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A Complete Guide To On & Off Page Local SEO Content

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A Complete Guide To On & Off Page Local SEO Content

When you think about improving your local SEO, do you think about content?

Maybe not.

I’ll admit, it’s not always the first thing that comes to my mind.

But here’s the thing – content directly affects local SEO, and overlooking it is a huge mistake.

Yes, we might have limited text fields and places where we can input content.

Hear me out, though. There’s more to it than you might think.

Key Differences In Local & Organic SEO Content Strategies

You may know about the content Google likes to see on a website and how to optimize it to show up higher on search engine result pages.

But what about local content?

How is that different?

Here’s the thing, content strategies for local SEO and broader organic SEO aren’t actually that different.

No matter what, good informative content should always be a priority.

The main difference between local SEO and organic SEO content lies in user intent.

For local SEO, the user intent is to find goods or services near them, so they include a location indicator in their search query.

For example, you may search for [Kansas City hair salon], [hair salon in Kansas City], or [hair salon near me].

The location indicator tells Google to prioritize, showing the user results in their area.

This has been the case for a long time as Google has wanted to serve up more localized SERP features (like map results) for searches that it has perceived local intent.

So when you’re writing for local SEO, produce content that highlights your location.

Getting Started

Before you begin writing content for your site, you should always take a minute and think about your end game.

Ask yourself what goals you want to achieve.

And how can your content and messaging aid in completing your goals?

For example, say you want to improve your local SEO so more people visit your brick-and-mortar storefront to ultimately increase sales and revenue.

This is a great goal.

Good local SEO can help you achieve it, but creating a Google My Business listing is not enough.

Prioritize creating high-quality content that highlights both what you have to offer and your location.

Local Content Audit

If you haven’t already done so, now is a good time to perform a local content audit.

When running a content audit, ask yourself what your ideal local customer is searching for.

Are they researching what’s available in their target area?

Reading reviews?

Looking to visit a location now?

Searching for a provider to come to them or to have a product delivered?

Knowing this information helps you determine if there are gaps in your content you could fill to help rank better in local searches.

Another important piece of a local content audit is competitor research.

Check out your competitors’ websites to gather information regarding the keywords they’re targeting and the content structure to get their local clients or customers to convert.

Once you know who you’re targeting and what they’re searching for, you’re in a great position to begin writing.

Now, let’s dive into specific content strategies you can use to improve your local SEO.

On-Page Local SEO Content

Here’s a bit of good news, if you have a well-optimized website that includes quality content, there’s not much you’ll need to change to optimize it for local searches.

Just a few tweaks here and there.

One of the most important things you can do to improve local SEO is putting your address in the footer.

If you have fewer than ten locations, I recommend putting them all in your footer.

Additionally, it’s important to create dedicated landing pages for each location you serve.

Each of these pages should have original content specific to the area/location.

Do not simply copy and paste the information from one page to another, even if you do the same thing at all your locations.

This would be duplicate content, which could hurt your SEO.

General reminders for creating a good page:

  • Write informative and engaging content that describes the products or services you offer.
  • Organically optimize your page for the correct geo-specific keywords (don’t keyword stuff).
  • Add photos or infographics and optimize the alt text.
  • Make sure your page is optimized for voice and mobile searches.
  • Use local-specific schema markup.
  • Refresh the content occasionally to keep it fresh and relevant.

Blogging

Blogging is a powerful tool to provide your customers with useful information and set you up as an expert in your field.

Simply put, in the eyes of Google, it has the power to increase your expertise, authority, and trust (EAT).

But outside of this, blogging is a great way to highlight your location(s) and boost your local SEO.

First and most importantly, it provides Google with fresh content that reiterates where you’re located.

It also helps you target those pesky local keywords like “wine bar near me” that may be hard to rank for.

Additionally, blogging allows you to get backlinks from other local businesses.

And, it offers a chance for people to comment on or share your article, which are two things that improve local SEO.

