My failed attempt at local SEO

Filed in Case Studies, Local SEO by on December 10, 2013 20 Comments

I have been wanting to write this post for a while, because most of the stuff you read about SEO and internet marketing is about stuff ‘you should be doing‘ or maybe a few success stories. But I wanted to share with you a real life example of my attempts at SEO, so that we can both learn from them.

As they say, you learn from your mistakes, and I think that is absolutely true.

If you are interested in local SEO or trying to rank a site for a local search term, then this post is for you! I even explain how you can make this into a fully fledged business!

I created the ‘case studies’ section on my blog exactly for posts like this one. Hopefully you will enjoy it and you will be able to take something from it!

Whats it about:

– My grand idea to profit from local SEO

– How i thought it would be a doddle to rank for local Search terms

– My plan of attack (that failed miserably)

– The mistakes I made that you can avoid

– The knowledge and experience I gained from this

– How you can rank for any local search term!

– Can I turn my failed attempt into a success?

 

Making a fortune from local SEO

At the beginning of 2012 I came across a guy called Greg Morrison who was launching his secret method of making money online, it’s called OMG. It involved local SEO and this was something that I was interested in pursuing so I  purchased his course to see what it was all about.

This guy was making a fortune! so I though i’d give it ago…

It was pretty much how I expected it to be and most of the stuff I already knew! Now this is not a review of his guide or anything like that. I am just explaining where I had my inspiration from at the time.

So how was I going to make money from local SEO?

The concept is very simple and at the time I had a a million and one ideas flying around in my head. My plan was to build small sites about local businesses, rank them at the top of Google and then either sell the sites to a local business or charge them a monthly fee to feature on the there!

moneybag1

My plan was to charge around £200-£300 per month for them to rent the site off me because they would be generating quite a bit of new business from it! and it would save them a fortune in Adsense costs.

I would create a number of these sites spanning across all kinds of businesses. I had it all planned out and I quickly got to work it.

 

My first mistake!

The first thing I did was to make a list of all the possible businesses that would benefit from a website ranked at the top of Google. I then did some keyword research to see which were the most popular.

I was looking for at least 250 exact match terms per month. I narrowed my list down and to about 15.

Then I had a eureka moment!!

I could make around 15 sites for 1 city…. just think how many cities there are!!

Numbers were flying around in my head like something stupid.

And this is where I made my first mistake…..

I went and registered about 6 or 7 domains for the different businesses that I was going to try and rank for. The domains were Exact Match domains and contained the business + city.

So for example:

skiphirestokeontrent.com

ConservatoriesStokeonTrent.com

The mistake here is that I tried to run before I could walk. I tried to work on too many domains at once, rather than concentrating at 1 at a time. I didn’t realise it at the time but I was taking a massive risk!

If the SEO strategy failed, it would fail on all of the sites and I would have wasted an absolute ton of time!

What I should have done!

If I could turn the clock back I would have concentrated on 1 business. I would have registered 3 variations of the domain and then I would have tried to rank all 3 sites for the same keyword, but using different tactics. I would then assess which ranking factors worked and which ones didn’t.

Once I found which ones worked I would then be able to implement this strategy on the other business domains. From here I could work through them 1 at a time until I had several sites all ranking and bringing in money.

But no…. I was an idiot and didn’t think.

 

My second costly mistake

Having read the OMG strategy a thousand times over I was convinced that the SEO methods that Greg advised would actually work, and that I had nothing to worry about. I researched some of the local rankings and checked them out on Ahrefs. I found that the sites already ranking at the top were not very good.

They had very little content and hardly any back links!

I thought was gonna be easy! All I had to do was make a site with more and better quality content, and then simply build more back links than they had. Surely my sites would then out rank theirs!

Show me the money!!!

Well, not so fast. This might have worked pre-2012 and during the time that Greg made his fortune, but Google got better at local rankings and the emphasis shifted to more targeted locations and real local businesses. Not that I knew this at the time.

It was also a time when Google were releasing new algorithm updates and EMD updates. I guess it was down to bad timing for me as I just threw myself straight into the Googles list of no no’s

 

My attempt to rank the sites

The first thing I did was to get some articles written for the sites. I also wrote a bit myself for the homepage because I wanted the content to better than the competitors, and I think I did a pretty good job of this. I installed wordpress and and installed a fancy theme and got the sites looking pretty good!

I made sure I included the keyword in the title and made reference to the city I was trying to rank in. I also linked out to local authority sites and everything was looking well. I even placed a local address and telephone number on the homepage.

The sites quickly showed up in the search engines around page 2 and 3.

