How to Optimize Your Local Presence on the Web
Getting the most out of local search engine optimization requires a concerted effort
Search engine optimization (SEO) helps make your business more visible by moving it up to Page 1 in search engine rankings. But, how do you go about doing this?
SEO can be mysterious to HVAC contractors and other small business owners because popular search engines, such as Google, Yahoo, Bing, and others, don’t reveal their proprietary algorithms. However, analyses of the webpages that regularly appear on Page 1 provide a pathway that other businesses can follow. Here are some expert tips to help show the way.
WHAT IS SEO?
According to Seth Worby, CEO and founder of Champ Internet Solutions in Newton, Massachusetts, “SEO is the process of increasing the volume and quality of traffic to a website by strategically improving the position of the site within the search engine results.”
To accomplish this, one of the basics is to “optimize your website for targeted search terms to increase your organic exposure,” said Matt Horn, SEO team lead for Market Hardware Inc. in Bethesda, Maryland.
From the marketing perspective, Adams Hudson, president of Hudson Ink in Montgomery, Alabama, a creative marketing firm for contractors, noted, “As Web searches constantly chip away at more traditional marketing methods, getting ‘found’ online is half science and half emotional attraction — and 100 percent important for rank, traffic, and leads.”
THE SCIENCE OF SEO
Worby said the three pillars of effective SEO are indexability, relevancy, and authoritativeness. “Indexability is the ability to be properly viewed by search engines and users,” he said. This involves having a good navigational structure, good architecture, proper coding, and no misleading black-hat tactics.
Relevancy is increased by posting quality, optimized content that makes the company relevant to potential customers who are searching online.
Authoritativeness has to do with the search engines relying on inbound links from leading industry websites and publications to help a site gain online authority. “Being cited by an authoritative source gives you a boost,” Worby said.
“Local SEO is focused on ranking for a geographically specific location, rather than globally. When a search is done with specific keyword terms, such as ‘HVAC repair,’ search engines pinpoint a user’s location and give local results, since it’s a geographically specific search,” said Nick Jakubowski, SEO strategy manager for Adficient, which operates offices in Denver and St. Louis.
Making sure your company is visible via local search is not just important, it’s essential. “Ignoring the power of the local search today is the near equivalent of disconnecting your phones and putting ‘Closed’ on your front door,” Hudson said. “Continue to ignore it and it will be the same.”
“The days of refrigerator magnets and the Yellow Pages have given way to the Google search,” declared Brian Kraff, CEO of Market Hardware. People are now “on their smartphones or laptops looking for local HVAC contractors,” said Horn.
And those people are going to look at the top results. Kraff estimates that “70 to 75 percent of searchers don’t surf beyond Page 1. So, if you want to be found, you have to be on Page 1 for whatever that search phrase is.”
IMPLEMENTING LOCAL SEO
How do you implement an effective local SEO strategy?
There are a few easy things business owners can do to see quick results, said Jakubowski.
“Properly optimize the website. This means the site should have no issues. It should utilize keywords within title tags, meta descriptions, header tags, and content. The next step is to begin adding new content to the site. Create content that is original and compelling to readers.”
Hudson said, “Your content should be rich in search relevancy, using inter-site links to other content. It’s also wise to promote your new, detailed articles regularly via email [monthly] and social media [at least weekly] that are linked to your main, content-rich site.”
In addition to defining all the services you provide, Worby said HVAC contractors should consider publishing a blog, newsroom, resource center, glossary of terms, and a FAQ (frequently asked questions), among other content. He also recommends posting on social media. “I always say your website is your house and social media are the roads that lead to your house.”
Worby suggested a contractor consider posting an article on his website called “10 Tips to Save on Your Heating Bill,” and then post selected tips on social media with a link to the full article on your website.
To gain authority through link-building, Kraff recommended obtaining a link back from your local chamber of commerce, area trade associations, and online articles printed in the local newspaper that mention your company.
For link building, Horn also said a contractor can set up an off-site blog with a different URL. Content posted on this blog can then be linked back to the contractor’s main website.
One of the most important things a contractor should do is include the company’s phone number and area of service in the upper-right-hand corner of every Web page, said Horn. From a mobile perspective, utilizing “click to call” is also a good idea.
For local SEO, Horn said the company is trying to get exposure in the local market via organic search engine placement, “but that company’s also trying to get into the local maps section.”
An important element in this regard, said Kraff, is Google My Business, which gets a business’s information included in searches, maps, and Google Plus.
Jakubowski said many businesses fail to submit their site to local directories and business listing sites. Sites like Foursquare and Manta offer free listings to businesses where keywords, Web addresses, phone numbers, and a description of the site can be posted. Submit to as many of these as possible.”
Kraff also said a business’s listing information should be consistent across all directories.
Hudson noted, “‘Bob’s Heating & Cooling’ is not the same as ‘Bob’s Heating and Cooling’ nor ‘Bob’s Cooling and Heating,’ as search engines are not human.”
“Reviews are definitely important for local SEO,” said Worby. “People inherently trust other people.”
Jakubowski concurred, “Re-views are important for all businesses and websites. Different sources will give different numbers, but around 75-85 percent of users check reviews before purchasing an item online or calling for a service. There are multiple sources where reviews can be left; however, focusing on local SEO, specifically reviews on Google Plus, can be very beneficial. When a user searches for a business within Google, these are the first reviews he or she will see.”
“If you’re not consistently asking for reviews and getting them posted (by Yelp reviewers mostly), then you are losing leads. People who do not know you will likely read the review and either decide to contact you or not based strictly on the review,” Hudson said. “Start pushing for reviews, make sure your customer is happy before you leave the house, and don’t ignore a bad review.”
AN ONGOING PROCESS
To maintain a properly optimized site, “The first thing website owners must do is make sure there are no issues,” said Jakubowski. “This includes broken links, broken images, missing title tags, duplicate content, etc. Consistently review your site’s crawl issues — there are multiple tools available on the Web that allow this — to make sure the site is running at full capacity. This includes making sure the site runs at a proper speed and is mobile friendly. Additionally, it’s important to continue to add new, relevant, entertaining content to your site.”
Kraff also pointed out that “even if your business is ranking well right now, Google can shift in a different direction.” So, you need to pay attention to what Google is doing and keep up with its major updates.
“SEO is definitely not a set-it-and-forget-it process,” said Horn.
Worby agreed, “You don’t do this overnight. It’s a natural process, and it takes time.”
Publication date: 1/25/2016