4 Local Citation Building Tips for Local SEO

by Chris Sheehy | Sidewalk Branding

Business Citations Are Any Mention Of Your Business Name And Primary Contact Information On Other Web Pages.

Rhode Island SEO and local citation building services

This primary data is often called NAP and consists of your business name, address, and phone number (NAP – you get the picture).

Examples of a business citation are your online Yellow-Pages directory listing or a business listing on your local Chamber of Commerce website.  Your social media sites also have references to your business NAP, and those are also citations.


These citations are important for local marketing because they are a verification element search engines use to confirm the facts about your business and exactly where it’s located.  The more qualified the data search engines have about your business, the more they will trust your business data. Likewise, when search engines see the continuity of not just your business NAP, but also of your keyword usage and descriptive wording throughout the internet – that trust can grow exponentially.  It is at this tipping point that citation building starts to actually pay off.

Top 4 Tips For Local Citation Building:

  1. Be 100% consistent with the wording of your business name
  2. Use your local phone number as the primary contact.  Use a toll-free (if you have one) secondary.  When only one choice is available, stick with the local.
  3. Never (stress never) use a call tracking # for any local internet marketing (never)
  4. Make sure to use your complete address including suite or unit number if it applies [verify here]

In addition to these 4 tips, the trick to making citation building (AKA: link building) work for your business is to be linking up with trusted citation sources and to be in a state of constant citation-building.  The weekend warrior approach will not work as search engines are tracking your activity/inactivity when it comes to link building.  Action pays dividends.

Our advice – keep building those business citations, make sure your NAP is bullseye consistent, only link with trusted resources, and stay true to these 4 tips for citation building.

Posted in Local Citation Management, Rhode Island SEO

How I Got Into SEO – My Story

One of the questions I get asked often is how I got into SEO.

Rhode Island SEO expert - Chris SheehyNearly everyone is surprised to learn that I didn’t plan on becoming a search engine guy – not by a long shot.

The truth is I came home one day to tell my wife I had quit my corporate job to go-it-alone with my first business (looking back, her reaction wasn’t what I had envisioned, but she has always been my biggest supporter, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without her). That was 1997, and like any other bootstrap entrepreneur, I had a ton of ambition but with a new home and our first child on the way – little money to back up my idea. So I did what everyone was doing in the dot.com days, I built a website to promote my small start-up.

In no time I also had a newsletter and a weblog (that’s what blogs were called before they were cool) and was creating content like crazy.

Before I knew it, my website was nominated for an industry award, and I was making new clients from this new thing called “the world wide web.”  And then Google was born (which BTW – I thought was a stupid idea).  Ranking & SEO quickly became an obsession of mine and a passion that to this day I enjoy.

When I tell business owners I know how SEO works for them – I mean it and have the experience (and mistakes) to back it up.

It’s this experience that differentiates me from my competition, and in this industry – experience pays dividends.

Reading DIY SEO articles makes you as much a SEOer as reading MotorTrend makes you a race car driver.  Experience is in doing.  I learned this the hard way in my early days and continue to learn every day.

My business lasted several years, but I was ultimately made an offer for a corporate position from the software manufacturer I was using that I couldn’t refuse. I spent a few years in the corporate environment for two fantastic companies until I was faced with the only option of having to move to the mid-west to grow professionally.

So, as I had done in 1997, I came home from my day job one day to announce to my wife that I had quit my corporate job to go-it-alone with a new business. I built a website, opened a blog (or two), and jumped into social media.

The year was 2009 – and the story continues. . . .

