4 Powerful Local SEO and Content Marketing Strategies No One is Talking About

by Marcus Sheridan

location based seo

Ever since Panda and Penguin, local SEO has become more and more of a challenge for businesses. Not only do they need to target what is in some cases many location-based keywords, but they need to do it without sounding like they’re schlepping Google with an abundance of out-of-place local search phrases. Truth be told, the information that I’ve seen around the web on this subject of how to combine SEO with Content Marketing (Search Content Marketing) on the local level is seriously lacking.

But that’s going to change today, because the Lion has some pretty dang cool stuff to share :-)

Like everything that has to do with great content marketing, the key to all of this comes back to thinking like a consumer and being willing to answer their questions. Although this may sound easy, many folks are scared to death of such a task once push comes to shove, as you’ll soon see.

This being said, the stuff I’m getting ready to show in today’s article is for companies that are interested in the bottom-line results, and not those that base their marketing strategies on how “business has always been done…”

Sound Good? Then let’s get to it…

1. Focusing on Local Laws, Ordinances, etc.:

Although this will certainly not apply to all types of businesses, it does with many. If the process of buying your service or product requires any approval whatsoever, then you need to be the one writing about this. Let me give you an example.

For my swimming pool company, every one of our customers has to deal with zoning and setback laws with respect to where they are allowed to put their pool in their yard. Knowing that this is a major question/concern that potential pool owners have, I decided to run a series of blog posts on my site that addressed the zoning regulations of each county (in Maryland and Virginia) we do business in. Because each county has their own regulations and because pool shoppers generally type in something like “Chesterfield County Swimming Pool Laws” or “Frederick County Swimming Pool Setbacks” I went ahead and wrote a separate article on each county. In order to make sure I was as successful as possible from a search engine standpoint, I included in each title the major phrases that someone might type in. For example, the following post was entitled: Powhatan Va Swimming Pool Zoning, Permitting, and Setback Laws

Zoning Laws Photo

Articles like this are easy to write and can get tremendous results

As you can see, the post addresses multiple keyword phrases that someone (from Powhatan) researching a swimming pool might type in, and it’s also written in a very clear, educational manner. Considering so very many businesses deal with county/state laws and regulations when selling their product or service, this technique can be a major Local SEO success, just as the article above ranked on the first page of Google for every major keyword phrase we were initially targeting, shown here:

Local SEO results

2. Write “Who is the Best______________?” Articles

Think about it for a second: How often, when searching for a local business, do you go to Google and type in, “Who is the best ______________ company in [my town]?”

Chances are, if you’re like most of the digital world, you’ve done this many, many times. So have your customers. In order to address this critical customer question, you may want to consider taking every major town you work in and write an article addressing this critical question. I’ve done multiple “Best of [location]” articles and every single one of them ranks on the first page of Google and have generated critical traffic, leads, and sales that have benefitted my business. Here is an example for Virginia Beach:

By addressing a simple question for different areas, you'll likely get great results.

By addressing a simple question for different areas, you’ll likely get great results.

Now you may be asking the best way to write this type of article (Actually, I’m sure you’re asking that question by now :-) ) Well, my answer to this is to literally pick a group of your competitors that that have a solid history of business in your area and list them, without listing yourself, as I’ll now explain in #3.

3. Write “Best of” Posts that also Review Your Local Competitors

OK, now comes the part that makes people scratch their head, but if you look at it from an intelligent business standpoint and get rid of all your “old school/secret sauce” mentality, I think you’ll get what I’m saying here.

Fact is, your potential clients are vetting you and your competitors all the time. They are going to Google and typing in phrases like “Reviews of [your competitor]” and 99.9% of the time, some awful 3rd party review site is the one controlling this conversation. I noticed this trend a couple of years ago and decided to start optimizing for my competitors keyword phrases when a prospect was vetting them online. To do this, my approach was something no one had ever done before online(I don’t say this to brag, it’s just the truth)—I made a “best of” list that included 5 competitors I respected, briefly described their company, and did NOT include myself in these “best of” lists.

