Using SEO To Target Surrounding Cities

Lately I’ve had a few calls from potential clients wanting to target users in surrounding cities. Many of them are wanting to show up in the maps or Google My Business results.

I already wrote about this last year and explained how proximity to a surrounding city will make it next to impossible to rank in the top 3 in a surrounding city your business is not physically located in. It’s just one of the sad truths above the Google Maps results.

But there still is a way you can drive traffic to your website by targeting users in surrounding cities. Read on to find out what that is.

Local SEO Landing Pages

Just because you can’t rank in the Google Maps in another city, doesn’t mean that you can’t create a landing page on your website targeting a surrounding city. We’ve done this for quite a few of our clients. Especially those doing business in smaller cities and have clients from other smaller surrounding cities.

I’ve already written about how to create great local SEO content. Read that post then this one on creating local SEO landing pages for surrounding cities.

Those two posts will help you learn what it takes to create a good landing page targeting another surrounding city. Now it will take some time for these new pages to rank in a surrounding city. So be patient. But how long though? It depends on a few factors like:

  • How much trust does your domain have with the search engines?
  • How well written and optimized the page is?
  • How unique is each page? Don’t just copy and paste the same text and change the city name.
  • How many interlinks do you have to each of these surrounding city pages? Be sure to write a few blog posts about your service geared towards those cities and have a link to a city page you’ve created.

Honesty

When we write these pages for our client, we always be sure to add honesty. We’ll add a sentence like this in this first paragraph:

“You are searching for a painter in Cape Coral. Even though we are not physically located in Cape Coral and operate in Fort Myers, we have helped many clients in the Cape Coral with their painting projects.”

This can even work for storefronts. Point out that the short drive to your city is something many of your current clients have done and that it is well worth the drive. Then list some of your unique sales propositions like Jay Abraham says to do.

Again, the chances of ranking in the top 3 of Google Maps in a surrounding is highly unlikely. But you can still follow the steps from this post and the others I’ve linked to to create landing pages targeting those surrounding cities.

Will Changing My Business Name Hurt My Search Rankings?

One of the most common questions we get asked at Meaningful Marketing is “will changing my business name, address or phone number negatively hurt my organic, or Google My Business search rankings?” We always answer “well, it depends.”

Organic Search Rankings

So, let’s first start off by talking about the organic rankings. We have not seen a client suffer negative or poor search rankings because they have inconsistent name, address or phone number listed on business directories. Now, when we first start out with a client, we do a data scrape of all their business listings and make sure they do have consistent name, address and phone number listed on all these directories. So we make sure we get on top of that right away and clean them up.

However, we do have cases where we have clients come to us who have had a few business name changes, or maybe they’ve changed addresses or a changed phone number here or there. And in those cases when we start working with them, we obviously want to go through and clean up their data, and make sure they’re listed correctly and consistently across the web. But we haven’t seen a negative impact on their organic search rankings.

So, it’s not so much the organic search rankings you’ve got to worry about, because there’s a bunch of other factors that Google looks at when they rank a website organically, and a lot of those things we’ve talked about in our SEO blog posts, things like creating good content, things like adding lots of interlinks between posts, and things like optimizing your website properly.

Google My Business Rankings

Now, moving onto the Google my business search rankings, it can hurt your rankings there if you do have an inconsistent name, address or phone number listed on these random, third-party directories.

consistent-name-address-phone-number-google-my-business

So, you want to make sure, if you have already or if you’re thinking about changing your business name, that you track down all your business listings across the web, and you get them updated as fast, or as quickly as possible.

So, if you follow the strategy and the guidelines we’ve laid out in the importance of your business listings blog post, you’ll see how you can go about finding all your business listings on all these directories and then keeping a spreadsheet and keeping a tally and track of if you’ve contacted that website for the change request.

Where Did All These Listings Come From?!

Now, if that’s the case, you’re probably going to see a lot of business listings out there of your business that you don’t even know about, and you’re going to wonder “how did I get on that directory?” Well, what happens is a lot of these directories were started up by people who were looking to generate leads for search engine marketing services, or who were looking to generate revenue through online advertising, and they created these directories and what they did was just basically had data scrapers, whether it’s a spider, and created all this data about businesses and then simply had that data uploaded to their website.

So they could go to a directory like Yellow Pages, gather a bunch of information about chiropractors in Atlanta, Georgia, and have all those chiropractors’ businesses listed on their own website just by simply scraping the data from Yellow Pages directory of chiropractors in Atlanta, and then uploading it to their own website.

