Local SEO can be complex for digital agencies who service brands that have offices across multiple locations. For those SEO newbies out there, it might be worth differentiating between International SEO and Local SEO. When looking at the SERPS, the top three results are sponsored ads followed by the top three organic results (similar to owning property in Camps Bay or Mayfair – as the Monopoly board game reference is universally understood). If relevant to the search query, local results will be listed somewhere within the top 10 results. For the purpose of this article I will be using the example search query: ‘care home in Fareham’ and google.co.uk, as I discuss the different processes embarked upon with Local SEO. Note the red box below: Your International SEO efforts would have you targeting the prime property (Monopoly reference) and your Local SEO efforts, the listings in the red box. Rather than delving into the local ranking factors – whether being foundational or competitive – I have decided to narrow the focus of my post to one of the strategies we as SEO’ers follow and the problems we have faced first hand. Is there ever any joy when the infamous (as if a swear word, I feel I need to whisper it…) “citation building” is mentioned? This is one of the Local SEO efforts which is definitely not for the faint hearted. Now that we have gotten the ‘what’ out of the way, it might be worth discussing the ‘who’. It is in the interest of local business to have a local presence in the organic SERPS, as the search queries for these sorts of services usually have purchase intent. As per the example given above, if the group brand has 11 branches placed throughout the UK, each care home needs tender, loving care for it to be visible in the local search results. Citations are comprised of mentions of your brand’s name, address, and phone number (NAPs). It is best practice to have the quality, quantity & consistency of structured citations on the web. These attributes form part of the top 10 ranking factors. One of the ways to replicate your NAPs on the web is by means of online directories. Best practice would be to have your individual care home brands cited on quality (high domain authority) and relevant (proper category association available) directories. The focus is “consistency” as the NAPs need to be consistent across the three platforms: 1. The NAPs cited on the website 2. The NAPs cited on the Google Business listing (as optimising this goes hand–in-hand with your local SEO efforts) 3. The NAPs placed on all of the online directories. (DMOZ, Yelp, dir.yahoo) I have found that using Royal Mail Postcode Finder comes in handy if there is a slight discrepancy between the address cited on the website versus the one on Google Business. If the postcode finder agrees with the one, it might be worth changing the other in order for all three to be identical.
How many do you build?
This is where adequate forecasting becomes of utmost importance. With limited retainer hours available, it makes sense to not spend all your time on an individual care home or the same amount of time on all 11. You need to determine how many hours you have and which care home needs the most love based on KPIs. To make this process easier you can set up a process doc which contains the following: Once you have prioritised which care home needs the most attention, a list of all domains to which you will be building directory entries needs to be set up. Whitespark is a great tool in which you can drop your care home’s NAPS and watch it retrieve a list of all of the directories you are currently listed on. In addition, it provides you with a list of the brands currently ranking for your key search term (see image below). You are able to export the domains your competitor’s are cited on – see ‘view sources’ in image below. I start by exporting my targeted care home’s citation sources, as well as the citation sources of all its direct competitors (all the brands ranking for: care home in Fareham). The results to ‘care home in Fareham’ in Whitespark: Depending on the results, your next step would differ. If the care home has fewer citations than their competitors you would have to build and edit their current citations. Alternatively, if there’s no drastic difference in citation quantities compared to their competitors, only the current citations would need to be edited to remove any inconsistencies. You could create two separate tabs in your excel working document per care home, one for the current citations (that need to be reviewed) and a second for the opportunity domains that you would use to build citations (exported from competitors).
How to formulate a list of current domains and opportunity domains to build on:
• Export CSV for current citation domains (if there are two unique URLs from the same domain these are duplicate entries). Example: • Export CSV for the domains of all of your competitors • Add a domain formula in the CSV export (deeper level pages of the same domain will not present themselves as being duplicate) =LEFT(A2,IFERROR(FIND(“/”,A2,8)-1,LEN(A2))) • Delete duplicate domains (with the target being on the new domain column added from above formula) • To ensure none of the sites that you are already cited on exist in the opportunity domain list, you could use a Vlookup formula to identify duplicates across the two sheets, and thereafter delete the duplicates in the opportunity domain sheet. Step 1: Reviewing the current citations 1. Start with the first tab of the relevant care home in your working document, reviewing the current citations. 2. Edit listing either by claiming listing or, if not possible, by contacting the site to edit information accordingly. 3. If there are duplicate directory entries, these would need to be deleted (as discussed in the URL example outlined above). It is important to bear in mind that duplicate directory entries on the same domain will negatively impact your rankings, making it imperative to delete any duplicates. Step 2: Building You would then move onto the second tab of the relevant care home (opportunity domain tab). Depending on how many hours you have set aside to build citations you would: • Create directory entries on the domains with the highest DA (nothing a Z to A filter can’t sort out). Then the fun part comes in – rinse and repeat both steps. Move on to the next the next care home in the priority list.
…but the show’s not over yet folks
As the saying goes it ain’t over till the fat lady sings and at this point your next step would be to analyse the results of your efforts after a few weeks or months. You would then need to review the performance goals initially set out in your forecasting process, as this will enable you to identify what your next best step would be. Do remember that you cannot solely rely on citation building as your main Local SEO initiative. There are a number of additional strategies that need to form part of your broader optimisation process. It is best practice to only build citations to quality sites and not to focus on the quantity of the citations that you have. Another interesting fact to bear in mind is that certain citations only have a shelf life of six months This may lead to you having to re-strategise and possibly repeat this process, should your citations no longer be live, and should you drop out of the rankings. Let’s be honest, citation building can be frustrating, especially if you have multi-location branches. However, once you have a good understanding of the goals and the processes involved in implementing this strategy the task becomes much more manageable and easier to execute. Be organised, pay attention to detail, drink all those cups of coffee and wage the battle through citation building. The traffic that you are likely to receive through your local presence makes the grey hairs you’re liable to grow through the process worth it. END…FINALLY…