Want to rank for your competitor's keyword phrases? This is how...

Want to rank for your competitor’s keyword phrases? This is how…

Why did I not include myself in these lists?

Because if I had, I would have lost all credibility, and at that point there is no trust with the reader.

Instead, I chose honesty and transparency, and because of this, I now rank for a slew of my competitors phrases, as you can see here:

Pool Review Article

Now, when customers are vetting my competition, they’re reading my articles.

When I’ve presented this principle at conferences around the world, occasionally audience members want to know if I’m worried about losing a sale because I’ve now introduced my competitors to my readers.

My answer to this question is simple: NO

I say that because in this age of easy information, it’s NAÏVE to think for one second that our potential customers haven’t already vetted our competition, or that they won’t at some point.

The fact is, when it comes to great content marketing (especially search content marketing), I don’t care about my competition. They aren’t the ones I’m trying to have a conversation with. And ultimately, that’s what this is about—controlling where the conversation takes place.

This one single article made over $150,000 in sales last year for my swimming pool company, and it’s also one of the biggest reasons the New York Times ran their article last week on our transparent approach to answering customer questions.

Again, stop fearing the competition and start fearing what will happen if you ignore the customer.

4. Write “Best of” (or worst of) Posts about Related Industries to Yours

This is a tremendous technique that very, very few people do, but it works quite well. Let’s pretend you’re a real-estate agent in Austin Texas for a minute. What are some typical “best of” questions potential clients (people that are moving to Austin from another area) would ask? Here is a small list:

  • What are the best school systems in Austin?
  • What are the best restaurants in Austin?
  • What are the best neighborhoods to live in in Austin Texas?
  • What are the worst school systems in Austin?

Do you see how this works? If someone is moving to the town, they very likely want to know these things, and there is also a very good chance each person asking these questions could be a potential client for that agent.

When companies think outside the box and produce content about their area, branding and networking experience growth as well.

When companies think outside the box and produce content about their area, branding and networking experience growth as well.

Let’s do one more example just so as to make sure everyone completely understands this. Let’s say you have a pet-sitting business in Washington DC. An example of some indirect “best of” articles would be:

  • Who are the top veterinarian clinics in Washington DC?
  • Where are the best dog kennels located in Washington DC?
  • What are the top dog grooming/spa companies in Washington DC?

Writing these types of articles not only do great from an SEO standpoint, but they also help you become a brand/thought-leader in your local area, as many of these businesses will be thrilled with your positive discussion of them on your site and possibly send you more referrals because of it. (This is also known as “Networking ;-) )

Some of you may be questioning the efficacy of these techniques, but let me stress this: They work in all types of industries, in all parts of the world. Whether you’re B2B, B2C–it doesn’t matter. I say this because I’ve not just done this stuff with my companies, but certainly with my clients, and I’ve  got an incredibly diverse group of clients right now.

When all is said and done, our challenge is a simple one my friends: Think outside the box. Reward those in  your town and city. Talk about them. Think like a consumer. Good things will happen.

Your Turn

A couple of questions folks that I feel could really add to this post: What other location-based SEO techniques have you used with success? From what I’ve mentioned above, what do you agree and disagree with? Why?

Jump in, your voice matters.

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{ 57 comments… read them below or add one }

Jason Hull March 7, 2013 at

I recently wrote about a tax sale auction in my county and described, in detail, the process I went through, including pictures of the cluster**** that the auction was. I included many of the relevant Texas statutes and the revenue code to back up what I was saying about the process (tl;dr = it’s a pain in the butt). So, I used #1, and have already noticed traffic trickling in from Google as people search for Tarrant county tax codes and the tax auction. Don’t know if it will turn into revenue, but someone who is interested in tax planning could *always* use a kick-butt financial planner, right?

Congrats on the NYT article too!

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Marcus Sheridan March 9, 2013 at

Perfect example of “indirect content” Jason. Great job man and keep it up!

Marcus

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Chuck March 7, 2013 at

Marcus-

I love your approach to this and I have been advising clients to use this approach ever since we met at the DC HUG event in Old Town. You’re spot on, but you don’t need me to tell you that.

