Batman’s basic SEO: How the Dark Knight manages local business online

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If there was one thing we wanted to be growing up, it was probably Batman. Either that or “married to the pink Power Ranger,” but frankly that’s kind of personal – and as far as we’re concerned not off the table yet.

Instead, we became SEOs, fighting the crime of unnatural linking and instilling the justice of clean site architecture.

You can imagine our excitement, then, when we recently received an alternate version of the new “The Dark Knight Rises” film script!

We can’t say too much or Christopher Nolan will sledgehammer our cuticles to dust, but there’s one shocking twist we can’t hold back: the movie is about Batman doing SEO for his local belt shop! They even changed the title to “The Dark Knight Rises … in the SERPs!”

We couldn’t believe it either! Here’s an excerpt from the film you won’t see in theaters.

The Dark Knight Rises… In the SERPS! (Page 19)

{Bruce Wayne stands in front of a chalkboard in the Batcave. Robin is sitting in a chair in front of him. His legs are chilled because he did not dress appropriately for the weather down here.}

Bruce: All right, listen up, Robin. One day I won’t be around to run Bat Belts, the best belt shop in Gotham.

Robin {under his breath}: It’s the only belt shop in the DC universe…

Bruce {suddenly in Batman outfit}: Be still, child. You need to learn how to manage the SEO for Here are the basics for local business SEO. The first thing is to master your domain.

Robin: Oh no, you’ve been watching Seinfeld again.

Batman {not smiling, never smiling, no}: That George cracks me up. In establishing this successful niche market, one of my best moves has been to dominate the Gotham area. Local search is the key here, Robin. Pay attention to the board now.

{Batman turns to chalkboard and begins highlighting points by shooting grappling hooks in their general direction. The following is what appears on screen.}

Local market domination

Batman: First point: secure your city and then branch out. It’s easy to get ahead of yourself and forget your local market. But what good does it do my Gotham shop to target customers in Metropolis? They already have that damned Super Belts.

The point is this, Robin: We have to be the belt shop Gotham needs, not the one it deserves. Keep your customers and location in mind when you’re doing keyword research.

And don’t go thinking you can just up and optimize for “belts” right off the bat (heh). This is a competitive search market. Everyone wears belts, even Clayface.

Robin: A guy made entirely of mud? How do you even know that?

Batman: That’s not important right now. The trick with your local business is to remember you’re optimizing with local modifiers in mind. I knew I wouldn’t be able to rank on the first page of search results for “belt shop,” but you can bet your life I optimized my site for “Gotham belt shop.”

Robin: OK, but what if someone searching in Gotham City just types in “belt shop.” Shouldn’t we be on the first page for that?

Batman: That’s the first intelligent thing you’ve said all week. Yes, Google’s ability to tell where you’re searching from is strong enough that Gotham residents should see local results. And that means we need to be all over our Google+ Local page.

Robin: I thought it was Google Places?

Batman: Dammit, kid, get with the times! Google is rapidly merging the search and social worlds and Google+ Local is one of the clearest examples.

This local result is how you’re going to show up for general terms like “belt shop” for citizens of Gotham. If the search engine determines local intent in the search, they’ll pull a variety of local store results for searchers to choose from. This means we’ll be on the same page as the likes of Penguin’s Pant Squeezers.

The key here is to claim or create your local page and fill out as much information as possible. You’ll optimize for the main site the same as always, but don’t be lazy with the local business page. It can be an important asset in our battle against decreases in organic traffic.

Consistent branding

Batman: If there’s one thing I’m proud of, it’s that I haven’t left you to die like the last Robin. And if there’s a second, it’s that the Batman brand is synonymous with strong, durable belts.

Branding is a huge component of SEO, Robin. Don’t be a two-face! Decide what you want your online image to be and be it. Whether you keep up with the success of Bat Belts or branch out into your own new business, you need your website to focus on the one thing you want to provide your customers. That’s where your keyword research begins and where your focus should stay. Never waver! Now, you’re probably wondering, how do I do that?

Robin: No, I think I get –

Batman {on a huge roll}: It’s an understandable question. The main thing to take into account is that once your website is established, you should think long and hard about making drastic changes.

Think Robin Rump Ropes would be a more successful brand name? Think would lead to more visits? Think again.

There may be a time and a place, but without thinking through a brand change you’re going to wreak havoc on all the SEO you’ve done in the past. A domain name change without proper 301 redirects can waste all the search value you’ve built up for your site. A brand name change without local directory management can sabotage your local search presence.

I can’t tell you how many belt shop sites I’ve seen where the owner changes website providers and the URL structures change without appropriate 301 redirects in place. Dammit, Robin, that’s just careless!

Robin: Please stop growling at me so loud.

Batman: Sorry, I couldn’t hear you over your lack of pants. Let’s move on to the next topic.


