To further discuss local search optimization, I’ve reached out to and begun a dialogue on the topic with Michael Dorausch. He’s President and Founder of Planet Chiropractic, an online resource developed to serve chiropractors and interested parties. Michael’s reputation in the online search community is not for his chiropractic skills, but rather for his ability to drive traffic to websites by means of organic SEO rankings, social media, and consistent article creation.
Elise Redlin-Cook: Google recently made massive change to their algorithm, the Panda update. Would you like to start by discussing what this means to the average website seeking rankings?
Michael Dorausch: As we’ve typically seen with any Google update, there are changes that are good for some websites, and bad for others. The tricky part in this, is how the rankings affect your site, versus the rest of those in your space. If Google’s vulnerabilities were a strong part of your SEO strategy, then you likely have some significant adjustments to make, but you should already know that.
For the average website seeking rankings, I would continue to stay on focus, hopefully doing what’s already been working for you. Personally, I find the more that we draw our attention away from what we are trying to do (build traffic, attract new clients, etc.), the more we lose focus. It’s important to know what updates are taking place and how they may affect our sites (making strategic adjustments when necessary), but the average website has more important things to be focused on, than a single algorithmic update.
Elise: I couldn’t agree more! So, what are the most important steps a webmaster should take to ensure a website is properly optimized for search?
Mike: I think the single most important step is to have webmaster/SEO friends that are smarter than you. Ones that and consistently attending SEO conferences and reading SEO/Webmaster websites. I have visited forums like Webmasterworld.com for years, and I’ve gotten some of the greatest bits of information, from people I’ve sometimes never even met in person. A cookie-cutter “search engine optimized” approach is not going to work for all sites. Build your playbook, keep note of what works/what doesn’t, and keep moving forward. It’s like having properly optimized soil to grow fruit, you have to be prepared to shift with the changing climate, consistently adapting to external forces.
Elise: When auditing a website for local search optimization, what are the most common problems that you encounter?
Mike: There’s the really bad stuff that pretty much everyone has seen, like Flash home page design, photographs used for address data, and sites so bloated that they take forever to load. The most common problems I find (that get my attention ) are a lack of congruency with address and phone data. Address data should be easily indexable, and phone numbers should be in a place where users can spot them quickly, especially if the local search site relies on conversions that require a telephone call (we too often overlook that people still pick up phones and call businesses).
Besides proper formatting of location and telephone information, I see far too much scraped content (or boilerplate content) appearing on sites intended to attract local visitors. In most cases I’ve seen, the resulting poor content, is a result of poor planning. Creating content isn’t just using plug-ins and pulling RSS feeds, there should be a well thought out content building strategy, with actionable steps that are achievable and in the site owners time and budget restrictions.
Elise: Great advice. When it comes to local search, what are the most important local search sites that a business should get listed on today?
Mike: I’m going to stay away from mentioning the big names that everybody knows and say study your niche. There are massive links and citations to be had for those that work to earn them. It’s doing the extra work that’s going to get your site standing out from the crowd. Do the research to discover the authority domains in your industry, as well as the authority names in the locations you are most interested in targeting, and take action to get links/citations from as many quality sources as possible. To ensure you are listed among the major sites, check out getlisted.org.
Elise: Do you think it’s worth optimizing content for local terms within social media sites?
Human behavior is the thing we fail to study the most, and in my opinion, it’s the most valuable. Do not neglect the opportunity to get out and visit popular destinations in your own community. That’s where local search becomes real.
Mike: I do think it’s worth optimizing content for local terms. Not only should the site/s be optimized for local terms, I’d advise ‘local search terms’ to be part of any local businesses social media strategy. There is a terrific opportunity here to also be replicating a sites business address and/or phone number in social media channels. Most of us include location information when we engage in social media, there’s no reason in my opinion why that information shouldn’t be optimized to the best of our abilities.
Elise: So, what are some of your favorite tools for use in local search marketing practices?
Mike: When you mention favorite tools I think most people think of the ones that can be found online, but for local search marketing, I prefer the real-world experience. Human behavior is the thing we fail to study the most, and in my opinion, it’s the most valuable. Do not neglect the opportunity to get out and visit popular destinations in your own community. That’s where local search becomes real.
Visit your local Apple store, wireless phone providers, coffee houses, etc. and pay attention to how people are using their mobile devices, if and how they are using laptops, and even watch to see what brands people are using. You may be amazed to find what information you can gather from asking people how they like using their gadgets (the world is full of fan boys) and what steps they may take in seeking local information.
Elise: Okay, so if a business only has time to spend a short amount of time on local search for their website, where would you suggest that they start?
Mike: Be certain address/phone information is correct on the website, as well as on the most common sites providing citation authority. Provide an easily accessible call to action so people can be led from the site to making decisions (like placing an order or picking up the phone). Develop strategies that gets your customer base evangelizing your business online (think social), so that you can better invest your time serving your clients.
Fantastic advice from Mike when it comes to local search optimization here! Do you have anything to add?