Local SEO

Why use local SEO?

Unless you have been living under a rock, you have seen listings for local business appearing at the top of some search results in Google. Local listings—previously known as Google Place page listings, now known as Google+ pages—are a powerful marketing tool for small businesses.

Let’s look at some statistics from the horse’s mouth. The below facts were discovered by Google in 2014 after conducting a study on the behavior of local customers.
– 4 in 5 consumers use search engines to find local information.*
– 50% of consumers who conducted a local search on their smartphone visited a store within a day.*
– 18% of local searches on a smartphone lead to a purchase within a day.*

* Understanding Consumer’s Local Search Behavior – May, 2014
https://think.storage.googleapis.com/docs/how-advertisers-can-extend-their-relevance-with-search_research-studies.pdf

Holy mackerel, if you are a local business owner and those figures aren’t making your jaw drop, I don’t know what will. Now that we know if you own a local business local search can be the Yoko Ono to your John Lennon, let’s delve a little deeper and find out what makes up a local search result.

Local search results differ from traditional organic search results by representing a local business instead of a normal web page, and appearing at the top of the search results and on map listings.

Users can get business contact details, opening hours and reviews and find the information they need quickly and easily, instead of having to dig around a clunky business site.

The local listings can be a powerful tool to attract traffic. In many cases, local listings can lead to many more inquiries than regular SEO rankings. But does this mean you should scrap traditional SEO in favor of local SEO? Nope. You can do both and potentially double the amount of potential traffic you can receive.

How to rank high with local SEO

Ranking high with local SEO takes a different approach than traditional SEO. Google’s algorithm is looking for a different set of signals to determine the popularity of a business to decide how high to rank it in the search results.

If you think about it, if a restaurant is really popular in a city, a whole bunch of links from all over the world probably isn’t the best factor to determine how valuable the business is to the local area.

A better indicator of the importance would be mentions of the business’s name and phone number, customer reviews and the proximity of the business to the area being searched.

Below is a list of the most important ranking factors Google use for local listings:

1.     Physical address in city of search.
2.     Consistency of structured citations.
3.     Proper Google My Business category associations.
4.     Proximity of address to the point of search.
5.     Quality/Authority of structured citations.
6.     Domain authority of website.
7.     Product/service keyword in Google My Business title.
8.     City, State in Google My Business landing page title.
9.     HTML name, address and phone number matching Google My Business listing name, address and phone number.
10.  Click-through-rate from search results.

These are the strongest factors fetched from Moz’s annual Local Search Ranking Factors survey. If you want to rank high in the local search results, all you have to do is ensure your site and Google My Business page have more of these features than your competitors.

For a complete breakdown of local SEO ranking factors, visit the below link, where the world’s leading authorities on local SEO publish an industry survey on the local ranking factors every year.

Moz’s Local Search Ranking Factors
https://moz.com/local-search-ranking-factors

Getting started with local SEO

To get started, the first step is to create your business page on Google My Business. Visit the URL below, and complete every area of your profile as possible. This means creating a detailed description of your business, available payment methods, and so on. The more information you complete, the more you increase your chances of ranking your page higher.

Google My Business
https://www.google.com/business

When creating your business listing, make sure you choose the most accurate category for your business, e.g. if you provide plumbing as a service, you want to choose “plumbing” as your category, not “trades” or  “home repairs”.

Building citations

Citations are the links of local SEO. A citation occurs each time your name, address, phone number (NAP) is mentioned on the web. The more citations you have, the more likely your site will rank high. The easiest places to build citations are the many local business directories available for businesses.

Visit the below list from the localseoguide.com for a more comprehensive list of local business directories:

55 largest local business directories in the US
http://www.localseoguide.com/best-local-business-directories-seo/

Building reviews

Citations and reviews are the link building of local SEO. If you are only building citations, you only have half of the equation covered. To rank highly, you need to ensure your business accumulates online reviews.

Many businesses struggle with this. This is because it’s tough to get customers to fill out reviews! You have to make it easy for your customers.

Include links to your business Google My Business page on your site, email signatures, flyers, and business cards, prompting customers to leave a review.  Encourage customers at the end of each sale or transaction to leave a review. By creating every opportunity possible for customers to leave a review, you can significantly increase reviews.

But whatever you do, don’t buy reviews. This is a quick way to get into Google’s naughty books. Purchased reviews can be picked up by Google’s filters and are likely to be excluded from your business profile anyways.

Local SEO ranking checklist & essential resources.

While looking at your local competitors and working to beat them is probably the best overall strategy, progressing through the following checklist will put you on your way to ranking high at the top of the local search results.

  1. Verify your business profile on Google My Business.
  2. Fill out as much information as possible on your Google My Business profile, including description, category associations, images and videos.
  3. Include your business name and location somewhere on your website in a H1 or H2 tag, this could be your contact page or home page.
  4. Include your full business name, address and phone number somewhere on your site.
  5. Include the appropriate schema.org tags in your website markup, following their specification for local businesses at the following URL. Schema.org Local Business Specifications.
    https://schema.org/LocalBusiness
  6. Encourage customers to review your business.
  7. Submit your website to the major business directories like Yelp, Yellow Pages, CitySearch and so on. You can use tools like Moz Local to submit your business to all of the major directories in one go.
    Moz Local.
    https://moz.com/local
  8. Cross-check your business listings for correct NAP data. These details need to be consistent across your Google My Business listing, website contact page, and external business listings.

Just like traditional SEO, local SEO constantly changes and becomes more complex over time. To keep your skills sharp you need to stay up to date with the latest knowledge in the industry. The resources below should be considered essential reading for anyone looking to hone their local SEO skill set.

Local SEO Guide
http://www.localseoguide.com/

Andrew Shotland’s Local SEO Guide is an enduring commentary of local SEO techniques and updates in the industry. His useful blog has been around for as long as local SEO has been a thing and is popular among the SEO community for good reason—the author’s regular contributions and willingness to give away valuable and actionable advice.

Understanding Google My Business & Local Search
http://blumenthals.com/blog/

Mike Blumenthal is another stalwart blogger providing a running commentary on local SEO. This is a great resource for keeping abreast of the very latest changes in the local search space as they are rolled out.

Moz Local Learning Center
https://moz.com/learn/local

The pre-eminent pundits at Moz have compiled a very useful and detailed guide for managing all aspects of local marketing. Their guide is both extensive and easy to read, making it a great resource for both beginners and advanced practitioners.

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