What’s Your Local SEO Strategy?
If you are a local business, or if you’re an SEO expert providing SEO services to client’s who have local businesses, how much have you considered your Local SEO strategy?
Not your overall website SEO strategy, although the two are very closely related as you’ll see from this article, but your specific Local SEO strategy for each of your businesses locations.
You might be thinking to yourself, why do I need a new strategy, focused around Local SEO when we’re doing everything we need to be doing and are continually showing up on page one for our targeted set of exact and related, short and long-tail keywords and phrases.
If that’s your thinking, you may be surprised to hear that your thinking may be off. Regardless if you are currently ranking in the SERPs for your keywords, if you are a local business and you add some comprehensive Local SEO tactics to your overall SEO strategy, you have much more to gain.
Local SEO Tips For Prime Positioning
With a solid and comprehensive Local SEO strategy in place, you can end up on the “Big 7” local listings and have your location “pinned” on a map in the search results.
This map, and the Big 7 section, list all the local businesses in the area for the specific search query. In this case: “hotels in niagara falls”. Not bad prime visual real estate on page 1 of a highly competitive PPC term. Trust me I know, I’ve handled PPC and SEO for a handful of Niagara Falls Hotels clients.
Local SEO also helps you show up on true Google Local Carousel. This position is incredibly useful when a business is trying to attract customers in the immediate area. Businesses involved in Tourism and Destination Marketing should be especially interested in this.
Check out this result on a search for “things to do in niagara falls”. The Google Local Carousel shows the top things to do in niagara falls, prominently, in a large strip at the top of the search results page.
If you have a physical location for your business – one or many – Local SEO becomes absolutely essential. Remember that both the Local Carousel and the Big 7 Map listings show up high on the search results page.
Even more attractive is the fact that on mobile devices, the Big 7 Map listings show up above all the organic results. You already know how important Mobile is to your Local SEO Strategy.
8 Key Site Elements For Local SEO
First things first. While there is a ‘thing’ we SEOs do that entails Local SEO strategy, Local SEO itself should be looked at as more of a tactic to complement your overall SEO strategy.
Your website needs comprehensive basic SEO like optimized metadata, images, and links, along with SEO copywriting on webpages, and overall web content optimization. If you know anything about SEO you know it doesn’t stop there. There’s things like link building and social media marketing that go along with a comprehensive overall SEO strategy.
Moving along to a Local SEO focus, I want to outline 8 essential website elements where you should focus your SEO efforts. You want to use these tactics on all of your promotional landing pages, for all of your physical locations, and also on your Google My Business Pages (formerly known has Google Plus Local Business and a variety of other incarnations).
Meaning that if you have multiple physical locations for your business, each one should have a landing page optimized with a well researched Local SEO strategy. They should also each have their own Google My Business Page that uses similar Local SEO tactics.
I personally take it a step further and use specific Local SEO on all product and services page, for each location. Having said that, if you only have one physical location, ensure you use these Local SEO tactics on your home page, about page, contact page, and your Google My Business Page.
Seven of these Local SEO tips were sourced from one of the most trusted SEO sources on the Internet, Moz.com. I’ve added some of my own as well.
1. Add Your City, State, or Province in the Title Tag.
- The title tag is one of the most critical places in your metadata for keywords and location information (read Local SEO). Many SEOs including myself have seen many a variety of small businesses get a boost in local rankings from just using this tactic.
2. Add Your City, State, or Province in H1, H2, or H3 Heading.
- I see no good reason why your city and stare/province shouldn’t be in your <h2> header. Trust me when I say it’s very important to include this vital location information in a significant header tag.
3. Make Sure Your City, State, or Province is in the URL.
- If you’re a single location business owner, this wouldn’t be wise to do on your Home page. But you can have the vital location information in our About or Contact page url. When the city and state/province information is included in the url, this gives off a very powerful signal of relevance to Google.
4. Mention Your City, State, or Province in the Page Content.
- I think that’s all that needs to be said. This one should be blatantly obvious. Just don’t “over stuff” your page content with location information. There are plenty of related, short and long-tail keyword variations you can use and not worry about keyword stuffing issues.
5. Never Forget Your City, State, or Province in All Alt Tags.
- This is an often much overlooked, prime SEO opportunity. I can’t tell you how many company websites I go in to optimize, only to see that none, yes none, of the images are optimized.
- If there’s one thing you take from this article, take this one. Make an effort to ensure that all of your images have alt (and title) tags and use your city, state, or province in your image alt tags. Especially product and service images.
6. Add Your City, State, or Province in the Meta Description.
- It’s a well known fact in SEO circles that the meta description plays no part in Google’s search ranking algorithm. Here is another often missed, prime SEO opportunity. Think form the user’s point of view, not the search engine ranking algorithm’s.
- I use keywords (related and exact match) in meta descriptions for our “relevancy” factors. Chances are the user used those terms in their search query and therefore, your city, state or province will be bolded when they are seen in the page link descriptions in search rankings.