Posted in Rhode Island SEO | 1 Comment

Internet Marketing Metrics – what to measure?


by Chris Sheehy | Sidewalk Branding Company
rhode island seo - search engine optimization tips.png

The answer depends on their goals – but as a baseline, we recommend businesses have a handle on the following 17 internet marketing metrics:

(We included +/- signs to show which direction you should be moving toward)


  • – Bounce Rate
  • + Conversions
  • + Domain Authority & PageRank
  • + Keyword Ranking
  • + Business Citation Backlinks Created/Corrected
  • + Returning Visitors
  • – Site Page-Load Speed
  • + Site Traffic
  • + Share of Voice (SOV) / Market Penetration
  • + Unique Visitors


  • + Engagement – likes, shares, comments
  • + Conversions

PPC (Paid Advertising)

  • + Click-Through Rate (CTR)
  • + Conversion (form based and/or phone call)
  • – Cost-Per-Click (CPC)
  • + Quality Score

Google Analytics (GA) is a great place to gather this data – and you can’t beat the cost, it’s free.  If you already have GA, make sure you are using the most recent recording code – it’s recently changed.  Clicky is a good alternative to GA, but it will cost a few bucks – it’s not much though, and you just might find you like the reporting and visuals better.  There’s a free trial.

Posted in local SEO, Rhode Island SEO

7 Local SEO Tips For Better Local Search Results

mopar map of boston - dealer marketing7 Local SEO Tips for Great Local Search Results

Everyone wants their business to rank #1 in Google search, but achieving and maintaining high visibility online is a lot harder, and more complex than the simple acronym SEO makes it sound. Add multiple locations to the mix – and your difficulties are compounded.

Identifying the SEO techniques for auto dealer marketing that most effectively pull in local traffic is a moving target.

Last year Google alone made over 500 changes to how they rank and index a business website on their search engine, and with their latest Hummingbird update that essentially rewrote their entire search engine, they were on a collision-course to best that number in 2013. Therefore it is very likely that some website changes you may have made a couple of years ago are now obsolete (if not downright banned), while new standards and best practices for local SEO may be absent from your website as well as your off-page assets like social media and business listings.

So if you’ve thought that your online visibility seems to have crashed lately – you’re probably correct.

But where there is difficulty – there is an opportunity, and if you are not satisfied with your local search engine results, here are 7 SEO tips that are sure to drive more local discovery to your business – no matter if you have one or multiple locations.

1. Keywords

The single element driving traffic to most websites is not the visual part of the website – it’s the wording. Search engines do not see the visible parts of your site – they only see the words. That said, it makes sense to focus as much attention there as possible.

Keyword research will help discover the words and phrases best suited to help the search engines know what you do (i.e., wholesale Mopar parts, wholesale Jeep parts, wholesale Dodge parts), and where you do it (location) as well as identify what words people are typing into their search bar to find businesses like yours. You can use a Free Tool like Google’s Keyword Planner to build your keyword strategy. Download your list of keywords into Excel for further editing and filtering on a regular basis – quarterly review works great but no less than twice a year. I’m a big supporter of quarterly audits for most business analysis, marketing, and performance KPIs.

Ranking for a hundred keywords that nobody is searching for is a waste of energy, identify the words most likely to drive the right kind of traffic to your business and build your site (and off-page activity) around those. Better to rank highly for five words that drive traffic, than for 100 that don’t. You’re just fueling your ego with the later.

As a rule, I focus on about 35 targeted keywords & phrases for most local business clients and spend several hours’ fine-honing keyword selections. Every keyword strategy is unique, even for users in the same business vertical – like auto dealers.

SEO TIP: Filtering results of the Keyword Planner tool by geographic regions (country, state, county, and city) will display the regional demand for your keyword entered as well as project a sense of how competitive it will be for you to rank for those on local search.

2. Keyword Mapping & META

Now that you have your keywords strategy down – let’s put it to good use.

Looking at your keyword list (Excel spreadsheet), you will probably notice that you could group similar keywords to form categories (I call these silos).

Does your website have a page for each silo category listed on your spreadsheet? It should.

You don’t need hundreds of pages for your website – but your pages should target the primary aspects of your business. Your list of keywords is the starting point. As a best practice, your website should have no less than six pages, and be no longer than it needs to be (if people don’t read it – you don’t need it).

