I’ve Optimized My Site, But I’m Still Not Ranking—Help! – Next Level

over optimized

Welcome to the sixth installment of our educational Next Level series! In our last episode, Jo took you on an adventure diving for treasure in the long tail of search. This time around we’re answering the call for help when you feel like you’ve done all you can, but you’re still not ranking. Read on and level up!

You’ve optimized your pages, written delightful title tags, concocted a gorgeous description to entice clicks, used your target keyword in your copy with similar words, and your content is good, like really good. As far as you’re concerned you’re doing everything you can on that page to say to Google “This is relevant content!” But, lo and behold, you’re not ranking.

Frustrating, right? Well, no more. I’m going to show you how you can discover what’s holding you back, and how to make sure your site is a lovely big target for visitors, just like this happy fellow:

You’ll learn some tricks you can do in your browser and then we’ll speed things up with some cat magic and pixie dust to sprinkle all over your site.

To start, pop open these tools in another tab so you’re ready to go:

  • Campaign deliciousness in Moz Pro (if you don’t have it set up, take the free trial for a spin to follow along)
  • Your pot of keyword gold


Step 1: Put in a quick call to Google

Well, you could try to call Big G (that’s what I like to call Google sometimes, just for kicks), but you may have better luck phoning yourself from 1995 with the idea for Google — then you could fix the rankings in your favor. Totally worth it.

Hello, operator?

Instead of messy and possibly future-altering time travel, you can put a call in by running a search operator like this:


It’s like saying, “Hey, Big G, show me all the result you have in your index for yourfabsite.com.” This is what you don’t want to see:

If you’re seeing the above, you won’t be able to rank because your site isn’t indexed. It’s got to be indexed before it can rank, and it’s got to be crawled before it can be indexed. Trying to rank without being indexed is like applying for a job and forgetting to attach your CV.

Search Console is here to console you

In the results page above, Google is directing you straight to the Google Search Console.

Not quite as fun as Xbox or as comforting as a hug from a loved one, Google’s Search Console is still pretty sweet all the same.

Go — right now, right, right now, don’t read any more, you should have already gone — go and set up your Search Console. Once you’re all set up and your site is verified, you can go to the page that I like to think of as the Fires of Mount Doom and throw in your precious.


Don’t worry, that analogy doesn’t hold up. It won’t destroy your site. 🙂

Head to “Google Index” and then “Index Status” to see the data similar to what we looked at above, but in graph form! Definitely handy for tracking how your pages have been indexed over time.

If your site is not being indexed, you’re going to want to take a closer look at your robots.txt file. Check your Search Console Messages to see if there’s a reason Google couldn’t index your site. If Google can’t access your robots.txt file they’ll stop indexing to avoid crawling pages listed there.


Google Search Console – Find out why you’re not being crawled and indexed

Further reading:

A Beginner’s Guide to Google Search Console

What is Robots.txt?

How to check which URLs have been indexed by Google using Python

Step 2: Find out where you’re ranking

Now that you know your pages are being crawled and indexed, you want to get them to the top of the results where they gosh-darn-well should be, right?

Find your rankings with your bear hands

Yes, I DO mean bear hands. This is a manual job and your soft, tender, indoor keyboard hands just won’t do. So attach your bear hands and start digging. Search Google for your brand name, primary keywords, secondary keywords, words, and phrases you used on your page (one at a time, of course). Feel the ache in your chest as you scan the page: “Where is my jazzy title? My tantalizing description? My adorable URL?”

Turn up the volume

Not finding your site on the first page? Instead of clicking through to the many ooooos of Google, we’re going to change the settings in your browser to show 50 or 100 results per search so we can view more results with every search. I’m going to want to see A LOT more pet costume results, so I’ll click on the gear icon in Chrome and hit “Search Settings,” then toggle up the “Results per page”:

Now we’ve got a whole page of 50 or 100 results to search through. Use CMD + F for Mac (or CRTL + F for Windows) to search for your domain.

This process is great for doing a quick check to see if you’re in the top 50 or top 100. Remember that your browser can return personalized results when you’re logged into Google, so log out and enter incognito mode.

Like any good detective, make sure you record the keyword, position, and URL in a spreadsheet for Future You to discover and applaud Present-Day You on your fabulousness.

Start cooking with gas

Manual searches aren’t for everyone. I mean come on, we work in technology — we don’t want to be lugging keywords around the hot, dry Google search page, plugging them in one after another. I hear ya buddy, loud and clear. Let’s detach those bear hands, grab your list of keywords, and plug them straight into Keyword Explorer.

Check if you’re on the first page

Remember, you’ll need a Medium or higher Moz Pro subscription or a standalone Keyword Explorer subscription so you can create your keyword list.

Hit “Create or upload a new list” and choose “Enter Keywords” to pop those straight in there, bish-bash-bosh.

Open up a list you’ve created and pop in your URL to to see your rank from 1–10.

Check Rankings

Want to see if you’re in the top 50?

Heck yeah! Take that same list and paste them into a new campaign in Moz Pro.

If you already have a campaign running you can also transfer these straight over from Keyword Explorer. Just check the box next to the keywords you want to track, then choose a campaign from the drop down.

Add keywords to campaign

You know before (about 30 seconds ago), when we talked about manual searches returning personalized results? Checking rankings in Moz Pro avoids all that nonsense by anonymizing the data and, in my experience, provides the most accurate results, showing what the “most” users see. Pretty snazzy, right?

A new campaign will build in about 30 minutes, which is just enough time to catch up on “Stranger Things” and reminisce about Winona Ryder circa 1990…

On the other hand, adding to an existing campaign will be a bit longer. You’ll see data as soon as your campaign updates next. So you can binge watch the whole series, because why not, right?

…and we’re back! Check out where you’re ranking for your target keywords, which URL is ranking, and over time, whether you’ve moved up or down.

We also pull in search volume from Moz’s Keyword Explorer to give you an idea of demand. When looking at search volume, don’t forget that the higher the demand, the more competition you’ll likely face. Don’t be disheartened by ranking well for keywords with lower search volume, especially if they convert better.

Tracking your rankings is crucial to understanding why you’re not performing as well as you expected. If you’re seeing a lot of down arrows, you need to investigate who is jumping ahead of you and why.

Dig into keywords with falling rankings

Let’s find some keywords that have that sad little down arrow, meaning we’ve dropped down in rankings since our last update.

Here’s a little bundle of keywords that I can investigate. I’ll click on the keyword to open up the Analysis report and scroll down to “Your Performance.” Now we can see a historical graph of your rankings and track those other sites who want to push us to one side. And what do we have here?

They’ve gone and nipped in front of us! This will not stand! It’s likely that for some reason your competitors result has been getting stronger engagement for this keyword. More clicks and more people who do click staying on the page. So let’s find out what you can do to set things right.


Keyword Explorer Lists – Check your rankings on the fly

Moz Pro – Track your rankings (and your competitors’) over time

Step 3: Make sure you and your content are best friends

There are 2 parts to this step, just like those ‘Best Friend’ heart necklaces that were so popular in the ’90s. Separately they look like BE FRIE and ST NDS, but together…. awww, the secret code is unlocked.

Get your basic on-page optimization in order. Check your content is tip-top quality

Don’t go changing (too often)

I don’t want to recommend you jumping in and making changes to content too often. Even Google needs time to register your updates. However, if your content is a bit dusty and you’re losing out to competitors, then it’s time to check that everything you think is in place is actually in place.

View your page like a bot

I like to think of this as a “bot’s-eye-view.” When a little bot comes along, it doesn’t go, “Oooh, look at that lovely header image! Oooh, I love that font, the white space is really working for me! Oh, how the Internet has changed since my days as a junior bot trawling through gifs of dancing babies!” It reads the code and moves on. We can do this too, with a little bit of knowhow.

Using Firefox or Chrome, you can right-click and view the page source.

If you’re unfamiliar with reading code, it’ll look pretty intimidating.

