Search engine optimization (SEO) is an integral concept that is used in internet marketing to increase both Google rating and page rank. Though grossly misunderstood by many, SEO, as it is commonly referred to, is such a simple and easy to understand concept. It is the process through which a website content and popularity (as measured by traffic) are search engines so that they rank high on their results pages. Every web marketer would love their site to appear on top of search engine results pages for specific targeted keywords. This would make it easy for them to gain a considerable amount of traffic which upon proper nurturing can be converted to sales. So, here’s how you can get local Google domination.
Research has shown that 80% of online users rarely go beyond the third page of search engine results meaning that if your site is to enjoy a good flow of traffic then you have to rank well on the major search engines. Businesses both small and large have incorporated the concept of search engine visibility into their internet marketing strategies effectively giving rise to search engine marketing (SEM).
The importance of SEO in any internet marketing cannot be overemphasized. Businesses of all sizes and industries have benefited from strategies aimed at placing them on top of search engine natural results. Fortune 500 companies and the Top 500 internet retailers are all engaged in placement campaigns that will give them an inch over their competitors.
Some of the outstanding benefits of SEO and SEM are as follows:
1. Visibility and Branding
When online shoppers and other users search for products and services, only those sites that are optimized for related search terms will appear on top of most searches results. In an attempt to consistently appear in favorable positions and enhance their visibility for competitive search terms, businesses employ SEO strategies. Visibility is the first step towards creating the buzz around your brand. When your products and services appear in more and more natural searches, people will tend to talk about your brand hence its popularity and ability to stir commercially viable consumer discussions.
2. Business Credibility and Social Proof
Online consumers tend to trust more and regard as credible the sites that appear top on the search engine results pages. This means that a buyer is likely to click onto the top results and leave the sites that fall way below or worse still not click through to the other results pages. High rankings therefore give you more traffic.
3. Traffic Generation
By ranking high on search engines, your business will attract more attention from online users. It is likened to positioning your store on the front street where everyone passes by on their way to other stores. The likelihood of you getting lots of visitors is thus very high.
4. A High and Measurable Return On Investment (ROI)
Compared to traditional forms of marketing, SEM is more cost effective. This is due to the fact that as opposed to other types of internet marketing, SEM is and an inbound marketing strategy. Marketing is done to consumers when they are searching for your products and services. The output is so magnified compared to the input hence a higher ROI.
5. SEO principles
The search engine optimization discipline is guided by principles which if followed can enhance the ranking performance and visibility of your site. These principles guide the working of search engines hence their importance in any SEO/SEM strategy. The six basic principles are:
- Keyword generation and placement
These basics will help create solid SEO foundations which makes your SEM much easier and efficient.
A. Keywords Usage
This is a very a important principle in the operation of search engines. Keywords are the terms through which online users search for your brand, products and services. By optimizing these terms, your site can easily get a favorable ranking on search engines. You have to be careful on keyword density and their incorporation into the webpage content and Meta tag descriptions. Keyword stuffing refers to a situation where you repeat keywords so many times in an attempt to confuse and convince search engines concerning the authority of your site. This is improper and can make your site be delisted by Google and other major search engines.
B. Site Content and Structure
For your site to rank well and have authority on search engines, you need to ensure that the content on your site is both unique and original. Plagiarized content often leads to lower rankings or a total removal of your site URL for the search engine databases. This will make it very difficult for the site to be indexed again. The site also needs to contain the relevant keywords and links.
C. Organic and Sponsored Results
This is another principle that you need to understand well even as you seek to have your site ranked high. Organic results commonly known as natural results usually occur when ordinary searches are conducted. Sponsored results on the other hand refer to results that are paid for so as to rank in higher positions on search engine results pages. The most common form of sponsored results is the pay-per-click program.
In SEO terms, this refers to a scenario where your business is mentioned on another site. The mentioning may include the name, logo and link, phone number and address and several other company specific details. These details are effective in making search engines able to connect the cited company to the actual company being talked about and not any other out there. Citations can occur on sites of institutions where you are enlisted as a sponsor of a charity or in online phone directories. Every time your company is cited, it brings exposure to your clients and prospects.
