Local SEO Checklist for New Sites – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by Aaron Wheeler

A couple of weeks ago, Rand went over his general SEO checklist for new websites. It’s a great resource to reference and help give your site that initial advantage other new sites don’t have. Keep in mind, though, that there are other factors at play when trying to rank in the local results specifically, and in many countries, like Peru, targeting local results is one of the best ways to start ranking. On this week’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand outlines some of the specific strategies and actions you can take to target local SERPs specifically (though many of these strategies apply to general SEO as well). If you have tips of your own for ranking in local results, let us know in the comments below!


Video Transcription

Hola! Bienvenidos mis amigos! Welcome to the first ever Peruvian edition of Whiteboard Friday. It’s Peruvian because as you can see I am attired in a Peruvian football jersey, which I recently picked up on my trip to Lima, Cusco, and Machu Picchu. I had an incredible experience. I had such a great time for Mozcation. I wanted to say hi and a special thank you and shout out to all of our friends in Peru and South and Latin America. Just amazing time with Mozcation.

I am taking some experiences from the Mozcation we had. I know that there were a lot of questions at the Mozcation event about some of the local SEO best practices. I talked with some folks after the event and in the Q&A about some things we can do from a local SEO standpoint. I realize we did a checklist the other week on Whiteboard Friday about some SEO basics, but we really didn’t target local SEO sites specifically. What I want to do today is give you that local SEO checklist that you can follow for local and small businesses in a regional area, what they can do to improve their SEO. So let’s start.

Number one, registration with major engines. Now, in the United States, in Canada, in most of Europe, in parts of Asia, it’s very easy. You either send a postcard to Google or Google sends you a postcard to your address and you fill out the code that they give you or they call you on your phone and verify where you are. But in Peru, and in many other places in the world, Google does not offer this registration. So the key to getting included is actually going to be step number two. This first step is very easy. Everyone can and should do it. I know you’re going to check that off your list really quickly. The major engines typically are just Google and Bing, but in Russia remember it could be Yandex. In China, it might be Baidu. In the Czech Republic it could be Seznam. I think in Norway there is actually a tertiary engine that is doing relatively well there. Some places you might even want to double check with your Yahoo local listing if that sends traffic too.

But for those folks who can’t do it, and for everyone else, you should also be claiming your listing on all the major local portals. These are the international major local portals. In countries like Peru, one of the big powerful ones there is actually Trip Advisor. You want to be doing this for places like Yello Pages, YP.com, Urban Spoon, CitySearch, Yelp. In many places, Foursquare is actually quite popular. We found that in South American and Latin America Foursquare was actually huge, and weirdly enough Foursquare was a much more accurate map system than Google Maps. I think probably because of this issue, wink, wink, nod, nod, Googlers hello. So, take care of claiming those listings for your business on all of these portals. If they don’t have you listed yet, remember you can add your business to them.

Number three, get listed on key local sites. This means regional portals. A lot of times these are media institutions. Here in Seattle, it might be KING5.com. It might be TheStranger.com, which is a local weekly publication. It could be The Seattle Weekly. It might by KOMO TV. All of these local regional sites that have listings for local businesses and you want to try and get included in those. Many times, remember that these media stations they love to cover whether it is in the newspaper, the weekly, on their website, or with a TV camera crew, they want to cover new local businesses. So, if you are a new local business, you want to reach out to them, and it is a great way to generate some press. You also want to be considering regional portal sites that may not be specifically local focused. So in the Seattle area, I believe it is Northwest, what is that? NWSource.com is sort of our big local portal for aggregation. These are wise ones to consider as well.

For these three, it is absolutely essential that you have consistency. What I mean by consistency is the same name, exactly the same name. I don’t want to see SEOmoz, Inc. versus SEOmoz Incorporated versus SEOmoz, LLC, versus just SEOmoz or SEOmoz.org. Same name. Exactly the same name every time. Same address. Same format of the address every time. Same phone number with the same phone number format every time. All of those things are critical to the consistency of citations that engines look at to determine is this the same exact business that is being referred to here. Even slight variations can generate those differences and can mean that you don’t get all of the sort of link juice or citation juice that the engines are using to rank things.

Number four, do competitive research on listing sources of high-ranking sites for your keyword. So, let’s imagine that one of your keywords is Seattle plumbers. So, you do a search for Seattle plumbers, and you see here are the guys in the top eight spots. Where are they getting listed? Now, it used to be very simple. You just click on them and you could see a big list of all the sources where Google pulled data from. Not so simple anymore. They will still show you some of the sources for the images, so it might say Yelp or Insider Pages or Zagat or something like that, Gayot, but now it is much harder because they will no longer show those. But it is easy. You just have to make a quick tweak. What you want to do is take the name of the business and the address and search for that, possibly minus the site colon of the actually business’ listing, and that with show you all the places where the address is. So, for example let’s say I wanted to find all the local places where SEOmoz was listed, I would do a search like this. I would do a search for "SEOmoz (11919 Pine Street)-site:Seomoz.org". I am going way off on the side here, but that’s okay. The reason that this is going to work is because it is going to show me all the places where there is a listing for SEOmoz not on our site that includes our address. That’s what you want to do when you are doing this competitive research on those high-ranking websites, and it is going to show you a ton of different sources where you should be listed for your local business to help with your local SEO.

