Introduction to local SEO
Most people are aware of SEO and the role it plays in getting your website listed on the major search engines such as Google or Bing. There are however only a minority that understand the difference between traditional SEO and Local SEO techniques. By the end of the blog post we would hope that you have a clear understanding of the differences between the two and why Local SEO can play an incredibly important role for your business.
Traditional SEO techniques work by optimising your website to be in optimal condition and to provide valuable content for your audience using a variety of link building, on page and off page tweaks. This results in areas of your site being listed within search engine results for your chosen keywords, for example you may search for ‘Local SEO Tips’ and get sent to a blog post such as this.
With Local SEO there is one key difference and that is the addition of adding geographical data into the search results, for example when searching for a take away you will find that Google will return results that are local to your current area. A quick example would be to search for a chinese delivery, as you can see from our results they are all based within a local area of our address.
When we talk about Local SEO we reference the ability for your website/business to appear within these local search engine results that have been generated based on keywords AND geographical data. You will find (specifically Google) that you will be presented with a map, a map pack and then the normal organic search results below.
The other time when you will see ‘local’ results is when you specifically search for a town or area, e.g. try the same search again but adding a town or city name to the keywords (e.g. Chinese delivery brighton) and you will see the results change to match. This is all localised data that has been crafted to suit a particular area and Local SEO is what we (as webmasters) can do to conquer this market.
So how does this all work?
This is a tricky question and we would be lying if we said we had the exact answer to this, especially as each search engine will have its own twist, algorithms and techniques for the way it presents such data. However there are a few, or at least presumed known factors that will certainly play a huge role in the Local SEO game.
Essentially, there are 3 core factors which the search engine will look into when conducting a local search, firstly it will need to find listings that are relevant to the search terms e.g. in our example above a chinese takeaway will be more relevant than say a supermarket selling chinese ready meals. Once it has established your relevance, it will then check your distance and your reputation, relevant listings that are closer and with a good reputation (citations, reviews, back links, page rank) will appear higher in the results.
So whilst this may seem a bit complicated it can be easily summarised, when making any search that requires a listing to be local to the user then the search engine will ensure it provides the closest possible match for that person. So let’s move on and look at how we can take our website and tweak it to work as effectively as possible with Local results.
NAP – Name, Address & Phone Number
Hands up if you’ve heard the term NAP used before? Most people havn’t but it is such an integral part of getting listed and found locally online. So what does NAP stand for? and how does it impact your local listings? Quite simply, it stands for Name, Address and Phone number and is often abbreviated to just NAP by people who work with websites.
It is vital that you stick to one form of NAP and that it remains consistent across all online mediums. For example make sure you keep the same spacing on your phone number e.g. 01234 567890 isn’t the same as 01234 567 890. Likewise, if you use Road instead of Rd or Street instead of St that it has to remain the same and consistent throughout your online presence.
So when your sitting there filling out your registration forms for citations, online directories, website mentions, profiles, social media profiles etc that you keep the same structure for your name (Ltd or Limited for example), your phone and your address. This will enable Google and other search engines to locate all areas associated with you and link them without any effort.
One area you will discover is that it is essential for any search engine spider to know where you are based, more so if your a local service or provider vs someone who works nationally or internationally. Keeping your NAP consistent and ideally having the NAP present on each page too means that none of your content will be ignored or not recognised as your own.
Town & County is important tag information
If you want a page to rank for a specific town or county then the title tag is a good place to get the keywords in. Your title tags are real prime estate to let the search engines know what is important and thus by placing your town or location in the tag it enforces the fact that the local SEO element is important to you.
If your a single location then this is fairly straight forward to add to the end of your pages in the title tag, however if you have multiple locations then it becomes a bit of a balancing act to ensure the right areas are included on the right pages.
It’s important to not dilute the tags and using the very limited space to get the core keywords as well as the location keywords across. Remember that the title tags are probably one of the most important aspects of your local SEO listings for each page so plan it carefully.