6. Specific SEO Tips
Aside for the general principles that have been discussed above, there are specific tips that help local businesses rank well in geographical-related searches. It is now a fact that Yellow Pages are no longer used as frequently as they used to. All this is because of the role played by the internet and local SEO. Below are some of these specific tips:
A. Positioning of Location Keywords in Title and H1 Tag
To help rank well in searches within your locality, you need to incorporate the location that your business and products serve within the H1 and title tag.
B. Business Details (NAP)
Having your contact details displayed on your site is very important. These may include the name of your business, the phone number and address. They should be consistent across all online platforms where your details are shared.
C. The Quality and Quantity of Your Backlinks
Backlinking is very critical to a site’s ranking. By having links back to your site from sites with a higher page rank than yours, you can boost your site’s rankings. Also linking from local authoritative sites can be a plus to your placement campaigns.
D. Google + Social Page
Google plus has provided most local business entity’s with unique opportunities to rank highly in local searches. To make this a success, companies must give as much information as they can so as to help Google position them accurately. Adding images can also be beneficial.
E. Quality Reviews
Search engines place significant emphasis on reviews and use them in their algorithms to rank sites. If possible you can have the review done on Google + or Yelp. Make the process of leaving a review simple for customers by sending them a link to where they are to write the review.
F. Google Maps
Google maps display the geographical position of your business. Ensure you position your business rightly in reference to streets and landmark features so that Google can locate it accurately. Combined with Google+, Google maps can yield excellent local search ranking. Use correct business details and use photos where necessary.
7. The Nature of Your Home / Landing Page
A landing page can be such an excellent way in which your business ranks highly on search engines. To make these pages effective, you need to link them appropriately to other pages within the site. Ensure the load time is also quick and fast. Having high quality inbound links that point to the landing page can make it rank well too. To get effective results, you need to customize your landing page showing the appropriate navigational links to other areas. This will reduce bounce rates hence higher site relevancy and ranking.
To know more about local ranking factors, you can read this source
The Case of McDonalds’ Franchising Model
While none is superior over the other, the use of both local and global SEO can help expand the reach of a company to new heights and markets. Such was the case of McDonald’s Corporation which employed three powerful SEO tips that made its sales surge and both foot and online traffic multiply. Through its franchising model, the company is now operating in a majority of cities around the world. To makes these outlets visible, the company employs both local and global searches.
Integration of Homepage and Social Media through Links
McDonalds has embraced social media integration in such an amazing way. The company links its promotions on Facebook, twitter and YouTube to its homepage which also doubles as its landing page. Since search engines value these links, this has enhanced its online exposure.
Use of Brand Names in posts
McDonalds capitalized on the fact that URLs that incorporate search terms enjoy more visibility online to launch its Frozen Strawberry Lemonade brand. Using well titled Facebook posts and optimized tweets, the brand was given a local berthing which later grew to be a regional and global force.
Google+ and Google Places Integration
McDonalds has optimized its Google + page including addresses, phone numbers and other company details. This coupled with its extensive Google places coverage has given it a prime placement within Google where you can search per town and still get the appropriate local results. This has led to expanded visuals and direct interactions.
Creative Content Expansion
Many of the people who frequent McDonald first read about it through either magazines or online platforms. Through its customized content creation, McDonalds has managed to rake in hundreds of thousands of consumers. The content expansion happened through content language customization to cater for the different regions. They have also been careful not to oversell through their content but in a clever manner shepherd the client to the right purchasing point.
SEO and SEM therefore will continue dominating the marketing scene and any company that wants to experience its power should just plug in.
Arif Islam is cofounder of Up Arrow Consulting – A Local SEO Company, operating since 2009 and providing white label services to top agencies from North America and Australia. His company is also providing local SEO services to a good number of small businesses.