Posted by David Mihm
Hard to believe it’s already been two months since I’ve been a part of the SEOmoz team! We’ve made some great progress on syncing up our codebase with the SEOmoz development environment. Once that process is complete, the fun part REALLY begins, and we will start to build out additional Local functionality over the course of 2013 and beyond. I can’t wait to write Version Two of this post once we’ve got more of that functionality built.
As an SEOmoz PRO customer since the service launched in February 2007, I thought I’d give a quick little tour of how I’ve used SEOmoz’s existing tools for Local optimization in my consulting role at David Mihm, Inc. over the past six years.
Throughout the last 18 months, I’ve been helping my cousin Tracy with her small business Group Insurance PDX, which I'll use as an example for this post.
- Determine how realistic it is for an SMB site to rank
- Assess optimization efforts to-date
- Identify SMB competition
- Identify large, fixed objects for “Barnacle SEO
- Launch the Keyword Difficulty Tool
- Enter the keywords you want to analyze
- View report for each keyword
- Pay attention to Domain Authority
- (Optional) Analyze backlink profiles of SMB Competitors using OpenSiteExplorer
The keyword difficulty tool makes competitive research more efficient. Simply run a handful of these reports and, at a glance, you get a sense for who the major players are in your competitive space, and just how dominant they are. I like to pay particular attention to domain authority (rather than page authority) in Local because many small business websites have very few pages, and Google tends to display the homepage for many more terms than you’d typically see in an e-commerce or more national B-to-B space.
As you analyze the list of sites returned for your keywords, keep your eyes peeled for “Barnacle SEO” opportunities — large, high-authority sites that you might be at a disadvantage to outrank on your own, but offer the opportunity for comments, business listings, or traditional web directory listings. Getting cited or linked to from these bigger guys will give your own site a leg up, and you may be able to get a secondary clickthrough if searchers actually end up on those pages. If it’s your own profile that ranks on those larger players, you may end up with two results on the main SERP.
For the smaller players, check out their backlinks using OpenSiteExplorer simply by clicking the magnifying glass next to their website.
In Tracy’s case, I’m pretty pleased that a relatively young site is competing so favorably in organic SERPs for a lot of her top keywords. The keyword difficulty tool helped identify four of her Local competitors, one IYP where she should consider getting a listing (Dex Knows), and a couple of sites (OregonLive and Examiner) that at the very least she could comment on, and could yield some promising social media relationships.
Clicking through to the Examiner story in particular, the author writes frequently about topics right in Tracy’s wheelhouse, and includes a pretty extensive bio and a prominent Twitter handle. Her following count exceeds her follower count by a 5:1 ratio, which means she’s probably pretty excited about gaining new contacts in social media. This would be a great person for Tracy to get to know.
- Identify authoritative local (“Location Prominent”) inbound link and citation sources
- Identify low-hanging inbound link opportunities
- Identify active social networking prospects
- Enter site to search in URL box (or click magnifying glass next to site in Keyword Difficulty tool)
- Add additional competitors for a high-level overview
- Choose all links, only external, to pages on this root domain
- Sort links returned by Domain Authority for SMB competitors
- Pay attention to high-Domain-Authority links
- Run an Advanced Report for geographic anchor text on SMB competitors
- Run an Advanced Report for product/service anchor text on high-Domain-Authority competitors
- Save links that look promising as potential guest blog, content outreach, or local sponsorship opportunities
The OpenSiteExplorer index has never really taken a deep enough dive on traditional citation sources (i.e., Internet Yellow Pages sites), and that’s one thing I’ll be working with the SEOmoz Engineering team on this year. However, it does do an excellent job of surfacing high-value inbound links.
Obviously, every business wants high-value/high-authority inbound links. But they’re particularly important in Local, where one of Google’s many patents regarding PlaceRank references “the highest score of documents referring to a business.” In other words, one extremely high-quality, locally-relevant link or citation can be a difference maker in Local rankings, especially in competitive markets.
As I said above in the Keyword Difficulty section, in Local, Domain Authority tends to exceed Page Authority as a ranking consideration. Because of this, my ears prick up whenever I see a high-ranking small business with one or more of these incoming links. In Tracy’s case, several of her competitors had links from high Domain Authority sources: OregonLive.com (the website of the main newspaper in Portland), the Building Industry Association of Clark County, and two smaller local newspapers (one as a sponsorship, one covering a local neighborhood association meeting).
This exercise yields several link building ideas:
- Establishing a relationship with the OregonLive reporter (more on this in Followerwonk section)
- Creating a dedicated page on her own website for each of her clients, that they can send their employees to for healthcare information
- Sponsoring key local events covered by newspapers
- Inviting newspaper reporters and other local bloggers to key meetings for each of the three groups on which she serves on the Board
- Start REAL, offline relationships via Twitter
- Identify high-influence social networking prospects
- Identify Twitter users likely to participate in a conversation
- Identify additional marketing/link building opportunities
- Identify a core group of three popular Twitter accounts to follow. These can be distributors, brands, or manufacturers whose products you sell, competitors, popular neighborhood businesses, etc.
- Visit the Compare Users tab of Followerwonk
- See who follows all three accounts
- Sort them by influence score
- Reverse-sort them by number of followers
- Start following them
- Read their Tweets to understand what makes them tick
- Reach out to them with great content!
As you can probably tell from her Tweet stream, Tracy’s like most small business owners. She doesn’t immediately understand Twitter, and unlike those of us who do Internet marketing for a living full-time, she doesn’t have time to monitor her contacts’ streams 24×7 or send out a lot of Tweets herself. She needs a core group of folks to follow and some crib notes of how to interact with them in a way that will lead to some downstream benefit online. It's important for her to figure out who is most likely to:
- Start up a conversation
- Retweet her content
- Lead to additional marketing opportunities like guest columns or interview requests
Tracy is a major extrovert and very active in traditional business groups, including her local Rotary club, local neighborhood association, and local business association. In her case, the goal is just to translate her offline comfort with networking into the Twittersphere.
In this case, I’m looking for people interested in her space, so I chose to compare three of the insurance carriers she represents. Folks who follow all three of them are probably pretty interested in health care for small business owners! I then looked at accounts that were high-authority, but very few followers, to identify those who would most likely pay attention if Tracy were to start up a conversation with them.
Among the group that Followerwonk helped me identify were the healthcare reporter for the Oregonian (whose Twitter bio says “tips welcome”) and Cover Oregon, the statewide health exchange launching later this year (but only has 124 Twitter followers so far). Pretty awesome opportunities to start some productive relationships, wouldn’t you say?
Well, that’s my real-life example. I am sure that among our 18,000+ PRO subscribers, many of you are more actively involved in Local Search at a tactical level and have great input on how you use our tools. I’d love to hear about some of them in the comments! And if you have ideas for features you’d like to see in our forthcoming Local products, please pass them along here. Thanks for reading!
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