We’re going to use CMD + F (or CRTL + F for Windows) to hunt for the bits and pieces we’re after.

Pro tip: If you’re seeing og:title, this is a Facebook tag.

Likewise, if you’re using the meta property=”og:description,” this is also a Facebook tag. These help format posts when the URL is shared on Facebook. You’ll want to make sure you also have Title and Description tags link these:

<title>The best title for this page</title>

<meta name=”description” content=”The best description for this page” />

Basic page optimization

This is relatively straightforward because you control your pages. However, maybe for that very same reason, it’s still a bit of a stumbling block for beginners. I’ve been there. I once spent a whole morning trying to write a single title tag.

If you’re confused and locked in a mind-melt of madness because you can’t figure out if you should use the primary keyword and/or the secondary keyword in the title tag, chill your boots.

Here is a brisk and fairly brief run-through on how to get into a productive page optimization mindset.

Title tag basics

This is the bit you click on in the SERPs. Should be about 55 characters of punchy goodness that is relevant to your content. Because it’s relevant to your content, it includes the words you want to rank for and accurately describes what you’re talking about. You better believe Google is paying attention to click signals, so draw that click with your awesome headline. Think about the titles you click on when you’re searching for lovely things. Do your own searches to see what title tags are out there; it’s not like they’re hard to find, they’re literally a click away.

Description tag basics

This is the bit of text under the title tag in the SERPs. They should be about 155 characters of tender lovin’ poetry that talks to the user like they’re a real human being, because they are, and so are you (unless you’re part of the cat colony I suspect controls large portions of the web). This is not a direct ranking factor, but it can heavily influence clicks. Clicks from humans. And what do clicks do? They signal to Google that you’re hot stuff!

On-page copy

Yep, you’re going to want to pop your keywords here, too. But really, let’s not get too hung up on this. If you’re writing something super-duper about your topic, this will flow naturally. Make it as long as it needs to be to make your point. Don’t rattle off the same words over and over; use language to the best of your ability to describe your topic. Remember all those clicks you worked so hard to get with your title and description tags? Well, if they all bounce back to search, you just know Google is paying attention to this. Your content has to be worth the click.

Go and look at what type of content is already ranking. This is not an exercise in scraping content, but a way to make sure that your content isn’t just as good, but much better.

This task can be done manually for a small site or for a few pages you’ve cherry-picked, no problem.

Check your whole site regularly

Maybe you’ve been creating content like a content-creating super machine and you might have skipped a few description tags. Or maybe you copy and pasted a title tag or two. In this case, you’ll want to check that it’s all hunky-dory on a larger scale and on a regular basis.

We’re going back to our Moz Pro campaign to take the heavy lifting out of this job.

Head to the Rankings tab and hit that little “Optimize” button.

Once you hit that little button, you’ve set off a chain of events where our bot looks at the keyword you’re targeting, then has a good old dig-around on your page and gives you a score out of 100.

We’re hoping for that wheel of destiny to roll around to 100.

If we make it part-way around, it’s time to look at the suggestions to see how you can improve your on-page optimization.

Focus on top-level pages, pages that convert, and high-authority pages first.


Moz Pro Page Optimization – Check that your whole site is optimized correctly

Further reading:

8 Old School SEO Practices That Are No Longer Effective – Whiteboard Friday

Step 4: Become a keyword connoisseur

It’s easy to become fixated on a keyword beyond what is reasonable or healthy. Are you carrying a torch for a golden keyword? Stalking it in the SERPs even though it’s completely entranced with the likes of Wikipedia, eBay, AdWords, and Image Packs?

Ranking in the high-click zone for your keywords is all about beating other sites. This special, golden ticket to traffic wonderland might be a good long term goal, but you’re not going to get to the top of the results in the near future.

On the other hand, maybe you’re afraid of competition, so you only target keywords with very low difficulty.

This can be a winning strategy if the keywords have strong intent and you’re targeting the long tail of search, but you don’t want to put in all that work creating content and find that no one is searching for it. No searches means no traffic, and no traffic means no humans to click a thing that makes a person somewhere in the world look at their analytics data and smile.

A little bit of competition is a good thing — it indicates a healthy, profitable industry.

So we’re looking for a sweet spot: keywords with some demand and less competition. I’m going to break down what organic competition is, and how you know what level of keyword difficulty you can target.

What’s the meaning of this so-called ‘competition?’

If you want to rank organically, your competition is the other sites that are currently on the first page for the keywords. It’s not the total number of sites that are using your keywords in their content, and it’s not the AdWords competition.

If someone on your team, or an agency or a client sends you competition data that’s defined as low, medium, or high, this is very likely to be AdWords competition, and it relates to the cost-per-click.

Moz’s Keyword Difficulty score uses the top 10 organic results to calculate the Difficulty metric. It’s a score out of 100, where a higher number means that the competition is strong, and it may take you longer to see results from your efforts. Every search you bash into Keyword Explorer shows you the Difficulty score, and you can build these into lists so you can compare related keywords.

Keyword Explorer metrics

Benchmark your site’s Difficulty rating

We know that Difficulty is out of 100, but a question we get all the time is: How do I know what level of Difficulty is too high?

Well, first off, testing is a sure way to find out. But if you want a little pointer before you head down that road, here’s how you can quickly benchmark your site’s Difficulty rating.

I learnt this tip from Russ Jones at Mozcon, so I apologies for the blatant rip-off here, but it’s too handy not to share.

Time for another consoling hug from Google Search Console. Grab the keywords that are already sending you traffic from Search Traffic > Search Analytics and download them to CSV.

Save these to a list in KWE.

I usually copy those darlins out of the CSV and plonk them right into a new list.

Hit “Save,” and now you have a benchmark to use when looking at other keywords you could potentially rank for.

When you’re looking at keywords to target in the future you’ll have a good idea whether it’s a short-term or long-term goal.

You can also capitalize on keywords you’re already getting traffic for by looking for opportunities in the SERP Features. Can you steal a Featured Snippet?

I also want to track these keywords over time to see if I’m losing or gaining ground, so I’ll add them from my list straight to my Moz Pro campaign.

Next time my campaign updates, and forevermore into the future, I’ll be keeping the sharpest of eyes on these keywords.


Google Search Console – Grab keywords already sending you traffic

KWE – Find the real organic competition and benchmark Difficulty

Step 5: Build your site’s authority

Now step 5 is a real doozy, and it’s a common stumbling block for new sites. Just like networking in the real world, online authority is built up over time by your connection to sites that search engines already trust.

I like to think of authority as the pixie dust from the J.M. Barrie novel Peter Pan. It’s almost mentioned as an afterthought, but without it Wendy and the gang were just kids jumping up and down on their beds. They’re thinking happy thoughts. They might even get a bit of temporary lift, you know, just like when you might get a bit of traffic here and there — enough to keep you jumping. But there’s a very big difference between jumping up and down on a spring-loaded mattress and flying off to a world of perpetual youth.

Track your authority

To figure out how much dust you have in your tank, you’ll need to take a look at the Moz metric Domain Authority. This is our best prediction of how well a site will rank for any given search. It’s on a scale of 1–100, and higher DA means more authority.

You can get your paws on DA free through Open Site Explorer or the MozBar Chrome extension. I like to keep MozBar on DA mode so I can check this metric out as I scoot about the web.

You’ll want to check your DA monthly to see how you’re progressing and save this to a sheet, as incoming fresh data will replace the current data in OSE and MozBar. Once you’ve got your data, think about plotting a tasty graph to show how you’re performing versus your competitors.

To make this a whole lot easier, head to the Moz Pro “Links” tab. Here you’ll find your historical link metrics, alongside those of your direct competitors.

Pixie dust isn’t just powering your rankings, but everyone else’s as well. These metrics are relative with respect to the other sites similar to your own, including your competitors.

Gather a pocket full of pixie dust

The first thing we always recommend when people reach out to us to find out how they can improve their Domain Authority is to improve the overall SEO of their site. The good news for you is we’ve already done that in steps 1-4 — highest of high fives to you!

