In this chapter, we are going to go over step-by-step exactly how to rank a service business website on the top of Google. Most people see SEO as something reserved for computer experts with high-level technical skills. Of course, the SEO pros that charge money for their services want you to believe this. The truth is that SEO is actually very simple as long as you know the basics.
90% of the information you hear or read about on the Internet is complete BS that has been regurgitated over and over. Most people have not actually tested for themselves what works and what doesn’t.
Remember, the way I tackle both website conversions and SEO ranking is by testing for myself. The information I am about to share with you is the result of my extensive testing since 2009. Don’t let the simplicity fool you. Just because something is simple doesn’t mean it is easy. It is real work that takes time and patience. It can be tedious, but the payoff is well worth it. Like I said in a previous chapter, SEO is the closest thing you will ever find to automatic marketing.
The purpose of this chapter is to give you the building blocks to implement your own SEO campaign. On the other hand, if you are looking to hire an SEO company, you will know how to weed out the pros from the scam artists.
It’s A Changing Game
Be aware that SEO changes as Google introduces ranking updates, so some of the information here may be outdated, depending on when you are reading it. That said, the general principles I present should remain true for years to come. As new information becomes available, I may release updated versions of this book or videos on my blog. Be sure to sign up for my email list to stay current on the latest SEO information. Call our office for more information at 406-493-1881.
The first step to any Off-site SEO campaign is to set up your business account with Google.
Setting Up the Google My Business Account
To begin, go to this website: business.google.com
You will be prompted to get started. If you do not have a Google account, you will create one from scratch and will be assigned a Gmail account as the username. If you already have a Gmail account you can use that to start. On this page, you should also see a support phone number to call if you have any questions or want someone to walk you through the process.
Once the business account is set up and you begin to enter your business information, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Make sure you fill out everything as completely as possible. This includes hours of operation, photos, forms of payment, etc. Don’t leave anything blank.
- If you are working from a home address, make sure you select “Yes” for: “I deliver goods and services to my customers at their locations.” This will hide your address from the public. Google requires this for residential addresses. If you select “No” then it could affect rankings.
- Make sure the Business Name, Address and Phone Number are EXACTLY how you want it to appear across the Internet. Google will compare your information to every listing you have on the Internet. If this information is inconsistent then it will affect rankings. This is the biggest issue I see with service-based businesses not ranking, so get it right the first time. More on this later in Chapter 12.
- After you complete the setup, Google will mail a postcard to the address you entered. It is very important that you keep a lookout for this card. It will have a special verification code that you must enter into the account before it goes live on the Internet. If you fail to do this, your Google My Business account will not be activated and ranking in the Maps section will most likely not happen.
Setting Up Your Facebook Business Page
After the Google My Business account is complete, a Facebook Business Page needs to be set up. In order to create the Business page, you must first have a Personal Facebook account under your name. The Business Page will be set up under your personal account. Don’t worry, the public will not be able to see that your personal name is associated with the Business Page unless you specify in the Settings.
To create the Business Page, log in to your Personal Facebook Account and in the upper right-hand corner, click on the little down arrow and then select Create Page. The process is very straightforward and only takes a few minutes. It is important that you enter the EXACT same Business Name, Address and Phone Number to match your Google My Business account. If you already have a Facebook Business page, check to see if the information matches your Google My Business account EXACTLY. Change it if necessary.
Citations and Other Online Directories
If you research SEO for local businesses, you will often come across the term “citation.” A citation is simply a mention of your Business Name, Address and Phone number somewhere on the Internet. The more citations you have on quality Internet directory websites, the better chance you have of ranking in the Google Local listings section. At this point you have set up the two most important citations with Google and Facebook.
Now it’s time to blast more citations out to the Internet. Luckily there are some nifty tools that will help speed up this process. The two that I like are Yext.com and Moz.com/local. These are both paid services (check websites for current pricing) that allow you to register your information one time and they will submit to many of the top online directories for your business. This can be a huge time saver. Once again, it is important that all of your information matches EXACTLY with your Google My Business account in order to have the best chance of ranking.
