Before you start on a big content marketing campaign or link-building efforts, start by asking whether Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines know who you are. Three simple techniques take only a little bit of time, but they go a long way toward boosting your search rankings.
Unify Your NAP
Your name, address, and phone number (NAP) looks the same on every business card. On the Web, however, NAPs often replicate like a message in a game of Telephone, where one site publishes one mistake…and then another…and then another.
Start by creating a unified NAP for yourself; the one on your business card is a great starting place. Make sure your NAP looks the same in important online hotspots, including:
- Your website. Insert your NAP into a footer widget that automatically populates on the bottom of each page. If your theme doesn’t make it easy to add widgets, you can often write them into your code.
- Your search engine listings. If you have a dedicated office space in a commercial building that clients can visit, list your services with Google My Business, Bing Places, and Yahoo Local, including your NAP. Otherwise, create a Google+ page for your services, and make sure your NAP appears.
- Social networks. Add your NAP to your professional social network profiles.
- Review sites and directories. Claim your listings on Yelp, TripAdvisor, Yellow Pages, and other online review sites. If you’re listed with your local small-business association, chamber of commerce, or professional association directory, make sure your NAP is consistent.
If a third-party site has listed your name, address, or phone number incorrectly, contact the webmaster and ask for an update. If this seems like a lot of work, ask an SEO agency that has a business listings service to help you.
Whenever your name is mentioned online, it’s likely certain other words often appear with it. Search engines use these frequent word groupings to define who you are.
The occurrence of your name with a set of common terms is called co-occurrence, and frequent co-occurrence boosts search engines’ confidence in who you are. Start by preparing a short bio of no more than three sentences including the most important terms describing you as a service provider. These terms might include:
- Location. If many of your clients are local or regional, include your location as a key part of your bio.
- Professional service. Describe what you do using the same noun — accountant, lawyer, writer, consultant, graphic designer — whenever you publish online.
- Business name. If you run a partnership, LLC, or other business entity, include your business name next to your name.
- Web properties. List a publication or website along with your name. Include your role, such as “blogger at thissite.com” or “columnist for thismagazine.com.”
- URL and social. Include your business URL, links to social accounts, and distinctive usernames, like your Twitter handle.
Whenever you publish online, on your website’s About page, or on social networks, particularly LinkedIn, use a bio containing co-occurring terms. If you’re quoted or mentioned in an article, ask the writer to use these co-occurring terms next to your name in the article.
Co-citation is the mention of your website or publication and a high-authority publication on the same website. Even though you’re not mentioned on the high-authority publication’s site, your name and link are associated with a high-quality resource. This connection sends a strong positive reputation signal to Google.
Think of it as the transitive property from your geometry days:
- Website A links to Website C, which is a high-authority website such as an online newspaper, government site, educational institution, or highly respected blog.
- Website A links to Website B, which is your site but has less domain authority.
- Website B, your site, benefits from the connection to Website C even though Website C never links to Website B.
Whenever you publish content linking back to your website or professional publication, including blog posts, always link out to high-authority sources.
NAP, co-occurrence, and co-citation are all part of an SEO process called entity optimization. At the end of the day, it’s all about explaining who you are to Google so that Google confidently explains you to others.