Almost 90% of people search for local businesses on their mobile devices at least once every week. And more than half search daily. This signifies that local SEO is a crucial part of any online campaign. But what is local SEO?
Local SEO is almost identical to organic SEO in that the goal is to rank very high in the search engine results. However, in the case of local SEO, the primary focus is on ranking highly for a specific geographic location. So if you own a business in Choa Chu Kang, there’s no point in ranking high in the local search results for Jurong East.
The best way to improve your local SEO is to be in close proximity to the top local pack. Google’s “3-pack” is a term that refers to the top three search results for a local search. Below, we’ll discuss a few ways in which you can increase your chances of getting as close to the top three as possible.
Optimise your site
One of the first steps you need to take is website optimisation. The more well-optimised your site is, the easier it will be for you to climb to the top of Google’s search results. So check out your basic SEO.
Create a contact page
Make sure that your site has a contact page. Users want to know as much as possible about your business. So include the name of your brand. Include the address of your business for every location–preferably in the footer. Include your phone number and make it clickable as 76% searches usually result in a call. This way, customers can call you without switching apps. You should also display your email address. All of these pieces of information are referred to as your “NAP.”
Add a map
If you want to make it easy for people to find you, then it’s a good idea to include a map. When you consider that most people look up business locations on Google Maps, then a map is vital. The best maps are those that are interactive.
Testimonials are considered to be signals of trust. So it stands to reason that many businesses have dedicated entire pages for their reviews. Collect customer testimonials and display them in a prominent place on your site.
Schema.org was created in order to ensure that all of the major search engines, such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing, share the same language. In this way, search engines can more easily identify what your site is all about. When you add schema, it lets Google know that your business is local. And this gives your local rankings a boost.
Use Hall Analysis to create your markup. Simply enter your information, copy the code, and then paste it into the <head> section of the website builder or HTML document. Google’s structured-data tool can help you test it out.
Claim your profiles
Not only should customers be able to find your information on your website, but also other places around the web. And this means that your business should be listed on top review platforms such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google My Business, and Facebook. People should also be able to find you on local review sites. What makes this strategy so effective is that these types of review sites are often positioned immediately beneath Google’s 3-pack.
Google My Business
Start by creating a profile on Google My Business. The best part about this particular profile is that it gives you the ability to manage your presence on Google and improve your rankings. Also, Google Maps shows users a detailed profile of your company.
You can also find a few local review sites positioned among those that are more popular. The key is to know how to search for them. Simply search [your location] reviews or [industry] [your location].
Claim social profiles
It’s a good idea to create social media channels that are relevant to your target audience. Just keep in mind that your information should be identical for each social platform. Social media profiles ensure visibility and it helps to provide search engines with additional information about your company. And this gives your rankings an additional boost.
Craft local content
If you want to make sure that your site is fully optimised, then it’s important that it has a blog. And it’s even better if you can host the blog on your own domain. For instance, your URL should ideally read, “www.yourwebsite.com/blog” instead of “blog.yourwebsite.com.” This ensures quality link building, which is a huge ranking factor when it comes to local SEO.
Every user performs their searches differently, so your posts should include the names of your and nearby cities, towns, and neighbourhoods whenever possible. Discuss local news and capitalise on the popularity of upcoming elections, events, and fairs in the community. You could even sponsor a few local organisations, events, or teams, and then talk about them. Don’t just talk about your services and products, write posts that actually help people. Hold interviews with local experts. Make it your goal to become a trusted source.
Not only should you build an audience for your blogs, you should also focus on earning inbound links. The best way to do this is to simply join conversations that are taking place on other local business blogs. While you should avoid your direct competitors, look for blogs that complement yours. Leave thoughtful comments or link to their posts. By nurturing relationships you can become more established, attract links, and give your digital marketing a boost.
