Nov 202012

There are three main ways to learn about SEO (and these are the same for local SEO):

1) Listen to what the search engines and specialists have to say - Matt Cutts of Google and Duane Forrester of Bing are the two most notable figures sharing insights about SEO from the horse’s mouth;

2) Test and analyze the tests;

3) Observe what others are doing and learn from their mistakes/triumphs.

In the case of local search there aren’t many that get both better high organic search rankings and more organic search traffic across a vast number of verticals than Yelp, so who else could be better to learn about local SEO from? While Yelp functions mainly as a social network for sharing opinions about local businesses, in this article I would rather place more attention on the way they have structured their business listing pages and what everyone could take away from that.

I will use the below screenshot for illustrative purposes (Disclaimer: the business is randomly chosen and I have no affiliation neither with them, nor with any of their direct or indirect competitors).

Click to enlarge

1) City name in page URL - according to the Local Search Ranking Factors this is the 28th most important factor. I do not think it has tremendous effect on the local search rankings, but it helps differentiate same name businesses (potentially different branches of the same company) that are located in different areas.

2) Branding signals - branding is one of the crucial factors in contemporary SEO. Having the business name in the page URL, the page title, and the content title, makes the business listing page relevant to branded searches. The page ranks second/third when you search for [flor del monte] only behind the Google+ Local listing and the site’s homepage (sometimes it even outranks it).

3) Categorization of the page - this is an obvious relevancy factor, but one that is not very doable in the case of SMB websites.

4) Citation (business contact information) - the address is marked up with for postal address.

5) Link to the website - Yelp is one of the few business directories that change the link to the business’s website from “nofollow” to “follow” for advertisers.

6) Directions - special attention should be given to the map, which uses Google’s Static Maps API.

7) Enhanced content - additional content for the business that summarizes who they are and what services they offer, as well as feedback from customers that used their products/services. The latter makes the content dynamic and not static. Additionally, in the organic search results the rating score rich snippet is displayed, which is a result of the AggregateRating mark up that is used.

As a conclusion, why I chose this particular business as a showcase is because they do not do anything special that anyone else couldn’t do. They simply claimed and filled in their Yelp listing. They also seem to do their job well, because their reviews are very positive. My point is that in local search the competition in many cases is beatable even if you just follow the simple basic rules.

  20 Responses to “Learning Local SEO from the Ones That Do It Best”

Comments (20)
  1. Great post, as always, Nyagoslav! Thanks for publishing.

    I really like your point about how “in local search the competition in many cases is beatable even if you just follow the simple basic rules.” I think one way in which this is especially true is in a business’s ability to drum up reviews. If current customers can’t instantly find your business when they search for it by name, they’re unlikely to leave you a spontaneous review when *they* think to do it and feel like it. Which ties in to how well-SEO’d Yelp listings are: when I type “Fior Del Monte Chicago,” the Yelp listing is #1 – high, high above the search results for the florist’s website (#7 and #8).

    Surely that’s been a factor in Yelp’s rise: more presence in the organic results, more people who read the reviews, more people who end up writing reviews, more influence for Yelp. But, as you alluded to, this particular business wouldn’t have nearly as many reviews – and almost certainly wouldn’t get as much business – if it didn’t take care of the oh-so-basic task of making sure it’s easy to find when searched for by name.

    • Thanks for weighing in, Phil!

      I am constantly amazed by the fact that so many people fail to cover the basics of local SEO. And I am not talking just about small business owners. Even “SEO ninjas” and “SEO gurus” are doing same mistakes and missing the point over and over again. I just hope at least some will look at the way the big ‘uns are doing it and will say to themselves “Yep, that’s the right way.”

      And you are absolutely right that if Yelp was not so good at SEO, they were most probably never going to stand out from the crowd of websites offering similar services. Their effort in that direction has undoubtedly gave them a significant boost.

  2. Nice job.

    It is possible that in terms of “categorization” of a page, a business should think in tof the hierarchy of categories as to what they do and use the very highest of those prominently on their home page.

