5 Simple Local SEO Steps for Better Local Search Results
I work with local and small businesses every day. And they all have the same problem, how to show up in search results when the searcher is local to their business. Now, you might be asking what is the difference between local SEO and SEO in general. The short answer is nothing. Any tactic one would perform to specifically help local SEO or SEO, in general, will help the other. When I talk about focusing on your local SEO in this article I want to give you some practical things you can to found by local searchers.
of local mobile searches lead to a sale within one day.
Before we dive into the tips you should know that every day more and more searches are done using mobile phones.
And with phones come geographic data. Google and other search engines use geographical data to make sure that you are seeing search results based on your location. Your location is so important to the search engines that bit of information can help them to recommend the right result for so many solutions. So, the question is how can you make sure that your business is being returned for the appropriate search results? Well, SEO is a three-legged stool: technology, authority, and relevance.
I know that can feel daunting, but we are going to break it down into more bite-sized pieces. When we think about local SEO we are thinking about SEO. So, we need to develop a strategy that is local in order to be displayed in local searches. Let’s walk through each of the three legs of SEO in light of Local SEO.
Generally speaking, this is Google’s world and we are just living in it. Most of the search engines seem to follow Google’s lead, if Google implements a known change in their algorithm – Bing and Yahoo follow closely behind. There are few differences between the three major search engines as far as optimization is concerned. So, we will be pursuing Google’s standards.
List out Your Business Information
This sounds simple, but it is vital and many marketers and businesses mess this up. Open up your favorite word processor, or spreadsheet software and write out all of your business information, there is more than you probably realize. You want to do it this way because you’ll be posting many times around the internet – this way you can copy and paste the information. Even more important than saving you the time of typing it out is that you want your information to be identical on every website you place it on. The search engines trust information that corroborated. They want to show the best possible information to their users.
Local SEO through Technology
As far as technology is concerned. Anything you do to make your website better in the eyes of Google is a step in the right direction. There are many articles that discuss page speed and optimization for SEO, but one thing stands out as Local SEO specific – structured data.
Step 1 – Add Structured Data
Structured data, simply put, is an extra step to make sure that your business data is readable by the search engines when they crawl your website. There are a few ways to do this, schema.org, is the gold standard when it comes to creating your structured data it is a joint effort by Google, Bing, Yahoo!, and Yandex in 2011 to create a unified standard for structured data. There are three ways you can incorporate this data: JSON-LD, MicroData, and RDFa. Each of these formats has their own strengths and weaknesses. Here is an example of how each JSON-LD, MicroData, and RDFa look:
Using the JSON-LD format allows you to post the information in the head section of the page instead of inline with the data itself. It’s best practice to only use the structured data in the head that is included on the page. Moz wrote a great primer on JSON-LD and if you choose this standard it’s well worth reading.
Adding your choice of structured data to your website on appropriate pages is an excellent way to up your technology game. Depending on your industry it could be a very overlooked local SEO tactic, and might just give you the edge. And it’s entirely in your control as you will see not everything is.
Local SEO through Website Authority
Building authority across the internet is incredibly important. Most of what you read about on the internet concerning SEO is generally about authority because, I think, it’s the vaguest, and most out of your control leg of the three-legged stool. Authority, as you might remember, is how what the internet thinks of your website. It’s generally accepted knowledge, that the search engines rank websites based on how the internet (people and other websites) interact with them. It’s also assumed that there are two authority scores that the search engines use and track the entire domain authority and each individual page’s authority. So, for instance, example.com has a total domain authority score as well as a page score for its index page and for each additional page.
Google, nor any other search engine, shares its authority score (or how they score them) with the public. Moz.com has a very reputable representation of that score on its Open Site Explorer tool which is available for free, a Pro edition is also available with more data. Tracking this score over time can show how your efforts are taking shape, but remember it’s not connected to any search engine so it’s likely not a perfect representation of your success at SEO.
So, what are some practical things you can do to improve your website’s local authority? Well, get links back to your website from local sources (ie news outlets, other local businesses, etc.), get your business indexed into online local directories, become a local authoritative resource for your industry.
