All posts tagged Chicago SEO

chicago local seo map

Remember the good ol’ days of easy rankings? It seemed like all a Chicago business owner needed to do in order to rank well on Google was have a website and a Google Plus page. Unfortunately for the end-user, those easy rankings usually served up irrelevant results and an abundance of spam sites. As competition grew and algorithms got smarter, it became more and more difficult for small and medium sized local businesses to rank well on Google. Enter local SEO. So what is local SEO, and why do Chicago businesses need it?

New Google Algorithm Updates Impact Local Search

In 2015, Google made a huge, and rather shocking, update to their Local Maps. Imagine that you’re a pizza parlor in Chicago. Historically, Google would show seven results on Local Maps with links to each business’s Google Plus page. If you were only one of, say, 3 pizza parlors in that Chicago neighborhood, Google might also show a couple of Chicago hot dog restaurants and perhaps an Italian restaurant to round out all seven positions. Even businesses that never did any local SEO were able to rank on the local listings.

However, with the update, Google whittled the local map section down to only three results. The link to Google Plus was gone, as well as the business’ phone number. With only 3 positions available on the local listings, the competition got fierce.

local seo snack pack map

How Possum Changed Local Search Results

Another big change to search came a year later in 2016 with the roll-out of Possum. This update was intended to provide a level playing field for all local businesses listed in the Local Search results. Although there are several main factors, here are our 3 key takeaways that affect local business the most:

  1. The Physical Location of the User: Considering the increasing number of users on mobile devices, this is a significant update. With Google now factoring in the proximity of the user more prominently than ever, users are going to get different results based on where they are physically located. For example, if a user is in the Loop searching for Chicago pizza parlors, they will get different results than the user in Lincoln Park.

This graph shows the increase of mobile over desktop queries, and projections for 2018 and 2019:

mobile impact on local seo


  1. Flexibility on “Location” to City Limits: Previously, businesses located outside the physical limits of a city had a very difficult time ranking for that city. In response, websites started creating micro-site landing pages to compensate. Fortunately, Google now allows companies that are outside the city limits but conduct business in the nearby or ‘neighboring’ city to be listed in the snack pack search result. For example, a pizza parlor in Evanston, located on the cusp of Chicago, would now be able to rank for ‘pizza parlor Chicago.’

  2. Location of Business: Google applied a filter to the addresses of businesses. This eliminated businesses from having more than one listing for the same location. For example Chicago lawyers in the same law firm, or a dentist with multiple locations.

So…What is Local SEO?

Local SEO, very simply, is the process of making a website more visible on the Search Engine Results Page (like Google). Through the optimization of your website, local SEO targets users who are actively searching for your product or service. This process culminates in driving more quality traffic to your website. Keep in mind that this is an on-going process. This is especially true in light of the number of Google Algorithm signals that exist, as well as the constant algorithm updates.

Why Do I Need It?

Search engines like Google have over 200 signals they take into consideration when ranking web pages. A website must be optimized, through on-page and off-page strategies, in order to gain the value these signals send to your site.

In addition, competition among local businesses only continues to increase. And with only three positions in the “snack pack” maps area, Chicago business owners need to stay on top of their local SEO strategy. Moreover, local businesses have to compete with large websites in the organic listings. Previously, it was relatively inconsequential if you didn’t rank well in the local listings but had a top presence in the organic listings. However, with sites like Yelp or Wikipedia, your organic listing that used to be #1 might now get pushed down to the 3rd or 4th position.

Therefore, Chicago local business owners must find smaller target areas in order to get more visibility and the subsequent rankings. Optimizing for local search is one of the most cost-effective marketing methods to achieve this.

Can I do Local SEO Myself?

Technically, yes. Fortunately, many of the tried and true white hat SEO techniques are still viable options for optimizing websites. While there are a lot of DIY options available, it’s extremely tedious and time-consuming for the business owner. Furthermore, unless you are experienced in local SEO tactics and keep apprised of Google’s ubiquitous updates, it can be difficult to know where to start. Although Google offers many free tools such as Search Console and Analytics, these tools are challenging for a novice to understand.