Don’t forget that the H1 and H2 tags on your pages will also require the same form of treatment and that they all follow the same structure. For example don’t have ‘Hastings’ in all your page titles when on one page the H1 tags all mention ‘Bexhill’, this will only confuse and dilute any power the tags did have. In these instances you should ideally have a unique title on that page to match the H1, H2 and content.
Landing pages specific to a location…
If your a local business, then it can really benefit to have a landing page to each location you server, or each location you have an office or presence in. Not only does this generate more content, it helps users by showing a specific presence in that area/town but it also gives you space to provide area specific information which can really act as a powerful marketing tool.
If you go down this route then it is important to ensure you stick to consistency by having a naming structure for the pages e.g. choose a town or an area name and stick to it. Make sure the URL reflects this naming convention too and that this structure remains consistent throughout the page content.
These specific location pages can be an ideal place to showcase what you do differently in an area vs others, or at least let you point out specifics. Below are some examples of what we regularly include on our location pages to hopefully give a bit of brain storming ideas for you and might even show just how useful a page like this can be.
- Address and/or contact details (NAP) unique to this location
- If you have an office here think about
- Google Maps of secondary office
- Opening Hours of above
- Public transport? Parking?
- Media unique to this location (Photos & Videos)
- Reviews or testimonials unique to this area/location
- Location specifics e.g. community, attractions, charities
- Case studies, portfolio items or reviews from this location
Please don’t make the mistake of just cloning a location page and changing the one variable (e.g. town or area name), Google is likely to detect this as duplicate content and either ignore it or mark you down, there are some exceptions to this but if your unsure then play safe. After all these place pages are an ideal way to really show your local e.g. descriptions of an area.
Don’t forget your geographical terms
Whilst the description (META) for a page doesn’t actually impact on your search position or ranking it does however make a difference to any potential user as this (along with the title) is the first impression a user has before clicking through to your site.
So what do e mean by Geographical terms? well if a person was to search for Hastings Web Design, then any instances of ‘Hastings’ in the meta description will be put in bold to show the match. You can use this to your advantage to really grab a users attention as they browse down through the results.
Remember your community
Most companies loose any connection with their community and surroundings when it comes to Social Media and post too much of ‘my company does this’ or ‘my business done that’ which to most users is boring and not really any interest or relevance to them until they actually need you.
So what do we mean by remembering your community? one way to really find and add content is to post, tweet, blog about events that are happening in the community your company is based. This can be a great way to show your connection to the community, show your support for charities, organisations, clubs and events that benefit the area your from whilst at the same time spreading your company name around and gaining extra traffic and boosts from the flow of links and sharing.
For example, the local scout group may be having a fundraising fete, or the local fire station has an open day. By sharing their posts, or advertising their events people are likely to interact with your posts by liking or sharing them thus sharing your name more. This network of sharing, post links, links etc is all sucked up into the search engines and provides not only a boost in traffic but a some powerful juice for the search engines to lap up.
Make sure you claim Google My Business
After following the above you should now be in a position where your website and social media is tuned to your locality, being an active and contributing member to your area and providing some value, benefits and content to really aid your locations members. So where do we go from here?
The first step will be to ensure you claim your Google listing known as a Google My Business listing. This is used to be a complex affair but recently Google has really streamlined the process and it’s becoming easier and quicker to claim, fine tune and manage.
We could essentially write an entire blog post on claiming the listing, modifying it and optimising to suit but for now your priority should be on getting the listing, becoming verified and and linked to your website with the identical NAP information.
The video above is direct from Google and really shows you how the process works, or you can visit the Google My Business website for more information. All we can say is it is really worth spending some time ensuring this is done properly and managed.
- Some key pointers to optimising your listing are
- Ensure your NAP is the same
- Consider your category selection and ensure its right for your company
- Pick a good cover photo, first impressions!
- A decent informative description with some strong keywords
- Ensure business information is present e.g. opening hours
- Collect reviews, this will help greatly.
Watch the video below to see how to edit your profile
So there we have the Google My Business listing in a nut shell, there is a wealth of information directly on the google platform so absorb it all in, remember our tips and really spend some time on this part.
