My Favourite local SEO strategy Part One:
When it comes to SEO, you want to have a few things in place before you move on to other tactics and I’ll be sharing exactly what I do to get those foundations in place to be able to move on to more complexed SEO tasks.
This is what I do every time I start up with a new client, or when doing SEO for my own sites.
This blog post is a long one as I explain my process and opinion. I do not claim that this will make you rank in the search engines because each site is different and needs different things to be able to rank on page one. But, this is what works in local search, at this moment. Always remember that SEO is constantly changing.
This is the process and its order:
Firstly, we hook up google analytics and google search console (AKA google webmaster tools), to the site that we are going to be doing keyword research for. We then let the site sit a bit to gather this data we will use to our advantage.
Once the data from Analytics and Search Console kicks in, we pull a report from Search Console by going to Search traffic-> Search Analytics and make sure to click all the boxes: Click – Impressions – CTR – Position, and export the data to a google spreadsheet.
The reason for doing this is that we want to filter the results using google sheets.
What we are looking for is “quick wins” and “long-term wins”. But, first the quick wins:
Filtering out search queries that is ranking lower than page 5, with the low impression of anything under 100 and no CTR (click through rate), we can even allow 1 click. Yip, one click.
We then take this list and run it through Ahrefs Keyword Explorer, which is probably the best SEO tool on the market. Well, at least in my opinion. This tool can give you some amazing information. It has a nice monthly price tag, but it is well worth the spend if you are doing SEO for a living.
As per Ahrefs, the selection of 20 keywords that we could potentially use would have the ability to generate about 3.4k searches a month. Now this is an estimate, and is a great number for a this company site and niche market it is in. I am not going to talk about the site but the process that I use.
We then look at the click possibility, sitting at 1.1k per month, but sharing 13% with paid google ads and 87% organic clicks. This is measured by the amount of clicks each keyword generates per month when they are being search for.
With Ahrefs, the tool assigns a keyword difficulty grading to each keyword from analysing the competition on page one of Google for that keyword.
The keywords are sorted from lowest to highest difficulty, and we export the list to a google sheet with all the information.
We then take the list and do a manual search, using an Incognito Tab. We make sure to use google.co.za, as we are working with targets in South Africa. Make sure to choose the correct search engine for your country.
With this we are able to get a better idea of what the local search page really looks like, as sometimes the tools aren’t perfect and we have to add some manual work.
With this same list we do a final step for the keyword research – drop the keywords into Google Planner Keyword tool, so that we can know what the correct average amount of searches per month would be for each keyword. Then we also export this to a google sheet.
Note if you are not using google ads, the keyword planner will only give you ranges of search traffic. You can use a chrome extension called keywords everywhere. This will give you the search data that google keyword planner won’t because you are not paying/using google ads.
To keep organised, we move all the google sheets into one workbook with each sheet on a separate tab.
Our next task will be to group the keywords and allocate them to relevant pages of the website.
All of this can be done on the same google sheet. Just open a new tab and create a “Keyword Research” and “On Page Suggestions” tab. Ours looks something like the image below.
The way we allocate keywords, is by adding the website pages that we are going to be targeting and then we look at the content on each page and make sure the keywords are relevant to the page, then color the cell in the same color as the targeted UL section and the same colour as the section that the page is in.
Once we have all this information pulled together, we then go a bit crazy and pull all the information possible for the website, like the back-link profile and anchor texts radios. This will come in handy later. If you don’t know much about anchor text and back links profiles, not to worry, we won’t go into that right now.
Now that we have the list of allocated keywords, we need to optimise the pages that we allocate the keywords to. This is what we call On Page SEO.
2. On page SEO
First off, we create “Title” and “Description” tags for each page.
I have a way that I like to do this, and it might be controversial to some, but hey, it works for me.
When creating the Title tags, you want to add the page’s top keyword in the beginning of the sentence of the title tags. You also want to make sure that your sentence makes sense to humans before it makes sense to search bots.
So, for example if your keywords are:
Dog parlour Cape Town
Dog grooming parlour Cape town
Dog grooming parlour
And “dog grooming parlour” is the top searched keyword and you are sure you can rank for it, then that’s the keyword phrase that you are going to start off with.
Example: Dog Grooming Parlour Cape Town – Pets and More
This way you have kept your most important keyword in the beginning and you have covered all the other keywords variances.
You don’t need to line up your keyword like this:
Dog parlour | Dog parlour Cape Town |Dog grooming parlour Cape town | Dog Grooming parlour
That would not even fit, let alone, in my books, it’s the wrong way of doing things.