But I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind you that one of the most important things you can do with a blog is share it – on social media and on any local lists that allow it.

Get comments, get likes, and drive local traffic to your articles.

Off-Page Local SEO Content

Google Business

Your Google Business Profile is the first and most obvious off-page location for local SEO content.

Adding content to your Google Business Profile is important when working on improving your local SEO.

You can do this in various ways, but the top priority should be optimizing your profile by including as much relevant information as possible.

You can add a description of your business, your hours, product information, and your services. For example, a food menu and photos for a restaurant.

When optimizing your Google Business Profile, make sure all the information you provide is correct.

If anything changes, such as your hours of operation, update your profile accordingly.

Another valuable thing you can do is post photos, current blog articles, relevant specials, and updated policies and procedures on your feed.

This communicates to Google that you’re an active listing to promote because you provide users with valuable information.

Ultimately, well-optimized Google Business Profiles receive more clicks and requests for directions.

A key part of building a good local SEO strategy is gathering reviews and responding promptly.

In terms of content, reviews on user-generated content carry a lot of weight.

A Note On The Map Pack …

Getting your business featured on the Map Pack is a big deal.

It allows users to see your listing first before scrolling through SERPs.

A few content-related strategies that can help you get one of the coveted spots in the Map Pack:

  • Claim and optimize your Google Business Profile.
  • Write hyper-local content.
  • Have dedicated landing pages for your various locations.
  • Use schema markup.
  • Gather and respond to reviews.
  • Optimize your site for voice and mobile searches.

Other Listing Services

When it comes to SEO, Google is the major player for sure.

So, it’s no surprise that the major thing tied to local SEO is Google Business.

But, we shouldn’t overlook other local listing services like Bing Local, Yelp, Thumbtack, Yellowpages.com, Foursquare, and more – depending on our industry and focus.

Posting content and other updates gives your website a citation and boosts local credibility.

If you’re on these sites, don’t forget to give them some attention now and then and make sure you respond to any reviews you’ve earned – even if using data aggregation services to push data to third-party directories.

Your online reputation is important to Google and shouldn’t be forgotten.

Social Media

As I’m sure you already know, social media helps SEO.

So having a Facebook and Instagram business listing is important.

It increases your audience, so your article gets more views.

And, more views means more opportunities for backlinks.

Ultimately, having a robust social media presence and posting useful content on your social feed impacts your EAT and makes you look more credible in the eyes of Google.

Final Thoughts

Good content is an essential part of a good SEO strategy.

In terms of local SEO, good content with location indicators prompts Google to rank you higher in local search results and the Map Pack.

Simply creating quality content for your site is not always enough. You should also share it to your Google Business Profile, other local listing sites, and your social media feeds to increase traffic and showcase your expertise and trustworthiness.

For more tips on content marketing, check out SEJ’s Complete Guide to Content Marketing.

For more guidance on local SEO, grab yourself a free copy of SEJ’s Local SEO e-book.

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Google’s Web Crawler Fakes Being “Idle” To Render JavaScript

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Google's Web Crawler Fakes Being "Idle" To Render JavaScript

In a recent episode of the Search Off The Record podcast, it was revealed that Google’s rendering system now pretends to be “idle” to trigger certain JavaScript events and improve webpage rendering.

The podcast features Zoe Clifford from Google’s rendering team, who discussed how the company’s web crawlers deal with JavaScript-based sites.

This revelation is insightful for web developers who use such methods to defer content loading.

Google’s “Idle” Trick

Googlebot simulates “idle” states during rendering, which triggers JavaScript events like requestIdleCallback.

Developers use this function to defer loading less critical content until the browser is free from other tasks.

Before this change, Google’s rendering process was so efficient that the browser was always active, causing some websites to fail to load important content.

Clifford explained:

“There was a certain popular video website which I won’t name…which deferred loading any of the page contents until after requestIdleCallback was fired.”

Since the browser was never idle, this event wouldn’t fire, preventing much of the page from loading properly.

