Master Local SEO Now or Hate Yourself Later
As its name suggests, Local SEO is a branch of Search Engine Optimisation that involves utilising specific techniques in order to rank higher in local search results.
As mobile device usage grows local search is gaining more clout
Local SEO is often associated with smartphone usage as mobile device SERP’s (Search Engine Results Page’s) are tailored with local results in mind. In fact, mobile search often shows map packs (local results in the form of a map) above organic search.
According to Google, 95% of mobile users look up local information on their smartphones and the primary outcomes include calling and visiting a business. Put simply, Local Search is growing rapidly.
Local SEO is a vital part of optimising your website and maximising its efficiency. If you have a business that exists physically or serves a particular location, you need Local SEO in order to get found.
Local SEO’s increasing influence has coincided with the huge growth in smartphones users over the past few years. On a broader note, the aim of SEO is to increase search rankings, drive more traffic to a website and eventually improve conversions.
SEO is big business and, when done cleverly, promises a great ROI. Today, Local SEOs market share is massive and increasing rapidly. Since ‘local specific’ searches accounted for over a third of all searches in 2014, and its conversion rate is much higher than un-localised search, it’s a huge opportunity for small businesses especially.
Start with Google+
The very first thing you need to do for Local SEO is to claim your ‘Google Places for Business’ page. As we all know, there are other search engines available and ways of optimising for them, but creating a Google Places profile should be priority number one.
When you consider that, as of February 2015, Google’s search engine market share was a staggering 87.97%, it makes sense to optimise for it’s very own social media platform. As with every social media and online profile you have for your business, you should ensure that you fill it out in as much detail as possible.
Also, don’t forget to:
- Add photos and videos where applicable
- Follow the ‘NAP’ (Name, Address, Postcode) rule
Always include a consistent Name, Address and Postcode as inconsistent listings can confuse Google and end up harming your rankings in local search. Some Local Search experts prefer the term NAPW where the additional ‘W’ stands for ‘website’.
Brand continuity is very important. For example, if you use ‘Nottingham Road’ on one site be consistent and use it everywhere. Don’t use ‘Nottingham Rd’ somewhere else.
- Remove duplicate Google+ local pages
Duplicate content is frowned upon by Google and will do your rankings more harm than good. If you have the login details for the duplicate listing, go ahead and delete it, otherwise, report it to Google.
- Write a description
A good rule of thumb is to aim for a detailed description of your business which is at least a few hundred words long. It should include keywords and services or products you offer but make sure it is unique content and that you are not keyword stuffing.
- Choose appropriate categories
Naturally, it helps you to be ranked for the business industry that you are in.
- Make sure to use a local number
Rather than a generic one. Google now understands area codes and will give companies with local numbers more prominence in their results pages.
‘Google My Business’, as it’s now known, has gone under many guises and been through many name/branding changes over the past few years. It has been extremely confusing for many business and quite frankly, Google messed the whole thing up!
However, it seems that ‘Google My Business’ is here to stay and with this helpful guide you should be able to get your head around it. You can also optimise specifically for the other search engines; shout out to Bing Places for Business, Yahoo! Local and the recently available in the UK, Apple Maps Connect.
You can also receive reviews from customers or clients via your Google+ page. Reviews are a great trust signal to Google and with Google Local results dominating mobile search like they do, they can be very useful.
Make it easy for your customers by adding a simple review page on your website that links straight through to your Google+ review page rather than expecting them to locate your Google+ profile by themselves.
Most businesses only get reviews from a tiny percentage of their customers, even if they’re satisfied with the service/product you provide, so don’t be downhearted if they come in slowly.
Remember, you have to be in it to win it. Why not just ask? Many companies will be happy to leave a review but won’t prioritise writing one if they’re not pushed to.
Pro tip: Try to get reviews sporadically over time rather than all at once. It’s more natural.
Alongside Google+ reviews, which you’d naturally expect to have the most oomph as a trustworthy local SEO ranking factor, there are a variety of other review sites which Google recognises as authoritative.
Although some review sites require you to pay to create an account or offer paid features, such as Trustpilot, there are some out there which are free and picked up by Google. Not only do such reviews count as a ranking factor in Google’s algorithm, but they also now count towards your star rating in PPC adverts as well.
Want to find a bunch of these reviews sites to register your business on? Just click through on ‘rating for’ to see where the reviews for that particular business listed in the advert are coming from.
As you can see, it is easy to locate which are the most active review sites. This gives you a great pool to choose from.
Pro tip: Search for a competitors PPC ad to see where they are getting reviews from and register on those sites.
Still a massively important factor for Local SEO is the good old citation. Though they may not have the oomph they once had, citations can still have a big impact on local rankings and are not to be underestimated.
Bear in mind the NAP rule that we mentioned earlier. One of the biggest problems we see when we take on clients is the contradiction in their local citations that are littered around various websites. The cleanup job can be tedious but invaluable for your businesses local rankings.
Not sure where to find quality, authoritative citation sites other than the obvious choices such as Yelp? Try Whitespark’s Local Citation Finder. You can trial the software for free or get access to the full package for around £10-£60 per month depending on the level of detail you require.
Local citation building should be a regular part of your strategy so always check back with Whitespark for any incorrect data that may be floating around or any new opportunities that may occur.
However, you should not be looking to attain over around 50 top quality, niche citations. Remember, just like with links, its quality over quantity.
On-page optimisation for Local SEO
Finally, we have put together a bite-size on-page optimisation checklist for local SEO. The following points are still important in helping your business to rank locally:
- Meta title
Keep it short and sweet with your city name and keyword included. Don’t keyword stuff but go ahead and make it quirky, if possible, to try and entice click throughs.
Use the business name and location in the logo filename and the image alt tag.
Make sure that you only feature your business NAP on the website and not others which can conflict with it. Your business NAP should be in a prominent position on your site.
- Meta description
Google usually omits anything over 160 characters so make sure you include an attractive, yet simple, call to action within the description. Including the city or location you serve in the Meta description is a good idea too but persuasive and descriptive copy is most important.
- Heading tags
Again, these should be as natural as possible but they also be user focused and include your business’ city of residence.
Embedding a map onto your website has the basic advantage of helping potential customers find your business as well as being a further confirmation to Google of your location.
- Schema markup
This allows you to add geographical information to your site as well as star ratings, events etc.
Champion clarity and include your business’ city of residence.
- Present your team
Using local schema you can then link to colleagues Google+ and LinkedIn profiles. This can increase brand trust and reputation.
- Page loading speed
It goes without saying that slow page load speed is a big conversion killer and a high ‘clickback’ rate can have negative effects on your rankings.
- Mobile responsive
Websites that are mobile responsive are now given prominence in Google’s results pages.
- Create separate pages for each service/product/location you aim to target
But please bear in mind to…
- Thin content
- Duplicate content
- Keyword stuffing
It seems basic common sense to suggest that local businesses thrive on local SEO but many companies are still failing to tailor their SEO efforts towards this idea.
Through a combination of on-page house-keeping, consistent citations on authoritative 3rd party websites, unique reviews from customers and fully optimising your business’ social media profiles (mainly Google+) your business will soon become a big name in your local area.