In the wake of the current crisis, many consumers are making an effort to choose local shops and services, with the trending hashtag #supportlocalbusiness accompanying many tweets and Instagram stories.
With the right knowhow, local SEO can help your business to reach out to those customers.
But if you’re new to the practice, it can feel a little daunting. If that’s the case, this guide talks you through 10 essential local SEO tips that will launch you up the search engine rankings at rocket speed.
What is local SEO?
First of all, let’s make sure we’re on the same page.
Local SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) increases your visibility in local search engine results, making it quick and easy for customers to find you. Improving local SEO leads to increases in website traffic from high-intent customers – that is, customers who are most likely to complete conversions. Actions such as subscribing to a mailing list, making direct contact or even making a purchase are all examples of conversions.
This is a technical field which takes time to master and can be difficult for you to get your head around at first.
But the good news is that there are several simple and accessible techniques that you can use to build you SEO strategy from scratch.
Knowing where to start can be tricky, so we’ve handpicked 10 essential local SEO tips to help you master just a few digital magic tricks.
Let’s get to it!
1. Claim your Google My Business listing
Google My Business is a free profile for your business that shows up in local searches for businesses like yours.
It’s essentially an advert for your firm that contains key information such as your business name, address, operating hours and a link to your website – so it’s a highly effective promotional tool for giving customers as much vital information as possible in one place.
Google lets users filter local listings based on review rating and opening hours (especially important in the current environment), so these are essential elements to include in your listing. However, for maximum impact, you should complete all sections of your Google My Business profile, such as details and photos of your products – remember, the more detailed the information you provide, the more likely web users are to click through to your website. You should also aim to include photos of your premises if possible.
Just be aware that anyone can make suggestions to edit your Google My Business listing, including unscrupulous competitors, so it’s essential that you regularly monitor your listing and ensure that it’s accurate and up to date.
2. Create consistent NAP citations
If you want to rise to the top of the search engines, you need to stay on their radar – NAP citations are highly effective for making your presence known across the web.
A NAP citation is any mention of your business name, address and phone number on the internet, and they’re most commonly found on directory sites like Yellow Pages and Yelp. This data is used by search engines to determine which businesses to include in local searches, so you need to maximise your citations.
However, it’s not just a numbers game – quality is important too. You need to ensure that your NAP citations are consistent across the board when it comes to details such as capitalisation of words, abbreviations of street names (e.g. road vs rd), and suffixes like Co. or Inc.
You should also update older citations which contain outdated information – for example, if your business address is incorrect, you’re sending your consumers on a wild goose chase, or worse, into the hands of a competitor.
3. Optimise for voice search
Voice searches are on the rise, with Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana all taking pride of place in consumers’ homes. In fact, research by Bright Local found that 58% of consumers use voice search to find local business information.
Your local SEO strategy therefore needs to account for this change in user search behaviour and one way you can do this is by targeting long-tail keywords and question based search queries (the type a consumer would ask their voice search device) with your website content.
For example, a Leeds-based business that produces cake decorations might want to rank for the voice search query, ‘Where can I buy cake decorations in Leeds?’, and write a blog about its products (perhaps even with that exact title!), in hope of securing its targeted position on Google and attracting the attentions of potential customers.
Online listening tools like Answer the Public can help you determine the best search queries to target – it generates popular question based on search queries around your target keyword/s (in the above example, that would be ‘cake decorations in Leeds’).
4. Ask for reviews
Entity authority is currently one of Google’s most important ranking factors. It’s basically a technical term for reputation, so by encouraging customers to leave reviews, you’ll be able to build up your entity authority.
Positive reviews keep your brand name in circulation, and encourage consumers to visit your site and engage with you. They also demonstrate to the search engines that you’re capable of providing the high quality service that consumers are searching for, and that therefore you deserve a high ranking.
There are a few ways you can encourage your customers to leave reviews. You can try sending follow-up emails after they’ve placed orders, entering them into a prize draw when they write one, or simply asking would they mind writing a few words of appreciation when they’ve already sung your praises over the phone or via email.