Faking Idle Time To Improve Rendering

Google implemented a system where the browser pretends to be idle periodically, even when it’s busy rendering pages.

This tweak ensures that idle callbacks are triggered correctly, allowing pages to fully load their content for indexing.

Importance Of Error Handling

Clifford emphasized the importance of developers implementing graceful error handling in their JavaScript code.

Unhandled errors can lead to blank pages, redirects, or missing content, negatively impacting indexing.

She advised:

“If there is an error, I just try and handle it as gracefully as possible…web development is hard stuff.”

What Does This Mean?

Implications For Web Developers

  • Graceful Error Handling: Implementing graceful error handling ensures pages load as intended, even if certain code elements fail.
  • Cautious Use of Idle Callbacks: While Google has adapted to handle idle callbacks, be wary of over-relying on these functions.

Implications For SEO Professionals

  • Monitoring & Testing: Implement regular website monitoring and testing to identify rendering issues that may impact search visibility.
  • Developer Collaboration: Collaborate with your development team to create user-friendly and search engine-friendly websites.
  • Continuous Learning: Stay updated with the latest developments and best practices in how search engines handle JavaScript, render web pages, and evaluate content.

See also: Google Renders All Pages For Search, Including JavaScript-Heavy Sites

Other Rendering-Related Topics Discussed

The discussion also touched on other rendering-related topics, such as the challenges posed by user agent detection and the handling of JavaScript redirects.

The whole podcast provides valuable insights into web rendering and the steps Google takes to assess pages accurately.

See also: Google Renders All Pages For Search, Including JavaScript-Heavy Sites


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Google’s Indifference To Site Publishers Explained

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Google inadvertently reveals reasons that explain their seeming indifference to publishers hurt by algorithm updates

A publisher named Brandon Saltalamacchia interviewed Google’s SearchLiaison in which he offered hope that quality sites hit by Google’s algorithms may soon see their traffic levels bounce back. But that interview and a recent Google podcast reveal deeper issues that may explain why Google seems indifferent to publishers with every update.

Google Search Relations

Google has a team whose job is to communicate how site owners can do well on Google. So it’s not that Googlers themselves are indifferent to site publishers and creatives. Google provides a lot of feedback to publishers, especially through Google Search Console. The area in which Google is indifferent to publishers is directly in search at its most fundamental level.

Google’s algorithms are built on the premise that it has to provide a good user experience and is internally evaluated to that standard. This creates the situation where from Google’s perspective the algorithm is working the way it should. But from the perspective of website publishers Google’s ranking algorithms are failing. Putting a finger on why that’s happening is what this article is about.

Publishers Are Not Even An Afterthought To Google

The interview by Brandon Saltalamacchia comes against the background of many websites having lost traffic due to Google’s recent algorithm updates. From Google’s point of view their algorithms are working fine for users. But the steady feedback from website publishers is no, it’s not working. Google’s response for the past month is that they’re investigating how to improve.

What all of this reveals is that there is a real disconnect between how Google measures how their algorithms are working and how website publishers experience it in the real world. It may surprise most people to learn that that this disconnect begins with Google’s mission statement to make information “universally accessible and useful”  and ends with the rollout of an algorithm that is tested for metrics that take into account how users experience it but is 100% blind to how publishers experience it.

Some of the complaints about Google’s algorithms:

  • Ranking algorithms for reviews, travel and other topics are favoring big brands over smaller publishers.
  • Google’s decision to firehose traffic at Reddit contributes to the dismantling of the website publishing ecosystem.
  • AI Overviews summarizes web pages and deprives websites of search traffic.

The stated goal for Google’s algorithm decisions is to increase user satisfaction but the problem with that approach is that website publishers are left out of that equation.  Consider this: Google’s Search Quality Raters Guidelines says nothing about checking if big brands are dominating the search results. Zero.

Website publishers aren’t even an afterthought for Google. Publishers are not not considered at any stage of the creation, testing and rollout of ranking algorithms.