Looking again at your keyword list, make sure the primary keyword for a page is used as close to the front of the opening sentence of the website as possible and consider highlighting your keyword in bold. Same goes for the administrative elements of the website called the META – the part people cannot see, but search engines can (not all website platforms permit using bold here, don’t panic if yours doesn’t).

Definition: META | Short for metadata – loose translation “data about data.

There are three elements of META on a website to concern yourself with:

  1. META Title
  2. Meta Description
  3. Meta Keywords

Make sure each website page has unique META elements (each of the three) and position your major keyword as close to the front of your wordings as you complete these details.

SEO TIP: META Title and Description have character limitations you should be mindful of, they are 60 and 160 respectively (conservatively). META Keywords are not a ranking element, so use them sparingly – no more than ten words/phrases – and don’t sell-the-shop by listing your most important keywords for your competition to discover. Do however be certain to list your state, town, and zip code along with the terms “auto parts,” “Mopar parts,” and “auto body parts.”

Two of the most common SEO errors for small businesses I see are META that is not optimized and/or that is not unique to each page.


A relatively new tool for local marketing (circa June 2011) has to do with using a simple HTML code called SCHEMA  – also referred to as structured data or microformat – to better identify and classify some of the most relevant information on your website to search engines, such as your location and contact info.

This code is universally accepted by Google, Bing, and Yahoo making it a must-have for every local business.

Speaking of search engines, keep in mind that Google isn’t the only option worth courting. As I write this, Yahoo has just taken the #1 Search Engine spot from Google and Bing has picked up a ton of search traffic since the Amazon Kindle Fire, and many smartphones now come default with Bing as the native search engine. Facebook has also integrated a search feature called Search Graph this year, and with one-in-seven people on the planet having a Facebook account that makes them (technically) the largest search engine in the world.

BONUS: Replace the SCHEMA code in RED (below) with YOUR INFORMATION and insert on your website page.

7 Local SEO Tips For Better Local Search Results image mopar parts dealer marketing schema

SCHEMA TIP: Consider replacing

itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/AutoDealer” with

itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/AutoPartsStore”

for the “parts” page of your website.

If you have the option to use an HTML editor, use it. Otherwise, copy the code into Microsoft Notepad (it’s somewhere in your programs list) and make your edits there. When you’re done, copy from Notepad directly to your website. Do not copy to Microsoft Word as it will add additional and unwanted lines of code.

SEO TIP: These tools will help you complete & test your code:

4. Footer

Completely underused, the area at the bottom of your website (footer) holds tremendous usability and SEO value.

First off – if you have a lot of HTML code in the header of your site – validation codes are most common – you can move it here. Doing so will reduce the amount of HTML coding that search engines have to read as they load your page making your page load faster – and the speed that a website page opens is an SEO element that affects ranking. Fast is good.

SEO TIPTest Your Page Speed

Additionally, adding things like your contact information here will make it easy for people to connect with you – no matter what page of your website they are on. This is particularly the case on mobile devices. Have multiple locations – consider using a split footer where one side is for the local or satellite business | the other for the primary location.

As an added benefit, having your contact info on every page could also increase local indexation of your website by search engines, making it easier for local searchers to find you. A Trifecta win!

5. Blogging & Social Media

I’m not going too deep into blogging and social media, there’s already been so much published already on the topic, but suffice to say – you need to be actively creating content (storytelling).

Most small businesses start to sweat at the thought of writing blog & social media posts, but here’s a simple strategy that will get your content marketing roaring like a 440 Six Pack.

  • Gather 12 images (digital) that best illustrate your primary keywords and location
  • Cool car part pictures and “name the part” quizzes also make great content
  • Describe who, what, when, where, why, or how about the image
  • Make sure your keyword is at the front of your title, description, and message
  • Add a link back to the page of your website that this keyword belongs to (Step 1.)
  • Use a scheduling program to automate these 12 posts to publish once a month

You now have one story to post every month. See, wasn’t that easy?

Now create 12 more over the next six months and add them to your queue and keep adding and writing. It’s literally that easy.

