Social/Mobile/Semantic optimization – Local SEO

In the previous two parts of this series, we looked at how to optimize Place Pages on site and on Google+ local in the context of local search. We also explored how to implement a strategy for link building and acquiring citation and reviews as means to increase page prominence. In this third and final chapter, we will cover the following topics:

  • Social and Mobile: the SOLOMO (social, local, mobile) tendency that we’ve alreadyreferenced on this blog.
  • Semantic: a topic we’ve covered in detail following the reveal of the Knowledge Graph. It has now been extended to the rest of the world, and thus is more important than ever. We will discuss how to use structured databases.

Social and mobile to optimize local SEO

Social and Mobile criteriaContinuously making reference to David MIHM’s essential study reveals the great importance of social and mobile criterion.  In fact, the link between the two can clearly be identified in the check-ins we perform on two major platforms, notably Facebook and Foursquare. It is worth noting that while Twitter includes the ability to check-in, it does not yet allow us to claim our listings or to keep them up-to-date. Nevertheless, this ability will be announced by the real-time update specialist in short order. For the time being, it is sourced by the Canadian Yellow Pages.

In any event, and as could be expected, the results of the study indicate that the Google+ network comprises the lion’s share of sourcing factors considered for search result rankings.

We see that the number of +1s on a website and the number of shares on Google+ are the two most important factors. Of course, the authority of the +1s and shares is also considered in the algorithm. This is likely due to the abuse experienced when companies such asplussem.com and plusonefoundry.com first launched. Another factor to consider Social and Mobile factorswith rankings, to avoid fraud, is velocity. Velocity is a well-known notion in link building insofar as it is accepted that the campaign alone is insufficient. The speed and frequency of link acquisition must remain consistent in order to demonstrate that they were obtained naturally. We can therefore summarize the steps to follow in three simple bullets:

  • Maximize the number of +1s, shares, and mentions on Google+
  • Interact with influential members having the highest authority.
  • Maintain a stable velocity for the two metrics described above.

I’ll take this opportunity to reiterate that Google+ finally allows us to combine our Google+ page with our Google+ local page. Additionally, it has just been announced that simplified URLs will soon be made available to the general public. For the time being, only a few privileged organizations, such as Toyota and Hugo Boss, can make use of these URLs.

Immediately following the Google+ factors, we see something we have been saying since the beginning of this text – check-ins. We need to obtain check-ins in high volume, at a reasonable velocity, on the three main platforms: Facebook, Foursquare and Twitter.

Afterwards, as with SMO (social media optimization), we find shares, likes, and retweets.These are tallied to attribute importance to the website in local searches. Here, once again, the authority of members is vital.

This analysis would not be complete without considering LinkedIn, even if it is a network aimed solely at professionals. Google views it as an index of people and enterprises. Therefore, creating an open group dedicated to local organizational news, indexed in search engines, could send interesting signals while creating connections with yet another type of community. LinkedIn has a role to play in our link acquisition strategy, something that was brought up in @danzarella’s recent analysis. Below are the main graphs illustrating the correlation between social activity and acquired links:

Stats sociaux Dan Zarella

We can clearly see that while there is a positive correlation for the three networks, the strongest correlation is between LinkedIn and incoming links. LinkedIn is therefore extremely important for businesses interested in SEO.

Google test icons mobile webWhen it comes to mobile, we see in the results of the analysis that the CTR (click-through rate) in search results occupies the second rank of important factors. This makes it somewhat less surprising to see an experiment by Google that consists of displaying an icon in search results generated on a Smartphone when a site is optimized for mobile. In fact, Google has always said that they wanted to offer the best experience to the user and a non-optimized website is frustrating to use. It should also be noted that, according to Google, 62% of the top advertisers still don’t have a mobile site!

Nevertheless, the search giant’s recommendations have long been clear, even recently. Google has once again confirmed its preference for responsive web design. I have produced a series in collaboration with @melanie on this blog that I would invite you to read, or reread, about mobile site optimization. I will allow myself to add, however, that an important CTR factor is the title page and that in the case of responsive web design it is identical to the regular site, which leaves me somewhat reserved about choosing this solution.

In general terms, and according to the study recently conducted by Adobe on the use of mobile devices (Smartphones and tablets), it appears that the speed of the site and navigation are the primary factors to optimize to create a better experience for the user, as are a few other key points, indicated in the figure below:

Adobe research site speed mobile

There is more than just CTR that needs to be considered on search results pages; there is also the matter of maximizing the interactivity of the site via shares and other interactions. We also need to think about interconnectivity on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook so as to create an viral effect for the offer and its tracking by search engines. The possibility to offer coupons and other valuable promotions in a given geographic sector is another way to take advantage of the wonderful association between as social, mobile, and local.

Semantic aspect of SEO

To begin, I would like to simply signal that this section is not drawn from the study of David MIHM, but is the product of my own observations. When we see someone like Amit Singhal confirm that Google will no longer push as much content onto Google+, but instead will display information in the Knowledge Graph all around the world (at least, in English), we are correct in assuming that semantic optimization will have a large impact in the future. Even more so, it will become important in the context of local search, where information can be different and contradictory.

Using schema semantic tags

This optimization is, however, taken by the participants of the David MIHM study and is quoted as being part of third tier factors, along with the KML sitemap.

On-site factors

What the study does not allude to is the importance of the “local business” tag that we can use to complement the “reviews” and “AggregateRating” tags. Currently, rumours indicate that Google could abandon its ZAGAT scoring system in favour of an older model measured on “5 stars”, as mentioned by Mile Blumenthal in his blog and seen in this screen capture:

Google zagat 5 stars

To implement these types of tags, please refer to the example I have uploaded in a PDF document, available for download: here.

KML sitemaps

In addition to the XML sitemap previously suggested, it is highly recommended that you produce a KML sitemap to submit via your Webmaster Tools account. Remember that Googledefines KML as a file format used to display geographical locations in a navigator like Google Earth, Google Maps, and Google Maps for mobile. KML uses a structure based on tags with embedded elements and attributes, and is based on the XML standard. Once the engine retrieves this data, it can create those famous “web entities” that will corroborate the information provided on site and from Google+ local.

The implementation is fairly simple. Simply go to the Geo sitemap and KML generator website, upload the CSV file as mentioned, and download the newly generated KML file. As a reminder, last March, Google announced that it will no longer be handling GEO sitemap files, so there is no need to waste your time with them.

Once again, to help better understand how it all works, I produced a small video that I would invite you to view for more ample details. It can be viewed here.

Structured databases DBpedia and freebase

DBpedia is a community project to extract structured encyclopedia information, in line with Wikipedia. Articles on Wikipedia are within the reach of every legitimate entity that respects the terms of use policy.

As such, small, specialized Montreal restaurants managed to have dedicated Wikipedia pages, such as La Banquise or Le Madrid. Furthermore, a restaurant in Old Montreal figures to be included in the Old Montreal page’s external links. Even if there seems to be many pitfalls on this path, it is well worth the risk.

As for Freebase, it is more suited to create an entity and to populate the places allocated to business without an overwhelmingly invasive community. We can log on with our Google or Yahoo! Accounts, or simply take two minutes to create a new one. One must simply create the entity as an organization (enterprise) and then populate the file with places corresponding to Google Places as “child”. Freebase uses Google Maps for geographic data, which makes it an ideal tool to confirm places.

Freebase Bank of America

This marks the end of our three part series dedicated to local SEO, one of our strengths here at Mediative. I will take the occasion to invite you back, come September, when we release our new series, including one about Social Media Optimization (SMO).