Your website provides the opportunity to target the entire (online) world. Local SEO, on the contrary, is focused on ranking higher in your local area. Especially now, in the COVID-19 crisis, when people are trying to reach you more often online than offline, it’s worth investing in it. You’ll have to make sure your local audience will find you on Google!
What is local SEO?
If you have a local service business, like an orthodontic practice, law firm, roofing contractor, or a shop with people visiting your location frequently, optimizing your website is also about making sure people are able to find you in real life. Even now, when you’re not actively getting visitors in your building, you’re still targeting an audience that is located in the same geographical area as you are. So you need to optimize for that area! This is what we call “local SEO.”
Ground-rule these days is that it’s by far the easiest to optimize if you have a proper address in a region/city. This allows you to create local landing pages to help people find your location. The thing is that if you want to optimize for, for instance, a service area that you are not located in physically, your main tool for optimization is content. You should simply write a lot about that area. We found that often, this leads to forced pages that have little to do with the business at hand. It’s clear that these pages are only added for SEO reasons.
Local SEO isn’t just about search engines
Yes, there is a lot you can do online to optimize your website for a local audience. But if you are running a local business, things like word-of-mouth and a print brochure also contribute to local SEO.
If you mention your website and social profiles on your offline communication/promotion as well, your Facebook likes might go up, your Twitter followers could increase, and the direct traffic on your website will get higher. One way or another, this will be visible to Google.
So, back to our main question: what is local SEO? Local SEO consists of a number of factors that help you address your local audience by better rankings in search engines. It’s not just optimizing your address or your social media strategy; it’s all these things combined that we call local SEO.
What are “ranking factors”? Well, ranking factors are elements that Google takes into account when determining the position of a URL in the search results. There are many ranking factors, most of them are characteristics of the URL and your website, but they can extend to your further online presence as well. An example of a ranking factor is page speed: a fast-loading page is likely to rank higher than a slow page when other characteristics are comparable.
Local ranking factors
In this post, we’ll focus on the factors that influence the ranking of your website’s pages in local searches. As you can read here, Google itself talks about local ranking factors in terms of:
- Relevance: are you the relevant result for the user? Does your website match what the user is looking for?
- Distance: how far away are you located? If you are relevant and near, chances are you’ll get a good ranking.
- Prominence: this is about how well your business is known. More on that at the end of this article.
So you have to show you’re relevant, you’re close by and you’re well-known. Let’s see how you can work on these factors with some concrete actions!
Being relevant means you offer the service or products the searcher is looking for. While this might seem pretty straightforward, sometimes people can get too cryptic on their website. So make sure that if you fully mention what you’re business or profession is, what kind of products and services you offer, and make sure to do this in the wording your audience uses. To find out if you do, conduct some keyword research and simply speak with your customers to find out which terms they use when looking for a service like yours.
Google My Business
For your local ranking in Google, you can’t do without a proper Google My Business listing. You need to enlist, add all your locations, verify these, and share some photos. Google My Business allows for customer reviews as well, and you should really aim to get some of those for your listing. Positive reviews (simply ask satisfied customers to leave a review) help the way Google and it’s visitors regard your business. This is pretty much like your local market. If people talk positively about your groceries, more people will be inclined to come to your grocery stand.
Getting reviews is one. You can keep the conversation going by responding to these reviews and, as Google puts it, be a friend, not a salesperson.
Local Business structured data
If you have a local business and serve mostly local customers, of course, you’ll add your address to your website. To help Google and other search engines understand that that is the main address you can best serve it in a certain format that is readable for machines. Use local business schema for that.
This is very much about what Google calls distance. If you are the closest result for the user, your business will surface sooner.
Make sure you have one main NAP!
Even if your business has multiple locations, make sure to match the main NAP (name, address, phone number) on your website with Google My Business NAP. That is the only way to make sure Google makes the right connection between the two. Add the main address on every page (you are a local business so your address is important enough to mention on every page). For all the other locations, set up a page and list all the addresses of your branches.
