Any local business can attract more customers and grow their bottom line with local SEO. Here we’ll cover the following in more detail:
- What is Local SEO?
- Local SEO Ranking Factors
- On-Page Optimisation
- Google My Business
- Local Citations
- Local Reviews
Each come together to form a strong local marketing strategy that will drive more leads and sales to your local business.
What is Local SEO?
Data from Google has found that 4 out of 5 consumers use search for local information. Capturing even a portion of those searches ultimately translates to more targeted traffic for your business.
Local SEO involves optimising on-page and off-page factors of a website to rank in the search results for local queries. It’s an effective way to position your brand in front of prospects searching for your products or services online.
But just having a website isn’t enough as the top search results attract a majority of all clicks:
Why does this matter?
Because unless your site is at least on the first page, it may as well be invisible. This combined with an increasingly competitive digital landscape makes local SEO more important than ever. Next up are the factors that influence local rankings.
Local SEO Ranking Factors
An extensive case study by Moz breaks down each of the major local ranking factors:
The chart above shows estimated percentages that certain factors have in terms of rankings. Factors like business signals, on-page optimisation, and links all carry a great deal of weight.
One important distinction is the difference between the local pack and the local organic rankings. The local pack is a search box that prominently features 3 listings for local queries. Here’s an example of what these results look like:
Meanwhile, the local organic rankings are the other results on the page. The local search pack though is ultimately where you want your business to be. Next, we’ll look at how to optimise key on-page factors of your site to boost your rankings.
The first step towards increasing your rankings for local queries is to start with your website. Proper on-page optimisation improves the relevance of your site for your target keywords. It also provides an overall better user experience for your visitors.
Here are the on-page factors to optimise:
Page titles are arguably the most important on-page factor. They’re the first thing that users see in the search results and provide more context to search engines about a page. Include your target keywords as well as the city name to target local users. Keep the titles under 70 characters to display properly in the search results.
Here’s an example of a page title that is optimised for its target keywords:
Meta descriptions are the short snippets that appear under each result. While these don’t carry a great deal of weight, a well-written meta description can improve click-through rates. Include your target keywords and a strong call to action to entice visitors to learn more. You’ll also want to include your phone number to get users to phone your business directly.
Here’s an example of an optimised meta description:
Search engine friendly URLs are beneficial from both a search engine and user standpoint—It shows a clear hierarchy of the site and users can preview a page before clicking through. Use your target keyword in your page URL and separate them with a hyphen (“-” to improve readability. If you have a lot of pages, consider separating those pages into categories and subcategories.
Here’s an example of a search result with a search engine and user friendly URL:
One added bonus to optimising these on-page factors is that the keywords are highlighted when they match a search query which helps them to stand out in the search results.
NAP refers to Name, Address, and Phone Number. Google looks for these signals when ranking pages for local queries. Prominently display these on your site to make it easy for visitors to get in touch and show that your business is legitimate.
Another good idea is to embed a map of your location. If prospects decide to check out your business, they’ll want to know where you are located.
Quality content is the key to ranking for local queries. Just like the other on-page factors, take the time to optimise your page’s content for your primary keyword and related phrases. But be careful not to spam your pages with keywords as doing so could lead to a ranking penalty. Focus on providing unique and relevant content that provides value for your users.
It’s also a good idea to optimise your header tags to provide more structure for your pages and improve readability. If your site has any images, optimise the ALT text to include your target keywords and compress them to ensure that loading times aren’t compromised.
Optimising these on-page factors will greatly improve the relevance of your site and give your business a major competitive advantage in the search results.
Google My Business
Google My Business is simply a must to improve local rankings. It’s a platform that lets business owners manage their online presence across Search, Maps, and Google+. An account is free and offers numerous advantages for your business. These include:
Increased search visibility
Google My Business features a prominent profile of your business on the right side of the search results when it gets searched:
The prominent profile means more exposure for your brand in the search results and helps potential customers see important key details about your business at a glance.
Potential customers turn to Google to search for local business information. But many search directly on the Google Maps app from their phones. Google My Business lets you manage and update your business on Google Maps, helping prospects find your business on all devices:
Any changes that you make to your listing will update across both Search and Maps, a handy feature if you need to update business hours. Google My Business gives you complete control so you can update your profile, upload quality images, and even respond to customer reviews. Meanwhile, users are able to get directions or call your business right from their device.
To get started, head over to the Google My Business site and do the following:
- Complete the form: Start by filling out all details of the form. Be sure to note down the exact NAP that you use as you’ll be needing that information in the next section. Select a category that is most appropriate for your business and double check that all the information listed is accurate.
