Local SEO is getting a LOT of attention nowadays. As it should. Imagine if you own a local business that attracts leads and prospects every week because they’ve “found” you online and liked what they saw. You’d say, “Sign me up!”, right?
Here to shine the spotlight on this matter is local SEO specialist (and might I add all-around good guy) Ben R. Woodard of Wingspan Marketing.
Ben’s graciously agreed to let us inside his head so we can learn a little more about successful local SEO in 2013. There are some GREAT nuggets of info here – enjoy!
1. Why should small business owners focus on local SEO?
When I started doing SEO in 2007, the SERPs were relatively flat. Meaning, website optimization was the same for any site to get the ranking results you were after. Major changes were expected but at that time I was able to make a few simple changes to the meta data, add some keywords to the content and wait a few weeks. This was true for almost any vertical. I think the natural progression of anyone starting out SEO is to work with as many small local businesses as possible. I was no different.
Fast forward ahead a few years and things have drastically changed for the clients I have built a relationship with. Google now has several different verticals that require us to pay attention to several differing factors when optimizing a site. Local SEO can bring a great ROI but it takes time, just like any marketing effort. The big difference with Local SEO is that time and effort usually increases ROI without having to increase the amount of the budget you are putting in.
2. What are the top mistakes you think people are doing wrong with local SEO?
The biggest mistake I’ve seen is for business owners thinking they have to be just like another business online. The advice of being yourself is true offline and online. Google is searching for distinct relevant content. If one A/C business is doing the same things online as the other A/C businesses in the area, then how is Google to know which is better? Be yourself in your content, design, and methods.
At the core of almost every local business is repeat customers. If you are a local business, you need to be focusing on building relationships with existing customers. Too many times online strategy conversations with local business owners revolve around the idea of getting new business. This isn’t where Google is starting. What is missing from our conversation is “What are you, as a local business, currently doing offline to establish, retain and grow your existing customer base?”
For instance, If you are a resource offline for people to contact about a specific topic, add a blog. Do what comes natural to you as a business and it will be sustainable. When you are able to establish, build and grow relationships online, your results will improve dramatically. You will pick up more reviews, links, and citations by simply being yourself online than any other scheme out there. The hard part is finding ways to implement those tactics in a meaningful and sustainable way.
3. What is the 1 thing you advocate for with SEO, or that you wish people knew about (local) SEO?
SEOs have a bad reputation of assuming the business owner is “doing it all wrong”. They (I’m guilty as well) come in like a storm and try to change the existing business model that works for the community but hasn’t been able to find a foot online. Finding a good SEO is difficult because you need someone who can come alongside your business, not take over your business.
The need for SEO is not to magically push some buttons and show 1000s of visits a month. The need for SEO is to listen to the business model, know what online methods are possible and mix the two. It should just fit. This isn’t easy. My clients are experts in their businesses. My job is to help them relate that online and fit the online marketing methods into their current workflow.
4. What are some misperceptions out there?
A big misperception about SEO is that everyone is the exception. Unrealistic expectations can kill any relationship or project. We all want to be the exception but just because Joe got hit by lightning and lived doesn’t mean you would achieve the same result. Just because a 14 year old is playing in the Masters, doesn’t mean your 14-year-old should be playing there too. The amazing stories that we have become accustom to online have become the rule in our expectations. Everyone wants to have the Facebook story of success.
It’s necessary to have dreams but it shouldn’t be the basis of how we judge the success of an SEO campaign. I mainly hold SEO professionals at fault for this misperception. We want to impress so we tell stories of what worked without sharing what it took to get there or the perfect storm that propelled the success. We never hear about the years of thought, experiences and relationships that were built. We hear about the times when everything finally came together and results finally showed. What Google has done in the last few years is simply make success online more realistic. You have to…dare I say it…do real company stuff online.
5. What success stories have you seen with SEO? (client case studies, personal story, anything you’ve seen out there, etc.)
I don’t have any really crazy stories of success. I’ve had several businesses come to me with little to no presence on the web and within a few short months they are starting to get calls from their website. I think my biggest success stories are the long term relationships I’ve been able to build. Sure, I have several keywords I’ve seen rank well as a direct result of my efforts but I’ve never saved a business from going out of business. Honestly, the ‘success’ I’ve been able to see in my time as an SEO has been because the clients I work with are awesome at what they do.
6. What is important about local SEO in 2013 and what’s no longer relevant?
Just like always, I really think finding a way to add unique content to your website and use some social media in a unique way is going to be critical in 2013. I have a feeling that citations are going to be hit hard just like links were. Don’t get me wrong. Your NAP (Name Address and Phone Number) consistency in the local ecosystem are critical but citation farming is being spammed just like links were. It may not happen in 2013 but playing that citation game will be a waste of time and set you farther behind when Google does make that change.
7. Do you have any good resources where people can learn more about this subject?
I love SEOmoz! They just acquired GetListed.org, David Mihm, late last year and are starting to publish a bunch of great content on Local SEO. There are few others like Mike Blumenthal and Nifty Marketing who are putting out some great content as well but you can find most anyone who is doing great stuff in Local SEO via SEOmoz and its community.
8. Who are you and how did you get into this profession?
I was a youth pastor for a small church in Pensacola, Florida in 2006 when I was asked to help with the website. Things just progressed from there. I think it is mostly a natural progression to go from website edits to Search Engine Optimization but my curiosity really allowed me to dive deeper into SEO. I love looking at raw data and drawing conclusions. I really love seeing a problem and coming up with a solution. That’s what drives me in whatever I do. When I lost my job at the church in 2010 because of the economy, I just began taking on more clients to make ends meet.
As of April 1, I’m the Web Developer for OnlineForLife.org. I’m still doing SEO on the side with several clients and will be managing some aspects of SEO for OnlineForLife.org but my main job description deals with building and maintaining web properties. We’ll be moving to Dallas from Charleston, SC in June. Super excited but have no idea what to expect in Dallas. 🙂
9. How can people connect with you?
Great info, right? What questions or insights do you have about Local SEO? Leave them in the comments field below. And join me in wishing Ben much success in Dallas!