Step number five, review your reviews. What I mean by this is you want to go through all the places, all the listings that are popular, your Google Profile, your Yelp Profile, Insider Pages, City Search, wherever you are listed, Trip Advisor. If there are reviews for them, see what they are saying and see if there are ways that you can get more people commenting on the positive stuff and fewer people commenting on the negative stuff. For example, if someone says, "I was very frustrated that I didn’t get a receipt." Great. So make sure that the folks at the front desk know they need to be giving out receipts. If someone says, "Hey, I had a fantastic experience when I ordered this particular thing," great. Tell your wait staff, "Hey, guys, people seem to love this thing. Feel free to recommend it when people ask for a recommendation," and then when they do, great. Maybe there is something special that your restaurant, that your business, that your service offers and does that really gets people excited and you find that when you do it for people, they are much more likely to leave a positive online review. Great. Do that thing. This is your customer research. This is telling you what people think about your business, and it is a great way to learn, grow, and become a better business.

Number six, last one here, for goodness sake, maybe I should put this in number one. It’s so important. Audit your site’s usability, accessibility, and content. Now, a local website does not need to go through all of the steps of inbound marketing and thought leadership that a scalable B2B company or a startup or someone who wants to take over the Web in their category needs to go through. A local business can stay relatively focused on their local niche, and you can earn top rankings with just a lot of the first five things that I have talked about here. However, however, you want to make sure that usability, meaning your site is phenomenally simple to figure out the places. I hate when I go to a local restaurant’s website and I can’t find the place for reservations. It is not on the contact page or the about page. Where is it? I am looking for this. Have those key buttons that drive users to say, oh, right, these are the seven things I can do on the website, those are the seven things I want to do on the website. Have buttons for all of those. Have pages for all of those. Make those easy to access. Make sure there is not a Flash intro that is blocking someone or an experience that can’t be, for example, seen on a mobile phone or by search engines. This happens all the time with a lot of local business websites.

Then finally, make sure that you have the right content. You can do this, very simply, by when people come into your business, if you’d say, "Hey, we will give you a 5% or 10% discount if you can take this little survey for us or send it to ten of your friends, or email ten of your customers that you have got." That survey should simply say, "What are the top five things you would look for from us on our website?" The top five pieces of information. People will tell you the same things all the time. It will be things like I need your hours, I need directions, I wish you had a little Google Map built in where I could just plug in my address. They’ll tell you that they need a list of services. They almost always want prices. If you can provide these things, you’re just going to do a phenomenally better job of converting people faster once they find your website through the great local SEO that you’re going to do.

There you have it, my local SEO checklist. I hoe you enjoy it everyone. Thank you very much, and thanks especially to our friends in Peru. Ciao!

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Belgium court orders ISPs to block The Pirate Bay

A Belgium court has ruled that The Pirate Bay, a P2P (peer-to-peer) file sharing site, is to be blocked to users by ISPs.

The court overturned a ruling made in 2010, which said that blocking the site at ISP level was “disproportionate”, and now Belgacom and Telenet have been told that they must block the site or face fines.

The telecommunications providers have 14 days in which to implement DNS blocking across the entire site.

The ruling is similar to a recent UK case, which said that BT will have to block access to Newzbin2 for providing illegal downloads to movies and music.

ISPs in both countries argued that it’s not their responsibility to stop consumers from accessing such sites.

There is some concern from rights groups in both countries that rulings such as this infringe on the rights of citizens.

The Pirate Bay say that the move will be easily navigated around by users by using proxy servers or by making DNS changes.

“When will they give up – we’re still growing despite (or perhaps because) all their efforts.”

The Pirate Bay is a Swedish company and they say that the fact that they don’t store any content on their servers means that they are not infringing on any copyright laws.

Files are transferred from user computer to user computer, hence the name peer-to-peer file sharing.

Whilst many of the large movie corporations argue that ISPs have a responsibility to enforce censorship, they have plenty of tools at their disposal to carry this out themselves.

However, that would cost money – whilst cash may be something that such large corporations have no shortage of, it seems they are unwilling to spend it.

Investment in more streaming content services would undoubtedly move many away from illegal downloads, as the music industry has proved.

