SEO, and Local SEO, isn’t a mystery. And we’re peeling back the curtain so you can see just how we analyze, strategize, implement, measure, and refine our own local SEO campaigns. Particularly, incorporating PR and press releases can help skyrocket your local SEO efforts to help you outrank the competition.
As I outlined in my previous post on PR and SEO, PR (press releases) have become not just an important component to SEO (search engine optimization), but have really become ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTORS in getting you to rank and out-rank your competition. The following post, as I previously mentioned will outline a complete strategy and actionable list on local SEO, and in particular, how to utilize PR to gain ranking(s).
This post and the correponding 10 steps will be organized under the following major headers:
Before we dive deeper into executing a local SEO campaign and the role PR plays (and how to craft a campaign that assists your local SEO efforts) I think it’s important to recap a little on search.
Search (a Primer)
As much as we’ve become fans of Facebook (and I’ll be detailing out some technical elements on Facebook here in my next post) and it’s hyper-targeted advertising, search is still one of the best areas to concentrate for any business. Why? Well because search is where people go to find the answers to the problems they’re having, where they go to find information, where they turn to for accomplishing tasks and for buying products. Search is often considered towards the end of the buying cycle (they’ve researched the product, industry, and are ready to purchase) but there are a ton of additional elements that make search a primary tool in your businesses online arsenal:
- Search Accounts for 10x – 20x more traffic than social
- Nearly 80% of All Traffic Comes from Search
- 90% of Local Traffic Comes from Search
- Search Traffic is Far More Likely to Convert
Before we jump to how, I figured it might be a good idea to recap some important points on search marketing in general. First, according to many sources search traffic accounts for 10x – 20x as much traffic as social. In fact, when combined with pay per click advertising the average site will see nearly 80% of their traffic coming from search. Additionally (and this is particularly important if you’re a business reading this), search traffic is typically FAR MORE likely to purchase/convert. I think this is based on how we use search and the web in general. Search allows us to quickly ask Google to assist us with our problem, at which time Google presents a list of websites that have a solution to that problem (similar in many ways to the old yellow pages).
Across the board we see this with all of our clients. In all but the most extreme cases – search DOMINATES the overall traffic, and leads to the most contacts, conversions, leads, and sales.
Local SEO (Quick Review)
Search has gotten rather complex, and really is a mixture of lots of components:
- Local Search
- National/General Organic Search
- Personalized Search
- And much more…
For the purposes of this guide we’re going to be concentrating mostly on immediately actionable items from a local search perspective, although the tips, research, and strategies, will really flow into and across many areas of search and the web. For more details on local search outside of this actionable list please review our post on local SEO.
PR (Quick Review)
I highlighted in depth what PR is and how it affects search results in my previous post on PR & SEO. For the purposes of this post, you can think of PR as “earned media.” It’s not (directly) paid – as in advertising. Instead your business does something news worthy and you disseminate that event, action, award, etc. to the proper channels and receive some kind of mention in a publication (online, offfline, or both). You can also review our post on PR for additional information on Press Releases.
1) Research Your Area
This seems pretty simple, but you’d be surprised what we find (and what you’ll find) when you go through this exercise. The process is fairly straightforward, but creativity here helps. Personally, I like to start with simple searches in your area. See what websites rank best for your local area – most likely you’re going to find:
- Local Governments
- Local Chambers of Commerce
Write each down and start gathering a list of websites and persons you’ll need to be connecting with. Don’t forget here, creativity is the key. If you’re in a hyper competitive local market (take auto sales or real estate for example) – dig deeper. Are there publications you know about that might be helpful/important? What do their websites look like? What kind of content are they crafting? Can you assist with a piece that matches their tone and editorial direction? Is there something happening inside your company, or an idea for an event, that might tie in nicely with what they’re doing? All of these are jumping off points that might come to mind while you’re doing your research.
2) Research Your (and Your Competitors) Positioning
What gets measured, gets improved (or something like that). I’m a huge fan of doing small (or large) tests to see what impact our company and client efforts has on their underlying business. You should do the same.
Take a look at yourself. Where are you in local search? Are you showing up in the Google Maps/Local pack? Are you no where to be found? Who links back to you and your competitors? Analyze your top competitors locally using Open Link Explorer to find some commonalities between major competitors and what is driving their local rankings.
