a lesser extent.
  • More-relevant anchor text in links. Any time the text of a link to your site is the name of your business, the link will contain a “keyword” and maybe your city naturally.  You won’t need to resort to shenanigans.
  • Some customers’ reviews will contain that search-engine-friendly name. The content of reviews can help your visibility, in my experience.
  • For some search terms you might be the only business that appears on the local map (in a “local one-box” result, as it’s called).
  • Maybe you just can’t think of a good name.

Cons of a generic, “local-SEO-friendly” name:

  • It’s easy for your competitors to do the same. Most will not bother or simply will keyword-stuff their names but it may take only a couple of like-minded competitors to end your fiesta.  Easy come, easy go.
  • You may get competitors’ bad reviews. Their angry customers may confuse you with your competitors.
  • Competitors may get your good reviews. Your customers can get their wires crossed, too.
  • In general, more people may think you and your competitors belong to the same organization (maybe you’re part of a chain). That can lead to confusing phone calls, annoying emails, mixed-up coupons, bad press, and more.
  • You may be mistaken easily for spam. Competitors and do-gooders may submit Google Maps edits to your name.  Don’t assume Google will make the right call on whether to apply those edits.
  • You may be pigeonholed. Maybe you want to rank for other search terms and in other cities.  Then you’ll be at a crossroads as to how to do that.
  • Citation audits may be tougher. You (or a third party you work with) may find listings that aren’t yours, and miss listings that do belong to your business.
  • Google may have a harder time identifying searches specifically meant for your business – AKA brand-name searches. Because of your generic, broad name, Google likely will hedge its search results with businesses other than yours, just in case the person wasn’t searching for your business.  When in doubt Google includes junk.
  • You probably can’t trademark your name.
  • You miss out on the benefits of having a sticky, memorable name.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/aheram/3383179223/

How has the name of your business helped (or hurt) you?

To what extent did you think about the search-engine-friendliness before picking it?

If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?

Leave a comment!

The Perfect Stack of Online Reviews: How Does Your Local Business Measure up?

https://www.flickr.com/photos/alvaroreguly/37317928410/

“I picked you because of your reviews” is nice to hear, especially it’s often.  But how do you achieve that?

Having “good reviews” isn’t always enough.  Plenty of businesses have good reviews, but don’t attract enough business, or rank well, or beget the kinds of reviews that beget more customers who beget more reviews.  That’s one reason local SEO and review strategy are so connected (if you’re doing it right).

What’s in a “perfect” pile of reviews?   More than you think.  Possibly more than you can get, even if you do everything right.  As someone who’s helped business owners on that for many years, I’ve got a long list of boxes you should try to check.  More on that in a minute.

To keep the checklist to a reasonable length, I’ve got to assume two things about you:

  • You want reviews from real people, and not from friends or Fiverr merchants.
  • You know your customers well enough to know how important it is for your business to have reviewers from “different walks of life,” and that you don’t need my advice on that.

For my list to be of much use, you probably need to keep at least a little influx of reviews from customers / clients / patients.  See this post.

Now, what should that stack of reviews look like?  No one review will meet more than a few of these criteria, but your stack of online reviews as a whole should contain as many of the following as possible:

  1. Reviews on a wide range of sites.
  1. Plenty of 5-star reviews.
  1. A stinker or two. For one thing, they’re a reality-check. We don’t live in a 5-star world.
  1. Recent reviews. Make it clear you’re still in business.
  1. Old reviews. In time you’ll want a few Mick Jaggers in there.
  1. Excruciatingly detailed reviews. Happy, yappy customers who don’t seem to have an “off” button can make great reviewers.
  1. Funny reviews. Maybe you can skip this one if you’re a bankruptcy lawyer, urologist, or funeral-home director.
  1. Sloppy reviews. Some people just don’t think in terms of paragraphs or complete sentences. Doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from a belch of approval.
  1. Photos included with the reviews.
  1. Mentions of your business by name.
  1. Mentions of specific people in your organization (you, partners, employees, etc.).
  1. Reviews on less-trafficked or niche review sites. Don’t necessarily fixate on Google and Yelp.
  1. Reviews by one-time skeptics. There’s no zeal like the zeal of the convert.
  1. Reviews by former customers of your competitors.
  1. Reviews by longtime / repeat customers of yours. “I had a great experience” is only weak when compared to “I’ve brought my wallet here for years.”
  1. Reviews by farther-away customers – people who maybe had to drive a little, or who are on the outer edge of your service area. Great tie-in with “city pages,” by the way.
  1. Reviews by almost-customers. When a near-miss speaks up, it shows you’re willing to turn down business if it’s not the right fit.
  1. Mentions of relevant cities / places. May help your rankings. Of interest to would-be customers  either way.
  1. Mentions of specific services. People like crunchy little bits of detail. Google sure seems to.
  1. Reviews that explain how the reviewer found you.
  1. Reviews that explain how the reviewer picked you.
  1. Reviews from people who reviewed you on another site, too.
  1. Reviews from shy customers / clients / patients. Maybe they use a pen name or initials. Maybe they don’t go into as much detail as they could, and it’s obvious there’s more to the story.  Reluctant reviews can pack a strange wallop.
  1. Comments on other reviewers’ reviews. It can be powerful for customer B to rebut or confirm what customer A said.
  1. Favorable comparisons to a competitor.

I didn’t include screenshots of examples because I wanted to keep it as much like a checklist as possible.  But I’m all about real-life examples, so here are a few examples of great local-business review profiles for you to leaf through:

google.com/search?q=Premo+Electric

google.com/search?q=Alliance+Mortgage+Funding%2C+Inc.

google.com/search?q=HomeMove+Removals+%26+Storage

google.com/search?q=Kaehne%2C+Cottle%2C+Pasquale+%26+Associates%2C+S.C.+Appleton

Can you think of any other parts of a perfect pile of reviews?  (I know I’ve forgotten something.)

Any real-life examples you’d like to share?

Leave a comment!