2015 Traverse City SEO Guide
Welcome to the newly revised Traverse City SEO Guide for 2015. This local SEO guide is designed to help you integrate the best practices of SEO in your marketing plan.
By leveraging the techniques and resources mentioned in this guide, you can jump-start your Traverse City SEO campaign and become a local authority.
Keep in mind that the best practices of local SEO are progressively evolving as Google modifies its algorithm. This guide as been revised to educate you on what's currently working, and how you can craft a powerful SEO strategy for your Traverse City business.
Accomplishing all of these components (to their fullest potential) does take time, effort, and the right amount of resources. So if you're weak in certain areas and need some help, keep us top of mind to offer a professional consulting or SEO service program.
1. Understand Your "Traverse City SERP"
Before doing any SEO work, the first important step is to understand your Traverse City Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Take some time to assess the Google SERP in which your trying to rank your website. While getting a lay of the land, you'll want to look at the following factors that can influence your Traverse City SEO strategy.
- Are Google Local Listings showing for your business's SERP? In most keyword searches that contain "Traverse City" as a geo-modifier, the SERP will contain the Google Local Listings
- Who are your primary competitors and are they showing in the Google Local Listings and/or Organic Search Listings? We would take this deeper and evaluate competitors' domain authority, backlink profile, and other SEO metrics.
- Are Pay Per Click (PPC) ads showing? If there's a lot of people bidding for your keyword target with Google AdWords, then it's a good indicator your SERP more competitive (like the example below for "divorce lawyers Traverse City").
Not only does this process of SERP analysis identify SEO opportunities and strategies, but it can offer insight as to how long it will take to see top rankings. If your in a competitive SEO niche in Traverse City, it might takes 6-8 months to rank #1, as opposed to an easy SEO niche that might take 6-8 weeks, or less.
Pro Tip: The Google Local Listings take into account entirely different factors when determining rankings compared to the Organic Search Listings. More on this soon.
2. Ensure Your Website is Properly "Optimized"
Optimizing a website takes more than just mentioning "[keyword] Traverse City" a bunch of times. In fact, too much keyword inclusion can be damaging (learn more about Google Panda regarding getting penalized by keyword stuffing and other forms of over-optimization.)
For local SEO, optimizing a website comes in a few different ways. There's:
- Optimizing your website for the Organic Search Listings, which focuses on a website's content and including a balance of keywords in all the right places
- Optimizing your website for the Google Local Listings, which centers on proper citation inclusion and accurate local business information
The intention of getting ranked in Google's Organic Search results demands deeper on-site SEO and off-site SEO (what's done off the site to get ranked in Google [e.g. link generation]). Ensuring a website is properly set-up to rank well in Google's Local Listings is a bit more unique, yet simplistic. We go into brief detail about approaches each below.
Optimizing a Website for Organic Search
Optimizing a website to get ranked in Google's Organic Search results (which are not associated with the local listings and map) involves many elements. However, there's an 80/20 rule to on-site SEO, as there are a few primary things that can help your site go a long way in being considered "well-optimized."
70-80% of the equation is having sufficient content and keyword inclusion, or simply including your target keywords in the right places. Below are vital areas (or HTML tags) where you should include your keyword target on a page:
- Meta Title - Try to keep your Meta title (or page title) under 70 characters as SEO best practice
- Meta Description - Include the keyword naturally, but keep the Meta description under 155 characters
- Header 1 & 2 - Referencing your keyword in a Header 1 and Header 2 really helps, but is not always necessary
- Page Copy - Mention your keyword at least 2-3 times in the page copy. Also, well-optimized pages often have at least 200-300 words of copy for search engines to crawl
There are more in-depth on-site SEO strategies that center on internal links (cross-linking), sitemaps, Schema markup, image optimization, and technical SEO, but the latter elements can drastically influence your website's organic search rankings.
Optimizing a Website for Google Local
Ensuring your website is well-suited for Google's Local Listings is a very simple process.
1. Include your company's Name, Address, and Phone number ("NAP" or citation) on all pages of your website. A good place for this is in a site-wide header or footer (or better yet, both.)
2. Find, claim, and complete the verification process on your business's Google+ Local page. Also, populate your company's Google+ page as fully as possible with accurate information and optimized images.
3. Include a link to your Google+ Local page on your website, preferably site-wide.
Like on-site organic SEO, there are other techniques that can help boost your local listing's ranking (i.e. creating a KML file, integrating LocalBusiness Schema markup, etc.,) but the above step are the most essential.
For the first step, it's absolutely essential that your business' citation is completely accurate and consistent with all other web properties your Traverse City business owns (i.e. LinkedIn profile, Yelp page, etc.). This leads us into two other major components of your Traverse City SEO strategy: generating links and citations.
