Bennis Inc. | Common SEO Myths for Local Businesses (Guest Blog by Michael Hayes)
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Common SEO Myths for Local Businesses (Guest Blog by Michael Hayes)

The following post comes to us from Michael Hayes, founder and CEO of Darby Hayes Consulting, a full service Internet Marketing agency based out of NYC.


Common SEO Myths for Local Businesses

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SEO can be a tricky and sensitive subject, both for professional SEO practitioners and for local businesses. Due to the fact that there is no official standard for how to practice SEO, practitioners have to develop their own theories, methodologies and tactics in order to practice effectively. Eventually these theories combine with bits and pieces of Google’s webmaster guidelines to become part of the collective industry “best practices.”

Then, SEO/marketing professionals and business owners will utilize these best practices to attempt to rank their own sites. This can be effective, but one must be careful to not treat these as “gospel.” Recommendations and best practices are not necessarily set in stone. Google (and SEO) is constantly evolving, and as such these best practices will change over time.

Whenever I come across outdated (or simply incorrect) “best practices,” i.e. strategies that don’t align with my practical experience, I make note of it. These are helpful when educating new clients, testing new theories, or performing audits. Today I’ve gone ahead and put together a few of these “myths” in hopes that I might dispel them, and help readers avoid potential and unnecessary pitfalls.

Myth #1: Directories are bad/good

Forgive the lack of clarity on this one. I’ve seen these myths go either way, both condemning directories as terribly evil or touting them as an effective way to drive ranking. The true story lies somewhere in between.

Directories have a very touchy history in SEO:

  • Like “Web 2.0s,” directories allow people to inject links to their website. This was abused in pre-penguin world.
  • Thousands of nonsense directories began being published, allowing people to list their website for free or for a small charge.
  • Legitimate directories still exist, and are still useful to users. They are usually manually curated and have other uses besides being link farms. Sites like HomeAdvisor, ThomasNet and Best of the Web come to mind.

So what are directories good for? Which directories to consider? Let’s have a look:

  • Do *not* inject anchor text meant to manipulate keyword rankings. Even if it is effective at first, it leaves you open to penalties and will likely need to be cleaned up via disavow or link removal requests later on.
    • Stick with “naked URL” (http://www.example.com), or Brand Name (“ACME Anvils”), and you’ll be fine.
  • Niche directories are great, if you can find them. Industrial manufacturer? Go for ThomasNet. Home service provider? Go for HomeAdvisor. Most niche directories will be hyper-local (City government sites, local chamber of commerce, etc). These are awesome for local businesses.
  • Stick with high authority and avoid the junky, fly-by-nighters. Directories with a DA50+ are probably fine.

Myth #2: SEO is all about “great content”

This section will allow me to flex my tactical SEO muscles while also taking shots at super “white-hat” SEOs that I’ve grown to hate over my nearly 10 years in the business. First, let me explain the history…

Google is trying to reward content that gets naturally popular on the web. This “popularity” is generally about backlinks. Backlinks naturally occur when content is “great” enough to warrant important websites mentioning and linking to it.

This is great and all, but “publish and hope for the best” is not a strategy. If you like blogging, go for it, but I wouldn’t set any expectations for natural backlinks (although you might get lucky). I certainly wouldn’t pay someone any significant sum to do this, not without a specific and detailed promotion plan.

This leads me to my next point. Great content is great, but it’s nothing without promotion. Things don’t go viral on their own, even though it might seem like it after the fact. The truth of the matter is that SEO takes active participation in generating links and exposure. Content is only the beginning.

I’ll go easy on the white-hats for a minute and say that proper outreach to influencers, well crafted and very high quality content can go a long way in furthering SEO efforts. However “publish and pray” is a far cry from this.

Myth #3: Landing Pages Need to be 1000+ Words

I love this myth because it speaks to a much larger problem that effects any blanket “best practice.” The truth of the matter is that landing pages *might* need to be 1000+ words. They might actually need to be 2000+ words. Or they could very well be 500 or less words. It depends entirely on the target keywords.

There is a fun saying that goes, “Google is dumb, but it isn’t stupid.” What this paradoxical saying is trying to get across is that basic SEO is straightforward (domain name + content + keywords + links), but trying to finagle these elements too much won’t get you anywhere.

Just because you need some content on the homepage for a local plumber, doesn’t mean that adding 2000+ words about the intricacies of pipe inspections will make your site rank any higher.

How do you know what word count is appropriate? Simple: take a look at the SERP (search engine result page) for your target keyword. Let’s have a look at one.

Doing a quick search for “Plumber San Antonio,” a very popular local service keyword, we see that local businesses make up 6 out of 10 results on Google’s first page (we’ve removed national sites like HomeAdvisor and Yelp).

See the word counts for these sites below:

san-antonio-plumber-rankings

While we see some instances of 1000+, upwards of 1700 words, the bulk are less than 1000. We even see a site ranking #7 with only 266 words on the page.

Now don’t get me wrong, this is only one keyword and not necessarily typical of your niche. The key takeaway here is to not blindly follow generic recommendations on word count. Sure, more relevant information for your customer the better, but jamming an article at the bottom of the page is a waste of time and a poor user experience.

Conclusion

I hope this has been a fun read and at least a little bit enlightening. Strangely enough, if you take one thing away from this article, it’s that you shouldn’t take any blog post (including this one) as gospel. Trying things out for yourself, see what works, and always keep an open mind, and you’ll go far in any industry (not just SEO).

What myth did you find most surprising? Do you have an SEO question for Michael? Leave a comment below!

mike-hayes

Michael Hayes is the Founder and CEO of Darby Hayes Consulting, a full service Internet Marketing agency based out of NYC.  He can be contacted at mike (at) darbyhayesconsulting.com.  Stay in touch with Darby Hayes Consulting at their Facebook Page.

Stephanie Shirley

stephanie@bennisinc.com