Surviving Venice – Build your Site to Float!
Venice – the lovely, little Italian city by the sea. Gondoliers, singing to you and your beloved as you slowly work your way through a beautiful city. Or is it the lover that just ripped your face off this past week? I think many readers would agree with the later. All apologies to a lovely city, but Google is using its name to wreak havoc on its SERPS!
Google defines Venice as, “Improvements to ranking for local search results. [launch codename “Venice”] This improvement improves the triggering of Local Universal results by relying more on the ranking of our main search results as a signal.” Reading that, you are likely to think that you are in the clear – you rank well in the main index – hell, you may even completely control the SERP. Do not give into a false sense of security! This algorithm change is designed to rock your SEO world.
So where do you start? Sure, you can read this post over at SEOMoz – it is great. However, we are going to approach this in a different way, we’re going to take your existing site structure, tweak it, and see how we do.
Step One – Get your citations right
Your first goal should be to make sure that your CORRECT address information is displayed across the net. I had one client who kept getting their address listed incorrectly every 5-6 months. We would claim the local profile, optimize it, and then BOOM same issue. Once we got that fixed by discovering one wrong address on a reputable local citation many things seemed to stabilize with the local aspect.
What next – check your Facebook page for your business. Another client had made a mistake in listing their page as a service and not as a local business. Once this was changed, we gave our proper address. From there, we were able to tag the local business. Now you may be thinking that Google does not use Facebook as a ranking factor, and yes, this may be true. Nevertheless, Facebook as a citation can be quite powerful and can quickly confirms your business locality. With those two steps – finding major address issues and setting up a correct Facebook business, we were able to secure our location that Google may use in a Venice-effected search result.
Step Two – Add schema data!
I have talked about schema data before. I still do not think it is a ranking factor in the proper sense of the word, but it is helpful in making your address easily digestible by the bots. My interpretation of this stems from a concept that I have used for local search – placing the address on every page of the site. When you have your address on every page, it used to ensure that you would show up in at least your own region. This Local Business schema page should allow you to satisfactorily set up your schema information: http://schema.org/LocalBusiness
The format should look something like this:
Step Three – Add Locality based CTA
This should be straight forward – add an “in cityname” next to your key-word target. While this is easily done for companies with one or two localities that they concentrate on you get in, edit your code, and your set. But what if you target a large geographic area? Say a whole state or a big chunk of it?
Typically, you want to include the major areas that you target in your respective area. Try something like this
“At [company name] we provide [service/product] to customers in and around the following cities [middle city], [major city 1], [major city 2], and [major city 3].”
Seems straightforward, right? Let’s talk about the actual picking of the city names. I like to pick areas (in the area you REALLY provide services for) that go around the boundary as well as a city that is located towards the middle of it. Say, you work in southern California; you are a Los Angeles based company that services San Luis Obispo to the northwest but also Riverside to the southeast. Assuming you keep this area, then your major cities could include Bakersfield, San Bernadino, and Santa Ana. Your middle city would be Los Angeles – it will normally be where you are based.
There is a simple caveat to this approach. Do not add cities if you are not willing to travel there. Customers/Searchers hate going to a website, reading it, then calling in only to find the page is designed solely to capture their search. If you stick to one city, then just stick to one city, if you do not you just come across as spammy.
It is also important to remember that you want to optimize each page, so the service/product will change based on the page. In addition – you do not want to list every single city in your service area, which too can come across as spammy.
From here, you are probably best off to let things settle. I know, it will be hard to do that, especially since you