You’ve just received your monthly organic rankings report from your SEO agency, and you’re excited to see that you’re ranking between 4th and 7th place for a number of key terms. And on the surface you should be – traditionally those types of rankings would put you around the middle of the first page and in front of lots of qualified eyes. However, as Google continues to give local listings more visibility on search engine results pages, we’re seeing that the value of some first page positions isn’t what it once was. If you find yourself in a highly competitive, very localized category like plumbing & hvac, moving, or restaurants, the 4s, 5s, and 6s your rankings tool tells you you’re getting are really more like 14s, 15s, and 16s.
Take a look at the screenshot below for plumbers. If the good folks at Mikesplumbingchicago.com are running ranking reports, they’d probably pretty excited to see that they’re showing up in 3rd place organically. But if they look at this screenshot, their excitement would dwindle., because when you factor in paid and local listings, that listing is really 13th. Quite a difference.
We know that customers are willing to comparison shop more businesses than ever before, but in most cases 13 is well beyond what someone will consider in the purchase process. Not to mention that some listings in a search like this are for aggregators who will give you 2-4 quotes by filling out one form, satiating many searchers’ desire for multiple bids.
So what can you do about this?
- Make sure the SEO reports you’re receiving from your agency or internal manager are going beyond rankings. Talk about the context of those rankings and what that 3, 4, or 5 ranking really means. And make sure that organic traffic data is always a part of your reporting package.
- Tune up the local content on your web site. As Google gives priority not only to local listings but to local content in general, you need to ensure your site has what they’re looking for. A well-crafted local market or better yet location-specific page is one of the best assets a site can have today.
- Get your local listings house in order. Claiming Google local listings is the critical first step, but that has to be supported with consistent citations of your business name, address, and phone number data across all local portals online. This will help reinforce to Google the validity and relevance of your listing, delivering you better rankings. With a strong local listings program in place, you’ll be well-positioned to pick up on the opportunities of today’s shifting SERPs.
- Re-evaluate paid search. If you’re serious about high visibility, there’s still no faster path – and no other guaranteed path – to a top position than paid advertising. Invest in paid if you’re not doing so already. If you already have a program, re-examine your keyword mix and make sure you’re bidding aggressively on terms in which your organic rank may have been displaced by local.