Facebook listing and reviews
What goes for Google My Business, goes for Facebook as well. Add your company as a page for a local business to Facebook here. People search a lot on Facebook as well, so you’d better make sure your listing on Facebook is in order. Facebook also allows for reviews, which could help your business too. Keep an eye on those reviews! If your reviews aren’t that great, make sure to fix that by providing better products or services, or at least show in your replies you take the feedback you get seriously.
City and state in “title tags”
The obvious one: for a local ranking, adding city and (in the US) state to your <title> helps. Please keep in mind that the effect of adding your city to your titles might be a lot less for your local ranking than adding your business details to Google My Business, but it won’t hurt for sure.
In addition to your Google My Business listing, Google uses the local Yelps and other local directories to determine just how important and local you are. Where we usually recommend against putting your link on a page with countless unrelated links, the common ground for a local listings page is, indeed, the location. And these links actually do help your local rankings.
So get your web team to work, find the most important local directory pages and get your details up there. I’m specifically writing details and not just links. Citations work in confirming the address to both Google and visitors. If a local, relevant website lists addresses, get yours up there as well. And while you are at it, get some positive reviews on sites like Yelp as well, obviously!
Links from related, local businesses
Following how directories help your local ranking, it also pays off to exchange a link with related local businesses. If you work together in the same supply chain or sell related products, feel free to exchange links. Don’t just exchange links with any business you know, like these, in most cases, will be low-quality links for your website (because they’re usually unrelated).
Social mentions from local tweeps
Again, there’s a local marketplace online as well. People talk about business, new developments, products on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and more. All these social mentions find their way to Google’s sensors as well. The search engine will pick up on positive or negative vibes and use these to help them rank your local business. If a lot of people talk about your business and/or link to your website, you must be relevant. Monitor these mentions and engage.
Some say links, from other websites, directories, and social media, are the key factor for local rankings. As always, we believe it’s the sum of all efforts that makes you stand out from the crowd. Not just optimizing one aspect. Take your time and make sure your Google My Business profile is right, schema.org details are on your site and you have the right links to your site and the right people talking about you on, for instance, Twitter. And please don’t forget to do proper keyword research and simply make sure the right content is on your website.
Optimize your content for better local rankings
Google won’t rank your site for a keyword if that keyword isn’t on your website. It’s as simple as that. If your business is in city X, you probably have a reason why you are located there. Write about that reason. And note that these may vary:
- You are born there or just love the locals and local habits
- There is a river which is needed for transport
- Your local network makes sure you can deliver just-in-time or provide extra services
- The city has a regional function and your business thrives by that
- There are 6 other businesses like yours, you’re obviously the best, and you all serve a certain percentage of people, so your business fits perfectly in that area.
These are just random reasons to help you write about your business in relation to your location. They differ (a lot) per company. Make sure your location/city/area is clearly mentioned on your website and not just in your footer at your address details!
One more thing: what about prominence?
Prominence means that when Google can serve a result first from a well-known brand or business, they actually will. And despite all your efforts to improve your local ranking, this might get in the way of that number one position. It just means you have to step up your game, keep on doing the great work you do, work on your branding, and trust that eventually, Google will notice this as well. And as a result, Google might allow you to rank on that number one position for that local keyword!
As we’ve seen, there are many things you can do as a small business to improve your site and rank better. You should start by focusing on your niche and emphasizing your uniqueness. Think about how you present your brand: logos and taglines are important to give your customers an idea of who you are as a business.
You can increase your visibility by creating great content on your site, optimized for the most appropriate keywords. Also, it always helps if you are active on social media. There are several factors related to local SEO that help small businesses. Make sure Google My Business has the right details, keep track of your ratings and reviews, and try to get links from related small businesses. Finally, try to optimize for ‘near me’ searches.