Local Search | Evolve Digital Labs

Local search is an extremely valuable subject to understand as mobile devices make digital connectivity omnipresent. Businesses can no longer be relevant just with search engines, but with channels such as Google Maps, Yelp, Waze and others. Also with the advent of digital assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant, natural language queries are becoming more prevalent, and these often include a high percentage of local search queries.

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The Future of Medical & Healthcare Marketing: Local SEM + Organic SEO

Healthcare marketing caters to an increasingly advanced patient in the medical industry. Is Local SEM & Organic SEO the Future

Evolve Digital Labs Joins St. Louis Design Week

Evolve Digital Labs Joins St. Louis Design Week

Take a walk around downtown Maplewood and immediately you’ll notice an eclectic community with a thriving business mix, from restaurants and shops to some of the AIGA St. Louis region’s fastest growing companies and budding ad-agencies, that unique vibe is one of the reasons we’re honored to join St. Louis Design Week, and the Maplewood Studio Crawl.

Starting September 19, Design Week celebrates what St. Louis has to offer and the creative minds and influencers, who call it home. From the design and structure of a successful campaign to the execution of an efficient website, design plays an important role in the business at Evolve Digital Labs.

EDL Space

The Maplewood Studio Crawl on Tuesday, September 22, features 14 Maplewood businesses; visitors will tour a number of different spaces for product development firms, design shops, architect offices, advertisers, and photographers. Several Maplewood businesses have been generous enough to provide appetizers and drinks at each location.

The event runs from 2-5pm. The team at Evolve Digital Labs welcomes you to come learn more about our process and design strategy.

St. Louis Shout-out: Content Marketing

St. Louis Shout-out: Content Marketing

Saint Louis is a pretty remarkable city. We all know how its residents unabashedly love Cardinals baseball and consuming craft beer in ungodly quantities, but there’s more to The Lou than that. From budding Internet-savvy start-ups to the Fortune 1000 companies that have adopted new digital modus operandi, St. Louis is home to a myriad of brands doing incredible things in the WWW. We even joined the ranks of the fastest growing cities for tech jobs (according to Fortune). Watch your back, Seattle.

Local Showcase: Content Marketing

The inspiration for this post might have stemmed from the long-awaited spring weather, but Derek asked me to break from our clients and own brand agenda to recognize the solid work a couple local agencies are doing, specifically in content marketing. Atomicdust and Gorilla 76 stand out as two shops that excel at producing great work and sharing their achievements with the digital realm. No agency is an island; without the inspiration and support from these guys across town, we wouldn’t be where we are today. Even though our specialty is Search and PPC, rather than branding and design, we really appreciate learning from these brands’ published work and sharing methods. The truth is, digital marketing requires strategy from all angles in order to build a powerhouse domain, one that acts as an extension of your brand. And one that is available 24/7 to provide a solution for searchers online.

Why Does Content Marketing Matter?

Although many of us are bored with the constant cries to “create content!” there is an undeniable advantage given to brands that can pull it off smoothly. When the contents of a website, such as blog posts, resources, videos, or case studies, enhance the site’s value without trying to oversell the brand, the domain will much easier recruit and retain visitors. Rather than becoming a hub of self-promotion, an ideal website focuses on the needs or interests of its audience. Do you want real examples? Let’s do this.

1. Get Ranked

It’s pretty sweet how natural it can be to optimize your website for search engine efficiency. Google’s algorithm continues to reject manipulative, low-quality websites from its results pages, simultaneously rewarding legit sites for creating and sharing information that supports visitors’ searches. It makes complete sense; consistently publishing your brand’s work and insight is a solid way to communicate to The Goog that your site is a worthy destination for marketing solutions. Gorilla 76 is a team of guys that do an exceptional job of writing content for its targeted demographic. Take its piece, Web Marketing Guide for B2B Industrial Companies: this resource was crafted for a very particular audience with particular goals. It’s not going to rank for terms that receive super high search volume, but that’s perfectly fine because the B2B industrial companies that are in need of web marketing will find extreme value in the content on Gorilla 76’s site. I looked for keyword data on SEOmoz and discovered the targeted term to be highly competitive.

This was no surprise, as the powerhouse domains competing with our friends include wikipedia.com, marketingprofs.com, and forbes.com. Still, Gorilla 76 was able to score an impressive spot at the top of the second results page, ideal real estate for attracting CMOs of industry companies. Well done, dudes.

