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Local SEO tips for directory publishers

Local SEO Tips for Directory Publishers

Are you looking for new ways to increase your visibility in local search results? Then let’s talk about local SEO tips for directory publishers.

Local SEO is all about optimizing websites to rank better for local audiences. This is true for any digital publisher, but particular those with directory websites.

Why is that, you ask? For starters, a significant percentage of directory websites are locally focused. Business directories are an obvious example here. Most business directories are focused on a particular city or region. That makes business directories, at their core, locally centered websites. The same can be said for many different types of online directories. Regardless of the primary focus—restaurants, job listings, etc.—the secondary focus is location.

When someone searches for “best doctor in [city],” we want them to arrive at our client’s online directory, not a website run by a hospital or physician practice. How do we make that happen? Local SEO is the key. Following best practices for local SEO, we optimize directory websites for city-specific or region-specific audiences.

What Is Local SEO?

Local SEO is how we get online directories to rank better for local audiences. In order to do that, we need to optimize each listing for the city name and address, essentially making sure that search engines like Google and Bing know where to find the businesses mentioned in each listing.
Businesses optimize their own websites for local SEO all the time. They do this to ensure that customers can find their storefronts in real life. But publishers, who are not looking to get web visitors into their own offices, should still be targeting people located in the same geographic area as the businesses featured in their online directories.

Local SEO Tips

Now that you understand what local SEO is, and why local SEO is important for directory publishers, let’s get into the nitty gritty and talk about what you can do to improve the local SEO on your directory website.

These strategies are regarded as “first steps” for directory publishers targeting audiences in specific locations.

  • Include a proper address for each directory listing using schema.org formatting.
  • Ask your web developer to add the city and state to the titles and meta description tags for directory listings.
  • Make sure the city or region is mentioned frequently in directory content, including any business descriptions.
  • Make sure your website is mobile-friendly.
  • Add ratings and reviews to your website, if possible.

Fewer than one-in-five marketers incorporate schema markup on their websites, which could be one of the reasons why they are struggling with local SEO. Incorporating proper schema markup is one of the ways that we can communicate the focus of the online directory—businesses in a particular location—to search engines. It makes the online directory more relevant to whichever local keywords you are targeting, as well.

Keep local SEO in mind when generating content for new listing pages. One strategy here is to insert the business location as close as possible to the top of each directory page. This ensures that the city not missing from search results when someone types in a phrase like “best restaurants in Los Angeles.”

Don’t forget about link building, either. Online directories are well positioned to build the types of positive connections that search engines love. Always include links to each business’ website on listing pages. You should also be encouraging business owners to add links to your directory from their own business websites and social media pages. Digital publishers with properties outside of their online directories—for example, those that also publisher online newspapers or magazines—should take advantage by including links to directory listings any time a specific business is mentioned in an article.

Including Maps in Business Listings

What do the most well-known business directories in the U.S. have in common? Those sites almost all include maps on individual listing pages.

Yelp, Whitepages, YP, and Mapquest have pioneered the use of maps in online directories. And why not? If you’ve followed the local SEO tips outlined above, you’ve already added an address for each business listing in your directory. That means you already have all the data you need to include a map on each listing page.

Google Maps is the most well-known of the mapping solutions, but a number of other plugins are available for directory publishers with WordPress websites. Just make sure that the directory software you purchase is capable of including maps on listings pages, as this is not something that every directory platforms can handle.

how to use directories to boost search traffic

Using Directories to Boost Search Traffic

Prominent directory websites like Yelp, YP.com, and Whitepages receive millions of site visits each month, but you don’t have to be one of the “big guys” to benefit from Google’s preference for directory websites.

Digital publishers use directories to boost search traffic on their own websites all the time. It’s a strategy that’s been used for years, and it’s one that becoming even more effective as search engines like Google and Bing refine their algorithms to give more preference to websites with local information.

The key to using directories to boost search traffic is to make sure your directories are created with the right structures and subdomains for successful search engine optimization (SEO). Without the right structure, Google can’t synthesize the information, and it’s unlikely that your directory will rank highly enough to generate substantial search engine traffic.

It’s been a few years now since Google launched it Pigeon Update in 2014. The update involved the creation of a new algorithm that intends to provide more useful, accurate local search results. What most digital publishers noticed about the update was that it placed an increase emphasis on local content and created greater visibility for online directories.

Mobile’s Impact on Online Directories

The rise in mobile search plays a role here, as well. Mobile usage is now surpassing desktop. As more people started searching for content on their smartphones, Google placed a greater emphasis on location. That’s part of the reason why typing in “Italian restaurant” on your phone will bring up listings for Italian restaurants in your own city.

