Self-Managed vs Automated Strategies: A 2017 Local SEO Guide

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I’m sure we’re all aware of how many amazing software options exist for automating local search tactics, but in this local SEO guide, I’m going to argue that perhaps a human-managed strategy is very vital in seeing major results.

For more than five years, the world of digital marketing has seen a massive increase of “Local Search SaaS †– (Software-as-a-service) tactics emerging and presenting different monetary and value proposals for companies that have a physical store location.

Typically speaking, these platforms help companies by storing business location data (ie. Name, Address & Phone Number) in a central location, and then proceed to push that data out into other channels.

Even though SaaS tactics help digital marketers in managing listings of local businesses on social platforms and search engine channels, the companies themselves are generally hoping for better visibility through organic search results throughout this process – unfortunately this is not always the case.

SaaS platforms generally require brand marketers to budget their human resources/assets to not just simply manage the strategy on a daily basis, but to also take into consideration other various organic rank aspects which are vital in the maintenance of a booming SEO program.

Even though SaaS programs are typically seen as simple solutions that work automatically behind the scenes, those internal resource costs will still have to be factored into your overall ROI on top of your general SaaS subscription and any fee’s.

Don’t get me wrong, automation does have many benefits, but there remain several elements of local SEO that must be properly managed, monitored and moderated by actual human beings on a daily basis. This includes:

—> An accurate analysis stating where individual local business listings are turning up in searches through Google, Bing, Apple, etc.

—> Position rank and data accuracy

—> Visible local-business-listing percentages for keywords and phrases (on desktop and mobile)

—> Managing content and better user experience/SEO performance optimization

—> Analysis and measurement to properly inform major tactical adjustments

—> Analytics tracking

—> Identifying which channels are contributing to conversions

At the same time that SaaS strategies can aid in concentrating sections of your local SEO tactic to be much more effective, a self or human-managed approach that applies both technology and experts in digital marketing can supply better earnings. Below, I’ll break down the advantages of each method as well as point out the differences:

SaaS Programs for SEO

A great many SaaS platforms help brand marketers to easier centralize, distribute and authenticate their business data across various networks and directories. The amalgamation of data is distributed directly to numerous search engines, social media platforms and various directories, which aid companies in scaling location data and gaining organic rank.

It’s imperative to keep in mind that most SaaS platforms participate in shared revenue agreements, because of this they offer paid inclusion programs that aid in updating any listings you have much faster and with added and upgraded content fields – for a price though. That being said, paid inclusion programs can generally only be influenced to heighten your ranking in local business directories (ie. Yelp, 411.com, local.com etc.). The major search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo and Apple don’t allow these kinds of paid programs to affect any organic rankings.

Benefits of SaaS Platforms

—> Guarantee business listings stay updated with appropriate content

—> Publishing social content

—> Distributing citations to various directories

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—> Pin verification that allows you to know an exact locations (latitude & longitude)

—> Analysis of citations (ensuring NAP is relevant on every directory)

—> Assembling reviews from various sources

On top of distributing data directly to channels, you also have the option to use database aggregators to push the location data to various directories that aid in building citation. The principal companies who have lists of channels they push to include, Factual, Acxiom, Infogroup, and Neustar.

When all is said and done, SaaS programs help to automate facets of your local SEO platform, but automation can only do so much.

Managed Services & Technology Platforms

Digital marketing is obviously made much easier by technology in so many ways, but still – managing a suitable local business listing and local SEO program involves actual human tactics to drum up the data, channels, strategy and performance in order to optimize properly for enhanced ROI.

Google search console, web analytics and paid search data must be meticulously analyzed and assessed to make sure the appropriate actions are taken – you must create, distribute and optimize content, and citations should be monitored regularly. On top of that you must continually evaluate backlinks re-directing to the main brand domain and make sure they are in place and are evaluated for ranking and authority.

Following Google Venice and Google Pigeon updating their algorithms, there has been a continuing integration with traditional organic rank factors and local search results. It’s fair to expect that there will be many more changes happening soon as the local search systems continue to evolve; and given that Google has a compelling investment in ranking the web, companies are able to prepare for any new changes by concentrating more on the core fundamentals of SEO: content, links and site structure.