Congratulations on the NYT article. That is seriously cool and I am genuinely happy for you.

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Marcus Sheridan March 9, 2013 at

Chuck, good hearing from you buddy. So glad you’re doing well and thanks for the Times congrats, it has been great :-)

See you soon,

Marcus

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Rob Skidmore March 7, 2013 at

Hey Marcus these are some great thoughts. Had a few of my own as I was reading.

I recently sat in on an Agentpress webinar where Brian Clark talked all about basically turning a real estate website into a local magazine where you write about anything related to the community. Seth Godin mentions the same exact idea in All Marketers Are Liars. I have been thinking of doing something similar with a site that I own.

Also I just remembered Mitch Joel’s talk at Content Marketing World where he talked about the Sit or Squat app. In everything we do we should be filling a customer need. But if our customers are all geographically constrained then their needs can be anything that apply to that region even if they are not related to whatever we are selling.

That means your swimming pool blog could write a post about the top 5 Mexican Restaurants in Richmond Virginia. Of course this means producing a lot of content and content that is not directly related to you or your products. That’s a lot of work considering that many of the people who are searching for mexican restaurants are not looking for swimming pools.

But if Google sees that you are writing a lot of content about one location and you are dominating a number of different SERP’s for that location it will definitely give you a boost on your money keywords. Like Joe Pulizzi has said we need to start thinking like media companies.

Anyway great article. Let me know your thoughts on this. It’s really just theory right now. At least I don’t really know anyone who has done it. There might be some out there.

Thanks,

Rob

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Rob Skidmore March 7, 2013 at

Also this post today from Jon Morrow’s Boost Blog Traffic makes me think to that a lot of us miss out on providing the utility of fun.

I think Chris Brogan does a good job of this as does Brian Clark. Both of their Google+ streams are full of fun unrelated stuff.

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Rob Skidmore March 7, 2013 at
Marcus Sheridan March 9, 2013 at

Great point Rob.

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Marcus Sheridan March 9, 2013 at

Actually, you’re very much saying here what I was trying to express in #4 Rob. Producing “indirect content” will often times leave opportunity for a sale. This is much easier in certain industries like real-estate, but there are still many others where it applies. Every case may be different, but the principle, at least to me, is all about controlling the conversation in YOUR house (aka website).

Have a great weekend my man,

Marcus

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David Williams March 7, 2013 at

Excellent blog, extremely thorough! Flattering posts are a great way of getting your content out to a larger audience as many companies who top ‘best of..’ posts will want to share this news with their customers. ‘Best ofs’, ‘Worst ofs’, and ‘Top 10′s’ are great things to rely on when you’re struggling for content ideas but there’s also a bunch of tools out there that can help you see what people are talking about and what’s trending. Funnily enough, we wrote a ‘list’ blog on these so if you’d like to take a look you can read it here: http://www.mintonlinemarketing.net/how-to-write-a-blog-creating-the-best-content/ .. Thanks for writing this blog, I’ll be sending it on to my content marketer to take a look at!

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Marcus Sheridan March 9, 2013 at

Glad you liked the post David and appreciate your creativity as well.

Continued success :-)

Marcus

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Rob Metras March 7, 2013 at

One again Marcus your focus on the consumer and your lack of fear of old competition bugaboos allows you to be seen as the good guy, and person to do business with,that you are. This basic foundation is lost to too many folks and these SEO tips are golden. Thank you for your contributions again, and again.

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Marcus Sheridan March 9, 2013 at

Rob, your words are very kind, thank you. Seriously, I appreciate it :-)

And I’ll keep pushing, I can promise you that!

Marcus

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Tom Reber March 7, 2013 at

Marcus-

Once again man you call all marketers to bring a little more! Love the “Best of…” posts idea. Demolish the BOX. Smash it, light it on fire and be UNCOMMON!

MOTORhard!

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Marcus Sheridan March 9, 2013 at

Yes, DEMOLISH it Tom!! :-)

Keep doing great things my friend :-)

Marcus

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Darnell Jackson March 7, 2013 at

I’ve found that finding a common ground to discuss something, anything important with clients is a good icebreaker.