- Verify your business: Note that with Google My Business you’ll need to go through a verification process to ensure that you are the legitimate owner. Verification is typically done by postcard but you can still update your profile in the meantime.
- Update your profile: Add in your phone number, business hours, URL, and profile photo. Write a short description that describes your business. Be sure to also include the primary keywords you are targeting.
- Upload high quality photos: Make a good impression with your listing by uploading high quality photos that reflect your business. It’s even worth hiring a professional photographer as people tend to make decisions based on initial impressions. Be sure to upload at least a few photos but the more you have the better.
Note that you can always make edit your profile as needed. It’s a good idea though to check back frequently to make any updates and stay on top of customer reviews.
Citations are any mention of your business name on the web and are key for local SEO as these signals make up 13% of the local search pack ranking factors. The advantages of building citations are twofold—They help search engines confirm the legitimacy of your business and provide more channels for users to connect with your business. More citations help your site rank higher in the search results for local queries.
Here’s an example of a Yelp profile page of a local business:
There are many others including the Yellow Pages and True Local. The local citations list from Moz is a great place to start but you’ll want to choose directories that are relevant for the products or services you offer. Just like with your Google My Business profile, completely fill out all the relevant details of your business including your:
- Company name
- Opening hours
- Phone number
One other important consideration is the NAP consistency. When you first filled out your Google My Business profile, you entered in your business name, address, and phone number. Keep these details consistent across all the directories that you sign up for. Having too many variations could potentially have a negative impact on your local SEO.
Customer reviews not only affect your local rankings but also have a huge impact to your bottom line. A survey from BrightLocal found that 97% of consumers read reviews for local businesses. 68% indicated that positive reviews made customers more likely to choose a business while negative reviews made 40% of consumers not want to use a local business.
Reviews can mean the difference between eager customers or hesitant visitors that opt instead for another business. This is why acquiring positive reviews needs to be an active part of your marketing. Potential customers may be turned off if they see too many negative reviews.
Google also displays star ratings in the local search pack:
Even though Hertz ranks at the top, the second listing looks more appealing. It has a better overall rating (4.4 stars vs 2.7) and more customer reviews. The implications are clear then—Reviews matter and should be a priority if they aren’t already.
So how can you get reviews?
Google lets you create a link that you can share with customers. When customers click through, they’ll be able to rate your business and leave a review for your business. Before asking for reviews on any platform though, be sure to review their policies. For example, it’s against the Google My Business review policy to offer incentives in exchange for customer reviews and Yelp outright forbids requesting reviews in any way.
Make acquiring new reviews a part of your local SEO efforts and be sure to respond to any negative reviews in a timely manner. A steady progression of new reviews is important as too many at once could raise suspicion and even result in filtering on some platforms.
Backlinks carry a great deal of weight in the local search results. New links are an indication that other sites vouch for your content so each acts as a vote of confidence. An extensive study done by Moz found that backlinks had the strongest correlation with rankings compared to other factors:
The study confirms the importance of links to your site. Generally, the more you have the better but what matters is the quality and relevance of those links. Simply using automated tools to build low quality links is likely to do more harm than good thanks to the Penguin update.
Links still matter though and need to be a part of your local SEO efforts. Here are link building strategies that work:
- Reach out to local influencers: Links from relevant sources carry far more weight than those from low quality sites. Reach out to authority sites and offer to submit a guest post in exchange for a link. These are the hardest links to acquire but have the strongest impact.
- Create a local resource: Local resources such as guides are a great way to attract quality links to your site. You can take it a step further and create a blog where you share your expertise and share updates related to your industry.
- Sponsor an event: Use a site such as meetup.com to find events in your area that you can reach out to for a potential sponsorship. You’re able to help out a local event and earn a quality link in the process.
- Submit to local directories: We touched on this earlier and is worth mentioning again. Submit your site to relevant business directories as some allow you to include a URL back to your site. While these aren’t as strong as contextual links from authority sites, they still have a lot of weight in terms of rankings.
- Create social media profiles: Social signals only account for approximately 4% of local ranking factors but are still worth submitting your site to. Networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ are excellent places to start with and can even be used to build a strong following for your business online.
Make link building a steady and ongoing process for your business. But remember not to spam your site with low quality links either as doing so could lead to a ranking penalty.
If you have a local business, you simply cannot afford to ignore local SEO as it means losing out on targeted traffic each time someone searches for your products or services. Follow the local marketing strategies here to grow your bottom line or get in touch with our team to learn more about the local SEO services we offer.