Know your target audience
It’s impossible to create valuable content if you don’t know who your audience is. Create a reader persona and do more research into your target demographics and their neighbourhoods. Tools like Nielsen allow you to look up a zip code and receive information about the median age, income, and spending.
Mistakes to avoid
When starting a blog, you should always avoid taking content from other sites — even from manufacturers — unless you’re quoting them within your original content. Avoid the multi-website approach. It’s much better to create a single, strong site for your business rather than splitting it into several sites.
Prior to the internet, a shady company could easily fool countless amounts of customers. However, current technology now gives consumers more power. Customers can easily find out if your services and products are as great as you claim. People now turn to reviews to find out who they’re doing business with. And ratings that are less than four stars can usually turn a customer completely off. A lack of ratings can achieve the same effect.
Reviews are usually featured in the local search results. So you need to make sure that you’re always asking for them. Sure, you may receive negative reviews on occasion, but every business does. The key is to respond professionally and always render great products or services to encourage the best reviews possible.
Things to avoid
Make sure that you read all of the terms of service and guidelines before asking for reviews on a certain platform. For example, Google doesn’t allow businesses to offer incentives in exchange for user reviews. Yelp doesn’t allow businesses to request users reviews in any way.
Also, avoid being pushy. Allow the reviews to evolve organically. A sudden rush of positive reviews often looks suspicious and can result in filtering.
So what are citations? Citations are mentions of your NAP or website even if there are no links to your site. Citations are great for your local SEO efforts as this signal makes up around 13% of the pack ranking factors. So build them for real physical locations as virtual offices and P.O. boxes are not sufficient. And make sure that all of the information is accurate.
Local search engines
Google, Bing, and other search engines crawl the internet for citations so that they can validate or even update information in their indexes. By listing your company on sites like Foursquare and Yelp, you can help them. So make sure that your company is listed in as many relevant, local directories as possible.
Local blogs are well-indexed and are usually associated with a certain city or region. The more links you earn from these blogs, the more trust you will earn from search engines. Local blogs are different from one location to the next, however, you can find those that are most relevant to your business by searching [target area] [niche] blog.
Just as is the case with local blogs, local directories are usually associated with a specific geographic location and are well-indexed. It’s preferred that you sign up for directories that are edited by humans. These are less vulnerable to spam and therefore are more trusted. Start by adding your business to Yahoo’s Regional Directory and Best of the Web’s Regional Directory. Search [city] director or [state] directory
Industry blogs or directories
Citations can also come from industry blogs or directories. These sites focus on the keywords and topics that are related to your services and products. The focus may not always be local but they still count as a citation. Trade organisations are a great example. To find these directories search: [industry] directory or [ keyword] directory.
Create a Google My Business Page
Google My Business is one of the simplest yet effective ways of improving your local SEO. Luckily, for the process of claiming your Google My Business page is free, easy, and straightforward.
Google My Business Categories
After creating a Google My Business Page account, you need to choose the categories that resonate with your brand. However, local SEO experts recommend that you use as few categories as possible, while focusing on their relevance and accuracy.
For example, it will be unwise choosing the “Take out restaurant” category if you run a sit and dine restaurant. The bottom line is that categories should describe what your business is, and not what it sells or does.
Add Photos to your Google My Business Page
Most businesses make the mistake of using stock photos on their Google My Business Page. However, using actual photos of your location, staff, products, and customers will improve your local SEO. The photos will help in building credibility of your business and will serve as a local ranking signal.
Use Bing Places for Business
While Google is the most popular search engine, the second most popular search engine, Bing, commands a 33% market share. The search engines use different algorithms, and it is necessary that you rank high on both search engines. For this reason, you need to claim your Bing Places for your business.
Online Citations and Directories
Other than Google and Bing places, several other online directories can help you increase your website’s visibility. They include Apple Maps, Foursquare, Yellowpages, and Yahoo Localworks. With that said, citations do not have a sizable bearing on local SEO as they once had, but they could give you an edge over your competition who do not use them.