How To Clean Up Citations
I mentioned that having inconsistent information is a major issue service-based businesses have when trying to rank on Google. When we partner with a client and start an SEO campaign, the first thing we do is a thorough citation audit.
This means we scour the Internet to find anything and everything we can about the client’s business. It is very common to find loads of misinformation, duplicate listings, incomplete citations, old addresses, old phone numbers and different variations of business names. If you have been in business for any length of time, this may describe your situation. Here are the most common reasons this happens:
- Your business moved physical locations
- You used tracking phone numbers at one point
- You hired an SEO company to create citations or get listed on online directories
- You changed your local phone number
- You used an 800 number and not a local number
- You have different trade name or business name variations
- Your listing was incorrectly submitted and picked up by other sites
- Someone with your company set up the listings without knowledge of citation consistency (this is very common)
I highly recommend you start your own citation audit to determine if this is holding you back. Be aware this requires a significant amount of time and tedious work, but it is necessary if you want to rank your business in the Google Local listings section. Here is the step-by-step:
- Make a list of all possible variations of Business Names, Addresses and Phone numbers your business might have used since the beginning of time.
- Start doing separate Google searches for everything you came up with in step 1 and record everything you find in an Excel spreadsheet. I like to have the following columns: Directory Listing, Business Name, Address, City, State, Zip, Phone, Status, Notes
- Use Moz.com/local to get a listing score and see if they find anything you missed. If so, mark it on the spreadsheet.
- Use Brightlocal.com to complete a Local SEO Checkup to find anything you missed. If so, mark it on the spreadsheet.
- Use the Whitespark.ca Citation Finder tool to find anything you missed. If so, mark it on the spreadsheet.
Once the audit is complete and you know where you stand, it’s time to begin the cleanup process.
This can be a little frustrating because all of the directories have their own systems and methods for accessing data and making changes. Some will allow you to claim accounts and set up new login information, some will require email requests and others may require phone verifications.
As you move through the cleanup process for each incorrect citation, I recommend you use the same email that you registered with Google. Be sure to take detailed notes in the Note column of your audit spreadsheet.
Be aware that when you submit your information through tools like Yext.com or Moz.com/local, they will take care of some cleanup. Most of the time, however, you will have to complete the work manually or hire an experienced SEO company to do the work for you. Also note that after a citation has been corrected, it could take weeks or months for Google to review that listing and update your rankings.
When you are sure that your business citations are submitted and as consistent as possible across the Internet, it’s time to power up your website with backlinks.
What Are Backlinks?
Backlinks are the turbo boosters that push websites to the top of the Google search results page, both in the Local listings and the Organic listings. They are very powerful, but they must be created slowly over time and in a very specific way.
They must also be the last part of your SEO campaign. If you have sloppy onsite SEO or lots of inconsistent citations, then backlinks will be virtually useless and can possibly have a negative effect on your rankings.
Imagine a race car with bald tires, no brakes and faulty steering. What would happen if you installed a brand new powerful engine into that car? What chance would you have of winning the race? You would be lucky if you even made it to the finish line without crashing and burning. The same principle applies to your website rankings. Make sure everything is clean and in good working order. Take care of the basics before applying power.
To understand what a backlink is, just go to almost any website on the Internet. Do you see words that are colored blue or purple? What about pictures that you can click on? When you click on them they link over to other websites or other pages? If so, those are backlinks.
Some people just call them links. Don’t be confused; they are the exact same thing. So, a backlink is anything on a website that is clickable and links you over to another website or webpage.
Google scours the Internet every second, every minute and every hour of every day. Their job is to index the millions of backlinks on the Internet to determine which businesses have the highest quality and most relevant backlinks pointing to their website. Each one of these backlinks is like a vote. Google tallies up the votes and starts to rank websites based on this information.
