Two of the services we offer at Carmichael are SEO (Search Engine Optimization) as well as Local SEO. So what exactly is the difference?
SEO is a service we partner with SEM (Search Engine Marketing). Many people will simply include both services under the name of SEO, but I like to differentiate between the two. SEO involves work on your website–the structure and behind the scenes things like H1 tags, meta tags, meta descriptions, etc. These items are important because they signal the search engines what your website (and pages) are all about.
SEM is the actual process of getting your website visible and ranked in the search engines. This involves keyword research/targeting, backlinking, social bookmarking as well as many other factors.
To put all that into a simple answer, SEO involves getting your website onto the first page of the search engine results pages (SERPs).
But Local SEO is not simply a localized version of that. Local Optimization has the same goal as SEO, increasing a local business’ visibility on the web, and aiming to land on the first page. So, Local SEO is the same general idea as SEO, but involves different methods.
Local SEO includes Directory Listings/Citations, claiming and optimizing your Google + page, and can include getting online reviews and social media marketing as well.
These items are very important to local businesses and help local companies stand out on the internet over their competition. Local SEO can benefit a regular SEO campaign, and if a business were to choose between the two I would say Local Optimization is more important. However, when you combine both a Local Optimization campaign with a SEO campaign, you can really dominate your local market.
Here is a more detailed explanation of the services:
Directory Listings/Citations: There are literally hundreds of online directories where businesses can add their listing. Some of these sites call the listing a citation, either way, it is somewhere online you can leave your business information. Think of it like you are leaving behind digital business cards.
How much information you leave varies from one site to the next, but they allow you to at least leave the basics–including your NAP (Name, Address, and Phone Number), and perhaps your website.
Others allow for more information–you can include a brief description about your business, include business hours, offer coupons or upload photos. Many of these sites will allow you to list for free (although you can pay to add more information or have better placement in the search results within their site), others require a payment to get listed.
Why is this so important? Think of it this way. If you had on your desk 20 phone books–all different phone books from your area–which one would you most want to be listed in? Why not all of them? The more places you can be found, the easier it is to find you.
This is what is meant by “web visibility”–making it easier for prospective customers to find you online.
Directory Listings are also important for SEO purposes. The more places online you have your business information listed, the more clear signals are sent to Google that establishes your business as a legitimate company. It is important that your information is consistent from one listing to the next–if not this will confuse Google and could hurt you.
Another benefit is the fact that chances are, your competition isn’t listed in too many places. They likely will wind up in a couple directories by default, but that will probably be it. By getting listed in a bunch of directories, you will be a step ahead of your competitors. Just listing on a dozen or two sites can give you a big boost with the search engines and keep you way ahead of your competitors.
This feeds into Google +. Many businesses do not even realize that they likely have a Google + page waiting for them. Even if you do not have an unclaimed Google+ page, you can still go here to create one.
Why is this important? First, what web properties tend to show up in the results pages better than others? Ones owned by Google. Certainly Google will show a lot of love towards Google+ pages. Don’t think so?
Do a search–in fact, do a search of your specific industry along with the city you are located in. Here is a screenshot for “dry cleaners Goose Creek”:
This is just the top third of the page, above most of the organic results–the first “Tommy’s Cleaners” is the #1 organic result. Just below that is what is known as the Google 7 box, or 7 pack. It has recently been known as the 3 box or pack–but whatever they are calling it today (and yes, that is another topic for another day), this is prime real estate on Google.
These results are from Google Plus–as you can see, I highlighted the links to the Google+ pages for these businesses. To end up within these results purely by accident is extremely rare–I have seen it–but you can bet if you end up in the 7 pack accidentally, you will get bumped from there before too long.
Getting this ranking can be a big boost to your bottom line. The 7 pack typically shows up for popular searches, and searches that lead to a consumer taking an action–calling you to buy.
Just having a Google + page isn’t enough. If you have an unclaimed Google+ page or one that is pretty bare, then you will not appear in the 7 pack. A fully optimized page basically means you have a completely filled out page with your contact info, pictures, and videos. Some key ingredients that really boost your page are reviews, blog posts, targeted keywords and social signals.
Two of those factors are big with Google right now. Have you heard about the Google Pigeon update from last year? Google is constantly changing their search results algorithm. In fact, they change it hundreds of times a year. But every so often they will make big changes, and Pigeon was the most recent one (you can read more about the Pigeon update here).
But the key takeaway is that Pigeon had a lot to do with local search results. Google is now placing more emphasis on social signals and reviews. Social signals can be from social media, such as Facebook likes. But, +1’s from Google+ can carry a lot more weight.
If you have looked at your Google+ site, you will see that they have a tab for reviews. Businesses that have a lot of reviews tend to show up in the 7 pack. But not many businesses have a strategy in place for getting online reviews–if they have reviews they are likely getting them by accident.
The above example is actually a pretty good one–the businesses listed have 24, 7 and 2 reviews. I have seen businesses rank in the 7 pack with only 2 or 3 reviews, and even a few that had none. However, the weaker the ranking factors are for a business, the easier it is to displace them.
Having a Local Optimization strategy and executing it can make a big difference to a local business’ bottom line. So many of your competition is flying blind and have no idea about Directory Listings, Google+ and Reviews. By implementing a Local Optimization strategy you can easily leapfrog over much of your competition and claim some prime real estate in the search engines–top of the first page.
Plus, by fully optimizing your local online presence, you will solidify your ranking and not be vulnerable to someone else coming along and bumping you off the first page. You will reap the benefits of this exposure by watching your business increase–not only today, but into the future as well.
I didn’t talk about SEO to get ranked on the first page of the search results, but when you combine that with a Local Optimization campaign, you can easily dominate your local market.
If you want to look into improving your business and increasing sales, then online marketing can be a powerful way to achieve those goals. Feel free to contact me (or visit my website) and we can discuss what can be done to best benefit your company.