The second thing you have to do is get backlinks. This is commonly known as link building. When I started doing SEO for an ecommerce site back about what feels like a thousand years ago now, I had no idea what I was doing; this term irked me, and still kind of does. It sounds like you need to build links yourself, right? Nope! It’s like you’re playing Minecraft, but instead of building the structures, you’re actually trying to encourage other people to build them for you. In fact, you’re not allowed to build anything yourself, because that’s cheating. Game changer!

Don’t forget you don’t want just anyone building these structures. You need good people who themselves have authority; otherwise, your lovely gothic mansion might turn into a pile of rubble. (This is my analogy for having spammy links that could get your site penalized by search engines.)

A lot of link building today is PR and outreach. I’m not going to go into that in this post, but I’ll include some links in the toolkit below to help you in that department.

We’re going to look at what actions you can take to track and build your authority.

Check for any leaks

There’s no point grabbing up pixie dust if you have a whopping great hole in your pocket.

Find and plug any holes quick-smart. Open Site Explorer has a handy tab just for this job. Pop in your domain and hit “Link Opportunities.”

Now here’s a list of broken pages on your site that have inbound links. Any page on your site that’s down isn’t passing on its value to the other pages on your site — not to mention it’s a shoddy user experience. Look out for any pages serving a 404 status error. I can priorities the pages with the highest DA and more linking domains.

Internal links

I said before that you can’t build any of your links yourself. However, as with everything in SEO there’s a caveat: in this case, links from within your own site are not only key to your site’s usability, but they also pass equity. Internal linking is primarily for user experience, but it also helps bots navigate your site for the purposes of lovely indexing.

Don’t stuff too many links on your page

Your homepage and other top pages will probably have the strongest authority, as other sites will link to your homepage in many cases.

You want that high-equity page to link out to other pages in a natural way that resembles a pyramid structure. Don’t forget the user in your rush to dish out equity; do visitors want to go from your homepage straight to some random deep page on your site? Does this help them on their journey?

Use the Crawl Test research tool in Moz Pro to find out if any pages of your site are flagged for having too many on-page links.

You also shouldn’t go overboard with keyword-rich anchor text. Once again, think about the user, not about gaming search engines. This one can get you penalized in some way, so keep it natural.

If in doubt, just watch Season 2 Episode 4 of the IT Crowd for this delightful moment:

If you’re scooping up big swaths of copy to get keyword-rich anchor text but it doesn’t really help the person reading the article, then maybe you’ve got yourself an awkward link at your dinner party.

To follow or nofollow?

Links come in two flavors: follow and nofollow. Generally speaking, you do want your internal links to be “follow.” Bots will follow them on the journey of your choosing and equity will be passed on, which is just what you want.

You can use the MozBar to check your pages for follow and nofollow links.

Nofollow links can be marked on a link-by-link basis, or a whole page on your site can be allocated as nofollow. Let’s find the “Meta-robots Nofollow” column in your crawl CSV and filter by TRUE to check if you intended to mark these pages as nofollow.

Convert mentions to links

If people or sites are already talking about your brand, then you’re not a million miles away from converting that to a link.

What you’re searching for are pages that mention your brand term but don’t link to you yet. This takes a bit of digging to do manually, but thankfully this is automated in your Moz Pro campaign.

Head to the “Links” tab in Moz Pro and hit “Opportunities.”

If you’re not seeing suggestions, you’ll want to modify your Brand Rules (Rankings > Add & Manage Keywords > Manage Brand Rules) and add a few more options. I already had my brand term, “fantasycostumes,” but you can probably guess this won’t be mentioned that often. So I added broader mentions like “fantasy costumes” as well as more specific mentions of my domain “fantasycotumes.com.”

Back in my campaign’s Link Opportunities tab, I can see the site that mentioned the broader term “fantasy costumes” and their authority. Now we can start to use mentions and DA to judge other sites:

Having looked at these examples, maybe they’re not talking about me exactly, but that’s ok. They’re still discussing my niche, so let’s go and see who’s linking to them by popping their URL into OSE.

This will give me an idea of what sort of content is valued and linked to, and I can use this to figure out my next step forward.


MozBar – In-browser link analysis

Moz Pro Crawl Test – Find those nofollow pages and pages with too many links

OSE – Explore backlink analysis

Fresh Web Explorer – Track mentions of your brand and closely related terms

Further reading:

Moz’s guide to link building

Google’s guide to follow and nofollow links

Wrapping up

I hope this helps you begin to uncover why your content isn’t ranking for your target keywords, and sets the wheels in motion for climbing up the SERPs.


Source: https://moz.com/blog/optimized-my-site-but-still-not-ranking-next-level

Overcoming Your Fear of Local Landing Pages

fear of landing page

When tasked with developing a set of city landing pages for your local business clients, do you experience any of the following: brain fog, dry mouth, sweaty palms, procrastination, woolgathering, or ennui? Then chances are, the diagnosis is a fear of local landing pages. But don’t worry! Confusion and concern over this common challenge have made it an FAQ in the local column of the Moz Q&A forum, and my goal here is to give you a prescription for meeting these projects with confidence, creativity, and even genuine enjoyment!

Up ahead: a definition, a “don’t” list, a plan of action, and a landing page mockup.

Quick definition: What’s a local landing page?

Local landing pages (aka city landing pages) are pages you create on a website to highlight a geographic aspect of a business for its customers. Local landing pages are most appropriate for:

  • Service area businesses (SABs) that need to publicize the fact that they serve a variety of cities surrounding the city in which they are physically located. In this scenario, the goal of most local landing pages is to gain organic rankings for these service cities, as they’re unlikely to earn local pack rankings unless there is minimal geographic competition for the services offered.
  • Multi-location brick-and-mortar businesses that need to publicize the fact that they have more than one forward-facing office. In this scenario, the goal will often be to get multiple offices ranking in the local packs by linking from the Google My Business listing for each office to its respective local landing page on the company’s website. You may also achieve organic visibility, as well, depending on the competition.

Diminish your fear by knowing what to avoid

Knowledge is power. By avoiding these common pitfalls, you’ll feel confident knowing that you’re developing a new set of pages that will help your client’s website, rather than harming it.

1. Do not publish fake addresses on local landing pages.

Tell clients that PO Boxes and virtual offices are considered ineligible in Google’s guidelines, so it’s not a good idea to use them on the website in an attempt to appear more local.

Be especially cautious here if your client is an SAB and gives you a string of addresses. Of course, an SAB can have multiple legitimate locations (like a pizza delivery chain) but if it’s a small business, your due diligence is required to make absolutely sure the addresses are legitimate and do not represent your client’s brother’s house, aunt’s house, friend’s house, etc.

Look the addresses up via Google Streetview. Do you see residences, or even empty lots? Red flag! Let such clients know that Google can read street-level signage and doesn’t take kindly to falsified address information. Google understands that SABs may operate out of a single home, but operating out a string of homes may look (and be!) spammy.

2. Do not engage in creating local landing pages for clients who lack a reasonable amount of time to discuss their business with you.

A minimum requirement is that they can have a phone session with you for each city you’re going to cover, but a much better hope lies with clients who are willing to make an active contribution to the project. *More on this later.

3. Do not engage in creating local landing pages if you don’t have enough information about the business to avoid creating thin or duplicate content.

This is related to point 2. Writing a paragraph and swapping out the city names on a set of pages is not a good plan, and you’ll encounter this lazy scenario on countless local business websites. Don’t be tempted to go this route just because your client’s competitors are getting away with it. Properly view them as weak competitors whom you can surpass with a superior effort.

4. Do not create city landing pages if no one involved in the project (including yourself) can discover a genuine reason (apart from a desire to rank) to differentiate cities and services from one another.

Don’t create these pages unless you can honestly say that you believe they will be useful and interesting to the company’s customers. *Suggestions for inspiration to follow.