Strategize Local SEO
3) Develop a Hit List
After you’ve had a chance to really review your area of expertise, and literally your area, it’s time to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and develop a list of media contacts. Personally I use a spreadsheet, along with the following column headers:
First Name | Last Name | Email Address | Phone | Publication (name) | Publication (web address) | Additional Notes.
Once I’ve started building the list I’ll also utilize social media tools to do some additional homework on each of the individuals I’m about to reach out to. Perhaps we share common connections, interests, or work history. Once you’ve done this, I would begin reaching out on a one-on-one basis, setting up coffee dates to learn more about their needs and what they need assistance on.
4) Develop a List of Ideas/Pieces
This is perhaps the most complicated of all of the steps in this process. So far everything we’ve discussed has been very specific and is generally the same no matter what business (with some variations based on location and niche). However, for this you’ll need to marry what you’re discovering online, with your knowledge of y our local market/location and finally join ALL of that with your own knowledge of your business.
Some very simple examples of campaigns/ideas include:
- Awards – Either go after, or celebrate any awards you’ve won.
- Sponsorships & Parnerships – Have you sponsored, hosted, or created a local charity event? Perhaps you’ve partnered with an amazing company or person you’re excited to share with your community? Or maybe something big has happened at your company that’s newsworthy?
- New Hires –
- New Certifications
- Tips Tricks, etc.
All of the above are important milestones or accolades that your business can communicate. The important thing here is to get specific. Some publications, editors, or journalists might find some of the ideas you come up with irrelevant. Some will be perfect connections. Whatever ideas or accolades you decide to promote, make sure it makes sense to the final person your pitching – and their publications’ general audience.
5) Website & Technical
The following item on our list is probably the most exhaustive, in part because it is the most technical – and provides those that read and implement the greatest bang-for-the-buck in terms of return on effort. However, you should assume your competitors are concentrating on this area too, so going above and beyond (executing those steps we’ve discussed) and those we’re about to go over, will give you a massive advantage.
Every year MOZ (one of the recognized leaders in SEO) publishes surveys and reports on all kinds of topics. Their most recent survey executed by SEOs from all over the world on Local itemized the importance and weight of the following factors on Local SEO:
- My Business Signals (14.7%) – Have a “Google My Business” page setup. Pay special attention to your address (make sure it’s verified) and the name, description, and the other elements of your business. Doing this one thing – which start-to-finish takes about 1 hour to complete can make or break a business. Go above and beyond with this. Make sure to add nice imagery, take pictures of your team, and add your services.
(Categories, Keyword in Business Title, Proximity, etc.)
- External Loc. Signals (13.6%) – There are literally dozens of reputable IYP (internet yellow pages) all of which should have your name, business, and description accurately displayed. There are many tools for doing this more rapidly than one-by-one. NAP consistency refers to the consistency of your NAME ADDRESS AND PHONE across all of these sites. Make sure all of your listings have the same information.
(IYP/aggregator NAP consistency, Citation Volume, etc.)
- On-page Signals (20.3%) – Most SEOs surveyed feel that around 20% of an organizations’ local dominance can be attributed to their website alone. Breaking this down further make sure your website features your NAP (name, address, phone) in a way that’s consistent with your other local listings. Similarly, have pages – if applicable that reference and mention your local. For example, a local client of ours was concentrating on “Estero” so we made sure to mention “Estero” in their title tags when appropriate. Finally, domain authority refers to the relative strength of the website overall. This is a somewhat complex number generated by a number of factors including the overall structure of your website (is it well-written, well-designed, has lots of helpful content?)? Is your website updated often? Is your website linked-to by helpful and other valuable sites.
(Presence of NAP, Keywords in Titles, Domain authority, etc.)
- Link Signals (20.0%) – Link signals are exactly what they sound like – for any website(s) that link back to yours, what is the context with which those links are being provided? IE, does the other website talk about a subject you’re an expert in? Is the other website a local resource for valuable news or information? Does the other website literally link to you using some “local-centric” words that would help provide guidance to a user/search engine. As an example, use Atilus – we were recently linked to by the Newspress (in itself a local newspaper) with the words “Fort Myers Web Design” which helped communicate that we service Fort Myers in one of our major service areas.
