7] KING OF LOCAL SEARCH
Total average SEO impact: ★★★
How to build local relevancy?
If your service area is regional, local SEO will be on top of your list. Unfortunately local SEO is one of the toughest parts of our distinguished science. Why is that? Main reason is that many ways of claiming local relevance may interfere with the way how search engines go about it. Of course your physical address will substantiate your local relevance if this address is situated within the locality you want to be found for. But I guess that there are more competitors like yours that also have their physical address in the same town or region so your physical address alone will not do the trick. What can you do? Adding the names of places and regions to most of your website content? Sounds desperate and that’s just the way search engines will view it. Never forget, hard manipulation doesn’t work, neither in life nor on the internet. And soft manipulation isn’t manipulative, it is being helpful (hmm, well, if it’s not executed by politicians).
But what does work in local SEO?
The first rule to think about is the following: You cannot be relevant on all themes with SEO. That is the problem with online shops that offer a very broad mix of products. They are never as relevant as a specialist store (although the high traffic volumes of some online platforms will help them). In general though, you must take sides. You must pinpoint the themes you want to be relevant for. That is most certainly true for local SEO. You cannot be regionally relevant for both New York and Los Angeles or for both Poland and Italy without the regional relevance supporting it. Think of taxi companies that want to be relevant on all possible cities and villages or lead generating sites that want to tap into local search traffic. That doesn’t work (anymore I must add, because in the past you could get away with it and even now it sporadically will work). So what to do? Here are some useful tips:
1. Choose the region you want to target
The smaller the region, the more specific your local area, the better your chances will be to become the local search king (or queen of course). If 80% of your business comes from 1 area do not go for the other 20%. Never forget: In the end the volume of organic traffic does not matter, it is conversions we’re after. Do not chase for high flying birds when ducks are walking around your feet (is that a saying? Well now it is).
2. Focus on your complete website
Local SEO is not a thing you manage on webpage level alone. This is a big difference with most other SEO strategies where you may be relevant with one webpage on one theme and with another webpage on another theme. With local SEO your strategy must consist of a holistic approach. Your targeted location(s) should radiate from every single webpage in your website.
3. Show the link to your targeted region
This is the 1 million dollar question of course. Why are you relevant for this geographical
region? Is it because your business is situated there? Is it because you ONLY service this area? So tell them! But, make sure that you tell the truth. Make it logic. Explain why you are servicing this area. Maybe you will not calculate call-out fees serving this area, maybe your shop has only 1 physical location where people need to come to. Just make sure that your local relevancy is understood by your target audience, your search engine will follow.
4. Get locally involved
Supporting a local sports club, sponsoring the annual fair, donating to your local charity, it all makes sense if your target market is local. And spread the word out of course!
5. Occasionally blogging about local matters
No harm in blogging (although in many cases blogging is not the best SEO strategy). Blogposts should be about actual things, things that matter more now than tomorrow. That may perfectly fit in with a local SEO strategy. Make the local link in your blogpost. Write about your area and combine it with your proposition and website theme.
And what if you’re not a local player?
Like I said before, do not try to pretend local if you’re not. But that isn’t the same as telling that you are not allowed to claim local relevancy being a national or even global player. You still can do that if your claim makes sense. So first you have to look for logic in your claim. Here are some local relevant situations for non-local players:
You have local reference projects you may showcase
Why not? Cluster all your reference projects into local reference pages (including local URL’s and local headers) and focus on local relevance. Your local reference page may look like:
www.example.com/us-office-building-projects/new-york-office-building-projects Of course, building content around such pages adds more flavor to it all. Do not stop by putting up only photographs and small copy, expand on it!
You have local representation you may highlight
Nothing wrong with that! If you are a regional, national or even global player you still may be locally relevant based upon your local representations. This may be a company outlet, a local distributor, a sales representative or even an agent. What’s important is how you handle it. My advice: reach out to your local representative and showcase its business. Include interviews with local representatives, talk about local projects and let this local sauce drip all over your page(s).
You have solved some local problems you may want to share
Whatever your business is doing, you will have customers that paid for your products or services to help solve their problems. When you are a plumber you may have helped some customers just outside your hometown. When you are a building company you may have helped rebuilding homes after a hurricane in another state. Maybe you can share a wonderful story about helping a customer in another town. Just share it with us! We will love to hear it, as long as it is authentic, original … and true of course!
And what if you cannot claim some local relevancy?
Just stop acting as if you are a local. We can hear it from your accent. You are not born here, I bet you were never here before. Go back where you came from! Well, search engines may sometimes behave a bit rude. No law against it, yet.
So, what to do?
Add local relevancy to your content.
Think of local stuff you can add in an original and authentic way like reference projects, local agents or local representations.
Do not overdo it, you cannot claim local relevancy when
there is no basis for it.
8] WE’LL HAVE TO TALK
Total average SEO impact: ★★★★★
Tap into conversational searches
Conversational searches are getting increasingly important. People are changing the way they use search engines. It is getting more personal and with the advent of voice search I am 100% convinced that conversational searches will become the challenge of SEO specialists and search engines. Because that is what they are, both challenges and huge opportunities. But let us start by explaining what they are.
Conversational searches are search queries that treat search engines as trusted personal advisors.
