If you’re looking to hire a reputable architect and you discover that his own house’s design sucks, would that affect his chances of winning your business?
That was a problem we faced for about two years into our company’s run. Despite our good reputation and the fact that I’ve been cited as something of an SEO expert internationally, our own site’s rankings were in the proverbial shitters.
Forget about top placement. We weren’t even sniffing page 1 for terms like “SEO Company Philippines” “Link Building Philippines,” or “White Label SEO Philippines.” In some cases, we were as far down as page 6.
Of course, this is no function of incompetence or laziness. You see, we’re a completely bootstrapped startup. With no financial backing from capitalists, we literally willed our agency into existence by working side jobs while we were employed in Fortune 500 firms. It wasn’t until May of 2015 that we were all able to make that leap of faith to quit our day jobs and go full-time with GDI.
As you may guess, all our bandwidth went into working on client sites and rarely did any SEO work go into our own. Sure, I blogged every now and then, but that was mostly for thought leadership and self-expression. Most of our leads came from referrals and people I encountered during speaking engagements.
At the very least, our lack of search visibility was an eyesore. At worst, it could deter some potential clients from engaging with us. Besides, another source of leads wouldn’t hurt, so I did some reorganization in the office and freed up some time to work on our own site.
So far I’ve put in the initial bit of work and there’s still a lot left to do. However, two weeks did make a significant difference and our rankings now are halfway decent if I may say so myself:
Keyword: SEO Company Philippines
Keyword: SEO Agency Philippines
Keyword: Link Building Philippines
Keyword: SEO Reseller Philippines
I wouldn’t call our current standing dominant. At best, it’s a work in progress. However, I can’t say it was a cakewalk either. SEO-related keywords are very competitive in the Philippines. Some of our rivals have been optimizing their sites for years and a lot of them bring big guns to the fight. Personally, I know of at least two competitors who rack up at least 10 guest post-based links per month. Others in that mix come armed with hordes of manpower, capital and even black hat tactics.
So what’s little old me to do in the face of these beasts?
Chinese business titan Jack Ma said something cool about how Alibaba outgrew Amazon. He likened his company to a crocodile and likened Amazon to a great white shark. If you fight the shark in the ocean, you’re easy prey. However, if the crocodile brings the shark to the river, it’ll be a whole different story. The same applies to carving out our spot in the local SERPs. I can’t compete with most of the other bigger agencies with content and link production. I had to resort more to Local SEO and its underrated benefits.
So far, this crocodile has made a couple of dents on the shark.
Here’s how I did it:
NAP Consistency and Schema Markup
The first things you have to get straightened out are the three most important local details of your business: the Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP). Each of them is an “entity” in Google’s eyes that need to be associated closely with each other over time. To do that, they have to appear consistently in different areas of your website and even on pages outside of it.
In this instance, the values for our company are:
- Name: GDI SEO Company
- Address: 2nd Floor Kingspire Business Center, McArthur Highway, San Isidro, City of San Fernando, Pampanga 2000
- Phone: (045) 402 3997
Most Local SEO experts agree that you should display your NAP on every page of your site as much as you possibly can. This gives Google some nice localization signals as well as trust signals. In the post-Panda world, it’s important to demonstrate to Google that you’re not running a fly-by-night business. Having your address and phone number on your site shows that you are a responsible enterprise that can be approached physically in case there are any disputes.
For our part, we decided to have our NAP at the site’s footer for all pages. Note that the Google Map embedded doesn’t have to accompany the NAP on every page. That’s just a design choice on our end.
NAP Scheme Addition
To help Google recognize your NAP as legitimate local business details instead of random text strings, you’ll want to apply some Schema markups to them. Your NAP will appear as regular text to human users, but they’ll be a lot more sophisticated at the code level.
Long story short, this is how our NAP looks like in HTML:
<div itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/LocalBusiness">
<p itemprop=”name”>GDI SEO Company</p>
<p itemprop=”address” itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/PostalAddress”>
<p itemprop=”streetAddress”>2nd Floor, Kingspire Business Center, McArthur Highway, San Isidro</p>
<p itemprop=”addressLocality”>San Fernando</p>,
<p itemprop=”telephone”>(045) 402 3997</p>
<meta itemprop=”latitude” content=”15.058986” />
<meta itemprop=”longitude” content=”120.6568695” />
If you want to implement local SEO schema on your own site, all you need to do is to replace the values in bold with your own information. Insert the code to a footer or a sidebar and you should be all set.