Google Historically Doesn’t Focus On Publishers

A remark by Gary Illyes in a recent Search Off The Record indicated that in Gary’s opinion Google is all about the user experience because if search is good for the user then that’ll trickle down to the publishers and will be good for them too.

In the context of Gary explaining whether Google will announce that something is broken in search, Gary emphasized that search relations is focused on the search users and not the publishers who may be suffering from whatever is broken.

John Mueller asked:

“So, is the focus more on what users would see or what site owners would see? Because, as a Search Relations team, we would focus more on site owners. But it sounds like you’re saying, for these issues, we would look at what users would experience.”

Gary Illyes answered:

“So it’s Search Relations, not Site Owners Relations, from Search perspective.”

Google’s Indifference To Publishers

Google’s focus on satisfying search users can in practice turn into indifference toward publishers.  If you read all the Google patents and research papers related to information retrieval (search technology) the one thing that becomes apparent is that the measure of success is always about the users. The impact to site publishers are consistently ignored. That’s why Google Search is perceived as indifferent to site publishers, because publishers have never been a part of the search satisfaction equation.

This is something that publishers and Google may not have wrapped their minds around just yet.

Later on, in the Search Off The Record  podcast, the Googlers specifically discuss how an update is deemed to be working well regardless if a (relatively) small amount of publishers are complaining that Google Search is broken, because what matters is if Google perceives that they are doing the right thing from Google’s perspective.

John said:

“…Sometimes we get feedback after big ranking updates, like core updates, where people are like, “Oh, everything is broken.”

At the 12:06 minute mark of the podcast Gary made light of that kind of feedback:

“Do we? We get feedback like that?”

Mueller responded:

“Well, yeah.”

Then Mueller completed his thought:

“I feel bad for them. I kind of understand that. I think those are the kind of situations where we would look at the examples and be like, “Oh, I see some sites are unhappy with this, but overall we’re doing the right thing from our perspective.”

And Gary responded:

“Right.”

And John asks:

“And then we wouldn’t see it as an issue, right?”

Gary affirmed that Google wouldn’t see it as an issue if a legit publisher loses traffic when overall the algorithm is working as they feel it should.

“Yeah.”

It is precisely that shrugging indifference that a website publisher, Brandon Saltalamacchia, is concerned about and discussed with SearchLiaison in a recent blog post.

Lots of Questions

SearchLiaison asked many questions about how Google could better support content creators, which is notable because Google has a long history of focusing on their user experience but seemingly not also considering what the impact on businesses with an online presence.

That’s a good sign from SearchLiaison but not entirely a surprise because unlike most Googlers, SearchLiaison (aka Danny Sullivan) has decades of experience as a publisher so he knows what it’s like on our side of the search box.

It will be interesting if SearchLiaison’s concern for publishers makes it back to Google in a more profound way so that there’s a better understanding that the Search Ecosystem is greater than Google’s users and encompasses website publishers, too. Algorithm updates should be about more than how they impact users, the updates should also be about how they impact publishers.

Hope For Sites That Lost Traffic

Perhaps the most important news from the interview is that SearchLiaison expressed that there may be changes coming over the next few months that will benefit the publishers who have lost rankings over the past few months of updates.

Brandon wrote:

“One main take away from my conversation with Danny is that he did say to hang on, to keep doing what we are doing and that he’s hopeful that those of us building great websites will see some signs of recovery over the coming months.”

Yet despite those promises from Danny, Brandon didn’t come away with hope.

Brandon wrote:

“I got the sense things won’t change fast, nor anytime soon. “

Read the entire interview:

A Brief Meeting With Google After The Apocalypse

Listen to the Search Off The Record Podcast

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20 Confirmed Facts About YouTube’s Algorithm

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20 Confirmed Facts About YouTube's Algorithm

Instead of counting the number of clicks or views a video gets, YouTube’s algorithms focus on ensuring viewers are happy with what they watch.

This article examines how YouTube’s algorithms work to help users find videos they like and keep them watching for longer.

