Valuable Direction On Local SEO
Written by Scott McKay, Internet Marketing Specialist on February 5, 2015
If you have a physical place of business and want more customers walking into it, a local SEO strategy is the way to do so. But how do we as SEOs help our brick and mortar clients push through the pack and get ahead?
Our #1 priority is for Google to see that our client is relevant, important, and can solve the needs of a local search for related products or services. I have noticed that rather than a silver bullet, there is more of a toolbox of methods and resources which can be wielded to bring sweet victory for clients in the local sphere.
Using these six methods for improving a local business’s online presence, you can boost the signals that the search engines are looking for and, in turn, improve rankings for your clients.
1. NAP Consistency
The first thing to know and address about Local SEO is NAP, which stands for a business’ Name, Address, and Phone number. Having a consistent NAP will make it easier for both people and search engines to find you.
- Be sure to have your NAP as crawlable html on your site (not in image). Images are not crawled as easily by search engines as html text.
- This information is often placed in the header or footer of the website for a single-location business.
- Do not use a PO Box address as your business address. This might seem silly, but it used to be a tactic that SEOs would use due to Google heavily valuing how close your address is to the center of any given city (the Centroid). This has been replaced by Google making the searcher the centroid based on their physical location at the time of the search query.
2. Local Content
Locally relevant blogging is a great way to become an authority on your industry as well as a become a trusted source of local information. Google can and will take notice of this content as you regularly publish it.
- Promote and discuss locally relevant topics and events on your blog.
- Use social channels to further promote the content and spur discussion in your target community.
3. AdWords (Locally Targeted Campaigns)
Do not dismiss paid advertising for local businesses. There are many tools and functions within AdWords that can be used in capturing local-intent searches and sending them to relevant pages (including location-based bids/extensions/targeting/etc.). Now, this will not have an effect on your local rankings, but AdWords can certainly provide valuable coverage and traffic to local search performance. Ads can lead to a golden trifecta of additional opportunities in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). Organic + Maps + Ads = full SERP coverage. The more real estate you can acquire on the search engine results page, the better your odds of being noticed and visited become.
4. Website Optimizations (on-site and backend)
The website itself can provide a number of opportunities for local optimization. Presenting the right information to customers and search engines on a client’s website is essential to success.
Have location pages? Place NAP info in the footer or header of the website. Should you have more than one storefront, have location pages for each of your locations. Be sure to have an About Us or Contact page with NAP info and any other business details that would help a potential customer find or contact you (Business hours, transit options, parking, email address, etc.).
Add Schema markup to that business information! Schema markup helps the search engines find and decipher your NAP info correctly through the use of rich snippet markup (Google, Bing, and Yahoo all recognize schema.org markup). Use Google’s structured data testing tool in Webmaster Tools to test your markup to ensure it is correctly implemented on the website. Check on the rich snippets on the website from time to time in order to ensure you catch if any overwritten markup needs fixing.
Some other local SEO practices include adding location modifiers (keywords) into title tags, headers, page content, and alt text in any images. This will further signal to the search engine bots that you are relevant to a local search.
5. Google+ Local Profile Practices
Google My Business is the new-ish interface for managing your business’s Google+ page. This page/profile is your ticket to the Google Maps listing party. You will not get invited until you have a page, but it takes more than creation for it to appear in the search results. A combination of best practices for the setup, as well as many of the other tactics in this list, will help you move through the lineup.
- Create and verify a Google+ Local (Google My Business) page for each of your locations. Verifying your Google+ My Business listing entails a post card verification or sometimes a phone call verification to prove that you are actually representing the business.
- Remove any duplicate listings using Google Mapmaker. This will avoid diluting reviews and links across several Google+ Local pages.
- Generating customer reviews in Google+ will get your maps listing to have the stars. Reviews and stars help boost the Click Through Rate for your listing. Create a system to ask customers for G+ reviews, and you will soon get those yellow stars alongside your SERP result!
- Add 4-5 categories (broad to narrow in field to ensure good coverage of topics).
- Add a G+ badge onto your website. Where you place it depends on if you have multiple locations or if it is just one.
6. Local Citations
An “old faithful” in Local SEO, local citations have gone through varying degrees of potency but still remain heavily in the mix. Local citations can be defined as external mentions of a company’s NAP information on the web. The basic goal is to create and align as many citations as possible to have consistent NAP everywhere.
As this is accomplished, the search engines read into the consistency and breadth of a business’s citations to determine how much they trust that data. Once the search engines decide how important/relevant the business is, it will list it accordingly among the search results.
This is also not a “set it and forget it” type of operation. Citations are notorious for being uncooperative; you will undoubtedly find duplicate listings that pop up of their own accord that need to be wrangled in.
Updating profiles with fresh content (pictures, descriptions, etc.) and updated business details will give welcome boosts of activity to any listing. Reviews help businesses be more in tune with their clientele as well as snag those spiffy stars to go alongside their local results.
Types of citations:
- Directories (Yellowpages, Superpages, etc.). These are basically databases of the NAP info for businesses of all types.
- Social Local pages (Google+, Facebook, Yelp, Foursquare, etc.). The reviews gathered in these citations also come into effect in the ranking decision.
- Industry specific sites (Angie’s list, HealthGrades, TripAdvisor, Zagat, etc). It just plain makes sense to be listed in these. They often rank high organically for industry-specific searches, and so it can be a valuable asset that can increase your presence.
- Data Aggregators/Data Providers (Yext, Localeze, Infogroup, Axciom).
Be sure to fill out the citation profiles with useful information. Pay attention to the categories especially. Be as specific as possible, but if you fall into other (more broad) categories, be sure to include them as well. It is a good practice to fill out the listings with as much information as you can input. Multiple relevant categories get more reach in searches.
If you have a plethora of citations already for an established business and are not ranking, more often than not, it is due to issues with NAP consistency among citations. Consistent NAP is VERY important when it comes to citations. Inconsistent NAP in listings can be directly tied to not showing up in maps listings in the search results. A great resource for checking the status of a local company’s local citations is the Moz Local Search tool. You can see how they are listed, and where you can work to improve their presence, NAP consistency, and strive to remove the duplicates.
While every industry and location is different and will need planning and adjustments to determine which strategies to implement, the use of these practices will positively affect the local results for brick and mortar businesses in the toughest of industries and locations.
The local SEO environment is not immune to the constantly changing climate of search engine optimization or Internet marketing in general. These guides are not future-proof (no matter how hard we try), so keep your eyes open—and let us know if you notice a change in the weather.