Considering you’re on an SEO company’s website, we’re going to assume you get the general idea of SEO. If you don’t, our guide to teaching yourself SEO can help give you the baseline knowledge needed before you go any further into this guide.
In short – organic search is affected by two major things:
These factors in relation to inbound links to your site hold the most weight when it comes to performing well in organic search.
The second factor is the ‘quality’ of your website – are pages segmented properly? Is there a helpful, relevant copy on the page? Does the site look good on a mobile device?
There are dozens of factors which compile into Google’s assessment of your on-site quality – too many to list. However, there are some resources which can help you:
When Google delivers local results, such as a search for ‘pizza place’ or ‘chiropractor Chicago’, it’s still relying on the two main factors outlined above. However, in addition to those two factors, local search throws a handful of other signals into its assessment of your site, including:
A great place to start as a local business is with the Local SEO Checklist which covers most of the bases when it comes to ensuring your site is set up well to rank in the Chicago market.
Whether you’re a native or a transplant, everyone can acknowledge that Chicago is….well, pretty awesome! Chicago is one of the few cities in the world that offers everything under the sun – we have a sports team in every league, over 7,000 restaurants with everything from the world’s best hamburger to whole roasted goats, a place to drink on every corner, 40 museums, and over a dozen universities. Every nationality, age group, income level, and industry is represented in the city and its suburbs.
Chicago is not only one of the largest economies in the US, but one of the most competitive. There are 600+ creative marketing and advertising agencies in Chicago, an ever-increasing number of established companies and startups fighting for market share in every area from financial solutions to hardware and hammers. It can be a challenge to stand out as a Chicago business with so much competition. And that’s why we’re here to help – to be your Sherpas through the competitive landscapes of Chicago and Google search, and to give you the insights needed to start ranking and pulling organic traffic from your Chicago neighbors.
If your business is in Naperville – it’s probably a good idea to also target Aurora and Downers Grove as they are major markets close to Naperville.
Many businesses serve the majority of the Chicagoland area – many companies based out of the North Shore area also service the Northwest suburbs such as Barrington. Understanding which suburbs and markets are where, can help you can best choose where to optimize your business.
Local search, for the most part, relies on the same set of factors as traditional SEO. The process for a local business isn’t significantly different from a national brand. A strong website that’s mobile friendly, secure with HTTPS and well-structured is a must. Keywords in the title tags and on the page along with quality content is essential. Creating a strong inbound link profile is also key.
The biggest difference between traditional SEO and locally focused SEO is citations and reviews. In addition to the standard factors that apply to any business, Google looks for the following when evaluating a local business.
Citation sources are generally the same as review or directory websites that provide information on local businesses. Yelp and Yellowpages are two common examples and two of the most important citation sources.
Before we get into optimizing these review profiles, you must first claim them and confirm your ownership of the business. This is typically accomplished through one of two methods:
Postcard: A postcard with a PIN is sent to your physical address, which you use to claim the listing.
Phone verification: The site calls you with a code that you then enter into the website
Once you have claimed your profiles and have control of them, you’ll need to optimize them. Profiles on these types of sites should include the following:
• Business Name
• Phone Number
The business name, address and phone number should remain consistent across every citation source.
Much like inbound links, not all citation sources are created equal. The value of individual citation sources depends on a number of factors. Not all citation sources are available in all cities. Not all citation sources are available to all businesses (for example, Avvo.com is commonly listed as an important citation source…if you are a lawyer. To everyone else, it’s worthless).
Whitespark.ca puts out an annual list of the top citation sources weighted for each city. If you’re a local business in Chicago, here are the top citation sources you should be paying attention to.
How to claim/get this citation: Visit biz.yelp.com to get started on claiming your company page
How to claim/get this citation: Visit adsolutions.yp.com to get started on claiming your company page
How to claim/get this citation: Visit business.angieslist.com and enter business information. Can create a profile for free.
How to claim/get this citation: Visit www.indeed.com to claim a company profile with Indeed.com and acquire this citation.
How to claim/get this citation: Visit www.bbb.org to get started. Registration is free.
How to claim/get this citation: Visit www.thumbtack.com and sign up, create a profile for your company. Free to get listed, pay only for quotes/estimates
How to claim/get this citation: Visit www.facebook.com/business to learn how to set up a Facebook page for your business.
How to claim/get this citation: Visit local.chicagotribune.com to view listings and submit your business. Powered by the Axicom network.
How to claim/get this citation: Visit chicago.cbslocal.com to view listings and submit your business
How to claim/get this citation: Visit www.grouponworks.com to start creating a profile page for your business on Groupon
How to claim/get this citation: Very few businesses are actually eligible to claim this citation. Two types of businesses that qualify:
How to claim/get this citation: Add a listing for your business under the Services section of City of Chicago Craigslist: chicago.craigslist.org
How to claim/get this citation: Visit http://www.chicagomag.com/marketplace/ to post an ad for your business. Businesses featured include products for sale, shopping, home contractors, travel, real estate, and more.
How to claim/get this citation: Visit www.timeout.com to submit your business. Open to entertainment establishments such as bars, restaurants, and music venues. However, if you host an event at your business, you may be able to get featured even if you don’t fit the criteria.
How to claim/get this citation: Visit www.linkedin.com for instructions on creating a company page for your business on LinkedIn
How to claim/get this citation: Visit en.wikipedia.org for information on how to create a Wikipedia page for your business.
How to claim/get this citation: Visit www.homeadvisor.com to begin the process of claiming your business.