5. Do not stuff local landing pages with blocks of city names, zip codes, or keywords.

Google’s Webmaster guidelines specifically state that they do not like this.

6. Beware call tracking numbers.

If your client wants to use call tracking numbers, be sure you fully understand the risks and options.

7. Do not bury your local landings pages somewhere deep within the architecture of the website.

Link to them from a high-level menu.

8. Finally, do not build an unreasonable number of landing pages.

At some point in your work as a local SEO, you will be contacted by a company that serves most or all of a state, or multiple states. They will say, “Our goal is to rank for every single town and city in our service area.” If your client serves California, there are some 500 incorporated cities in the state, not to mention thousands of tiny towns.

Can you honestly build thousands of unique, high-quality pages?

With enough funding and a large staff of copywriters, this might be possible, but it’s going to be the exception rather than the rule for small-to-medium local businesses. It’s generally more reasonable to have the client designate their most important cities and target these first. Then, if need be, move on from there, provided that you can avoid all 7 of the above pitfalls in creating further landing pages. Recommending PPC for more minute coverage may be a wiser alternative to prevent website quality from suffering.

Sigh of relief! Now that you know the major errors to avoid, you can move forward with the landing page development project feeling confident that your work is going to help your client, rather than harming them. Gather that tension up into a ball and cast it away!

Jump-start landing page inspiration with tools, talk and action

Here’s a ready-made process for generating ideas for the content you’re going to be developing. I’m going to make the assumption that you’ve already had your client fill out some sort of questionnaire prior to taking them on. This questionnaire may have been really detailed, or kind of generic. If it missed geo-specific questions, the following process will help you glean the initial information you need from the business owner.

1. Ask your client (more) questions

By now, you’ve assessed that your client is willing to be engaged in the landing page process. Now, either create a second questionnaire, or, if preferable for both of you, get on the phone and cover all of the following:

    • Every service offered
    • Every major city/town served
    • Most typical type of client
    • Most typical client requests/needs/questions
    • Services, tips, or advice that are unique to each city (such as different requirements based on laws, weather, terrain, style, precautions, codes, etc)
    • Types of satisfaction guarantees offered
    • Specials offered
    • Why the business is better than its competitors
    • Who those competitors are
    • Participation in or support of local events, teams and organizations

*As you take notes, be sure you’re jotting down not just what your client says, but how they say it. Language matters, not only as a means of learning the lingo of your client’s industry, but in discovering whether corporate lingo actually matches customer speech.

2. Assess their local landing pages

From your notes from conversation #1, you’re ready to first pay a virtual call to the websites of every major local competitor your client mentioned. Assess their local landing pages, if they have them, for content quality, usability, and usefulness. There’s a good chance that you’ll see lazy efforts that you can surpass with your own work. Take notes about what you like and don’t like in the competitors’ landing pages. Note, too, what keywords they’re targeting.

3. Transform your notes into content

Now, it’s time to take your notes and turn them into:

    • Unique, introductory text regarding the client’s services in each city
    • At least one unique customer question and owner answer per page
    • Specific advice/tips for that city that are unique to that city

4. Discover common questions and find their answers

Next, let’s fire up a really awesome tool to start generating additional topics. Hat tip to Linda Buquet who first alerted me to AnswerThePublic.com, a free tool that enables you to type in a keyword and generate the best list of related questions I’ve ever seen. It’s available in 5 countries, and even a simple search like “house painting” turns up 24 questions you can sort through to discover what types of queries people are commonly making about your client’s business model.

Return to the business owner for expert answers. Bingo! By now, you’ve got some very useful content already taking shape to help differentiate one landing page from another. I also like combing through Google’s “related searches” at the bottom of SERPs for further ideas.

5. Incorporate appropriate visuals

Now we turn to the visual documentation of your client’s business. Have them equip a designated staff member with a camera, either to take before-and-after photos of projects or to do a full video documentary of a minimum of 1–3 projects per city.

If your client’s industry isn’t of exceptional visual interest (plumbing, HVAC, accounting) a modest visual documentation, accompanied by a text transcript, should be sufficient to give customers a good idea of what it would be like to work with the business. If your client’s industry is highly visual (landscaping, architecture, home staging), the more you can show off their best work, the better. For the sake of authenticity, be sure that photo labeling and tagging are specific to the target city and that video narratives mention the target city.

    • While you’re shooting footage, consider getting 1–3 video testimonials in each city from very happy clients and write transcripts. If competition isn’t stiff, even a single video testimonial can set the business apart. In tougher markets, go to extra effort with this step.
    • An alternative (or addition) to video testimonials is use of an on-page traditional review app. And don’t forget that brick-and-mortar businesses can link to their various profiles on third-party review sites (Yelp, Google, etc).
    • Have widely recognized customers? Get their permission to brag about it! For example: “We clean the carpets at every branch of Bank of America in San Diego,” “We designed the Transamerica building in San Francisco,” or “We groomed the Pomeranian who won Best in Class at the Boston Dog Show.” Be city-specific with this content.
    • Consider the usefulness of interviewing staff who either operate each brick-and-mortar office or who travel to serve the SAB’s customers. A short, welcoming video that displays professionalism, approachability, and company ideals can help customers feel comfortable even before a transaction occurs.
    • If there is an element of the business that changes from location to location (brick-and-mortar) or from city to city (SAB), be sure you are aware of this and describing this on the page. Some examples would be a class schedule for a yoga studio that’s unique to each location, or a landscaping company’s recommended schedule of yard cleaning at high elevations versus valley floor locations. This content should be highly visible on the page, as it’s highly relevant to city-specific user groups.
    • Finally, think back to your assessment of your client’s competitors. Is there something they weren’t doing and that isn’t mentioned above that your client’s business inspires you to showcase? Maybe it’s something funny, extra persuasive, or extra local in flavor that would help your client stand out as particularly individualistic. Don’t hesitate to go beyond my basic suggestions to provide a creative edge for your client.

Pulling it all together

Fear is now a thing of the past. While you may be a bit buried under a heap of notebooks, spreadsheets, and docs, you’ve gathered both confidence and a wealth of resources for getting these local landing pages built. Whether you’re working with the owner’s webmaster or are implementing the development yourself, I hope the following basic mockup will help you get organized.

*I’m using an SAB for my example — a fictitious house painter who is targeting the town of Mendocino, California as part of his service area. If your landing pages are for a multi-location brick-and-mortar business, be certain that the very first thing on the page is the complete name, address and phone number of the respective location, preferably in Schema.

Click the image for a larger version in a new tab.

Key to the mockup

  1. This section covers your introductory text — including a basic description of what the company does — plus geographic-specific advice, satisfaction guarantee information, and a mention of well-known clients served.
  2. Here is a vertical section featuring 3 project showcase videos + text project summaries.
  3. The reviews section features an on-page review widget, a request for customers to leave a review, and an invitation to see further reviews on third-party platforms.
  4. Here’s where we put our question research to work, with the owner answering questions he says customers frequently ask, plus questions generated by a tool and other research.
  5. Here’s an area for extra creativity. We’re featuring a “Meet the Owner” video, some relevant local news, and mentioning company support for local entities, including a special deal.
  6. While we’ve sprinkled calls-to-action throughout the page, never forget that final CTA in closing up!

Speaking of closing up…

Your landing pages won’t look exactly like my sample mockup (hopefully they’ll be a lot nicer!) but I do hope this exercise has helped you gain confidence in moving fearlessly forward with these projects. I want to stress again the importance of owner involvement in this scenario. Your questionnaires and phone conversations are invaluable, and even if you have to use a crowbar with some clients, the effort truly shows in the authenticity, usefulness, and persuasiveness of the finished product.

I did want to take a minute to talk about scale, because this also comes up pretty frequently in our forum. Depending on available funding and creativity, the approach I’ve described is likely scalable for a medium-to-large business with anywhere from two to a few dozen target cities. Once you get beyond that, the project might get out of hand in terms of ROI, but I want to provide a couple of real-world examples.

