Awesome Local SEO Ranking Tip to Grab #1 Spot

johncrenshaw

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Mar 14, 2013
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77
Hey everyone, just wanted to share a ridiculously good strategy we've been using with a lot of success lately to rank locally.

This works best for keywords like "roofers in [city name]" or "landscaping companies in [city name]"...basically any keyword where the biggest intent is to find a list of companies that do XYZ.

If you look at the top-ranked pages for queries like these, they are almost always directory sites like Yellowpages, Lawyers.com, Thumbtack, etc.

Last year we started seeing this happen more and more and I was wondering how these directories are outranking the companies themselves (the landscapers, roofers, lawyers, etc) even when the companies themselves might have otherwise awesome organic performance.

Since then we've been toying around with some ideas and figuring out ways to determine intent behind specific keywords and we're finding matching that intent as closely as possible is perhaps the easiest way to rank a page on a local client's site.

How to do it

For this particular set of queries, it's actually pretty easy - you just have to swipe the directories' strategy...

If you're an attorney, create a page on your site listing all the attorneys in your area, preferably organized in a fashion that makes it easy to skim, mentions the key details someone who lands on the page might want to know - just generally make it super useful.

Then put yourself at the top of that list.

So the first time we pitched this idea to a client they said something along the lines of, "but I don't want to list my competitors on my site, etc, etc."

Yeah yeah, I get that. But consider this:

  1. Almost everyone typing "law firms in Louisville" is looking for a list of law firms. They're going to find that list. Either Google is going to give it to them or you can. Personally, I'd rather be in control of that experience.
  2. If you don't do this then you'll probably stay around #2-4, right behind all the high DA directories that are doing this and you'll get fewer eyeballs on your site.

Why this works

3 reasons:

1. Intent is crazy important - I think the SEO industry as a whole woefully underestimates the importance of intent.

Think about it like this: it's Google's goal to get you exactly the information you want as quickly as possible. Matching the intent behind a particular search query as closely as possible means you're putting content on your site that is exactly what users want, which is exactly what Google wants to serve up at the top.

The only pitfalls here are 1) Is the true intent behind a query what you actually think it is? and 2) are the search engines sophisticated enough to determine whether your content matches that intent better than the competition. But that's a little outside the scope of this tip.

2. So intent is important...With this strategy, you're matching the intent behind the search better than your competition. The better you match the intent and the more useful the content, the better your CTR, bounce rates, social shares, etc.

3. If you're a local business in the area, and you're decently well-optimized already, you probably have much more local authority / relevance than those directory pages. HAHAHA YES!

Meta title / description bonus

Another thing we've tested is maximizing CTR in search results for these pages using meta titles and descriptions.

We've noticed that better, more clickable copy in the description seems to directly impact the speed at which these pages rise in the results and how high they go.

This is far from scientific but we've tried writing what I'd consider boring copy that's not well targeted for meta descriptions and then writing copy that is hyper targeted toward what we believe is the demo behind a particular search query and the rankings difference seems to be strongly in favor of better copy, which I can only conclude is a result of increased CTR.

Tracking

I would also encourage you to track the effectiveness of this page because there very well may be some scenarios where this isn't the ideal approach - some ideas for that:
  • Track outbound clicks to competitors - consider swapping out a competitor if their value prop is much stronger than yours
  • Track phone calls that originate from this page
  • Track walk-ins that originate from this page by saying something like "mention coupon code DIRECTORY KILLER and get 10% off your order."
  • Track form submissions that originally landed on this page.

That is all. Have fun!
 

Linda Buquet

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Jun 28, 2012
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14,438
Thanks John, great idea! I Love it!

The other thing about this that could directly help the ranking for the home page that they really want to rank...

We've talked about how popularity, click through and stick rate can help boost ranking.

Well if this page ranks high so gets more clicks etc maybe it would boost ranking a tiny bit for the home page in the pack too.

Only thing I wonder is... have you seen ranking this internal page negatively affecting their main ranking for the home page - in the pack???

I ask because Google will very seldom award 2 spots to the same company in the SERPS.
(Not talking the natural doubles we see now where home ranks twice. Talking home and an internal page both ranking.)
 

Marie Haynes

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Aug 7, 2012
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132
Linda's tweet about this topic brought me into the forum to have a look.