Let’s walk through those a little more slowly.
Step 2 – Get Links from Local Sources
Wherever your community is, there are known local resources that have a business directory or are willing to publish a link to your website. Figuring out how to get linked from these resources is a great way to increase your website’s authority.
I find that submitting press releases targeting local websites helps to accomplish this. The local tv news channels and newspapers are constantly looking for good stories and giving them something to write about can be an easy way to get a story written about your business and with the right persuasion, you can get a link back to your businesses website.
Another, often overlooked, place to be listed is your tourism bureau’s website. If applicable reach out to your local tourism bureau and find out how could be listed on their website.
Sometimes local jobs websites let companies make free accounts with profile information in the hopes that they will pay for job postings. Find out if yours does and create an account hopefully it will offer to have a link back to your website.
Step 3 – Online Local Directories
This title doesn’t do this category justice. There are so many online local directories out there it would be hard to name them all in this article. But there are a few that everyone should join. Here is my list of 15:
- Google Plus
- Best of the Web
- Hot frog
You need to create an account and/or claim your location on each one of these services. Chances are that if your business is old enough your location is already listed, it might need to be claimed. Some of these places require a mailer to be sent to your business to prove you are at the address, and other rely on other services to prove that it’s actually your address. Needless to say that this step can take up to several weeks to complete.
It’s important that all the information is the same on each one of these indexes across the internet. Like I said before the more that the search engines can verify your information the more reliably they can trust it – the more they trust it, the more the higher they will display it.
Many industries have their own select online directories, for instance, Angie’s List and Home Advisor for those companies who work within the home. You probably should do some searching to figure out what directories are available for your industry.
Step 4 – Get Local Reviews
The next thing to do is to create a system in which you are generating more positive online reviews on the websites that offer them. Many of the websites listed above offer visitors the option of leaving a business review and with the exception of Yelp, most of these websites do not mind if you suggest that your customers review your business on their platform. Yelp strongly discourages it.
So, as a part of your follow up strategy suggest that people leave you a review on one of these platforms. A strong base of 4 and 5-star reviews on a broad spectrum of websites can look very good to search engines. And by making it a regular part of your customer process reviews trickle in instead of massively coming in all at once. Search engines hate it when all of a sudden you get 10 reviews and then no more for years (coincidently, people hate that too).
Local SEO through Webpage Relevancy
The third and final leg of the SEO three-legged stool is Relevancy. Basically, is how can you make your website answer more questions of searchers. And in our context of Local SEO, how can you answer more questions about your industry from a local perspective to attract local searchers. I like to call this your Local Relevancy. And typically I pose this question when researching cross section of the industry of which the website I’m working on could use Local SEO and what might be missing from local searches surrounding your industry. There are a lot of ways to go about this, but none more effective than creating local content.
Step 5 – Create Local Content
Content is king – start producing content that is local in nature. Local content that is about local individuals, local places, local events, local businesses where your industry or website topics intersect. If you are a local stylist, review local boutiques and talk about their local flavor and style. If you are a plumber write case studies and mention the locale where the case study is situated (i.e. the bathroom incident in Poughkeepsie). Locale matters. This idea is especially important for those businesses that offer a service area that might be larger than Google might realize.
You might also want to start posting customer reviews of your services on your website and include areas that are the broad range of your service area. This way the search engines and your visitors know where your service area lies.
Go to Google and type in a search keyword for your industry and add the name of your region, State, or city, and before clicking submit look at the suggestions that Google then provides. You might just find a wide gaping hole where your information can easily be present.
I find that just a few people and businesses have a focus on search engine optimization. I get it – it’s a long game, and everyone wants to shoot for the quick wins. Do this right and it will provide you with lots of traffic in a relatively short period of time. I’ve performed these steps several times for many businesses, and they produce a lot of good results.
This might be a long game, but remember the old saying, ‘When is the best time to plant a tree?’ 30 years ago, ‘When is the second best time?” NOW. Get started and you’ll soon be reaping your rewards.