3. Generate Citations for Google Local SEO in Traverse City
How does Google determine a business's ranking in the Local Listings (as shown in the image above for "dentist Traverse City")?
In short, Google crawls the citation, or NAP (business Name, Address, Phone number), mentioned on your website. It then compares this information with other citations mentioned throughout the web. Because directory listings are the most common pages to contain a local business's NAP are websites like Yelp.com, Yellowpages.com, LinkedIn.com, Yahoo! Local, and many others are the primary sources of citations.
The more citations your business has throughout the web, the better. More importantly, all of your citations throughout the web must match-up and be completely accurate and consistent with the NAP that's mentioned on your business website and Google+ Local page. Any inconsistences will hinder your business's ranking potential.
A quick way to assess the current standing of your business's citation profile (and to find opportunities to build or clean-up directory listings) is Yext.com. Here you can run a free scan to see how your company is listed on 55 of the top directories and social media sites that can influence Google local rankings. At Top of Mind, we partner with a Yext reseller and provide subscription services for Yext. In essence, we can have all of these citations audited, clean-up, and optimized overnight.
Specific to your Traverse City SEO strategy, you can find locally-relevant sources to generate very powerful citations. One of the most impactful, but costly, is the profile page your company gets as a member of the Traverse City Chamber of Commerce. Below is an example of a solid citation for Cornerstone Affordable Homes, LLC on the Traverse City chamber website.
This listing is definitely helping the company's Google local SEO. The only thing that's missing on that page is a link pointing to the Cornerstone's website, which could help improve its organic search ranking.
4. Generate Links for Organic SEO in Traverse City
If you've made it this far, then pat yourself on the back for your persistence and willingness to learn. Now you've reached the step in the process that has the most impact on Google search rankings over all elements in SEO: generating links.
Inbound links (or "backlinks") pointing to your site from other websites is Google's way of determining the authority, credibility, and overall ranking of your website. Sure, there's a lot more to it than that. But even some of the most poorly-optimized websites can rank hard with a heavy influx of backlinks from other websites.
For this reason, link generation is 60-70% of the SEO pie, and it's what our Traverse City SEO company uses to rank our clients' websites at the top of Google. For the average business owner or marketing team, pinpointing link opportunities is never easy. Additionally, building a balanced, SEO-friendly link profile for your website takes the right resources and the proper balance of optimized, semi-optimized, and natural link anchor text.
Optimizing your website and generating links for better organic search rankings can have a momentous impact for local SEO. When done right, a business can get their website's organic listing to outrank the Google local listings, like the example below where Great Lakes Orthopedic Center is ranking above the local listings for "orthopedic surgeon Traverse City MI". They also have a Google local listing, so they're getting double the search engine exposure on a keyword that probably generates a lot of new patients.
For this reason, we at Top of Mind place link generation as a priority for most Traverse City SEO programs. With the help of our partners over the years, we have built a diverse network of blogs, directory sites, article infomediaries, press release sites, and other assets intended to generate quality links. In short, these resources are what fuel top organic search rankings for our clients.
5. Embrace Social Media
Many marketing teams neglect social media, either because they don't think it's important or they don't think social media influences SEO (or any other forms of marketing for that matter.) The truth of the matter is, social media can greatly influence your SEO efforts.
Recall those citations and links that you need to build? Well if your Yelp page has received a ton a of 5-star reviews and people are consistently engaging with it, the link and citation from your Yelp page will have greater SEO value (for Google local listings and organic search._ The same concept applies to your business's Facebook page, LinkedIn page, Twitter page, Pinterest page, and Google+ Local page. The more engagement and authority behind these pages, the more they empower your business's SEO strategy.
An active social media presence helps to build greater authority on your social profile pages. Not only can authoritative social profile pages carry stronger link and citation value for SEO, but in some cases, these web properties (i.e. a popular LinkedIn page) can rank in Google for target keywords.
You don't have to use every social media platform on the web. Pick a few that are most aligned with your business model and target market, and keep these social profiles active by consistently making and sharing posts. In some cases, investing in social media advertising to build your follower base is a good supplement for SEO as well as your overall marketing efforts.
SEO Traverse City Takeaway
There you have it - your 2015 Traverse City SEO Guide. If you'd like more specific insights on how to build a powerful SEO strategy for your business, apply for a free consultation using the contact form on the right hand side of this page. We specialize in many facets of SEO and can provide flexible, individually-tailored SEO consulting and service programs to meet your business's objectives and budget restraints.
About the Author
Tyler Tafelsky is the SEO and search marketing director at Top of Mind. He offers over 7 years of experience in the web marketing profession and is firmly dedicated to helping northern Michigan businesses succeed by sharing is knowledge and insights as an organic SEO expert. You can learn more by connecting with Tyler on Google+.