Time to build some links

This is probably my biggest mistake of all, so listen up!

The first thing I did was to get a spun article about the subject, I then submitted it to Unique Article Wizard. I used my main keyword (skip hire stoke on trent) as the anchor text. I also included a couple of variations and LSI’s.

I also submitted another article with a few different generic links, like… click here, go to, visit… Read my post on ranking a new site without keyword anchors

The idea was to diversify my back link profile. The problem was, I already built too many links with the exact keyword anchor. Which I later reduced by building more links!

I also created links using social monkee, blog comments and a few directories.

All well and good I thought, all I had to do now was to sit back and watch them rise up the SERP’s.

Well, I waited and waited but nothing happened, my sites were all between position 30 and 60

This screen shot shows what was happening…

Screen Shot 2013-12-09 at 18.12.25

My skip hire site was just bouncing around between 35 and 73. Which of course, is fucking useless!!

So, back to the drawing board. I stupidly continued to work on it. I change on the on page optimisation, I made sure the geo target was set to the UK in my webmaster tools. I made sure that the local business phone numbers and addresses were prominent. I built more links.

I even built a few niche related blog network sites to give it more link juice and authority.

So where did I go wrong?

It all started off very well with my on page stuff, the problem came when I started to build links. Now you maybe thinking that it was poor quality links that fucked it up, or maybe the anchor diversity was too high.

Well this maybe the case, but what I believe to be the main reason is the fact that my back links were not coming from other local businesses and directories. They were coming  from domains all over the world. Now who the hell would be linking to a stoke on trent skip hire business from the US or Poland?

Look at this I took from my Ahrefs account:

Screen Shot 2013-12-09 at 18.24.00

Look at the referring TLDs, they are from all over the place! surely this would set alarm bells ringing at Google. It’s quite obvious that some unnatural link building has gone on here.

Anchor diversity was way to high for my keyword

I mentioned it earlier and here we can see that over half of the incoming links are for our main keyword, which happens to be our EMD. Again, it’s pretty obvious for Google to pick up on this.

Screen Shot 2013-12-09 at 18.30.23

No local listings

Another reason why my site was doomed is because I never registered it as a local business with google places or any directory in fact. Because I hadn’t actually got a real business to buy this site yet, I didn’t have a real address or contact number to register it with google places, and I believe this now has a major affect on local searches.

Although I included real local companies on the actual sites, I couldn’t use there details to register with Google places.

Now I believe it is still possible to rank without this, but I also helps a lot if you do!

 

Easy to see how I messed up!!

Although my site offered exactly what the reader required, it had the keyword in the header and title tags and it was even a EMD! Google did not like something and that something was my rather aggressive link building.

Ranking a local site should not involve extensive link building, if anything you only need a few links from local sources. I had obviously over done it this time.

I wasted a lot of time…

and money

But I did gain something very valuable, and that was experience! If you learn from your mistakes you will go a long way!

 

What would I do differently?

Ok, lets start over again!

I have learned from my mistakes, so now I know what it really takes to rank for a local search term, and here is exactly what I would do…

Click One of The Share Buttons To See My Top 15 Ranking Factors!!

 

Now I’m going to do a bit of research to see exactly what is ranking the top sites for my keyword ‘Skip Hire Stoke on Trent’

 

So what is ranking the sites in my target niche?

Im going to take the top 3 sites for my keyword and do a quick evaluation to see if I can discover some important factors that are helping them rank at the top. The top 3 sites at the time of typing this are….

dpskiphire.com

vickysskips.co.uk/

skiphirestoke.com

In second place was a Yell listing and in 3rd was a local newspaper site, then there were the actual ‘google places’ listings, but these are the 3 most prolific sites, with dpskiphire in number 1 spot.

Before I go into each individual site, I can tell you that all 3 sites are very basic, with just a couple of paragraphs of content. They all include the keywords in the title and in the description.

But it is very interesting how the number 1 site is outranking yell listings and google local listings!!

 

Lets find out why

Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 17.23.32

As you can see, very simple, hardly any content. The keywords are apparent in the top paragraph and other areas of the site, so it is quite predominant!

There is also a footer that contains the word ‘skip hire’ a hell of a lot of times! Im surprised this hasn’t been flagged for over optimisaztion.

Anyway, It’s quite apparaent that on page quality is not that relevant. What is relevant is the use of keywords througout, in the title, headers, footer…. everywhere!!

Back link profile

I will use my good friend Ahrefs.com again here to check the backlink profile for this site!

Check this out…..

Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 17.31.30

It’s showing 204 backlinks from just 1 domain!!!

