FAQs about Local SEO

Businesses normally have a lot of questions about SEO, but, one branch that sometimes makes them scratch their heads is the difference between local SEO and traditional SEO. “What is local SEO and how is it different from normal SEO?” is a much more common question posed to digital marketers than people think. This among other frequently asked questions are what I’m going to answer in this article, but first, there’s something we should explain.

The Local Search Results aka “The 3 Pack”

Over the last several years, Google has refined and re-refined their search results pages to give local businesses prime SERP real estate on their first page. The reasoning behind this is simple, Google users want to see what local businesses there are for certain keyword phrases.

For example, let’s say, I’m looking for a good place to have a meal and a drink at the end of the day, A search for “pubs near me” will pull up pubs nearby who are (in this case) within driving distance along with some useful information such as rating, phone number, address, and hours.

Local SEO Screenshot on Pubs near me

Not only is this good for finding a good pub for a pint and burger, it’s also many people’s preferred method for finding anything from daycares to dentists. According to Ed Parsons over at Google about 1 in 3 searches are about locations. Which means that you’ve probably done this yourself so you’re probably familiar with the user side of local SEO. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s dive in and answer a few of these FAQs shall we?

What is local SEO and how is it different from regular SEO?

As you probably know, SEO is the use of different tactics to make your website rank high on Google, with the first page of search results being the ultimate goal. With local SEO, instead of focusing exclusively on your website, you’re also going to focus on different outlets that list your business information such as Google’s My Business profile page.

For example, try searching for “barbers near me” and you’ll see what I’m talking about. You should see a map in the upper right corner, different barbers names, addresses, and phone numbers along with reviews right at the top of the first page of Google. All of this information is coming from a business’ Google My Business page.

So, the key difference between local SEO and regular SEO is that you need to optimize both your website and your Google My Business profile page to compete for local SEO.

How Do You Get Google To Display Business Results?

One of the biggest points of contention with local SEO is that Google doesn’t always show the “3 pack” in search results. So how do you force Google to show the local business pack instead of normal search results? The long and short of it is, you can’t.

If Google isn’t showing a listing with a map and business profiles, then there is no way to force Google to show your business page. Instead, you’ll just have to optimize your content using traditional SEO tactics.

What Types of Businesses Should Pursue Local SEO?

Google has a full set of guidelines for listing your business in Google. Obviously, if you’re a 100% online presence with no physical location to speak of, then local SEO isn’t for you. The basic rule of thumb is that local SEO is a good marketing avenue for any business that interacts in-person with it’s prospective customers. If you never meet in-person, then it probably isn’t a good fit for your business.

How Can I Get My Business To Rank In Other Cities?

Location is a big factor when it comes to the ranking algorithm for local SEO. Where this is concerned you have to think from the perspective of the searcher. If I’m searching for a restaurant in Albany, it doesn’t help me to see results for places that are in Rotterdam. Google takes this into account which is why the location of the person searching versus the actual location of the business is a big factor in local SEO.

It helps to think of it like a double-edged sword; you’ll have an advantage getting into that local 3-pack the closer your prospective customer is to your business, however, the further away they’re searching, the less likely they’ll see your business. It’s not impossible to rank in other cities than the one you’re located in, just know that it’s going to be an uphill battle to beat out businesses that are closer to the searcher.

Curious about how Mountain Media can help you with your local and traditional SEO? Feel free to shoot us an email and one of our SEO specialists will be glad to consult with you to see how Mountain Media can help bring your business to new heights.

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Link Building in 2016: Is It Still Worth The Effort?

Link Building 2016

2016 isn’t the first year that predicted to be link building’s swan song and most likely won’t be the last year predicted either. However, link building has become much more nuanced and has come a very long way from the era of spam and botted links from the pre-Penguin days. Today, I’m going to share with you my perspective on link building and why it should still be an integral part of your digital marketing strategy.

