How Partners Sell Yext: Part Two — SEO Solutions

We’ve talked a bit in our last entry about how to position Yext for maximum ROI for you as a reseller. The crux of that entry is: Yext must be one of many services as a professional marketer that you offer your clients. We showed you a few examples of bundling packages that some of our more successful Certified Partners utilize to sell their products. In each case, Yext’s solutions and tools are incorporated, but they are very controlled in terms of what is offered, when, and in what combination with other services.

In this entry, we’re going to discuss more deeply the types of services you should be offering your clients outside of Yext, with a particular focus on what successful SEO partners of Yext have done. Because Yext’s tools are utilized to solve many issues facing local citation problems, as well as other search engine optimization goals, it naturally occurs that many Yext Certified Partners offer Local SEO solutions. First, let’s review some of the core offerings and nuances that make up an SEO solution, and then we will dive deeper into where Yext can be leveraged.

Local vs. Organic SEO: A Quick Guide

Up until about two years ago, “search engine optimization” had two distinct sides to it. First was the “traditional” SEO work, of owning and dominating search results for broad-base keywords (e.g. “hardware”, “books”, “maid service”, etc.) on a national level. By contrast, “local SEO” referred to searches specific to an area — the searches that read “hair salon, dallas” or “plant nursery, bloomington, mn” and so on. While the differences between these two have largely collapsed, due to Google searches favoring local results in general, there is still some separation between the two. Understanding how Organic and Local SEO are different, and how this affects the way you approach your clients’ marketing, can make a huge difference in what services you offer.

Organic SEO

Prior to early 2012, Organic SEO referred to any national search engine optimization effort by or for a business. The move to increasingly locally relevant search results has changed (and, some would argue, marginalized) the value of Organic SEO for most businesses.

However, organic results will show up in local listings in certain cases. For example, directories with a strong representation in a specific geographic area will show up in localized search for that area, despite the directory itself being ostensibly national in scope. The key factors for these types of results showing up in search appears to be twofold: first, there must be a significant presence in that geographic area; second, the directory or other result must be considered “authoritative” by the search engine.

As most know, an authoritative source is determined by that site’s link density, or how many other sites link to it. To create the sense that a business has a locally-relevant presence, most directories or chains will have a regional landing page. (An example: Noodles & Company: Indiana.)

Most Partners (that’s you!) won’t need to worry about organic SEO. Most of your clients won’t need this, and frankly you’re unlikely to have the resources to support this type of campaign regardless. Put another way: if your client needed organic SEO, they would likely use a major national marketing house (e.g. Digitas, Razorfish) for this service.

Local SEO

This is most likely the type of SEO you are doing for your clients. Local SEO is about improving the relevance of your client’s business to the search engine (and thus the person running the search) which improves your search ranking in the seven-pack, carousel, or Google Maps location-based search. And there’s a whole lot more to this than simply citation building!

Every Local SEO guide I found identified these 5 things as the most important factors (beyond rote citation building) that you as an SEO must undertake in order to make your client as locally-relevant as possible. We’ll go through these factors and discuss why the factor has impact and what you must do as a local marketer to bring your clients this value outside of Yext. Some of these will be similar or related to our response to the top twenty local search ranking factors put out by Moz. I suggest skimming that article before reading further.

Identify Important Keywords

Every Local SEO guide by anyone worth their salt makes clear that identifying which keywords are most relevant to the business is the absolute first step you must take, and arguably the most important one. Avoiding the spray-and-pray approach with respect to keywords is the keystone to a successful local search campaign. Picking a limited set of keywords, both industry-specific as well as geo-specific, ensure that you allocate your scarce resources optimally for your clients.

To do this, a number of sources suggest using Google AdWords Keyword Planner to investigate keywords. The key metrics you want to look at here are average search volume and advertiser competition — the more advertisers there are relative to volume, the more competitive that keyword is, and the tougher any campaign (including a local-oriented one) will be. Ideally, you want a relatively high search volume and a low number of advertising competitors in the market; the closer that ratio gets to 1:1, the more difficult (and expensive) your work will be.

You can also take a peek at your clients’ competitors and what keywords they may be targeting using SEMrush. SEMrush displays aggregate search information in a dashboard that is relatively easy to navigate. You can also drill down deeper into some of the statistics and data. For more robust reporting, you will need to register and subscribe.

Optimize Websites with HTML

Most Local SEO guides agree: using web markup language to optimize your site is the single most useful bit of web development you can do. Specifically, you need to add in <meta> tags to your site header, title, and footer, as well as anywhere else the client has NAP information in a structured citation on their website.

