It doesn’t matter if you’re a solopreneur or a large business with over 200 employees, if you want to attract more businesses locally, this article is for you. Local SEO should be part of your marketing game plan!
This article will explain what local SEO is, what ranking factors matter most to Google, and provides 10 simple strategies you can implement for better local SEO results.
Let’s dive in…
What is Local SEO?
Local SEO is about optimizing your website and web presence to rank better for local audiences.
According to Yoast.com:
If you have a local business, like a shop, or have people visiting your office frequently, optimizing your website is also about making sure people are able to find you in real life. But even if you’re not actively getting visitors in your building, but are targeting an audience that is located in the same geographical area as you are, you need to optimize for that area. This is what we call “local SEO.”
It’s important to note that local SEO also has a place offline.
For example: if you mention your website and social media offline in communications/promotions this could have directly increase your local rankings if more people are connecting with you on social media and visiting your website.
Local SEO Statistics
Did you know…
- The Google 3-pack appears in the top spot in 93% of searches with local intent.
- 50% of customers who conducted a local search on their smartphone visited the tore within a day, and 34% who searched on computer/tablet did the same day.
- 87% of smartphone owners use a search engine at least once a day.
- 50% of local-mobile searchers are looking for business information like a local address.
- 76% of local searches result in a phone call.
The statistics above are pulled from the infographic below developed by GO-Globe.
Great, so now you know just what local SEO and how important it can be, now let’s look at local ranking factors.
Local Ranking Factors
What factors into local rankings?
Local SEO consists of a number of factors that help you address your local audience by better rankings in search engines.
Google itself states that local ranking factors include relevance, distance, and prominence.
A report presented by moz.com found the following local search ranking factors.
It looked at ranking factors for the Local Pack/ Finder Section (this includes listings like Google My Business) and the localized organic ranking factors. You can take a look at the top 50 ranking factors for each here. In this post, we’re just going to highlight the top eight in each category.
Local Pack/ Finder Ranking Factors
- My Business Signals (Proximity, categories, keyword in business title, etc.) 19%
- Link Signals (Inbound anchor text, linking domain authority, linking domain quantity, etc.) 17%
- On-Page Signals (Presence of NAP, keywords in titles, domain authority, etc.) 14%
- Citation Signals (IYP/aggregator NAP consistency, citation volume, etc.) 13%
- Review Signals (Review quantity, review velocity, review diversity, etc.) 13%
- Behavioral Signals (Click-through rate, mobile clicks to call, check-ins, etc.) 10%
- Personalization 10%
- Social Signals (Google engagement, Facebook engagement, Twitter engagement, etc.) 4%
Localized Organic Ranking Factors
- Link Signals (Inbound anchor text, linking domain authority, linking domain quantity, etc.) 29%
- On-Page Signals (Presence of NAP, keywords in titles, domain authority, etc.) 24%
- Behavioral Signals (Click-through rate, mobile clicks to call, check-ins, etc.) 11%
- Personalization 9%
- Citation Signals (IYP/aggregator NAP consistency, citation volume, etc.) 8%
- My Business Signals (Proximity, categories, keyword in business title, etc.) 7%
- Review Signals (Review quantity, review velocity, review diversity, etc.) 7%
- Social Signals (Google engagement, Facebook engagement, Twitter engagement, etc.) 4%
Now, it’s time for strategy!
Let’s look at some simple strategies you can use to improve your local SEO rankings.
10 Simple Strategies to Improve Local SEO
Optimize Your Current Website to include Best Traditional On Page SEO Practices and Make Sure Your Website is Mobile Friendly
This strategy is the most “technical”.
The first place to start is with a good SEO foundation on your website. Make sure you’re following best overall traditional SEO on page practices:
- Confirm your website is mobile friendly.
