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Adding the “L” to Your SEO Strategy

It should come as no surprise that changes to Google’s search engine algorithm can have a significant impact on Canadian businesses and their search engine optimization (SEO) efforts, which is why it is important to stay informed about the changes announced by Google. In case you haven’t heard of Google’s recent algorithm changes, here’s a short recap of a few that are relevant to this topic:

In 2009, Google introduced the “Caffeine” SEO overhaul to integrate social network results into its algorithm. In 2011, it was the “Panda” update that placed an emphasis on weeding out duplicate content. And, most recently in 2013, Google announced the “Hummingbird” overhaul which helps Google return better results when complex questions are entered as search queries.

These changes, along with the growing trend towards mobile search should ensure that SEO is front and centre in the minds of most businesses. In fact, there’s a tremendous opportunity for businesses that tap the power of location-based searches in their overall SEO strategy through Local Search Engine Optimization (LSEO), which involves optimizing your Web presence for local search engine rankings.

The most unique aspect of an LSEO strategy versus traditional SEO is the distinction between “web presence” versus “website.” LSEO takes advantage of Google’s algorithm emphasis for “blended” search engine results that also incorporate non-website characteristics (i.e. user reviews, social media conversations, etc.)

So, with those things in mind, let’s have a look at three activities that can help you boost your local search rankings:

Building an optimized Google+ page
Once you have a high quality website built that’s optimized for traditional SEO and placed within directories, your next goal should be to create a Google+ Local page. When ranking your business, Google takes into consideration the content you have on your Google+ page (i.e. name, location, phone number) and the category you select to define your business (product, or service based). Reviews (native Google+ reviews and third-party reviews on services like Yelp) and engagement (sharing content, links, blogs) also help you increase your search ranking with Google.

Generating quality business reviews
When it comes to local search, one of the most important ranking factors is the quantity, frequency, and quality of business reviews. Today’s online business reviews are akin to traditional word-of-mouth advertising, but many businesses don’t encourage reviews from their customers.

For example, if you own and operate a small coffee shop, you could entice your customers to review your business by posting signage and offering discounts to customers who check-in and provide reviews on websites such as Foursquare and Yelp. Search engines are increasingly looking at “conversations” about businesses on social platforms like Facebook and Twitter, so even short and frequent comments, reviews or check-in tweets can go a long way towards increasing your local search ranking.

Producing specific localized content
One of the benefits of dedicating some of your resources towards local search is the likelihood of having less competition. After all, there are only a fixed number of restaurants, lawyers, and other businesses in your community. We’ve previously discussed the important role consistently published content plays in your SEO strategy, and by creating specific localized content, you separate yourself from your local competition in online searches. For example, an attorney could build content around legal services within a specific region. The purpose is to convince Google that you are the “best lawyer in (location)” by demonstrating localized thought leadership online for your given profession within your town or city.

The bottom line
Developing an LSEO strategy is not difficult but it does require dedication, time, and effort. One of the most useful things you can do throughout the process of developing an LSEO strategy is to regularly search for your business online to see firsthand what customers are seeing and saying about your product or service. You can then use this information (along with the other tips outlined in this post) to help you improve your LSEO efforts and your business as a whole.

Do you already have and frequently use your Google+ local page?  Tell us why or why not?

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