Link Building: A History

When the web was young, and Penguin hadn’t hatched yet, link building was almost like the wild west of the internet. It was riddled with black-hat SEO tactics from super-spammy links built on sites meant to be a repository for links and bots inserting links into website’s comments or forums all over the place. Quantity mattered more than quality, and that was the way of the web until Penguin showed up. Now, I’m not saying that Penguin has eliminated all of the spam, but, the majority of the shady link spam industry has been penalized or devalued into oblivion, and has helped clean up the link building industry tremendously.

Links have always been an important ranking signal, and will continue to be, especially since they were a core element to Google’s original search engine algorithm back in the early 2000’s. This algorithm is what separated Google from the rest of the search engine pack, making their results better than their competitors. Today, links continue to be a powerful ranking signal because Google continues to invest in links as votes of confidence about a website.

There was, however, a hitch in their plans. With the “hatching” of Penguin in 2012, digital marketers began to move away from link building. Some of the reasons cited were that Penguin devalued link spam, making link acquisition harder, they made link spam “high-risk” since spammy sites were punished severely, Google’s vagueness on the details of what caused Penguin penalties made people fearful and uncertain, which lead to doubt and a glut of misinformation involving links and what would trigger Penguin to attack.

These factors helped to create a perfect storm of misinformation. Many SEOs saw content marketing as their new golden goose, a replacement of link building with link earning. A build it and they will come sort of strategy where high level content would be created and naturally attract links. However, unlike Field of Dreams, the links never came.

Content Marketing is Good to Do, But Link Building isn’t going Anywhere

First off, let me say that content marketing is a very important part of any digital marketing strategy, and shouldn’t be shunted off by any means. However, I wouldn’t pool content marketing with link building and SEO. The theory of link earning, as preposed by the shift from Penguin, is based on the assumption that high-quality content will organically gain links through social engagement (i.e. re-tweets, Facebook/LinkedIn shares, +1’s, etc.). However, it seems that this isn’t the case.

Back in the Fall of 2015, Moz and BuzzSumo conducted a study, analyzing over 1 million pieces of content and their shares and the links they earned. From this study, they came to the conclusion that there is no discernible correlation between social shares and links. The sample size was mostly composed of highly shared articles that had already proven popular in the niches that they were published in.

These findings indicate that while some content may be viral hits and be shared far and wide across social media, that does not naturally translate into links, either to the piece of content or to the content’s home site. While compelling content is an integral piece to the link building process, it is not the be-all-end-all of link building, manual effort is still necessary to take advantage of content’s link opportunities.

Links Will Continue To Matter in Digital Marketing

Links are one of the foundational ranking signals on the web. As long as you need to market your business, you’ll need to include link building as part of your digital marketing strategy. Regardless of how any search engine tweaks or modifies their algorithm, links will continue to be a cornerstone of the web, not because of how Google values them, but because of their own inherent value to the web itself. Links are what we use to navigate the vast sea of the internet, without them, it would be extremely difficult to find anything we were looking for. Ignore links at your own peril, because if you do, you’ll be missing out in search and in turn, missing out on some great marketing opportunities.

Guest Blog Posts
Offering to write a post for someone else’s blog is a great way to get a topically relevant link. Be sure to offer an article that will be useful to the blogs audience. If it is a well written relevant and includes graphics, chances are someone will publish it. He is a link to a list of 1500 sites that accepts guest postings.

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Link Risk Management is Critical to SEO Success

link risk management is critical to seo

Penguin is, without a doubt, one of Google’s most impactful algorithm updates to date. First rolled out in 2012, it penalized thousands of websites in its first run. Site owners became vigilant against suspicious backlinks and became driven to get rid of any link that might hint at being spammy.

Since then, webmasters have been kept on their toes by Penguin’s rollouts as Google continues to improve their definition of what is and is not a good link. One way to determine whether or not your link profile contains good links is to be aware of your link risk and managing it effectively.

What is Link Risk Management?

Link risk management is a process that came about from the continuous changes to linking and SEO ranking factors. SEO has become more than just a way to win traffic and get better visibility; it’s the way to maintain and improve the quality of your digital assets (i.e. your website).