Review Sites Listings
The modern customer takes reviews and they base their purchasing decisions on the reviews made by other customers. This means that you need to ensure you are listed on several review sites. Some of the most popular review sites include Yelp, Angie’s List, Glassdoor, BBB, TripAdvisor, among others. However, the reviews from Google carry the most weight.
After listing on review sites, you need to make sure that you have more positive reviews than the negative. It is common knowledge that high-quality and positive reviews will improve your business’s visibility. With that said, Google will penalise your website if you are found asking for reviews or setting up review stations. Other review sites also carry the same review policies.
Ensure the Reviews Contain Your Location and Keywords
While you cannot dictate how customers will write reviews, it is necessary that you encourage them to use the appropriate language. The reviewers should use your target keywords and location. This sends a signal to Google and other search engines that you are a trusted and credible local business.
Respond To the Reviews
You will improve your local SEO by responding to user reviews. It does not matter whether it is a positive or negative review; you should respond to every review. However, most businesses fail to respond to negative reviews.
While the number of reviews matter, the percentage of negative reviews without responses will hurt your local SEO. This increases trust from your potential and existing customers, as well as Google.
Create a Facebook Page
For most people, Facebook acts is a social search engine, and this makes it necessary that you create a business page and update it regularly with valuable and relevant content. On top of this, link it to your website and indicate the hours that the business is open in the description.
This is a social signal, and while it may lack an explosive impact, it will improve your visibility on Facebook, and Google will display the page on the search results.
While social SEO does not have an explosive impact, it is necessary that you claim the social listings on other social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. This is an important aspect even if you do not have plans of being active on them.
With that said, you need to add a section that shows how long it will take you to respond to customer messages.
Ensure that your business name, address, and phone number (NAP) are consistent on all listings platforms. Search engines also expect you to provide accurate information about your business. Having consistency also ensures that customers can connect with your business on the online platform.
Search engines are rolling out mobile-first indexing which means that they first look at the responsiveness of your website to ensure it is accessible via mobile. You can use this Google mobile-friendly test on your website to improve your SEO.
Structured Data Markup
You can use structured data markup for local SEO in various ways including hours, multiple departments, address, menu, phone number, and website. Google has an informative guide on how to add markups, or you can use a tool such as Schema. With that said, the jury is still out if you should include GPS coordinates in structured data.
CTR from Search Results
You should ensure that your website has the proper Meta titles and descriptions to help users navigate your site when they arrive on your website.
Ensure that you are consistently creating and publishing content that you can organically add your target keywords and location. This means that you should write about events in your location, participate in fundraisers, and any other events that make sense to your brand.
Keyword Optimisation and On-Page Location
Ideally, you should optimise your target keywords with your location. For example, do not optimise for “tuition services” but optimise for “tuition services Singapore.” You should also use your main target keyword and location in your titles and Meta descriptions whenever possible.
High-Quality Inbound Links
Links from authority websites are good for SEO, and when paired with a solid link profile, it will improve your local SEO. On top of this, you need diversity in your inbound links, but they should be relevant to your business and gained organically.
To improve your local SEO, you need inbound links from local relevant sites such as community blogs, and local news sites. However, you need to get an inbound link from an authoritative site that uses your location and main target keyword.
Increase the Domain Authority of Your Website
This is not an easy process, but it improves your local SEO. According to the Moz Local Search Ranking Factor, a website’s domain authority ranks sixth in the top 50 Local Pack Finder Factors.
Local SEO is very competitive for many businesses, and it calls for brands to have a holistic SEO strategy. The list above will help you increase your chances of Google’s Local Pack, and this makes it easier for customers to find your business.
If you own a local business, then it’s crucial that you or your SEO agency, focus on local SEO. Given the number of people that search for local businesses every day, you could be missing out on significant opportunities. This guide will give you a running start and put you on the path to ranking in Google’s 3-pack or as close as possible.