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As 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
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?
The Koozai white paper – Mastering Local Search
Linkdex Geo-Rankings white paper
The last piece of jigsaw puzzle via BigStock