We didn’t have to do much in terms of on-page optimization. We just needed to add mentions of the target location Philippines to the following key areas in important landing pages:
- Title tags
- Meta descriptions
- H1 text
- Body text
As an added note, we beefed up the content of our main organic landing pages and made sure none of them fell below 1,000 words. Our in-house designer made sure that text was minimal in above-the-fold areas of the page and that calls to action were visible off the bat. As a user scrolls further down, that’s when the long-form content can be seen. You’ll see what I mean here and here.
International Targeting in Search Console
When I was doing the optimizations, I realized that I’ve never actually set the site’s target country, which is a very basic local SEO step. So I did.
Okay, so this was the part where I got a little lazy. If you’ve negledted this like I did, check your Google Search Console account and under Search Appearance, go to International Targeting. You’ll be able to specify your target country there.
Google MyBusiness (GMB) Optimization
After the on-page optimizations, we started to look outside to get a little more Google love. The first stop was Google MyBusiness. To non-SEOs, this is Google’s free platform for listing your business online and planting its location on Google Maps. For SEOs, however, this is a treasure trove of nice local ranking signals.
We signed up for it online and verified the property as our own using the snail mail method. The code literally took weeks to get to our office, but it did come.
Next, we took the following steps to optimize the listing:
- Made sure that the NAP is accurate and consistent with what we have on the site.
- Selected the most appropriate category for the business.
- Specified the business hours.
- Added the website URL
- Added a ton of photos. GMB will ask for pictures of your team, your office front door, the interior, etc. We made sure to give Google everything it asked for.
- Solicited reviews from real people. We had current and former clients rate us. We also had current and former employees review their experiences with us. All in all, we got 27 5-star reviews.
Optimizing our GMB listing took a little effort but it was worth it. The business has a nice-looking section on the SERPs when our brand is searched and the SEO signals it gave us were pretty significant.
Local citations are mentions of your business name along with its address and contact information on other websites. These may or may not have links back to your pages and those links may or may not be dofollow. Regardless, local citations are an important factor in Local SEO because they serve as signals to Google that your business information is relevant to its physical location. We had to get as many of these posted, so we looked for websites that would list our business for free.
Our main targets were business directories. We had ourselves listed in all the common international ones like Yelp, YellowPages, Facebook, LinkedIn. Personally, I liked the list that HubSpot put together and we signed up for all the ones that accepted Philippine listings.
However, we were more interested in getting listed on Philippine-centric business directories. We didn’t find any good lists online so we just put together our own. If you want a copy of the list, you can find it in an article I previously wrote.
Local Link Building
In a regular SEO campaign, prospect sites are selected based mainly on contextual relevance and domain authority stats. In local SEO, those elements are still important but a prospect site’s own geographic targeting also matters a lot.
In our local SEO campaign, we focused less on acquiring high-DA links from international websites and more on Philippine-centric ones. This proved to be easier to do that I thought since I didn’t have to do any link prospecting or outreach. A simple Facebook post got me more than a dozen local link acquisition opportunities.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: building relationships in your industry will pay off. I didn’t go out seeking links: the links came to me. Some of the really good ones came from sites like Payoneer, Tycoon.ph, Z.com, Pangalan.com and ninja Outreach.
Oh, and I also scored a sweet, sweet .gov.ph site. I can’t say where it’s from because that’s classified information but you can probably find it in Ahrefs if you look hard enough.
So despite not being a dominant player in the local SERPs, climbing to page 1 from page 6 for a few well-targeted keywords helped increase our conversions significantly. I can’t show you the exact numbers but this is how the number of leads have trended for us in 2017 especially after the point where we did local SEO which in May.
All in all, I don’t think ours is an exceptional case of Local SEO success at all. However, it does underscore the difference between doing nothing for your own site’s search visibility and exerting just a little bit of effort. If you haven’t applied local SEO to your own site, you might want to emulate the steps we’ve taken and see for yourself what returns you get.