Googleplasty: How to Reshape Your Search Results (Part 2)
April 23rd, 2015 by
As more businesses begin to take efforts to improve their online presence, standing out in search results of highly competitive markets and areas becomes even more difficult—and nowhere is this perhaps more true than in the cosmetic medicine industry.
In order to reshape your search results through the art of “Googleplasty,” you must know what factors make your business rank high in a Google search. Since we now know all about the different types of search results from part one of this two-part blog series, let’s talk about the most important factors that play a role in how high your practice ranks.
The following three “Top 5” lists of factors are from from Moz’s 2014 Local Search Ranking Factors survey. The information came as a result of surveying 40 industry experts to determine what had the most influence on ranking in Google search results.
As you can see, all of the factors that are integral in competitive markets also play a part in either localized organic or maps pack results. Due to their repeat importance, I think they’re the five factors most worthy of discussing in detail.
1. Domain Authority of Website
First up on our list as the most important factor in competitive markets is Domain Authority, which isn’t much of a shocker. Domain Authority is a proprietary measurement (created by Moz geniuses) of a domain’s power within a 100-point scale. This score can be used to predict if a site is likely to rank in Google’s search results and can also be used to track a site’s growth and increase in strength.
It is a metric that combines other metrics such as age, number of links, and quality of links, so it’s not easy to manipulate through singular or direct efforts. As it is directly put on Moz’s site, “The best way to influence this metric is to improve your overall SEO.”
Using Moz’s MozBar to see domain authority of pages in search results, you’ll see that the top five business sites in the localized organic results for “plastic surgeon albany ny” have Domain Authorities of 31, 32, 22, 21, and 26, respectively. As you can see here, having a score that is higher by a single point won’t guarantee that you rank above your competitor, but in this search example, business sites past the first page of results tended to have Domain Authorities lower than 20.
2. Consistency of Structured Citations
While this factor isn’t as high ranking for localized organic results, it is third for the top maps pack factors and second here in the top factors for competitive markets. One reason for this is that in many competitive markets, such as plastic surgery or cosmetic dermatology, you’ll find maps packs in search results.
To start, a citation is a place on the Web where a business’ name, address, phone number, and often website can be listed (sometimes referred to as the NAP of a business – name, address, phone). Any combination of the NAP, with or without all parts, listed on a site is considered a citation. A structured citation in particular is a listing of business information found on a directory website (e.g. YellowPages.com and Yelp.com). On the other hand, an unstructured citation can be business information on non-directory sites like newspaper sites, press release sites, and blogs, to name a few.
By increasing the number of matching information sources (and therefore matching signals) to Google, you also increase your chances in having Google match this information to search queries, according to a recent webinar with Google’s Heather Wilburn. So if you want to be matched with potential patients searching for businesses like yours in your area, consistent business information across the Web is one of your best bets, especially in competitive industries like cosmetic surgery.
3. Quality/Authority of Inbound Links to Domain
An inbound link to your domain (aka inlink or backlink) is exactly what it sounds like, a link leading to your website. The relevance to your industry or location and the authority of a website linking to yours in and of itself are the two best traits for quality links. Buying links or having links from random, spammy sites will hurt, not help you. Links from local sites and popular sites are a pretty safe bet. You can seek out local sponsorship opportunities as a good link-building effort or help other sites clean up their broken backlinks by using your working ones.
To differentiate between natural link building versus spammy link building, remember that it’s all about user experience and what makes sense to the user. If your efforts don’t uphold the ideal of providing the best user experience possible, then they’re probably not good.
4. Quality/Authority of Structured Citations
As mentioned above, a structured citation can be any directory site that lists any variation of your business’ NAP or website. While consistency is most important, you also want to make efforts to build high-quality, authoritative citations in directories.
Just like there are many factors to improve your own site’s authority, there are also many factors to determine the quality of a directory. You can delve into Whitespark’s blog on how to identify quality citation sources for a detailed breakdown, but basically a good rule of thumb is to look for high domain authority and human moderation in directory sites. Examples of human moderation include how DMOZ requires submission review by its team before a link goes live or how Google Plus, Yelp, and Bing listings all require verification via phone call or a postcard sent to the business.
Google also considers niche directories highly authoritative. A niche directory is an industry-specific or location-specific directory. Since the Pigeon algorithm update, this kind of citation building has become especially important, and searching for your industry’s keywords will often help you identify these niche directories. If you search for “plastic surgeon columbus oh,” you’ll see that the directories healthgrades.com, vitals.com, and smartplasticsurgery.com appear on the second page of search results. Often, these types of directories require either verification or payment for those seeking to be listed on their site. If you understand the concept of barnacle SEO, you know that being listed on these types of big, authoritative sites is a great way to improve your own visibility to potential customers. Use your discretion to decide if the opportunity cost of getting on a directory isn’t too high to be worth the effort.
Warning: If a site ever requests a “reciprocal link” to its site on your site in order to be listed, this is NOT A GOOD practice, and they are not worth your time.
5. Proper Category Associations
Having proper category associations is another important factor for ranking in the maps pack that can set you apart from the rest in a competitive market. It’s a pretty simple concept, and it basically boils down to the part of the guidelines for representing your business on Google that tells businesses to “Choose categories that are as specific as possible, but representative of your main business.” A cosmetic surgeon with the primary category on the Google Plus local listing set to “surgeon” is less likely to rank above one with a primary category set as “plastic surgeon” in the maps pack, for example.
Though this is a lot to grasp and take action on all at once, having the foundation and understanding of best practices to improve user experience and to better your business online will greatly improve your successes online in the long run.