For the last 11 years I’ve been an owner / investor in local businesses; more specifically home service contracting businesses.
My businesses do quite capturing organic SEO traffic.
Here’s a screenshot of the estimated organic Google traffic to the first local business I started.
Keep in mind…
1. The traffic from SEMRush, is just an estimate but it is good for comparing traffic to competitors and finding who is successful (with SEO) or not. Actual traffic is about 5-7 times higher.
2. The traffic estimate only refers to one ‘type’ of local SEO (more on that below).
Notice the path. There are no sudden spikes, the traffic has happened over years of efforts through peaks and troughs.
That said, I’ve never seen
Types Of Local SEO
Let’s address this; there is..
- The map pack, which shows rich snippets with information about the business.
- The Organic Query Results, which show as basic text listings below the map
This local images shows the results in a local search query. You’ll notice my former business (I sold it in 2020) at the top of all of them)
That’s a long image.
And I cut out of some of it.
This means that few users get passed the adds to the map. And even fewer make it past the map to the classic organic results.
Over the years Google has driven more and more users to paid placement and this has garnered diminishing returns from organic traffic. Something to keep in mind.
The Bullshit SEO Tactics You Hear About
I’ve never seen anything that mesmerizes, mystifies, and otherwise has local business owners chasing a mystical post of gold, that usually isn’t even there, like search engine optimization the concept of free web traffic that turns to business.
This naturally has local business owners going for all kinds of smoke and mirrors, which anything sold as ‘SEO’ really is.
Web 2.0s. Spammy little blog posts on social sites that died before they even started 10 years ago.
Citations. Listing your business in a bajillion directory sites that absolutely nobody goes to, with consistent name and phone number usage of course,
Backlinks. The ones that someone in the east created on blogs that are completely irrelevant to your site.
Click Through Bots. Arguable one ranking factor is how many people click on your listing in a Google search result. If people are scrolling down and clicking on your website, one could assume it is because that is the best result, therefor Google will in theory move it up. I agree with the theory here, but using bots isn’t something that will stand the test of time.
Continuum Transfunctioner 10000. If you’ve seen the movie ‘Dude Where’s My Car?’ from the early 2000’s, you get this. Basically what I am referring to is the name that ‘SEOs’ given anything they’re selling but can’t in practical terms explain what it is. No shortage of that.
Important to note: any of these bullshit tactics may work in the short term, but will ultimately hinder you in the long term.
What Really Gets You Local SEO Rankings
I’ve covered the bullshit. Here’s what really matters.
Before we go into it, I want you to consider how often you’ve seen a website at the top of search results that seems like it just shouldn’t be there. You can find one in nearly every industry.
I’m talking the website that looks crappy, like it is stuck in 2004. The owner seemingly doesn’t car about it. If follow no SEO best practices. And it is at the top of search result.
1. Age of website.
Older websites that have been online do quite well. And when you think about from the perspective of Google, it means the business has done something right to stay around and there is no way of faking it.
2. Branded search traffic
In other words, how many people type the name of the business into Google. This would signal to Google that people in the real world are actively seeking out the business, and therefore if many more people are seeking out this business (relative to the competition) it is probably better. Hence they should direct more people to it.
This is really tough to manipulate as Google can do a pretty good job of detecting which users are real.
One idea I have for increasing branded search is running radio ads that have a call to action of ‘to learn more just type John Doe Plumbing into Google’. Yes you have to pay for this.
But notice many of the companies running radio ads are also doing very well in the search results!
3. User Generated Content Published on Your Google Local Profile
We all know Google reviews matter, but what is even better then reviews? Reviews with pictures!
Not only do reviews look good, but Google can generally detect the location of a photo (if it came from a modern smart phone) and use that for location search attribution.
Not only should you be capturing reviews via an automated system, but encouraging or incentivizing your customer to attache photos with the reviews.
4. Content Published On Your Site.
aka blogging. Regularly publishing content about your business gives Google further content to serve and also shows that your website is being constantly update striving to provide value to users.
As a local business it admittedly can be difficult to say things about yourself. My approach to publishing blog content has been to publish blog posts about our projects, for example why the customer had the project done and chose the options they did.
This content can further be used in the sales / nurturing projects with new customers.
You might be saying “but Corey you just called this bullshit”.
I’m not denying that backlinks to impact search position, but any links you buy or ‘build’ (for those that want to sugar coat it) won’t have a sustainable positive impact on your site.
If you have the opportunity to get a backlink from another website in the community via personal connection (ie chamber of commerce), or from a supplier, go out and take it.
But don’t buy back links or waste your time ($$$) trying to get random backlinks. It is generally a fruitless attempt.
6. Keyword Based Blog Posts.
I wasn’t sure if I was going to include this or not.
Keyword based blog posts, are blogs that are published to satisfy the search intent of specific keywords that get search volume. This identifying low competition keywords and crafting a piece specifically for that.
Doing this consistently will get you traffic.
BUT it does not get you local traffic.
I took this approach in one of my local businesses and made our website into a hub of information our service. We got a ton of traffic and I would say ‘won’ the game of SEO, but it did not turn into businesses.
Instead what happened was internet users across the country viewed us as the free resource and clogged up our phone lines asking questions and frustrating our sales team.
I ultimately removed some of the content.
The reason why you might consider this approach however is…
a. the content does earn backlinks to your site
b. you have someway of monetizing the inquiries.
Going Forward on Local SEO
There’s not short cut and most of the things you can ‘buy’ to improve SEO are just gimmicks.
Rather than focusing on hacking your way through SEO, which is likely to amount to a colossal waste of time as Google actively tries to identify and diminish that, focus on building your brand, publishing content that will your actual customers, and acquiring customers through paid advertising.