Local SEO Services in St. Louis and 2015 Resolutions

As 2015 is now in full swing, it’s time to really look forward into the year and discuss marketing plans.

David Mihm, the local search wizard at Moz, just released the annual Local Search Ranking Factors survey, which helps give local marketers like me more insight into which ranking factors matter the most.

The survey shows a definite shift toward more traditional web ranking factors. Last year’s Local Search Ranking Factors survey had Google Places and Citations weighted heavily, but this year’s study shows that on-site signals and links are the most powerful factors.

This shift is consistent with Google’s recent local ranking algorithm update, Pigeon. Many Local SEOs reported they weren’t hit by Pigeon – because they took a more wholesome approach to local SEO, it’s likely their sites simply had more authority to begin with.

The most important point we try to hammer home to potential clients is that you can’t fool the nerds at Google. Everything you do, both on and off site, should be working toward the end goal of making your user experience awesome… not trying to fool Google into placing you higher on search results pages. Besides, web visitors that don’t convert because their experiences are sub-optimal aren’t worth much, are they?

So, taking what we’ve been able to figure out about the Pigeon update and adding in the results from the 2014 Local Search Ranking Factors survey, these are two very simple tips to help you with Local Search success in 2015:

    1) Be Really Awesome
    2) Earn Really Awesome Links

Yes, it’s that simple… but at the same time, it’s NOT really easy for most local businesses. Take a look at your competitors in your vertical – nearly every website has the same or similar content, and most sites don’t have that many inbound links.

Okay, So How Are You Supposed To Be Awesome using Local SEO Services?

The best thing you can do for Local Search success in 2015 is to take all the energy you put into trying to fool Google and instead use that energy to make your site better.
Take a long, hard look at your site and look at your competitors’ sites. What can you do to be better? You know that your potential customers will be looking at multiple sites, so make your site the best in your vertical.

Make sure you’re avoiding these common pitfalls – they’re all basic, but we still see far too many websites tripping up on these:

No Home Page Content. You have heard us talk about web content for 6 years now. Your customers (and thus the search engines) need to know what you’re all about. If your home page has a slider or banner or just a few sentences, you need to add more useful content immediately.

Only A Few Sentences On A Page. Once again, your customers (and the search engines) are checking your website for useful, relevant information. If you offer a product or service, don’t just say, “We sell X, call us today for more info!” Today’s shoppers want immediate gratification when it comes to research and comparison shopping, so you need to pack every page with useful content.

Spamming Keywords. You would think that word had gotten out by now, but far too many websites rely on this (extraordinarily) outdated tactic. You’re not going to rank well everywhere in your state simply because you listed out 100 various cities separated by commas on your home page. Does that huge list of cities provide useful information for customers? No. Does it help you rank in Google? Definitely not. Get rid of the junk and populate your site with relevant, informative content instead. It’s not just about SEO, it’s about SALES CONVERSIONS, this keyword spam just turns people off.

Awful Title Tags. You’ve got about 500 pixels of width for your title tags; anything longer will be truncated when it’s displayed in search results. The title tag should summarize the page – it shouldn’t be a huge chunk of keywords you’re trying to rank for. Put your primary keyword phrase at the beginning and your business name at the end. If you’ve got 100 keywords stuffed into your title tag, you just look desperate.

Don’t Forget Your Local Optimization

With on-site signals now carrying so much weight, it’s more important than ever to have your local optimization ducks in a row. It won’t do you any good to bang out a ton of citations if your site doesn’t include the local signals that Google expects it to have. Our Local SEO Services are all about addressing this increasingly important topic.

Again, these are old-school basics, but we hardly see any websites correctly optimizing for Local areas:

– Include City/ST in your title tag. Remember, the title tag is incredibly important for optimization, and including your city and state is an important signal for local relevancy.
– Include City/ST in your H1 heading. It doesn’t have to be the entire heading in and of itself — what’s important here is to include your city and state in the page heading to further show local relevancy.
– Include City/ST in your content. Far too many sites forget to include City/ST information inside the site content. Optimizing for local search won’t work unless you’re talking about your local area in your content.
– Include City/ST in your alt text on images. It’s amazing how many times we see sites that don’t include alt text. Remember, Google can’t see what’s in your images, so alt text helps provide a better understanding of your page content. –  – Including City/ST information can really help boost local relevancy.
– Include City/ST in your URL. If you’ve got the ability to edit your URL structure, try to include your city and state information in your URLs. Again, this can go a long way toward providing a stronger local signal to both customers and Google.

(Important Note: if you’re going to update your URLs, don’t forget to set up 301 redirects so that the old address is permanently pointed to the new one.)

These are all just specific tactics to help with the main goal: to make your site more awesome. Stop thinking about how to make your website rank, and start thinking about how to make your site the best in your niche. That’s how you’re going  to rank better and convert more visitors. Isn’t that the goal?

If you’re looking to connect with your awaiting audience thorough Local SEO services in St. Louis and elsewhere, give Hat Trick Associates a call today at (314) 494-3494 or send me an email directly, at: jhaynes@hattrickassociates.com.