Local SEO is a concept that has really taken hold in the last couple of years. Google has clamped down on spam links, irrelevant backlinks, and Private Blog Networks (PBNs). Guest post blogging has, according to some important sources, also declined as a valuable link-building strategy. There are fewer avenues for improving your results in organic search. Content and backlinks are the cornerstones of any SEO campaign but local listings are extremely useful. In fact, they appear to be more relevant than ever before. Here is our (almost) complete SEO guide to ranking local businesses on Google and the other search engines
This guide will help you with one piece of your online marketing strategy. If you're in the wellness industry read our guide to Content Marketing for your Health and Fitness business.
Google search is changing. Brand-first type results will be more common in the future. Brands and verified, identifiable businesses are receiving preference in the search results. For Small Businesses, creating a trusted web property should be a priority. Creating local directory listings, where your ownership of the business is verified, can really help your search engine rankings. Local directories such as Yellow Pages, Yelp, and Zipleaf are valuable sources of traffic, links, social proof, and SEO signals.
Physical Address for Online Success
An important part of SEO for local business is having a genuine physical address.
This is not just recommended for businesses with storefronts. Online-only businesses often miss the point with local SEO. Every business, whether it’s online-only or a ‘bricks and mortar' establishment should have a physical address on their website. The address can be a residential (the home address of the owner) or commercial location (where the business has an office). Businesses with a street front presence will benefit from having a physical address promoted on their websites.
The local Business SEO NAP
If you start looking into the world of local SEO you will come across the acronym NAP. It stands for name, address, phone number.
When Google builds a profile of your business it will expect to see the same NAP on your website, social media and local directory listings. And don't forget Google MyBusiness.
If your business address is 1 Main Street, Toronto, this is exactly how it should appear on your website, Google MyBusiness and Google Maps.
Perform searches for your business name and your address to see where on the web they might appear incorrectly.
If your correct NAP is 1 Main Street, Toronto M5V 3T4, Ontario, Canada then the following variations require updating:
1 Main Street, Toronto M5V 3T4
1 Main Street, Ontario
1 Main Street, Toronto, Ontario Canada
Google My Business and Google Maps
One thing that will really help your local SEO rankings are reviews on Google My Business (ex-Google Places). Ask your customers, clients, and friends, to leave reviews about your business. This will help boost your local search rankings. We don’t recommend buying reviews or doing anything shady. As Google integrates more intelligent algorithms into search, websites can pay dearly for their previous black hat tactics.
When a customer looks for a local service they will generally use a geographical location in the search term. “Galway digital agency” or “outdoor gear Dublin” are examples. This is a signal to Google that you require the services of a local company. A typical Search Engine Results Page (SERP) might look like this:
Note the top three highlighted businesses under the map. We call this the Google 3-pack or local snack pack. It’s where you want your business to appear in the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). The Click Through Rate (CTR) on these results is very high.
Local SEO Strategy Plan
These 9 steps should be a priority for improving your local SEO strategy:
1. Create a Google MyBusiness listing. Use the exact same name, address, and phone number (NAP) that appears on your business card and website.
2. Add your address and phone number in a prominent location on your website. The footer is a good location to add these details as the footer displays on every page view.
3. Some local business websites do not use the .co.uk, .de, .com.au or whatever your top-level domain happens to be. If your business domain ends in .com, change the international target location in Google Search Console to point to your country.
4. Check for, and remove, any duplicate entries in Google Maps. If you created a Google Plus page in the past make sure you clear up duplicates when starting a new Google My Business page. A single unique Google Plus page and a single Maps location is the goal to achieve.
5. Search for your address or parts of your address in Google and Bing and check for incorrect listings. Try “100 Main Street, Dublin D11 YE04”, try “100 Main street” or “YourBusinessName 100 Main Street”. Find all incorrect listings and address them.
6. Suppliers, partners, and clients in your general geographic area are ideal sources of links. This is especially true if their website is built on a .ie domain. Ask these businesses to link to you. There are a few technical strategies involved in link-building, which I won’t go into here. The quality of a link will depend on several factors but any link from a relevant source is good. A good SEO consultant will understand exactly how the link should appear.
7. Local Blogs can be a great source of backlinks and also a strong indicator of local presence. If your business is a gym based in South Melbourne, then a mention on a South Melbourne blog would be useful. Relevancy is important here. The link should be part of a piece of content about local gyms or businesses in the area.
8. Create an account on both Yelp and TripAdvisor and encourage your clients to review your business on these sites.
9. Sponsoring another local business or charity is another way of obtaining backlinks from relevant websites. However, a word of caution on this one. Obtaining a link from a company website that you donate to could be considered a form of ‘paid linking'. This is against Google's Webmaster policies. I would use a NoFollow link in all cases.
10. If possible use a local web host. Your website’s server IP will affect the search ranking to some degree. It’s a minor factor but every little helps. Companies such as SiteGround offer customers super fast hosting for a very competitive price but have servers in locations such as Amsterdam, Bulgaria, and Singapore (as well as the US). But the quality of the hosting is really high. Add to this the option to add a free Let’s Encrypt SSL layer to your sites and you have a very tempting offer.
Note: Avoid large international directories with no focus. Local niche-focused directories are the best options and won’t trigger any SPAM signals with Google.
Local SEO and On-Page SEO
What I’ve described here are local SEO tasks but your on-page SEO will be just as effective for local targeting. Using the right local-specific keywords in your titles, image alt tags, and URLs will really make a difference.
Create geo-targeted landing pages, correctly format your pages, and focus on content relevant to local customers.
Add relevant Meta descriptions to improve Click Through Rate (CTR). Meta descriptions show up on the search results pages. They can provide potential visitors with information on what your business offers. Using the name of the town or street where your business is located is a good idea.
The next steps would be to perform keyword research on geographically relevant terms such as ‘best Dublin pizza’ or ‘best digital agency Dublin’. Then craft a content management campaign around these keywords. Monitor the pages with Google Analytics to determine if local searchers get the answers they need from your content.
Following this strategy will lead to a place in the Google ‘3 pack’ for your website. This results in more customers for your business.
Local SEO is a continuous process. Many factors influencing the search results will change with time. Examples include:
- Changes to your business's products and services
- Changes to Google's search algorithm
- Competitor local listings sites appearing and disappearing
- Customer reviews on your Google My Business listing
One of your regular SEO tasks should be an audit of citations to keep your brand name consistent everywhere.
Local business directories
The first number after the listing submission URL is the MOZ domain authority ranking. MOZ is an SEO software company that gives a number, indicating domain strength, to each domain. This number represents the power and trustworthiness of a domain. A new website will have a domain authority of 0. Google.com has a DA of 100.
Some local citation directories include your website URL for free. Others require payment for this. A link from these websites effectively counts as a backlink. A backlink is simply a link back to your website. It is an indicator to Google of the trustworthiness of your domain.
There are two main types of links, however, DoFollow and NoFollow. The first type is the most desired type, as it signifies trust. A NoFollow link means that the linking website does not vouch for the quality or trustworthiness of the linked domain. Most directories will offer a NoFollow link, but some offer a Follow link)
There are many more citation directories but these will get you started and build some quality connections.
Don’t fancy doing local SEO citation work for your business? Let us take care of that for you. We create optimised local SEO links and we make sure your business's citations are correct.
Keith is the founder of Fat Frog Media. He has worked in the tech, fitness, food, and hospitality industries. Keith helps businesses improve their marketing and conversion rates.