  1. I’ve cited REI before, but I’ll do it again. They operate 143 stores across 36 states, and I continue to be impressed by the effort they’ve made to differentiate their landing pages for each location. An interactive map drills down to pages like this: http://www.rei.com/stores/san-diego.html. They’re not quite as text-intensive as my mockup, but the inclusion of a schedule of interesting local events makes these pages feel cared-for and worth visiting.
  2. If you’re operating at a similar scale, like Orchard Supply Hardware with 91 stores, and don’t feel you can or should make the investment in landing pages, you’ll likely end up going with something like a city/zip code search that shows store NAP in a given radius. Granted, this approach is going to be lacking in SEO opportunities, but if your brand is big enough and your competition isn’t too tough, it’s an option.

Do you have any other good ideas for making your local landing pages valuable? Please share them with the community!

Source: https://moz.com/blog/overcoming-your-fear-of-local-landing-pages

The 4-Step Plan to Construct Your Own Keyword-to-URL Map

keyword to url

Knowing how to find and effectively use keywords is probably the most important skill for an effective search marketer. Smart keyword planning and tracking should also heavily inform content planning and strategy. Unfortunately, most keyword research is done on the fly as a new page is created. Rather than helping marketers find new opportunities and plan strategically, keywords are usually found and applied to existing posts and in-flight projects.

If you’re an SEO or content creator and don’t have a living, regularly referenced keyword map, this post is for you. We won’t discuss how to optimize existing pages. There are lots of well-done technical SEO posts around if the optimization process is new to you. But if the concept of a keyword plan is new to you, this post should walk you through the process completely. If you’re experienced, you’ll probably pick up at least one new trick or application for keywords.

If you’d like to follow along with a keyword research template I’ve created, feel free to make a copy of this Google doc. You’ll see images of it throughout the post that might make more sense if you open it up.

Finding and selecting keywords

Obviously the first step to using keywords is finding what people search for. While thorough and hopefully helpful, there’s nothing shocking or ground-breaking in this first section. The real magic is in how you use your keywords.

Step 1: Build the “Big List”

Your goal in this first phase of keyword research is to gather every keyword that your business would want to appear for. You won’t achieve that goal, but set your sights high. Think outside the structure of your current site. Look beyond keywords you currently rank for and knowingly compete for.

Moz Keyword Explorer

Moz’s Keyword Explorer is a great tool, and I’m not just saying that because of Moz’s resident hypnotist. I must have missed its launch somehow, yet it’s quickly become my first stop for collecting lots of keywords quickly. The grouping function is great for finding head terms, and the sub-terms will be useful later on in either optimizing terms on existing pages or finding related pages worth creating.

Here I’m using the Moz keyword tool and excluding very low-volume keyword terms that I know I’ll be ignoring. Throughout this post I’m using our site, HighSpeedInternet.com, as an example.

Put in your known head terms and export them all using the “Export CSV” function. I’m impressed by the speed of the tool, and often use volume filters to avoid exporting terms I won’t actually use. That might sound small, but many tools force large exports prior to any estimation of search volume. Once you’re done gathering and exporting, you can remove duplicates and sort using Excel or a (slightly clumsier) Google Sheets script.


SearchMetrics is good for those who aren’t sure which keywords they want to rank for. We’ll need to input competitors’ sites to find keywords. For those who don’t know who competitors are, there’s a handy tool that shows likely candidates under “SEO research > Competitors.”

SimilarWeb (not shown) is also helpful in checking for competitors. If your site is new, simply plug in some of the queries you’d like to rank for and look those sites up. Once you’ve discovered some competitors, throw them into SearchMetrics and head over to the “Rankings” section under “SEO Research” and click “Long Tail.”

If this were a competitor’s site, I’d see a list of keywords they rank for and the potential traffic.

Other tools

  • SEMrush has a tool that can find keywords with search volume by site or related terms. One of the better all-in-one tools for keyword research.
  • UberSuggest spits out tons of related terms. It’s no longer a favorite, as many have found suggestions to be irrelevant or low-volume terms.
  • KeywordTool.io is a good complement to a more full-featured tool. It’s reliably better than most tools at finding mid-tail terms that others don’t find.
  • Google Keyword Planner offers free suggestions. One major downside is that your competitors will probably be using the tool the same way you do, resulting in lots of competition for the more narrow set of terms that Google suggests. Still, it would be fine to use this tool and nothing else if your tools budget is low.

There’s an almost unlimited number of keyword tools, but you really only need one or two. The more thorough your Big List process is, the more work you’ll save yourself later on. It’s usually worth it to spend a day or two gathering lots of keywords for a site you’ll be working on regularly.

Step 2: Get keyword volume

Use Excel’s handy function or a Google Sheets script to remove duplicate keywords. For most of us the next step is to import/paste sets of keywords into the Google Keyword Planner, export the volume, and repeat. There’s a limit to how many keywords Google will allow you to run at one time, so pre-filtering bad keywords might be a good idea. For example, I often pull out competitors’ branded terms.

Work-around for “low-volume” accounts (+extra precision)

Google recently continued its creeping war against those who use Google products for free by returning ranges in the keyword planner for low-spending accounts. These ranges (as in the image below) are so broad they’re essentially useless for anything but pre-filtering.

To get around this limit, you can just click the nice “Add to plan” button on any one of your terms.

If you’re only curious about volume for a few keywords, you can just click the “Add to plan” button for multiple terms. It’s easier to paste them in the next step for larger lists. Once you’ve added at least one keyword, click the “Review plan” button.

Now you’re on a new page where you’ll need to be careful about avoiding the “Save to account” buttons unless you actually want to start bidding. Click “Add keywords” to paste your terms in, then save it to a new ad group.

Now click the ad group. You’ll see a large table that’s mostly blank. Fill in a $999 bid and set the range to monthly. I also like to try different match types, but I typically use exact-match.

So why is this cool?

  • Impression count is more accurate, and not rounded like in the regular tool.
  • You can set custom date ranges if you want a more accurate figure for forecasting purposes.
  • You can play with match type again (which is something Google took away from the standard planner interface).
  • It works for free accounts.

At the end of Step 2, you should have a simple two-column list.

Step 3: Filter keywords

Notice I said we should filter keywords — not delete them. You’ll generally want to break keywords into three groups:

1.) Priority terms: Keywords you want to rank for immediately. A good priority term has the following attributes:

  • Related to current and near-future business
  • Implies a question you can answer well about a product you sell, OR implies a need you can fulfill
  • High-enough volume to be worth the investment

2.) Secondary terms: We’ll want to go after these some day, but not before we have our priority keywords locked in with query-responsive, well-optimized pages. Secondary terms usually have the following traits:

  • Doesn’t have buying intent, but has healthy volume and relates to what your site does
  • Implies a question you don’t have the expertise to answer
  • Low-volume terms that might convert

3.) Other terms: You might lay out some tertiary keywords (i.e those where you plan to expand the business), but you can generally stop there and label any others as keywords to “ignore for now.”

You’ll usually want to note why you are or are not pursuing a term so you don’t have to re-evaluate it every time you look for new keywords. Step three’s endpoint just adds a few columns:

Using keywords effectively

Now that you’ve gathered keywords it’s time to figure out how to use them. Your ultimate goals are to 1) find new opportunities on existing pages, and 2) find keywords for which you don’t have a good landing page so that you can create or suggest a useful new piece of content. Before we can do either, we’ll need to map the keywords to pages on your site.

Step 4: Map priority keywords

Just like you needed human judgment to determine priority keywords, you’ll need to use good judgment to map them to pages. You can skip the judgment steps and still come out with a final product, but it will ultimately be far less useful. Besides, this is why we have jobs that machines won’t be taking over for a while.