John, have you seen this work consistently? I would have thought that the big common directories that are ranking well for this type of query are not necessarily doing so because the contain a list of businesses but rather because of the power of the overall authority of those domains.

I have questions. :)

-How long after you've created this page do you find that you are outranking the big directories?

-I'm assuming you are outranking them in the organic listings?

-Do you build links to these pages at all or just have them rank on the power of relevance and your local authority?

-I'm assuming you don't actually link to your competitors in the list, right? But you could probably link to your own home page for your listing.

Very interesting. I'll likely give this a try on one of my own sites.
 

johncrenshaw

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Mar 14, 2013
Messages
77
Linda,

I know that particular test we did here was inconclusive but based on what I've seen I'm anecdotally convinced that CTR / stick rate is really important, at least for organic - not sure about pack.

Good question on the pack issue - looking through what we've done to date, the sites were either not ranking locally at all before we started or the search queries we tested this on didn't have any pack results. Something to be cognizant of for sure.
 

Ben Bowen

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Oct 27, 2013
Messages
51
I am SUPER interested in trying this....

I have lots of visibility for "Landscaper" and "Landscaping" + City. I have been struggling to do the same for "Landscape Design" and "Landscape Designers".

Maybe I should give this a try?

I would like to echo the question above- do you actually link out to competitors when you do this? And how about listing the appropriate pages for the directory lists as well? You could put a pretty comprehensive list together pretty quickly....
 

johncrenshaw

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Mar 14, 2013
Messages
77
@Marie

Amazingly consistent so far yes. I don't think it's the case that the big directories rank bc of domain authority - it's definitely a factor yes, but i think they're just matching the queries intent more closely than anyone else.

As to your questions:

- 3-6 months. I'm just guessing here but I suspect it's a factor of the effectiveness of your meta title & desc and how much search volume there is for the query.

I should add we've tried this strategy with a handful of queries where relatively stiff local competition dominated without any directories and it worked in those cases as well.

- Organic only yes. Not sure how this affects pack. To Linda's point above, if pack is somehow influenced by CTR, would increased CTR on the organic result improve the pack position? I don't know the answer to that.

- No links. Not a single one. In fact, before we hit on this strategy we were building a few good quality links to other pages we wanted to rank for those terms - performance on these pages is crushing the others.

- We do link to competitors - and the links are all do-follow. When I started testing this I wanted to do that to help bias the result against us a little bit just in case. I thought for sure that was a bad idea but it doesn't seem to affect anything.

In fact, linking to competitors might actually be a good thing because it tends to keep people on the page longer and reduce the number of people bouncing back to search.

Definitely let me know how it goes.

---------- Post Merged at 05:49 PM ---------- Previous Post was at 05:47 PM ----------

And how about listing the appropriate pages for the directory lists as well? You could put a pretty comprehensive list together pretty quickly....
For sure. I think it's more likely that the stiffer your competition for these terms, the better your page will have to be.

I could see adding ratings, filtering/sorting functionality, etc. You could def. make take this pretty far.
 

ToddB

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Mar 17, 2013
Messages
37
I've always wanted to try something like this but never did, felt like I may have to link out to the competitors to get the best results and never wanted to do that.

Now I may have to give it a go. Awesome thread!
 

Linda Buquet

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- Organic only yes. Not sure how this affects pack. To Linda's point above, if pack is somehow influenced by CTR, would increased CTR on the organic result improve the pack position? I don't know the answer to that.
Most of the pack or at least the top of the pack is based almost purely on organic ranking factors. So if anything boost organic they will move up in the pack as well.
 

Linda Buquet

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I just had another great idea...

2 complementary but different industries...

Let's say a Dentist and his buddy who is an Orthodontist.

Or a cosmetic dentist and cosmetic surgeon that are on good terms and maybe refer anyway.

Or a Chiro and acupuncturist... you know where I'm going with this. :)

Design the mini directories for your client the Dentist.

Put the Ortho directory on the Dentist site with his buddy the ortho on top. And have him get the Ortho to put the Dentist directory on his site with the Dentist on top. They are related enough they'd still rank high. But they would not have a page on their site promoting their own competition if that's the concern.

Would be more work and would require the Dentist having a buddy that's an Ortho but most have that type of referral relationship with a specialist anyway.
 

