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Optimizing Your Content and SEO for Local Impact – Ana Raynes // Simplified Impact

Episode Overview: Different methods exist to optimize content for local SEO that can both maximize local impact and significantly expand your brand’s reach. Join host Ben as he speaks with Ana Raynes, a digital marketing expert from Simplified Impact, to talk about the best methods to optimize your content for local SEO and how social media and influencers can significantly expand a brand’s local reach.

Summary

  • Competitive businesses like legal firms excel best when they optimize content for the cities they operate in, not statewide.
  • Carefully monitoring Google My Business pages is vital to the success of local businesses as to avoid being flagged by Google for potential errors.
  • Linking properly using anchor text that utilizes the city or expanded area are crucial components in the content you create for landing pages to best optimize for local search.

GUESTS & RESOURCES

Ben:                 Welcome to the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host, Benjamin Shapiro, and today we’re going to be discussing what you need to know about optimizing SEO for local business impact. Joining us today is Ana Raynes who is the founder and CEO of Simplified Impact, which is a digital marketing agency for small businesses that empowers businesses to feel confident in executing digital strategies and locally focused marketing campaigns. And today, Ana and I are going to be talking about optimizing your content for local SEO impact.

Ben:                 Okay. On with the show. Here’s my conversation with Ana Raynes, founder and CEO of Simplified Impact.

Ben:                 Ana, welcome to the Voices of Search podcast.

Ana:                 Hi, thank you. Thanks for having me.

Ben:                 Pleasure to have you on the show. Excited to talk to you, even though it’s obviously challenging times in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak. First and foremost, are you taking care of yourself and have you been washing your hands?

Ana:                 Yes, yes, absolutely.

Ben:                 Our public service announcement ever since the corona outbreak started, every episode we’re recording, I’m telling people to wash their hands. I’m sure that you’re doing a great job. Outside of good hygiene, I’m sure you’re also scrubbing pages and looking for ways to help local businesses improve their SEO. It’s a changing landscape as we speak. Let’s start off with just the foundation of local SEO. Tell me a little bit about your business, your practice, and how do you view the basic blocking and tackling of optimizing business for your client’s local SEO efforts?

Ana:                 So, obviously, we do an audit and look at how they’re ranking, we look at their Google My Business first and foremost, and then we’re looking at all the other Google products, Google Analytics and Google search console. But a lot it does happen in Google My Business and how they’re positioning, how they’re coming up for those key terms that utilize either zip, town, city, state. We have found that city is the most where you’re going to find your bread and butter. So, optimizing for the city rather than the state is where we find that our clients really are gaining those leads, having that traction, especially with some clients like legal, or where things are more competitive, you have more of that kind in bigger cities, so just something that we look at. A lot of times what we find when we take something over is that the account has been optimized, but locally, but thinking more on a statewide or a countywide or just a little bit wider, but the more granular we can get, the more fruitful that optimization is.

Ben:                 So, it brings up a good point. Obviously, there are different classes of business and local means different things to different people. There is the local, let’s call it, mom and pop shop who is thinking about, “I want to sell sushi in Burlingame, California,” and that’s sort of a micro version of local, maybe you get down even to the neighborhood in some cases. And then there are businesses who are thinking about a larger territory, your countywide, sometimes it’s state and even nationally. For businesses who are multi-location or thinking about expanding to cover a larger geography, when you’re thinking about marketing, the city being the most important thing, how are you able to cover multiple cities if you’re only based in one place?

Ana:                 So, we definitely do a lot of optimization with different landing pages, and that’s a really good question because it really is a no-no to have the Google My Business set up for a location that doesn’t exist, so it depends. If you have offices there or you have a location in that, like a physical location, yes, you can optimize, you can set up a Google My Business page. But what some people will do, and I actually went to a conference where people were talking about this, they will set up a Google My Business account to like a mailbox or … legit, a corner.

Ben:                 A P.O. box.

Ana:                 Yeah, P.O. box, yes, that’s not good to do. But even just random places that aren’t even somewhere where you would set up a business. So yeah, you just have to be mindful that Google will find that.

Ana:                 And I can tell you, I had a client who was flagged for having a Google My Business violation, and their page was taken down pretty much overnight and it was flagged. They didn’t really give us a reason why. The biggest violation was that we had added too many people to the Google My Business page, which is weird. I had read somewhere else that just from moving some of the people would get the violation cleaned up, which it did. And I can tell you that all traffic to the site sees 100%. So, really taking your Google My Business page seriously, knowing that as a local business, you must be checking all the time and you cannot allow that to have any kind of … Get flagged or anything seen as wrong by Google. And people try, they really try to do like, “Oh, I’m sure you can get away with this here,” and it is detrimental to the business. I mean, it hurt her a lot, this one client. Yeah.

Ben:                 So, obviously, you want to play within the rules, and like SEOs, we’ve done a series on gray hat SEO, it’s white hat until proven to be black hat. Obviously, SEOs are always going to be pushing the boundaries to try to optimize their sites. When you’re running multiple locations, you actually have to have a location.

Ana:                 Yes.

Ben:                 That seems pretty obvious. When you are a local business and you’re trying to expand your territory to other cities without actually saying, “Oh, I’m in Burlingame and I want to have a presence in San Mateo because I have a service offering that will travel there,” let’s say I’m a delivery service or something along those lines, are there best practices for you to optimize your coverage area?

