For the September Philadelphia SEO Grail Meetup, we had two excellent presentations that offered insights that everyone can use. To start, Ian Howells from True Action Network presented an analysis of click-through for search engine results that achieve a first page ranking. To conclude the evening, member Mike King offered a Philly-centric look at local SEO that offered some solid tips that will help businesses and individuals alike maximize their performance in the local SERPs.
Search Click Through Rates
There has always been some speculation about just how much traffic the various search engine positions deliver and Ian provided a thought provoking analysis. Using anonymized traffic data for over 310 million impressions for large, ecommerce clients including both organic and paid search, he clarified current estimations based on the click through data leaked in 2006 from AOL. Here are several of the big takeaways:
#1 Position is Less Valuable – In short, the value of the first search engine result has declined. While hypothesized that this could be due to the inclusion of vertical search results (video, google places, etc…), the CTR has decreased by more than 30%
Total CTR Has Increased – As counter-intuitive as it may be, the CTR for first page results has actually increased since 2006. Moving from 49% to 53%, it’s clear that users are less likely to move off of the first page in search of an answer to their query.
Grabbing Real Estate is Important – With positions #2 – 5 increasing in CTR by at least 50%, it’s clear that occupying a larger number of those positions will result in more traffic. Therefore it makes sense to pursue multiple positions rather than fixate on the ranking # 1 for a given term.
In closing, this was an excellent presentation that can help everyone decide on the best strategies to pursue. If you’d like to dig into the details you can get a PDF of the presentation here: Search Click Through Rates
Put Your Business on the Map with Local Search
Local search has received a lot of attention recently and there’s no wonder why. The vast majority of businesses operate in a tightly defined region and it only makes sense to focus on those individuals or other businesses searching for a provider in that area. Thankfully Mike King offered some of his expertise and guidance in this area based on experiences that he’s had working with Philadelphia area businesses.
Frankly there’s too much good information in Mike’s presentation to cover it all, but I’ll attempt to hit what I think are some of the keys. If you want more, you can download Mike King’s presentation here: Put Your business on the Map with Local Search
On-Page Optimization for Local
There are relatively few areas upon which we have total control, so it only makes sense to start with on-page factors. While all best practices apply, there are several identified as being particularly important:
Keyword Research – Geotargeted keyword research using tools like Google Insights, Trends and the Adwords Keyword Tool should help identify productive keywords in your region that should be productive.
Maximize Use of Geotargeted Terms – Consistently use geotargeted terms in content, file names, anchor text and alt tags. This should include targeted regions, towns and cities that are crawlable. Moreover, include the NAP (Name, Address & Phone Number) of your business throughout your site and it is critical that this is consistent not only across your site, but also with local citations, Google Places pages, etc…
Create Rich Metadata – You can get an edge over your competition by including rich metadata that describe your pages in greater detail. This can be achieved by creating & submitting a GeoSitemap to Google Webmaster tools, as well as adding microformat data that adheres to the Local Business category of Schema.org.
Create Targeted Landing Pages – If you have multiple locations or have a wide service area, you should create a targeted landing page for each area. Make sure to include a crawlable NAP.
Off-Page Optimization for Local
Once the more controllable factors have been addressed, it’s now time to look at those off-page factors that can have a big impact on your ability to rank for local search queries. Here are the big points:
Claim & Complete Listings – There are a number of local business listings including important local pages like Google Places, Yahoo Local, Bing Local Yelp and others not to mention that both drive traffic to your website and act as citations for search engine ranking results. Claim these listings to ensure that they are accurate and no one else can edit them. Furthermore, make sure complete listings are submitted and ensure that all information is consistent with that found on your website.
Get Local Citations – In addition to the more popular online destinations previously mentioned, there are a wide range of additional local business directories that can strengthen your local SEO performance. Sites like SuperPages, DexKnows and Yellowbook are just a few examples. In addition, it can be helpful to review what your competition is doing and reverse engineer their approach. Once again, make sure that all submitted information is consistent with that on your website.
Encourage Reviews – Once accounts for your business have been established on various platforms, you should pursue reviews from your customers. While you may get greater benefit from more local sites like a PhiladelphiaRestaurants.com versus Google Places, the more reviews the better. Furthermore, it may be worthwhile to offer a premium to each customer the posts a review.
Local Link Building – That’s right, there’s no getting away from building links to your site, however these should be from local sources and ideally use anchor text for your targeted location.
Participate in Social Media – Many businesses don’t participate in social media, however establishing accounts and building a presence will improve your local SEO performance. Using a service like Knowem http://knowem.com/ can help establish accounts quickly; afterward, using Google Alerts, Social Mention and Twitter Search can help you participate in any conversations about your business.
Mike’s Pro Tips
Mike offered a few of his personal favorite tips that he’s found especially useful when working with local businesses:
Build Service Area Pages – Although building locally targeted landing pages was previously mentioned, this takes it a step further. For each targeted area, build a page that includes a substantial amount of location based content that sends the search engines a strong message about the target area. There were many different approaches discussed, but the use of local news, events and weather information using RSS feeds can have a dramatic impact.
Grease the Review Wheel - Since obtaining reviews can be so important, it’s been found that segmenting your mailing list by email provider can break down the barriers to obtaining reviews. For example, users with a Hotmail address should be directed to Bing Local, Gmail users to Google Places, etc… This eliminates the necessity to register and makes it easier for users to offer a review without having to register for a new service.
In closing, this is just a summary of the presentations made at the Philadelphia SEO Grail Meetup and I encourage you to obtain the individual presentations:
Moreover, please consider joining the SEO Grail Philadelphia Meetup to get most out of presentations like these in the future.