Id usually say that this is not a good sign, but they must be doing something right!

Please note: Ahrefs, or any back link checker for that matter does not find all incoming links, especially from local directories. So I will check this myself after!

If I click on ‘Refering domain’ it will show me the domain from which the links are coming from

> This is the domain… staffordshireskiphire.com/

IT’S ACTUALLY ONE OF THERE OWN SITES!!

The design is exactly the same, except this has a lot more content. So why 204 backlinks?

Having looked through this site they have a ton of different pages, with exactly the same content, and placed a link at the bottom of every page pointing to their main site.

It actually looks like this was once their main site but they now use it to pass on link juice. Everything they are doing here should appear dodgy too Googles eyes, but they have obviously not picked up on it!

Are there anymore more links?

The next thing I am going to do is to see what local directories this site is listed on. To do this I simply type the company name into google. The first page brought up a lot of Yell listings, so it’s obvious there are listed on Yell.

Here is the 2nd page of results…..

Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 17.40.36

As you can see, these are all local directory listings.in fact, the first 8 pages of search results are full of listings like this. They have done a good job of getting as many directories as possible.

Also notice how consistent the citations are. Nearly all of them start with D P Skip Hire followed by the location. Take note of capitals and spaces.

Summary for site number 1

At first glance I had no idea why this site would rank number 1 (and it’s been there a long time). Now having done a bit of research I can clearly see why!

Although there on page tactics don’t look great, they make the keyword very apparent and easy for Google to find. They have done a good job at getting listed in local directories and they have then boosted this with links from an established, niche related site….

albeit one of their own!

So this has proven my points made previously about ‘what I would do differently’. The emphasis is not on backlinks or keyword anchors. This is does not even have any exact keyword anchors, yet it is sitting strongly at number 1.

If I were to start agin now, I would use my current site that is ranking around page 4, and use that to link to the new site to pass on some juice! I would then get the new site listed with as many local directories as I could, starting with all of the ones that dpskiphire have used!

Site 2 and 3 evaluation

Pretty much the same thing going on with these too.No real backlinks, just lots of directory listings. The only thing different with site number 3 is that they are using a domain name which contains the keywords and not there brand name.

But all of their directory listings are with there brand name. They also have a 301 direct from there brand name site to their current one.

So it seems apparent that the only reason site number 1 has grabbed top spot is because it has the extra link juice from it’s other site. This is similar to building your own blog network. See my post on that here

Conclusion

So that sums up my local SEO failure and what you need to do to make sure you get it right!

Can anybody feel an experiment coming on here?

Maybe I should have another pop at ranking for this keyword with a fresh site!

Make this into a fully fledged business

Once you are confident at ranking for local search terms you can make good money from doing so. Get in touch with local businesses and sell yourself.

Search for sites that are on page 2, 3 and 4 and drop them an email about how you can improve there rankings.

Approach businesses and ask if you can build them a site and get it ranked at the top of Google, and you won’t charge a thing until you have achieved that. Tell them they have nothing to lose!

Im sure you can think of lots of other ways to take advantage of this great opportunity! If you are serious then OMG Machines is a good start, but just remember to use the method I used above to rank the site 😉

Useful Local SEO resources:

http://www.whitespark.ca

http://www.davidmihm.com

 





      


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Comments (20)

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  1. susan says:

    Super good article and I will be checking out more of your stuff. I also follow Greg Morrison so I really like this article. I did one local site and it ranked pretty quickly. But I haven’t sold it or rented it.

    [Reply]

    Jason Chesters

    Jason Chesters Reply:

    Hey Susan, Thanks for your comment. Glad you liked the article, there will be plenty more to come. Did you implement any of the factors I mentioned to rank your local site?

    [Reply]

  2. Nice post Jason. Funnily enough I was just writing yesterday about how it’s good to admit to making mistakes sometimes, as long as you show how you have learned from them. And you have, so well done!

    Oh… and stay away from article spinners, they are evil!

    [Reply]

    Jason Chesters

    Jason Chesters Reply:

    Cheers David, most people don’t like admitting to mistakes but I think it’s the best way to learn.

    I’ve enjoyed reading your blog too!

    [Reply]

  3. eldy says:

    I blast backlink using non local link and it ranked too.. of course local search isn’t have higher serp but my global search volume is enough for me to earn

    [Reply]

  4. Wayne Clayton says:

    Jason,
    Well written article. I appreciate the thoroughness in details.

    I tried a few time to get the “My Top 15 Ranking Factors” report by clicking on the Twitter button. I did it twice and it did post on my twitter feed, but your site didn’t offer any report…in fact it crashed. I would love to see it.

