Welcome again to our ongoing series on SEO for Digital Marketing. In this post, we’ll be telling you everything you need to know about Local SEO.
While Local SEO does have a lot in common with more conventional SEO practices, it does a few things very differently and it does so with a slightly different purpose. Broadly speaking, while standard SEO is designed to help your brand, business, or page rank for a particular query or topic, Local SEO is designed to make your brand rank in a particular context. We’ve talked about this before, in our piece on Micro Moments and Local SEO, and if you’ve not seen that piece yet or if you’re not already familiar with the notions behind Google’s “Micro Moments”, we’d suggest that you start with it as a good overview of Local SEO in a general sense.
So, What Makes Local SEO Different?
Local SEO is explicitly designed to help your business rank for queries from within a given search area. In fact, ranking highly regardless of context can sometimes be a detriment to your standing overall.
Consider the example of a restaurant in San Francisco’s Mission District, serving vegetarian and vegan barbecue (“Flame-grilled veggie skewers, quinoa-hemp-black-bean burgers with a vegan peppercorn mayo; you name it, we got it!”) For this restaurant, which we’ll call Charlie’s, ranking for terms like “vegan barbecue” might be excellent, but it can’t be oversaturated. It does someone in New York, for example, little good to learn about Charlie’s when all they really wanted was a convenient dinner place.
Similarly, someone in the Mission who might be searching for something as innocuous as “top rated restaurants near me,” without a particular cuisine in mind, might be glad to find Charlie’s even if it isn’t strictly related to the search. What matters, in these example cases, is the context for the search and its intended function, and that’s exactly what sets Local SEO apart. In fact, a recent Moz investigation found that physical proximity to the searcher has already become the new top local ranking factor.
What Tools and Practices Does Local SEO Depend On?
Local SEO adapts practices from On- and Off-Page SEO.
For On-Page SEO, Local SEO depends on having information to tie your business into its real-world searchable context. The very first thing you’ll need to get a handle on is your NAP listing. Your NAP, standing for Name Address and Phone Number needs to be featured prominently enough for a crawler to find it on each and every page, and it absolutely needs to be consistent across the web. Using a Google my Business profile is a great step, which we’ll come to in due course, but there’s something even more pressing that you’ll need to get a handle on: your Schema markup.
The markup templates from Schema.org are fast on their way to becoming the de facto web standard (openly embraced by Google, among others) for presenting formatted information to enhance searchability. We touched on Schema markups when we talked about leveraging Featured Snippets to help get your site to Page One of the SERPs, and Local SEO uses them in a very similar way.
Here’s an example that you can follow for your own site:
<div itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/LocalBusiness”>
<p itemprop=”name”>COMPANY NAME</p>
<p itemprop=”address” itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/PostalAddress”>
<p itemprop=”streetAddress”>ADDRESS LINE 1</p>
<p itemprop=”telephone”>PHONE NUMBER</p>
<meta itemprop=”latitude” content=”LATITUDE” />
<meta itemprop=”longitude” content=”LONGITUDE” />
Since you’re using a Schema template, you’ll get penalized pretty quickly if your site has inconsistent information across the web, so be absolutely sure that any other references to your site, and any other profiles you might keep, have exactly consistent information.
You should also be embedding a map link, like from Google Maps, into any relevant page. It can increase foot traffic, it’s best practice, and since it’s so easy to do, users may question its absence if you did choose to omit a map for any reason.
As for how Local SEO overlaps into Off-Page SEO practices, I’m going to subdivide that into the next three categories.
When link-building explicitly for Local SEO, you’ll want to pay particular attention to things that directly relate to your physical location. Commercial directories, civic blogs and resource pages, and local news stations are particularly good, since the traffic you’ll get will be especially relevant.
Consider sponsoring local community events, hosting a an open house or a gala, or participating in some other event that helps establish your business as part of a local community.
That communality will go a long way, since so many other businesses will be looking to establish their own local presence. Links to other local businesses, on a resources page for instance, are sure to be reciprocated, and developing a local link network will increase your DA (domain authority – more on that here.)
Creating profiles on as many sites as possible, so long as you keep your NAP consistent, is another great option. Pay special attention to which networks use which profiles. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that SEO is by-word for playing nice with Google, since theirs is the biggest search network, but you shouldn’t overlook the others.
Having said that, keeping an up-to-date Google My Business (GMB) profile should absolutely be a priority, but there are plenty of others with their own merits.
Yelp, for instance, ties into reviews (which we’ll come to presently) but it’s also the database that feeds Apple Maps, so you’d be depriving yourself of a large market share of the maps-based searches if you alienated that percentage of users who regularly used Apple Maps.
As for what to include on a profile, let’s break down a GMB profile in detail, just as an example.
Your GMB Profile should include:
- Long, unique, formatted (schema) description of what your business is and does
- Appropriate category tags
- Photos (no upper limit – so long as they’re relevant and well-tagged, use them liberally, and be sure that one is a high-resolution profile image)
- Local Phone Number (from your NAP; keep it local and avoid 800-Numbers)
- Address (again, consistent with your NAP from other sites; try using the US Postal Service’s database to get a standard format if it’s an ambiguous address)
- Hours of Operation (if relevant)
That post we linked to earlier on Micro Moments explained in detail about why reviews can make or break a conversion. According to Invesp, 90% of customers will read online reviews when considering a particular business, and almost all of those customers treat reviews the same way they’d consider a personal recommendation from a friend. Favorable reviews increase revenue by almost a third.
What this means for your business is pretty clear – even if you’re the nearest option, a potential customer might walk or drive a little farther to find a place with a clear five-star reputation. Knowing that, you’d be doing your business a disservice by failing to leverage reviews from your satisfied customers, so include on your site (or your menu, or your business card, or your Facebook profile, or…) clear instructions to your customers on where and how to leave reviews.
Don’t make it weird by asking for padded reviews or anything, obviously, but it’s not unreasonable to say something like “here’s a place [hyperlink] where you can share the experience you had today.” In the social media age, people love feeling like their voices are being heard, so odds are you’ll have a pretty serious turnout just from presenting people with a convenient forum.
This about wraps up our rundown on Local SEO for digital marketers, but do keep an eye out for more entries in our ongoing series on SEO for digital marketing.
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