TL;DR This article outlines the key areas which you should focus on when it comes to launching a local SEO campaign for your new or already established business. The article covers topics including, but not limited to –
- Google My Business Account Setup
- Local Citation Acquisition
- Local Link Acquisition
- Review Acquisition
- On Page Optimization
- Schema Markup Implementation
- Press Releases
Gone are the days where ‘Brick & Mortar’ businesses can rely on word of mouth and local advertising in order to attract customers (although this still helps of course). With the rise of the internet and especially smartphones, consumers are finding local businesses in different ways, and if your business doesn’t adapt, you may be losing out on a large number of potential customers.
There have been numerous studies of the past few years into how many searches in Google are made with local intent (ie. people wanting to find a service, restaurant, shop etc. within their current location).
A study conducted by Google themselves, suggests that 56% of searches conducted by consumers on the go from their smartphones have local
This is why optimizing your business for local search within Google is more important now than ever. SEO experts
For more information on how Moz gathered this data, read the full article here.
As can be seen in the graph above, although there are multiple areas to consider when it comes to optimizing your business for local search, but it seems that having a well optimized and full Google My Business Account is arguably the most important factor when it comes to ranking locally, and as such, this is where we’ll start.
Google My Business
Google My Business is Google’s own directory of sorts where you can create a local business listing which to appear within Google’s search results. Before your My Business listing will show in the search results, your business needs to be verified by Google.
This can take up to 2 weeks, as Google needs to send a postcard containing a verification pin code to your given business address (thus verifying its existence and that you are the business owner).
Some businesses can be verified by either phone or email, but for the vast majority
as this will increase your chances of appearing in the ‘local pack results’. Alongside including accurate NAP (Business Name, Address & Phone Number) information and correctly categorizing the business (it’s important that this is as accurate as possible!), you should also include a detailed description of the business, opening hours, business offerings, price range, payment method etc.
If you have a website (which you should!), the website address should also be included. Also be sure to include plenty of photos of the business and your company logo within the profile. If
Local citations are mentions of your business name and address on other websites. The most common types of local citations are directory pages. Most businesses will want to be included within high authority directories such as Yellow Pages, True Local
One thing you need to keep note of though is the consistency of the citations. It is important that the NAP information included on all websites is exactly the same. If it needs to be updated,
If the information found in these citations is inconsistent (even down to small typos), Google may provide incorrect information within the search results, or even worse not return any result for the business at all!
Obviously with local listings, often comes links to your site, and links are just as important for ranking locally as they are as a ranking factor in general, but you shouldn’t rely only on links from directory listings alone, as quality directory links can often be ‘nofollowed’, meaning that they don’t provide link value (don’t let this stop you from creating listings though!)
Editorial links are important when it comes to building link authority to your site. These types of links can be earned by reaching out to local bloggers or influencers working within your niche, and developing a working relationship, hopefully leading to your business being featured on their website in some way or another. Using the Gluten Free Restaurant example from earlier, a link to your restaurant’s website in a post on
Not all links have to be editorial
There are many different ways to build local links to your website, but it can be a long and arduous task, so you should start compiling a list of potential directories to list your business details, alongside local influencers and relevant websites where you may be able to have your business mentioned and linked to as soon as possible.
It’s also worth noting that when it comes to ranking locally, links pointing to your site which contain the location name within the anchor text (e.g. the name of the city your business is located in), may help improve your chances of ranking within the ‘local 3 pack’ results and also for ‘Near Me’ searches, which with the rise of mobile search,
have been increasing rapidly over the past few years. Local SEO Guide actually released a comprehensive study on these types of searches earlier this year, which reinforces the idea that Google is using link data to determine where business as placed within the ‘local 3 pack’ results for ‘near me’ searches.