2. Entertain and Engage

Atomicdust impresses me with its ability to attract an audience. It says a lot about a brand when followers on Twitter and Facebook click links simply because the brand’s track record reassures the read will be worth their time. That’s sort of a complicated way of me saying if Atomicdust tweets about a recently dropped post, I’m more than likely going to check it out. I find the content interesting and valid; it’s really that simple. I’m particularly fond of Atomicdust’s ability to fuse its edgy culture and sleek design into the core messaging (e.g., photographing team members to showcase new content). It strengthens the brand’s unique vibe and initiates all sorts of friend crushes.

Atomicdust releases monthly wallpapers that correlate to the season or upcoming events. A quick summary and invitation to download the attached wallpapers round out the content. While this initiative may not directly result in signing a new client (who knows, though – that may very well have happened), its distilled purpose is much laxer: to highlight the team’s creativity, the team’s skills, and the desire to share both characteristics with its online community.

Finally, I dig the monthly events posts; by taking the time to consistently curate a list of the month’s creative events (as well as linking to corresponding external pages for more details), Atomicdust provides a really useful, appreciated service that sets it apart.

3. Share Some Secrets

A company blog is pretty useless if it doesn’t dish out tips and hints, either to educate it readers or reaffirm what they already know. Otherwise, think about it, the content would just be dancing around the problems without actually addressing how to fix them. As a brand, you can’t be afraid to explain a process or share your expertise; there will always be clients willing to pay you for services that are beyond their comfort zone and capabilities. Referring back to Gorilla 76’s content, the industrial-relevant web marketing guide is a seriously robust document that offers valuable tips for CMOs in all industries, really a though as mentioned, it’s smartly targeted for the construction biz. Throughout the guide, Gorilla 76 has sprinkled helpful visuals and resource links into the rich content, further validating the brand’s desire to share its know-how with an interested audience.

4. Show Success, Duh

Atomicdust is super great at promoting client work as well as the awards or recognition the brand receives. It’s inspiring to read about (or in the case below, view) the different companies with which this brand works, the thought process(es) that spur projects along, and the dazzling end results.


It’s worth noting that blogs fare best when the content type is varied. My favorite company blogs successfully balance education, culture, and proof of success. Any blog that is weighed down by just one of these three attributes will have a difficult time resonating. Too many education posts (sans culture and proof) will leave readers asking “Who are you? And why are we supposed to take your word for it?” Then again, an excess of posts that offer proof come across as self-promotional. Readers are definitely interested in hearing about the recent projects a brand has worked on, but if the string of posts only scream “look at what we did!” it might be difficult to connect with an overwhelmed audience. I (and everyone at Team Evolve) feel fortunate to have these other agencies to learn from, even though our day-to-day responsibilities are often radically different. Thanks for checking out our local showcase and thanks to Atomicdust and Gorilla 76 for being excellent influences. High fives all around.

You can’t afford to ignore Local Search

You can’t afford to ignore Local Search

The act of Googling has become such a natural part of our day (and our vocabulary), we often fail to acknowledge that there is a process. Users typically phrase their Google searches according to their stage in the research phase. Anyone who is just starting to explore his or her options might word the search so it is specific to a particular location. This is why paying attention to Local Search is invaluable. Those who specify a brand, however, clearly have previous knowledge and are performing additional research to find out if that brand is the right fit. Read more

Get on the Map with Geotargeting

Buy local! Support local shops! Boost the economy; shop locally! Not so long ago, it became trendy to give business to local brands, and it’s a progression that we should be proud of. Even the search engines start pulling for the “little guys.” Okay, so maybe their intentions aren’t necessarily to boost business for the mom-and-pop shops, but at least Google makes it easier for them to rank on the first page. It requires some effort, yes,  but with a little on-site proactivity known as geotargeting, you can be owning the map in no time. This blog post covers the importance of geotargeting, as well as the actionable steps you can take to dominate the local search field for your industry. Yeah, we said dominate.