Ana:                 Yeah. I would say just really through content. That’s where content really comes in, and having those landing pages, and creating pages that really speak to that audience, and linking properly through using the anchor text that uses the city or the expanded area. Just want to be careful of not over optimizing, because then that again is going to get you in trouble, but I feel like in those cases, the best thing to do is really the content. You can expand some of your coverage area through your Google My Business account. You can’t just create a site for that page. So, it’s different. So, when you have your Google My Business page, you can optimize and say, “Okay, include these territories, this city, this area and make your coverage a little bit bigger,” but you just can’t set up an individual page if you don’t have a physical location inside of that San Mateo versus the other area in California.

Ana:                 So, you would just really have to be careful and understand not get too gray hat because you will get caught. I think some of the biggest changes in SEO are people are getting more savvy but Google is also coming down a lot harder. Like I said, this was just this year, and Google’s rolling out more local business algorithms that are catching these things. So, where before you could get away with a little bit more, I don’t think that’s the future of local. I think Google is really paying attention and it’s better just to play within the guidelines, is my suggestion.

Ben:                 As you think about national businesses who want to show up in local listings, let’s say there’s a … I don’t know, a Ford, the car manufacturer, and obviously they have dealerships in some towns, but they want to have a national presence. You already mentioned content as one tool outside of the actual Google My Business dropping a pin on the map. What are some of the other ways that larger businesses can still have a local presence even if they don’t have a physical local presence?

Ana:                 So, if there is no physical presence and they’ve really expanded with content and have really created those content pages, the next thing that we would do is really go through social media and really have a local tactic there, either by having local influencers, those micro influencers and creating that conversation. I think social is the next best thing where you’re going to really create more of a local conversation and really engage the local people, draw them into your site through your socials to hear the conversation and what you have to say on a local micro level. Social and influencers are really going to help with that without getting you, again, in trouble with any other gray or even black hat things that you could be doing.

Ben:                 So, it sounds like in terms of optimizing for local, you have to strategically place your pin wherever you have a physical location. You can adjust your service area, and that’s one way to sort of optimize and spread the reach of your visibility, but it really comes down to when you don’t have a physical presence at a place that you want to serve or use local marketing tactics, it’s really a content game or you need to expand outside of just traditional SEO. When you talk about creating the content that is locally focused, we’ll use the Ford dealership as an example, what is the type of content that you’re creating? Are you just creating a Ford motor company, Burlingame, California page? Are you writing articles about how Ford serves the local area? Talk to me about how you think about local content optimization for larger businesses that are locally focused.

Ana:                 Yeah. I mean, it really needs to serve that population, and it needs to serve … Every area is different, every area, every city has its own nuances, even though they’re going to have a lot of similarities. So, to take a content page and just duplicate it, change some of the keywords, maybe the first paragraph is something that I’ve heard before. That’s really not serving anyone and it can be frustrating as a consumer to say, what the interest point was, perhaps a different county, a different area, and you just start to see this repetitive content that’s really not serving at all. I would say you really have to invest in the type of content that you are creating.

Ana:                 So yes, of course, you’re going to optimize for zip, you’re going to optimize for the town, but also what are surrounding restaurants? What are the nuances? What is it about that local area that makes it unique and how do you engage in that conversation through content without getting too far off from your brand? So, you’re not going to start like … I don’t know. I mean, like a calendar. Well, it depends. Actually, there’s a 55 plus community that we do serve, one of my clients, and they have communities in different areas of New York. So, one of the things that we do is we do engage with the different businesses in town to figure out what are the calendars, what are the happenings, what is that we can write about. We do some of the local people guest blog and create guest content for us. So, it’s really authentic and it doesn’t have this very SEO-ish type of, “Okay, add the zip, add the town, change the first paragraph,” done and done like that. It doesn’t serve anyone and it just really, in the long run, isn’t going to help your business.

Ben:                 I have a friend who runs a real estate business here in the town that I grew up in and he’s done a wonderful job building marketing assets that provide a lot of utility. And the real estate game is a little different. Part of what you have to do there is sell the neighborhood, and he has come up with pages that describe each neighborhood, providers, vendors, a lot of listicle type content that’s helping drive SEO visibility to him as an expert in the town itself, and then offering real estate services for anybody who is researching the town. I think that’s a way where you can provide a lot of value. You really do need to think about the benefit that you’re providing in terms of the content you’re creating. The Ford dealership, maybe it is best road trips in the San Francisco peninsula or Burlingame, California is an article that you can write to then drive people to the website and eventually get them on to the Ford properties.

Ben:                 And I think that gets us into what our next conversation is going to be, which is about turning local SEO visibility into leads. So, that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Ana Raynes, founder of Simplified Impact. We’d love to continue this conversation with you, so if you’re interested in contacting Ana, you can find a link to her LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can contact her on Twitter. Her handle is @StylinAna, S-T-Y-L-I-N-A-N-A, or you could visit her company’s website, which is simplifiedimpact.com.

Ben:                 Just one link in our show notes I’d like to tell you about. If you didn’t have a chance to take notes while you were listening to this podcast, head over to voicesofsearch.com where we have summaries of all of our episodes, contact information for our guests. You can also send us your topic suggestions or your SEO questions, you can even apply to be a guest on the Voices of Search podcast. Of course, you can always reach out on social media. Our handle is @voicesofsearch on Twitter, and my personal handle is @benjshap, B-E-N-J-S-H-A-P. and if you haven’t subscribed yet and you want a daily stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, in addition to part two of my conversation with Ana Raynes, founder of Simplified Impact, where we’re going to talk about converting your SEO visibility into leads, we’re going to publish an episode every day during the work week. So, hit the subscribe button in your podcast app and we’ll be back in your feed soon.

Ben:                 All right. That’s it for today, but until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.