Instead of waiting for a penalty from Penguin to occur, link risk management is about insuring your traffic and it’s resulting revenue from being affected by Penguin roll-outs in the first place. It’s easier and better to be proactive and prevent damage than to map out a response once a penalty has been placed against your website.

Link risk management consists of common tasks completed when necessary by SEOs:

  • Recovery from manual or Penguin penalties
  • Protection from negative/black-hat SEO and poor quality inbound links
  • Legitimate link-building practices

Recovery from Penalties

Webmasters that have been affected by a manual penalty understand how difficult the recovery process can be. Organic traffic is usually the primary source of traffic to a website, and to lose that can mean lost revenue that can seriously hurt the business. Recovery from these penalties is possible, usually through the disavow tool available to webmasters through the search console. In practice, the process takes a long time; patience and continuous effort is necessary. There are four parts to recovering from penalties:

Backlink Review

Usually, you can only get a portion of your backlinks from Google’s Search Console. To get a more complete picture, tools such as SEMRush or Raven are necessary. Using these tools, you can download a spreadsheet of your total links and review them for quality as well as if they’re relevant to your website.

Link Analysis

When analyzing your links, the first thing you need to do is have a understanding of what makes a good link. This can be found in the recently released search guidelines as well as in Google’s webmaster guidelines, both of which can be found on Google’s website.

Link analysis gets more difficult as the number of backlinks increases due to it being a manual process. You have to check each link and note where they originate from. Spammy and irrelevant sites should be noted for further action (see below). Sites, especially those that have paid links, will have an inordinate amount of links to get through. However, this process can be partially automated to help ease the burden of this arduous process.

Disavowing and removal

Once you determine your list of bad backlinks, the next step is to try getting them removed. You should first try and reach out to the webmasters from where the bad links originate from and have them remove them from their site. Barring that, you can disavow them by adding them to your disavow file for the Search Console. The disavow tool notifies Google that you don’t want those links considered during their assessment of your site.

Waiting

Finally, after performing all of these actions, you have to wait for Google to respond. If you’ve received a manual penalty, you’ll need to file your reconsideration request to Google and then wait for them to re-review your website. This process can take anywhere from a few days to a few months depending. Unfortunately, if you’ve been dinged with a algorithmic penalty, such as Penguin, you have to wait for the next update to roll out, and with Penguin’s infrequent rollouts, this could take quite a while.

Recovery is possible, but it takes time and effort, and can be a very stressful process for webmasters and SEOs. Even when you’ve recovered, it’s not assured that you’ll regain your original rankings. Meaning, your site may still be stuck in obscurity even after the penalty is lifted. But, with an experienced SEO helping oversee the recovery process, you will have more of a fighting chance to restore your original rankings.

Protecting from Negative SEO

Proper link management is pivotal to ensuring your site stays out of Penguin’s radar. As we just said, recovery can be a long and arduous process. This means that webmasters and SEOs need to be proactively assessing their backlink profile rather than taking a wait and see approach when the next update is rolled out.

When assessing your backlinks, new links should be identified and assessed for their relevancy and if they’re spammy. It’s easier to keep track of links as they come in than to wait and analyze them en masse.

Consistently monitoring and assessing your backlinks is important for a few reasons. One, recovery from previous penalties does not preclude you from future ones. Your backlink profile changes daily, primarily due to unscrupulous webmasters who introduce spammy links in an attempt to extort honest webmasters. Finally, negative/black-hat SEO happens all the time, someone with expertise and motive can ruin your standing with Google, given the chance.

Legitimate Link Building

Finally, in addition to the above, you must continuously work towards increasing the number of high quality links you have. Partially, this will help add credibility signals to your website, but, Penguin also is interested in the ratio of good links to bad. In the past, webmasters did not want/need to take time to build high quality, relevant links. Today, you have no choice but to find links organically.

Curious to see how we can help manage your link profile and make sure you stay penalty free? Give us a call today!

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