Even though a few of the automation programs on the market today can act as a centralized storehouse for your data, what happens to your data once it’s centralized is the most critical element in your local listings strategy. none of the automated technologies or SaaS programs by themselves can undertake the primary SEO aspects that directly impact ranking -it just isn’t possible. Brands need to implement a all-inclusive tactic that includes:

—> Strategic execution and analysis to increase exposure of your local resources and to assess a ROI relative towards a favorable local listing management platform.

—> Consistent analysis of paid search performance data by way of web analytics, hence providing actionable analysis for agencies to make advantageous changes.

—> The structure of your site, the content and link analysis are the backbones of SEO and must be managed and evaluated consistently in order to boost opportunities for organic traffic.

While local listing management becomes even more complicated, the demand for organic optimization has become mush more important than ever for gaining higher rankings. Obtaining a SaaS program running your SEO strategy eventually becomes challenging. Some other SEO aspects play a part in affecting higher rankings, and when you solely use software programs, you’re doing your entire local SEO strategy a disservice.

When you have real live humans consistently monitoring and managing the intricacies of a solid SEO strategy it’s going to be extremely more effective in the long-term technique which is vital to SEO itself. When you just click a box that initiates SaaS tools, it’s not going to be the same as having a strong and distinct SEO strategy. Yes, SaaS platforms allow you to make updates to your local listings, but even then you still have to implement human tactics that are accountable for integrating in your day-to-day plan of optimizing the program to retain the optimal organic ranking.

In addition, someone has to be liable for performance and analytics, and SaaS programs can’t provide you with that information – once they’ve executed the campaign their job is basically done.

In Conclusion…

In summary, it is clear that well-founded SEO strategies just can’t be automated, when you take shortcuts by solely using automated tools your results will be less than satisfactory. Also, when you stop implementing SaaS tactics, your organic rank and authority lessens on account of rich listing content like any local images usually get taken down – while NAP information becomes more defenceless to changes (or a lack of them).

I’ll leave you with a little analogy to clear this up even more than I already have: a SaaS could be comparable to renting an apartment, and having a managed approach is like having a mortgage on a house. When it comes down to it, renting an apartment is fine, but it means you personally don’t own the capital you’ve been paying.

If you decide to take a hands-on approach that involves real humans doing real work, you will see rewards throughout the short and long term. Companies shouldn’t settle for the minimum short term rewards that SaaS platforms provide, they should actually be demanding palpable and longer-term performance and results that only come along with a managed SEO approach.

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!

Your SEO strategy is missing something that makes all the difference!

Let’s talk SEO strategy. So many involve long-term tactics, but we’re challenging you to think “short-term” – it’s just as important and could be incredibly significant to your rankings.

Two major approaches exist when it comes to developing new digital commerce as well as online prestige approaches.

1. Proactive/Reactive Campaigns

SEO companies and marketers alike create these types of campaigns to push content towards consumers with the hopes of seeking an immediate reaction.

Most SEO strategy tactics would fall into the ‘active’ category since, months in advance, they’re constantly analyzing up-and-coming trends to try and figure out how they can maximize their opportunities.

2. Responsive Concepts

Marketers will create content that is geared toward a specific concept and/or event. The aim is to benefit consumer awareness in terms of their brand and what they offer.

A good example of “Responsive” marketing could be when solar energy companies circulate a branded press release when there are new tax incentives approved by the federal or state governments.

That being said, there are some specific situations that grant SEO strategists the ability to combine both of these marketing tactics to enhance their brand awareness and drum up consumer reaction.

Here are some opportunities to consider when you’re deciding on a SEO plan:

1. Internal Event Capitalizing

In the case that your company is about to drop a brand new service and/or product, you’re about to acquire a known executive from a different/competing brand for your company, or you plan to/are breaking into new and emerging markets; you’ve got to make sure everyone and their mom knows about it!

Small and medium sized businesses are usually pretty quiet about these occurrences, and they’re missing the chance to increase some brand awareness, which is costing them a lot more traffic to their site.

Pivotal internal events are amazing chances to create an optimized press release with the potential to generate buzz in the local or even national news. (Remember that Google sometimes considers ‘press release distribution’ methods aslink schemes’, and this can result in being penalized or even being removed from search results.)

