All small businesses that approach us for a website build or refresh seek the same thing—to improve their SEO with a focus on beating the local competition. A noble aim and one that is very important in an era of SERP (search engine result page) rankings and web traffic. However, SEO is much more competitive and complex than most people think. It’s not just a job of adding a few keywords and—BOOM—top of the rankings you go.
The process of implementing good and effective SEO is much more complicated, consisting of multiple factors affecting different results at varying degrees. One of these factors, which we will discuss here, is the use of “Local SEO” techniques versus “traditional.”
What is Local SEO?
The classic example of how this works is ordering a pizza. Let’s imagine you are at work, and you decide to order a tasty pizza for lunch. You hop on to your mobile device and type “pizza delivery” into your search engine. Up pops the top ranking pizza joints within a few blocks of where you are working. Great.
Local SEO is a separate algorithm that is designed to search for local results.
Now, it’s the evening, and you are at home. For some reason, the first pizza-pie didn’t knock your socks off, and you want another. You go back to your mobile device and type the exact same search, “pizza delivery.” This time, a different list of pizza joints are presented to you, and they are all based a few blocks from your home. This is the power of local SEO.
How do you know if local SEO is relevant to you? Go online and search a few keyword phrases for your business, but do not include any “location terms.” If any of these results display a map then you need local SEO.
There are overlaps between “traditional” and “local” techniques, but there are a number of key differences that you should be aware of. Focussing on these should help your site skyrocket its SEO and subsequently increase the foot traffic to your shop.
Although important for any SEO strategy, the use of links in local SEO is slightly different. Quantity is not as important, nor the quality. The key is to have a good number of strong links from local sites. It’s all about location, location, location. There’s also less of an emphasis placed on “domain authority,” meaning poor quality sites linking to yours, contrary to traditional SEO, are encouraged.
An advantage of this strategy is easier building of links, as they are likely to be through businesses you know or through people you are able to approach in person.
An important foundational step for local SEO is to include your name, address and phone number somewhere on your website. Remember to confirm that these details are consistent across the web, be it on social media or review sites, such as Yelp or TripAdvisor. Consistency is key.
Schema markup is code that you put in the back end of your website to help search engines index information in a more complete way—by telling them what your content means. This helps them understand what and for whom your site is for, reducing confusion and improving efficiency.
Businesses who adopt Schema Markup will also be rewarded with ‘rich results” from a search and have the potential to dramatically increase the engagement and click through rates of their sites. These results may include, but are not limited to: product information, ratings, actions, and information panels on the right-hand side of the screen.
The tried and tested method of packing your site full of keywords, in an attempt to bump yourself up the rankings, has definitely passed. Google and other search engines became wise to this strategy and have since moved on, now requiring your content to be “localized” and written in a more natural and conversational tone.
How do you localize your content? Maybe add a blog discussing events in your area. This will bolster connectivity to that particular location, strengthening the search engine’s belief that your business is indeed from that area, and result in a bump up the SERP.
A natural tone to your writing will also indicate to the spiders crawling your site that you are not a spammer nefariously attempting to gain traffic. Adding keywords to your copy is still important but using them in a natural way, rather than clunky and disjointed, helps the search engine confirm that you are legitimate—and it also makes your content more enjoyable to read.
Google My Business
Google My Business is a website where you can claim and verify your business, so that you can show up on Google’s Local Pack, Local Finder, Google Maps and organic search. This is a free service and includes an array of information. One advantage to using Google My Business is that your business may be included in the Local 3-Pack, which occupies prime real estate on the search result. So prime, in fact, that it is placed above the paid ads. Not bad for an investment of $0!
It’s important to engage and respond to reviews on the platforms your company inhabits, such as the Google Knowledge Panel, Yelp or TripAdvisor, as well as all social media applications. Whether it’s a positive or negative review, a non-generic, well-written response is vital because it shows customers and prospects that you care and have their best interest at heart. Moreover, a good response should drive traffic to your website and result in a higher CTR.
Engagement also has serious SEO implications as search engines use these reviews when ranking results, Therefore, improving your online presence is critical for retaining customers as well as moving up the listings.
The one issue with local SEO is that, it’s local. This means, if you are based in a small town, the chances you will show up in a search for a nearby city is pretty slim. A way around this is to section parts of your site for geo-optimization, which is called “siloing.”
It is critical to include strong internal links within the siloed sections of your website, and you should also build ‘local’ links from the city location to the siloed portion of your website. As you can imagine, this technique is difficult to pull off, as you will be competing with businesses that are actually in that location, but it has been known to work. You won’t show up on a map as you are not physically there, but you should still show up on the SERP.
Local SEO, like all SEO, is complex, time consuming and a continuous process. There is no magic button that will instantly place your website at the top of the pecking order, but the one great advantage that local SEO provides is that most people don’t know about it. This means that there’s a good chance you have a head start against your competitors, and domination can be yours!
Have you used any of these local SEO techniques? If so, how did they affect your SERP? Comment below to tell us about your experience.