It has been said that Google doesn’t take much weight on this, but other search engines still do. Even though Google says this, when you do a search, Google will highlight the keywords that are found in the description tags by bolding the words. So, I still think if you use this wisely, there are some benefits to add keywords that you could not add into the title tag, either because it was too long or it wasn’t going to make sense if a human read it.
While we are on this, note that you are going to want to have a well-crafted call-to-action in your description tag. This will help to make the person that is searching your keywords click on your google listing.
Right so let’s recap. We did:
- Keyword research and found the best quick wins for the client first.
- On-page SEO suggestion changes to the title and description tag
With this done, we are going to add it to the correct pages. Then you are going to want to add your keywords to your favourite keyword rank-tracker. I use serpbook.com. You can use whichever one you wish, but you want to add them a day or two before you change the title and description tags.
To edit the title and description tags we installed Yoast SEO WordPress plugin.
Once you have changed this, let the site t sit for a bit and see if your changes will move the keywords up in rank.
Tip: If your keywords all drop in rank, you have definitely done something wrong. Always make sure to keep a copy of what the site had before you make any changes. I do that for all changes that I do to any site.
Now that the site has showed gains, we know that Google and other search engines liked the changes we made, and that all that work was worth it.
This then leads to the next step:
3. Content Creation
What to write about?
You need to remember that you are going to always use your keywords as a guideline for any content that needs to be created or any published content that needs to be improved.
First off, you want to add content to your site if you have a group of keywords that cannot be allocated to a specific page and you want to rank for those keywords.
My process as to what type and size of the content that would be needed for the group of keywords are:
- manually search the group of keywords and pick the top 5 sites for each keywords
- visit each site and see what type of content they are creating and what the average size (the word count) of content between the sites are
- create at least 30% more than the average amount of words and make sure that the content is going to engage the reader better than those sites.
Having completed the content and the page’s on-page SEO title tags and description tags, we publish the page(s) and then let everything sit for a bit more, up to 5 to 7 days.
After this we should have a great idea as to if the search engines are liking what we are doing or not.
The above process seems like a lot of work and may be confusing, I know, but once you get the hang of it, you could get this entire first step completed in about 15 days depending on the size of the website. The bigger the site, the longer it will take.
While we are letting the site sit and monitor the rankings, we start to prepare the Link Building campaign. Links are like the fuel of a website. Without fuel your car won’t move, and if you use bad fuel you will have car problems too.
So, in this section I am going to teach you 2 link building strategies for local SEO. These 2 strategies are on a level of easy and medium difficulty.
We are going to talk about business citations and guest posting for other websites.
4. Business Citations
These are some of the more popular business listing sites we have here in South Africa: www.fyple.co.za , www.Hotfrog.co.za , www.easyinfo.co.za, www.cylex.co.za, www.mycityinfo.co.za , www.howzit.co.za. Create a list of the more popular ones in your country or town.
Go ahead and create a listing for your business, making sure that you complete each profile to the best of your ability and do your best to make each business description that you fill out on each site unique in some sort of way.
The most important thing that you need to do is to make sure that your NAP (Name Address and Phone number) are the same for all of them, and to make sure that your website and your Google My Business Profile, has the same information. That way google can associate your business to the listings and this will give you a link profile to start to work from.
Pro Tip: you are going to want to first search for your business to make sure that it hasn’t already been listed on the site, or that once upon a time you may have created a listing and forgot about it. You don’t want to create duplicate content which google can penalise you for.
Okay, so you have created your list of business directory/citation sites and you have added your business profile to all of them. Make sure to verify the ones that are needed and take note of all the passwords and profile URLs that are live on the site. This way you can also check if google someday indexes them with links. You want to get that link indexed.
Now you can say that you have created a foundation of links and citations going to your website and we can move onto the next link activity – guest posts.
5. Guest Posts
For this tactic you are going to have to come out of your comfort zone and connect with other website owners and blogs.
You are going to need the following:
- Your list of keywords
- A list of search engine operators (more on this later)
- Google sheets – this comes with your Gmail subscription, free or paid, it doesn’t matter
- Hunter.io – make sure to sign up for the free account or if you are going to use this at scale, use the paid version, it just makes it easier to find the contact person and email from a prospected website
- Gmail account- your own or create a new one, you decide
- Semrush chrome extension and semrush platform – make sure that you have a subscription and install the chrome extension
- Majestic – free chrome plugin. Installs the chrome extension
With your list of keywords, you are going to search each one with search operators added to them.
