Check out our Guide to Local SEO :
The Value Of Local SEO
For most businesses, we don’t recommend spending a lot of money on ongoing monthly SEO services.
There’s a simple reason for this: Paid ads on Google have increased in both number and size – so no matter how good your SEO, you still won’t come up top of the search results. The ads will. On mobile especially, it’s unlikely searchers will ever scroll down the results far enough to see your website.
The exception to this is Local SEO – and there are a several reasons:
- Google prioritises local business results – above the main natural results
- Often there are fewer ads displayed – maybe only 1 or 2
- It’s less competitive – so it’s easier and more cost effective to get good local results
- These results are highly targeted
- People are searching for exactly what your business offers – in your area
So, for a Local Business, we do recommend spending some time and money on your Local SEO.
What Are “Local Search” and Local SEO
By Local Search we mean searches on Google for services based on a geographical area.
There are 2 types:
1 – Keyword + location
This is the typical local search – for eg “Vets in Bath”, “Devizes Dentist”, “Solicitors Salisbury” etc.
Here Google will show Local results – ie 3 Google My Business / Google + page results – above the main natural results and all results will be businesses in your location only.
2 – Keyword only
Search usage is changing, as Google now often delivers local results for a generic keyword, based on searches for certain services and using the location of the searcher (by IP address).
So the search will be for “Vets”, “Dentist” or “Solicitor” – and Google will generally show results for your location.
This isn’t completely consistent yet – Google may show national results or sometimes both, so it’s important to check what it is showing for relevant searches in your area.
As users become aware of this, they are not bothering to add the geographical tag in their searches, which is affecting and distorting geographical search numbers. This is particularly the case in more urban areas, where there are more young and tech savvvy searchers.
Identify Local Keywords
Of course, it’s important to start by identifying the relevant keywords for your business, in order to optimise your site for them.
Sometimes there are surprisingly different search numbers for “Vets Bath”, “Vets in Bath” and “Bath Vets”.
We recommend using Google’s keyword tool to research search volumes. You will need a Google Adwords account for this, which is free to set up.
You will also want to optimise your website for your business name, including popular abbreviations. For example, “XYZ Veterinary Surgery” is very often abbreviated to “XYZ Vets”.
It’s important to be aware that mobile searches can produce very different results, so again do check mobile results when identifying your target keywords.
10 Ranking Factors for Local Search
SEO is a complex subject and Google guards its algorithms closely, as well as changing them frequently, so it’s not possible to say exactly which factors rank highest at any particular point in time and/or their respective weighting.
However here are the factors which experts consider have the most impact.
1 – Authority
This is about Google’s assessment of how established your website is – how long the domain has been in existence and references to it across the web from reputable sites. Long established businesses are rewarded here.
2 – Keyword Focus
It’s important to include your target keywords in the copy on your site. It’s important to ensure this is done naturally and you do not “stuff” your site with keywords. In technical terms, keywords need to be included in the site and page titles and meta description – and you need to use “H” tags.
For our clients, we normally optimise your website when it is created and we cover this in training and will provide you with our SEO guide for new pages and posts.
3 – Key Data – Name, Address, Phone
Your business name, address and phone number is at the heart of local SEO.
Contact information inclusion and placement is very important. It must be in the header and footer, ie on each page – although not necessarily in the text with H1 tags. If images are used though, especially for your phone no, it must appear separately in the text as well, so it is search engine readable.
Your phone number needs to have a relevant area code, not an 0800.
Multiple locations for larger businesses will need their own pages, with unique content – eg maps, photos and testimonials.
4 – Inbound Links
You need links to your site from relevant local directories.
The quality and quantity of these will affect your Google ranking.
5 – Google My Business / Google +
It’s important to optimise your page and ensure you have accurate and optimal categories selected.
Relevant keywords should appear in the business description.
6 – External Directory References
It’s important to ensure that your entries are consistent.
Contact details especially need to be up to date and the same keywords and categories should appear across the web.
You should ensure your business appears correctly in both local directories eg Yell.com and in industry specific directories eg RCVS..
7 – User Behaviour and Mobile Usage
Google will take into account the number of clicks through to your site from external sites, including social media – your CTR or Click Through Rate.
Separate assessments will apply for mobile searches. Of course, your site must be mobile friendly ie responsive and with readable fonts etc to show on mobile searches, but beyond that user behaviour and CTR may vary.
8 – Search Personalisation
Increasingly, Google (and other major sites) are delivering personalised results according the individual user’s (searcher) preferences.
This is obviously not something you can influence effectively.
9 – Reviews
The quantity and diversity of online reviews and ratings is important.
It’s essential of course that these are genuine and from well rated sites.
Encouraging customers to leave reviews on your Google + and Facebook pages is very worthwhile to boost your ratings.
10 – Social Media
Social media activity will also affect local search results: your Facebook likes, Twitter follower and Google + page supporters and the activity on these profiles, especially clicks through to your site.
It’s important to focus on engagement on your social media profiles – large but inactive followings will not help. Outsourcing your page management may well help to provide core content, but “real” posts typically generate more response.
Local Results / Google Maps
3 Businesses are now shown openly in the local results, with up to 10 on dropdown – so it’s important to appear in these top 3 if at all possible.
The 3 factors which most affect these top 3 results are:
1 – Relevance – closest match to the search term
2 – Distance – typically closest to the centre of town
3 – Prominence – local directory entries and reviews
Local SEO Checklist
Here’s a quick checklist of the most important steps to take to improve your local SEO
- Add your business name, address and phone no to your website header and footer
- Post regular new blogs on your site – fresh content is valued
- Encourage customers to leave reviews
- Check your Google + page is up to date, with optimised photos etc and post your blogs here
- Check your Social media pages are up to date with your keywords etc and engage with your customers
- Check your entries in local directories are consistent (use the same format) and up to date, including keywords and categories and are verified if this is required
- Add your business to any new local or industry directories
If you haven’t really focused on Local SEO in the past, we do recommend you take these steps, as with a bit of time and effort you can get good results and it is an excellent way to source good new customers in your area. Best of all, they are already looking for you!
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