According to Google, more than one-third of mobile searches are now related to local. Publishers with online directories understand this changing dynamic, and they’re adjusting the way their websites are structured so that they can use their directories to boost search traffic.

Optimizing Directories for SEO

Publishers have the most success using directories to boost search traffic when they optimize their content for local search. That means including local keywords in business listings, and it also means localizing schema markup.

Incorporating schema in a website lets Google know the focus of the content and the geographic area you’re trying to serve. Although schema is not directly tied to search rankings, it is tied to local targeting, and we know that local is something Google cares a lot about right now.

Unfortunately, fewer than one-in-five publishers have incorporated schema markup into their websites. That could be making it harder for their directories to rank in search engine listings, and ultimately decreasing the revenue they’re able to generate through advertising on their sites.

So what’s the answer here? How can you start using directories to boost search traffic?

A great place to begin is by inserting local keywords into the title and meta description tags. You should also make sure your business listings include long-tail keywords whenever possible. For example, rather than titling a list “Best Restaurants” you would want to title it, “Phoenix’s Best Restaurants.” And of course, each individual business listing should include local information, such as addresses and phone numbers. This helps Google index the content for the geographic area.

Some SEO experts will also recommend updating NAP information (name, address, phone number) for each listing, including businesses with multiple locations.

One thing we haven’t touched on yet, even though it directly impacts your ability to use directories to boost search traffic, is consumer behavior. Are consumers actually researching the topics covered by your online directory? Is there enough search volume, for example, to sustain an online directory that exclusively focuses on shoe stores in Santa Ana, California?

The best way to know for sure is to take a look at Google’s Keyword Planner, as well as your own website traffic data and performance. Which keywords are people using in search before they land on your website? If there are thousands of people searching for shoe stores your city, and they’re all coming to an article in your digital magazine that contains those keywords, then maybe there is enough interest there to sustain such a hyper-focused online directory.

What you’re more likely to find, though, is that that there isn’t enough traffic to support the creation of a narrowly-focused online directory, and you would be better off creating something more broad, but still with a local focus.

For more details on what’s involved in creating an online directory reach out to our team here at Web Publisher PRO.

Facebook for traffic generation

Local Publishers Reduce Dependency on Facebook For Traffic — Here’s How

As controversies surrounding Facebook’s willingness to help publishers with traffic and referrals continues to swirl, a growing number of independent publishers are looking outside of Facebook for traffic, effectively reducing their dependency on the social media giant.

Just look at Slate. The online magazine has seen an 87% drop in Facebook traffic since 2017. Part of that drop can be attributed to a decrease in news feed reach in early 2018, soon after Facebook’s policy changed to limit pages from accepting content they didn’t create, primarily from social marketing companies. Slate’s drop in Facebook traffic could also be attributed to changes in the platform’s news feed, which now prioritizes content from people’s friends and family over publishers and brands.

But Slate isn’t alone. Publishers who create their own viral content are struggling to use Facebook for traffic generation, as well. Stylist, the female-focused publisher, has found success publishing beauty and fashion videos on the web. It now sees as much as 12% of its referral traffic coming from Facebook. But constant changes in the content discovery algorithm, coupled with questionable monetization concepts, have led Stylist to explore additional channels for distribution. Among those is Apple News, which funnels significant traffic towards Stylist’s videos and offers a number of options for monetization.

Apple News is just one of many options for local publishers deciding to place less reliance on Facebook for traffic generation. Search engine optimization (SEO) is also coming back into style.

Pushed into the background in recent years, SEO is experiencing a comeback right now, particularly within the local publishing community.

Formatting articles in a way that ensures they rank highly on search engines, like Google and Bing, has never gone out of style, but with traffic coming from Facebook and other social channels continuing to decrease, publishers are kicking their SEO strategies into high gear.

Then there’s the strategy being honed by Mic. The youth-oriented digital publisher is using a strategy referred to as “deliberate distribution” to make up for the drop in Facebook traffic.

What does the phrase “deliberate distribution” mean, exactly? For starters, Mic publishes significantly less—roughly half—content on Facebook now than it did in the past, and it has axed its partner swaps with other publishers. Instead of relying on Facebook for traffic generation, Mic is looking more closely at Apple News and Twitter. Like Stylist, Mic sees an opportunity to reach a large audience by posting videos on the Apple News platform.

Probably just as important are the changes Mic has made to its own publishing strategy. For example, the digital publication went from publishing as many as 75 articles each day, down to just 25. It now measures editorial content based on time spent on the website instead of page views.

