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Jayson DeMers of Search Engine Journal recently interviewed Sam McRoberts, CEO of Vudu Marketing, about local search engine optimization (SEO). This interview is a solid resource for local SEO and can be used by small business owners as an action plan.
"What types of businesses need Local SEO?"
Local SEO is for any business that gets at least some of its customers/clients locally, and especially for businesses with physical locations that they expect customers to go to.
"How is Local SEO different from National SEO?"
Elements that apply to national SEO also impact local SEO. Most importantly for local SEO, you need to create and claim a local profile on Google, which will show up for localized search results. Citations are also important. A citation is any place online that uses your company name, address, and phone number all on the same page, in the same format as your local listing. Finally, reviews on Google Places is an important local ranking factor.
"How does on-site optimization differ for Local SEO vs. National SEO?"
Make sure your name, address and phone number are used on every page of your site, in the same format as your Google local listing. Use your city and state names in your title tags, meta descriptions, and the content on your site. Use Schema local markup to better help search engines identify and show your location. Include a Keyhole Markup Language (KML) file on your site.
"What are the most important signals that boost local SEO rankings?"
The three biggest factors in local listings appear to be the number of citations, the number of reviews (Google Places listing, other places), and how positive the reviews are overall. Positive reviews seem to trump the other factors.
"What does the location of a business to the city center have to do with anything?"
Google gives a bias towards locations that are closest to the center of the city.
"Can you outline a brief action plan you’d recommend for new company looking to compete for local search results?"
Claim your local listing on Google Places and 100% complete it. Next, spread the information from Google Places across all the other major local platforms, in the same format. Each of these will become a citation. Claim all your social profiles. Continue to build on-site SEO. Finally, get your happy customers to leave positive reviews for you on Google Places.
"Can you recommend some ways a local business can get citations?"
Use a tool like the WhiteSpark local citation finder to locate the best citation sources for your city. Guest blog posting can give you a chance to get citations by including them in your author bio.
"Can you recommend some ways a local business can get reviews?"
Encourage customers or clients to rate their experience with you on your Google Places profile. Include links to your profile in email communications. DO NOT buy reviews.
"Do you recommend small, local companies do local SEO in-house or hire an agency?"
This depends on your budget. An agency may cost more, but might end up paying for itself through speed and accuracy.
"Are there any specific services, websites, or tools that you recommend to help companies with local SEO?"
WhiteSpark local citation finder is a cheap tool for finding citation sources. Something like MySEOTool can track your rankings with localization. Set-up Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools to track what keywords are driving search impressions and traffic to your site.
"What price range should a typical small business expect to pay for local SEO, (in house or agency)?"
Local SEO via an agency could range from $100/mo for the most basic work all the way up to tens of thousands of dollars per month for a competitive space with hundreds or thousands of locations.
"Is Local SEO an ongoing endeavor, or is it more of a set-and-forget expense?"
There's an ongoing component beyond set-up, as you should be getting new citations, reviews, social mentions and links each and every month.
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