In this case, the online presence of your business will gain more traffic from potential new clients and you will see a significant spike in backlinks coming from reputable sources as well as more customer citations.

2. Guest Author Opportunity’s Stemming From Internal Events

In the case that several of your internal events are gaining increasing attention, it might be a possibility for your company to use this momentum to up its integrity in your specific industry.

This arrangement strategy can facilitate opportunities to author content from well-known brands and/or publications that appeal to a comparable audience. Your company can build some organic drive with each bit of content you share on any industry publication, since this allows you an opportunity to increase referral traffic acquired from third-party sources, all the while building more portfolio links.

Once you’ve chosen to follow this tactic through, you should be sure that you’re only working with other commerce leaders who are known to have compelling organic integrity within the same markets that you operate. Being a guest author on low-credit sources and social media presences that are geared towards a different audience won’t lead to any organic or monetary growth.

3. Find New & Interesting Subjects

Simply Google any concept or idea and you’ll quickly see how it’s almost impossible nowadays to put out original content. Literally millions of content creators all over the world are constantly creating lists, from how-to guides, to buyers guides, to white papers and many various forms of content that are essentially just regurgitating so much of the same information on a specific topic.

Trying to come up with unique and one-of-a-kind ways to introduce information or to be the first to introduce new concepts is exceedingly beneficial in improving and developing your organic pull. In doing so you will also be:

—> Improving your brand awareness

—> Increasing organic visibility

—> Increasing industry authority and online prestige

—> Gaining new and relevant backlinks

4. Utilize Keywords The Competitors Are Missing

Due to the ever-changing search algorithms, keywords research is constantly changing. Even so, there exist many chances for companies to profit on new emerging keywords that the competitors might have missed.

You can benefit from certain tools such asSoovleandGoogle Keyword Plannerto keep researching which keywords your customers used when searching for the products/services you offer.

Ideally, you might be able to discover new keywords that come with ample search volume and very little competition, from there you can create more target-specific content based on them.

Once you’ve accomplished this feat, your company/brand is much more likely to have a greatly improved backlink profile, increased traffic to your site, and earned many more social connections.

5. Social Interactions of Competitors

In the case that several of your direct competitors are using their social platforms to manage customer affiliation, ensure that you are watching for opportunities that present themselves and allow you to offer their target-audience a better overall experience.

If you happen to notice customers/consumers complain about their services on social platforms, you could directly contact the user and offer a message of sympathy that could include incentives to moving over to your brand/services, or a coupon/discount and membership rewards.

Profiting from these types of opportunities can require you to have a very calculated and measured approach where you are very involved in monitoring consumer as well as competitive situations, allowing you to get a head start on upcoming trends.

Once these instances do arise, it is imperative that you jump on it quickly. Keep in mind that your competitors are more than likely to respond to you at some point.

Whilst implementing any of these tactics won’t necessarily put your brand/company in a position of absolute industry authority – tactfully following through on these concepts over time can heighten your organic search results to a point where you’ll notice a remarkable growth.

2017: The Year of Online Marketing for SMB’s

Yeah, yeah – we all know the saying “You gotta spend money to make money.” Unfortunately, for many, this is a tough motto to follow for many smaller companies when they’re considering their annual budgets.

This is when it’s time for them to take a good hard look at their financial status and figure out how they can spend less and profit more, and online marketing for SMB’s (small to medium-sized businesses) often gets wrongly ignored.

The question is: Where will SMB’s invest their marketing budget in 2017, given all their budget priorities?

I own a small business myself, and I know very well how vital it is create an accurate plan that can strictly regulate my business’s finances.

In my years of owning and operating an online marketing business, I’ve realized that building a practice for budgeting concerns is the absolute most effective way to keep your company’s finances in check.

It’s so important to remember, even when times are rough, how imperative the marketing portion of your budget is for your company’s guaranteed survival.

The key is to never ever stop promoting your business, even if your finances turn out to be much more limited than you expected.

If your marketing budget is minuscule, you have to make intelligent choices when it comes to your priorities in determining how much of your budget should be allocated to marketing; not just in general, but focused on the critical factors of marketing online.

