Local SEO: Interview with an Expert

Local SEOLast week, I had the opportunity to interview David Mihm and get his advice on the top 5 things that local businesses must do to be found online. David is a leading expert on local search strategies and local SEO. He was a panelist at a discussion on local SEO at SMX East, titled, “Must-Have Local Search Tactics”. I enjoyed his presentation and was engaged from the the get-go especially since local businesses can gain higher visibility using these SEO strategies.

David is the Director of Local Search Strategy at Moz. His annual Local Search Ranking Factors is the most well known study on local SEO. Every year, local search pundits and the entire SEO community eagerly await this study to determine their local SEO strategy for the year.

David usually presents at SMX and SES conferences. He blogs at DavidMihm.com and at Moz. He is also the co-founder of getlisted.org which is now a part of Moz. For those of you who are new to local SEO, Getlisted.org is a free resource to analyze and optimize your local search listings. David tells me that he and his team are constantly refining it to make it increasingly sophisticated every day.

Me: What are the top 5 things that businesses absolutely must do to optimize for local?

David: I ask this question every year to a panel of about 35 local search experts from around the world. Based on their responses this year, here’s what I’d say:

#1. Directories

Submit your business to as many important local directories as you have time to. You can start at GetListed.org, where we show you how you’re currently listed and/or not listed at all. At a minimum, you should do Google Places for Business, Bing Places, and Yahoo Local, along with Infogroup ExpressUpdateUSA, Acxiom, and Factual. Ensure that your Name, Address, and Phone number (your “NAP”) are accurate, and that you’re listed in as many relevant categories as those sites allow.

#2. NAP Citations in HTML format

List your business’s full NAP information on your website, in HTML format.
It’s critical that Google’s web crawler identifies your website as being associated with the physical location you submitted to Google Places for Business. The best way to do this is to make sure the same information you submitted appears in HTML — especially on your homepage, if you’re a single-location business, or on each location’s contact pages for multi-location businesses.

#3. Customer Reviews

Ask your customers for reviews. Reviews are becoming an increasingly important ranking factor in Local. Incentives for customers that leave reviews are generally frowned upon by search engines, but Yelp is the only one that doesn’t like businesses to ask their customers to review them. So ignore Yelp and focus on more business-friendly sites.

#4. Geographic Keywords in Title Tags

Include basic product/service and geographic keywords in your website’s Title Tags.
These are still the most important on-page elements that Google looks at to determine what kind of business you operate, and what city/town/region/state you serve.

#5. Local Community Engagement

Make sure you engage your local community. Whether that’s through being a member of community organizations like chambers of commerce, neighborhood associations, etc., donating to charities or local schools, hosting fundraisers at your place of business, all of these things lead to:

  1. Shares and mentions of your place of business on blogs and other social media.
  2. Links back to your website. These shares, mentions, and links are like “votes” for your business, and are one of the most important ranking factors in Local Search.

So, there you have it – the top strategies that you should follow so that your customers can easily find you online. Needless to say that these strategies will help you increase your business by getting you more traffic online from customers who can walk in and do business with you.

What about you? Do you have a local SEO tip to share that has worked for you? Please share with us in the comments below.

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Comments

  1. Adi Gaskell says

    Interesting post Gazalla. I’m no seo expert but find it interesting that all of David’s tips are online orientated. Whilst Google is undoubtedly king, if I was looking for my favourite cafe online, I suspect there would be a lot they could do offline to draw my attention to their web presence.

    For instance, a lot of cafes have loyalty cards now that are stamped after each purchase. An obvious place to put a web address etc.

    As I said at the outset, I’m no expert in local seo. Is there much of a crossover between offline and online in the industry?

    • says

      Yes, you are right. There are a number of off-line things that businesses must do in order to optimize their content for search engines and increase the online visibility of their business. David’s mentioned engaging your local community. Being involved in charities, local school events, fundraisers are a combination of activities that would create good PR as well as opportunities for link building from local authority sites. Since SEO is mainly concerned with Search Engine Optimization the bulk of the efforts are online. But then you also have intangibles such as customer reviews which may be posted online but will only happen if the customer has had a good experience with your business. So nowadays, online as well as offline efforts are important. Thanks as always for your feedback.

  2. Adrienne says

    Hi Gazalla,

    I’m not big in SEO either and I of course don’t have a local business but I did find this interesting. I can always learn more that’s for sure.

    I was reading another post just a few minutes ago about local businesses and it never occurred to me that I should write a review after I’ve visited their establishment. I mean I would want my online friends to say nice things about me after visiting my blog so why wouldn’t I do that for local businesses. I guess since I’m online I immediately think about it but when I’m offline I don’t.

    Thanks for doing this interview and sounds like you definitely have an expert among us in this area.

    ~Adrienne

    • Gazalla says

      Yes, David’s an expert and I’m grateful that he decided to share his knowledge with us – I mean with my blog’s audience, people like you who regularly come and read my blog, give me feedback and make it easier for me to know what to blog about. So thanks to him and thanks to you as well:) Keep visiting.

  3. Frederic Gonzalo says

    Great stuff, Gazalla. I particularly like his comment about Yelp, which he seems to not recommend. While I can understand his point of view, it might be risky advice for restaurant owners and hoteliers, since Yelp gets a lot of traffic and eyeballs, so it’s important for a property manager to manage its online presence there.
    I agree fully with everything else, though :-)
    Cheers,

    • Gazalla says

      Yes, I’m a bit confused by that as well. I should probably ask David to clarify. I think that he means that you can write a review if you are happy with a business but it’s frowned upon if you ask a customer to write a review. Although, how would Yelp know? Thanks for bringing this up.

  4. Carol Lynn says

    Great points. SEO is such a tough game these days (as a few of my rants on the subject can attest….) that when you can grab an advantage you really have to do it. Businesses that don’t have a Google Places page at this point are just asking to be knocked out. It’s like authorship for bloggers. Five minutes, just do it. I’ve heard mixed advice about getting reviews. While they can be good, I’ve also read that getting too many good reviews can actually be bad. Go figure. Especially if you get too many good ones at once. I suppose it goes to prove the point that it’s all about marketing, right? You can be strategic and smart, get drip reviews and be careful, or do the quick-and-dirty route and offer some mass incentive to your customers to provide reviews and just cross your fingers.

    • says

      I agree, Carol Lynn, SEO is tough. Google Places for local businesses and Google authorship for marketers are 2 essentials – making it all about Google:) I understand that Google and other search engines are trying to cut down on spam but what if I was a business that received only good reviews? or is there no such thing? Thanks for your feedback.

  5. toni langdon says

    Great article Gazella! Thanks for sharing! I agree with your comments above about Yelp and I also wonder why he says to ignore it. I wonder what are the more business friendly sites for reviews?

    • says

      Thanks for your feedback, Toni. I’m going to pose this question to David by universal demand:) Seriously though, I think that he meant use every other site such as Google Places, Yahoo, Bing – any site that allows you to leave reviews. Keep visiting:)