One of the most common questions I get asked by SEOs concerns how to use Google Plus for local SEO. While there are many ways that G+ can benefit any SEO campaign, one of the easiest and quickest to produce results is to build and grow your Circles. So what are Circles?
Google Circles give us the ability to segment our connections within Google Plus. With Circles, we can create targeted groups based on interest, profession, location, or any other criteria we choose.
This is important because, once we have developed a targeted Circle, we can share posts, updates, messages, offers, and promotions to a very specific audience; an audience that is most likely interested in what we’re sharing with them (so long as we have grouped them together properly).
So why would we do this for local SEO and how?
In Part 1 of this two-part post, we’ll talk about the why… Consider the following example:
You just landed a new SEO client. Let’s say it's an HVAC repair contractor in Atlanta Georgia who has little to no online presence. Your job is to properly optimize the website, begin an SEO campaign, and get it to rank for the search terms that will provide leads for the business. Pretty standard stuff.
As part of your SEO campaign, you set up a Google My Business (formerly G+ Local) account properly, which ties their website to G+ and Google Maps.
The next step is to begin a content marketing campaign so you can begin building brand awareness and, let’s be honest, inbound links too. This content is generated using the client’s blog and typically consists of helpful information that ties back into what the business offer; posts such as “3 Steps to Reduce Your Cooling Bills This Summer”, “How Often Should You Change Your Air Filter?”, or “Proper Heat Pump Maintenance Will Reduce the Need for Air Conditioning Repair”.
As long as you have set up the proper content syndication channels, this content marketing strategy will begin to build links, generate some traffic to the site and, over time, improve the search rankings.
Sounds great, right? But it’s currently the Dog Days of Summer and your client wants to capitalize on all of those [poor] people who have air conditioning units that aren’t working and are searching for “air conditioning repair”, “hvac repair”, etc. The client wants results NOW (like yesterday!) and doesn’t want to wait 30 to 60 to 90 days to see the SEO results you promised to provide (sound familiar?).
So what’s an SEO to do?
Well, we all know we have other options like ranking YouTube videos, or para-sites and citations like FB pages and Yelp listings. But even those take a little bit of time to rank and some extra link building work.
And of course there is always Adwords (yuck!) But unless you figured that into your initial proposal, the client probably isn’t going to like it when you go back and ask for more money.
So that leads us to Google Plus. If done correctly, G+ can provide nearly instant results. I’ll repeat that:
GOOGLE PLUS CAN PROVIDE NEARLY INSTANT RESULTS
If you have properly built up your client’s Circle base, you can literally hand deliver your clients posts, messages, specials, and offers right to potential clients, overnight.
You see, when you +1 or share a post or a web page with G+, you can choose which circles you want to share it with. When you select “Your Circles” it shares with everyone in every one of your circles.
When you select “Extended Circles”, it will share to the circle you chose, plus everyone in that circles’ circles. This can get a bit confusing, but I will clear this up in part 2 of this post.
When you select specific circles, the share will only post to those specific circles.
So in our hypothetical example of the HVAC Repair client, let’s say we had built an “Atlanta” circle that contained hundreds (perhaps even thousands) of G+ members that had “Atlanta” mentioned somewhere in their profile. More on HOW to do this in part 2…
So when you published the post mentioned above, titled “Proper Heat Pump Maintenance Will Reduce the Need for Air Conditioning Repair”, you chose to share that post with the “Atlanta” circle.
This INSTANTLY delivers this post to everyone in that entire circle! Each person and business in the “Atlanta” circle will now have a G+ notification about “Proper Heat Pump Maintenance Will Reduce the Need for Air Conditioning Repair”. So anyone that needs air conditioning service will have been notified of your client’s existence and the service he/she provides (and since we’re marketers we already know to include a clear call-to-action in the post, of course). Pretty powerful, huh?
I know, I know. I can hear some of you already saying “but that’ll only produce leads if the people that receive the notification actually need air conditioning service at that exact moment”. You would be correct. It is a “fleeting” notification that may very well generate a few leads but unless someone actually needed those services at that very moment, they would probably quickly dismiss the post and never think of it again.