Can’t figure out which tip I like best the “who is the best” search tip is a good one.

One of the local seo tips that I have found that works is to leverage Google Maps.

Create public maps and items with links to your site and they’ll appear when people search. Just be sure to add value as people can write reviews and they’ll trash you if you’re spamming.

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Marcus Sheridan March 9, 2013 at

Good stuff Danell. Yes, we must be very, very careful to always add value to a conversation or consumer…but there are certainly many opportunities.

Thanks again,

Marcus

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Cameron March 8, 2013 at

Now that’s thinking outside the box! This content strategy can be applied in so many ways. It would also make a great addition to an effective reputation management program. I also think creating an article for each of the most common objections customers in your industry have is another great strategy (not forgetting to include important keywords). You can also do this with videos and put them up on your YouTube channel. These rank well and can help to bring in some quality referral traffic.

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Marcus Sheridan March 9, 2013 at

Absolutely Cameron, good point. I’ve written a lot about address “problems” in the past of your products/services, and it has worked wonders for me and my businesses.

For example, I currently rank #1 for:

fiberglass pool problems
concrete pool problems
Hubspot Problems

The opportunities are right there for those willing to go after them!

Thanks for dropping by,

Marcus

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Jordan J. Caron March 8, 2013 at

Marcus,

I’ve seen a few vistors come to my clients websites by searching “the best ____ in Victoria BC”. But since out area is small, we haven’t seen a huge impact. However if it’s just a few people, it’s better than none!

You make a great point about not including your business in such a list. After all, every business thinks their the best but by not listing yourself, you’re taking a different approach.

If I land on a post from a company who says their the best, I know I have a hard time believing it since they wrote it. Besides how do they know they’re the best? Isn’t that what Yelp and Goolgle + local are for?

Great stuff as always Marcus. You to provide simple tips for getting a website in front of targeted visitors. I’d love to strip away the term “search engine optmization” and replace it with common sense!

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Marcus Sheridan March 9, 2013 at

Appreciate that Jordan. I talk about SEO “stuff” all the time but almost never say the word. Frankly, in some ways, it’s an acronym that needs to go the way of the dinosaur…plus I much prefer search content marketing anyway ;-)

Marcus

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Jordan J. Caron February 9, 2014 at

Marcus,

I have gone back to this strategy again as I am trying to offer my services in a new city. You’ll see my comluv link is a “who is the best” post. I’m hoping it will generate me as much income as my “who is the best SEO company in Victoria” post which now ranks #2 organically behind my main domain for SEO Victoria.

Anyways, I’m bragging but I owe it all to this post!

Use this strategy people. I advise my clients to do this as well.

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Jordan J. Caron February 9, 2014 at

Hahah, that’s not the proper link! Delete the comment above Marcus and us this one if you can!

Marcus,

I have gone back to this strategy again as I am trying to offer my services in a new city. You’ll see my comluv link is a “who is the best” post. I’m hoping it will generate me as much income as my “who is the best SEO company in Victoria” post which now ranks #2 organically behind my main domain for SEO Victoria.

Anyways, I’m bragging but I owe it all to this post!

Use this strategy people. I advise my clients to do this as well.

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Ryan Hanley March 8, 2013 at

Marcus,

I started using the Law and Ordinance type posts a couple most ago and those are now some of my most consistently visited pages.

Here’s another strategy to share with peeps… Invite professionals from related industries to create content for you and post it on your site as a guest post. I have a local mortgage guy do a video every Monday (cleverly called “Mortgage Monday”) that addresses different issues with the mortgage industry.

What do consumers who need a mortgage also have a need for? That’s right insurance!

So now we’re ranking for terms in the mortgage industry… I have realtors and construction professionals coming on soon as well…

Awesome stuff as always dude.

Hanley

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Marcus Sheridan March 9, 2013 at

GREAT and CREATIVE idea Ryan. LOVE that brother!!