The meta tag language of choice for web crawler optimization is well documented on Schema.org. If you want your clients’ NAP information written in as attractive a way as possible for a web crawler, you must use this convention. Meta tags give search engine crawlers a better understanding of the context of website content. For example, many cities have a Euclid Ave or Street — but it isn’t always labeled. For a crawler, it can’t discern if Euclid refers to an address or to the Greek mathematician without further context — context you can provide using meta tags.

A number of items in Moz’s Local Search Ranking Factors rely on website optimization. By utilizing meta tags correctly, you can make it easier for crawlers to recognize the client’s site content for what it is intended to represent, which can have a significant impact on your search rank.

In addition, adding a Keyhole Markup Language file and GeoSitemap to your clients’ website could net you better Google visibility. To generate this file, you’ll need to go directly to the Geo Sitemap Generator and go through the setup process. Once done, you will have the ability to embed a Google map into the location landing page for your client, improving their discoverability both by site visitors and crawlers alike. It’s fairly well-documented that this step has positive impact on search discoverability for all search occurring after March 2012 (aka Google’s code-named “Venice” search algorithm update).

Note: If you have any questions regarding the section above, contact your web team and explain to them that you need clientsí websites to include meta tags. Your webmaster should certainly know what meta tags are and will learn how to use them to full effect if they donít already!

Location-Specific Landing Pages

If you have one client with five locations, every location needs a landing page. This landing page should be locally-focused, with the NAP information, the GeoSitemap, and all other relevant information specific to the listing (e.g. hours, deals, etc.) on the page in a structured way. Meta tags (discussed in the previous section) are a must-have! And each page should have their respective <title> tags include the name and location of the business.

This may seem like a lot of work for seemingly little benefit, but Google’s own Matt Cutts advocates for this strategy. If you client has more than one brick-and-mortar location, it is your responsibility as their SEM to ensure that each one has a locally unique landing page.

Encourage High-Quality Reviews

You cannot solicit positive reviews. And, in fact, purchasing positive reviews has repeatedly been shown to end very badly for all involved. Don’t purchase fake reviews.

However, you can encourage your clients’ customers to leave reviews on the major review sites. The most important for search rank is without question a Google+ Local page. Google reviews show up in Google search results, and given that Google owns 85% of search (give or take) it’s imperative your client have recent commentary there that reflects well on them.

Include links to leave reviews on each location page for each location’s Google+ Local listing, Yahoo! Local listing, Yelp listing, and other pages that accept reviews from customers. Develop print materials encouraging customers to leave reviews for their favorite business. Include quotes from feedback cards on the website as customer testimonials. Link to local news, chamber of commerce, and community circular write-ups about the business. Do everything possible to encourage — but not solicit — reviews and responses.

Furthermore, make sure that negative reviews are responded to, especially on Google+ Local. Ensuring that the page is claimed and verified will help allow you and your client to control the nature of the dialogue.

Submit to Industry-Specific Directories

While Yext ensures that your clients’ businesses are listed correctly on 50+ publishers, you may have noticed that we don’t include industry-specific directories — at least, not yet!

To that end, it is your responsibility as the SEM for your client to find and submit (manually) to relevant directories. Some examples would be Care.com (childcare services), FindLaw (lawyers and legal services), HealthGrades (doctors and medical professionals), CPA Finder (accountant and financial services), and Angie’s List. Doing this can improve your clients’ discoverability significantly, and having Yext in place to control NAP information on other trusted sites will help ensure your submission stays accurate.

Furthermore, many of these industry-specific directories are weighed strongly as authoritative sources. Having a listing on these sites can have a very positive impact on your clients’ search engine rank.

Do Big Things

As a reseller, you need to understand how to position your service offerings to maximize your clients’ local SEO impact. The local SEO market is complex but well-documented, and while there are myriad influential factors, you have an immense opportunity to exert control or influence over many of them.

We mentioned in the last entry that if you only sell a re-branded Yext, our in-house sales team will “win” every time. That isn’t a sustainable business model for you. To that end, you have to diversify your service offerings. By integrating services such as AdWords, website management, Google+ Local page management, social media management, PPC campaigns, and the services we listed above, you will have the leverage to charge a price that is profitable for you while still delivering a high-impact, high-ROI service to your clients.

The more you can do that demonstrably helps your client(s), the better off everyone is.

References and Further Reading

These are the articles I referenced primarily while writing this post. Many of them go into further detail about the above five factors, as well as including more specific information regarding certain platforms, and many include product recommendations.