By: Patrick Sauriol Aug 30/2023

As a digital marketing agency that offers search engine optimization (SEO) services, one of the often-asked questions we hear is, “Can your agency get my business to page one on Google?”. It’s a totally valid question, and one that business owners educated about the importance of SEO for their business should ask. Local SEO is important for small businesses, as without local SEO your business will have a hard time ranking for anything locally.

SEO agencies that promise to get you on page one of search engine result pages (called SERPs) might be telling you a lie. The truth is, most SEOs could get a business to rank first for a specific keyword; the problem is that the keyword the SEO ranks you number one for doesn’t get you any good traffic.

Imagine that you own a Vancouver-based pizzeria, and you want to appear on local search results. People living in Vancouver neighbourhoods looking for a good pie should be hoping to find your business, right? So you hire a search engine optimization company to get your website to show higher on SERPs. All seems good when the search engine agency delivers a report to your Inbox, and you’re ranking #1 for a couple of keywords.

The problem is that those keywords that your pizzeria ranks top for are garbage keywords; they don’t deliver visitors looking for your excellent pizza pies. Instead, the SEO agency ranked you for keyword phrases like “cheap fast food”, or “best pizza between 41st Avenue and Fraser Street in Vancouver”, which may be a pretty niche keyword phrase with low overall search volume.

You need to have a bit of knowledge about how SEO can be used properly to make sure that your business is getting its money’s worth.

Ask What Their Local SEO Strategy Is

When you consider hiring a marketing agency versed in SEO to deliver better organic rankings for your website make sure to ask them this super-important question:

“What will be your strategy be to rank me locally?”

Good SEO experts will care about who your target audience is: are they local customers, or are they national or international? Local SEO is what a neighbourhood business like a roofer, plumber, pizzeria, deli, accountant and so on are looking to rank in the areas or regions they operate in. They want people in a certain localities to know about their business when local searches happen.

Google, Bing and the other search engines take into consideration where the search query is being asked from. If I’m in Burnaby asking for a list of local pizzerias, Google will give me local businesses in Burnaby that are considered pizza shops. That’s why a good SEO strategy will look into your website schema, which is code that categorizes and tells search engines what kind of area of interest or audience the website appeals to.

A comprehensive and smart local SEO strategy will look at four important aspects of an on-page SEO strategy:

  • Is Google Business Profile optimized and targeting the correct categories and services? Is it filled out?
  • What keywords and localities is your website targeting in the copy and meta titles? Including what are the meta descriptions used on your website, if any?
  • What is your website’s schema telling search engines?
  • Is your business in various directories with the correct name, address, and phone number (NAP) that correctly matches all your other listings.

Each of those questions deserves its own blog entry to explain, but for now, it’s sufficient to know that an SEO that values your business will explain what those terms are. That’s what I consider the job of an ethical digital marketing company that sells SEO as a service.

Another important item to check off for your local SEO strategy is to confirm that you have a Google My Business profile. Don’t know what that is, or how to get it? Read our blog post all about Google My Business.

You don’t need to become an SEO expert to know what value you are getting from your agency, but you should be able to have a general understanding when you ask them these questions. It’s really no different than your annual check-in with an investment advisor about how your RRSP portfolio is doing. They’re the experts but they should be able to explain in non-complicated terms what their strategy is.

How This Relates to Vancouver Local SEO Services

No matter what the city is there are similar approaches to trying to rank a website for local SEO searches.

I’ve encountered SEO agencies that do a pretty good job at ranking businesses locally, but they are terrible at ranking companies for international traffic. And, vice versa.

I’ve also spoken with SEOs that can rank businesses locally no matter where the location is. It really comes down to the knowledge level of the SEO; will they know enough to develop a local SEO strategy for that business, and to adjust it when they begin seeing the results of their SEO work?

Let’s get back to my earlier example of a Burnaby-based pizzeria looking for more customers. One SEO might only think of getting more traffic from people searching from Burnaby-based IP addresses and consider that a job well done.

The truth of the matter is, that pizzeria may be on the border between Vancouver and Burnaby, and their possible customer zone extends into two Vancouver suburbs. A great SEO will take this into account when they speak with their client, and they will bake this into their SEO strategy.

In the end, the second pizzeria will get more business than the first example.

Knowing how big your target area is important information for an SEO to incorporate into their local strategy for you.

Better Armed is Better Prepared

Now you have more info to ask the SEO agencies you’re considering. With the three questions that I outlined above you should be able to get more information on how the search engine individual will build a local strategy for your business. If your business serves a wider geographic zone, see if they bring up what region they want to rank your website for, and what search terms. Then, if they leave out a zone that you feel is part of your audience, you can ask them why they are excluding it.

There may be a good reason, such as the neighbouring suburb has a high concentration of similar businesses and their SEO strategy is to rank strong for your immediate zone first. If that’s the case then they will be able to answer your question without needing to “get back to you.”

SEO remains an incredibly important aspect of online business. Knowing the differences between what local SEO is, and what a general SEO strategy is, can have a major financial impact on your business revenue.