We’ll explain how YouTube selects videos for different parts of its site, such as the home page and the “up next” suggestions.

We’ll also discuss what makes some videos appear more than others and how YouTube matches videos to each person’s interests.

By breaking this down, we hope to help marketers and YouTubers understand how to work better with YouTube’s system.

A summary of all facts is listed at the end.

Prioritizing Viewer Satisfaction

Early on, YouTube ranked videos based on watch time data, assuming longer view durations correlated with audience satisfaction.

However, they realized that total watch time alone was an incomplete measure, as viewers could still be left unsatisfied.

So, beginning in the early 2010s, YouTube prioritized viewer satisfaction metrics for ranking content across the site.

The algorithms consider signals like:

  • Survey responses directly asking viewers about their satisfaction with recommended videos.
  • Clicks on the “like,” “dislike,” or “not interested” buttons which indicate satisfaction.
  • Overall audience retention metrics like the percentage of videos viewed.
  • User behavior metrics, including what users have watched before (watch history) and what they watch after a video (watch next).

The recommendation algorithms continuously learn from user behavior patterns and explicit satisfaction inputs to identify the best videos to recommend.

How Videos Rank On The Homepage

The YouTube homepage curates and ranks a selection of videos a viewer will most likely watch.

The ranking factors include:

Performance Data

This covers metrics like click-through rates from impressions and average view duration. When shown on its homepages, YouTube uses these traditional viewer behavioral signals to gauge how compelling a video is for other viewers.

Personalized Relevance

Besides performance data, YouTube relies heavily on personalized relevance to customize the homepage feed for each viewer’s unique interests. This personalization is based on insights from their viewing history, subscriptions, and engagement patterns with specific topics or creators.

How YouTube Ranks Suggested Video Recommendations

The suggested videos column is designed to keep viewers engaged by identifying other videos relevant to what they’re currently watching and aligned with their interests.

The ranking factors include:

Video Co-Viewing

YouTube analyzes viewing patterns to understand which videos are frequently watched together or sequentially by the same audience segments. This allows them to recommend related content the viewer will likely watch next.

Topic/Category Matching

The algorithm looks for videos covering topics or categories similar to the video being watched currently to provide tightly relevant suggestions.

Personal Watch History

A viewer’s viewing patterns and history are a strong signal for suggesting videos they’ll likely want to watch again.

Channel Subscriptions

Videos from channels that viewers frequently watch and engage with are prioritized as suggestions to keep them connected to favored creators.

External Ranking Variables

YouTube has acknowledged the following external variables can impact video performance:

  • The overall popularity and competition level for different topics and content categories.
  • Shifting viewer behavior patterns and interest trends in what content they consume.
  • Seasonal effects can influence what types of videos people watch during different times of the year.

Being a small or emerging creator can also be a positive factor, as YouTube tries to get them discovered through recommendations.

The company says it closely monitors success rates for new creators and is working on further advancements like:

  • Leveraging advanced AI language models to better understand content topics and viewer interests.
  • Optimizing the discovery experience with improved layouts and content pathways to reduce “choice paralysis.”

Strategies For Creators

With viewer satisfaction as the overarching goal, this is how creators can maximize the potential of having their videos recommended:

  • Focus on creating content that drives high viewer satisfaction through strong audience retention, positive survey responses, likes/engagement, and low abandon rates.
  • Develop consistent series or sequel videos to increase chances of being suggested for related/sequence views.
  • Utilize playlists, end screens, and linked video prompts to connect your content for extended viewing sessions.
  • Explore creating content in newer formats, such as Shorts, live streams, or podcasts, that may align with changing viewer interests.
  • Monitor performance overall, specifically from your existing subscriber base as a baseline.
  • Don’t get discouraged by initial metrics. YouTube allows videos to continuously find relevant audience segments over time.
  • Pay attention to seasonality trends, competition, and evolving viewer interests, which can all impact recommendations.

