This guide is meant to help you as a small business owner get an idea how your rankings can be improved on Google and Bing for local Toronto searches.
Would you rather stay away from all the technical know-how? Take a look at our local SEO services.
There is quite a bit of technical know-how involved, especially when it comes to technical SEO, but I’ll try to make as user friendly as possible with the use of screenshots and examples. You can also adapt this guide to put together a local SEO campaign for other areas.
There are a variety of ways how those leads are generated:
If only thinking about all these leads makes you quiver with anticipation, hold on just a minute.
For example, there are a lot of lawyers in Chicago. In 2014, there were over 91.000 lawyers in the Chicago area. A “Chicago lawyers” search returns 17 results of which 4 (2 at the top of the page and 2 at the bottom) are ads, 3 are results in the map pack or local pack and 10 are organic results (positioning may vary from search to search):
To be fair, the “Toronto lawyers” search is pretty broad, or vague. A potential client may use a more specific phrase or “keyword” as they are called. They might be searching for injury lawyers, bankruptcy, injury, divorce, family, DUI, criminal, employment, foreclosure, workers comp, etc. You get the idea. You can have your practice shown on Google in the Map Pack or in the organic results without paying them. You can also pay Google Ads (former Google Adwords) to show your ads on top of the results page. The costs for that range from $1 per click for the keyword “lawyers committee for better housing chicago” to a whooping $470 for “best accident lawyers in chicago”. The costs are determined (and also vary) based on competition and on what others are willing to pay for a lead (usually depending on how profitable such a case would be for them).
The organic results and the map pack are determined by 2 slightly different Google algorithms. This is probably a good moment to tell you that no one, absolutely no one outside of Google’s own top engineers know exactly how those algorithms work. That is why local SEO is not an exact science. There are people and marketing agencies that have got pretty good at it by testing extensively what works and what doesn’t. But even then, specific ranking factors change on a regular basis (Google uses over 200 of them) and ranking difficulty also varies based on how competitive your industry is in the Toronto area. For those reasons, a good Toronto SEO expert needs to:
As you can imagine, proximity is one of the most important factors when it comes to local Toronto SEO. If someone searches for a Toronto electrician, it does not do them any good if they are being shown electricians from Addison, Texas. Or even electricians from Addison Illinois. By showing electricians near your Chicago location, Google solves a few issues:
Proximity is maybe the most important ranking factor, but it does vary based on the service industry. For example, if you want to order a Pizza, you will be shown Pizza restaurants that are really close to you so your food does not get cold by the time it gets to you. On the other hand, if you want a really good and communicative family lawyer, you might be willing to travel further away once in a while to meet with her.
Proximity is one of the local SEO factors that applies differently to the organic results and to the map pack.
If you want to rank higher in the organic rankings and get shown on the map pack, you need to have a Google My Business listing. Companies that have been in business for while might have an unclaimed listing, that they do not even know about it. That listing is being used to show details about your business such as name, address and phone number (abbreviated as NAP by local SEO experts), information about your products and services, a link to your website, current offers, reviews, posts, etc. Additional features are regularly added or updated and it is a good idea to know about the latest developments as they might give you a competitive edge.
Your Google My Business listing will show in the following places:
Google has a love/hate relationship with links. They love the naturally acquired links and sometimes penalize self-made links. But, unless you are a big brand, links are almost never naturally acquired and you do need them if you want to rank.
There have been entire books written on linkbuilding, so I will not even try to summarize them in couple of paragraphs. Instead, I’m going to try to give you an idea why they are important and when they can get you penalized.
The foundation of Google’s success is built upon their algorithm using trusted links as a ranking factor and, because of that, delivering better results than other search engines. Google views links from other trusted websites to your website as a vote for your website. Not all links are equal – a backlink from whitehouse.gov or nytimes.com might be hundreds of times more powerful (or more) than a link from a random blog. Not all links count – some links such as paid links have to be marked as being such (by using the nofollow attribute). Because a lot of people have tried to manipulate Google rankings, some links (quite a lot) and linkbuilding strategies can definitely hurt your search engine traffic and even get your website penalized.
Here are some other link details that you need to know before we go to the next Toronto local SEO ranking factors :
Usually such links are from niche directories or local Toronto directories (if only Toronto businesses can sign up, having your business listed there sends a location signal to Google).
A couple of examples of good links are:
As you can see, the strategies required to obtain those links are different. For the ISA link, you need to complete a course and get a certification. For the directory listing, you only need to add your business information and sign up, for the guest post you need to contact the webmaster and pitch them your article idea, for the Toronto newspapers you need to contact them or send out a press release. These are just a few of the strategies you can use to acquire relevant Toronto links. There is no exact science to how it should be done and the more creative you get, the more chances you have to succeed.
There are a lot of on page local signals you can use, I’ll just mention a few:
Citations are mentions of your NAP on different websites such as directories and blogs. They can be structured citations (on directories, since all the businesses listed there have there business info structured identically)and unstructured citations (for example on a local Toronto city guide blog where your restaurant is mentioned).
I tell my clients to treat reviews the same way they treat money. Some of them listen, some of them don’t. I’ll let you figure out who’s more successful.
Google even has a whole section dedicated to offsite reputation of a website in their Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines:
If you have the knowledge how, you can do all the steps mentioned above manually and still get good results and better Toronto search engine rankings. But you can save yourself tens of hours of work and a lot of frustration by using specialized tools and doing your keyword research before starting your SEO campaign.
Local keyword research will show you searches that you might be interested in because:
As you probably noticed, now you know what it takes to put together a local SEO campaign, but you do not have the exact knowledge on how to execute some on the individual steps. Moreover, you do not know how important each step is to the overall strategy and where you should focus more. These are the reasons why:
It depends on what you need to accomplish with your website and on what your budget is. SEO is continuously changing and results are based on your market’s competitiveness. SEO results are not guaranteed. Same as an workplace accident lawyer cannot guarantee the success of your case, neither can a SEO guarantee placements on Google. However, a good SEO would not stay in business if they did not deliver satisfactory results. One of the things you should ask your Toronto SEO is a monthly report that summarizes the work they’ve done.
SEO takes a few months to experience results, especially if you have a brand new website and business with no presence online whatsoever. A faster alternative to SEO is running paid ads on Google and Bing (as of August 2018, both search engines offer coupons to new advertisers). Doing both SEO and PPC might be a good idea if you can afford it. Google has repeatedly said that running paid ads has no direct impact on your organic rankings. And, for most part it does not, but it may have an indirect impact on them. For example, let’s say that someone searches for a Toronto roofing contractor and your Google Ads result is displayed. They click on it, browse your website a bit, but they do not hire you. A few weeks later, they remember about your result. or maybe the find the slip of paper that they wrote you company name on and they search for “Company Name Toronto roofing”. Remember how branded searches are considered a good behavioral signal? In fact, Wil Reynolds of SEER Interactive ran a test in 2013 that shows the tight relationship between paid and organic results on Google and how they affect each other.
Let me know if you have any questions or suggested updates.