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An Introduction to The iSanTan Group

After attending AZIMA’s July meeting, I was inspired by Nick Roshon’s appropriately named car blog about his Audi A4 to finally get rid of my old website and replace it with a blog.  I have been itching to start one for over a year but it was just never on the top of my list of things to do.  It finally made it to the top of the list today!

If you have reached my blog, you probably already know that I have a small online marketing business.  What you may not know is that I started building websites in 2000 and 2001 when I was working for a man who was running for US Congress in the first district of AZ; a very large district mostly in Northern Arizona from Prescott to St. Johns to Pima and even covered Casa Grande but did not include any parts of Maricopa County.

I started with a basic website that I built by copying another of my favorite website’s source code and then customizing it to work for this candidate.  I have to say that it worked great and didn’t even look too bad but one of our competitors put up a website that he had spent thousands of dollars on designing and developing.  It was perfect!  There was no way I could compete with this guy’s website but I tried anyway.  I worked on it anytime I had a moment and in the end, our website wasn’t too bad but the most important thing is that I had walked away with a real education.

A few years later, at the height of the video iPod craze, I started a business with my brother-in-law selling digital copies of full length movies online that were converted to iPod Video format; we were one of the legal ones…  We ended up selling that business and it continues to operate today but the invent of iTunes put it and any other websites like it out of business or close to it.

I then started a website design company for small business websites.  It became pretty clear that SEO was going to need to be a part of this business and I slowly began to add SEO services to what I already offered.  I now have about 15 clients ranging from a Home Builder to a Pool Cleaning Company to a Limousine Service Company to an Insurance Company to a Chiropractor and a Medical Billing and Trasncription Service Company.  There may be a lot of businesses out there who have some amazing success stories and I believe I do, too, but the one thing I pride myself on is that, to date, I have not lost a single client.

If you need help with either website design, online marketing consulting, SEO services, pay-per-click help or social media consulting, Currently, I am no longer taking new full-service clients but if you have a need for help in local search, call me at The iSanTan Group – (480) 694-7249…

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Request to clean up LBL’s

Bing’s Local 5-box and Google’s 7-box can be great tools for small businesses and can help them compete against nationally ranked competitors without investing the time and money to compete in the organic section for national searches. Generic search terms that have local intent like lawyer, dentist, chiropractor, plumber, locksmith, etc; display a local 5 or 7-box (it is typically 5 or 7 but may be as little as one) within Bing and Google’s organic search results. (Although changes are on the horizon, Yahoo! doesn’t yet provide local results for generic searches with local intent; a searcher must provide a search term and a location for a map to be presented in Yahoo!’s serp’s…)

The search engines list businesses near the searcher’s presumed location (locations can be altered by savvy searchers). Having your business listed in that local box can boost your ability to compete with organically ranked national competitors. Although I haven’t seen any studies I feel are good enough to reference here, I will note that the general consensus is that local results (those within the 5 or 7 box) have an approximate 25%-35% higher click-through-rate than organic results for the same search in which both Bing and Google consider the search term to have Local Intent, ie both Bing and Google show a map in their serp.

In the screenshots below, I searched both Bing and Google for Lawyer, not Lawyer in Phoenix:
Local Search Results for Lawyer in Bing

Optimizing your local listing…

It is well publicized (and accurate from my perspective) that claiming your business listing is among the top SEO tactics in increasing your Google Places serps; not so for Bing Local.

Case study…

I have a client whose listing I claimed in Bing Local over a year ago. I have done little SEO specifically for Bing because I have spent my energy and resources on organic and the Google Places listing. My client is currently ranking letter A in Google Places on the organic listing’s 7 box for the town in which the listing resides and a generic keyword phrase (a phrase without a city identification). For the same listing in Bing Local, the client is near the bottom of the second page in the maps section. To be fair, I have done no on-page optimization besides claiming my listing but I am about to explain why I may have been better off not having claimed the listing at all…

There are many problems with both Bing Local and Google Places but one of the biggest problems that I often run into is that old or incorrect information gets published as an official location result among the national data aggregators such as Axciom, Yellow Pages, InfoUSA, etc. Companies like these feed information to Bing, Google and other search engines and even if the information is incorrect, the search engines display the data they receive from the aggregators.

Back to the case study…

This client has an inaccurate address that is displayed as a top 5 result in Phoenix on Bing. The issue is that the result has inaccurate information that is shared by one or more of these aggregators. The business listing has not been claimed in the client’s Bing Local Business Listings Account and yet this unclaimed and inaccurate listing shows in the results for a competitive industry in Bing’s 5-box. On the other hand and as stated above, a listing that is not fully optimized but has been claimed and verified through Bing’s verification process is listed below businesses whose listings have not been optimized, claimed or verified.

Both Bing and Google have the ability in their local search results to have a very clean set of results every time but they are unwilling to put forth the effort (and I, of course, mean money) to clean up the results.  If Bing and Google altered their algorithm to dramatically increase the importance of claiming a listing through mail, and made it known that mail verified listings would be given preference in the algorithm, spam listings would nearly disappear and results from searches with local intent would give users a better experience.

Conclusion…

Bing and Google need to put some effort into cleaning up the map results that are littered with spam and inaccurate results.  In order to do this, they must quit relying on information given to them from national aggregators and gather information from their customers, the business owner.

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Local SEO Meet-UP

Before you waste your time reading this, it was written tongue in cheek…

I attended a meet-up last week on the topic of Local SEO. Learning Local SEO is a passion of mine and I try to read, attend meetings and discuss as much as I can on the subject. I have often used local search ranking factor lists from your favorite Local SEO guys and I hear them repeated many times in books, online, at these events and in discussions; I have used them myself. This meet-up wasn’t much different. The presenter began with his presentation about organic SEO and was moving into local when he presented a slide that stated unequivocally that this was the number one factor for local SEO. And what was the number one factor? Yes, you guessed it correctly, the number one local SEO factor is claiming your business listing in Google Places, Yahoo! Local, Bing Local, etc.

I don’t want to get hyper-technical here but I think that most of those who are reading this blog are either already within the SEO community, trying to find their way into the seo community, current or prospective clients of mine or visitors of my clients’ websites who happen across my website’s link.  Having said that, lets get into the real meat, the reason you came here…

The Number One Local SEO Ranking Factor

I would argue, and do so here, that there is one more-important factor that you might not have thought of but it is certainly more important than claiming your business among the most popular directories, it is more important than the number of citations your company has and it is more important than what content is on your businesses website.  The most important ranking factor for local SEO is to have an address located within the town/area you would like to be found in.  That’s the number one, most important factor.

Let me explain myself.  I have several clients with the same problem; their business address is located in a small suburb just outside of that beacon of brightness, the big city.  Most of the people reading this post already know that chiropractors are searched for more often in Los Angeles, California than in Billings, Montana.  The same thing goes for people whose businesses are located in small suburban towns just outside of the big city.

You may have come to my website hoping I could give you some insight on how get around the fact that your business is one of those businesses located just outside of the big city.  I am sorry to disappoint you but it is the number one ranking factor for a reason.  So what is the solution you might ask?  Move!  Now there may be some less dramatic ways of fixing the problem but we already know that PO Boxes and even Mail Box Etc. addresses either no longer work or will not be working soon (depending on how competitive your industry is)…

For most of you, moving your business to the big city is just not an option.  For you, I suggest that you move on to the next step in the most important ranking factors, use ppc and organic SEO to eventually be able to afford to expand your business into the areas you hope to be ranked for, find a suitable location and set up shop; then, start the process all over again.

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