These search queries are direct questions on a personal level. In most cases they begin with “Can I”, “Should I” or “Do I need”. In a recent study by Google it showed that search queries beginning with “Should I” and “Do I need” see a 65% growth annually. “Can I” searches even grow at a rate of 85%.
These conversational searches replace more utilitarian searches that include only the basic keywords. What’s happening is that we are treating search engines more as help providing intimate friends instead of computers that are just performing a task.
Examples utilitarian versus conversational searches
Here are some examples of what we used to type into search bars and how we are treating them today (and especially tomorrow):
“best anti-aging skin care” becomes “what anti-aging skin care do I need?”
“tickets available Carrie Underwood” becomes “can I get tickets for Carrie Underwood?”
“tyres Ford F-Series” becomes “which tyres should I buy Ford F-Series?
Mobile and Voice Search
Conversational searches are used more on mobile devices. Why is that? In a pure logic way of thinking this makes no sense as conversational searches are in most cases longer search queries. That does not fit well with the fast world of mobile, does it? Add to that that typing search queries on mobile devices still is a challenge for people who are not born with a mobile in one of their hands (such as myself). But logic is the wrong approach here. The answer cannot be found with our left brains when it is a right brain behavior. Smartphones are becoming more and more our personal friends, maybe even our BFF (Best Friends Forever for those who don’t have daughters on elementary schools). Writing these words I just came back from an online marketing exposition in London where they offered many info sessions. I noticed that when a person took the seat next to another person no words were exchanged, not even a smile was offered. I am sure they were very friendly and fine people but they were all engulfed into their smartphones, even during sessions. I must admit that I myself copied this behavior otherwise I was the only one sitting as a lame duck.
Voice Search will boost our conversational searches even more. Now we can talk to our greatest of friends and what’s more, it answers back in a fine and intelligent voice.
How do conversational searches differ?
Conversational search queries may lead to the same search engine results than utilitarian searches. Maybe for now, but that will change. Remember, our audience is using the emotional right brain by applying a conversational search query. The perfect match should be a webpage that taps into this right brain search. How to do it? First we have to acknowledge the difference between conversational searches and utilitarian searches. These are the main issues we will have to consider:
1. Much longer search queries
Instead of combining one or two keywords people use whole sentences including these keywords. This makes it more difficult for search engines to discern the important keywords from the non-relevant keywords. Take this query for example: “Which anti dandruff shampoo to buy when travelling to India?”. In this sentence two different search themes are included, shampoo and travel to India. Still Google knows what we are looking for (some years ago they didn’t). In fact I tried different combinations and in most cases Google and Bing got it right.
That’s great of course, especially considering that it is up to us to make the perfect match.
2. Question oriented search queries
Most conversational searches are in the form of a question. That offers some challenges to search engines as most website content offers answers. In many cases however the answer is not found in the question. That makes perfect sense again, otherwise we didn’t have to ask it in the first place. Matching questions and answers is the real challenge for search engines in conversational searches.
3. Search queries aimed at personal advice
Most conversational searches are looking for a tailor made answer that perfectly suits the person who made the query. This is another challenge for both search engines and website content managers. How in earth can we be relevant to each individual?
Best practices for SEO in conversational searches
So how can we tap into this conversational search shift? What can we do differently to drive conversational searches to our website? These tips will help:
A) Write explanatory copy
Conversational searches try to get deeper and more specific answers. In explaining your products and services you may create the perfect match to a conversational search query. “Can I use my smartphone aboard a United Airlines flight?” will match your webpage content in which you describe the use of smartphones during UA flights. Never forget: there is much more to be explained about the proposition you offer than you would think. Try to explain your product from all sorts of angles. B) Write conversational copy
Personal questions are best met with personal answers. This works twofold. First, in writing in a conversational manner you will use the same kind of words and combinations that will make up questions. We already saw the use of words like “can” “should” and “need” in searches. When you write in a conversational manner you will almost automatically use these words too. That will increase the likelihood that your copy will match the query better than that of nonconversational copy. Second, when someone uses a right brain conversational query your conversational copy will perfectly match this persons expectations. This will have a positive impact on conversions.
- Use questions within your copy
Why not using the same questions your target audience could be using? It will give you an extra angle form which to approach your proposition. Try to ask yourself questions about your products and services and there will be a reasonable chance that you will come up with the same questions as your target audience. Answering these questions will provide great website content and a perfect match with some conversational searches.
- Write in a person-to-person style
In general this is sound advice in content creation. Never forget: you are not speaking to your target audience, there isn’t an audience at all. You are speaking to just one person. So, however open your website content is, how many “traffic” your pages will get, your articles will be read by 1 person at a time. So why not be personal or even intimate. Imagine yourself talking to a new friend, just the two of you, alone on a quiet sunny afternoon, sitting on a couch, overlooking the busy streets form a rooftop apartment, drinking your favorite drink, nibbling some salted peanuts. No one will hear you, no one will see you sitting there. Feel free to talk, conversate, get into each other’s brains. You get the picture?
So, what to do?
Before writing an article think of your Tone of Voice, you might want to switch to a more conversational one.
Try being helpful, share advice, you are an intimate friend for the time they read your article.
Think of that 1 person you are writing for. You may use a persona. Talk, don’t speak!