How to claim/get this citation: Visit https://www.tripadvisor.com/BusinessListings to begin the process of claiming your business
How to claim/get this citation: Visit support.google.com to create a channel for your business
How to claim/get this citation: Visit www.manta.com to get started
Almost as important as citations is getting coverage in the local media. Like any large city Chicago has a number of media outlets – everything from traditional news publications like the Tribune, to websites focusing on Chicago’s hottest restaurants and hot-shot tech startups. Below are the top 25 content publishing websites in Chicago, ranked by Domain Authority:
|Time Out||Local Events / Soft News||92|
|Chicago CBS Local||News||91|
|ABC 7 Chicago||News||79|
|Chicago Mag||Local Events / Soft News||79|
|Northwest Indiana Times||News||77|
|Chicago Reader||Local Events / Soft News||75|
|Red Eye||Local Events / Soft News||74|
|Chicagoist||Local Events / Soft News||74|
|Chicago Eater||Food / Restaurant||72|
|Everyblock Chicago||Hyperlocal News||68|
|Comcast Sportsnet Chicago||Sports||63|
|Built In Chicago||Business / Technology||61|
|ChicagoInno / Streetwise||Hyperlocal News||61|
|Do312||Music / Entertainment||54|
|La Raza||News (Spanish Language)||54|
|Chicago Gallery News||Art|
|Chicago Artists Resources||Art|
|Chicago Public LIbrary||Art|
|Second City Style||Fashion|
|Chicago Daily Observer||Local|
|Windy City Gridiron||Sports|
|Hot Time in Old Town||Sports|
A publication like the Chicago Tribune isn’t going to publish just anyone. Red Eye isn’t going to call out your business because you were nice to them. You need to provide something that’s engaging, relevant to Chicago-area readers, and is unique from what other businesses have the capabilities to offer. You want to create something -somewhat- related to your business – it doesn’t have to be an exact match, but you need to have a certain position of authority.
At Digital Third Coast we specialize in creating great content that engages audiences and gets ourselves and our clients. Here’s a few examples of how we’ve earned local links:
While digital marketing is our main game at DTC, the majority of our team is rabid football fans – come by our office on a Monday and you’ll hear watercooler debates on the Bears, Packers, Lions and more (we even have a Bills fan) as well as fantasy football. Needless to say – we’re fans of the pigskin. We have talented designers and we’re data driven. With these things in mind, we set out on a mission, mostly to settle arguments between Packers and Bears fans in the office, but also to get some great local links. What’s the dividing line between Bears country and Packers nation? (and how do other teams fit into the mix?)
Our team created an interactive map where residents of Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana could vote on their team allegiance. We separated the votes based on county to give a visual representation of “Bears Nation”, “Packers Land”, etc. etc. The desire of fans to represent their team resulted in thousands of votes and an very cool interactive map that ran on Chicago Tribune, Red Eye, Windy City Gridiron; as well as several Wisconsin publications and USA Today.
Everyone in Chicago takes pride in the gorgeous skyline the city has built. From historical legends such as the Wrigley Building and modern marvels like the Aqua building, the skyline is a huge part of Chicago’s identity and a sight that both natives and tourists love to behold. But how well do you know the Chicago skyline? Do you know the story behind those buildings?
Chicago Line Cruises offers architectural tours on the Chicago River, and put this knowledge to use by creating a guide to the skyscrapers of Chicago. Each building is featured with the date it was built, the firm who designed it, it’s proper name, and a bit of backstory on the building itself. Now anyone can be an expert on Chicago architecture.
This interactive graphic was featured on DNA Info, Streetwise, Time Out Chicago, and Curbed Chicago – all helping to boost Chicago Line’s local rankings.
You may not have the resources to build a custom interactive piece or even design a static piece – and that’s okay. There’s other ways you can get yourself published in the local publications:
Local Chamber of Commerce websites provide a great opportunity to not only support your local community and fellow local businesses, but to gain a valuable local backlink and improve your local search rankings.
There’s a few different ways of earning these types of links:
Below is a table of link opportunities for each neighborhood association. With blog and events, if ‘no’ is indicated, it means that these areas don’t link out at the moment. There still could be some value in reaching out to these chambers and sponsoring an event (and asking them to link back to you), but it doesn’t appear to be their current practice at this time.
|All Chicagoland||Yes||No||Yes*||*Directory doesn’t link out|
|Keep it Local Chicago||No||Yes||Yes|
|Wicker Park / Bucktown||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Lincoln Park||Yes||Yes*||Yes||*Events don’t link out|
|West Loop||Yes (News)||Yes*||Yes||*Events don’t link out|
|River North||Yes*||No||Yes||*Blog is under “news and views”|
Universities provide another avenue for local exposure and valuable inbound links. Educational institutions have the benefit of typically having a very high domain authority – meaning links from these websites to your business can be incredibly valuable.
|Chicago Universities||Link Opportunity|
|University of Chicago||Discounts, Events|
|Univeristy of Illinois – Chicago||Discounts|
|Chicago State University||Events|
|City College of Chicago||Events|
In addition to the opportunities provided by sponsoring an event with your local chamber of commerce, there are several dedicated event websites that post events in the city of Chicago as well as the surrounding metro area. They provide yet another opportunity to gain more visibility and give back to your local community while improving your local search presence.
|Choose Chicago||Things to Do|
|EventBrite||Things to Do|
|Metromix||Entertainment, Night Life|
|Eventful||Things to Do|
|Chicago Traveler||Travel and Leisure|
|Chicago Events||Things to Do|
|CBS Local||Things to Do|
|Chicago Reader||Music, Arts, Entertainment|
|Chicago Kids||Kids and Family|
This list exhausts most of the local publications and content placements we’ve secured for ourselves or our client’s over the years. Since we are located in Chicago, we wanted to give back to the local businesses that we know and love who might be trying to do SEO and link building on their own. Some of these are really simple links to earn and if you have any questions, or know of any publications and/or websites that we missed, be sure to let us know.