    Thanks,
    Wayne Clayton
    CEO / Futurnomics

    [Reply]

    Jason Chesters

    Jason Chesters Reply:

    Hi Wayne

    Sorry you are having trouble viewing the ‘top 15 ranking factors’. It should show it straight away after you send the tweet! If anybody else is having problems please let me know. Wayne I’ll drop you an email

    Jason

    [Reply]

  5. Leon says:

    Great article Jason and you got some very good outputs there!
    I’m optimizing some local sites these days and your ideas are really interesting and useful. Keep up the good advice!

    [Reply]

  6. Niel says:

    Great article Jason!
    Really inspired me. I know it is a hard to answer question, but roughly, how long would you say it take to start seeing results? (all being equal, and assuming i followed ur strategy above)
    Thanks, Niel.

    [Reply]

    Jason Chesters

    Jason Chesters Reply:

    Thanks Neil 🙂

    With local SEO you should see results more quickly! There is no exact time but hopefully within a few weeks!

    [Reply]

  7. Niel says:

    Thank for that Jason.
    Here is my scenario, the company i try to promote is already an established local business. However, their website is not ranking for the local keyword they are after (up to here all clear).

    I followed your line of thought, purchased a domain name that has the keyword in the domain, made it local (i.e. .co.uk) and structured it as you suggested above.

    Here is the tricky part, i have titled the NEW site with the name of the Company + the key word (it makes sense), and have pointed footer links from the original site to the new site. I also went to the client’s G+ and fb, Twitter accounts and ensured it is the new web address that is displayed there (as well as several listings sites, but that’s all, no other spamy type links.).

    Is that the right way to go about it? was that the type of structure you are explaining above? Because in a way there will be 2 websites with the same (more or less) content and that is the only doubt i have here . Sorry for the long comment, i guess im just after a bit of re-assuring before continuing spending hours on end…

    thanks a lot, Niel.

    [Reply]

    Jason Chesters

    Jason Chesters Reply:

    Yes it sounds fine but you do not want identical content! re-write the site so that the content is unique. What kind of metrics does the original site have? You want to make this stronger which will then pass link juice to the new site

    [Reply]

  8. Niel says:

    Hi Jason,
    The content is different.
    What do you mean in “metrics”?

    Thanks,Niel.

    [Reply]

  9. Niel says:

    One last comment Jason,
    All of that is working and true, but happens when you wish to promote another local keyword for the same (new) site? how do you tackle that?

    Thanks,
    Niel.

    [Reply]

  10. Dan Ray says:

    Hi Jason,

    It looks like if you’d done some research before going all out and following an unproven strategy you could have saved yourself a load of time and energy.

    Google themselves, or any SEO worth his salt knows that citation (these directory listings you’re seeing) are the biggest ranking factor for local results. Get enough of them and you won’t even have to set up local accounts, Google pick it up and rank it directly from your citations, once you rent it out them you can claim it and add content and information relevant to the business who has rented it.

    Anyways good luck with it mate,
    Dan

    [Reply]

    Jason Chesters

    Jason Chesters Reply:

    hi Dan

    Yes, I am fully aware of this. The case study was to emphasise a lot of the mistakes people make and how they can avoid them! This strategy would have worked a few years ago, but as we know, it doesn’t anymore!!

    [Reply]

  11. Jack says:

    I had a decent idea of local seo and this post has helped a lot.

    I’m not sure if theres a cost for most local directory listings, but I have found a local niche area where another another seo is ranking mid page very easily.

    It looks like I could experiment and set this up for a couple of bucks.

    Im still pretty new to seo, and local seo seems be something more advanced guys do while newbies butt there heads together over affiliate sites.

    Supposing I can rank the site, can I literally just go and cold call all local specialists in that niche; in the area; and try and sell them the spot for a couple hundred a month?

    Seems like easy money to me — Is it that easy?

    [Reply]

    Jason Chesters

    Jason Chesters Reply:

    Yeh sure, once you hit number 1 you can cold call and sell the spots quite quickly! It is easy money once you get good at ranking local seo

    [Reply]

  12. Jack says:

    Ah thanks for reply Ill take a stab at it then.

    Just wondering what did you do for the local directories issue? Most local directories will display/want the business owners name, profession, location, and sometimes even a picture.

    It seems these are needed to rank, but until its ranked we wont have client info to put in there. Is there a way around this?

    [Reply]

    Jason Chesters

    Jason Chesters Reply:

    Offer to do it for free for a client, then once you get it ranked, you can charge them. If they don’t want to pay just tell them that you will offer it to their competitors!!

    [Reply]

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