As to what blog platform to use – my blog is on WordPress, but SquareSpace is also worth looking into (that’s what my website is on). My preference is to have a blog separate from a website to double a business’s marketing channels. You can also have an on-site (website) blog to curate the posts from your off-site blog, no harm there – just be certain to give new blog posts a few days to populate on search engines before re-publishing them.

SEO TIPSendible has a content marketing tool that automatically picks the best time to schedule your blog and social media posts based on when your readership is most likely to read them. It could take a few months for it to get a good read on your followers & friends, so hang in there – it works great. This tool also allows you to set up automatic re-posting, just be sure to write with an ever-greening tone, so your copy doesn’t date itself and put a realistic end-date into play.

6. Business NAP Consistency

One of the largest local-SEO changes from 2012 to 2013 is the importance of correctly formatted and correct business contact information.

Any reference to a company’s name, its physical address, local phone number, and website are referred to as a business citation. The elements tied to a business location (name, address, phone) being referred to as NAP. The pin-point accuracy of this dataset is critical for local marketing as it provides search engines validation of your location and contact information. Sounds simple enough but nearly 50% of small business have formatting or data errors in their citation NAP – their local visibility on search is sure to take a hit for it.

Consider this business:

Bob’s Mopar Parts, 10 Main St, Your Town, ST 09876, 123-456-7890

If there are online citations for 10 Main St, 10 Main Street #345, or 10 Main Street, Suite 345 – search engines will treat these as individual businesses not crediting them as being associated with Bob’s business. So Bob’s Mopar Parts received a diluted market share as a result. Not a good thing at all.

Add to that, Bob’s Mopar Parts, Bob’s Mopar, and Bobs Mopar Auto Parts are also seen as different businesses. In all – there are 720 combinations of businesses NAP errors that can be made with the incorrect information cited above. Variations in your town name (i.e., N Attleboro vs. N Attleboro) or inconsistencies in using your state name (MA, Mass, Massachusetts) would make matters even worse.

Discovering and correcting citation errors isn’t a glamorous task, and it could take months to make any appreciable progress, but in the big picture, correcting your NAP data will pay huge dividends for your local visibility.

Automation (service company or software program) doesn’t work well for citation or link building. Not only are you likely to create duplicate listings (not good), but you cannot construct as detailed a listing using automation as you could by hand (typing). And you can ignore the “Your profile is 100% complete” directives – that usually just means you have completed 100% of the required minimum fields – there’s usually a lot more work to do.

SEO is in the details, and in a hyper-competitive market such as the auto parts industry, the small details could make the difference between #1 ranking on the first page and #11 ranking on the second page. If you are considering subscribing to a local link building service like Yext, know that your listings will revert to the state before you hired them should you cancel your working agreement, and you are responsible for finding and correcting any duplicate listings their service creates.

7. Link Building Via Business Citation Building

You have most likely heard of the business review site “Yelp” and have probably heard that both Google and Bing offer directory listings for businesses, but did you know these review and business listing sites can give your business a significant boost in local visibility?

The local bump happens in a couple of ways. These directory and search engine listings add a credibility element to your business by verifying the consistency of your NAP (name, address, and phone) and your keyword focus as taken from the narrative of the listing. Many of these listings also add a “category” element further classifying your business. Additional information like your hours of operation and the types of payment you accept can also be noted and verified through these business listings (also referred to as backlinks because they all have a link pointing back to your business). NAP verification increases trust by the search engines of your business and in time, increase your local online visibility.

If citation building and link building pains your brain, think of it like filling a hot air balloon, it takes a lot of air to get the balloon off the ground and required frequent action to keep it afloat. When you run out of fuel or stop hitting the burners, the balloon comes back to the ground. Now consider your marketing actions as if a single link from a directory listing, search engine, blog, or social media post were the equivalent of one-cubic-foot of air. It would take a while before you started to see your ranking and visibility rise – but like the balloon, once it took off, it will remain flying high as long as it is tended to.

