Local SEO and Getting In Maps Listings
Local SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
A Double Edged Sword
What is this SEO thing that people have been talking about? And more importantly why do I care?
SEO is called Search Engine Optimization. In a lay-mans terms, its a whole set of things you do to your website and to other related sites which makes your site more attractive in search engines eyes....in todays world...its in Google eyes. So SEO is a process of improving the traffic and quality of your visitors to your website that you attract directly from search engines like Google. I also have to mention that this traffic is FREE traffic, in other words you didn't have to a pay-per-click pr pay-per-view to get this traffic. In geekland its also called natural traffic, free traffic and someone really geeky might use the term "Organic Traffic".
Dont't confuse SEO with SEM which is Search Engine Marketing also called as pay-per-click (PPC) traffic.
There are things you can do to your website that will make your site rank higher on Google's Search results page.
Lets take an example.
If you are in Dallas in a suburb of Plano, and you are looking for an Italian Restaurant, you would go to Google and type in "Italian Restaurants in Plano" or "Plano Italian Restaurants" Or if you are in Plano, you'd search for "Italian restaurants near me" on your smartphone (with or without quotes).
Once you hit enter you will see a bunch of results that Google serves up to match your search term. This search term is also called "Keyword" or "Keyword Phrase" to be more exact.
If one of my clients were to run an Italian restaurant in that area, I would do certain things to their website and more precisely to their webpages so that of the 10-20 results you see on page 1, my clients restaurant will be ranked among the top results.
Lets face it...no one goes beyond page 2 anymore. So if my site was buried on page 6 for that keyword phrase, it won't do my any good to have that website, because no one goes to page 6 looking for an Italian restaurant.
An SEO expert will consider three important things:
1. How Search Engines Work (this is highly classified...even more classified than the Coca-Cola formula)
2. What people are searching for
3. Adjusting my sites content to match with what people are searching for and at the same time aligning it in such a way that Google shows my site on Page 1
People who have a optimized site can expect a lot traffic from Google. Over 90% of websites and webpages are not optimized for the right keywords or for the right traffic.
And therein lies the potential.
Think about it this way.
You go to a fair with over 300 stalls/booths. The ones close to the entrance/exit and near the food areas are the ones that get most of the traffic. If someone has a booth buried way in the back, they will not see that much traffic from the same fair as someone who has his/her booth right upfront near the entrance.
So SEO is a POSITIONING leverage.
Is someone searches for what you have to offer, but if they can't find your site within the first couple of pages, you will never be able to attract them to your site organically.
What can you do:
It is important to pay attention to the keywords. For example, way back the popular Quickbooks company Intuit optimized its site for the keyword "Book Keeping" but most of their potential clients (small and medium sized business owners in this case) were searching for "Accounting" software. Guess what PeachTree Accounting - a competitor to Intuit, got a lot of this traffic because Intuit was not focussed on the right keyword. When thinking of keywords, its not what you think you want, its what the online community is searching for. A good rule of thumb - avoid using any industry specific technical jargon is you want to attract organic traffic.
Fewer people search for "orthodontics" but a whole lot of people are searching for "braces". If you are dentist, even if you went to school for an extended period of time to and paid your dues buying and studying "Orthodontics", you will not be able to monetize it fully till you start speaking the right language with your prospective clients...and the right language is "braces".
Fresh Original Relevant and Compelling Content:
Bill Gates in his best seller book "Business At The Speed Of Thought" said "Content is King" and that phrase is more true today than it ever was. However what has changed is the nature in which content is consumed today. Back in the late 90s content was predominantly in the form of text and characters. Due to technological advances, now the content is more readily consumed using audio and video streams.
If you can create fresh, original and relevant content you are miles above and beyond your competition, unless you fumble in its presentation and delivery mode.
Search engines like fresh and good content. Its like their preferred source of nutrition. Feed them good content and they will reward you with better and higher ranking and traffic. SIMPLE AS THAT
Back-Linking and Link Buidling:
This is where most of the so called experts are penalized by Google.
Google has been ramping up on bad backlinking schemes that hackers come up with in order to manipulate the search engines to think that their site is more popular than it really is and when Google catches up with manipulated backlinking, they penalize the entire website, not just a page, and sometimes they have even gone too the extent of delisting the site completely.
In search engine land, this penalty is called "Google Slap". Google is not just penalizing small businesses, but as recent as a few months back, Google had actually delisted a BMW site. The SEO firm which was doing SEO for BMW's site was buidling links using linkfarms and someother blackhat/greyhat techniques and when Google caught up to their practices, they delisted BMW site.
After long deliberation and much expense in money and time, did Google go back and index BMW's site again.
For most small businesses, a Google Slap typically means a major roadblock, if not a complete halt.
Google is constantly changing and tweaking and improving their search engine algorithm and sites which are over optimized are getting penalized with every update that google rolls out.
SEO is no longer an arena for the newbies and wannabes, because if the SEO is not done right, the penalties are quite epic in nature.
If I can give you a last tip, the more aggressive you with SEO the more likely that it will come back to hurt you. Google doesn't want you to try and trick its system. Once it finds out the penalties are heavy and lasting. Its not worth the risk.
A better way to do it to have a content marketing strategy in place. Its easier than you think and it will help your visitors tremendously and that is what Google likes, and it will reward you for it.