Scrape Google

First, scrape Google for your keywords and current ranking. Google frowns on rank tracking and SERP scraping, but consider it fair game for all the content they scrape and save. If you don’t want to scrape SERPs you can manually map each page, but it’s nice for larger sites to check yes/no rather than thinking through a list of potential pages every time.

There are tons of tools and services for this. AWR is probably the most common choice, as this is a one-time deal. You could also write a simple script with proxies or find a freelancer on one of a dozen sites. Moz Pro’s campaigns work up to your keyword limit, but the Moz tool is far better at helping after you’ve mapped keywords.

Mapping new & existing URLs

Once you have each keyword’s page and current rank, you’ll want to quickly check that the page matches the query.

  • How does this page help the user? (Don’t confuse this with what the user does next.)
  • Would the ideal version of that page do what you’d want if you typed this keyword into Google?
  • Would a page about this keyword or set of keywords only serve the query better?

You don’t want to create new pages for every tiny keyword variation, but we do want to make sure the page feels tailored to the user question. You’re trying to close the gap between what people want from Google and what your site does, so it shouldn’t be surprising if the questions you ask yourself feel UX-heavy.

After asking these questions a few hundred times it’ll become second nature. You won’t rank at all for some terms, so you’ll have to either manually select a page or create a new one. For some pages (especially those 50+), Google will just be plain wrong and you’ll have to re-map them.

The hardest choice is often whether an existing page could be optimized to be a better fit, or if a new URL is more appropriate. As a general rule, anything that would augment an existing page’s core purpose can be added, but anything that would detract or confuse the core purpose should be placed elsewhere. Don’t worry if it’s not immediately clear what the core purpose of the page is. Part of the value in this process is refining page purpose with keywords.

If you have a page in the top 5 or 10, it’s usually best to assume optimizing the page is a better path than creating a new page. If you have sets of conflicting keywords (meaning optimizing for both confuses the page) ranking on the same URL, you can generally choose the higher-value terms and then link to a new page about the second set.

For example, if we had a page appearing for “internet providers by zip code” and “satellite internet providers,” these would be considered conflicting. Trying to talk about satellite Internet (which is available almost everywhere) and zip code-specific Internet at the same time would be confusing. We’d create a new page for satellite Internet, delete the existing satellite Internet content, and link to the new page from the ranking URL.

Building new pages

If you’ve identified new pages that have opportunity, well done! Ensure that the amount of effort is worth the reward, and utilize the opportunities in your production process. Keyword research done well comes with a built-in business case. If you can show keyword volume and argue for keyword intent, you only have to make some assumptions on click, call, or purchase rates to put a potential dollar figure on the project.

Once you’ve mapped keywords to a new page, you should also have scope settled at a high level. Knowing what questions you’re trying to answer and what the page should do gives everyone the information they need to contribute and determine the best way to build it.

Optimizing existing pages

Improving existing pages is usually easier and less time-intensive, but don’t simply optimize page titles and call it a day. Actually look at the page and determine whether it’s a good fit for what you’d want to see if you were the one Googling. Also consider the competition and aim to be better.

There will be a larger list of existing terms ranking below the top spot where optimization and improvement need to be prioritized. Here are a couple examples of prioritization helpers:

  • Keyword opportunity: Find a click-through study, estimate the traffic you’re getting in your current position, and estimate how much traffic you’d get from the top spot. Consider both keywords and pages.
  • Competitive opportunity: Combine the opportunity above with competition metrics (e.g. PA/DA in the SERPs).
  • Crawl your pages to get titles and content, break the keyword into its individual words, and see how many of the words appear.

Use these figures as guides, and be smart about competition. It’s easy for analytical people to get too deep into a spreadsheet. Make sure you’re looking at your website and that of your competition, rather than making decisions on a pet formula alone.

A word to skeptical content strategists/marketers

I understand if you think this looks like a post for SEOs. Content that comes from highly searched keywords tends to be evergreen, but the result of writing keyword-targeting content is rarely something your visitors will rush to share. It’s very rarely inspiring, timely, fun, or otherwise sexy. Keep some things in mind, though:

  1. Depending on who you believe, organic traffic on average is 2–4x average referral traffic across the web. Don’t sell yourself short with a content strategy that only reaches half of your potential audience.
  2. You don’t have to create content the way everyone else has. In fact, please don’t! See a bunch of dull articles ranking for the term? Maybe make it an interactive tool. Write something that’s not dull. Answer the question better than anyone else has.
  3. You’ll drive more sales creating good content for boring searches than you will creating viral posts that get shared and linked to. Combine keyword hunting with shareable content for a truly business-changing organic/inbound strategy.

You don’t need an SEO’s permission to create useful content for things Google explicitly tells you your potential fans and customers are looking for. Incorporating a keyword strategy into a comprehensive content strategy almost feels like cheating.

Getting started: A spreadsheet template

If all of this sounds a bit overwhelming, I’ve created a template in Google docs that you can begin using. Just choose “File > Make a copy,” read through the comments, and start entering in your own data once you feel comfortable.

Get your keyword mapping template

The Google doc does a lot of the boring stuff for you, like calculating keyword opportunity, title optimization (if you put in page titles), and organizing your keyword map by page and keyword with opportunity, volume, and more.

When it’s time to automate

There are tools for doing much of what this spreadsheet does. The right tool will be worth the money as long as you keep some things in mind before you dive in and start paying:

  1. It’s wise to know what you want a tool to do before buying it. Use the keyword mapping template, experiment with what you actually want and use regularly, and then you can start looking for tools to help you map keywords and optimize pages. Avoid tool clutter by using them deliberately.
  2. Most tools will try to map keywords to pages, but none can reliably tell you when or how you should create new content. If you’re never actually looking at keywords with human judgment and asking, “Am I answering that query?”, then you’re probably over-relying on the tool.


Source: https://moz.com/blog/4-step-plan-construct-your-own-keyword-url-map

Match Your Local SEO to Your Business Type with the Local SEO Checklist

matching local seo

Is your brand visible to potential customers? If you’re a local business and you haven’t nailed down your local SEO, you’re missing the opportunity to be seen when that customer searches on desktop or on mobile.

But local SEO isn’t some mysterious entity. It’s a series of concerted steps. And we can help you tailor those local SEO efforts to your business model. Simply find your business type on the following illustration and follow the steps that are specific to your needs.

Find out if your customers can find you.

Local SEO by business type

Local SEO for all business types

But wait! You aren’t done yet. There are some local SEO steps that work for businesses of all kinds. Use the checklist below to make sure you’re ticking all the boxes to get seen in the SERPs. To jump ahead to a section, use these links:

  • Technical website criteria
  • Getting local content right
  • Citations
  • Duplicate listing cleanup
  • Earning reviews
  • Social media for local business
  • Out there in the real world

If you’re a paper and pen type (or just want to save your checklist for later), download your very own copy of the Local SEO Checklist here:

Download checklist as a PDF

Technical website criteria

Everything that applies to traditional SEO also applies to local SEO.

Regardless of business model, every local business website needs to be indexable, error-free, multi-device-compliant, well-structured, and properly optimized. See the complete technical checklist.

In addition to the above, local website optimization requires that you:

If you have 10 or less locations, the complete name, address, and phone number of each should be in the sitewide footer element. Use Schema markup of your location data. See Adding Schema Location Markup to Your Website and Local Business Schema Q&A with David Deering for basic and advanced knowledge. Your phone number is highly visible on your website and clickable on mobile devices. Your name, address, and phone number (NAP) is consistent everywhere it is mentioned on your website. Beware of naming discrepancies for any business or mixing up NAP elements between multi-location companies or multi-practitioner businesses. All location pages are linked to from a high-level navigation menu. If you want to keep your street address private, don’t publish it on your website, but do be sure you’re providing a phone number that is staffed during stated business hours.

Getting local content right

Content is an important part of any SEO effort, so make sure you’re not tripping yourself up with thin or duplicate content. Here’s a list of common content mistakes followed by a checklist of ways to increase the local SEO impact of your content.