1. Include tons of location-rich content Location-rich content, as you might have guessed, relates to physical location. This includes maps, images, driving directions, reviews, etc. Not only do these elements provide tons of useful information at a glance, they also make a web page more aesthetically pleasing and trustworthy, and send a statement to search engines that reads, “Look at me, I’m local.” Although some of these elements might be image files, and therefore not crawlable, this can be accounted for by using relevant alt tags that include local terms. Alt tags are the text that appears when an image cannot be seen. They give the search engines a pretty good clue about what images are about, when they are keyword relevant of course. 2. Own long-tail keywords Geotargeting is all about just owning relevant long-tail keywords in the SERPs. Locational modifiers put any keyword phrase into the long-tail category, meaning that they are more specific phrases with generally less traffic than their generic counterparts. Owning the results for these phrases isn’t as hard as you might think because keyword difficulty and competition is generally much lower. This is a good thing, as it helps businesses quickly dominate the local atmosphere and bring in more qualified traffic.  Think about it: the more specific a term is that brings traffic to your site, the further down the conversion tunnel they are when they get there. We like that. How long tail you want to get depends on a few different factors. One example is how crowded your industry’s market is at your location. If ranking for your industry in your city is too difficult, either make your location more specific (like to your neighborhood), or be more descriptive about your products/services (e.g. instead of “seo company” try “local seo company”). So here’s how to rank. Use these long-tail keywords throughout your site’s content, especially in important areas like title tags, URLs, and Meta Descriptions. Keep reading friend; we’ll get there. 3. Localize Title Tags Title tags are one of the most important tools that the engines use to determine content relevancy.  Be sure to include the location name in title tags, and put it as close to the first 4 words as possible, because this is where Google puts the most weight. Include product/service keywords next, so that Google ties together your location and your expertise. For example, Evolve’s title tag for our homepage could be something like this: St. Louis - SEO Experts | Evolve Digital Labs. For specific service pages, title tags should be something like: St. Louis a Search Services | Evolve Digital Labs.  Or if we want to get more specific to our area, we could have something like: Downtown St. Louis a Search Services | Evolve Digital Labs. Keep in mind that your primary keyword should be first, so if your company is found more frequently through service queries, switch the keyword phrases around. 4. Localize URLs Search engines also use URL names to determine relevancy. Be sure to include your location somewhere within the URLs of the pages that you are optimizing for local search. As a side note, best practice is to separate words using dashes (-) so that search engines can pull out these useful keywords. This will be demonstrated in the examples below. If you have multiple locations that you are promoting, start with the most general terms for the locations homepage and get more specific to each neighborhood as you go to each location page. For example, let’s say Evolve had multiple locations in St. Louis. The locations homepage URL might be: evolvedigitallabs.com/st-louis-locations. Then for the downtown location, the URL would be: evolvedigitallabs.com/st-louis-locations/downtown-st-louis. For this, it is important to do some keyword research and figure out what people are searching for. You might be surprised what your neighborhood is being called in search queries. 5. Include Local Terms in Meta Descriptions Meta Descriptions might not directly influence rankings, but they definitely have an impact on click-throughs. The words used in the Meta Description that match the words used in search queries are bolded. So, if someone searched “St. Louis SEO” and Evolve used this phrase in our Meta tag, it would stand out and most likely increase clicks.  6. Have a Local Address and Phone Number on Every Page Make sure that every single location page has a local address, city, state, zip code, and phone number, and make sure that this information is crawlable. This effectively shows search engines that any keywords on that page should also be associated with your physical location.  So not only would Evolve likely rank for SEO in St. Louis, but also for reputation management terms, etc. In other words, this is a quick way to improve local rankings for every page.  7. Create, Claim and Optimize Google+ Local Listings In case you haven’t heard, Google Places pages are no more; they have been replaced by Google+ Local pages.  This is a change for sure, but it gives businesses more room to optimize pages (and also more room for failure). If your business had a Google Places page, all the information has just been transferred over.  If you didn’t have a Google Places page, get with it and go make your Google+ Local page! In either case, be sure that you have actually claimed the page so that only you have access and you can make sure all the information is correct. The next step is optimization.  Do this by making sure that your name, address, and phone number are exact copies of how they are listed on your website.  Make sure that relevant keywords are included in your descriptions. Most importantly, make sure that your reviews and Zagat rating on your Google+ page are up to par. If not, get cracking on getting customers to give your positive reviews and rankings. We’ll talk about this a bit later.  8. Add “+1″ Buttons If you haven’t added a Google+ “+1” button to your social media buttons collection, be sure that you do. Obviously, this will help with your social media interaction. But what does this have to do with local search? One reason is that when people conduct searches while logged on to their Google+ accounts, Google ranks pages that have been +1ed by people in their circles at the top. So let’s say you are a St. Louis resident searching arestaurants in St. Louis. If someone in your Google+ network has +1ed a St. Louis restaurant, this will show up at the top of your results. From a company standpoint, you want to be that business that is +1ed by the most local customers. 9. Take Advantage of Local Business Directories Business directories such as Yelp and CitySearch are great resources for bringing in local traffic.  These sites automatically sort results by the searcher’s physical location, another important reason to make sure that your location is readily established. If you are not listed in a business directory and you would like to be, reach out to them and ask; most directories will get back to you because they want to have a thorough list. Be sure to also alert these directories if you are moving locations, or if their information is incorrect. 10. Encourage User Reviews User reviews really do have a big impact not only on brand reputation. More recently, they have started to influence search rankings. In fact, Google+ Local pages give a Zagat rating with each result, which gives you a clue that yes, Google does care what people have to say. Search
engines do not want a badly reviewed site coming up at the top of results. Sure, bad reviews happen, but try to balance them out by requesting reviews from happy customers too. There are lots of ways to do this, whether this is through email, direct mail, or something you personally hand to people when they are leaving your office or location. Give specific directions on which sites you would like them to put their review, which will generally be the ones that could use the most improvement. 11. Be Aware of IP Location, Hosting Location and Top-Level Domain The website’s IP address, hosting location and top-level domain are other areas that give clues to search engines about where a business is located. Make sure that your top-level domain and your hosting locations are both set to the United States. Most always this will already be the case, but if not, you could be ranking in Germany and not the U.S. and you would have no idea. Also, if possible, make sure the site’s IP location matches with the city and state where you are located or where you get the most business. Search engines can see your IP address, and they generally put this into consideration when placing your business in local search. Whew! Did you catch all of that? Geotargeting your website sounds daunting, but by following these steps, you’ll be that much closer to showing up on the map. Try them out and you might be surprised at how easy it can be.