NOTE: Search engines cross-check your phone number with online phone directory listings as part of their business NAP verification process. For instance, it is well known that Google Maps verifies data with YP.com and other citation data providers, so be certain only to use the local phone number registered for your physical location and do not list a call-tracking number on your website or for any online citations. Also, don’t use scripts that show the local number but hide the call-tracking one, showing a viewer different information than what search engines see is referred to as cloaking – and it’s a violation of search engine rules that if caught could earn a hefty penalty from search companies.

A properly formatted and optimized directory listing can also show up on search engines when someone is looking for the things you have to sell. Think of the times you had seen a LinkedInYelpYP, or Manta listing when you were searching for something. Well, if you had just one of those elements show up along with your website you would double your online market share! Have 2, and you would own 30% market share on the page. It is easy to assume that a business with the most (and most complete) listings on a local search result page is the local expert.

The trend of search engines to apply a significant weight (called PageRank) to link building stresses its importance for local business discovery, trailing just behind the bumpers of keyword research and website SEO.

Sites with higher PageRank – show up higher in a search.

All combined, focusing on these 7 elements of local SEO will raise your visibility on search engines and drive more traffic to your website.

Progress takes several months, especially for link building (backlinking) – so hang in there, stay focused, and stick to your strategy all the while keeping a vigilant eye out to see how tomorrow’s changes in SEO can drive additional opportunities to your business.

Posted in local SEO, SEO | search engine optimization | 2 Comments

Winning Photograph of Providence Rhode Island Announced

Winning Photograph of Providence Rhode Island Announced

photo credit: Cesar Cruz

Photo credit Cesar Cruz

Rhode Island SEO firm Sidewalk Branding Company names Providence photo contest winner – Cesar Cruz (Student at Rhode Island’s New England Tech) for his outstanding photograph of Rhode Island’s Downcity Providence.

Cruz’s winning photograph submission was in response to Sidewalk Branding’s call-out for a photograph depicting Providence Rhode Island’s Downcity or Skyline to use as part of their website redesign. News of the contest quickly spread through social media and was picked up by New England Tech GMW (Graphic, Multimedia, and Website Design) instructor & department chair Rick Mitchell – who shared the opportunity with his students at the college.

“Instead of spending hours walking all over the city taking photographs with my Droid phone – I’m pretty low-tech in this department – I decided to give crowdsourcing a shot for the picture,” says Sidewalk Branding’s founder Chris Sheehy. “With only one week to act – I wasn’t exactly expecting a flood of images to hit my inbox, but of the dozen or so that were received, Cesar’s immediately stood out.  Its composition and depiction of the city will be a great complement to our website theme.  Being it’s a black & white image that immediately blended into our theme was a real plus.  It was exactly what we were looking for” adds Sheehy.

As payment for the image, Sidewalk Branding promised the winning artist a public “thank you” for their work.  “Stay focused on your studies Cesar – you’ve got great talent” encourages Sheehy.

About: Sidewalk Branding Company – a Rhode Island SEO firm servicing small-medium sized businesses with local search engine optimization and internet marketing. Award-winning & globally syndicated. 
Chris Sheehy
Sidewalk Branding Company

[media file] Winning Photograph of Providence Rhode Island Announced


Posted in Rhode Island News | 4 Comments

The Easy Way To Trim Duplicate Pages Via rel=canonical

By Chris Sheehy | Sidewalk Branding

Metrix image depicting duplicate content rel="canonical" fixesHaving duplicate content on website pages isn’t all that uncommon for many types of businesses, especially those with large product or service listings.  But that same content could be a detriment for search engine indexation, as pages with substantially similar content run the risk of being penalized by Google’s filters (more on that below).

No worries, Google has created a great article walking businesses through differentiating these pages and reducing any subsequent duplication penalties. It’s posted on the Google Webmaster Tools site right here: http://goo.gl/u8DMuL  

The problem is, most companies don’t know it’s out there and aren’t dialed into Webmaster Tools. The article also lacks the feet-on-the-street readability that small businesses will open up to, rather than close their browsers to out of frustration with the techno-lingo.

