Local SEO for 2015: Don’t Set It and Forget It

Advice for SEO Agencies with local SEO clients

Working in local SEO can be difficult, annoying, frustrating, but also rewarding. Depending on the industry your clients are in or the geographic area the competition can range from mild to extra spicy. When things are working the way you want for your clients it’s easy to have the mindset of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” After all, if it’s performing why would you touch it? The problem is that people who had this attitude may have experienced severe fluctuations after the Pigeon update in July in the US. It also just rolled out to the UK, Australia and Canada in December 2014.

local seo 2015

What Happened After Pigeon?

Those businesses that had just done the one time local optimization and let their listings, seemed to be affected the most. The new update puts more emphasis on traditional organic ranking signals such as strong backlinks and less on the traditional local SEO ranking factors like citations.This means that anyone who had relied solely on optimizing their Google My Business or local page was left in bad situation and experienced a strong decrease in visibility. On the other hand those who had a strong organic SEO strategy coupled with a strong local SEO strategy came out ahead. Just this week I had a call with an attorney about how he was in this exact situation. It was the textbook case of where his previous SEO strategies of local and organic traffic were not aligned.

affected-by-local-update

So What Should You Be Doing For Your Clients Now?

Personally I have been a strong proponent of having a strong and white hat organic and local SEO program. As Pigeon has proved it doesn’t make a lot of sense to have one without the other and clients who are interested in long term success need to get on board with this. At the same time I understand that you may have limited budgets with some of your clients. In some cases you may not have budget to work with. In these cases it’s important to get them on board to help with the project where possible. Here are 5 areas that you or your clients should focus on to have a successful local SEO campaign in 2015.

Where Should You Focus

To have a successful local and organic SEO campaign there are several areas you need to focus on. Having your content, links, citations, and reviews all working together in harmony is the ideal situation but sometimes you don’t have the resources available to do it. That is why I say you should focus on these areas first.

1. Clean Your Backlink Profile


2014 was the year of the Google crackdown. Many websites who got away with bad backlinks for years, met a manual penalty. Those who were tied up in an algorithmic link penalty and tried to clean it up early had to wait almost an entire year before their disavow files were processed. While I’m not saying that website owners need to live in fear, I am saying that they need to have a strong understanding of their risk level and at least disavow bad domains.

Anyone who runs a website or works in SEO needs to understand the difference between a natural backlink and an unnatural backlink. You also need to be able to proactively disavow these links for clients. Your first step before going too far on a project is to make sure there is no penalty in place and that you have disassociated yourself with any potentially toxic links.

Getting a penalty is pretty much the worst thing that can happen to your site. Doing a link audit will help you identify your risk level and whether or not a disavow or link removals are a priority.

2. Do a Full Site Audit


Whether you hire a professional to do a full site audit or you’re using a tool, it’s a good idea to have a firm understanding of where you’re at. Everyday I look at websites that have fundamental issues from crawl errors, incorrect redirects, or a bad site structure that isn’t passing link equity. Every time I see these issues I stress the importance of starting your project with a good base. If you don’t have a solid strong organic base then you’re going to have a harder time climbing the ranking ladder. In addition to this, SEO audits provide a different perspective which is helpful since it can be easy to get tunnel vision as an SEO.

3. Get Rid of Crap Content & Build Great Content


For many years I have seen attorney clients of ours try to optimize for every city possible. They create thin content pages that are narrowly locally focused on a city that are barely over 200 words. Don’t be this guy. Instead, focus on the areas that are most important. Once you have prioritized them don’t just build content, build great content. Make your content a resource, a linkable asset, and super informative. Many sites can actually benefit from pruning their nonsense content and going leaner and meaner. Every page should serve a strong purpose and be useful.

4. Fix Your Citations at The Data Aggregators and Top 50 Citation Sources


Citations are still a biggie for local SEO and local traffic. The most problematic thing I hear from local SEO consultants is still “let’s get the most citations!” and they blindly chase citations for Local SEO Rankings. There are some major problems with this. I have actually seen clients being penalized for using this strategy. When they add their business Name, Address, and Phone Number to a website they typically add their website link too. If you’re mentioned on 1,000 poor business directories you just earned yourself 100 poor links. Don’t do it.

If you’re looking for an easier way out you can pay Moz Local and Yext to take care of the top citations pretty quickly. If you want another boost there are quality citation building companies out there such as Whitespark and Brightlocal that can help you as well.

5. Earn Links


As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, links and other organic signals have a significant value since the Pigeon update. You need to earn high quality links. The most important part of this is that you shouldn’t go for quantity and you really need to be focused on quality. One link from the Wall Street Journal will always be better than 100 poor links that will get you penalized. If you’re in an industry where it’s hard to earn links you can always look into Scholarship link building or Sponsorship link building.

While there are hundreds of things you can do that will likely benefit your rankings, the above five methods are easy to start right away. Also they’ll have a strong input on.

It’s only the start to 2015 and I’m already hearing some shocking claims from agencies who work on helping local clients with their SEO. Now, hit the ground running and make 2015 a great year for you and your local SEO clients.

Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author, and not necessarily the views of Caphyon, its staff, or its partners.

Author: Casey Meraz

Casey Meraz is the founder of Ethical SEO Consulting and Lawyer SEO Marketing. He is big fan of local search and a contributor to the Moz 2013 and 2014 Local Ranking Factors. When he is not writing or speaking about SEO he is traveling the world. Follow Casey on Twitter @CaseyMeraz

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8 thoughts on “Local SEO for 2015: Don’t Set It and Forget It”

    1. Thanks! I assume you might disagree with Lawyer SEO Marketing? I had a good discussion about this earlier this week on Moz.

  1. Looks like you’re missing a word in the first sentence of the second paragraph. “Those businesses that had just done the one time local optimization and let their listings ____________, seemed to be affected the most.”

  2. Hi Casey,

    You only mention onpage once (3) in this list. What is your top tips onpage SEO for Local search?

    1. Hey Jonathan thanks for reaching out. Since Organic and local are so tied together I really mean everything when I say On Page SEO. So whether that’s content, title tags, meta descriptions, internal link structure, or site speed I mean it all! Check out my SEO audit on Moz to get an idea of what I mean a bit more: http://moz.com/blog/ultimate-local-seo-audit

  3. Just found that Google My Business 3 – 7 pack has disappeared from all the Real Estate agency keywords in Australia!
    I had 38 GMB entries – not there anymore! I think I feel a big Yelp coming on!

  4. hasn’t the radius shortened so if you are not in the central business district of a city you loose ground just by virtue of location

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