Defining the Value of Local SEO

Defining the Value of Local SEO

I’ve found time and again that local business owners want to rank well for local searches but they have a hard time estimating what it is worth to their business. While there is a great article on Determining the Value of SEO over at SEOBook.com, this guide seeks to focus more on the value of local SEO. For this tutorial we will be using examples related to St. Louis SEO terms because this is how we determine the value of ranking for specific terms within our industry.

1.  Define Keywords

In order to estimate the value of SEO to your business you first have to define the keywords in which you hope to rank for in Google.  I always grade keywords in four main areas to help select the best keywords to target.  Evaluate your initial keyword list based on to following criteria:

  1. Relevance
  2. Competition
  3. Traffic
  4. Commerciality

If you’re new to keyword research I recommend taking a look at the great tutorial by Market Samurai: [The process of actually researching and selecting the right keywords is a different post altogether but for this example we will work from a sample list of keywords that are relevant to our SEO services in St. Louis.

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2.  Figure Out Search Volumes

Since this article is focused on determining value of Local SEO for your business we will only be looking at search volumes specific to our geographic region, St. Louis.  This step assumes you have a Google Adwords account that you have been using to test search volumes for your terms.  If you don’t, there are other less accurate ways to estimate search volumes, but for this tutorial we will focus on the PPC method since it’s the most accurate.  To see what other SEO experts had to say about this topic check our LinkedIn Discussion on “What To Do When Google Keyword Tool Shows Not Enough Data.” This is also the main reason I recommend using PPC as a tool to gather market data in the initial phases of your SEO strategy to ensure that you have an accurate projection of what SEO is really worth to your business. So to get your actual impressions/month jump into your Adwords account and navigate to the keywords tab.  Here you can find the keywords that you want to estimate the value of SEO.  If you’re campaign is regularly limited by your budget then your numbers will be skewed some but you could use the Google Traffic Estimator to figure out what the recommended daily budget is and work backwards to fine tune what your total impressions could be if you had no budget limitations.  It’s important to consider this because when valuing SEO you have to keep in mind that there is no “budget limitation” that will cause your site not to appear in the SERP’s.  I recommend running the campaign for a month for the most accurate data See the screen shot below of where you can find the search volumes for the keywords we are targeting.

3.  Estimate Traffic by Google Position

Here we use the AOL leaked data that shows clickshare by Google rank as shown in the graphic below.  (I think it’s from SEOBook)  Simply take the traffic estimates we have above

4.  Local SEO Value Calculation

So the value calculation should start with the search volume, multiplied by the % of traffic you expect to receive based on your estimated position.  I recommend an excel spreadsheet template if you plan on doing this calculation on a recurring basis. This will give you an estimate of the traffic that you might expect in those positions.  Once you know the estimated traffic then you should multiply that by your conversion rate.  If you don’t have an actual conversion rate then you’ll have to estimate.  Conversion rates vary greatly based on your design, conversion path, call to action, and actual type of conversion.   Obviously an ecommerce conversion has a higher barrier to enter, than a free whitepaper download so use your best judgement to estimate. Once you have your number of conversions simply multiply that by your average ticket amount and you have a rough calculation of the value of your local SEO.