Subscription services for music such as iTunes and Spotify have become hugely popular, proving that the public don’t mind paying for quality content services.

Furthermore, movie moguls have plenty of opportunities in the civil courts to claim their intellectual property rights, although it can be a costly and drawn out process.

Forcing service providers to censor which sites consumers can and cannot access seems to be the easiest route, both politically and cost effectively.

Newzbin also said that they had found a way around BT’s blocking software in the form of a client app and they expect business to carry on as usual.

The Pirate Bay are thought to have 5 million registered users and was founded in 2003 by anti-copyright organisation, The Piracy Bureau.

Plum report shows charging for content would harm innovation

The BBC, Blinkbox, Yahoo, Channel 4 and Skype have joined forces to produce a report to promote the open internet.

The Plum report considers the idea that content providers should pay a premium to networks in order for them to access their services.

Whilst networks maintain that the open internet and content which takes up bandwidth is damaging, the report argues that growth in both industries has been driven by consumer demand.

As the networks have moved from dial-up to ADSL and beyond, this has meant that richer and streaming content can be accessed by consumers.

It is this accessibility to content that has driven consumers to make more use of the internet and promoted growth and innovation in both content providers and networks.

The report proposes that a series of guidelines be put in place which protects “open access to and distribution of internet-based, lawful content and applications for consumers; (with) no blocking of legal services and discrimination on the basis of commercial rivalry.”

It is also suggested that regulators such as Ofcom should “closely monitor market developments given the risks to innovation.”

The principles which already protect the open internet include the “ability of end-users to access lawful internet content or applications of their choice” and that those who produce content can provide it without asking for network permission.

The report argues that content such as streaming and on-demand TV services, YouTube, Skype and music have all added up to ensure that the open internet has provided a platform for innovation across the board.

The success of such companies as Skype has added to the worldwide economy and the growth in demand has meant that costs to the network suppliers has been dropping incrementally.

This means a “virtuous circle between innovations in relation to network enhancement and internet-based content and applications can be expected to continue.”

The report goes on to say that this circle will only continue if networks don’t undermine the growth “through discrimination to protect their own integrated voice, text and video services.”

It seems that a number of myths have held up policy on these issues, including the one that demand is a bad thing and another that says costs to networks will “balloon” if streaming services are not throttled in some way.

Another is that application providers are enjoying a “free ride”, which, the report states, is wrong as providers have invested in networks as well as streamlined their services to be as bandwidth efficient as possible.

This debate has given rise to a number of misconceptions concerning the “value chain” with regard to content and networks.

The report concludes that a departure from the open internet would significantly outweigh any of those offered by “alternative models.”

Whilst moving away from the open internet model as it stands would serve to potentially benefit networks, it seems it would be of little to benefit consumers as content is either “throttled” at certain busy periods or charged for.

Charging large companies such as the BBC or Skype might not mean we would lose them as consumers, the danger to innovation and indeed availability, is that many content providers would simply disappear.

ICO says laptop thefts highlights need for encryption

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) have forced two organisations to take action after they breached the Data Protection Act by failing to ensure personal information was encrypted.

In both instances, laptops were stolen which contained sensitive information relating to pupils and other individuals.

In May of this year the Association of School and College Leaders had a laptop stolen from an employee’s home in Yorkshire.

Whilst the machine had encryption software installed, it was left up to individual employees whether or not to encrypt certain documents.

This led to unencrypted documents on around 100 people accessible to thieves, which included details on their union membership and in some instances, their physical and mental health.

In another incident, Holly Park School had a laptop stolen from an unlocked office in the same month.

The laptop had information stored on it about the school’s pupils, including exam marks, addresses and “some limited information relating to their health.”

During an investigation into the theft, the ICO found that not only did the school not encrypt the information, but they also had no data protection policy in place.

Both organisations have now taken action to ensure that the data they hold is protected in the future.

Acting Head of Enforcement, Sally Anne Poole said: “The ICO’s guidance is clear: all personal information – the loss of which is liable to cause individuals damage and distress – must be encrypted.”

“This is one of the most basic security measures and is not expensive to put in place – yet we continue to see incidents being reported to us. This type of breach is inexcusable and is putting people’s personal information at risk unnecessarily.”

“We are pleased that the Association of School and College Leaders and Holly Park School have taken action to make sure the personal information they collect remains secure.”

The organisations have not only taken steps to ensure data is encrypted, but have also introduced checks designed to make sure employees follow the correct procedure.

The ICO is a governing body that ensures that data which is held by any organisation is done so in a responsible manner, in line with the guidelines.

These include stipulations that data is accurate, up-to-date and not excessive, as well as not kept for longer than is necessary.

The guidelines also state that information must be properly processed, secure and “not transferred to other countries without adequate protection.”

