How Local SEO Works
Guide to Local Search Engine Optimisation
Local Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is fast becoming a new way of engaging with very specific groups of customers. In 2014, according to Comscore, the number of global mobile users overtook the number of global desktop users and Google research says that 50% of local mobile searchers will visit a store compared to only 34% of desktop users.
These changes in user behaviour have helped to create an opportunity for businesses that operate on a local basis – if people are searching for your product or service in your locality, and you get your local SEO right, your business will be visible to them. A number of these businesses are small in size and local SEO enables their audience to find them easily, something that has previously only been available to businesses with big SEO budgets.
But what are the factors which determine a strong local SEO presence?
Every SEO journey should start with what you have on the pages of your website. As you are associating your website with a specific location, then the location should be mentioned in the title tag of your website. If you have more than one location, you may need to prioritise here, as the title tag is only so long!
In order to raise the profile of the location, you should have a page on your website all about that particular location and the service that you offer there. If you have multiple locations that are relevant for your business, then this is where you should create a page for each location. The key point to remember here is that the content should be unique and of a good quality – otherwise, this is trying to optimise for too many locations which aren’t relevant and is actually creating spammy content: definitely avoid this! On these pages, you should mention the location and the name of your business in the meta title and description, as well as in the page structure (e.g. H1, H2 tags). And don’t forget to tag any images with the image description, location and name of the business.
If you are finding that you have too many pages to create for each location you wish to target, then you are probably trying to optimise for too many locations! Start with your most important location, and then work down the priority list: stop if you are getting into double figures.
And assuming that your business address is in an area that you wish to target from an SEO perspective you should have your business name, location and contact information on every page on your website, for example in the header or footer area of the page. This makes sense from a user experience perspective too – you don’t know at what stage someone will want to get in touch, so why not have your contact details available to them easily all the time?
Schema is a means of communicating the key information about your website to the search engine when they are looking at your site. It not only tells the search engine key words but also the context behind them. So instead of just recognising two words on your website, e.g. Bloggs Enterprises, a search engine will understand that Bloggs Enterprises is your actual business name – pretty powerful data.
To do this, you just need to add a few lines of code to your website which include your business name, address, phone number, map URL, etc. There are a number of websites out there which can help you generate this code (just search for local business schema generator), but run it past an SEO expert if you are in doubt.
In the digital age, one of the factors that separates a good business from a great business is its reviews. There are different review sites for different industries, so you will probably know the one which you should have a presence on. But make sure that you don’t limit yourself to just that one review site, have profiles across as many as you can such as Facebook, Google+, TrustPilot, Zomato, Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc. Then, when you ask someone for a review, they can choose the site they wish.
You can incentivise people to review, e.g. having a prize draw for everyone who placed a review in the last 30 days, but make sure you include all reviews, not just the good ones! This will give your reviews a sense of balance and credibility that a full set of five star reviews won’t. Often the easiest way of generating positive reviews is to simply ask people to write them for you: most people will spend a couple of minutes writing a review if the business has been that good……or bad!
Citations are an important part of local SEO. A citation example (of a very global business!) is below:
Apple Inc., 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino, California CA 95014
Citations are so important because they link your business name and its location, and as such you want to get these citations across the web as often, and as naturally, as you can. You can normally put these details onto online directories (they often don’t allow a link to the website for fear of being a link-farm). You can also make sure that all of your citation details are listed on your social media profiles, e.g. Facebook allows all of this detail and more and Twitter allows you to state one location in the profile. A lot of social networks actually allow you to pinpoint your location on a map. You can even include your full citation in your signature in online forums.
So, whatever you do, make sure that in every location your citation is listed it is spelt correctly and consistently. You would be surprised how often this doesn’t happen.
Google My Business
If you live in a country where Google is the dominant search engine, and even if you don’t, you should definitely invest a little time in creating a Google My Business page. It is designed for local businesses, and allows you to set up your location via Google Maps, as well as claim any rogue business pages and ultimately provides a page on which you can build your business details.
I am sure that Google would not favour this profile over others in its search results (*sarcastic cough*) but it is worth spending some time on your My Business page.
Mobile Friendly Site
Local SEO and the use of mobile devices is inextricably linked. So, it makes sense for your website to be mobile friendly. Google has a page where you can check this, and most build-your-own websites have features which automatically translate to mobile. In addition to this, if local SEO is important to you, then your mobile website should be a priority: spend time navigating the site and seeing just how much of a positive experience it is. And be critical – the visitor to your website will be.
If you are using content as an inbound marketing tool, and you probably are even if you don’t realise it, then your content should have a local focus. Write about things that are happening in your location as this will give you credibility and, from a search engine’s perspective, a clear link to the target location.
You should also contribute to the local community online. Even very small communities have a presence online, for example, in a Facebook or LinkedIn group. This will give you the chance to make a positive contribution to the community as well as mention your citation, but only if you spell it correctly and consistently!
Give People What They Want
If you put yourself in the user’s shoes, you should be able to quickly work out what people are looking for. Make sure that as many of these details are on your social media profiles and directories as possible. Here are some of the most popular:
- Phone number
- Hours of operation
- General product / service information
- Payment methods accepted
As is the case with all types of SEO, not just local, the focus should be on creating a really positive user experience on your website, and not on your SEO ranking. If you achieve a great user experience, search engines will reward you with good rankings.
Is local SEO particularly important to your business? Have you tried any of the above to boost your website?