Local SEO is becoming one of the essential components to every business and brand that wants long-term success across search engines.
This comes from our latest Search Engine Optimisation Best Practice Guide, an in-depth report that’s invaluable for anybody working in digital marketing, looking to appoint an SEO agency, or simply trying to secure better search engine rankings.
Recently I covered some of the basic skills that all SEO beginners need to know however I didn’t include information on ‘local SEO’.
Here I’ll be rectifying that with a brief guide to what local SEO means and how you can use it to drive online searchers to your offline business.
What is local SEO?
Local SEO has grown significantly over the last few years, particularly given the rise of smartphone usage and better connectivity while out and about. Although it has a lot of similarities with organic SEO, it’s ultimately very different.
Local SEO is focused on providing results that are relevant to a searcher based on their current location. If I search for ‘best restaurant’ on my desktop right now, Google would provide me with results that are nearest to me.
Similar results are delivered if I search on my smartphone.
In 2011, it was revealed that over 40% of mobile queries have local intent. According to Fresh Egg in 2013, four out of five people use smartphones to look up local information. Two in three people take direct action as a result and one in three people went on to make a purchase.
Google has also recently indicated that one in three US mobile queries is now ‘local’ and 87% of people use their phone when on the go. Google also found that 95% of mobile users look up local information on their phones and the primary functions are calling or visiting a business.
In order for Google and other search engines to serve users with the most relevant information using the vast amount of data they have on us, local based results will become more and more prevalent.
What can you do to optimise for local search?
Here are a few tips to make your website more local friendly.
Google Places for Business
This is the very first thing you should do.
Claim your Google Places for Business page and make sure your contact information, opening hours, address and contact details are complete. In fact make sure the entire profile is fully complete.
Providing category information about your site gives Google a better understanding of the topic of your business and creates a signal that you are related to any localised searches about what your business does.
This will be the easiest way for your business to show up in search and maps.
You will then need to link your Google Places page to a Google+ Local page. This page is more focused on social interaction. It can feature reviews, information about the restaurant, images and posts, plus users will be able to access images, videos and comments.
Google Local results dominate so much that you have to scroll a long way down to find any others. If customers search directly through maps, the Local listings are even more dominant.
When creating a Google+ Local page ensure you do the following:
1. Optimise the information copy about the business by referencing keywords
The page’s title should include the brand name, the keyword being targeted and the location. This should be possible to achieve without making either page or meta description come across as unnatural, as the objective remains to optimise for both users and search engines.
2. Reference your keywords in the title
Don’t forget to include ‘restaurant’ if that is indeed your business.
3. Make sure that you associate your listing with the right category
‘Chinese restaurants’ could be the most relevant category, rather than just ‘restaurants’.
4. Schema markup
Add rich media to provide a more enticing proposition to potential customers.
Here’s a detailed guide on how to use Schema markup.
5. Add your address in a consistent format with wherever else you’ve mentioned it
NAP (name, address, phone number) citations are a key ranking factor in local SEO. NAP citations from relevant and authoritative websites provide more value, just like with links.
Clearly stating NAP information will work as a significant signal that you are a business related to a location, which will improve your visibility.
6. Encourage customers to leave reviews
Reviews are arguably the biggest local SEO ranking factor and are often compared to links in organic SEO.
Listings with reviews also stand out, so encouraging your customers to leave their opinions will increase your chances of success – if those opinions are positive, of course. SEO can’t help you if your food sucks.
7. Create a listing for each of your physical locations
This will ensure that people have the correct details for the nearest branch when searching locally and will give businesses more opportunities to increase rankings.
You can also optimise the pages on your website to appear more visible in local search…
On-page local SEO
When you’re optimising local pages on your website, it’s important to include the address (in a consistent format) on the page and also the location within the content as well as the page’s title tag.
The page’s title tag should feature the brand name, the keyword being targeted and the location. You should also think about this with the meta description of the page.
If you only have one address, you could also include it within your footer as an additional reference.
Embedding a map on your ‘contact us’ page or local place pages can help local SEO rankings too, as it further illustrates where the business is located.
Further reading for beginners
During my first year at Econsultancy I’ve been making a point of writing beginner’s guides to any new terms or phrases I find particularly baffling, or that I might suspect other people may find baffling too.