Prominence in the local search results is often considered the Holy Grail for bricks and mortar businesses.
Targeting area-specific terms in your SEO efforts is extremely profitable. People searching for goods in a particular area are much more likely to be actively looking for somewhere to purchase, rather than just casually browsing the web. They know what they want, and more significantly, the location of where they wish to find it. Essentially, they are just waiting to become a happy conversion statistic.
Another major advantage for local businesses, when optimising for local search, is that they can significantly reduce the amount of other businesses they have to compete for rankings with. The smaller the capture area - the less competition there will be.
This is particularly true of big brands, which tend to dominate the organic listings as well as the rankings for short-tail keywords. For local businesses, the opportunity lies in being able to claim your very own piece of the SERPs by using very targeted, geo-specific key terms.
So what exactly do you need to do?
It's vital that you know your target market and what avenues they might take in reaching your website. The Google Adwords Keyword Planner is an essential tool in determining this. Here you can find rounded search volumes and competition for each term. Start by researching the broad term, then the broad term plus your location. If you serve nationwide, include your country, then your state or county, down to your or district or borough, and finally your town; even your street. Watch how the search volume and competition decreases for each. This is in no way a reason to overlook these terms. What you are doing is refining your marketing plan so it's finely targeting those who are more likely to convert.
The most appropriate keyword to choose will be the one with a decent amount of searches per month, relatively low competition, and is finely geo-targeted.
The keyword planner will also give you ideas keywords which relate to your primary term. You can try using these synonyms and related words in your content to increase the relevancy of your page.
2. Create, Optimise And Promote Your Google+ Business Page
It must be a priority to create a Google+ business page. Make sure you give detailed information about your business such as address, office/business hours, contact numbers, email, locations of your branches, and links to your website and blog. Next, customise your page by adding a profile and cover photo, making sure that the images you use are in high-resolution. Google uses these and other photos on your page to feature on the Carousel and Knowledge Graph, and Google Maps.
But joining Google+ does not end at creating your profile. Look to maintain a strong social presence and actively promote your business by sharing fresh and engaging posts. You'll find that many other like-minded people will start to interact with you and share your content. Commenting and sharing is key. Include photos, videos, links, and catchy posts to engage an audience. Promotion is easy when you're already visible.
Be part of the Google+ community, not just as a business entity, but an interactive and helpful social contributor. Start with the basics to get the hang of Google+ and gain solid socialising experience.
3. Produce Geo-targeted Content And Code
As will always be the case, the quality and relevancy of the written content of your website is the single most important element by which Google ranks a web page. It is no different when optimising for local search.
Write a blog post about your line of work within your local area. Stay up to date with local industry news and blog your opinions. Allow comments, and respond to them. Interact with your community and allow discussions to take place on your page. Also, don't just focus on your own business or your own niche, but about others in the area related to yours. Showing knowledge of the bigger picture, and of how your industry affects and is affected by others can help to form understandings and relationships with other local companies. Your company name may even get mentioned on other people's blogs and sites, or on social media. All these signals contribute to a great local profile.
Ensure your business address and contact details appear prominently on your home page and other important landing pages.
The way your website's code is optimised is very important in telling Google what each page is about. Optimising for local search is no different. For each page you wish to rank locally for, it would be wise to:
- Include your location in the URL
- Include your location in the page title and headings
- Include your location and/or your telephone number in the meta description
- If the page contains location-related images, mention this in the alt text
- Ensure your targeted keywords and location appear naturally in the content
- It would also be a good idea to implement Schema markup.
Also, optimise your 'contact us' page; embed a Google Map onto the page, as well as giving clear and concise written directions to your store.
4. Make Your Website Mobile-friendly
It stands to reason that more and more local searches are being conducted from mobile devices. In fact, searches from a mobile device are 66% more likely to have local intent than a search from a desktop computer.
This gives businesses an enormous opportunity to stand out in competitive local search results and drive significant traffic that should soon convert to profit. The key is to start with responsive web design. It's a seamless delivery of information to internet users on any device or screen resolution. The premise here is that 84% of mobile consumers make purchases compared to consumers using their PC. If your product pages appear poorly on iPads and Samsung Galaxies, you'll lose several potential customers. You want your business info, contact details, and products easily viewable across all mobile platforms.
Here's more proof: out of consumers who did not find responsive websites on local searches, 61% of them returned to Google to find websites that were responsive. Out of 10, you might be losing 6 potential customers, all because you decided to skip on RWD.
5. Ensure Local Citations
Citations are 'mentions' of your website, business name, or other information on other websites. Also known as web references, they don't necessarily link to your site, but simply mention your business. They make up about 25% of overall local ranking factors, a considerable percentage. And the bottom line is; citations are the newest kind of link building.
It's as easy as attending and sponsoring local community events. When bloggers, news reporters, and PR mavens talk about the event, your business may well be mentioned in their press releases or blog posts.
It all boils down to natural PR management, so to speak. You have to be publicly recognisable in your own community. Appear at many local events or host your own. Blog about any local charity events your business may have attended.
Lastly, sign up at local government websites like chambers of commerce, city-based indexes, local business directories, and local forums. This is an easy way to make yourself known to other business entities and entrepreneurs in your industry.
This may be bold, but let's face it, link building is a sinking ship; citations have just pulled anchor.
Optimising for local search will give you a great opportunity to become an authority in your given niche in your local area. Many local businesses are only just getting the hang of SEO; put these tips into action and give your business a head start on the search engines.
Richard Eaves is a Digital Marketing Specialist who oversees 300+ campaigns for Smart Traffic, an SEO company based in the UK providing services that drive site traffic, increase sales, boost enquiries and leads to help clients across various industries around the world.