Create a Hometown Advantage with Pittsburgh Local SEO

Pittsburgh: Rapidly Becoming a Med & Tech Powerhouse

I grew up in Pittsburgh and went to undergrad at Carnegie Mellon. Pittsburgh is an amazing city. It's evolved dramatically from the city in which I grew up. I lived through the deindustrialization and the devastation that wrought on the Pittsburgh area. To see the city now, and how its transformed, is a testament to the hardworking drive, pride, grid, and determination of its people.

The information technology revolution, like the industrial revolution before it, has not benefited everyone equally. There have been some major winners and losers in this transformation. While the urban core, Allegheny county has seen a tremendous renaissance, the old industrial surrounding counties of Washington, Westmoreland, and others have continued to decline. This has left the region deeply divided. It's akin to gentrification on regional vs. neighborhood level.

One of the challenges small businesses face in the politically divided time is which target customer to serve. Much of this will be based on geography, but there is a strategic choice to be made whether to support the new or stick with the traditional. At this time, serving them both will likely be challenging.

Why Web Design Matters in Pittsburgh?

Great web design is important no matter where you are located. However, Pittsburgh hasn't been the steel city for ages. That era has passed. The city is now a hot spot for technology and medicine. These customers, I would argue, have come to expect superior design as the price of entry. Therefore, you do not want to be at a disadvantage.

  1. Local marketing in Pittsburgh is about targeting and owning a small niche. Having a great UX makes reaching and retaining them easier.
  2. A fast, responsive, and intuitive site makes it easier to raise awareness among that niche. 
  3. Mobile customers are usually looking for something immediate. Therefore, a fast mobile site, let's them know you are nearby, open, and accessible. You only have about a second so use it well.

Why Should I Care About Local Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Google 3 pack example

Without it, it would be more challenging to find your business online. Less than 10% of the local pack results would have landed on the first page of the search engine results page. 80% of any search volume goes to the first page results. 71% to the top 5. Without local SEO, you are unlikely to make the cut.

Local SEO helps to level the playing field somewhat so small businesses can have the opportunity to be visible when people are near their location and searching for products or services that are relevant to their business.

This is an example of the 3 pack for the search "Italian Restaurants Near Me"

Playing to Your Home Field Advantage

Local search algorithms work on what I like to call the “biggest hill in Kansas” principle. This means the local landscape sets the bar by which you will be measured. Typically, the smaller you make the reference field or more narrow you make the topic, the more likely you rise to the top.

There are exceptions, like in the New York metro area. Here, it is more akin to the biggest hill in the Himalayas.

It is a bit of an art and a science to find the right balance between scope, geography, and search volume. If the region is too small, there is likely no one searching for it. The same is true regarding the topic.

Here are the three things that you need to consider with local SEO for your business website. 

  1. Proximity: How far is your business location from the local market that is being searched, e.g., ‘near me’
  2. Prominence: How well do you stack up versus the others within similar proximity. It is the height of your hill vs. everyone else nearby.
  3. Relevance: Algorithm based determination based on the keyword search and rank on that keyword. Again, it is compared to those near you.  

What does this mean for local small business SEO?

For proximity, it depends on how crowded the neighborhood is. A mile in Manhattan, NY is much different than a mile in Manhattan, KS.

For prominence, again this is a competitive metric. The more crowded your location is, the more difficult it will be.

Finally, on relevance, this is no different for normal SEO except you are ranked versus your peers. If you are in a room filled with Einstein clones, it will be hard to pick out the smartest.

Why Local Digital Marketing Matters in Pittsburgh?

Like the gentrifying neighborhoods I deal with in NYC, Pittsburgh small businesses have a choice to make. Which is your best target? There will be those unique businesses that can appeal to both new and existing economies and mindsets, but that will not be the norm. Depending on your business, it may force you to choose. Once you make that choice, Local digital marketing can help you reach that target more effectively. 

  1. Local digital marketing in Pittsburgh is about targeting and owning a small niche. Then, expanding from it..
  2. It is important to raise awareness among the target that your business exists and what it does. 
  3. Local digital marketing lets your customers you are nearby, open, and accessible. It's even better if your in the same neighborhood, town, or suburb

Leveraging Your Hometown Advantage: Basic Tips

Home Town Advantage for SEO

If you want to take full advantage of Google 3 pack to drive more traffic to your website, then the time spent optimizing your business's content and site is worth the effort for a small business. These are some basic off-page tips that can help:

  1. Make sure you've claimed your Google My Business page. If one doesn't exist, it's fairly easy to create one.
  2. Every city is full of lists, best restaurants, bars, gyms, and the like. Inquire how you might get a link from them.
  3. Local news – Internet news sources are a great way for local businesses to be seen.
  4. Awards – Research the ones that pertain to your industry and inquire about entry requirements
  5. Local business development groups.
  6. Get to know your local over social media

In other words, build your SEO around the places where your local community is active.

Localization: Basic Technical SEO Tips

If you aren’t afraid of a bit of simple coding, there are a couple of technical SEO tips that can help make the bot’s job easier by making some adjustments to your meta tags (title, heading, etc.) and header or body text. 

Quick Overview of Structured Data

Structured data in this context provides a way to present useful information to bots. Schema is a standard way of using structured data across the digital landscape. To use a simple metaphor, structured data is like a form, and schema is the template that helps put the right information in the right place.

To use schema code, you need to be able to access either the header section or the body section of your web page. Generally, the schema text is put in the header, but I’ve found this can slow page speed. I cheat and put it right after the <body> header. It works equally well.

If you don't know where these are, you may want to skip this section or consider hiring an SEO expert or SEO company.

Location

There are a number of technical adjustments you can make to help bots better scan your page. In this post, we will focus only on how to help the bot to associate the right location with your business online. 

This is the code that you need to insert to ensure that you pages are tagged properly for your physical location. I’ll highlight the important part you will need to add in on your own. If you want to skip ahead, I find the Merkle schema tool to be very helpful.

Schema markup example for localization

If you need help with local SEO for your business, please see our eBook Easy, Simple Guide to SEO.

How to Adapt Our Small Business SEO Tips for Pittsburgh

Aside from all the general tips above, here are some specific actions you can take based on the three key elements of local search algorithms:

Proximity 

All of this assumes that you have completed your keyword research and developed your keyword list. If you have not, this section will be more effective once you do. Please see our previous post on digital marketing in Pittsburgh and then come back.

Go through your keywords list and select those which are good descriptors of your business. If it were me, I would use something like “digital marketing agency”, “seo services”, for example. Then make a list of the neighborhoods you service, for example “seo services Oakland”, or “seo service Lawrenceville”.

Now comes the harder part, that is frankly a bit tedious. For each combination, see if you can create a somewhat unique post that’s 500-1000 words for that keyword. For us, it is a post like this. I try to write a post that helps my potential clients learn something or do something they didn’t know they could. 

Prominence 

Now, this is the good part. If you do write quality posts for these keywords, you will be raising your prominence. Google knows that all these neighborhoods are in the Pittsburgh region. So, for each good post you write, you help raise your prominence on a given topic in a given location.

Prominence is also helped by the basic techniques I mentioned earlier, such as being a part of local business groups. Please see the Pittsburgh Business Times or Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce for listings that might pertain to you. Any local listing helps.

Relevance

This is why I like the blog technique because it hits all three key areas. If your keyword is a descriptor of what you do and the neighborhood is one you serve, it is highly likely that you will score points on relevance.

Finding the right SEO for your small business in a neighborhood like Pittsburgh can be a crucial way to get your company noticed online.

If you are interested in what more we do, check out Small Business Marketing in Pittsburgh