The most important thing a local business owner can do is to accurately fill out your Google My Business profile, include your Name/Address/Phone Number (NAP) on the pages of your website, build consistent citations on other websites, and then build links with good anchor text. Beyond that, you should consult an SEO agency such as Evolving Interactive for more help strengthening your site’s signals.

If your business is struggling to adjust to Google’s newest update, reach out to our SEO team. As always if you have any questions or concerns, please contact us at

What Does Pigeon Mean For Your Local Business?

Over two weeks ago, Google released a local algorithm update that industry experts are calling Pigeon. Pigeon aims at improving local search results for users by making the results more relevant and accurate. The new Pigeon update has features including spelling correction capabilities, Google’s knowledge graph, and detecting search synonyms. As a result of the update, Google is placing local directories higher in the search results than small businesses. While this is benefiting the big players of local directories like Yelp and TripAdvisor, it is hurting small businesses rankings that do not carry the same amount of SEO strength. In some cases, the entire first page is filled with local directories, for terms like “Chicago pizza” or “Miami hotels.” In a few search queries, small business sites do not show up in the results until as far as the third page.

Google’s main goal for the algorithm update is to improve the local search experience for users, and to make results appear more organic than they have in the past. To do this, Google has nearly eliminated the presence of local seven packs for many search results. The decrease has hurt many small businesses that only ranked in the local pack and are no longer being featured on the first page of the search results.

So what can you do to continue getting business even when your site isn’t ranking? First, you can consider running a PPC campaign to boost your chances of being seen on the search results page. Since Pigeon seems to favor local directories, make sure your business is listed correctly on the leading local directories, as well as directories specific to your niche. Although Google seems to no longer include local packs on SERPs, they are still using the local carousel that appears at the top of the results page for some search queries. To utilize the carousel, make sure your business has high quality Google+ photos, and encourage customers to review your business.

Google+ pages will also play a large role when ranking in local search results. When creating your Google+ page make sure your business is listed in the most appropriate categories to enhance the chances of appearing in the search results when that category is searched. It has been noted that having the same area code in your business telephone number that is associated with your business location can improve your rankings. Also having several reviews of your business can influence your local search rankings, so encourage customers to leave reviews whenever possible.

Overall, the update is trying to enhance local results for users. Google wants to make sure only the best and most relevant pages are being shown, and that the results appear as organic as possible (hence the drastic decline in the frequency of local packs), so the best way to boost your business is to make it exceptional! White hat SEO tactics are still being rewarded by Google, so make sure your website is optimized for your industry and location. Add geo modifiers to title tags, include keywords in your business title, and implement other SEO best practices.

How is your business adjusting to Google’s newest update? Reach out to our SEO team with your stories and your questions.

Link Earning in 2014

Earning links to help your website rise in the search engine rankings now involves different strategies than it did in previous years. Transparent link building plans have fallen out of fashion as Google’s backlink guidelines have evolved and become more defined. Rather than simply buying or exchanging links as part of an SEO campaign, companies need to create content that organically encourage other sites with good Page Rank to link to their webpage. While brazen SEO link building tactics are no longer helpful, there are still plenty of good ideas to consider for an effective optimization plan.

Here are a few of my favorite ideas to help build links from a recently updated Backlinko post.

Audio Sharing Sites

These sites readily accept audio files, whether it’s music or a spoken word piece. Create a great piece of audio content and the benefit is twofold:
1.      You’ll get a follow link to your webpage on the audio sharing site.
2.      You can get listeners to enjoy and share your piece, which may inspire further people to link to your website.

There are a lot of free audio sharing sites, so you can use this idea even if you have a limited SEO budget.

Scoop It
Scoop It allows users to personally curate web content onto their own Scoop It page.
You can suggest content for someone to post by using the “Suggest” feature. If they like your content, they’ll post it and you’ll be linked in the post.
You may need to sign up for a paid Scoop It account to employ this technique.

