SEO is so overlooked, under-appreciated and misunderstood by local business owners.
That’s been quite evident to me lately, as I’ve been sitting in on some local BNI meetings. If you don’t know, BNI is basically a non-competing referral network. Local business owners gather once a week to pitch their services, get/give referrals and help each other out.
For the 4-5 meetings I’ve attended as a visitor, I’m given 30 seconds to “pitch” my business. I decided to instead ask questions, listen and teach.
A show of hands told me that out of 58 local business owners;
- only one person knew what “personalized search” is (and he was a web-designer)
- everyone still gets emails from “SEOs” “guaranteeing #1 rankings in Google”
- yet only a few people knew it was not possible to guarantee a #1 ranking
But there is an eagerness to learn among many of the members. They WANT to know more! But all they know is the noise of misinformation and spam emails they’ve received over the years.
That leads me to the meat of this post…
Case Study. How I Judge Local SEO Opportunity For a Local Business
One business owner asked me at the end of the last meeting if I could take a quick look at his site to see if there’s room for improvement. I figured, I’d answer this for him in a blog post. The more info about local SEO for small business owners out there the better.
This video shows how I, in about 10 minutes, can quickly answer this business owners’ question. “Can my site do better?” It quickly shows a few simple tools I use. Pretty much every SEO on the planet should know how to do this. But its not too far out of the reach of a local business owner.
So if you’re an SEO who can’t take on a local mom and pop store, but get asked this sort of question – share this post with local business. There’s a few takeaways that may help all business owners. Maybe there’s a few takeaways for you too.
And if you ARE a local business owner looking for more information on SEO, check out the video. As an SEO, this is how I check to see if you have opportunity to do better in local search. I break my thinking down a little bit more below, as well as provide links to some of the tools and services I use.
Judging Local SEO Opportunity Tutorial – Part One
Step 1) How Does My Site Look?
Step back and check out the site from the perspective of a potential customer. Is it attractive? Does it answer questions I might have about your services? Does it give a clear “call to action” and easily direct me as to how to contact you?
Step 2) Does My Company Name Rank In Google?
Go to Google and type in your company name. Ideally, if you’re searching from the city your company is located, your website should be the top result.
Step 3) Does My Main Keyword/Location Rank?
Think of what your main keyword should be. In this case “garbage collector” was a good bet, and search for “keywords city, state”. Do you show up?
Step 4) Get Ranking Data for Dozens More Searches
Now you want to know, how do I rank for a broad variety of keywords? You want to get a general idea of your overall visibility on the web. This gets a little more advanced, but if you want to get rankings for more keywords.
1. Compile a list of a few dozen searches you might want to be found for. You can either just think of some, or use a tool like mergewords to help come up with a list.
2. Using SEOBook’s rank-checker (a plugin for firefox) plug in your words and website and see how you rank.
Judging Local SEO Opportunity Tutorial - Part Two
Step 5) What Are The Most Important Words To Rank For?
At this point, you have not prioritized any of these keywords. In order to do this, you might ask “which of these keywords get searched for more often?” To answer this, you can head over to the Google AdWords tool and paste in all your keywords. Set to exact match and see if you’re getting any volume. Choose any keywords that have volume, that’s a nice short list. You’d want to prioritize ranking for those since they receive more searches.
Step 6) How Hard Would It Be To Rank?
The tool I use in this step is a paid SEO tool from SEOmoz. This may be where your abilities and resources drop off. No worries though. If you’ve determined you could be ranking better for high priority keywords that’s great! You’ve figured out that there IS room for improvement, and you should consider getting someone to help.
Step 7) Am I Present In Local Listings?
Are you listed in Google Maps, Bing Local, Yelp, SuperPages etc? Head over to those sites and take a look. Its actually good news if you’re not, or if the listings are thin because that means there’s lots of room for improvement. Look to see if you’ve claimed your listings, if there are any reviews and if there’s information like photos, categories, descriptions etc.
Now what? If you’re an SEO, share this post with local business owners. We often can’t take on small businesses. But we shouldn’t deprive them of valuable information, let them continue to be bombarded with bad seo-advise and perpetuate the mis-information.
If you’re a local business owner, and want to DIY, check out these resources;
SEO for local search - by Ted Ives
Local search ranking factors – by David Mihm
SEOmoz Blog, Local Search Blog Posts – by SEOmoz
Contact Me - I’d be happy to point you in the right direction!!