- Do keyword research
- Use geographical longtail keywords – Include location-specific words in your website content
- Include title tags – include City and State in title tags when it’s appropriate
- Use Meta Descriptions
- Don’t forget Header tags that include keywords
- Include your physical address – type out the state name, don’t abbreviate it (if you have one)
- Work on getting quality inbound links to your website from locally relevant domains
- Include a sitemap
- Have a clear navigation structure on your website
- Use anchor links – internal links and external links
- Fix any broken links
- Make sure your website loads at a relatively quick rate
- Use alt description tags with your images
Focus on a Local SEO Content Strategy
Google (and other search engines) won’t rank your site for a keyword that isn’t listed on your website. It’s that simple. So if you want to show up for local keywords make sure you’re creating new content that includes those local keywords.
Don’t junk it up! Creating quality content is key. To rank in local search results, you want to write content that relates to your local company. A blog is a great section to build out valuable content. Don’t forget to include your location in the title and throughout other tags.
Here are some local SEO content topics:
- Local event write-up
- Content-centered on your industry and geographic region you’re trying to rank
- Piggyback a local news story
Think about answering common questions that customers ask and forming content around those questions. This is great for voice search. People are using voice search, like Siri, Cortana, or Alexa to ask a question like “Siri, where is the closest gas station?” or “Siri, how do Ifill in the blank?” Your goal is to answer the fill in the blank for your customers. A great place to do this is the blog or Q& A section of your website.
If you’d like to learn more on voice specifically, Here’s a reference article on How Voice Search is Evolving SEO.
Add Your Address Details to Your Website (the right way)
Add your address to your website.
Especially when using JSON-LD, you are serving your address details to a search engine in the most convenient way.
Use the Same Citation NAP in all Listings
One of the most important conditions of local SEO is NAP.
NAP (not the kind we like to take after lunch) stands for Name, Address, and Phone Number.
Your NAP signals (to Google and others) that you are a real legitimate business!
Even if your business has multiple locations, make sure to match the main NAP (name, address, and phone number) on your website with the Google My Business NAP and all other directory listings.
Focus on Local Link Building
This is crucial especially if you’re launching a brand new website.
Google is a search engine that follows links.
For Google to know about your site, it has to find it by following a link from another site.
Do competitive research to see how your competition is gaining inbound links. Tools like Open Link Profiler (https://openlinkprofiler.org/ ) let you know who’s linking to your competition.
While we are on the topic of links – Let’s be very clear that black hat (Black Hat is an old school term for an aggressive SEO trick that usually does not follow Google guidelines, focuses mainly on “trying to trick search engines”, not connecting with human audiences, and usually comes back to harm you in the end) link building or paying someone on Fiverr or somewhere else who claims to have x number of hundreds or thousands of links that they are going to link to your website to increase your website ranking is a bad idea.
The worst idea!!! Don’t do it.
Try to focus on relevant local links in your link building strategy. You can cross-promote by building links with other local businesses in complementary areas.
Above Resource: Why Every Website (Not Just Local Sites) Should Invest in Local Links and Citations – Whiteboard Friday
Submit Your Website to Directories
Quality citations and links from online directories are likely to improve your search ranks and increase company/brand awareness.
There are a number of online directories out there – paid, free, niche, etc. that you can use as a start for list building.
Not all are created equal.
Not all are right for all businesses.
The best place to start is to outline your target audience, so you know where they are, and where they search.
Confirm that your NAP (listed above) is correct and the same across all site directories and that there are no duplicate or incorrect listings.
A Few Online Directories: (again – not suggesting that you use all of these)
- Advice Local
- Angie’s List
- Better Business Bureau
- Chamber of Commerce
- EZ Local
- Get Fave
- Home Advisor
- Magic Yellow
- Map Creator
Strut Your Stuff on Social Media
Facebook and Google My Business are fantastic places for people to rave about your company. As we’ve mentioned before.
If you have a physical business address and phone number and don’t have a Google My Business listing, stop everything you’re doing right now and claim your listing!
It is an essential tool to find out and adjust how your site shows in Maps, the Knowledge Graph, Google+ and organic search results.