Cybercrime costs the world more than drugs trade

A study by Symantec, the maker of Norton security products, has shown that the global cost of cybercrime is as much as $114 billion.

The Norton Cybercrime Report 2011 also shows that due to the time victims lost trying to solve an attack, this figure increased by an additional $274 billion.

This means that cybercrime costs “the world significantly more than the global black market in marijuana, cocaine and heroin combined”.

The study is the first to look into how cybercrime affects the worldwide economy.

According to the report, 69% of online adults have fallen victim to some form of cybercrime in their lifetime.

More than one million people become a victim of this kind of crime every day, that’s 14 people per second.

10% of people have become victims via their mobile device, indicating that cybercrooks are beginning to focus their efforts on the “mobile space”.

The reports says that “increased social networking and a lack of protection are likely to be some of the main culprits behind the growing number of cybercrime victims.”

The most likely to fall victim are men who access the net on their mobile device between the ages of 18 and 31 years. The survey showed that 80% of this group had “fallen prey to cybercriminals.”

The most common type of attack on a global basis is from viruses and malware at 54%, which is also the most easily preventable.

Online scams are next on the list at 11%, whilst 10% of people have been a victim of phishing.

A security threat report issued by Symantec earlier this year showed a 19% increase in unique variations of malicious software, with more than 286 million instances of malware in the wild in 2010.

This is compared to 240 million in 2009.

“There is a serious disconnect in how people view the threat of cybercrime,” said Adam Palmer, Norton Lead Cybersecurity Advisor.

“Cybercrime is much more prevalent than people realize. Over the past 12 months, three times as many adults surveyed have suffered from online crime versus offline crime, yet less than a third of respondents think they are more likely to become a victim of cybercrime than physical world crime in the next year.”

“And while 89 percent of respondents agree that more needs to be done to bring cybercriminals to justice, fighting cybercrime is a shared responsibility. It requires us all to be more alert and to invest in our online smarts and safety.”

This warning is illustrated by the fact that whilst 74% of people say they are aware of cybercrime, many don’t take any precautions.

41% of adults said that they don’t have up-to-date AV protection, 61% don’t use complex passwords or change them and for mobile devices only 16% install security software.

The survey was conducted across 24 countries on adults aged between 18 and 65 years.

Google Earth scam doing the rounds

Recently, I’ve noticed that I am receiving at least one message a week from Google Earth and the latest this morning was thanking me on the GE anniversary.

Yesterday GE celebrated reaching the milestone of 1 billion downloads, not an anniversary.

All of the mail come from an address I would doubt very much has anything to do with Google, such as reply@feb10hldfrom.com via m182.xmail03.com.

There is also usually a ‘handwritten’ note, alongside a verification code for you to go along and download the software.

Which begs the question, why are they thanking me if they know I don’t already have GE?

It is of course spam, and the link takes you to a site which looks reasonably authentic, but if you scroll to the bottom, it tells you in small print that the site has no affiliation with Google Earth.

Whilst I didn’t click through the options to go ahead and fill in my personal details in order to download GE (or whatever they are trying to get me to), a quick Google reveals that those who do are asked to pay for the software.

One surfer reports that they are initially asked to pay $56, which is then reduced by 50% when the person attempts to close the window.

I reported this as spam some weeks ago to Gmail, ironically, but the messages continue to appear in my inbox.

Presumably this is because the email addresses and subject lines frequently change.

I only clicked through on the email today as it’s annoying me now, it’s very persistent and I wanted to check it out for the possibility that it was worth issuing a warning.

And a warning is certainly worthwhile, as this isn’t just spam but a financial scam, Google Earth is free. The small print claims that the software they are offering is an add-on for GE which will “enhance the Google Earth Experience”.

It seems that anyone who falls for this will be paying for the add-on, as well as membership to the site.

The terms and conditions of the site, which calls itself “instant-access-downloads” state that the software downloaded is sold “as is” and they do not provide any guarantees pertaining to the software.

Nor are they to be held liable for “any damages, claims or costs whatsoever or any consequential, indirect, incidental damages, or any lost profits or lost savings.”

So yes, it’s a scam, with the possibility of malware infection should you download their dodgy add-on software.

The emails themselves are quite obviously not from Google, the site is a little better set up in that it uses GE logos.

If you receive an email that you think is from a bank or GE, or any big company and you’re not sure, check the email address first.

It’s very unlikely that legitimate companies use a generic or unknown email address, they have their own domain.

Should curiosity get the better of you and the deal sounds a least worth a look, then check the URL to see if it matches the company – if in doubt, Google the company and check out their real site to see if the address matches.

However, be aware that clicking through on this kind of scam could lead you to a site infected with malware.

The most sensible thing to do all round is to bin the email and report it as spam, something which I am about to do (once again) now.