Website Feedback Sites
Website feedback sites (like Concept Feedbackor Criticue) are another way to get a link. Submit your website to be critiqued and it yields a follow link. Many of these sites involve a fee as you are given valuable feedback on your website by their staff.

Blog Aggregators
Submit your site to be included on a blog aggregator like Technorati or Alltop and if it’s approved you’ll have a follow link to your site.

.Edu Sites
A lot of universities have resource pages for their students. If your company could be useful to university students or faculty, reach out to the webmaster to see if you can be added to the list of resources.

News Sites
You might be able to get a great link from an authority news site by working with HARO. HARO (Help a Reporter Out) connects reporters with relevant sources, and if you’re able to provide useful information to a reporter, you and your website could be linked in an article.
There are both free and paid options when signing up to be a HARO source.

Sponsorship / Charitable Contribution
If you have a little more money for your SEO campaign, consider earning a link through a sponsorship or charitable contribution. Do you sponsor a local business, team or organization? They probably list their sponsors and contributors online, perhaps with a dedicated page that includes a helpful link.

These methods of earning backlinks from high ranking authority pages are just the tip of the iceberg. There are many more ways to earn links if you get creative and try new ideas. Beyond that, you can also consult an SEO agency such as Evolving Interactive for more help strengthening your site’s signals.

Google has been making (its own) news over the past two weeks, but it’s all been good news. Google is calling more attention to the efforts it has put in to streamlining the local search experience from the business owner perspective. While Google has always been the leader of local search, it has been no secret that many in the SEO industry, as well as business owners, have had more than their share of frustrations trying to optimize and manage their local profiles. Now, it would seem those times are a-changin’.

First Google announced that it was introducing a new support feature for its Google Places page. For place page owners and operators, this new help system provides a walk-through of possible errors that could be wrong with your listing. The checklist will help owners troubleshoot. For the more experienced local optimization types out there, there will also be the ability to send a note to a Google Analyst who will respond to the issue. Other search engines like Bing and Yahoo have had service support in place already; though neither have the volume of searches that Google sees.

Next, Google unveiled another new feature that will pre-emptively help Place page users. Google will now send an email that will notify of changes being made to the listing by outside sources. Google has always used valuable data providers like Yelp or Insider Pages to gather information about a business, as well as feedback or changes provided by any Google user on the local pages themselves. Now, when impending changes will alter a listing, a business owner will receive an email explaining the impending changes. Google says this is to keep business owners from having to log in to places every time there is an update, in an effort to keep the most recent and relevant information at the pages forefront. Business owners will still have the opportunity to log-in and manually override these changes with the edit option.

These changes come at the end of a long summer of Google Places in the spotlight for the wrong reasons. As Google tried to promote a new feature regarding businesses open or closed statuses, the story that actually got called into question was how easy it was to report a listing closed. With no support at the time, business owners would have to check in often with their listing to learn if a disgruntled or misinformed customer or competitor took it upon themselves to close their business (on the Places page). After a stunt by a local expert, Google addressed the flaws. But with these new support systems in place, these flaws should be much fewer.

With all of the changes happening to the local world lately, Google may be protecting its position as the leader with these support features. Google has never ignored its users; it simply just doesn’t have the manpower to handle every request that is asked of local support. The real hard pill to swallow was that it seemed as though it was ignoring users helpless against never ending “pending review

I guess it’s a good thing for the industry that the letters S-E-O are seeing an influx in news articles, especially in heavy hitters like the New York Times. In the last few months, I can remember reading several articles about the dark side of our otherwise under-the-radar industry. There was the article about the terribly negative reviews benefiting a sunglasses salesman / customer service pariah. Then there are the articles about link schemes that put the big businesses at the top of every search result, until they got caught.

I guess it’s a better thing that Google also reads these articles, because that seems to be the only time white hat SEO’s see results they’ve been clamoring for.  The most recent article was again posted by The Times, and brought to light Google’s shortcomings in their local search section, a section Google has been actually been placing more value on in recent months. In an effort to keep listings as up to date as possible, Google allows searchers to request that a business’ status be updated to “reported to be closed