To achieve success in the competitive and cramped markets of today, we have assembled three reasons why online marketing should be a priority for SMBs in 2017.

1. Competition in online marketing is rapidly increasing.

While more and more businesses allot their cash for marketing online, radio and television, the competition online is growing and getting more and more fiery.

A recent Survery Report from CMO revealed the fact that spending on traditional advertising is on the decline, while spending on digital marketing is on a rapid increase.

Additionally, a survey by StrongView and Selligent on marketing trends was done late 2015 and discovered that even though marketing budgets were raised overall by business leaders for 2016, online marketing channels were higher on the spectrum compared to traditional.

Under 14% of the companies that were surveyed had a plan to increase their marketing spending for print, radio and television advertisements, meanwhile the better part of companies surveyed had a plan to increase their budgets in the four key areas: social media, email marketing, mobile marketing, and online display advertising.

A staggering 42% of those surveyed had plans to budget a larger amount to marketing search (PPC and SEO).

The budgets for social media marketing are on the incline as well. Social Media Examine released their 2016 SMMIndustry Report, and if deciphered that more than 63% of companies and marketers alike had a plan to increase spending on Facebook and YouTube marketing.

If you own a SMB and plan to compete with the big boys, you need to take a long hard look at your budget and see just how far you can stretch your online marketing money, while maintaining a special focus on creating customized content for your clientele.

While businesses go on designating more and more spending towards digital channels, these areas will be rendered that much more competitive.

2. The bountiful benefits of online marketing for SMB’s.

Compared to traditional advertising, online marketing can open up worlds of advantage for your business.

It can offer a high return on investment, much higher than traditional approaches because of its generally low cost of channels online like socials, and also the capability to adapt based on the data collected from social platforms and Google. Additionally, compared to traditional marketing, online marketing reaches a much larger number of consumers at a much lower cost to you.

Let’s think about other perks to online marketing as well. Specific metrics can be easily tracked on each of your campaigns, to grant very valuable and specific feedback.

However, no matter what size, any business can prove to be a solid competition with a strong marketing plan. This is again because of the low cost of online channels, and also the efficiency and effectiveness of marketing on search and socials.

You can gain quick advances to your SMB’s business through these, compared to the long down out waits that usually come along with traditional.

We should also never undervalue the viral aspect that comes along with the internet. With traditional marketing one must wait around to pass out their flyers, for their ads to be made public on tv and in the newspapers, etc.

In the case of social media, you have things like share buttons, that can instantly connect you and your business to potential consumers in mere seconds. 

3. Online marketing a huge draw for SMB’s.

Some SMB’s are still abstaining completely from marketing online, why is this? In a recent survey of 300 SMB’s done by LSA, it was discovered that the main reason is simple; a measly budget.

When they were asked how they’d carry out marketing given a higher allowance, the preference towards digital marketing was top in the priorities list, with SEO and PPC (paid search) the biggest focuses.

This survey also concluded that half of SMB’s would sink their budget into SEO if they had twice their budget, while about 40% of them would have sunk it into PPC.

Out of the leftover channels, 37% of SMB’s claimed they would devote more to websites, 29% said they would invest in social media, and 28% said they would lean towards CRM tools.

These results actually mirror the behaviours of consumers, since search engines and websites are considered the driving forces for potential consumers searching locally.

Final Remarks

Finally, as all the SMB’s are settling on their budgets for 2017, they will most likely discover the numerous advantages to investing more of their advertising budget in marketing, as opposed to more short-term benefits that apply from reducing it.

As more and more SMB’s move their money over to online marketing, they will surely see more devoted customers visiting their websites, reading and rating their services and products, purchase them, and also provide them with feedback that is beneficial to the market.

It won’t take long at all for digital marketing to create great publicity and have a positive impact on the future of your blossoming business, as well as give you an impressive return on investment.

Recently, a survey of 200 retail marketing exec’s in charge of budget decisions proved to prefer online marketing. More than three-quarters logged a higher ROI through online advertising compared to the traditional.

If your SMB budget grants you the opportunity to invest in a few things, keep in mind that quality content on your websites, blogs and social media, ranks highest.