    Google is likely doing some sort of keyword to category mapping of pages and while we have no real idea of how it actually works, it is not unlikely in Local that the categorical groupings are similar to what we are familiar with.

    • Thanks for your comment, Mike!

      I agree with you regarding the way Google potentially categorizes pages. However, this is a little different from the way the pages on a business directory are categorized, although it is a great discussion topic. The categorization you mentioned is more related to automated contextualization rather than manual choosing of a relevant category, IMHO.

  3. Gave you a wag of the G+ button because this was really nicely done. Like Mike’s comments above too. Best practices are always a solid way to go. Thanks!

  4. Well Done!

    A sidenote to #7 is the use of “Review Highlights” to get some additional links in.

    Is this due to Yelp not being able to add links to User Reviews where the user did not include one in their original submission of the review?

    Same reason why no links are present in the About This Business tab?

    • An interesting observation, Scott. I haven’t had the chance to write a review on Yelp (as it is not available where I live), and I haven’t had the chance to see/test link in reviews, so I am not too sure.

  5. Way detailed, easily outlined and readable - great post.

    KISS for Local SEO!

    PS - Great points on Yelp, both. I don’t know why I have such a thing that keeps me from trusting them, but you can’t argue with results.

    • Thanks Chris!

      I am not a big fan of Yelp myself, but as you said - you cannot argue with results, and they have proven over the years that their approach to organic search is exactly what it should be, so what better case study than using them as an example?

  6. This is terrific, Nyagoslav. Already linked to it from a question I was answering.

  7. Great information, Nyagoslav. What you say about Yelp is dead on. So I’m wondering….since Yelp is so good at SEO and many small business Yelp listings rank so high, would it be of any value to create backlinks to a Yelp profile page? Do you think that would help or would it not make much of a difference? Obviously, making sure that the profile is filled out completely and reviews will always help as well as doing the things you mentioned above, but what is your (and Phil’s and Mike’s) opinion about doing some SEO for the Yelp profile page?

    • Thanks David,

      My answer regarding linking to a Yelp listing would be the same with the answer on linking to any other external website that contains some sort of information for your business: “why?” Why would you do that? Yes, you can place a link from your site to the listing to encourage reviews, but I’d personally no-follow this link. Why would you share some of your “juice” with guys that already have more than enough? And how would it help you if you create (obviously unnaturally) links to a profile on Yelp, Facebook, or whichever other external site? I just don’t see the value in this.

  8. Great post Nyago! I recently went though a number of the top directories looking for similar data as I’ve been doing some consulting work for a up and comer business directory. No doubt, Yelp does it well, but as I think you will agree, they could be better. Things like:

    embed pics w/ geo-meta data.
    certain schema markups
    upload videos, also w/ geo-meta data

    The list goes on.

    In any event, great idea to dissect this like you did - really enjoyed it.

  9. Just wanted you to know that on my iPhone you vertical tweet bar covers
    The right hand side of your post. And follows the post as one scrolls down to read.

  10. Excellent post Nyagoslav. I think the biggest takeaway for me is that ALL of these things can be baked into one’s website. Yelp is a great example, one with a very strong DA and businesses should have this goal of getting more citations from sites like Yelp.

  11. Nyagoslav,

    You make some really good points. A lot of SMB’s sites can learn from Yelp’s onpage SEO.

    It’s interesting they put the “business name” in the url ahead of the “city” name…? I would of structured it the other way around. No category in url, either. i would’ve added that too to the url structure.

    Do you know if they are using schema or hcard markup for the address in the listing…? That’s another bonus that we always add to our client’s SMB sites.

  12. “5) Link to the website – Yelp is one of the few business directories that change the link to the business’s website from “nofollow” to “follow” for advertisers.”

    If I read that right… I.e. If you pay for advertising on Yelp, rather than have a free listing, you get a “follow” link.

    Would that not be deemed paying for a link?

  13. Would be nice to follow up on this discussion now that barnacle SEO is something real.

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