Local SEO is a unique breed of “cat.” The ranking factors are just different than in regular SEO, because consumers are looking for a different search and buying experience – one that is geographically accessible to them. They are looking for directions, phone numbers, hours of operation, a map perhaps. What’s more, they are usually much closer to making a purchase than other e-commerce consumers.
Your job, as a business owner, is to make sure that you will be found when potential customers search for what you offer and that results from those searches will rank you high on the “list.”
The first thing you will need to do is conduct an SEO audit of your website, and then move on to some other important factors.
Auditing Your Website
A website audit consists of looking at every aspect and every page you have, with an eye toward what search engines are looking for when they index and rank sites, especially searches for local results. Here are some important tips:
- Since Google’s Hummingbird algorithm in 2013, things have changed drastically. You already know that the use of keywords has changed. No more singe-word keyword stuffing will work. In fact, it will get you penalized. You have to use long-tail keyword phrases and fewer of them. And they must be placed naturally within the content on your site. this is true whether you are looking for local or more general SERP rankings.
Base your long-tail keywords on what it is you offer – your products or services, and always put the name of your city or town in those keyword phrases.
- Voice search is especially critical for local establishments. Why? Because searchers who are looking for local businesses are often on the go and using their mobile devices. Voice search is a new “breed” and must be based upon the questions your potential customers will ask.
So, if you own an Italian restaurant in, let’s say, the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, consumers may be asking, “What Italian restaurants are in Oak Park?” or, “Where can I find an Italian restaurant in Oak Park?” If you have the answers to these questions in the headings and sub-headings of your website pages, you will get indexed. There are also trigger words which you want to have on your pages, whenever appropriate – address, hours, phone number, directions, etc.
Here are Bing’s first page results for “Italian restaurants in Oak Park, Illinois.” You definitely want to be on this list.
- Structured data is important too. In simple terms, structured data (e.g., Schema.org) is a type of markup for a web page, that will provide more information about the page’s content. Users cannot see it, but search engines can. Often called a markup, it is coding that signals to search engines what is actually on that page. For local establishments, these markups are critically important for pages that provide information on name, address, phone number, hours of operation, directions, etc. In the case of that Italian restaurant, it might also be useful for a page that holds its menu. Some customers may actually ask where they can find a specific but rather rare Italian dish.
- Use Alt descriptions for any images you have on your site. Search engines are better at recognizing images these days, but their crawlers do not “see” them as a user does. They can be misinterpreted, and this can impair your ranking. And adding the description can also give you another opportunity to get in your top keyword/phrase.
Auditing Your Content
Having an appealing and engaging website will attract visitors who have searched locally for what you offer. And part of that is the content you present and how you present it.
How does this impact SEO? While it may not impact it directly, it does keep visitors from bouncing, and it can result in social shares. This, over time, will have a positive SEO result.
The content on your site must be creatively developed, and that is something that you may not have the skills to craft. Consider that Italian restaurant again. If it has amazing descriptions of its menu items, along with mouth-watering images, visitors are likely to pay attention.
So, how do you get the content that does all of this? You may want to use the expertise of content writing experts who understand the relationship between content and SEO, and who are experienced in maximizing content for local SEO rankings.
They will understand how to incorporate the answers to the most often posed questions for local searches, those trigger words that search engines are looking for, and, of course getting your NAP’s (name, address, and phone number) in whenever possible.
There are quite a number of writing services that have creative copywriters and SEO experts. Consider looking at these: RewardedEssays, SupremeDissertations, FlashEssay, GetGoodGrade, or HotEssayService. While these companies were originally begun to help students with their academic writing, all of them have developed exceptional copywriting and SEO departments, and client reviews are all positive.
Google My Business Audit
One of the most important factors in local SEO will be your “Google My Business” profile.
If you have not yet claimed your My Business listing, you must do so now. It’s a pretty simple procedure and a great way to get yourself ranked, if you do it right.
Since its beginning, Google My Business has evolved a lot. But the concept remains. To claim your listing can mean you will increase your chances of being indexed and ranked on local listing searches. The other beauty is that this is absolutely free and you can include a wealth of information about your business, in addition to address, hours, phone number, types of payments accepted, and much more.
How to Begin: Go to https://www.google.com/business. Here you will find the introduction to all that you can do with your listing. These examples from the site illustrate just some of what you can include in your profile:
1.Let Customers Find You
2.Share What is New and Specials on a Daily Basis
3.Present Important and helpful Information
4.Include customer reviews
Not only can you publish reviews of your business but you can respond and engage your customers in conversation, right on the listing.
Through Google’s dashboards, business owners can identify how people have found their company, where they come from, and how they are responding to offered products and services.
How to Get Started
All you need to do is access the website and start your profile. You will be prompted to complete a lot of information about your business. Complete every field, because this will give potential customers all of the basic information they need to know where you are and what you offer.
If you should not fill in every field, others will have the chance to do it. You will see on the opening page that there is a place to “Suggest and Edit.” Others who access your business listing can make such edits, and you may not be notified. Complete all of the information, keep it updated, and check your listing often.
As Christopher K. Mercer, Marketing and Content Director for Citatior, states, “Initially, we made the mistake of assuming that once our basic information was in, we could leave it alone unless we wanted to make some updates or offer some special pricing. We were wrong. Users of our site placed a lot of information on it, and we had no idea. Fortunately, it was all good, but we learned a valuable lesson.”
Google also asks questions of users, on an attempt to gather more information about businesses. It will be important to check back often.
Optimizing Your Google My Business Listing
Once you have your listing complete, there are many other options you have to enhance your listing and increase your chances for a higher local SEO ranking.
- Add mini-posts that act like small ads
- Publicize events
- Advertise specials and sales
- Introduce new products or services
You can also add images (small ones) and even emojis, which Google is now beginning to index. Posts will stay up for seven days, so be certain to keep things updated.
Adding Booking/Reservation Options
Businesses can also offer reservations, once customers have searched for their company. Here is an example from Great Clips, a hair salon. The voice search was for “Great Clips in St. Charles Missouri.” Here is the front page of the business listing that came up:
These are some of the most important functions that are now available on your Google My Business listing. For a complete list, visit the website and review all that you can add. Look at detailed descriptions, messaging, questions/answers, reviews, photos, even videos. The more you take advantage of these features, the more you will be indexed, and the chances of higher ranking increase.
Conducting an accurate local SEO audit is essential, if searchers are to find you at least as much as they find your competition, hopefully more. These three pieces – your website, your content, and your Google My Business profile – if done right will ensure that you are optimized for local searches.
Amanda Sparks is a freelance content writer for a number of writing and review services, including Essaysupply and Onlinewritersrating . She is also a frequent contributor at Semrush.com. Her career is ideal, she says, because it allows her to travel wherever she wants with her diving buddies. She is especially active in efforts to preserve our endangered coral reefs.