Furthermore, reviews make your local listings stand out in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), and take up additional space, thus allowing you to dominate the page – this is especially helpful on small mobile screens (more on this later). All of this means that customers are less likely to be distracted by search results for your competitors.
5. Conduct local link building
Local link building is the process of integrating links from other websites to your own. Links essentially act as references for your brand that search engine spiders consider when determining your SERP position, which makes link building an essential local SEO component.
Bear in mind that this is a two-way street – when it comes to getting links, you have to give to receive. Begin by placing outbound links in your website content to reputable local websites related to your sector.
This is good for SEO because search engines use links to help them understand your business. So if you’re creating quality content containing outbound links to big names with solid credentials, it can work wonders for your reputation.
Working to establish formal link-for-link partnerships with other local websites is also crucial too, as this guarantees that you get a link back. Plus, if you can get links from popular websites, this can result in high levels of traffic to yours, as well as significantly increased brand awareness. In many ways, building up your link equity is good business online.
6. Use social media platforms
The end goal of local SEO is to increase the level of quality traffic to your site and social media can be one of the best vehicles for you achieving this.
You should invest most of your efforts in the social media platforms that are most popular with your target audience. However, being active on a few different social media platforms is hugely worthwhile, as user habits can change quickly and this allows you to pivot your efforts with ease.
Plus, search engines crawl and pull results from your social media, so by having an active presence on multiple platforms, you’ll be able to maintain a wide online reach and constantly remain on their radars.
7. Add schema markup
Schema markup is code that you can add to your HTML to help the search engine spiders understand the location-based information (address, dates, phone numbers) on your web pages. Basically, it tells the search engines what your content means, not just what it says.
You can use schema to improve the quality of your web page display in the search results so that it’s more useful to consumers. For example, you can use schema to prompt search engines to include data such as your average star rating (from customer reviews) as part of your search result. This is valuable information that could be the difference between someone clicking on your site or scrolling past it.
8. Create local content
Creating content that ties in with local events ensures that you’re producing material that’s relevant to, and trending, amongst the people in your community – your target customers.
Under normal circumstances, events like local festivals would be the perfect opportunity for you to join in the celebrations, for example by blogging about it, or creating videos for your website and social media channels.
In the current climate, getting involved with local charities and fundraisers is a great way to get your name out there and support your local community. Now more than ever, consumer choice is geared towards businesses that can prove they’re about more than profitability.
It doesn’t matter whether the events and content you cover tie in with your business offerings – the important part of creating local content proves that your brand cares about and is invested in the community, and not just your own progression. If you can nurture this relationship, you’ll be able to create strong bonds of trust with your customers and inspire long-term loyalty.
To strike the right tone when producing this type of content during a crisis, don’t pepper it with advertorial internal links and cut out your usual CTA (Call to Action like ‘phone us’) at the end – being as altruistic as possible will enhance your reputation down the line.
9. Join your local Chamber of Commerce
The British Chambers of Commerce is a network of businesses committed to representing, supporting and connecting business and it’s made up of various local branches, which makes it a prime platform for local SEO.
When you join your local chamber, you’ll gain a backlink to your site which, as you know, is very important for SEO. As a member, you’ll also benefit from being part of a network of local enterprises from across a range of industries and if you can partner with just a few of these companies, you can seriously raise your business profile within your region and industry.
10. Optimise your website for mobile use
Research has found that 89% of people search for a local business using their phone at least once a week, so it’s essential that your website works well on mobile devices.
Mobile optimisation ensures that your website delivers a first-class UX (user experience) that search engines love, and that the visitors you attract through local SEO stay on your site once the arrive – all of which will aid you in your efforts to climb the ranks.
Responsive web design is a popular method for creating mobile optimised sites, as it allows you to create websites where the display adapts to any screen size or device, enabling a smooth and seamless experience for the user.
If you’re unsure whether your site is already optimised, you can use the Google Mobile-Friendly Test to find out.
A local SEO strategy is a sure-fire way to consistently attract more customers and satisfy search engines like Google, so it’s something that no regional business can afford to be without.
These 10 essential tips are the perfect starting point for new beginners in the world of SEO – you can thank us later!