Staying up-to-date with the latest SEO practice is like trying to catch a moving train! Search engines are constantly changing algorithms and features that completely change search experiences for users. This is especially true for local searches. Google’s Knowledge Graph and the new presence of Carousel results in local search results has made keeping up with SEO a top priority for many local businesses. If your company hasn’t taken a look into the key drivers for local searches, local SEO approaches, and directory listings, you are falling behind and can be losing valuable business because of it.
In the era of smartphones & mapping apps, local search has become the key driver to offline purchases for local businesses. But winning space in SERPs and staying at the top of local players takes time and effort. For those new to the idea of local SEO, we’ve compiled some basics of local SEO that can help you get started. It is important to remember that with SEO, what you don’t know CAN hurt you. If you aren’t completely comfortable with tackling this beast yourself, we suggest contacting a trained SEO pro (like Brandtastic)! But first, read up on these few local SEO lessons that everyone business owner should know:
Key Drivers that Affect Local Searches:
Here’s a look at some of the key factors which affect local search results:
- Keyword Targeted Landing Pages- your company website should include landing pages where the keyphrase includes the location & services provided. If you serve 10 different cities or counties, you could even try creating a page for each one.
- Business Listings- adding your NAP (name, address, phone #) to directories establishes credibility for search engines. Ensuring that your NAP is consistent and accurate in each directory is key and of utmost importance. Your NAP should also be included on your website on all the main landing pages.
- Quality Content- if we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a million times. “Content is King”. Google treats poor & duplicate content unkindly, which can greatly affect your rankings. Having engaging content that properly features keywords, tags, and titles will do nothing but help you increase your position in SERPs.
- Engagement & Content on Search Engine Local Pages- creating local pages such as on Google+, Bing Places for Business is imperative for ranking. In fact, many businesses have ranked the local place page on search engines higher than their company website. These pages gain even more weight when customers provide positive reviews.
- Inbound Links- inbound links that mention the targeted keywords and point to your website are important even for local searches.
- Previous Business Searches- every time a local user performs a search for your business, your rankings are affected in a positive way.
- Google Map Maker- engaging with Google Map Maker, or any Google App/Tool for that matter, will help your ranking (at least in Google).
- Mobile Website- having a mobile website that gives users a good mobile experience is hugely important, especially because 50% of mobile searches have local intent.
These are the main factors that affect your rankings in local results. Now that we have a general understanding of what drives the local search results, we can now focus on approaches and tactics for local SEO.
Step One: Basic Website SEO
The very first thing you should work on before you do anything else is your on-page SEO. Start by creating a local keyword-targeted home page (i.e. “Home Inspector, Orlando FL”), then work on the Meta titles, descriptions, and alt tags. Having an optimized company homepage will help you make a good showing in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Page), even without including all of the other approaches. It is very hard to use your home page to rank for everything that would like, but your inside pages on your site can play a key role in that task. Remember, every page is looked at by Search Engines as it’s own entity, so if you want to rank for a specific subject you need to tailor a page towards that goal.
Step Two: Business Listings
Once you have the basic SEO website work out of the way, you should focus on adding your NAP to business listing directories. There are literally thousands of directories throughout the internet, and adding your business to high ranked directory websites can help you gain credibility & increase your SERPs. When creating your business listing, make sure your NAP is consistent, that you include as much information as you can (including keywords), and that you add photos & logos when that option is available. Getting your information in general directories is great, but don’t forget industry-targeted directories as well. If you sell medical scrubs, getting your business listed on medical supply or uniform directories will also help your company gain rankings. Here are a few popular general directories that we use regularly:
Step Three: Off-Site Local Pages
Many of the larger search engines (think Google, Bing, Yahoo!) have local place pages, which you will need to claim & verify. Once you take these first few steps, you will be able to update and add important information that will enrich your listing. Include photos, get reviews, and ensure that your data matches your website listing information exactly, so that search engines get the message.
There is a plethora of other advanced SEO methods that will help increase your rank, but for the sake of brevity since most business owners do not really care to understand the inner workings of optimization, we’ll leave it at those three basic steps. Be prepared – keeping up with listings, off-site local pages, and company website optimization can take a lot of work. It is really a big job if there isn’t at least one person in the company dedicated to the task, so many business decide to outsource this to highly-trained professionals.
We would like to note from our experience, many of our clients turned to us after becoming frustrated with using platforms like Yodel and Reach Local that resulted in less than favorable results, so make sure you research who you outsource to thoroughly.
Because local search offers great ROI, if you haven’t added local search optimization to your marketing plan yet, it’s time to start! Remember that local search results are generally less competitive than core web results. Even if you can’t rank on the top page for the keywords “home inspector”, you’ll have a much better chance at ranking in the top for “home inspector Orlando” if you focus on local SEO approaches. BTW, that search does just happen to bring up one of our favorite clients, Rob & Kyle Goderis from RGS Home Inspection in Orlando.