It’s a breeze to set up. You create an account and claim your business.
After providing your details, Google will mail you a postcard to the specified address.
This card provides proof that you’re the owner of the business and do in fact have an office at the location you provided.
The postcard will give you information on how to verify your listing.
Click here for your SEO cheat sheet for Facebook, Google My Business, Yelp, & Pinterest. This blog post gives some great SEO insight into setting up your Facebook, Google My Business, Yelp, & Pinterest sites the right way for SEO.
Keep in mind again, where is your target market and where are they searching?
I spoke with a client who was sending his clients to leave reviews on Yelp instead of Google for his business, thus giving him a great Yelp rating and in turn he was getting more business from Yelp where he was competing for less than he was traditionally in the search engines, as his direct competitors weren’t spending time on a Yelp strategy.
I’ve had other clients who we’ve worked on their Google My Business Pages and seen major business traffic improvements.
Make sure you’re sharing your content via social media, but also engaging.
Using social media as a small business is all about promoting your brand, but nobody wants to hear, “me, me, me!”
Helpful Resource >> Check out 5 Key Roles Social Media Plays in SEO
Collect Reviews / Testimonials
Customer reviews have gone from being something extra to now being something that’s expected.
I know reviews were mentioned above on social media, be they are worth repeating again and taking offline to be used again online and in other forms of marketing. Come up with a way to collect reviews and plan to include them in your ongoing marketing efforts.
- Add a form to your website allowing for reviews.
- Create a comment box at your businesses.
- Encourage reviews by asking your customers when they check out or pay for services.
- Send customers a postcard in the mail, asking for a review after you provide services.
BTW – Did you have anonymous Google reviews that seemed to vanish? Get the details here on Google recent removal of anonymous reviews.
Publish Press Releases
While Google has determined that press releases are now “rank agnostic” in terms of actually increasing SERP rankings through their backlinks, there are still many advantages to a press release as part of an SEO strategy.
While most media outlets that publish releases usually include a nofollow link, but not all, so it can still prove to be a good form of link building.
Additional indirect SEO benefits include:
- Your information / news reaching more customers
- Increase in visibility and trust
- Position your company as an industry leader
Sending out a press release is a great way to generate buzz about your brand and increase traffic to your website and give you a good SEO boost.
Make sure that your message is on point and relative.
Press releases often offer that quick win for SEO when you use a wire service and put together a great release. How?
Even if your website doesn’t gain a top spot, your release will on the day it comes it along with news outlets that pick it up.
Think of it like playing the game of Monopoly; you want to spread out the information about your company to vast outlets.
When putting together a press release make sure you:
- Keep content relevant, readable, and newsworthy
- Do keyword research
- Use shareable headlines
- Use your keyword in the headline, first paragraph, and throughout the release (without stuffing)
- Add anchor text backlinks to your website
- Include a call-to-action
- Include multimedia
- Maximize distribution by using a reputable wire service like prweb.com (Cision)
Optimize for “Near Me” Search Queries
Search queries that contain a location qualifier such as “nearby” or “near me” have doubled in the past year, according to Google Trends data from March.
Eighty percent of those searches come from mobile devices. The guys over at Local SEO Guide did a study of “near me” local SEO ranking factors.
Understand that the “me” part of “near me” is a specific place, not just another keyword to target.
John Mueller addressed this and whether sites need to optimize for “near me” specifically, or how Google is determining this.
So as far as I know, we mostly look at this with regards to location, so doing things like adding “pizzeria near me” as a title of your pages on your website probably doesn’t make that much sense because we would try to figure out like what is actually near the user.
So in order for us to be able to figure that out properly, now there are two things you can do. One is obviously put your address on your website and to mark that up appropriately with structured data so that we understand where your location is. The other is to set up a Google My Business local listing so that we know where your business is located and can connect that to your website as well.
Here’s my takeaway for a winning local SEO game plan
This blog post was updated on 7/11/18