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Improving Search Ranking for a Local Business

Last week I got a note from a friend who was disappointed in the number of inquiries coming in from his website. He was specifically interested in knowing what he could do to improve search rankings for his small service business. I took a look at his website and wrote him some recommendations, and I thought the ideas might help other readers of my blog. I’ve changed the name, location, and details of his business, but the principles are universal.

Patrick is a wedding photographer in Vail, Colorado. The ski resort mountain town is a popular wedding destination, so there are lots of local photographers, and Patrick is fighting to get noticed by brides-to-be who are searching online. He did some research and found that the search term “Vail wedding photographer” only gets about 30 searches per month, and he was concerned that this wouldn’t generate enough website traffic. (Remember, I’ve disguised the details here, so this might not be the actual count for that specific term. Don’t get hung up on the details.)

When I receive an inquiry like this, here’s what I look into:

  • Does the website have a good, keyword-rich domain name? In Patrick’s case—VailPhotographer.com—he’s in pretty good shape, but could be better if “wedding” were in there, too. If the budget is available, I would recommend getting the VailWeddingPhotographer.com domain name and making that the primary.
  • Is the website search friendly? Small businesses are more likely to have older websites, and those sites are more likely to have technical problems such as text as images, Flash-based navigation, table-based layout, or not being mobile friendly. Patrick’s in good shape here, with a modern, responsive website. If you’re not sure about your site, contact us about our 43-Point Site Checkup.
  • Is there ample content on the website, and is it current? Content is king for search engine optimization. It’s important to keep the content current, and helpful to add new, relevant content on a regular schedule. This is a problem for Patrick, as it often is for small businesses. I recommended that he write regular blog posts to expand the content on his site. See below for some ideas applicable to Patrick’s business that might get you thinking about yours.
  • Are there strong and clear calls to action on the website? Again, Patrick is in good shape here, with links on every page of his site, a prominent phone number in the header and footer, and a contact form.
  • Does the business have a Google Business listing? This was a big missed opportunity for Patrick. I think it’s essential for every business, and especially for a local business. Without a Google Business listing, you won’t show up on Google Maps searches, you won’t show up in the Google “packs”—those boxed search results that include a map and extra details about your business (see the inset image).
  • What are your other advertising options? Patrick’s question was specifically about search engine ranking, and SEO is a core requirement for every website. But it’s never smart to put all of your eggs in one basket, particularly for small businesses. I suggested that Patrick consider online advertising, such as Google AdWords text or display ads, retargeting, Facebook ads, and building affiliations or referral networks with other local wedding-related businesses.

So, the bottom line for Patrick is that “Vail wedding photographer” is a very narrow term, so it will have low search volume. And that’s why the first paragraph of all of my SEO reports for my clients says:

The goal of search engine optimization is to bring more qualified traffic to your website. We are not focused on being highly ranked for any individual keyword; SEO relies on favorable ranking from a combination of relevant keywords to generate qualified traffic.

That means creating lots of relevant content on wedding-related content. In Patrick’s case, I recommended he write and post something new every three weeks or so. And I stressed that he provide actual useful content, not just images and summaries of weddings he’s photographed (though those help a little, too). Here are some blog post ideas I shared with him; you should be able to spin out a list of ideas for your business similar to this:

  • What’s the difference between a photographer and a wedding photographer?
  • What are questions to ask when choosing a wedding photographer?
  • How to have a contingency for weather on your wedding day
  • Where are the best locations for an outdoor wedding in Vail?
  • Where are the best locations for an indoor wedding in Vail?
  • How to plan food, entertainment, photography for your Vail wedding
  • Checklist for your Vail wedding

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