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Bob McCarthy March 8, 2013 at

Hi Marcus – great ideas

I often see websites for local service companies in which the home page includes a long list of the towns they service. If you click on the links, you get a repeat of the home page with the town name inserted into the headline.

Is there any value to that?

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Marcus Sheridan March 9, 2013 at

That’s a very old SEO technique Bob. It is good to have specific town/service pages, but they can’t be crap. I’ve done this on River Pools very effectively, and you’ll notice each page is different there–much more “REAL” vs stupid black hat SEO.

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Andrea T.H.W. March 8, 2013 at

Very interesting post Marcus. My website is not about a local business as it’s more an informational one yet the “best of” thing is something I can use anyway. Great when a post doesn’t exactly apply to a specific business but it’s still useful and make the thinking hat working. ;)

Have a great weekend!

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Marcus Sheridan March 9, 2013 at

Andrea, thanks man, always thrilled to push thought my friend :-)

Have a great one,

Marcus

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Nate Adams March 8, 2013 at

Hi Marcus!

These are awesome ideas! I will be working them into my blog as time goes on. I’m also a Hubspotter and I read your entire book with gusto. My industry doesn’t have a ton of blogs, and my web traffic has gone crazy because of the blog and good content. I used to be happy with 100-150 hits/month, I’ve been over 4000 the last 2 months. Not enough good leads yet (too many out of my service area), but I’m getting noticed and followed in my industry as well and becoming a local expert.

Thanks for doing what you do! And if you haven’t already, could you share any tips about how to get more local leads from offers (white papers, eBooks, and the like)? What have you had the best luck with? Thanks again, I’m sure we’ll meet someday!

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Marcus Sheridan March 9, 2013 at

Nate, thanks bud, and I’m glad you’re growing. Let me think about your “location specific” content question..I’ll let you know what I think.

Cheers bud. :)

Marcus

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David Gillaspie March 8, 2013 at

You know it’s true when you try it and it works. I write about Portland Baby Boomers in general and what they bring to the table, but googling Portland Baby Boomers shows dating sites. Instead of complaining I used one of your post ideas and rated the sites for a newbie on the boomer dating scene.

Result: front page google. You are the King. Thanks Marcus,

David

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Marcus Sheridan March 9, 2013 at

Hahahaha, classic David, well played sir!! :-)

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Sheryl Kurland March 8, 2013 at

Similar but a bit of a different twist, “10 Things To Look For When Hiring A _________________.” For me, I’m going to write a blog “10 Things To Look For When Choosing a Marriage Counselor/Therapist.” I’m not a psychoanalyst but my work is related. And the byline will lead readers to me as “every man and woman” alternative approach to relationship advice and tips. Thanks for the light bulb moment, Marcus!

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Marcus Sheridan March 9, 2013 at

That’s very smart Sheryl. You’re on to it. The key is targeting the direct and indirect possibilities. And once someone really understands this principle, there are so many opportunities.

Great seeing you :-)

Marcus

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bharath April 20, 2013 at

good post

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Nick March 16, 2013 at

Hi Marcus, this is my first time reading your blog as I was searching Google for advice on how to localize website content. I love your ideas and are very much inline with what I’d like to do for my own projects.

However, I have a question for you. How would you compete with the existing (and growing) number of review sites that seem to dominate local search?

Surely Yell and Google + (and others) have a strong hold on the 3rd party review system when compared with just a few articles from a much smaller selection of local businesses on your site?

Many thanks and keep up thje great work – I’m going to dive in deeper to your site with my morning coffee :)

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Marcus Sheridan March 18, 2013 at

Nick, so glad you liked the blog. How do you compete? Can’t say man, other than to tell you to stop worrying about the competition. Seriously. I don’t pay attention to them, because I can’t control them, so just do your thing bud and great things will happen.

Thanks again,

Marcus

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Nick March 18, 2013 at

Thanks Marcus, i think youre right. I always assume because someone else is doing it, i cant compete. But after reading your free report, ive had tons of content ideas that the “big boys” such as google, yell and other review sites and local businesses are totally missing and wouldn’t dare try :)

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Beth Jackson March 16, 2013 at

This is awesome Marcus. You hit the nail on the head. A lot of my clients ask how they can write targeted blogs for their local business — and articles like this should be at the top of their list!