The goal here, for Mic and many other independent, local publishers around the country, is to build a brand that readers will value enough to visit directly on the web. Once a publication builds a loyal audience, it becomes much less important what changes Facebook is making to its news feed algorithm on a day to day basis.

Here are three strategies for any local publisher looking to reduce their own dependence on Facebook for traffic generation.

  1. Pay attention to SEO. Don’t let SEO fall to the wayside. Search engine traffic is just as important now as it ever was, and small changes to content and website layouts, can have a significant impact on the amount of traffic coming through places like Google and Bing.
  2. Explore new channels. Apple News is a big player here, but a number of other niche distribution options exist for publishers right now. Do the research to find out which channels your own readers are using and start getting your site’s content posted on those channels.
  3. Focus on quality. Publishers who have historically relied on social media platforms like Facebook for traffic have focused more on quantity than quality. But the latest changes to Facebook’s news feed algorithms are changing the game for publishers that traffic in gimmicky content. Ultimately, these changes may end up helping local news publisher that regularly post high-quality, original content.
increase subscription revenue

When Is It Time For a Website Redesign?

Nothing lasts forever. Even the freshest website design will eventually get stale, which is why a digital publisher can expect to undertake a website redesign project at least once every three to seven years.

Why such a large range? For starters, publishers who cut corners on the design of their websites will usually need to update their sites sooner than publishers who build from the ground up with the help of established industry professionals. Pure luck also plays a role. A publisher who launches a newly designed website right as a new technology enters the market will need to make adjustments to keep his or her website current. (Working with a developer who specializes in design for digital media organizations can mitigate some of that risk.)

When they’re done right, website redesign projects yield significant results in terms of growth of readership and engagement. After overhauling its website, TIME saw traffic go up 100%. As smaller publishers experience business success and growth, website redesigns are often necessary to build on positive momentum and keep brand messaging consistent.

Here are the most common reasons why your news website may need an overhaul.

Your website isn’t mobile responsive.

Forty-five percent of U.S adults got their news on mobile devices in 2017, up from 36% just a year earlier. A website that wasn’t designed with mobile users in mind will be sluggish, and some pieces of content—like images and videos—may not open at all.

While it’s probably not necessary for smaller publishers to launch their own branded mobile apps, news websites should be optimized for mobile. At the very least, unnecessary coding should be removed and images should be re-uploaded in the proper sizes. For the best mobile experience, and to ensure your website conforms to Google’s mobile indexing changes, a full website redesign is likely in order.

Your SEO is lacking.

Search is the No. 1 way visitors reach independent news websites, so publishers should do everything possible to make sure their sites rank highly in keywords related to the topics or industries they cover. Unfortunately, developers who don’t work with independent digital publishers on a regular basis are often unaware of best practices that are unique to the publishing industry.

Long tail keywords will help with ranking on the first page of search results, as will title tags. (Title tags are used to describe the contents of a page to search engines.) Sitemap tools should also be used to control how Google reads your website. Many of the latest advanced SEO strategies weren’t around five years ago, and websites that are older than that should be redesigned with the latest standards in place.

Your website needs a more modern look.

A cosmetic facelift can freshen up a staid website. Website redesigns have major impacts on digital publications, even when the content remains the same. Sometimes publishers will take on website redesign projects as a way to re-launch their brands, and other times these projects are done as a way to keep up with the Joneses.

Website design trends are always changing, but the latest styles among news outlets seem to favor ample white space with a true mobile-first approach. A number of publishers, including Fortune magazine, have also adopted infinite scroll functionality as a way to let readers scroll directly from one article to the next.

Think about what your brand stands for, and then take a step back and ask yourself whether your current website design is in alignment. An outdated website can undercut a publisher’s messaging and ultimately hinder the publication’s growth. Working with an expert who has experience putting together websites for independent news publishers is often the easiest way to turn your design ideas into reality.

You’re using an archaic publishing platform.

If your website is built on an old content management system, it’s time for something new. Older content management systems can be difficult to update and they usually offer poor usability for writers and editors.

While there is still some debate over whether to go with an open-source or closed-source CMS, an industry-wide trend towards open-source solutions has fewer publishers relying on systems like Rivista and GTxcel. Publishers should consider making the transition to an open-source solution like WordPress at the same time they redesign the front ends of their websites.

If your CMS is difficult to use, or if you’re concerned that an outdated design might be sending the wrong message to readers, we’d be happy to chat. At Web Publisher PRO, we have helped hundreds of independent publishers build thriving businesses keeping in mind the latest trends in website design.