How to start your Local SEO
To expand on of the last post – GOOGLE PLACES – LOCAL BUSINESS OPTIMIZATION TIPS – let’s see today how to get more local, relevant, traffic.
Local SEO is becoming more and more important as many small businesses are discovering the power of the web as a revenue generator.
Traditional brick-and-mortar businesses – those you cannot use online or at home – for many years have overlooked their digital strategy, thinking it was unnecessary to get valuable customers. Things have changed nowadays. People browse the internet on the go, and even shops that look 100,000 miles far from internet need a digital footprint.
Restaurants, coiffeurs, dentists, bakers, cobblers, launderettes, pubs, beauticians, etc. etc. All these places (where you actually need to physically go to use their service) need an optimized online presence now.
Obviously, looking at a very geographically limited market, they want to be found by people surrounding them or at least at a commutable distance.
Local SEO is exactly the group of techniques needed to get your business found online by local, relevant, prospects.
There’s no Local-SEO specific and there’s no magic. Local SEO is a combination of small tasks that you need to perform in terms of on-page optimization, off-page optimization and listing in relevant directories.
Let’s see these tasks, starting from what is on your full control (on-page optimization), moving to what you can do on somebody else’s platform (business directories), and closing up with techniques for which you need collaboration from somebody else.
From a on-page standpoint there’s no news; you just need to make sure to use traditional optimization techniques work for your local business:
- Show very clearly in your website your physical address and you phone number.
- Include your City (or Region, or State, depending on your business scope) in your URL, title tag and description tag.
- Again, mention your locality in your Header 1 (H1) and do not forget to expand in your text: you can mention here the full address, areas you serve,etc.
- A little cheat that works for search engines is to include local keywords within your website. If you’re active in multiple locations this requires creating different pages for different locations. A very easy way is to write short, informative, articles on your area in general interest topics such as places to see, best season to visit, things to do, etc.
- Along the same way, if your business is strongly connected with specific location make sure to mention them, in order to rank high if somebody performs a search using your business category and that given place. An example will explain this better. Say that you are a florist and you do deliver wedding flowers to local churches. Write a short article mentioning the churches you serve and giving few details for each one (like religion, date of building, relevant events, etc.). keep in mind that current search engines (especially Google) are able to “read” in some way, so just bullet points with churches’ name don’t work.
- Include your address and contact details in your Schema Markup (a type of markup you include in your website’s coding that gives search engines extra information about your page content). This code will be displayed as “div” tags for your website and will not be visible.
- Lastly, you want your City, Region, or State in your image alt text.
No need to say hopefully, but you must have a responsive website or at least a mobile-optimized website (different from your desktop one) as people are likely to look for you on the go (not to mention Google penalization).
Business directories collect local businesses information and show that up once somebody perform a search. For obvious reason they’re replacing the hard-copied Yellow Pages in many places.
Every search engine has its own business directories, and if you’re in specific regions or verticals you want to use other platforms too. For instance, if you’re in the restaurant industry, you want to be listed in Yelp.
Bad news is that you are not the owner of these platforms which implies you compete with other similar businesses.
Good news is that you have full control of the information you share.
- Creating your Local Business Page. Starting point is obviously creating a local business page. If you’re in Europe you can actually use only Google, but if you’re in US you need to list your business in Bing and Yahoo as well. It’s a very straightforward exercise: all you need to do is set your account through your business basic details (name, address, phone number). If you find your business already listed, you just need to claim it. The business listing usually verifies you are the real business owners, sending confirmation code to the physical address you mentioned. Once you enter the confirmation code received, your account is active and can be seen through search engines.
- Enrich your Local Page. Once you have your page it’s time to make it awesome.
- This will become your meta description in search engine results, so make sure to follow the standard rules in terms of length and to include a call to action.
- Personalized URL. Remember that you can claim your personalized URL, in which you want to include your business name obviously.
- Optimize Your Page. Add relevant extra information useful for potential clients: opening hours, details on your products or services, etc.
- Quality Photos. Put extra attention on picture as they’re likely to be the first thing users see of your business. Use exterior and interior photos and don’t forget to picture your products as well; it works extremely well for businesses like restaurants, florists, etc. Exterior pictures are important to help users find you while on the go. Different local business pages allow you to upload a different number of pictures; make sure to use them all.
- Business Category. Choose carefully your business category, as this drives the keywords you are linked with in search engines. Also, use the search engine at its best: if it allows you to place your business under multiple categories, go for it.
- Reviews Once you have everything up and running, you need to boost your profile through reviews. The more reviews the better obviously, but they need to be genuine; you can solicit reviews – and actually you should solicit reviews from happy clients – but you shouldn’t promise gift or vouchers, discounts, etc. for a review. It is perfectly fine a button on your website prompting visitors to leave a review (like: “Give Us 5 Stars in Google+”). Thanking customers for their patronage or apologizing publicly for a bad experience are great ways to show that you care about your customers and want them to be satisfied.
This is out of your control for the most part, but you can still actively look for relevant backlinks.
Remember that quality works better that quantity, and that Google big brother is watching you carefully, so if you grow too fast (because for instance you buy links) they will actually penalize you.
What you want is an organic and steady grow of relevant sites pointing to your site. Again, nothing different from a standard link building strategy, with the only point that “relevant site” might be something completely away from your business, but with a strong local presence. For instance, if you are a launderette and get linked by all local football teams, that would be awesome. How to get there? Offer them a free laundry!
As you have seen, there’s no shortcut for Local SEO.
The best advice is that, instead of trying to fool Google algorithm, you should focus on your homework, starting form an outstanding website for your users.
With grey-hat or even black-hat techniques you might succeed in ranking better in the short term, but without a consistent interaction from your users you will end up in a worse position, not to mention that next algorithm releases will be likely to penalize you.