A search operator (sometimes referred to as a search parameter) is a character or string of characters used in a search engine query to narrow the focus of the search. In mathematics and computer science, operators are characters or sequences of characters that represent an action or cause an action to be performed.
What is search operator? – Definition from WhatIs.com
You may be wondering why you use these so-called search operators. Well, there are websites that have a section where it is explained that they accept guest posts, and these are the ones you want your search operators to find.
Some of the search operators that we use to find websites that accept guest posts are: image of search operators.
However, my favourite is this one:
Guest post “Guest Post” “keyword” + “Guest Post”
If we were to use the same example as for the dog grooming keyword, the search operative would look like this:
dog grooming “Guest Post”
Replace “keyword” with your targeted keywords, and paste the search operator into google, Bing, duckduckgo and so forth.
The search engines are going to go and find sites that have the words “Guest Post” on them, whether in a blog post, a write-for-us page, or anywhere they might have the words “guest post”.
Now it would be time for you to create another sheet where you can capture the data in, such as:
- Blog URL – The URL of the website or blog
- Category – travel, information or business for example
- IP Address – always good to know the ip for IP diversification
- DA – Just to have AS Moz is a bit behind nowadays and some people like Metrics
- Free/Paid – you need to find out if the site will want a payment for a guest post or not.
- Submit Post – This is the URL that has a “How to submit a guest post” page Tag – This is your own evaluation on how authoritative the site is. I use a scale from 1 to 5. 1 being the worst, 5 being the best
- Trust Flow Metrics from Majestic; once again just for show
- Citation Flow – from Majestic
- Semrush Keyword Value – They keyword cost value from semrush
- Semrush Traffic cost – The traffic estimated cost
- Semrush Traffic amount – The average amount of traffic
- Email contact – the sites best contact person to send the blog post to
- Contact Name – the person’s name you are going to want to send a personalised email.
Link outreach steps:
- Collect Prospects
Collect sites using search operators and your targeted keywords and jot them down in you google sheet that you have created.
dog grooming “Guest Post”
Even though I have quite a few stuffs on my google sheet, the main ones that I use is Semrush data and Majestic data. I use this for a guideline as to which site I should pay special attention to and which sites I don’t have to. This information will give me the ability to tag the site from one to five.
What do we look at to determine this tags rating?
How do you know what a quality site is?
So, we have searched for guest posts using the keyword and the search operator, the search engine brings back a list of sites. Now, go ahead and open each site that you found in google chrome, making sure that Majestic and Semrush extension are installed and active.
Go and visit each site and see what they look like. If you get the feeling that you wouldn’t like to get a guest post on the site, then just leave and move on. However, if you think the site looks good and you would like to see your blog post on them, it’s time to start to look deeper into the site.
The first thing that we are going to look at is the Semrush traffic which you should be seeing at the top of your google browser because of the Semrush extension tool. Make sure to take note of the traffic in your google sheet, then click on the Majestic extension and hope that it doesn’t have a loading problem. You are going to want to just take note of “trust flow” and “citation flow” of the site. Why? Because if these two metrics are relatively close in numbers, you can determine if this site could have a good authority backlink profile. This is not a set-in-stone measure, and you should not just take this information and run with it, but use it as a guideline as to which sites to spend time on. Things can change further down the road of evaluating the site.
Okay, so I have used this “dog grooming ‘Guest Post’” search operator and I found this site and guest post http://www.waycooldogs.com/basics-of-dog-grooming/
The site has a 5.8k semrush traffic value so we can see that the site is getting traffic. I am going to fire up the semrush full tool to have a more in-depth look.
Going deeper in to a URL with semrush:
Make sure to paste the domain in without the http or https, e.g. waycooldogs.com. That way you are going to get the full information that semrush can show.
Click on the “positions” tab in the menu to the left in Semrush. Make sure to choose the correct country – to do this, look for the country that send the most traffic to the site. in this case it is the US. As you can see in the screenshot below.
We are going to look at the traffic count for the site to make sure that the semrush extension showed us the true traffic value, and in this case it did.
Now you are going to want to have a look at the graph that shows the traffic scale:
For this site we can see that the traffic has had some constant growth, but in Jan of 2014 there seems to have been a drop-in traffic. You can go and hover over the google icon and click on each one to see the information on any google update that may have happened and caused the drop-in traffic.
