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SEO for Local Businesses: Mow Your Own Backyard!

Yes, we all know the saying “the grass is always greener on the other side ” – well, in the business world we seem to have modified that to “the grass is always greener in neighboring markets ”…

Sure, the grass may look a lot greener and taller over there – but if you ever want to get invited over for a BBQ, you must first mow your own lawn. By that I mean, you must have your own affairs in order if you want your neighbour to respect you enough to share steak with you.

In the past I have written a lot about real-life, face-to-face encounters and situations with clients and various SEO’s – this article is no different. The interesting thing is though, this one is related to an issue that I think was my own fault. (Oops.)

A while back, I wrote an article about creating local content silos; with this strategy you can create groups or “silos” of localized content that relates to nearby cities. This strategy is immensely useful and can churn up great results, but it involves a lot of time, hard work and diligence. I’ve even spoken about this tactic in some video interviews and several times while speaking at SEO conferences.

In today’s article, I’m going to attempt to poke holes (so to speak) in my very own strategy. So stay with me, this might be weird – but it’ll be worth it, I promise.

Is the “silo strategy” really the way to go?

More and more frequently, when businesses employ our SEO services, they ask us if we can do “the silo thing” so that they’ll turn up in searches in neighboring towns, or in that big metro that’s half an hour away. I’ve gotten the same question several times at SEO conferences, “We’re out in the country, so can you explain to us how we go about turning up in searches for our big metro?”

Sure, the “silo thing” can bring you great results; but first you must mow your own lawn people!

So, here’s the problem…

Local businesses are so concerned with turning up in neighboring cities searches, that they’re ignoring their own backyards. You must be in a position where you’re really “owning it” in your own town first before you can target and profit from others. Owning it locally is basically like the ‘ante’ in a game of local SEO poker; if you don’t dish out your ante, good luck playing at the adults table!

It’s usually the case that businesses don’t show up well, if at all, locally in their own city. It’s important to note that Google bases its search returns by looking at relevance and importance.

The SEO basics have to come first, you must have a handle on them before anything else; acquire amazing links and come up with great content. Before you step up to the plate and shoot for the stars by implementing the silo strategy, it’s vital that you’ve got your own lawn mowed; that is to say – your own location under control.

Location and proximity also play a very important part in local searches, even at a very basic level – if you’ve knocked your basics out of the park you should already be ranking pretty well locally. If you have some amazing content, you’re likely to have keyword relevance site wide. If you’ve got some prime links, that means you should have a pretty authoritative site. If your site has already optimized its location signals, you should have some major site wide relevance locally. If you keep your citations consistent and of good quality, you should have your off-site location signals under wraps too.

The grass isn’t always greener…

The majority of the time when businesses get hyper-focused on the next-door market, or on the bigger metro, the completely ignore their own town. If your business isn’t turning up in local searches within your own city, how do you really think you’ll compete in the next (and potentially bigger) city next door – where you also might not have as much relevance locally and have zero proximity?

I can’t stress enough how difficult it is to turn up in searches within a city where your business is not actually located – this is already strike one. Usually, if a business chooses to target a nearby city or town, its because they’ve decided to set their sights on a bigger market – and this means much more competition. That’s strike two. If they aren’t very prevalent within their own town when they should be easily turning up, this is a sign that they haven’t been properly optimized in the first place. This is strike three…

If your company has decided to put local optimization on the back burner to focus on some nearby target market, and if your local tactics haven’t been maximized; you’re probably missing out on ample amounts of site traffic generated from local searches – where ideally you should be totally dominating and taking names.

Once you’ve mowed your own lawn…

So, you’ve mowed your lawn, pulled all the weeds, landscaped and fertilized… only now should you start attempting to hop those fences and stealing all the attention at your neighbours BBQ’s.

However, it is very important that you maintain realistic expectations about your potential results. Given the appropriate strategy and implementing meticulous efforts and hard work, you will soon enough show up in searches conducted by nearby towns; that being said, this will still take time!

Don’t cheat yourself and miss out on driving some easy local traffic to your site in the interim – and don’t hire a unexperienced neighbourhood hoodlum to cut your grass… get out there and mow your own backyard!


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