- Do you get some or all of your customers locally?
- Do you own a business or service that has a physical location?
- Do you want be on page one on the search engine results for your business in your area?
- Does the term “local SEO” sound like alien language?
If you answer yes to one or more of those questions then read on ….. you will learn a few tips that may just help you get noticed locally online.
What is Local SEO?
Local SEO (search engine optimisation) is about providing results that are relevant to a searcher based on their current location. (There are factors such as your Google settings and IP location that can influence this but I’m not here to get too technical). The massive growth in the use of mobile devices has made local SEO more relevant than ever. If a user is on a mobile device, the results returned will be based on their location at the time of search. So if I’m in Petersfield and fancy picking up a takeaway curry on my way home, a quick search on my mobile phone for “Indian takeaway” will throw up all the local offerings near me despite not having included the term Petersfield in the search.
Does my business need local SEO?
If your business or service talks about a physical location, Local SEO techniques are absolutely necessary to help you rank in the search engines. Local SEO helps the search engines find the businesses – including yours – that can best satisfy the searcher’s needs at that time.
Your business can show up in the organic results and the map pack -the 7 results listed below the adverts and highlighted on the Google map (and possibly in future the Local Carousel though that hasn’t been rolled out in full in the UK yet).
It may be your own business website that shows up first (the best result of all) or it may be they find out about your business from another website or listing such as yell or from the search engines own local listing such as Bing Maps, Yahoo! Local or Google+. So it’s important to cover all the bases and make sure you do everything in your power to get people to your website.
I’ve already done SEO for my site – how is Local SEO different from normal SEO practices?
While all of the elements that apply to normal SEO also impact local SEO (getting a good website platform, on-page factors, links, social, content, etc.), there are four elements for local SEO that you really need to master.
- The first and probably most important is that for local SEO you need to create and claim a local profile on Google (and other search engine platforms as desired.) Your local listing is what will show (usually) for localised search results. You’ll need to create a Google account, if you haven’t already, and claim your Google + page for your business. Fill it in as much as possible with images and content and you’ll need to verify you are the owner, usually through a postcard or phone call to make sure you exist at the location you say you do. Visit http://www.google.com/business/ for more information.
- The second most important thing is to get your citations in order. A citation is any mention online of your business name and address and phone number (NAP) all on the same page, in the same format as your local listing on Google. It’s really important to make sure that your local citations match your local listing as closely as possible so the search engines can cross reference and make sure everything lines up. For example don’t abbreviate in one and not the other (St. vs Street). For more information on citations and a template to log all your listings, read my blog on getting your local business listed
- Get reviews. The more the merrier and it goes without saying that you are looking for quality reviews (but you need to be prepared to accept all reviews, good or bad). The most important thing (based on current best practices) is to encourage reviews on your Google + business page. It may be you use other review sites or put reviews directly on your website but these won’t have as much influence on your page ranking as views left directly on your Google business page. See my article on how to get good online reviews.
- Good on-site optimisation is also important. If you want Google to know that you are a local business with a local address, make these details available on every page of your site – putting them in your footer is an easy way to achieve this. Always make sure that these details are identical to the ones you provide in your Google + Business profile. If you are targeting specific locations then create pages for this and optimise the page well (mention the location in the url, headers, images and content where possible).
The search engines are continually striving to return search results that are one step ahead of the searcher by giving them the information that they want and filtering out the irrelevant results. Local SEO is very much part of this where the search engines are trying to return results for the local business that most closely matches your search needs.
If you follow any online marketing news, you’ll be aware that there are continuous algorithm updates (the mechanics behind what shows up first in the search result) including the latest Pigeon update for local searches, that keep the online marketing experts on their toes. And what works one month and gets your business to the top of the search pile, might not work the next especially if you employ short cuts or techniques that search engines don’t like.
So I can’t promise in a year’s time that having a plethora of reviews on Google will guarantee you on top spot on page one however by following the local SEO techniques with a Google listing, citations, reviews and local on-site mentions, you’ll be doing much more to help your business get found and if that’s more than your local competition is up to, it may be enough to push you to the top spot.