DIY LOCAL SEO FOR SMALL BUSINESSES – PART 1: INTRODUCING CITATIONS
A cog in the wheel of local search marketing small businesses can handle internally
Like other agencies, we are shifting away from old school SEO tactics and focusing more on the user experience across the web (the quality of human interactions with your website, Facebook, google+, yelp, etc.). We’re not as concerned with the volume of users hitting our client websites. We’re more concerned with the experience visitors have when searching for products & services our clients offer. Good online experiences convert into qualified leads. First impressions are everything, no matter where they come from.
With this paradigm shift we are coaching and educating our clients to bring some traditional SEO responsibilities in-house. This series has been drafted with our current and future clients in-mind – a reference if you will, for the conversations we continuously have with our clients.
There Is No Web Site – Only Web Presence
Getting found on the web boils down to the strength of your “web presence”. Your web presence goes beyond your website and is comprised of many moving parts. The part we feel clients should intimately be aware of are online directories such as google+, Facebook Business pages, Yelp, CitySearch, YP.com, etc. These online directories are also referred to as “citations” and “review aggregators”.
Let’s look at a few example citations for Clark’s Auto and Tire in Salt Lake City:
Example citation listings for Clark’s Auto and Tire including google+, Facebook business & Yelp. Note how their information is consistent across the three platforms including website URL, their use of imagery, social updates & user reviews that are being posted.
Understanding how citations work and actively managing them will strengthen your web presence and save your business money. Some clients pay agencies to manage their citations for them — which is perfectly fine. Choose wisely.
Citations And User Experience
Citations such as Google+ (a.k.a Google Maps or Google Places), Yelp & Facebook business pages have well established online credibility. This credibility, in most cases, will cause citations to out-rank your website in organic search results for non-branded search queries (auto repair shops salt lake city vs joe’s auto repair). The likelihood that a user (qualified lead) will encounter a citation is high. Below is an example of a search engine results page for the non-branded search auto repair salt lake city.
Users will encounter citations in local search results. Users will click and engage with citation listings. An out-of-sync, poorly managed citation will create a negative user experience leading to missed leads and negative online reviews.
A short time ago, I was chatting with a client about how to address bad reviews in the public realm. After doing some digging, I discovered that the source of the problem was an out-of-sync citation displaying the wrong hours of operation. Folks were hitting this popular citation and going to her business to find it was closed. This is an all-too common scenario. As a business owner, you want your web presence to work for you, not against you.
Citations And Search Rankings
Another reason citations shouldn’t be ignored is their profound influence on search engines (and your search rankings). Citations feed information about your business to search engines and create relevancy and credibility for your domain.
The Moz Local Search Ecosystem graphic below demonstrates the gathering and the flow of information to everyone’s favorite search engine (hopefully Moz won’t slap my wrist for using since I’ll be promoting their product in Part 2).
Look carefully and you’ll see a few familiar online directories mixed among social media outlets & data aggregation services such as infogroup, acxiom, Neustar (more on these in a follow-up post).
Do you see where the information flows? Inconsistent information about your business such as varying business names, addresses, phone numbers, and inconsistent hours of operation across multiple citation sources only detracts from the flow of information to the center and ultimately, your website’s search rankings.
The good news is that taking action is something you or someone at your business can handle. Check back next week where I’ll offer a process for getting started.
As always, please post questions/comments below. Please share if you like what you’re hearing.
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