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Location, Location, Location – Geo-Rankings And Local SEO Recommendations

Graeme Benge

by Graeme Benge on 13th August 2012

jigsaw-puzzleAs Linkdex roll out functionality to help answer their self-coined Geo-variance conundrum, I look at the importance Geo-rankings are likely to have for SEO work and make some recommendations on local SEO strategy in the UK.

In a year where algorithm changes have targeted quality of content and bad links, location has bubbled away as another signal search engines are using to better serve results. The worst kept secret in the business is the importance of a business having a Google+ presence with an optimised profile and Places page. Meanwhile, Bing has got into bed with Foursquare, dialling up the social contribution to the search results Bing provides with tips and recommendations displayed in the right hand sidebar.

Ranking click through rate (the % of clicks position 1 achieves etc…) demands that notice be taken of the findings in the Linkdex white paper accompanying the launch of Geo-Rankings. Here’s a snippet;

“According to Linkdex data, on average 37% of clicks will go to the site in first position of the natural listings. If a search marketer takes a #1 ranking at face value, when in fact the site ranks at #2 across half the country (picking up only 17% of the natural search traffic), the lower ranking is reducing traffic by a third.” Source – Linkdex Geo Ranking White paper

When is a ranking not a ranking? 

The conundrum here is defined as Geo-variance. In layman’s terms, if I were to search for a Gibson Flying V (if you’re reading Gibson, happy to review one in return for a freebie) and specify that I want pages displayed from Southampton only, the ranking of a URL can now on average differ by four places to a search with no specified geography.

So does geo-variance mark the end of rankings as a key measure of a site’s performance?

Perhaps, but not entirely. Keyword performance or rankings now becomes less a measure of a site’s success and more of an analytic there to guide webmaster strategy in the same way. The challenge for SEOs is going to be the change in client understanding. Conversions and traffic remain the top markers of a business site’s performance and this is what SEOs need to put across most of all.

It’s been suggested that all of this is a much of a muchness for national networks. This seems blinkered as there is clearly a risk of missing opportunities not investing in local markets. Franchises, bricks and mortar chains as well as virtual businesses can’t ignore the data any more as this will be the opportunity for the SME’s to eat away at market share by playing to their local strengths.

But for businesses serving the locality, the importance of geo-rankings is massive. At local level there are high value terms with significant local performance differences crying out for optimisation.

 

So my recommendations for a local strategy are; 

Keyword research: Look for terms delivering manageable local volume on a monthly basis and analyse that against the number of pages containing the term as an exact match. The sweet spot will be lots of search volume and few competing sites.

Linkdex’s Geo-rankings will come into it’s own here. The platform allows you to rank 30 of your keywords across 10 locations (I would recommend including a non specified or national search amongst this to allow you to benchmark regional versus local).

My first go showed that for 22 keywords across 10 locations (including a national search) the average difference in positions was 3.6 so not far off LInkdex’s own study of 2000 keywords across 10 UK locations. The highest single keyword variation though was 14 which has easily focussed my attention!

Consider also what data advanced segments in Google Analytics might offer you. For starters you have the ability to drill down to county/city/post code level when looking at your Audience data.

Landing pages: Create pages incorporating a location in the content as well as the Meta data. It may be that the keyword opportunities that exist locally are more long tail by nature. If so this should be better qualified traffic so ensure you have clear goals set up in Google Analytics so you can target conversions from the visits you’re attracting i.e. completing a contact form or even an online quote or sale.

Internal links: Clever use of sidebar links or even body text links can drive visitors to bespoke regional pages from the non region specific pages of a site.

Link bulding: Build the types of links that are suitable for a business that is looking to promote itself. Avoid random link directories and instead favour resources used by searchers looking for local services. Support the page content by building links to regional online properties.

Here’s a starting point

  • Set yourself up a Google+ page for your business – look at what the profile allows you to customise and optimise this with your most important keywords and links back to your site.
  • Create a  Google+ Places profile incorporating the keywords you’re targeting regionally as well as links back to your regional landing page(s)
  • Yell.com is still a powerful resource worth setting a profile up on
  • Create profiles regionally optimised on the following local resources; Local Search 24ESI, UK Local SearchCity Visitor, Classifieds, UK Classifieds and Tipped

Finally…Humanise

Well, not finally, as I’d put this at the heart of a business’ approach to building worthwhile content. Seek out your local fans or previously delighted customers. Build reviews via Google reviews and citations from other review sites. I would look at what your competitors have here as this could either be a quick win or it could reveal where you need to be featuring testimonials of your great product or service. Harvest keywords from those reviews (I’m obsessed with finding new keywords). This can lead to great ideas for Title tags and other Meta data.

I’d be interested to know to what extent local SEO as a strategy figures in online marketing plans? What do people think about Linkdex’s new functionality? Are there any other tools out there serving up great local search data?

 

Further Reading:

The Koozai white paper – Mastering Local Search

Linkdex Geo-Rankings white paper

Image Source

The last piece of jigsaw puzzle via BigStock

Graeme Benge

Graeme Benge

With five years background in Travel, Graeme has built up strong commercial experience alongside online and offline marketing skills working with a variety of Travel Agents and Cruise Specialists. A passionate advocate of SEO and Social Media, Graeme has a strong interest in ROI and analytics in order to deliver the best level of returns.

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12 Comments

  • Steve Ollington 13th August 2012

    “As Linkdex role out functionality” <– I could be wrong, but should that not be "roll out"?

    :)

    Reply to this comment

  • Graeme Benge

    Graeme Benge 13th August 2012

    Good spot Steve, it shall be corrected forthwith.

    Reply to this comment

  • Brijesh 13th August 2012

    Fantastic post. My client ask me to send the ranking report, but I was not able to explain him that its not possible to find exact rank from other countries. Google’s spam detection algo is now very strong and any software stop working after checking few keywords. The ranking is also varies from software to software. So, its also difficult to find correct one.

    Reply to this comment

  • Graeme Benge

    Graeme Benge 13th August 2012

    Thanks Brijesh, geo-rankings will certainly test our ability to convey the concept effectively and no doubt there will be new ranking software that will develop to satisfy the need.

    But with algorithm updates being so fluid, it is the metric to get obsessed by…?

    Reply to this comment

  • Graeme Benge

    Graeme Benge 13th August 2012

    *apologies*…should read “is it (rankings) the metric to be obsessed with…?

    Reply to this comment

  • Rick Noel 14th August 2012

    Some solid advice Graeme on geo rankings, their effect on traffic and SEO recommendations to postion for success. For the US, the regionally optimized local resources are different, but the principles are the same. I am always change location in Google to see how websites rank for their primary keywords based on where those searches orginate. For some businesses, who deliver in person services, local is everything. This post was my first exposure to Linkdex. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply to this comment

  • Graeme Benge

    Graeme Benge 14th August 2012

    No problem Rick, thanks for the comment. I’d be very interested in a U.S study on geo-variances given the land mass as well as the different types of business models out there.
    I think that in some respects this move is a great leveller for SME’s.

    Reply to this comment

  • Andrew 15th August 2012

    a few of your uk local resource links are missing http:// prefix there graeme… that said, great post and also have to say I’m liking the design of your site! :)

    Reply to this comment

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