There seems to be no end to the range of declared “SEO truths” for local mom and pop shops.
Search Engine Optimization strategies that work for the big brands differ from those that work for small, local players, so it’s no wonder that so many local marketers end up confused about how to really use SEO to build their businesses.
Following is a list of five frequently heard claims about local SEO that I’ve heard recently, followed by their corresponding truths.
Myth #1—Claiming Your Google Listing Is The Way To Boost SEO
First of all, there is no “one” way to boost SEO. True SEO is an amalgamation of many functions, and ultimately, they all need to be logical and consistent. This myth has been propagated in large part because of the power of Google on businesses on the local level.
Many businesses have seen benefits after doing this, but the reality is this likely happens because the businesses that bother to claim local listings are the ones that are participating in other local strategies that positively help SEO, as well.
Truth #1—Claiming Your Google Listing Can Help SEO
Certainly, businesses should claim their Google business listing, which is the profile page for your business that shows up in local queries and Google Maps.
If you are going to be socially active on Google Plus, you should create a Google+ business page and connect it to your site using the rel=”author” tags to help improve visibility of your content in Google search results.
We do this for all of our clients’ sites (which includes 200 local contractors) because we feel it’s of primary importance to Google. There’s no specific data to support taking this action, but it’s heavily discussed among Google staff, and we’ve seen the positive effect it’s had on our clients’ visibility in Google search.
Myth #2—Links Are Out, Citations Are In
“Link building is dead” has become almost as catchy of a tune as “Ding dong the wicked witch is dead” but it is highly inaccurate. So, too, is the replacement of links with citations.
Truth #2—Quality Over Quantity In Local Niches
The truth of the matter is that both links and citations can help SEO. The most important factor here really is the quality of either. Your site might have 50 citations and no links but rank lower than a site with five citations and 10 links if the latter site has better quality connections.
Keep in mind that link spam still works, but the risk of doing it is higher than ever. The real mantra of today’s SEO is that quality, not quantity, is what matters.
Here’s a little fact that we’ve found from experience with “spammy” links. We’re seeing that a long time can pass between the posting of spammy links and any negative impact being felt on websites. This observation tells us that Google is not addressing all sites at once.
Myth #3—Social Media Can’t Help
This myth seems to be perpetuated by people who do not use social media personally, so they also avoid it in business. That approach can only serve to hamper a company’s SEO efforts, especially for local businesses.
Truth #3—Social Signals Create Backlinks
The simple truth is that content from social media sites, particularly Twitter, can get propagated to millions of other sites which can effectively create backlinks to your site.
We have seen great success in incorporating social media into our clients’ local SEO strategies. Social media networks, specifically Facebook, have become one of the leading referral sites bringing traffic to websites, and in many cases, have actually generated sales.
The key is to stay active and post quality, relevant content for users. These social signals created by actively participating on these social sites have a significant impact on where you’ll rank in Google search.
Myth #4—The More Google+ Posts And Followers, The Better
It is true that being active on Google+ can help SEO. It only stands to reason given that it is owned by the largest search engine. However, that same search engine knows the difference between high-quality posts and followers and low-quality ones, and you should, too.
Truth #4—The More True Interest Within Google+, The Better
Developing a network of active followers and a high rate of +1s and shares is the way to put Google+ to work. By high rate, we do not mean mass numbers, but a good percentage of overall activity in a particular niche.
The way we see success in Google+ is to join communities that are of interest to your clients’ local area and target audience.
For example, for a local contractor in Albany, NY, we join home improvement and home decor communities for homeowners in Albany. Then we post some great tips and/or special deals they are offering, and the engagement has been huge! That engagement, once again, creates those “signals” Google loves and will help in your rankings.
Myth #5—User Experience Doesn’t Matter
As much as the above myths are untrue, this one is especially misleading for the local “mom and pop” shop.
In today’s marketplace, user experience is the one thing that ultimately matters more than anything else. From content marketing to social sharing to responsive design, the emphasis is on what the customer needs or wants first, and what the business does or has second.
Truth #5—It Must Make Sense To The Customer
Whether on a website, a social platform or in the SERPs, all content — text, image or video — must make sense in the eyes of the user. The same goes for site architecture and overall experience.
Businesses that build their online vehicles with the end-user in mind will be rewarded in the rankings.
User Experience Reigns Supreme
All of the above myths and truths can in some fashion be summed up in one phrase — it’s all about quality. Those who utilize the local strategies that work and shy away from the “declared” strategies that have been around for years will see a boost in their search rankings.
Keep in mind, local businesses that recognize what matters to customers and deliver it in audience-targeted content, media and experiences will win in the end.