Reviews are massively important when it comes to local search and Google has said that having “High-quality, positive reviews from your customers will improve your business’s visibility”. Google uses metrics such as the review rating given, number of reviews, and diversity of the reviews to help determine where it will place your business within the search results. So obviously, having a high number of 4 or
Obviously, as it’s Google we’re talking about, Google reviews themselves are the most important when it comes to how your business is ranked (and you can even sort the local results by the Google review score), however as mentioned, review diversity is important, and Google will also
Reviews definitely shouldn’t just be considered as a ranking factor for local search
The results show that 91% of consumers read online reviews, 74% of consumers will trust a local business more if it has positive reviews, 84% of consumers trust online reviews as much as they do personal recommendations, and 58% of consumers believe that the star rating of a business is the most important factor when it comes to making their decision. These statistics alone are enough to show how important online reviews are to
The question now is; “how do I get these reviews?” Firstly, as tempting as it may be, don’t create ‘fake reviews’. Google has explicitly warned against this, and
As mentioned above, don’t just focus on getting reviews for Google, encourage customers to review your business on different platforms, whether it’s Facebook or Tripadvisor etc. (note that some websites such as Yelp have a policy against directly asking for reviews, so be sure to read the website’s terms and conditions before reaching out to customers). The results of the survey show that 7 out of 10 consumers will leave a review for a business if they’re asked to.
Inevitably, chances are you
Displaying your willingness to accept fault, and deal with the complaint appropriately will show other potential customers reading these reviews that you are a professional and courteous business owner, hopefully making them less likely to be dissuaded from visiting your business based off of a few negative reviews.
On Site Elements & Schema Markup
As with SEO in general, optimizing
Although not the perfect snippet as the Meta description is being cut off, the title includes the business type (dentist), location (Fitzroy, Melbourne) and brand name (St Vincent’s Dental Care). This result also ranks second within the ‘local 3 pack’ results for this query.
Using keyword research (you can read our previous article on generating long tail keywords here), you can find out exactly which keywords to include within the title of your businesses homepage (assuming this is also the target landing page), and optimize them accordingly (note that, although page titles are considered the most important element when it comes to keyword placement, be sure to use target keywords throughout the on page copy where applicable too, this can be a small as just including the name of the location where your business is located).
However, be aware that there are character limits for Meta titles, and if you exceed this limit your title may be cut off within the search results. The ideal length for a Meta title is anywhere between 50 – 60 characters as Google will be able to show all of the
Like Meta titles, Meta descriptions also have a character limit, which in this case is up to 160 characters (or 180 depending on pixel width). Unlike Meta titles
As with Meta titles, be sure to check how your Meta description looks within the search results, to ensure that the entire description can be seen. Fully optimizing Meta titles and descriptions (whilst staying within the character limit) can make the difference between a potential customer clicking through to your website, or choosing a more enticing option from the search results.
Including the appropriate Schema Markup within your business pages can also help when it comes to local search visibility. Schema markup is code which can be added to web pages to help search engines better understand the content and therefore return more informative results to users.
At the very least, it’s advisable to add NAP (name, address, phone number) schema to all contact information throughout the site (this acts as almost a ‘virtual business card’), as well as adding organisation schema around the business logo (this will show Google the preferred image to return for the business within the knowledge graph).
There are endless types of Schema that you can add to your local business
This code would be added to the Contact page (or wherever the address can be found on your website). You can use Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool to ensure that the code which you have created is fully functioning before adding it to your site.
One last thing to note with regards to local
It may make sense that your business only needs to rank for local searches, so this is where you put your focus your energy, but your business website still needs to be fully accessible and up to Google’s standard in order to perform well. Not to mention, there’s no point going to all that effort of getting your business found, just for a customer to leave your website straight away due to a poor user experience (and Google also takes user engagement metrics into consideration when deciding where to rank businesses locally!)
Launching a local SEO campaign is a mammoth task for any new or established business, and results cannot be expected overnight. However, if you use the above information as a starting point, you should increase the visibility of your business within the local search results, thus hopefully leading to more customers, more sales and more success!