Content mistakes to avoid

  1. Don’t scrape content from other websites, even from the websites of manufacturers or authorities, unless you are publishing an attributed quote within your own, unique content.
  2. If you offer the same services or products in multiple cities, think carefully about attempting to create a unique page for every possible city/keyword combination. Only embark on this plan if you know you have sufficient resources of time, money, and talent to create truly high-quality pages for each combination. Avoid publishing thin or useless pages. If you know you don’t have the resources, it’s better to go with just a strong page for each city and a strong page for each service, rather than creating lots of thin or duplicate city/keyword combo pages. See this complete resource on developing city landing pages.
  3. Think long and hard before deciding to take a multi-website approach, even if your company offers multiple services or has multiple offices. Numerous experts agree that it is almost always better to build a single, powerhouse website that promotes your brand and all of its services and branches rather than dividing up time, funding and talent between multiple websites. For more on this, see this community discussion.

Ways to create unique, user-, and search-friendly content

Utilize testimonials from customers in your service cities to make your city landing pages unique. Use unique testimonials from customers who have used specific products or services for related product and service pages. Build an on-site blog to continue to develop your library of content once your basic, static web pages have been built. Freshness can help you rank for an ever-growing number of terms that relate to your business. Videos and images are page content, too. Use appropriate tags to label them in real text and consider writing out transcriptions. Offer city-, service-, or product-specific specials, schedules, or calendars to differentiate what you do in one location vs. another. For example, a schedule of yoga classes at one branch vs. another or a special on tree trimming that rotates from one service city to another, ensuring unique, interesting content on different pages. Include bios of different staff at different locations to introduce customers to the people who will be serving them. Sponsor events, teams, or organizations in different cities and write about those sponsorships. Host or participate in events in different cities as an opportunity for unique content. Interview experts within or outside of your company to create city- or product-specific content. Offer tips that apply to specific geographic or demographic audiences.


Citations are complete or partial references to your name, address, phone number or website (NAP+W) anywhere on the web. Learn more.

Citation basics

Build a unique set of citations for every physical office and be sure the name, address, phone number and website URL are absolutely correct on each citation you build. Variance in abbreviations from platform to platform is normal (street vs. st. or # vs. suite). Know the acceptable abbreviations. Only build citations for real physical locations. P.O. boxes and virtual offices are not acceptable. Understand how local business data moves through the local search ecosystem, because a problem on one platform can lead to replications of the problem elsewhere. For multi-location or multi-practitioner businesses, point the website link on all citations to the correct corresponding landing page on the website. For example, point your Chicago citations to your Chicago landing page on the website and point Joe Miller’s citations to Joe Miller’s page on your law firm website. Most local businesses will want to be listed on the same set of major local business data platforms to start with, but beyond this, build citations on additional platforms that are specific to your industry or geography, such as the Chamber of Commerce, a contractor’s association, or the local newspaper. If you don’t want your address to be public anywhere, as in the case of many service area or home-based businesses, you can still build citations, but only on those platforms which support hidden addresses. Beware of duplicate citations — see Duplicates section, below.

Automated or manual citation building: your choice

Building manual citations

You can choose to build all citations manually, keeping track of their existence, status, and progress in a spreadsheet. The main benefit of this path is more direct control over your listings; the main drawback is the considerable amount of time manual creation and management involves, including time involved to update all citations if a business re-brands or moves. If you’d like to try manual management, these resources will acquaint you with top citations you will want to build:

  • Where to get citations
  • The best citation sources by US city
  • The best local citations by category
  • Top 100 international citation sites
  • Finding where your customers are

Automated citation building

You can choose to pay for either manual or automated citation building instead of doing the work yourself. The main benefit of this path is a savings in time and ease of making updates across multiple citations at once if a business moves or re-brands; the main drawback is that not all services are of equal quality and some may cause problems rather than resolving them.

With most citation services you will have somewhat less direct control over your local business listings, but if the product is good, this is not normally a major problem. The main thing is to be sure that any service you consider is building important citations rather than selling fluff and that there are not known problems being alleged regarding the way the service is sold or managed.

If you are considering purchasing a citation building service, read this comparison guide.

Even if you do pay to have citations built for you, in some cases, you may want to augment this by building some citations manually on specific niche sites that aren’t offered in agency packages.

Duplicate listing clean-up

Duplicates sap your listing strength so detecting and resolving them is key. Use these tools and tips to get those duplicates cleaned up:

Make basic duplicate listing detection on a variety of platforms easier with the use of a free tool like Moz Check Listing. Advanced detection of Google duplicates requires special efforts. A combination of paid tools + knowing how to write query strings, as described here, should help you surface as many Google duplicates as possible. You have several options for resolving Google-based duplicates, but Map Maker may be your best bet. Read more.

Earning reviews

Given their power as a ranking and conversion factor, reviews are must-haves for every local business. Follow these steps to earn reviews:

Be sure your business is properly listed on the main review platforms, including the majors like Google My Business, Yelp, and Facebook. Be sure you haven’t overlooked industry or geography-specific review sites and are properly listed there. Google reviews are believed to have the greatest impact on Google local rankings. Generating a shareable Google review link can be challenging, but these tips will teach you how. Before you start asking for reviews on any platform, be sure you know its guidelines. Here you’ll find links to major platform guidelines. Do pay close attention to the guidelines of Google and Yelp, which are very particular! Be sure you’ve considered every possible way you might earn reviews from your customers. These tips will help. Don’t set up a review station/kiosk at your place of business to ask for reviews. Always have customers leave reviews under their own accounts, using their own devices. Don’t confuse reviews with testimonials. Think of reviews as content on third-party websites and testimonials as content you publish on your own website. On-site testimonials can be published on your website on behalf of customers, but Google reps have stated that they prefer these not to be marked up with review Schema. Or, you can add a review widget to your website to have customers directly leave their own reviews. Don’t ask for too many reviews at once, at any time. A sudden influx of reviews can lead to filtering on some platforms. A slow, steady trickle over time is better than a sudden wave. Understand that review acquisition is an ongoing process you’ll be engaged in for the life of your business online. It’s not a set-and-forget project. Know that nearly every business will receive at least some negative reviews at some point in its history. Your greatest preventative measure against negative reviews is your consistent dedication to excellent customer service and excellent work. Be sure you are monitoring all review sites for red flags that quality has fallen off. Do respond to negative reviews with accountability and professionalism (these tips will help), and do respond to positive reviews, as well, taking time to publicly thank your loyal customers.

Social media for local businesses

Avoid wasting effort and money by identifying the right social platforms for your business’s clientele. Maximize the return on your investment:

Consider the most popular social media sites. Bear in mind that Google Plus has gone through a major overhaul and is currently being promoted as a purely social, rather than local, platform. Try these tips for identifying which social platforms are already popular with your customer base. Designate a person or persons on your staff whose regular duty it is to monitor and participate on your chosen sites. Don’t let profiles stagnate. 99% of your job as a social media participant is to help others, not to sell to them. Work to identify opportunities to be helpful, whether that’s answering a question, offering a resource, or brightening a day for somebody. Know that social media can be a hit-and-miss experience for any business. You will likely try several platforms and strategies before finding a niche that works for you. Get inspired by the success stories of others.