That’s how a lot of these directories have come to produce a bunch of business listings that you don’t even know about. And if you look at a lot of companies like Yext and Elocal in the states, what they do is they’re basically the big data aggregators and they just spit out all these business listings. So, if you list your business with Yext, what’s going to happen is you’re going to have a bunch of business listings across the web that you may or may not know about.

Now, obviously, if you sign up with Yext you’ll know about those listings because they’ll send you a report. But if for example you had a listing on Yellow Pages that had an inconsistent name, address or phone number issue, then a lot of directories take that Yellow Pages information and put it on their website. It’s one thing that you have to watch out for, is that you’re going to see a lot of these directories that you don’t even know about that your business is listed on, so that’s an issue.

Unresponsive Directories

The second issue about these directories, like I’ve already said, a lot of these people started these these directories as the means to generate some side revenue, whether it was trying to generate leads for search engine marketing, or it was trying to generate ad revenue. Well, a lot of these people have started up doing that and then over the years, they decided to go branch off and do something else and they’ve put less and less time and energy into that site, therefore, they are no longer manning the support emails, because they probably get a bunch of emails from people asking to update their listings, and they’ve just given up because they can’t keep up with it, because they can’t hire somebody.

So, you’re going to run into directories like that where, unfortunately, it’s going to take three, four, five tries to get your name, address or phone number updated. If you can, great, but sometimes you’re not going to be able to because nobody’s going to answer your email, so it’s keeping on top and trying to keep track of who you’ve contacted and how many times you’ve contacted them.

For us, what we do is we provide the name, address and phone cleanup in our Google My business Platinum Package, and we offer four rounds, so for once a month for four months, we’ll go in and send off change requests or claim requests for all the listings. And we’ll go about trying to change them that way. After the fourth time, if we haven’t heard back from anybody at that directory, then we’ll just have to give up and move on and fight our battles elsewhere.

Focus On The Top Directories

Now Phil Rozek from Local Visibility Systems suggests you just focus on the top 50 directories. The top 50 directories you can find out here from the white Spark blog post. So you can find out if you’re listed on any of those top directories and go about just focusing on changing those ones, or you could use a service like Yext, which I think for $499 a year will take care of most of this stuff for you.

I know a couple of our SEO clients out of the States have used this in the past and they speak highly of it. It’s a fairly good chunk of money upfront, but if it gets things done fast, then you won’t see an impact or a negative impact on your Google my business ranking.

So, it all just comes down to making sure that you have all your business listings updated as fast and as quickly as possible. So, trying to track down all those listings and sending out requests. And, again, there are a couple things you could do, you could use Yext, you could sign up for them, they will probably get it done a lot quicker than somebody like us who offer it at a cheaper rate, where we go in and do it more manually, they will basically just go in and update on one site, their site, and then it’ll spit it out to all of their directories.

However, there are still a few directories that they won’t be able to get ahold of because nobody can get ahold of them because no one’s manning the support system there, so you have the Yext option, you have the option of our option, or you could do it on your own. It all just depends on what you want to do, but you want to make sure you get it done quickly, because Google states in their Google My Business guidelines that they want to see a business listed accurately across third-party websites.

So, they want to see that your business is listed correctly and accurately across third-party directories, like Yellow Pages, like Yelp, like Foursquare, Yahoo local, and on down the list to these little random directories I’ve already spoken about. You want to make sure you get on it as quickly as possible so that you don’t confuse Google and you don’t confuse their data, which they’ve collected about your business over the years so that they don’t go “we’re confused about this business, it used to be called this, it used to be located there, their phone number was this,” and then they don’t want to compare that to your Google My Business page and have that hurt your rankings, because it’s going to be easy for you to update your Google My Business page or website, but it’s going to be hard for you to update these random directories.

So, like I said, you’ve got three options, whichever one you choose you want to make sure you get on with it as quickly as you can and you get the ball rolling and make those changes as quickly as possible.

How To Get More Google Reviews

ReviewsKnowing how to get more reviews for your Google My Business page is important for so many reasons. I won’t list them all but it helps your GMB pages’ rankings. And it helps people get an idea of what doing business with you is like.

Since Google changed their GMB search rankings a few weeks back, I’ve noticed many of the businesses in the top 3 have 20+ reviews.

I still get clients asking me for ways to get more reviews. I’ve talked about a few ways already. Today I’ll go cover another way to get more reviews.

Another way is to have a sheet at your front desk asking clients to review your business on Google. We’ve done this for all our clients who have a storefront and it’s worked great. The best news is it’s really simple to set in place.

Here’s what you need to do.

