Our clients often come to us concerned that they’re not ranking above their competitors. It’s not unusual for us to hear, “When I search for ‘AC repair near me,’ [insert competitor name here] always outranks us. What are we doing wrong?”
This is where the job of an SEO strategist gets challenging, because our clients aren’t competing with local competitors like they think they are. After performing a competitor traffic analysis, we often find that they’re actually competing organically with heavy hitters like Angie's List, Yelp, Home Advisor, and the BBB. While they might find themselves ranking behind these companies in position 5, they have to be pretty lucky to do so.
But don’t get discouraged, it’s not completely impossible to get on top of the big guys. With a good strategy in place, it is possible to outrank Yelp, Homeadvisor, and more. Keep reading to learn how.
Need help with your organic marketing efforts? Rocket Media will establish your brand's online authority, increase your rankings, and prove your credibility to prospective leads.
Basic SEO principles are the foundation of a successful local strategy
Optimize your website with local pages that are specific to your location. This includes:
- Metadata. It’s important that you have a sound URL structure with easy navigation and clearly identifiable pages. You should also include keyword rich title tags that contain your brand or company name at the end of the title, as well as meta descriptions and header tags using targeted keywords.
- Content. Your content should be specific to both your target audience and location to effectively pull in the proximity ranking for local searches. Include details about your location. Is there a monument on the corner of Main and First Street? If so, tell Google about it.
Featured snippets and how to get them
- Implement schema markup on your local pages and blogs. Even though Google has stated that schema will not help you rank, we believe that is not the case 100% of the time. Schema markup allows Google to easily understand what is on the page. The clearer the intent of a page, the better chance you have of ranking in the top positions of Google.
- Include numbered lists and FAQ’s. Google loves numbered lists and FAQ’s. Think about the number of times you’ve done your own searching. Many times it is numbered lists (as well as FAQ’s) that appear in the first position. Additionally, if you have FAQs on your site, don’t forget to include FAQ schema.
- Use the right keywords. When implementing desirable keywords, look for ones that have a high monthly search volume with low difficulty. Moreover, geo modified keywords will help you with local rankings.
Google My Business (GMB) and ranking on Google Maps
Fully optimizing your GMB knowledge panel is vital to local search and is your strongest line of defense against your organic competitors. A fully optimized GMB profile should include:
- Optimized photos
- Main service category - E.g. “Air Conditioning Repair Service”
- Secondary services - E.g. “Plumbing Contractor,” “Heating Repair service,” etc.
- Correct name, address, and phone number
- Days and hours of operation
- Questions and Answers section filled out. Many people don’t realize that this section has such powerful search potential. Anyone can ask and answer questions. If you don’t answer questions your competitors can answer them for you. Don’t let this happen. Take advantage of this feature!
Once you’ve set up your GMB panel, you should also make sure to:
- Build out service descriptions. There is no limit to how many of these you can have. Describe what you offer in detail and include prices if applicable.
- Build out a product feed. Another overlooked feature is the GMB product feed. This is another opportunity for you to stand out ahead of the competition and drive customers to your site for lead conversion.
- Solicit reviews from customers and respond to them. (More on this below.)
A well-optimized profile should look similar to this
The importance of reviews
Google has said that reviews need to be responded to no matter where they live (Facebook, Yelp, Google, etc.) and that they do directly impact rankings. It’s important to engage actively in your reputation management. In the case of Google reviews, it takes 5 positive reviews to counterbalance a one-star review.
The good news is that responding to reviews doesn’t need to be difficult. Let’s take a look at how to respond to the most common kinds:
- Negative reviews. Respond to these by acknowledging the issue, calling the customer by name if possible. Even if you don’t agree with the review, apologize and ask for a resolution. Oftentimes a customer will go back and edit a review if you’ve made them happy.
- Positive reviews. Thank the customer by name if possible and repeat the title or name of the service that they’re happy with.
- Neutral reviews. These are from customers who are neither upset nor happy. Again acknowledge the review and ask the customer what you could have done to improve the services they received.
- Fake reviews. The home services industry is extremely competitive. Fake reviews happen and rarely will Google remove them. The best way to combat a fake review is to answer something simple like “We’re sorry that you have had a poor experience. After going through our records we don’t see that we’ve provided you a service in the past. Could you please contact us at (insert number) so that we can resolve this issue for you.” This satisfies Google’s requirement to respond to negative reviews, but it also will signal to a smart consumer that it may not be genuine.
Directories provide local backlinks to your site from authoritative sources. This is vital to relevancy.
Some quality local links include:
- The Better Business Bureau. As a reputable entity, the BBB will provide a strong backlink to your site. It’s also a great way to secure reviews from happy customers.
- Chamber of Commerce. Joining a chamber of commerce is a great way to score a highly authoritative back link from a local source, specific to your area.
- Local directories. Securing a listing within local directories, such as the Yellow Pages (YP.com) will also help drive traffic to your site, as customers may look to them for referrals.
It’s a difficult pill to swallow, but you may not be able to out rank the big guns.
The aggregator sites like Angie’s List or Yelp are a collective of all of your competitors combined. In this way, they’re not actually your competitor, rather, they’re an information entity that could end up leading a potential customer to you (provided you have a listing). It’s because of this power that their authority is so strong, from an SEO standpoint.
Potential solution: For this reason, you may consider engaging in what’s called “barnacle SEO.” Akin to the barnacles of a shark, Barnacle SEO stems from the philosophy of, “If you can’t beat them, join them.” An example of this would be to take out a featured listing in Yelp so that your business can ride the coattails of Yelp’s own SEO efforts.
While you may not be able to outrank some of the aggregate (essentially “directory”) sites like Yelp, Angie’s List or Home Advisor, we hope this blog helps you understand the importance of strategic SEO efforts, and how simple changes can still make a noticeable difference in driving traffic and converting valuable leads.
Need help with your organic marketing efforts?
Rocket Media has helped HVAC and solar companies all over the U.S. improve their rankings simply by optimizing and maintaining their business listings.
To learn more about how we can help your business succeed, just drop us a line or call us at (800) 339-7305 to chat with one of our SEO specialists today!