So instead of reinventing the wheel in explaining it, I decided to simply de-tune the already excellent example provided by Google Webmasters Support in hopes of adding clarity for those who are still in search for an answer.

So here it goes:

What is a canonical page?

A canonical page is the preferred version of a set of pages with highly similar or duplicate content – therefore non-canonical pages are the duplicates.  Read that again, because it’s this very definition that trips most people up.

It’s common for some websites to have several pages with content that is very similar to each other. For example, one page might display products sorted in alphabetical order (example 1 below), while other pages display the same products listed by price (example 2), rating, or category.

For example:

1. http://www.example.com/product.php?item=swedish-fish&trackingid=1234567&sort=alpha&sessionid=5678asfasdfasfd

2. http://www.example.com/product.php?item=swedish-fish&trackingid=1234567&sort=price&sessionid=5678asfasdfasfd

If Google knows that these pages have significantly similar content, they might index only one version for their search results – permitting their algorithms to select the page it thinks best answers the user’s query. Which might not be your preference.

Business owners, however, can specify a canonical page (think – default page) for the search engines to prioritize by adding a rel="canonical" <link> element within the <head> section of the duplicate page (i.e., non-canonical).  Most website platforms permit this via the admin dashboard or via their CMS – it’s the same place you would have added your Google Analytic code.  No big deal.

Hang in there – it’s not all that complicated, in most cases the hardest part is finding where to put the code, not crafting the code.

Adding this tiny string of code is like saying to Google: “Of all these pages with identical content, this page is the most useful. Please prioritize it in search results.”  How cool is that!

Of the ways to make a canonical URL, below is probably the most common, dear I say nearly ubiquitous:

To specify that http://www.example.com/product.php?item=swedish-fish is the preferred version (canonical) and identifying the others as being substantially similar, create a <link> element (simple line of code) like the one below and place it into the <head> section of all duplicate pages (non-canonical versions).

<link rel="canonical" href="http://www.example.com/product.php?item=swedish-fish"/>

Set it and forget it – you’re ready to go.

Posted in local SEO

5.5 Non-Keyword Factors Influencing Search Engine Ranking Visibility

Have you ever wondered how you could be king-of-the-search-engine-hill – then all of a sudden lose the throne?

Playing king of the SERP hill

Does it keep you awake at night that your SEO reports don’t always match what you see online?

Assuming all is well with your on-page/off-page elements (Let us pretend for this article that they are) – here are some non-keyword factors that influence search visibility to look into when things seem wonky.

  1. Are you logged into Google while searching?
  2. Do you have your personal search history turned On or Off?
  3. It is expected that Google will make nearly 1.5 changes every day to its algorithm this year – was your search conducted before or after any algo changes? (trick question – nobody knows the exact timing of Google algo changes – except Google, but it’s worth considering)
  4. If cookies are turned on, what is the data freshness?
  5. Are you using Google’s Chrome browser when doing searches?
  6. Where are you located? (Checking your online placement from home, the office, or on your cell phone are likely to deliver different results)

Search engine ranking shift is frequent (happens to 80% of businesses).  Sometimes the changes are slight, and sometimes they’re wild – sometimes a business holds firm in their search engine ranking while their competition shows significant flux.  But inevitably, at some point, you’re going to get dethroned even when everything is up to par.

Shift happens – and sometimes, it’s totally out of your control.  The trick is to measure this differential to identify if it is signaling a potential for sustained loss of ranking, or just a ripple in the algorithm that either correlating data or experience tells you not to worry. 

So the next time you think your search engine result page rankings have shifted, or when a friend (or SEO services company) across the country (across the world) calls to tell you that your business just lost its top positioning – consider these visibility elements before panicking and taking action.

By Chris Sheehy | Sidewalk Branding Company  #keyword #seo #seoranking
Posted in Keyword Research, Rhode Island SEO, Search Marketing Integration, SEO | search engine optimization