Local Search and Off-site Optimization

Start Improving Your Off-Site Optimization for Stronger Local Rankings

Local Search Result ExampleIn the vacation rental marketing world, a significant percentage of search engine optimization efforts fall into the “local optimization” category. This is because many of the topics vacation rental managers wish to rank for include a location qualifier. For example, “Myrtle Beach vacation rentals,” or “Big Bear cabins for rent.” Luckily, optimizing for local follows the same rules as general search engine optimization, however the difference lies in the importance placed on a wider variety of off-site ranking factors.

So What Exactly Is Off-Site Optimization?

The exact methodology the search engines use to rank websites can be quite complex and mysterious, but it is clear that ranking considerations are generally classified into two categories; on-site factors and off-site factors. On-site factors are exactly as they sound; elements on your website. These are elements we can completely control, for example having high quality content and excellent site architecture.

Off-site ranking factors include anything outside of your website that communicates to the search engines what others think of your website. These, by nature, can be much harder to control. However, there are off-site ranking factors we can influence to help communicate that your site is a trustworthy authority on the topics you wish to rank for.

What Off-Site Considerations Do Search Engines Use to Judge My Site?

If we were to write a brief history of off-site optimization, the majority of the story would focus on links.  Search engines have long used the quantity and quality of links pointing at your site as a way to tell if your site is interesting and relevant. SEO marketers, of course, quickly figured out ways to game this. Even so, links still remain one of the top ranking factors. The difference is that search engines are now much smarter about which links carry value and improve rankings.

Over time, in an effort to counteract the spamming of links, search engines became more sophisticated and in addition to links they now include a number of other off-site indicators in their ranking algorithms. Although these considerations are still somewhat shrouded in mystery like many ranking factors, it is clear that the search engines are looking for indicators that communicate your brand’s trustworthiness. For example:

  • Your brand (business name and location) is consistent throughout the web
  • Your brand is mentioned often throughout the web
  • Your brand is spoken well of (e.g. positive online reviews)
  • Your brand actively engages with your consumers (e.g. on social media)

How Can I Improve My Off-Site Presence So I Rank Better in Local Search?

When trying to rank for geographically relevant local search results, both links and the secondary trustworthiness indicators are important. However, it is evident that having a very strong brand presence is much more important when trying to rank in local search results than when trying to rank in general search results. Because of this, and since the topic of increasing the quality and quantity of inbound links is a well-covered one, let’s focus on how you can strengthen your brand’s trustworthiness.

First, consistency is key. Branding best practices don’t change from online to offline. Know your business’s brand and be consistent. For local optimization, it is especially important to uniformly represent your name, address, and phone (abbreviated as NAP). This is because when you are trying to rank for a certain location, for example Destin, Florida, the search engines are much more likely to rank you for Destin, Florida search terms if they know you have a physical presence there.

Google My Business ListingOnce you have landed on a standard NAP, ensure sure your brand is represented using this info throughout the web. Here are the key places to start:

  1. Claim your business listings in the search engines. Most important is claiming your Google My Business listing, but don’t forget Bing Places for Business and Yahoo! Local.
  2. Claim your business on other major online directories with free listings, for example Yelp!, yellowpages.com, and superpages.com.
  3. Claim your business on the major social media platforms including Facebook, Google +, Foursquare, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
  4. Whenever possible, submit your business to online directories that are specific to your niche (vacation rentals) or location. For example, see if your local chamber of commerce will list your business. For the purposes of solidifying your brand, a link back to your site would be ideal but is not always necessary.

While the quantity of brand mentions (also called citations) is important, quality is essential. For all your listings ensure you have added as much information about your business as possible, including pictures and video. Keep the listings active and up-to-date. Whenever possible, set up alerts so you can respond and engage with users who have interacted with your listings. This is especially important for social profiles and reviews. Reviews are becoming more and more important to local rankings; make sure you respond to all reviews and work to actively solicit more from your happy customers.

Taking small steps to improve your off-site optimization can have a significant impact on your local rankings. Often, we spend all the time in the world optimizing our website but overlook the off-site improvements we can make. While we can’t all do everything at once, start working your way through this list and you’ll soon reap the benefits!

Alternatively, if this seems overwhelming contact Blizzard Internet Marketing today to find out more about how we can help you succeed in local search!