Pretty simple, right? Yes, the concept is simple but to acquire good quality relevant backlinks can be a challenge. And remember I said quality relevant backlinks. This is extremely important. If you do a Google search for “buy SEO backlinks” you will be inundated with companies trying to sell unknowing business owners low quality backlinks that will most likely give you penalties instead of rankings.
My advice is to steer clear of anyone trying to sell backlinks. Take the time to do it right or find a reputable SEO firm to do it for you.
How to Build Backlinks
There are many ways to build backlinks but there are only a few safe ways that I have identified since I started working with SEO in 2009. Once again, things change in SEO all the time, but at the time of this writing, what I suggest here are the best and most powerful ways to build backlinks for a local business.
The key to building powerful backlinks is value exchange. You are basically going to be asking local and industry website owners to give you a valuable backlink. In exchange for that backlink, you will be giving them something of value. This process isn’t difficult, but it is real work.
Let’s look at the two types of backlinks we are going for.
Since you have a local business, it is important to acquire locally based backlinks from websites from within your community. Examples of these are local associations like the Chamber of Commerce, business groups, news websites, community blogs and non-profit organizations. These types of organizations are frequently looking for new articles or content to publish on their websites. If you can provide a valuable article or something of interest then they will most likely agree to give a backlink to your website.
Another option is to offer a trade for your services. Do they need your services in exchange for a backlink?
A third option is to simply ask them if you can buy a backlink. Make them an offer. Would they take $50 or $100 to simply put a backlink from their website to yours? Many times the answer is “Yes.”
In addition to local backlinks, Google also likes backlinks coming from relevant industry-based websites. Examples of these are news websites, trade publications, industry blogs, equipment companies and supply companies.
Once again, many of these website owners are looking for content to publish on their websites. Can you provide them a valuable article in exchange for a backlink? Can you hire a writer to create the article for you?
One of my favorite link building techniques I used for my business is the testimonial exchange. I contacted every equipment and supply company I had ever done business with. I asked the person who had the power to make the decision to give me a backlink in exchange for a review or testimonial that they could publish on their website.
We know that quality testimonials are gold to any business. This applies to people you buy from as well.
All you have to do is ask.
Another very powerful technique involves creating your own network of quality industry relevant websites that link back to your website. This can be a lot of work and will cost a significant amount of time and money. And once it is up and running, it will require frequent maintenance. It’s not realistic for the average business owner. I want to mention it because it works and is one of the techniques we use to rank websites for our clients.
It basically involves finding old abandoned domains that already carry authority with Google. We use a tool called RegisterCompass.com to find the domains and then evaluate the domains using the tools Majestic.com and OpenSiteExplorer.org.
Once we find a domain we like, we use online auctions such as Godaddy Auctions or NameJet.com to bid on and purchase the domains. When we own those domains, we build industry- related websites and blogs with unique quality articles and videos. Within these are articles, we link back to our client’s websites. This gives us complete control over the quality and number of backlinks coming in.
In conclusion, backlinks are powerful engines that boost website rankings. They are essential for any business that has significant online competition. It will take some work prospecting and reaching out to community and industry- related website owners, but the rewards are high rankings, phone calls and a steady stream of work.
I know SEO is unpredictable and not for everyone. It is my goal for you to explore the best options when it comes to cashing in on Internet marketing.
Table of Contents
Intro to Book: The Service Business Money Machine
Chapter 1: The Power of Making It Easy
Chapter 2: Navigation Menus and Pages
Chapter 3: Going Mobile
Chapter 4: Website Look and Feel
Chapter 5: Domains, Hosting and Websites
Chapter 6: Building Trust On The Internet
Chapter 7: Video Power!
Chapter 8: Closing the Deal
Chapter 9: SEO – Understanding the Game
Chapter 10: On-site SEO
Chapter 11: Off-site SEO
Chapter 12: Google My Business FAQ
Chapter 13: Facebook Marketing
Chapter 14: Bringing It All Together