7 – A Bite of SEO with Zach Prez

SEO plain out is overwhelming. You think you know what you’re doing, it works for a bit…then BAM! It all changes.  A colleague and SEO guru is bringing to you a bite of SEO education that can help your business, today. https://rachelbrenke.com/epi7

About the Guest

headshot_470Zach Prez is Rachel Brenke’s GO-TO for Search Engine Optimization help.  You can find all of his business resources and SEO Cookbook available at http://photographyspark.com

Or check him out on Twitter @zachprez

Thanks a lot for having me, Rachel. I am really excited to cover local search optimization because most businesses take for granted that they’ll be able to be found locally when somebody’s looking for their product or service, and we think anybody could just go out to Google and find you very easily, but there’s a lot of strategy and algorithms behind a very complex process, which is matching a business with a searcher. Google has gotten very good at looking at a large number of things to help figure that out, so what I want to talk about first is the Google Maps part of the search results.

 

For example, I go out and I search for “Texas photographer,” and at the top of that search results page I see three businesses listed on the map. Regardless of what everybody else is doing to optimize their site and do keywords and build links, this map result is superseding all of those, especially if the user is searching from a mobile phone in their business area. If you’re searching from a phone you’re even more likely to get local business map results.

 

The thing that I want everybody to do is to go out to maps.google.com and search for your business name and see if you have a profile yet. Google has transitioned quite a bit in its evolution from Google Places to Google+, and now it’s called Google My Business. If you find your existing listing, you can update it. If you don’t have one, you can create a free account. It’s all done at google.com/mybusiness, and basically in principle what it is is it’s creating a yellow page listing but for Google’s Internet searches. The first thing is just to have a listing there.

 

Second is to start optimizing it so Google wants to show it as one of the top three. There’s a number of ways you can help move up the ranks, but if you think generally about what Google’s job is, trying to give a relevant result to somebody who’s searching for a business, it’s going to be a lot more than keywords or an address.

 

Think about the last restaurant you looked for. Maybe you typed in “Chinese food” and were trying to find where to go. Google wants to give you the best Chinese food restaurant that’s near you and that might not necessarily be the one that’s the most optimized, so for a moment, forget about trying to finesse Google or trick it or slam it with keywords or all of these activities that are not natural. The best thing you can do is legitimately be the best business in your area for that specific search topic, and how do you do that? Well, how does Google know what the best business is?

 

Well, in the restaurant example, and this applies to all businesses, it could be a number of things, starting with is the profile complete? Does it have information on that business? Does it have a physical address? Does it have photos that represent it? How many people have reviewed it, and what star rating were those reviews?

 

Google is not going to return in my “Texas photographer” search business that doesn’t have a phone number and only has one photo posted. If somebody is looking for a photographer they want a very comprehensive website or search result, so the first thing to do is to fill out your profile as completely as possible, update with lots of images as much location detail as you can, like address and phone number, and don’t try and trick it and create a PO box that’s closer to downtown where you think people might be searching.

 

Google is much more intelligent than that. It can see there’s 20 other businesses out that PO box and therefore is not a brick and mortar photography studio in this case, so be as honest as you can, because Google is going to match what you enter across the rest of the web to legitimize your profile. It’s going to match your phone number against what it finds elsewhere. It’s going to match your locations, all of those things, so build a complete profile at google.com/mybusiness with as much information as you can.

 

Next I would get in the habit of getting people to review you in a natural way. Google is going to know if you went from zero reviews to 20 reviews in one day so you don’t want to reach out to a bunch of people at once, but as you’re delivering your product or service, send an e-mail or phone call that says, “Hey, you know, it would really help me out if you left me a review on Google. Here’s the link to do that,” because, in the Chinese food example, I want a restaurant that has 50 five-star reviews versus a restaurant that has two three-star reviews, so the more positive reviews you have the more Google is going to trust that you are the best business locally.

 

The next way to establish trust is to get PR on sites other than your own within your local area, so if you won an award or were in the news or the newspaper or are linked from a lot of blogs or forums in your geographic region, this is your website, if your website is mentioned or your name is even mentioned in all of these places, then Google can quickly see the types of sites you’re on and who’s linking to you, and people are chatting about you and writing articles about you and awarding you. All of those things mean your business is more valuable than a competitor’s business that doesn’t have that buzz online about them.

 

If you’ve ever heard any conversation about search engine optimization, that’s what link building does. If getting your site mentioned and linked from other popular websites in your niche or your location that basically proves to Google that other people trust you, so that’s the next thing, is after you’ve built out your profile, it’s starting to go on other sites and contribute and be a part of those conversations and write articles and get interviewed and enter contests, all those things that you can do to network and partner and get featured elsewhere, add credibility to your website, which is linked to your Google Maps listing so that Google knows to present you about somebody else when somebody is searching.

 

You might be asking how social media plays into this. Social is a component, but not a large component of SEO. Even Google+ is not that big of a factor when it comes to ranking your site or your local profile. What I can say is when I search for Rachel, “Rachel Brenke,” off to the right side, instead of paid advertisements, I see her Google listing, so that’s an example of how having a local listing can help fill out your profile when somebody is searching for you, and if you have Google+, that’s going to show over there as well when people search for your name, so Google+ is more about just having the profile so that people that know you see more information about you when they’re looking for you. It’s not a strategy to really get ahead in the SEO for local search game.

 

Okay, so you’ve got your listing in Google, and if you update it frequently that can show Google that you’re still relevant. If you have videos where your competitors may not have videos that can help get you ahead, but building the most comprehensive profile as possible and keeping it up-to-date with new photos and new reviews is the best thing you can do. The rest is up to your website, so to rank locally you need to be talking about the things that people are searching for locally on your own site.

 

That’s where a blog really comes in handy, so if you wanted to rank for people searching for a photographer in Texas, you might have blog posts about getting married at a particular venue that’s popular in Texas. If you’re the Chinese food restaurant, you’re talking about southern Chinese food recipes, so people are going to search for you much more specifically than one big phrase like “Texas photographer” or “Chinese food.” There’s going to be hundreds, if not hundreds of thousands, of other ways people search for you and Google is going to go look for webpages or photos or videos about that subject matter, so the more that you can get really specific in your content creation about what you think people might be looking for, the better chance you have of having Google match you against those search phrases.

 

If you want to be known for “outdoor photography in El Paso,” then you need a webpage that everything a person needs to know about outdoor wedding photography in El Paso, and a blog is the easiest infrastructure system to enable you to write lots and lots of pages on lots of different subjects, so be thinking about not your main service, photography, but all the individual services people might look for to find you.

 

If you’re a plumber, not only do you want to rank for “local plumbing,” but what might the person have searched that’s more specific than that, like “broken shower nozzle” or “water leak from the ceiling” in whatever location that is, and you start writing articles about those things, and that connects to your Google business profile so Google knows you do all those things. Now it can help rank you higher not only in the map results for those searches, but just for the organic results, people searching for answers and how-to information and pricing. Every page of your site can have keywords that represent something specific a person might search for.

 

What you don’t want to do is have all of your site optimized around a single word, so in our photography example you don’t need the word “Texas photography” in the title of every page of your site. Google already knows that’s what you do from your business profile and from your homepage. It doesn’t need all the subsequent pages to do that, so again, be honest with Google and specific about all the individual things you do, and don’t try and cram broad keywords into every page that you write.

 

I hope my tips out of the SEO cookbook for photographers helps you. Really, this guide applies to any industry, but think of Google as a referral tool that’s looking for the best business to match with a searcher, and to make yourself the best business you have to present some great information online as well as get connected and featured with other very credible and authoritative sites as well. Thanks a lot.