Create a introduction sheet which you can post at the front desk of your storefront. If you service clients at their location, you can mention to them that if they have a Gmail account, it would be greatly appreciated if they could write you a Google review. State that reviews are important for your local search rankings and that potential clients will find them useful in whether they will choose your business.

Once again you can post this at your front desk or checkout area.

Make It Easy

The next step is to create step by step instructions on how to write reviews. If your clients aren’t tech savvy, it’s important to make things really easy.

Here is an example of what our introduction and instruction sheet at Meaningful Marketing looks like. All you need to do is change the business name and create screenshots so you can replace our images with yours.

For those business who service clients at locations, simply print out the instructions and hand it to them. This would work well for any contractors.

If you want to turbo charge your reviews, implement the strategy below with caution.

Local SEO Rankings

Create A Draw

*UPDATE

I originally listed the idea of creating a draw with those who wrote you a review on your GMB page. After looking through Google’s GMB review guidelines for a second time, I didn’t see where it clearly says this is not allowed.

I then came across a post from one of the leading voices in local SEO, Mike Blumenthal, over at Get Five Stars. After reading his post which says incentivizing clients to writes reviews is against the TOC of all review sites like Yelp and Google. I wanted to get clarification about creating draws and know if that is deemed as incentivizing. Mike confirmed that it was.

 

So there you have it. Don’t create a draw like I had originally suggeted. Simply read the other posts on getting reviews I’ve linked to in this post and you’re all good.

Google Maps Search Results Change

Google-My-BusinessLast month I made a post that Google had changed the maps results in organic searches. At the time I thought it was going to be a full change but it was only a test and they went back to the old maps results.

It turns out Google rolled out the change across the board last week. They had changed what the maps looked liked for the Tourism & Hospitality industries a few months back. But everything else stayed the same. That was until last week.

So what do you need to know from this change?

Top Three Is Important

The biggest thing from this change is no matter what service you offer or business you run, the  GMB results only list the top three. This means extra importance is put on getting into that top three. Before there were sometimes three, six and seven GMB pages listed in the results with a correlating letter (A-G).

Once again here is what they use to look like.

Google Places Maps Listings

 

And this is what they look like today.

massage therapy victoria bc

What’s absent is the full address, the option to click on the reviews or the My Business/+ page. You have to click on the business name to see their reviews. When you click on the “More massage therapy” link, you will see more listings along with their pictures, hours, contact details and reviews.

The one nice benefit of this new roll out is that when you do click on “More massage therapy” you are taken to a new page with a bigger map that lists 20 businesses.

Google My Business Results Change

If people do click on to see more business, then being in the top three isn’t as important. It really all depends on what product or service you provide. In many cases people might be doing their research and want to see location and view websites to compare choices.

One thing hasn’t changed. That’s the importance of the map centroid for your city. I blogged about this a few weeks back and why it could prevent you from ranking highly in the maps.

Reviews

So far from what I have seen, many businesses ranking highly have lots of reviews. Not just 5 or 10 reviews. But 20+ reviews. So be sure to follow this review strategy and this one I just blogged about.

Click Studies

I was reading this great blog post on click studies regarding the new results. It shows you how many people click on ads, the maps results, organic listings and more maps results.

This new look will be interesting to monitor over the coming months. I’d love to run some click tests of my own. I’ll also be analyzing organic traffic in analytics to see if people are still clicking on organic websites.

Google My Business Results Change

Google has been known to change the appearance of their search results for some time now. I’m not just talking algorithms but the visual appearance.

It looks like in the last couple of days they have changed their Google My Business listings within the search results.

This is what it looked like before:

Google Places Maps Listings

This is what the sam search result looks like as of today:

massage therapy victoria bc   Google Search

Gone is the A – G or A – C mapped icons. The map has moved from the right of the screen to the top.

Before when you wanted to learn more about a business, you could just scroll of their listing in A – G or A – C listings to see the snippet of their business, reviews, contact info and hours of operation. Now you have to click on a business to see that info. When you do so you are taking to page which shows all the business info along with listings to other businesses.

What’s the take away?

Before the Google My Business listings would show either 3 or 7 listings. Now they are only extensively showing 3 businesses across all the searches I have done.

This means it’s important to now get into the top 3 of the Google My Business listings within the search results. I’ve talked extensively about how to get ranking in the Google My Business listings. I’ve covered how to rank in GMB page, five ways to improve your GMB page rankings, how to get reviews for your GMB page and why consistent business listings are important.

Take a look over those and get refreshed. Getting in the top 3 now means the world or else you are relaying on people skipping over the first 3 results and finding yours.