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As a local business, you have to own your own back yard
The grass may seem greener in neighboring markets, but columnist Greg Gifford explains that in order to compete there via local SEO, you need to have your own yard in order first.
As you know from my past articles, I typically write about real-world encounters with clients or other SEOs — and this one’s no different. The interesting point about today’s post is that the issue I’m discussing might partially be my own fault!
Last summer, I wrote a post here about local content silos, a strategy for creating silos of localized content relating to nearby cities. The strategy is valid and can give you great results, but it takes time and a lot of hard work. I’ve talked about the strategy in videos and mentioned it numerous times when speaking at conferences.
In this month’s installment of Greg’s Soapbox, I’m going to (sort of) poke holes in my own strategy. Stick with me for a minute –I promise it’ll make sense.
Is “doing the silo thing” the right way to go?
More and more often, when dealerships sign up for our SEO service, they’re asking us to “do the silo thing” so that they can compete in searches in the next town over, or the big metro that’s 20 minutes away. I get the same question at SEO conferences almost every time: “We’re in the suburbs, so can you tell us how to show up for searches in our main metro?”
Yes. The silo strategy can produce great results… but you have to own your own back yard first!
Here’s the big problem: businesses are so worried about showing up in searches in other cities that they ignore their own back yard. You’ve got to really own your own town before you go after any others. Owning your own location is like the ante in the local SEO poker game: if you don’t pay your ante, you can’t sit at the adults’ table and play.
In almost every case, businesses aren’t showing up well (if at all) in their own city. Remember, Google is going to return search results based on relevance and importance. You’ve got to handle the SEO basics first: write great content and get awesome links. Before you step up and swing for the fences with the silo strategy, you’ve got to make sure you’ve got your own location locked down.
Local search also relies on location and proximity. At a very basic level, if you’ve knocked out your basics, you should be ranking well in your own town. If you’ve got great content, you’ll have sitewide keyword relevance. If you’ve got great links, you’ll have an authoritative site. If you’ve got your location signals optimized on your site, you’ll have sitewide local relevance. If your citations are consistent and robust, you’ll have the off-site location signals nailed as well.
Don’t neglect your own town in favor of the market next door
Most of the time when businesses are laser-focused on the market next door, or the major metro, they ignore their own town. If you’re not showing up well in your own town, how do you hope to compete in the city next door, where you don’t have as much local relevance and no proximity?
It’s much harder to show up in searches in a city where you’re not physically located. That’s strike one. Typically, when businesses are targeting nearby cities, it’s because they’re going after a bigger market/population, which means a lot more competition. Strike two. If they’re not very visible in their own town (where they should easily show up), that means they’re not well optimized in the first place. There’s strike three.
If you forgo any local optimization efforts to concentrate on the nearby target, and your local signals aren’t maximized, you could be missing out on a significant amount of traffic from local searches — where you should be absolutely dominating anything else local.
After you’ve got your own back yard in order
Once you’ve got your own back yard perfectly landscaped and set up, then you can start trying to hop the fence and steal attention from your neighbors. But you need to have a realistic expectation for potential results. With the right strategy and meticulous effort, you can eventually show up in searches in nearby cities; however, this will take time. Don’t miss out on the easy local traffic in the meantime — get your own back yard in order!
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.