Google Keeps Changing The Rules – Two Important Local and SEO Search Updates

One of the biggest questions I always hear is “How do I get people to find my health coaching website online?”  There are many answers to this question and some are easier to implement than others.  From paid advertising on networks such as Google, Yahoo, Bing and Facebook to local search, organic search, viral traffic through social networking sites, video marketing on YouTube and other video based sites, word of mouth and referrals.

Today I will talk a little about local search (my favorite for anyone who sees local clients) and backlinking, which is one of the key elements of traditional SEO (search engine optimization.

Local Search

4-6-2012 weight loss search bernardsville
 
This picture is a little busy, but it gives you a good idea of what is going on when you do a search in Google.  Your location is automatically picked up by Google according to your IP address and they try to give you the most relevant results according to where you are.  The map view can be changed by selecting change location on the left hand side.
 
In this example their is more above the local search than usual.  What google shows on any given search changes depending on whether or not you are logged in, where you are located, and many factors which Google does not care to disclose to most of us.
 
What you can see in this is that even if you were to rank in the top ten for a term like “weight loss” (Highly Unlikely), you would still probably show up below the local search results. 
 
The number 1 site in the local search results is for Carla Hugo’s site, www.getcoached.com.  This is a very bare bones google places page setup I did as a webinar demo in the fall.  She probably only shows up in a fairly small radius, but anyone in her neighborhood that is searching for weight loss is probably going to find her.
 
From a mobile device, local search results tend to show up first, which is great news, since this is the largest growing segment of search.
 
Here is another example where you see the local results showing up at the top of the page.

masage local search 4_6_12

When I first started talking about Google Places and local search I told people that they would get better results if they showed their address on their Google Places page.
 
Google has changed this recently and now only businesses that serve clients at their location are allowed to show their address on their Google Places page.
 
On March 22nd the official Google Places Quality Guidelines were updated to include the following language:
If you don’t receive customers at your location, you must select the “Do not show my business address on my Maps listing” option within your dashboard. If you don’t hide your address, your listing may be removed from Google Maps.
 
The good news is that Google will no longer penalize you for not showing your address, which is great for us coaches that both see local and national clients.

Google Bans Link Networks

Anyone who has tried to do any traditional SEO had heard of backlinking.  Basically it is a link from anywhere else online back to your website.  In order to rank well in Google for competitive search terms you need lots and lots of backlinks to your site.

Backlinks can come from many sources, such as citations and directories, social media sites, blog commenting, article writing on other sites, YouTube, anchor text links.

For years, black-hat SEO folks have been trying many different methods of automating the backlink building process.  Backlinking manually is very time consuming and tedious.

One of the most popular link building schemes out there was to build link networks whose sole purpose was to provide a way to automate anchor text backlinking.  An anchor text backling is any keyword phrase that links to your website, such as health coach marketing.

Anchor text backlinks are a great way to rank for a specific keyword but Google frowns upon automating anything and last month started de-indexing many major link networks.  This has lots of people scrambling, since their site rankings plummeted overnight.

Summary

So what is the takeaway?  Even though it sounds enticing, don’t be tempted to buy a whole bunch of links from someone who says they can get you 1000 links for $10.  It is probably through a link network and when they get shutdown you will surely suffer a major loss in rankings and possibly a dreaded Google slap, where they de-index your website.

Traditional SEO should be a consistent strategy over time.  Focus on 3-5 keyword phrases that you want to rank for (make sure they are not too competitive), optimize your website with on-page SEO factors and build links slowly over time.

For faster results, PPC gives you instant traffic through either google or facebook and local search works for several categories.

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