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3 Questions to Ask Your Local Search Optimization Specialist

  |  May 22, 2013   |  Comments

How do you make sure that your business shows up when people run searches based on their location?

I'm standing at an intersection in an unfamiliar part of downtown when I realize that I've forgotten to bring a flash drive with me to today's meeting/I'm super thirsty/I should bring my clients some breakfast croissants/fill-in-the-blank.

As I glance around at the tall buildings surrounding me, I know that there's no time to go back to the parking garage, get in my car, and find an office supply store/coffee shop/bakery/whatever store.

So I pull out my phone and do a Google search for businesses nearby that will have what I need.

This type of behavior by users is becoming more and more frequent as we all become accustomed to not having to plan every second of our day out in advance. You can get out the door in the morning with less forethought than ever before because your phone will get directions to wherever you're going as you're pulling out of the driveway. And you're confident that whenever you get hungry, Siri will work with Yelp to find the best reviewed food no matter where you find yourself in the city.

Local search optimization is becoming increasingly important as users rely on their phones and mobile devices to search for information while they're on-the-go. Ad spend on local search alone is projected to leap from $1.2 billion to $9 billion by 2017.

So how do you make sure that your business shows up when people run searches based on their location? You'll want to work with an SEO specialist who understands how best to optimize your site for local search queries.

Here are three questions to consider when you're hiring someone to help specifically with local search:

  1. Do they use white hat, organic search tactics? In the world of search engine optimization there are "white hat" and "black hat" strategies to improving your search rankings. SEO strategists who use white hat techniques employ tactics that focus on creating and distributing high-quality content of value; content that will return desirable results for a long time.

    Think of a black hat strategy as one that cuts corners and can actually destroy your site's chances of appearing in top search results. Search engines punish sites using the types of tactics that are designed to game the system and/or cheat their way to the top of the search results. Many times, these tactics manifest in illicit link building activities that - while potentially effective in the short term - introduce a game of cat and mouse with the search engines that will likely end in negative consequences for your site.

    Getting to the top of the search pile is your goal, but you want to make sure you're getting there the right way or you'll end up paying for it later. Inquiring into tactics and digging for as granular an answer as possible will help you vet out an SEO firm. If "link building" is a part of the offering, investigate the source and nature of the links and ensure that your site is not being put at risk by shady or manipulative tactics. Just as you would with an accountant or an attorney, get to know who you're partnering with to reach your search ranking goals.
  2. Are they both technical and creative? When it comes to local search optimization, a large part of a successful marketing strategy will involve being able to devise creative and innovative site content. You'll want to work with a strategist who understands not only how to research and discover the right keywords for your business, but who also has ideas about how to incorporate those keywords into your site.

    A large part of a successful marketing strategy will involve being able to devise creative and innovative content, so considerable attention should be given to the quality of content on your site. When looking to sign on with a search specialist, find out if they offer content creation services, because unless you already have a copywriter on staff, you'll want to feel comfortable that they'll be able to produce regular, compelling content to keep your site relevant in search rankings.

    In addition, you'll want to feel confident that they're able to produce compelling content that is both visually interesting and well written from a marketing perspective. So if you'll be relying on your SEO specialist for developing content, you'll need to be even more selective in choosing someone to work with, because very few SEO firms have this capability. Most do not employ full-time content creators like graphic designers and copywriters.
  3. Do they use an analytics-based approach for running ROI-focused campaigns around concrete earnings models? The customer journey continues to grow more complex; customers may engage with your brand through multiple distinct media channels, and often over the course of several days. Marketing channels influence the customer at different points in the path to purchase. In light of the complex customer journey, it's important that you're able to track campaign efforts and results in tangible numbers. Ask your SEO strategist how she measures campaign success. Does she keep track of how well each keyword performed? Will you be able to log in to an analytics dashboard and see the numbers for yourself? Will she be providing you with reports that give information about where your site traffic is coming from as a result of each effort?

The forecasted increase in ad spend and common sense observation about consumers' increased use of mobile devices are two big reasons why small- and medium-sized businesses should be focused in on local search optimization. Potential customers are searching for your product/service offering every day. Make sure you're taking advantage of the opportunity by placing yourself in their line of sight when they pull out their phone to "search results nearby."

Image on home page via Shutterstock.

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Aubrey Beck

Aubrey is director of content for Salted Stone, an award-winning boutique digital agency that drives increased revenue for clients by producing extraordinary websites, digital collateral, and search marketing campaigns.

Aubrey specializes in helping businesses engage with their clients and respective audience. She has experience working in a broad range of industries, including technology, e-commerce, licensing, marketing, and publishing.

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