If you have a business that depends on getting some or all of your customers locally, incorporating a sound local SEO plan into your internet marketing strategy is absolutely essential. Local SEO is all about having your business seen and discovered by potential patrons in the same or surrounding area, so if you don’t want to lose traffic and revenue to your competition, you can’t afford to ignore the impact of local SEO on your business. As long as you have a physical address for your business and expect customers to go there to patronize it, you should promote that location by doing local SEO.
The Difference Between Local SEO & National SEO
While many of the same principles apply to both national and local SEO (such as links, indexing, social, and on-page factors), there are important distinctions which are tailored to the specific habits consumers have when searching for a local business.
Local business listings are almost always shown on the first page of localized search results, so if you want your business to be easily found by prospects in your area, you must create and claim a local profile on Google and any other search engine that offers local listings.
A citation, which is anywhere on the web where your company name, address, and phone number is published all in the same page and written in the same format as your local listing, is also a very important aspect for local search. While slightly different abbreviations between your citation and local listing may or may not make much of a difference, it’s best to be consistent to avoid needless confusion and competition between different styles of listings when there’s only one business location to be promoted.
Local search also places high importance on reviews (lots of them—preferably positive and well written) than nationally targeted SEO. One of the most influential factors for your local search ranking is the quantity and quality of reviews posted on your Google + Local page and other 3rd party review sites.
Optimizing your site for local search means implementing certain on page elements, such as making sure your name, address, and phone number are placed on all your site pages, ideally in the footer area—and formatted in the same way as your Google+ Local listing. Using your City and State names in the Title tags, Meta descriptions, and the site content can help search engine spiders associate your site’s relevance to local search results. You can also use Schema local markup to make it easier for search engines to identify and show your location. And lastly, just to make sure your business’s physical location won’t be missed by programs such as Google Earth, you should include a KML (Keyhole Markup Language) file on your site.
Factors To Consider For Boosting Your Local Search Ranking
There are many factors that can positively or negatively influence your local search ranking, though some aspects will matter more than others. In the end, Google’s search algorithm (and all the other major search engines such as Bing or Yahoo) is a multi-component system that relies on a variety of signals to determine which local listings and sites deserve top rankings in the local search results. So which signals should you prioritize when you implement your local SEO strategy for your business?
Preferably, your site should have already been designed with local search optimization in mind. As mentioned previously, your business name, address, and phone number should be present on all your site pages, with the exact same formatting, even without taking local search optimization into consideration. Another way to enhance your site’s local search ranking is to include the product or service in the title tag of the landing page for your Google+ Places listing. After all, it is relevant to what your business is offering, and telling users and search engine spiders right away what your business is about is the most honest signal you can send.
One of the most important off-site signals that can greatly influence your local search ranking is the number of citations your business has—more specifically, the amount of consistently structured and accurate listings your business has across the web. The last thing you want is for your good listing to lose ranking power to duplicate listings with old information—if you don’t monitor the accuracy of your listings across various directories, you can risk losing potential customers when they find outdated information about your business instead of the current and accurate listing they should have seen. This very simple principle has been neglected simply because maintaining and monitoring every listing for accuracy and consistency across a large variety of sites and directories can be time consuming and inconvenient. However, the reality is that when users look for local businesses on search, they expect accurate information. Not maintaining the accuracy and consistency of your citations is not only a disservice to your business, but to consumers looking to spend their money at your establishment—so don’t sabotage your business by cutting corners on your citations.
Reviews are an especially important signal for local search rankings, since this is a reflection of the consumer’s desire to conduct careful research before choosing an establishment to patronize. There is some debate as to how much positive reviews can influence your local search ranking, but one thing everyone can agree on is that no business wants a negative review to be ranked at the top of the local search results. Reviews matter a lot, and good reviews that rank high on local search results matter even more. It would greatly benefit local businesses to make it a priority to persuade clients to leave reviews, and to make it as hassle-free as possible—especially on the Google+ Local page. Reviews that come from a variety of 3rd party sites are especially helpful, though sites that contain spam and duplicate reviews should be avoided at all costs. In addition, reviews that mention your chosen product or service keyword exert a positive influence on your local search ranking—provided that it’s readable, genuine, and not a result of keyword stuffing. The rule of thumb is that it when it comes to reviews, you should always aim for quantity and quality.