In Summary – 20 Key Facts About YouTube’s Algorithm

  1. YouTube has multiple algorithms for different sections (homepage, suggested videos, search, etc.).
  2. The recommendation system powers the homepage and suggested video sections.
  3. The system pulls in videos that are relevant for each viewer.
  4. Maximizing viewer satisfaction is the top priority for rankings.
  5. YouTube uses survey responses, likes, dislikes, and “not interested” clicks to measure satisfaction.
  6. High audience retention percentages signal positive satisfaction.
  7. Homepage rankings combine performance data and personalized relevance.
  8. Performance is based on click-through rates and average view duration.
  9. Personalized relevance factors include watch history, interests, and subscriptions.
  10. Suggested videos prioritize content that is co-viewed by the same audiences.
  11. Videos from subscribed channels are prioritized for suggestions.
  12. Consistent series and sequential videos increase suggestions for related viewing.
  13. Playlists, end screens, and linked videos can extend viewing sessions.
  14. Creating engaging, satisfying content is the core strategy for recommendations.
  15. External factors like competition, trends, and seasonality impact recommendations.
  16. YouTube aims to help new/smaller creators get discovered through recommendations.
  17. AI language models are improving content understanding and personalization.
  18. YouTube optimizes the discovery experience to reduce “choice paralysis.”
  19. Videos can find audiences over time, even if initial metrics are discouraging.
  20. The algorithm focuses on delivering long-term, satisfying experiences for viewer retention.

Insight From Industry Experts

While putting together this article, I reached out to industry experts to ask about their take on YouTube’s algorithms and what’s currently working for them.

Greg Jarboe, the president and co-founder of SEO-PR and author of YouTube and Video Marketing, says:

“The goals of YouTube’s search and discovery system are twofold: to help viewers find the videos they want to watch, and to maximize long-term viewer engagement and satisfaction. So, to optimize your videos for discovery, you should write optimized titles, tags, and descriptions. This has been true since July 2011, when the YouTube Creator Playbook became available to the public for the first time.

However, YouTube changed its algorithm in October 2012 – replacing ‘view count’ with ‘watch time.’ That’s why you need to go beyond optimizing your video’s metadata. You also need to keep viewers watching with a variety of techniques. For starters, you need to create a compelling opening to your videos and then use effective editing techniques to maintain and build interest through the video.

There are other ranking factors, of course, but these are the two most important ones. I’ve used these video SEO best practices to help the Travel Magazine channel increase from just 1,510 to 8.7 million views. And these video SEO techniques help the SonoSite channel grow from 99,529 views to 22.7 million views.

The biggest recent trend is the advent of YouTube Shorts, which is discoverable on the YouTube homepage (in the new Shorts shelf), as well as across other parts of the app. For more details, read “Can YouTube Shorts Be Monetized? Spoiler Alert: Some Already Are!

Brie E. Anderson, an SEO and digital marketing consultant, says:

“In my experience, there are a few things that are really critical when it comes to optimizing for YouTube, most of which won’t be much of a surprise. The first is obviously the keyword you choose to target. It’s really hard to beat out really large and high authority channels, much like it is on Google. That being said, using tools like TubeBuddy can help you get a sense of the keywords you can compete for.

Another big thing is focusing on the SERP for YouTube Search. Your thumbnail has to be attention-grabbing – this is honestly what we test the most and one of the most impactful tests we run. More times than not, you’re looking at a large face, and max four words. But the amount of contrast happening in the thumbnail and how well it explains the topic of the video is the main concern.

Also, adding the ‘chapters’ timestamps can be really helpful. YouTube actually shows these in the SERP, as mentioned in this article.

Lastly, providing your own .srt file with captions can really help YouTube understand what your video is about.

Aside from actual on-video optimizations, I usually encourage people to write blog posts and embed their videos or, at the very least, link to them. This just helps with indexing and building some authority. It also increases the chance that the video will help YOUR SITE rank (as opposed to YouTube).”

Sources: YouTube’s Creator Insider Channel (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6), How YouTube Works

More resources: 


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