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Strategies to help you make your SEO local

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Local SEO is a set of strategies that help your business show up in search results when people who are located near to your business search for products or services you provide. That is, it’s about making your business rank in geographically relevant, or local, searches. For example, if you sell pizza, and somebody near you searches for ‘pizza’, you want your business showing up in their search results. If traditional search is about the what—what are you looking for?—then local search is about the where—where are you looking for it? And local SEO is about optimizing your website so that it ranks as high as possible in local searches.

Who needs to worry about local SEO?

Any business that has a physical location, and that gets its customers or clients locally needs to have a local SEO strategy.

Why do businesses need to worry about local SEO?

Four out of five consumers use search information to find information about businesses near them. A whopping 88% of smartphone users conduct local searches, while the figure for desktop/tablet users sits at a huge 84%. These searches are for things like business addresses, opening hours, product availability, and directions.

local search graphic

Source: Google [pdf]

A 2014 Google research study found that 50% of consumers who conducted a local search on their smartphone visited a store within a day, and 34% who searched on computer/tablet did the same. And local searches lead to more purchases than non-local searches. 18% of local searches on smartphone lead to a purchase within a day vs. 7% of non-local searches.

Optimizing for local search isn’t something any small business can afford to ignore.

Optimization strategies to make your SEO local

There are two kinds of optimization strategies that go into making SEO local. One is on-site, the other is off-site. On-site optimization means adding your business name along with its location to various places on your website – to your title tags, meta descriptions, and content. You should also make sure your business name, address and phone number is on every page of your website – the easiest way to do this is to add it to your website’s footer, which will show up on every page anyway. If you’re not sure how to do this, ask your website’s developer to do it for you.

Off-site local optimization involves making sure your business is listed, consistently and accurately, on different local directories, portals and listings sites, especially Google Places.

Listings and citations

You might not know it, but your business is listed all over the internet. Chances are, you had nothing to do with these listings. But you need to keep track of them, and claim ownership of them. Accuracy and consistency are crucial if you want rank well in local results. Name, Address and Phone Number (which some people abbreviate to ‘NAP’) have to be absolutely consistent across all local directories, listings, review sites, and social media. Collectively, these mentions are known as citations.

This can be hard for a small or medium-sized business to keep on top of – you might change your business name, or your phone number, or move to a new premises; or you may have done any one of these things in the past. These changes won’t necessarily be reflected in your citations. So you’re going to have to update them yourself. Update your details in every local directory, listing, review site (like Yelp) and on social media (Google+/Google Places is crucial for local SEO – see below). To do this, just Google your business name, and trawl through every citation. Claim your business wherever it’s listed, and ensure accurate and consistent NAP across every site. If the NAP isn’t consistent and accurate, local search engines won’t be able to verify that all of those mentions relate to the same business – your business – and your SEO juice will be badly diluted.

the yext interface

The Yext interface.

If you have a lot of citations to keep on top of, a service like Yext will help you centralize control of your listings and keep them updated across various networks. Pricing plans for small businesses start at $17 per month and run up to $83 for their Premium plan. A service like Whitespark’s LocalSpark will audit and clean up your citations, and help you build more citations by identifying new citation opportunities in your city or industry for you. They’ll also help you with other aspects of local SEO. The cost is $1495 for six months.

Local directories

It’s important to get your business listed in as many local directories as possible. Local directories are sites like YellowPages.com, Local.com, Yelp, Foursquare, etc. (these directories will vary depending on your own location, of course). Some of these directories double-up as reviews website – like Yelp, for example; we’ll take a look at reviews below.

Just as important as getting listed, is giving directories as much information as possible about your business. You’ll need to list at least the following; more if the directory lets you:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone Number
  • Opening Hours
  • Website
  • Products or Services
  • Types of Payment Accepted
  • Social Media Accounts

Reviews websites

When customers search for businesses near to them, they want all of the information listed above, as well as ratings and reviews. Often, a customer won’t even bother visiting your website – they’ll check your business’s ratings and reviews out on Tripadvisor, or Yelp, or on your Google My Business page.

You can’t force your customers to review your business, of course, but you can certainly encourage them. Offer discounts or special offers to customers for reviews, or a chance to win a prize; at the very least prompt them to review your business by including this call to action on receipts, menus, or other paraphernalia.

And remember: the better the reviews, the better your Google rank. As with anything in SEO, all of your efforts will be for nothing if you don’t provide customers with good service.

Google My Business/Google Places

Google My Business (formerly Google Places) is one listings directory you can’t afford to ignore, if you want to succeed at local SEO. Google My Business allows you to administer your Google+ page, and to give Google the information it needs for your business to show up in Maps results. You’ll add to it a description of your business; images; your address and phone number; opening times, and more. Customers can leave reviews on this page, too, and your overall rating will show up in search results. With your Google My Business page properly set up, a ‘card’ should pop up to the right of Google search results when people search locally for your business name. This will contain location information, opening hours, pictures, a phone number – all the stuff you added to your Google My Business page! It’s crucial that you get all of this set up for your business. You can do that here.

fumbally search card

The ‘card’ that shows up in search results when someone searches for your business.

Social media

And finally, don’t forget social media as part of your efforts to make your SEO local. ‘Social signals’ will help your search ranking; and social media will give you a chance to engage with your customers. Tell them what you’re doing, show off your products or special offers, and answer their questions and concerns. We’ll take a look at using social media as a small-business owner in a future article, but for now, you should at least claim your business name on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram (you should already have claimed your business name on Google+ through Google My Business, above!).

And don’t forget: local SEO isn’t something you just set up, and then forget about. Keeping on top of citations, encouraging reviews, adding images (and videos) to your Google My Business page, and building your social media profile are all things that you’ll need to be doing on an ongoing basis. But remember: if you invest the time, you’ll certainly see the payoff!

Main image: Tristan Martin