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Marcus Sheridan March 18, 2013 at

Thrilled you liked it Beth!!

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anthony pietersen March 22, 2013 at

Thanks for sharing some of the best tips which are so much new as compare to old offsite seo lay-men technique

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lisa collins March 28, 2013 at

Thank you for sharing out this post with is. It has provided us with some great tips and say techniques one could use when it comes to a local seo techniques .

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Marzena April 19, 2013 at

Wow. Seriously good article with new point of view on a several issues! Anyway, measuring your effects with some reliable tool, to monitor the local traffic and conversions is also a way to go. Tools like SEOMoz or, even better, Colibri Tool ( http://www.colibritool.com ) are amazing for such purposes.

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masonlee April 20, 2013 at

Awesome and a great post :):) new and interesting points got out through out the post :) thank you so much for such an interesting and valuable information

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Maria williams April 20, 2013 at

The best post i have ever read :):) thank you for this post that you have shared it with us

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Avinash April 20, 2013 at

Thank you for such an interesting and valuable post in SEO… IT has provided me with some great ideas and techniques that would provide me with some great results…. thank you

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bharath April 20, 2013 at

good post

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JB April 22, 2013 at

Thanks ! for this info Sales lion! JB

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Pitt Goumas May 2, 2013 at

I love your outside the box concept. Your articles are thought provoking as always. Glad to have found your website Marcus

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Jordan J. Caron June 4, 2013 at

Marcus,

I’m going to give #3 a try with my latest post.

By the way, I read through all the comments and have some great ideas moving forward. So thanks to everyone who has added to Marcus’ post. This is what I call a true community!

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Marcus Sheridan June 6, 2013 at

Thrilled it helped buddy. Good luck!!!

Marcus

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Jo Hu June 17, 2013 at

thanks a lot for sharing^0^ as a newbie in SEO, I’m still learning, I find your tips very informative and practical, just like what I’ve learned from http://www.aplus.net.nz. drop by it sometime.

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louisa July 17, 2013 at

I also found interesting article at http://www.geoseo.net/every-keyword-is-a-campaign-local-seo/ which describes about local seo key phrases and online local marketing.

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Carolina October 1, 2013 at

I also found this interesting article where it explained a local keyword phrase. A local keyword phrase is generally one or two words combined with location that are used by advertisers in search engine optimization, or by visitors who are using search engines in a desire to find information based on that particular local phrase. For example, an advertiser that provides local plumbing services might use “Plumber Morristown, NJ” as a local keyword phrase to draw more visitors interested in the topic. On the other hand, visitors to a search engine looking to hire local plumber would also use the keyword phrase “Plumber Morristown, NJ” in the search engine, which would then match the local keyword phrase with websites like that of the advertiser that mention the same local keyword phrase. http://www.geoseo.net conducts market research and local keyword research to determine the best targets for your website visitors. While you may have a list of twenty local keywords that you want to target, you must consider each as a separate campaign. Why?
It’s really simple; search engines like Google rank pages and you need to give them what they want to rank your page. To give them what they want you must provide the content that they’re looking for and send enough links to your pages to let the search engines know they are relevant and important.
And, never forget the local customer. It does you no good for a local search term if your content doesn’t include location you serve. Please watch video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UHVIZR4Ek1Q&feature=youtu.be.
Note: search keyword phrases that are used in Meta Tags content are no longer frequently used by search engines to index pages. Major search engines such as Google no longer look for keyword phrases in the Meta Tags, and are more apt to use the information within the actual text of the web page. Listing the local keyword phrases in the in Meta Tags does not do any harm though, but is completely up to the website to whether they will use local keyword phrases in the in Meta Tags content.

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Transporta pakalpojumi December 3, 2013 at

Nice post. I have been struggling with local SEO for month now. In my country there are not as much opportunities. There are just few ways to do it. In other words it’s hard. :)

Thanks

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