As the internet evolves, local SEO is becoming more and more important.
With increasing frequency, browsers and devices are tailoring search results to the user’s specific needs; but most importantly, to their location.
Therefore, using local SEO can help your website become more visible for nearby searchers.
We all know the power of targeted traffic.
You can’t get much more targeted than someone who is searching for something you provide … and is in the area you operate when they search for it! Local SEO helps you get this traffic!
Use Local Keywords
As with any search engine ranking process there are a huge amount of factors that come into play when dealing with local SEO.
As a beginner you’ll want to focus on making sure that your website is properly optimised:
Do some local keyword research. Check what people are searching for in your area.
Include terms like “Your Industry + Town”, “Your Industry + State / County”, “Your Services + Town”, “Your Industry + Postal / Zip code”.
You can then use these in the content on your site and in your titles, headers and Meta descriptions.
Make sure you have the local ccTLD for the markets you want to reach. You also might want to include your locality in your domain names.
These will be the terms you’ll want to target when trying to ‘localise’ your site. Not only will these help you get found when people are searching for the service you provide in a certain area, but it will also provide search engines with a signal about your location.
(You can use our post on Free Keyword Tools to explore even more options and generate an even longer list of keywords.)
Claim your Online Identity
Ensure you have created Facebook and Twitter profiles where you can list your address and add a link to your website.
Most importantly however, you need to sign up to Google Places listing.
Google loves people using their own products. That’s why you need to ensure that you’ve got a Google Places listing and a Google+ page.
Ensure your company name, address and phone number are consistent in every single place you display them, on your own website or otherwise!
This is absolutely essential as you want to ensure that search engines can recognise your business and your website from anywhere on the web and attribute them appropriately.
Start Securing Those Reviews!
Now that you’ve made your business visible online it’s time to verify that presence and back up your claims!
Search engines use the number of reviews and the quality of those reviews as a measurement of the quality of your business and therefore your local SEO ranking!
The more reviews you can get the better. Evidently the most important place to get reviews is against your Google Places listing but there are other sites, such as Yelp, which can help your local SEO efforts.
Add Rich Snippets and Schema Markup
Rich Snippets and Schema Markup are simply extra tags that you can add to your pages to give search engines a clear indication of where you’re based.
They’re not just used for local SEO, they’ve got a huge range of applications (but that’s another blog post altogether).
You can add all kinds of details about your business using this markup and it’s fairly easy to implement.
Schema markup is used by all major search engines so it’s a great way to increase the chances of being found locally, no matter what device or search engine the user is using.
There are tools out there that can help you create this code such as The microDATAgenerator.
The Big One – Citations
Citations are a very simple concept.
A citation is simply when your business name, address and telephone number are displayed on web pages that are not part of your own website.
Sources of citations are everywhere.
They differ from backlinks as citations don’t need a link back to your website. They simply need to display your business name, address and telephone number. (Although I’m sure the link back to your site won’t hurt if you can get it!).
Similarly to backlinks, not all citations are made equal. Submitting your contact information to a free web directory that has 4 hits a day and has no authority is not going to have a very dramatic effect. However, submitting your business to a large, well indexed, authority site like Thomsonlocal in the UK or SuperPages in the US, is going to have more of an impact.
We talk about relevancy of backlinks in SEO terms. In Local SEO terms the same applies. The relevancy here though is in geographic locality. If you can get citations from local organisations, newspapers, directories, blogs and business networks, you’ll be showing search engines that you’re part of the local community.
Think about all of the places you can list your business.
Search Engine Land has created a pretty much unbeatable list of places where you can list a local business.
You’ll find that some of these citation sources are paid, others are free.
If you find that after generating a large number of free citations, your business is really visible in local search and the customers seem to be flying in, then I would advise holding off on the paid listings. However, keep your eyes on your competitors. If one of them goes all out to get as many citations as possible, you might find you need to splash the cash to regain your edge.
But you shouldn’t stop there!
Competitive analysis can help you identify new citation sources. You may find that a company down the round has found a ‘diamond in the rough’ citation that you’ll want to chase.
That’s Local SEO Folks!
So there you have it.
This is a basic guide to the foundations of Local SEO.
As with any form of online marketing it’s an on-going process. You’ll never stop learning and there’s always something else you can do!
As more and more users move to mobile, Local SEO is going to become even more important.
Local businesses need to act now to ensure that they can survive in the competitive landscape that’s being created as we speak.
Get a head start! Get out there and start localising your website!