What is Local SEO?
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the practice of formatting your website so it will rank highly on Google and other search engines. Local SEO, (or LSEO) refers to SEO practices specifically designed to get your website ranking high on Google in your geographical area.
If you have ever searched Google or any other engine with a geo-identifier, such as “mechanics in Dublin” “Local bakeries” or even “things to do nearby,” the result would have drawn on and displayed companies with strong Local SEO for the subsequent result. So how does it work? Like any aspect of SEO, there is no single solution or cheat code that will guarantee you an immediate spot on the front page. Instead, local rank is determined by a wide variety of factors all working together for a singular final result.
This article will provide an overview of the basics of what factors into strong Local SEO, and what factors you can control to get your website noticed.
Why Local SEO?
For any brick-and-mortar business that relies on foot traffic such as restaurants, lawyers, plumbers, or anything with a physical presence; having strong skills in LSEO is a fantastic way to make sure that the time and effort put into optimising your business’ website yields results with the viewers who matter. Ranking highly with Local SEO does more than just ensure that your business is seen by the right people, it can also give you an edge over your competitors in the area.
The Snack Pack Explained
Here, you can see a breakdown of a Google search, and how Local SEO results are displayed.
The top orange box shows results placed through Adwords, Google’s paid marketing platform. The bottom orange box show the organic results, those that appear without any sort of paid placement.
The majority of the page is taken up by what is referred to as the “Google Snack Pack.” This top real estate is reserved for the top three local results that Google believes best suit your search. In addition to being positioned at the very front of the page, these spots have additional information such as their company’s address, contact information, opening hours, and a plot on Google Maps marking their location.
In 2015, Google narrowed down the size of its Snack Pack from 7 to 5, and the competition is fierce. For any business looking to dominate Local SEO, snagging this spot and maintaining it should be the ultimate goal for optimum visibility and web traffic.
Getting Started – Google My Business
One of the first steps any individual should take while optimising Local SEO is to make sure that your Google my Business page is up to date. Previously known as Google+ Local, this is the page that Google will be drawing information from when it is displaying the Snack Pack on a search result, making it one of the first points of contact a customer may have with your brand.
If your company has an address but no website (or is in the process of developing one) Google my Business can allow you to establish an online presence quickly and easily.
If you do not currently have a Google my Business page, you can start by claiming your business. During this process, it is important that the designated guidelines are followed to ensure maximum view-ability. Luckily, Google provides users with an exhaustive list of guides and resources to perfect your business page. You can read more about how to get started with Google my Business here.
Ranking Factors in Local SEO
So what determines how a website or business gets ranked? In 2015, the marketing and analytics company Moz released a survey showing some of the top factors in local SEO, and how heavily they weigh in determining overall rank. The result is a comprehensive rundown on some of the top points that any business can improve upon to develop strong Local SEO.
Place Page and On-Page Signals
When you are aiming to rank highly in SEO, one of the most fundamental ways to succeed is to always bear in mind what your customer will be searching for. For example, “Anne’s Bakery” will do much better online than only “Anne’s.” This brand knows that ‘bakery’ is what their customers are likely to be searching for, and so their business name works to promote their company in their field.
Other companies, such as “Dublin Area Plumbers” have business titles which work for them in establishing strong Local SEO. In this instance, their Business Title, and subsequently any online mention will include the area that they would be looking to target for customers, in this case – Dublin. This is also an easy way to make sure that your alt tags, URL, and other web elements contain strong keywords while avoiding “keyword stuffing” – the practice of loading up on keywords specifically to manipulate SEO. This is a poor practice in SEO that can end up in penalisations or banning from search engines.
External Local Signals – Understanding NAP
Most practices in SEO will typically be contained to your own website, or other channels that are owned by your business. With Local SEO however, one should also look to populate local internet resources with your brand name and information. The more your business is mentioned and featured, the more likely it is to be picked up by search engines as a quality company.
One of the most important elements in establishing local SEO with external sources is your Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP). These three pieces of information are the primary elements that Google’s algorithm searches for when determining a business’ legitimacy. When working on local SEO, you want to make sure that your NAP is both consistent and widespread throughout the web. If your business has recently moved or changed phone numbers, re-visit any sites where you are listed to make sure this information is up to date and accurate. Once all of your existing citations (online references to your business) are uniform, try and build up the number of citations that exist. This should begin on your own website – making sure that your NAP is available on service pages and social media accounts, and then on various online resources around the web.
Having quality websites linking back to your own is a great way to improve your domain authority and overall SEO. When considering your rank locally, you’ll want to build up backlinks in your area. Below are a few different ways to consider growing your domain authority through link building.
- Local directories refer to Yelp, Goldenpages and other online listings that provide business information to customers. If you are a new business, get in touch with your local Chamber of Commerce for an easy and authoritative link back to your site.
Submit to local awards
- Do you make the best burger in town? Do you have a well-documented case study that people should know about? Even if your company doesn’t bring home the gold, just submitting to local contests will usually get your business added to a list or page on a contest’s website.
Local newspapers or online blogs.
Remember that search engines rank quality before quantity when considering rank. Avoid poor quality websites offering an easy backlink, as this is more likely to get your SEO ranking penalised than promoted.
While it is difficult to determine exactly how influential online reviews are for determining SEO (Moz’s online report lists it at around 10%) Most marketers agree that they can be an important deciding factor for those who search online. 90% of customers say that their buying decisions are influenced by online reviews, and can either be a big help or a hindrance to your brand when left unregulated. In order to establish strong social proof for your company, consider encouraging or incentivising happy customers to go online and leave a review for future clients.
Little nudges, such as a reminder page at checkout, an email after a job well done can go a long way to leaving an impression and getting people to spread the word. Alternatively, negative reviews should be positively engaged, rather than ignored or worse – aggressively contested.
Social media has quickly established itself as a staple for good online marketing practice. Having a Facebook page with only one or two posts, or a Twitter feed with only a few number of followers is a red flag for potential customers, as well as search engines. While you don’t need to be a social media guru, investing time into social media channels will help build your online presence.
Keeping Up to Date is Key
Optimising local SEO, like anything Google-related means constantly keeping on top of the curve with the latest changes and updates in Search Engine practice. Google will typically adjust its search algorithm 500-600 times per year. While most of these are minor, it does meant that the current means of evaluating local SEO is now drastically different than it was a year ago, and very different than the format that will be used in the future. Staying at the top of the ranks means keeping yourself up-to-date and well-informed on changes and new developments in the system.
Looking for an introductory guide to understanding SEO? Check out our article on An Introduction to SEO.
Want to learn more about converting sales? Try reading our article on Cart Abandonment.