Out there in the real world

All online local efforts are but a reflection of offline realities and goals. Be sure you’re getting it right where it counts most by remembering:

No amount of marketing can replace good business practices. Don’t hire employees without committing to train them in basic communication, customer service and the specs of your products and services. Don’t let any employee represent your business who hasn’t been trained to represent it well. Given the power of online reviews, the costs of a lack of training are too high. Implement quality controls to keep on top of emerging issues. As the business owner, you must know your products and services, know of customer complaints, and be physically present in your place of business to monitor how your staff is serving the public. Hold regularly-scheduled meetings to correct problems, reinforce policies, and offer new education. Learn how to deal with conflict while maintaining your self-esteem, and teach this to your staff, too. Whether you are dealing with an unrealistic, crazy customer or one who is justifiably disappointed in some aspect of your business, know that you can apologize and make amends without that meaning you are a bad person. Making peace with customers and making things right for them actually makes you a very cool, adept person, indeed! Local Search has often been touted as the total replacement of all older forms of offline advertising, but this is not true for all businesses. Yellow Pages, billboards, local radio, and local TV advertising are still viable and lucrative forms of advertising for some industries and some geographies. Remember that everything you do, whether online or off, is unified by a single goal: to make your brand the one that comes to a neighbor’s mind when he or she needs a product or service you offer. Don’t limit yourself to the basics of website development, citation building, earning reviews, or participating in online social environments. Building local brand awareness can also be achieved through your physical participation in community events and organizations. Get out there and meet your neighbors by attending meetings and conferences, contributing to celebrations, sponsoring teams, and making local newspaper headlines with your outreach into the community.

Summing up

There are many theories about “effective frequency” — the number of times a person needs to be exposed to advertising before making a response to it. Some say the golden number is seven, but not everyone agrees.

What you can feel confident about is that all of the above steps represent efforts you are making to put your brand out there for the consideration of your potential customers, and the golden opportunity for local businesses is that their competition is limited by specific geography.

You don’t have to compete against the whole world, but rather be a consistent, reliable resource for your own neighbors. Be in the right places at the right times, pair that with great service, and your local business has every chance of succeeding.

Have all your local SEO tactics under control but still think you could do more? Maybe it’s time to focus on your strategy. David Mihm has written a white paper, “Foundations of a Successful Local Marketing Strategy,” that walks you through all the necessary steps to map your local strategy to the on-the-go customer.

Source: https://moz.com/blog/local-seo-checklist

3 Competitive Factors That Influence (or Hinder) Your Online Success

3 competitive factors

Competitive knowledge is an important part of building a successful digital marketing campaign. While the actual optimization of your website can be competitor agnostic, the performance of that optimization isn’t.

Simply monitoring competitors is not enough. And it’s more than collecting data and numbers. You have to understand what all it means. Analytics is great, but if you don’t know what to do with the data, it’s pointless. The same is true for competitive knowledge.

Let’s look at three competitive factors that you need to review, assess, and understand if you want to build a web marketing campaign that outperforms your competition.

Factor #1: The Four Types of Competitors You Need to Keep an Eye On

1) Offline Competitors

Many businesses–especially those that were around pre-internet–have a fairly good grasp on the offline competition around them. After all, before the internet, that’s all there was. But many newer businesses forget to look at these competitors. It’s important for them to realize that failure to do so will affect their long-term success.

Any competitor who is not online today can certainly be online tomorrow. They may be only a minor threat at first, but as soon as they begin to invest, that threat just got real, yo.

Don’t wait until the competition gets fierce before you begin to lay the groundwork for building your own online empire. It’s always better to force someone else to play catch-up to you than you to them.

2) Organically Ranked Competitors

Many businesses tend to discount online competition that they feel is relatively weak in their space. But here’s the thing: Anyone ranking for your keywords is a clear and present danger to your success. It doesn’t matter if they don’t compete for the same customers as you. What does matter is they are currently ranking where you want to be ranked.

It’s always a good idea to run some keyword searches to see what kind of businesses, blogs, forums, etc., are holding those top spots. Where your offline competition may truly be competing for your customers, these online competitors are competing for searcher attention. And you won’t get it as long as they are showing up and you are not.

“It’s important to note that these are not necessarily limited to companies or websites that offer the same type of content, services, or products that you do, but can be any website that competes with you in the search results for your target keywords.” — Moz

Of course, you may find genuine competition in this space as well, which means they won’t give up those spots easily. You’re going to have to work for them.

3) Paid Ad Competitors

Even if you’re not venturing into paid ads, you can learn a bit from those who are investing in getting paid listings for your keywords. There are two reasons for this:

  1. If you’re not investing in PPC, you’re leaving money on the table. Simultaneously investing in paid and organic marketing provides far more exposure and traffic than you’d get running either of those independently. As long as people click on ads, you won’t get those clicks unless you’re paying for those positions.
  2. Understanding how your competitors are investing in PPC allows you to get a sense of how aggressive they are in total. You specifically want to look at keywords and estimated ad spend. If you see big PPC ad spend, you can count on the fact that they will likely begin focusing some efforts on the organic side of things as well.

4) Startup Competitors

Startups can fall into any of the categories above, but it’s good to keep an eye on them. Start-ups tend to enter the game with investment money. That allows them to come out of the gate doing far more than you ever dreamed. These deep pockets give them a distinct advantage. While many startups flame out, they can take a big chunk of potential business away from you long before they do.

Factor #2: The Five Ways Competitors Impact Your Digital Marketing Footprint

how competitors impact your digital marketing footprint

1) Competitor’s Brand Authority

Every competitor–yourself included–has a certain amount of brand authority built-in. Any competitor’s authority that exceeds yours is a formidable foe. Not only do you need to match their authority level, but you also need to exceed it. I liken this to two cars on a race track. However far ahead they are, you need to catch them before you can beat them.

2) Competitor’s Focus/Niche

Not every competitor you face will compete head to head. You might only offer a fraction of the products/services they offer, and others might offer a fraction of the products/services you do. There are downsides to both.

The bigger the brand, the more opportunities they have to build authority and dominate across all products. However, niche competitors can also zero in on a single product or area and focus all their energies there to dominate it.

Either way, you have to build the authority necessary to compete with the big brand while being laser focused to dominate in your niche.

3) Competitor’s Content

Content is a big part of online marketing and is a great way to build brand authority. Even if your competitor isn’t a brand name today, if they keep publishing both valuable and helpful content, it’s only a matter of time before that earns them some digital respect.

That doesn’t mean you have to out-publish them on a quantity scale, but you will have to find a way to make sure you’re providing equal or better value to your audience.

4) Competitor’s Overall Presence

Look at your competition’s overall web presence. Not just rankings, but social content and engagement as well. Social media consumes a lot of time, but it pays dividends. More than ever, customers are looking to engage with brands. If your competitors are there and you’re not, they are winning the hearts and minds of would-be customers.

5) Competitor’s Depth of Marketing Investment

Online marketing investment comes in many forms: Paid ads, social engagement, content publishing, organic optimization, etc. You can learn a lot about your competition by seeing how much they are doing in each of these areas. A weak competitor will be difficult to find, which is an opportunity for you. But any competitor that is showing significant investment in all these areas will prove to be stiff competition indeed.

Factor #3: The Two Ways Your Success Is Influenced (or Hindered)

how competitors influence success

1) The Level of Your Success

Unless a competitor flames out, you will never overcome them by doing less. That doesn’t mean working harder, but it does mean working smarter. And that very well may require working harder.

You don’t need to match everything a competitor does point for point. But you do need an effective strategy that takes these factors into consideration. Even if you catch their pace strategically, that will only keep you from losing ground. If you want to gain ground, you have to match and beat them at their own game.

2) The Immediacy of Your Success

Working harder and smarter than your competition doesn’t mean you’ll overtake them immediately. Or anytime soon, for that matter. It all depends on how long they’ve been in the race before you started, and how much better you are doing at your online marketing than they are.

If you’re barely doing more, or barely doing better, it’s going to take a while to catch up. It could be years. But the more in you invest in online marketing (and I don’t just mean dollars; I mean a smart strategy as well) the less time it will take to catch up. But again, how much time depends on how far ahead they are.

Every good digital marketing strategy should be taking all of these factors into consideration. And then there needs to be some communication with the higher-ups to ensure everyone is on the same page, defining what success looks like and when it can be expected.

As they say, failing to plan is planning to fail. Failure to build a strategy that considers your competition will ultimately lead to a failing web marketing strategy overall. Web marketing is a race that can be won. You just have to know what it takes to win it.

Source: https://www.searchenginejournal.com/3-competitive-factors-influence-hinder-online-success/176978/