Photo courtesy Brett Jordan on Flickr

No killing

Batman: As the founder of Bat Belts, I’ve held myself to one rule above all others: Don’t kill. You’ll get some flak for this, trust me, but it’s the way to go.

Robin: Aw, come on! Everyone on the street has been calling you soft. I say it’s time we change that image and start POW, BAM, and CRACKing some loons!

Batman: Robin, relax. Some jokers out there will try to bring Bat Belts down with negative press. They’ll hit the internet with everything they’ve got. “These belts are garbage!” they’ll cry. Do whatever you can to keep a cool head.

Mr. Freeze: Somebody say FREEEZZE?

Batman: Dammit, Arnold. Like I was saying, Robin, you must stay calm when you come across negative reviews and criticisms. There’s a lot to learn out there from the people of Gotham City. Leave your ego behind and try to learn from what people are saying about you. Then, respond to your criticizers with a genuine, personal attempt to fix what went wrong. Satisfied customers are key for Bat Belts!

Robin: What does this all have to do with SEO?

Batman {left nostril flaring uncontrollably and Batarang between his fingers}: Have you listened to a word I’ve said? All these online sources are merging. SEO encompasses strong elements of social search and local search. Overlap between all avenues of online marketing is increasing every day. Local businesses with good management of each will have the strongest search engine results.

Enlist some supertools

Batman: Am I the strongest, smartest, richest SEO in the world? Of course. You will be none of those things. As a result, you’re going to have to learn how to use a few SEO tools. Neither of us has super powers, and, let’s face it, your arms look like wet noodles. To keep this place on top of the SERPs, you’re going to need a utility belt of useful tools. Get out a pen and get ready to take some notes.

Robin {bashfully}: I don’t have any pockets…

Batman {temple veins pulsating through cowl}: Just. Pay. Attention.

Bat Tool #1: Getlisted
This is how we made sure Bat Belts was on the map. Literally. Whenever you need to check your major local search listings, this is where you should turn. Quick and easy info on your Google, Yahoo, and Bing Local results, along with review sites like Yelp.

Bat Tool #2: Whitespark Local Citation Finder
Google is taking quality linking seriously. Frankly, I appreciate their decision to dole out more punishment against lowlife link thugs. Also, their beatdown of Penguins. This tool from Whitespark – with a free trial available – helps you manage your local citations in a similar way to Getlisted. It differentiates itself with comprehensive listings of quality local sites that could serve as logical destinations for quality link building.

Bat Tool #3: Yext
Let’s say Getlisted has made you aware you have a major branding problem across your local citations. Some joker hijacked some of your listings and changed the brand name to Jingle Belts, Batman Smells. Yext lets you quickly update a huge portion of your local listings all at once. Definitely preferable to updating each one by one. This one isn’t free, so you’ll need to cut down on the glitter pen purchases if you choose it.

Robin {looks up, covered in exploded glitter pen gel}: I found my pen!<

Bat Tool #4: Screaming Frog
Not free, either, but Screaming Frog will do the technical site analysis that helps you move forward with actionable optimization items. It’s the Oracle of SEO tools. Want to know the status code or page title for every page on your site? Screaming Frog will let you know in a relatively quick crawl. You’ll still need to practice a great SEO audit, but the tool can be a huge help.

Bat Tool #5: SEOmoz Keyword Difficulty
Remember the days when Penguin’s Pant Squeezers actually stood a chance in the SERPs? This tool is what I used to put Bat Belts over the top. You can throw in a keyword, hit ‘Run,’ and compare our site to our biggest competitors. It’s also a great place to start when you’re looking to extend keyword focus – where’s the biggest opportunity, how competitive is the keyword in your market, what’s the likelihood we’ll rank for that term? These are the questions you can answer here.

Bat Tool #6: Raven Tools
While there are plenty of other quality tools out there, I’ve saved the best for last. Commissioner Gordon will be asking you for monthly reports on the performance of the store.

Robin: Why on earth would he –

Batman: I said he’ll ask for reports. Raven Tools offers a really convenient, customizable reporting software that doubles as an SEO research tool. You can track backlinks, monitor keywords, report on traffic performance and a whole bunch more.

Robin: Holy value, Batman, they sure sound great!

Batman: They sure do.

{Both Batman and Robin turn to camera and smile. Camera pans out to reveal they are wearing Raven gear and look great wearing it. You can practically taste the comfort and style. End scene}

Sounds like a pretty great flick, huh? Enjoy the rise of Hollywood SEO!

Dave Buesing and Jack Thornburg still can’t decide who gets to be Batman and who’s Robin. They manage SEO and social media for L2TMedia, a digitial marketing agency in Chicago. Follow them on Twitter at @davebuesing and @jacktweets2.

Is Raven part of your Internet marketing toolbelt? If not, sign up for a free 30-day trial today!