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What if your share shows up in the search results the next time any of those people were searching? That would be incredibly useful, wouldn’t it? In fact, if you shared all of the client’s posts and had properly SEOed them, then any time anyone from within that “Atlanta” circle searched for any related HVAC term, your client’s posts would show up. Here is an example of a similar result:
Now this is assuming that the searcher hadn’t opted to “Hide private results”. But considering that probably about 95% of all Google users (that’s a statistic I just made up) don’t even know what “Private results” are, much less how to turn them off, you’re pretty safe to assume that they will see recommendations from people who have circled them.
One caveat to this, however, is that for “recommended results” to show in the searchers' results, they will have needed to have circled the sharer back. So there is a bit of a “catch” to this. But alas, there are ways to obtain a high “circle back” ratio that we will delve into in part two of this post.
And remember earlier when I mentioned “extended circles”? This sneaky little function allows us to “back door” our messages to even more people, even if we’re not directly connected/circled.
So for now, just think about how these concepts can be used for evil good and the potential it has. And by-the-way, I will also be sharing how you can do this sort of thing without having to build each and every one of your clients’ circles; a much more efficient and smarter way to do it, where you keep ALL of the power (“I giveth and I can taketh away”).
Quentin: So, Bradley, most of our listeners will have heard of siloing a website, but just to be clear what exactly is siloing?
Bradley: That's a question we get a lot. Siloing is a way to build a website by stacking keywords into a theme or silo. In other words, it's a way to organize data into a theme, also known as clustering. It works like this. You take the highest level keyword that you want to rank for, which is usually the most competitive and you make that the silo heading or the landing page or the top of the silo. Then you create content using related keywords, LSI keywords, generally more long tail, less competitive. And you place that content within the corresponding silo. The idea is to categorize the content to reinforce a specific theme which then helps all of the content to rank with the desired terms.
Quentin: Okay, well, I talked at the start about the fact that there are two basic types. These are called physical and virtual silos, but what's that mean exactly?
Bradley: The difference between a physical and a virtual silo is really in the URL structure. A physical silo can be seen in the actual structure to the URL fort to the page in the post on the site. You'll see the link set up as parent and child pages or it can also be done with categories if you're using posts instead of pages. So the supporting articles would be the child pages of the parent or the silo heading. A virtual silo is accomplished using internal links, but not within the actual physical URL structure. For example, from the silo heading you would link to the supporting articles and then from within the content of the supporting articles you would link back up to the silo heading. And if it makes sense, you can also link to other supporting articles within that silo. You just wouldn't see that in the silo structure in the actual URL to the content itself.
Quentin: Pretty good stuff, eh? So we know that Semantic mastery is all about testing real concepts, not theory and then seeing what happens. Can you let us know what you've discovered, especially how non siloed sites compared to siloed sites? And more importantly which types of silo actually win?
Bradley: What we have discovered is that siloed tend to rank much faster and easier than a non siloed. But it's more than that, it's also more visitor friendly. When you stack concepts or themes together in a very fluid manner, it makes it easier to understand for both human, or visitors, and machines, which would be search engines. Siloed sites when done correctly rank with only a fraction of inbound links than a non siloed site would require. What I've seen through my own testing of both physical and virtual siloed sites, tend to rank equally as well. I think for machine purposes, it a little bit stronger to have a physical silo method, but as far as for ranking purposed alone, I've seen both of them rank equally as well.
Quentin: Yes, yes. I mean information like this is priceless. So how exactly is Semantic Mastery going to deliver results like this to the world? And how are you going to demonstrate the things that we really need to know? The step by step processes involved in creating stuff like this?
Bradley: One of our major case studies of the year is going to be this exact topic here. Where we're going to basically create a case study using three different websites that we're going to start from scratch. All things being equal, we're going to try to keep all things equal as far as using a kind of a brand-able type domain name so that it's not an exact match to a name, not a keyword registered name. We are going to pick a specific niche and we're going to target that one niche. And we're going to build three sites around it. One which will be a traditional or old school type site, a non siloed site. And then we're going to have two siloed sites. One being a physical silo method and one being a virtual silo method. And we're going to try to keep all of the inbound links the same, relatively close anyways in social signals. All of the on page factors will be the same other than the silo structure itself. And we're going to track the results. And throughout the entire process from setting up the sites to the link building that we do and social signals and all that. We are going to record it all, document it via video and share our results.