Link building is just as important in local SEO as it is with national SEO, so don’t neglect this aspect when you’re putting your local SEO plan into action. Getting inbound links from locally relevant sites in relevant niches, especially when it directs to the assigned Google + Local landing page, can really boost your local search profile for the better.
Another factor that frequently goes unacknowledged due to its “common knowledge” quality is making sure your listing is placed in the correct categories. While accurate category listings may provide only a limited boost (if any) for local search rankings, inaccurate category listings can have a disproportionately negative impact and cause your listing to disappear from search results. Innocuous mistakes in this one seemingly benign signal can have dire consequences for your business, so make sure that your listing is under all the proper categories.
The One Factor You Can’t Help: How Location Can Affect Your Local Search Ranking
When a city is specifically included in a search query, one of the things that Google uses to determine which listings have the most relevance is how close your location is to the center (centroid) of the city. Businesses that are located farther away from the centroid are generally at a disadvantage; however, other factors such as how much competition there is in your niche, searcher location, and the quality of your off-page SEO efforts, can exert a counterbalancing effect. But just like in the offline world, location will always affect how easy or difficult it is for your prospective clients to find you.
Beginning The Process Of Local SEO Optimization
It’s never too late to start optimizing your business for local search—if your business is part of the city’s economic landscape, it should be part of the local online ecosystem too. If you haven’t done so already, claim your local listing on Google Places and make sure you listing is accurate and complete, featuring images, videos, and more. When you create your listing, don’t give in to the temptation of stuffing keywords or location names in your business title or business description if it’s not a part of your official business name. However, you can utilize the Title tags for the landing page assigned to your Places listing and include the product or service your business offers—after all, it’s not dishonest (and actually quite helpful) to declare to a user or search engine bot exactly what your business provides.
To help make it easier for users to find you, create consistently formatted and accurate listings on multiple directories and websites. You can use a service like Yext so you can conveniently manage all your listings in one platform, and so you can save valuable time and eliminate mistakes by using only one site to maintain and update all your listings across multiple platforms. Each listing will turn into a citation, which is essential for boosting your local search rank. If you need help in adding citations, you can use WhiteSpark local citation finder to streamline your search for the best citation sources in your city.
Don’t neglect to assess your site’s level of local search optimization. How effective is your link building strategy (if you have one already)? Are the backlinks coming from local and niche relevant sites, and is the anchor text relevant to your business? Is your business name, address, and phone number on all your site pages, and formatted in the same way as your citations? Have you made proper use of your Title tags and Meta Description tags to include your product/service and/or city and state in a relevant and natural manner? All these on-site components should be addressed if you want to maximize your local SEO efforts.
And finally, make sure you encourage your satisfied customers to leave positive reviews on your Google Places page and in other 3rd party sites, such as Yelp, Yahoo! Local Listings, and Citysearch. You can ease the process of publishing online reviews by giving customers surveys that include the URLs for the review sites, by including your profile link in follow-up email communications, or anything else that will remind customers to share their opinion about your product or service. A word of caution about accumulating reviews—if you get too many good reviews in a short amount of time, or the reviews are obviously fake, duplicated, appear overly keyword optimized, or come from bad reputation sites overrun with spam, the review will hurt your site’s rankings rather than enhance it.
You can augment your local SEO efforts with a solid Social Media Marketing strategy, since some of the most popular, high authority sites are social media sites such as Foursquare, Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and Pinterest. Because social media encourages user interaction and feedback, it is now a growing influence on your local organic search ranking, though it is still not as influential as the other aforementioned factors—yet.
In summary, local SEO is now just as important as nationwide SEO—in some cases, it might even be more important, so it’s advantageous to include it in your internet marketing strategy. If you have any thoughts regarding the impact local SEO has made on the San Diego and La Jolla business community, please feel free to leave a comment below.