Blake Denman

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Nov 6, 2013
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I just had another great idea...
Put the Ortho directory on the Dentist site with his buddy the ortho on top. And have him get the Ortho to put the Dentist directory on his site with the Dentist on top. They are related enough they'd still rank high. But they would not have a page on their site promoting their own competition if that's the concern.
That is a great idea, but this could be looked at as a Link Wheel by Google. Even though you are linking to other Dentists/Orthos. Giving favor to one because he does the same for you. This is one of those "grey areas."
 

Linda Buquet

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That is a great idea, but this could be looked at as a Link Wheel by Google. Even though you are linking to other Dentists/Orthos. Giving favor to one because he does the same for you. This is one of those "grey areas."
Google slap me now! :p

I wasn't even thinking about links, was more thinking of the directory concept of having all those local business listings. But you are right. To have meaning as a directory they would need links. BUT they could and probably should be no-follow anyway and then it would be less gray. Not a link wheel if not passing juice, right? But it would still be a citation wheel of sorts. :p
 

Blake Denman

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Nov 6, 2013
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Yeah nofollow would be the way to go.

Google slap me now! :p
But it would still be a citation wheel of sorts. :p
We laugh about citation wheels now. I imagine in a couple of years that will be a real thing and it will be another thing to avoid.
 

johncrenshaw

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Mar 14, 2013
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Most of the pack or at least the top of the pack is based almost purely on organic ranking factors. So if anything boost organic they will move up in the pack as well.
That's a good point Linda, but thinking about the way CTR might possibly be factored into the algorithm, if I'm Google, I think I'd want to compare organic CTR to organic CTR and pack CTR to pack CTR - in other words, silo those because (I think) pack results will necessarily have a different normalized CTR than organic.

What do you think about that?
 

Linda Buquet

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Hmmm, good point John! I see what you are saying.

But my thinking is that the organic listing and maps listing is blended in the pack.
So it's underbelly is still the organic listing. So boost that and boost your pack placement, maybe?
 

Chris_Tax

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Jun 5, 2014
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I do income taxes for locals. My nephew, who did my website, did a similar thing. He included glossary pages of income tax terms He, also, created 2 tabs off the main website address listing sister cities. I am bused , but in truth is is very bright
 

Eric Rohrback

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Oct 3, 2012
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This is definitely an interesting idea... I skimmed the thread pretty quick, so I missed how long this test has been active; what was the time frame for measuring results for this?

Also, I agree with Blake that you need to no-follow the links to prevent the possibility of a link wheel. However that would only be if everyone took on this strategy and linked back to each other.

https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/66356?hl=en

I think if everyone adapted this strategy it could be considered a part of "Excessive link exchanges," but you could possibly get away with this if no one else is bold enough to try it. Depending on how you position the page, it wouldn't be a link exchange but a helpful resource of talented professionals in the area :)
 

johncrenshaw

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Mar 14, 2013
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@Chris_Tax

I think there's a pretty important distinction here. What I'm advocating is matching searcher intent better by providing a listing of providers in a given area - in other words providing exactly what most searchers are looking for in this case.

A list of cities or a glossary of terms is a very different strategy. In all likelihood the purpose of a page listing cities is to pull in traffic searching for a provider in one of those cities, but if I search "roofer mason oh" and land on a page with a listing of cities/towns in Cincinnati, one of which is Mason, I'm actually doing quite the opposite of what I'm advocating with this strategy - I'm giving the searcher something they probably don't want.

@EsR

It's not so much a test as something we've been seeing great results with - that is, specifically, matching the query intent, even if that means we link to competitors.

I don't think link wheel is a concern if you do this the way I described. We're not doing this to pump the rankings of any site listed, in fact, the sites listed are generally competitors. Instead we're just providing the searcher what they're looking for. The only concern is pumping up your competitors' websites but that hasn't been a problem yet.

On the link exchange point - same deal with the link wheel - that's not what we're doing here.

I suppose if every, say, roofer in a given area copied this strategy and listed every other roofer in the area, a third party could be confused and consider that a link exchange, but then why are all these roofing companies linking to their competitors?
 

Former Member

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Mar 15, 2013
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Love new ideas. Thanks.

Do you include the entire NAP and link to their site? Would this cause confusion for Google?
 

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