Looking at the ones that are closest to the drop in traffic, we can see that hummingbird and penguin 2.1 may have been the cause for it. In my opinion, it was Panda that caused this drop, for when the next Panda 4.0 came around, the traffic seemed to then start to grow again.
Note: This could be the cause, but it also could be many other factors, like the site got hacked or the site went down for an extensive amount of time. Most of the time this isn’t the case, but you need to keep an open mind that there can be different reasons for the drop in traffic.
However, I would say that the site recovered from penguin 2.1 when penguin 4.0 came out. This already tells me that the site isn’t a tag 5.
I then go back to majestic and take note of the root domains, trust flow 12 and citation flow 16. As you can see, these numbers are quite close. I then look at the number of backlinks (4654) and the amount of referring domains (1060), which tells me that this site could have a great back link profile.
Pro Tip: Rule of thumb: you don’t want these numbers to be too close or the same, as each other, that way you know that the sites backlink profile is trying to be the best it can be and for the site. I suppose since they got the penguin penalty they decided to make sure they keep away from spammy links to recover from the penalty.
I would then go and tag the site as a “3” for it has a traffic drop and majestic metrics are kind of low as like to see a number over 15 for trust flow.
But, I still want to have a deeper look at the site and want to take a closer look at the backlinks that the site has. To do this I can use semrush or I can use any other SEO tool, even though most of them show different information than the other. I think that the biggest links that the site may have pointing to it will normally show.
For your convenience I am going to just stick with semrush so that you don’t have to spend more money on SEO tools.
To do this go ahead and click on the backlinks menu tab to the left in semrush. It will open an overview of the backlinks the site has pointing to it.
Look for the tab that says “Referring Domains on this page”. This is going to show you the domains that have links on them to the site that you are wanting to get a guest post on.
Insert image referring domains semrush
Make sure to filter the site by domain score. This is a great way to see which sites are the more powerful ones and which ones the weaker ones. As you can see in the image above, there are links from yahoo, wikihow, stackexchange and so on. I am not going to spill out the sites backlink profile, but I will say that this site has some great links going to it and to get a link off this site would be a great idea.
Now, If I had to see low quality domain score links, like under 20 domain score, I would think twice about getting a link. If I really wanted to get a link from this site, I would open the top sites that are sending a link to the site and evaluate the site like I have explained above. But, that would only be if I really wanted a link from the site. If I found that the sites that are linked to this site that I want a link from, is not great, I would just move on and not waste any more time on this certain site.
This may seem like a lot of work, but if you want the best link profile in your industry, you must put the time in to evaluate the sites.
So, as you go along evaluating each site, make sure to go to their contact page to get the contact information, because we are going to be sending an email to them soon. If you cannot find the contact details, this is where hunter.io comes in.
Fire up hunter.io and simply paste the URL in to the search domain section on hunter.io. hunter then goes off and see if they have the email and contact person’s name in their database, which for this site we have been able to find it. I will keep this private out of respect to the site and the owner.
Make sure to take note of this information in your google sheet.
How many sites should you find?
We like to find at least 30 to 40 sites at a time. Once you have these sites on your list you can start the outreach process to get your guest posts on the sites that you have chosen and evaluated.
Phew, with the more technical part finished, now what?
- Set up Gmail and reach out
Get ready to open your Gmail. There are some things that you are going to want to set up first in Gmail:
- Create an email signature
- Enable canned responses (this is if you are going to do this at scale- sending lots of email pitches)
- Complete your google plus profile and especially add a headshot photo to your profile
The next step in process is to reach out to these prospects and ask them if they are accepting guest posts and if they are, what would be the way to start the process with them.
Once you get a positive response you are going to want to negotiate a topic and word count of the article.
This will be quite easy if you have contacted sites in the same niche as yours.
Now that you have started to outreach to sites you are going to want to have a tab on your spreadsheet to track everything. Make sure that you have the following columns to track the links and progres:
- site URL
- outreach status
- contact info
- live links
- anchor text
As the Guest Posts start getting published, make sure to especially take note of the anchor text. This will ensure that you don’t over optimise your anchor text ratios and be in danger of getting a google penalty.
And there you have it!
This is just part of my SEO strategy to get higher rankings and drive traffic to your website.
Lastly, some Pro Tips:
- Make sure that you offer an article that is at least 1000 words of value to the site owner.
- Make sure that you provide images that you have the rights to use.
- Make sure that the content is original
- Make sure that you add a bio at the end of your article as most guest posts will allow you to link to your site from the bio. Some will allow you to get a link in the content these are the better links, but its always better to play by their rules and get a link than not get a link at all.