Local listings, directories and mentions (Citation Building)
You are now in a position whereby your website is running, you’ve claimed your Google listing and given it some basic optimisation, so where do we go from here. Local listings, directories and mentions are your next step and in the world of SEO these are referred to as Citations.
A citation is any mention of your business across the website, especially when your brand, URL and NAP are mentioned (structured citations). For the purpose of this section we will be trying to create some structured citations whereby the NAP matches in order to get a network of links, mentions and traffic flowing for the search engines to grab hold of.
The more citations, mentions and listings where your NAP appears the greater your level of dominance and trust appears to Google or similar search engines. This in turn helps to cement your position as a real, trusted local company that in turn increases your site ranking.
How do I get directory citations?
Citations will come in a few models, most will be free with a paid upgrade path (it’s very rare for the paid option to actually work), some will just be free and others will be paid for only. There are some core places you should really get listed on and unfortunately a manual process is the best method, but before doing this have a search for your business name to find any current citations.
There’s a handy tool from MOZ Local which will search for your listings, use this and manual searchs to find any current listings and claim them, ensure that once claimed the NAP, URL and company name is all matching to your website NAP. This will ensure you have a fairly clean start before you start adding more citations to the mix.
Now you are ready to take a structured approach to gain new citations and spread your name, there are countless places but look below for our top 20 to get you started. Follow each one’s manual registration process and really pay attention to what you enter. Having 20 well structure, manually typed citations is more powerful than 50 with different NAP’s and copy/pasted descriptions. Here’s our top 20 citations sources to get you started.
Phew! that took some work but in the long run it is well worth it and in the future it will do you well to find more and list your site/business on them too. Don’t forget that there is likely to be some local citation sources which are a must so think about local newspapers, town websites, councils, charities etc
Local listings & mentions
As well as the citations from the big players above, remember that link exchanging between other local companies can really help and boost traffic too. It also provides yet more credibility for your business in that area.
There are many ways you can do this, but key methods will be to donate time or services to local charities, sponsor local clubs such as a kids football team or even join forces with other companies, for example one of our clients has ‘pop along to abc pub for a coffee whilst we do your mot’ and then the pub returns the favour with ‘proud to be supplying coffee for xyz garage customers’. This provides some valuable two way traffic and allows both businesses to strengthen and support each other.
Social Media Citations
Please don’t forget that a well filled out social media profile will also act as a citation back to your business. However it is important to remember that any social media account you create should be kept active, a sleeping social media account will have some weight but it’s not an ideal scenario to be in.
So some platforms to consider (and this will really depend on your business) would be Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn and SnapChat.
Use reviews to really boost your work
So you now have a website that is tuned for local listings, an optimised Googly My Business listing and a bunch of mixed citations from listing sites, local companies and social media profiles. But what else can we do to really boost the traffic and rankings? there’s an easy answer to this and it comes in the form of recognised reviews!
As times move on, most search engines are placing more relevance onto reviews than ever before so this is an ideal time to collect Google reviews or reviews on trusted platforms such as TrustPilot, Feefo, Which?, Yell etc.
When searching for local listings, it is becoming ever more apparent that Google is using the review count quite heavily to see the ranking order for the companies it presents in its map box. Naturally you will gather reviews simply from offering out of this world services and products but don’t forget many customers just need a simple prompt and will happily leave a review.
If leaving reviews on your site (a fantastic idea) then its paramount that you structure these so that Google can recogonise them, theres a code method (Schema) for doing this, likewise there are WordPress Plugins and similar applications out there which can do this all for you, as can third party sites such as Trust Pilot, Yelp, Feefo etc.
So there we have it, although this only skims the surface it should give a base to what you need to do to really embrace the local SEO techniques and take your business further forwards with getting some high rankings. Obviously this takes a lot of time, effort and knowledge to achieve so isn’t for everyone therefor we offer this as a service with prices starting from just £25 per month! Happy SEOing people.