Changes to Local SEO for 2015

Local SEO is very frustrating, challenging, difficult, but extremely rewarding long-term online marketing strategy. Depending on which type of industry the clients work or the region in which they conduct business, the competition can be normal to extremely competitive.  The biggest problem though is when Google releases yet another algorithm update, all that hard work could result in significant fluctuations to their business web traffic. One only need look back to the recent Pigeon update in July that occurred in the US and is now rolling out in Australia, Canada, and the UK as of December 2014, to see how it can affect business.

What Exactly Happened after the Pigeon Update?
The businesses that did minimal work related to setting up local optimization efforts had the biggest impact to business. The latest algorithm update put more emphasis on the traditional style organic ranking techniques, like stronger backlinks, in determining the position of the website in the organic search results. Less emphasis seemed to be placed on more traditional style local SEO ranking techniques like citations. What this simply means is that any business that relied heavily on optimizing their local or Google My Business page coupled with a consistent and strong SEO strategy were the big winners. If your local traffic and SEO strategies were not aligned, your business took a huge hit in organic traffic.

How Can You Help Your Clients Today?
Utilizing white hat techniques will always win out in the end because Google will continue to put a huge emphasis on tweaking and changing the system until they feel it is working properly for everyone. Having a proper balance between local and white hat organic SEO techniques will always been seen as favorable in the eyes of Google. It really doesn’t make sense anymore to place too much emphasis on one and neglect the other. If you have clients who are interested in long-term success for their business, now is the time to get serious. While budget concerns can be top priority for many business owners, without a steady stream of business will there will not be any budget left to be concerned about. By explaining to these clients how important these five areas are to their success in 2015, you could help them to improve upon their current local SEO marketing campaigns.

1. Cleaning Your Backlinks Profile
Any website that was utilizing poor backlinks was exposed by Google in 2014. Most of these websites were hit with a significant penalty and waited most likely the entire year to see traffic numbers resume. Now is the time to do a complete analysis of the backlinks associated to your website and start to remove bad domains accordingly. The difference between an unnatural and natural backlink can make the difference in steady and dismal traffic. Being able to proactively disavow these particular links for your clients will go a long way in their recovery and growth. Start by making sure no penalty is in place, then disassociate the website from any toxic links that remain. Cleaning up the link profile will help to first identify the risk level, then determine whether removing certain links is necessary.

2. Completing a Full Website Audit
Whether you are using an audit tool or hiring a professional to complete the job, it makes perfect sense to better understand where the website ranks at the moment. Simple fundamental issues like incorrect redirects, poor site structure, and crawl errors, need to be addressed and corrected in a timely manner. The key to growing the business organically is creating a solid and strong foundation. If the foundation is full of errors, it will be a challenge to eventually climb up the search rank ladder as time passes. The SEO audit will allow the website owner to see a different perspective because SEO techniques tend to cause owners to have complete tunnel vision.

3. Replacing Poor Content Quality Content
One of the troubles with trying to reach as many customers as possible is that you stretch the website content too thin. These thin pages of content are often poorly written and barely focus on the city in which they are trying to attract local business. These pages of content barely have 200 words and read like they were spun by a machine. Focus instead on the regions that are most important to the business and create fresh and relevant content that will inform readers rather than bore them. The pages should be considered more of a valuable resource, providing high quality information that serves a purpose and is useful to the reader.

4. Fixing Your Citations / Data Aggregators
In order to rank in the top few spots on the local SEO pages, you simply have to put some serious effort into citations. Chasing citations blindly is similar to simply adding pages of useless content to a website in an effort to look more informative. Having too many citations can actually lead to the site being penalized. Being mentioned on 2,000 poor business directories will not increase traffic, it will have the opposite and more damaging result. Pay Yext or Moz Local to handle the top citations in order to help boost your local SEO efforts. Brightlocal and Whitespark are other useful resources for helping with citations.

5. Earning Links
If you are looking for one of the biggest ways to improve your website after the Pigeon update, begin to focus on earning high quality links. If you are serious about increasing the traffic to the website and becoming an authoritative site, focus on quality over quantity every time. It will have a much bigger impact to have a half dozen high quality links than a hundred poor ones. It only takes a few of those poor links to get the website penalized, then you are basically invisible online. Consider scholarship link building if finding high quality links is a challenge.

These five methods for recovering after the Pigeon update of 2014 will have long-lasting positive effects on the website. They are easy to implement immediately, and will have you hitting the ground running with your 2015 local SEO efforts.