(Inbound anchor text, Linking domain authority, Linking domain quantity, etc.)
- Review Signals (8.4%) – Last, but certainly not least let’s look at reviews. In our own research this is the gift that keeps giving as reviews are becoming more and more important and is a way to connect with your customers, and tell their story. At a basic level getting reviews on Google my business, Facebook, and other pages, can be immensely helpful in virtually guaranteeing ranking. One thing to keep in mind here – honesty is important and based on our small tests search engines are able to loosely determine the efficacy of reviews as some competitors and client competitors with double or triple the reviews (mostly fake, or the ONLY review these people have left) are still being outranked by us and our clients with real reviews.
(Review quantity, Review velocity, Review diversity, etc.)
That means concentrating on the above 4 items, will define success for you around 80% of the time (ie you’ll out rank 80% of your local competition). Note that link signals are really what we’re concentrating on here with this piece, however each of the above should be closely scrutinized.
6) Campaign Execution
This is probably the most involved of the steps listed. But once you go through this once, all of the following steps should fall into place nicely, and if you’ve done your homework up until this point – the execution, although most involved, should go pretty smoothy and result in gains in local SEO and some local press for your business.
First I’d ask yourself – what are you trying to accomplish. Let me quick use an example. Say you’re a local boat company and you’re looking to rank better for the local search “Fort Myers Boats.” Already we know a couple of things… first we have a keyword. That keyword, or something similar, will be at the heart of our campaign.
Now, using our previous research and work as a jumping off point – what idea, event, news (something internal that’s interesting perhaps) can we use as a tool to help us get in front of the right people and finally their audience in the form of a press release? Next it’s simply a matter of coordinating the event, or crafting the press release in order to get in front of the media contacts and website owners you should have already established a relationship with at this phase.
A key consideration here is, if possible, make sure your press releases features the keyword(s) you’d like to rank for. Although Google and other search engine’s typically can associate your PR with your website, having a direct link always helps.
7) Measure Before
This step can be executed at the same time you’re working on your campaign and is very open ended as it’s up to you how you measure, and the tools you already have in place to measure. Some things that come to mind:
- Links Back – How many links to you have back to your website before the campaign?
- Google Analytics (Keywords) – I would setup a special view within Google Analytics to show you how much traffic you get for the particular keywords you’re trying to improve.
- Google Analytics (Date Marking) – I would mark on the Google Analytics date list, the exact date your campaign gets executed so that you can easily map any reporting to the date.
- Search Ranking Tools (or Manual) – There are a number of paid tools out there to help you measure particular keywords and your rankings. MOZ is a great resource, although there are many others.
8) Measure After (Ongoing)
How did things go with your campaign? Was it picked up? Did it hit the mark with what you were trying to accomplish as far as publications where you and your company got featured? Finally, make sure to re-check your links back and reanalyze your search scores to see if you’re now ranking higher for particular keywords. You can again use a tool like Moz, or simply analyze your websites’ webmaster tools for insight into what’s working, and the impact it’s having on your search.
9) Refine Campaigns
Simply refer to everything we went over previously and draw some conclusions. Unfortunately, because this step is unique to every company, industry, and segment, it’s hard to say exactly what to do, but if you’ve gone through all of the above before you should be able to quickly draw some conclusions. For example, some editors/markets really love charitable endeavors, others are more apt to publish (and increase your rankings) when businesses tought their latest and greatest technologies, and interesting trends. You can only gain this insight by continually reviewing the aforementioned 8 steps, but will help you build on what works and avoid what doesn’t.
10) Refine List & Options
Finally, refine your next steps, and come up with new ideas based on what you’ve learned.
A personal example I can share is that at Atilus we’ve had limited success with any PR related to our successes, with a limited pick up from certain publications for employment changes. But, what does seem to work, are new technologies that we’re using for ourselves or on behalf of clients. The latest and greatest and coolest technologies seems to be a hot topic for local journalists and editors, and as such we’ve seen success pitching story ideas along these lines.
No matter what industry you’re in PR can not only boost your brand awareness, but it’s now having a measurable (and rather large) impact on Local SEO. So start building those contacts and with the above 10 steps you’ll be able to see success!