7. Include an Embedded Google Map.
- I see websites doing this all the time. If not just for the visual and the engagement factor, but adding an embedded Google Map to your location is key to Local SEO.
- The only thing here is that you need to ,ale sure you do it the “right” way. Make sure the map you choose to embed doesn’t point to your business address that you typed in to Google Maps to find. While that may be “accurate” it’s not the correct way to embed your company’s location.
- You’ll need to make sure you use the embed code from a map that points to, and is verified with, your actual Google My Business local listing.
8. Verify Your Business With Your Google My Business Page.
- So maybe this tip should have been before the previous one above. Your Google My Business Page is your Google+ Local Business Page. It used to be Your Google Places Page. Confused? Don’t be.
- If you need to claim your Google My Business Page or if you want to check to see if you have a Google My Business Page for your business go here. If you’re a business with multiple locations, go here.
- Once your business has claimed your Google My Business Page, maker sure you complete it 100%. Don’t leave any SEO opportunity unturned. Local SEO is as competitive as your local business is with its competitors.
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What About NAP Citations?
First lets define the terms. Moz says citation are “commonly referred to as NAP information in Local SEO circles – Name, Address, and Phone number. Google expects local businesses to have their NAP information on certain other websites (Yelp, social media sites, etc.), so if you don’t have citations on the important sites, or your citation information is incorrect, it can really hurt how your business is ranking.”
Some SEOs will claim that citations aren’t as important to Local SEO as they once were. While that may be true, I believe they are still important. Is you business name a name that could possibly be spelled a little tiny different on not only your website but on your other digital assets such as social media platforms or review sites?
Moz uses this example when referencing a client they worked with outside of New Orleans. This client was very well known in his local area but was not shooing up on page 1 in local searches.
“The correct spelling of his dealership name is “Deal’N Doug’s Autoplex” – but he had his own business name misspelled five different ways on his home page alone:
Dean’N Dougs Autoplex
Deal’ N Doug’s Autoplex
Deal’N Doug’s Auto Plex
Dealn Dougs Autoplex
Deal n Dougs Autoplex
We did a quick citation evaluation, and sure enough, he had all of those misspelled names floating around in different citations. He also had several citations for “Dealin’ Doug’s Autoplex” – which is grammatically how you’d expect it to be spelled.”
When they fixed all the citation issues, he went from not ranking at all to being at the top of the Big 7 map pack – which is key for Local SEO conversions. It’s important to note that this client also had the #2 organic result after fixing the issue with citations.
On a personal note, an issue I had with one client emphasizes this point. The client had a local number and a 1-800 number. The issue started because they used their local number in some places and other websites had their 1-800 number.
Once we made that small changes, along with some other major tweaks, their rankings returned to normal.
Make sure you company name address and phone number is consistent everywhere from your website, to your social platforms, to the local directories and review sites.
There are some tools you can use to help the tedious work of checking citations. One for example is that you can run a citation search using Whitespark’s Local Citation Finder.
Customer Reviews Essential To Local SEO
In our work with a local Niagara Falls restaurant, Weinkeller, and one of the scariest haunted house attractions in the world, Nightmares Fear Factory, our agency has learned the importance of online customer reviews to the success of the business.
Customer reviews impact social media engagement and reach, Local SEO, and the ultimate “life” of the business. They are critical to your Local SEO strategy and business as a whole and should be treated as such. Surprisingly, not all businesses do.
Another major Local SEO factor for customer reviews is the all important click-through. “Now that Google displays reviews in an isolated popup (instead of taking you to the locations Google Plus Local page), users will read your reviews before they see any other information about your business.”
How To Encourage Online Customer Reviews
The process is actually quite simple. When consulting with local Niagara Falls hotels, attractions and restaurants, we have advised them of the following simple process:
1. Create a “Reviews” Page On Your Website.
You can create something simple like your domain.com/reviews and with an easy to remember url like that, your employees can tell customers to leave a review there.
We also suggested to these tourism companies that they add snippets of great reviews from Trip Advisor, Yelp, and especially Google Reviews, to the reviews page on their website. They then would link to the source site for users to read the full review as wells others not included on the website reviews page.
2. Create a “Reviews” Coupon Flyer/Handout
In order to encourage reviews, we’ve also suggested to our tourism clients to create a promotional flyer or handout, with a coupon, as well as a friendly request to “leave a review” on their favourite review website.
Instead of pushing them to review on Google or Trip Advisor, we give them options with clear, simple, instructions on how to leave a review. If they use a site they are familiar with and have used before, they will be more likely to leave a review.
You could also link them to the reviews page you created on your site.
3. Distribute That Flyer – Face to Face and Eye to Eye
While this may not be possible for every business, it should be possible for most. You nee dot make sure you and your management and/or staff, hand the reviews handout to every potential customer.
Make sure you/they don’t just hand it to them. They should look them in the eye and humbly ask for a review. This small, non-physical connection could be what it takes for that customer to leave you an awesome review that ends up bringing you more business.
It’s important to keep in mind that this tactic is strictly a numbers game. It’s like coupon redemption – it will have a low rate of return. But the more you hand out, the more you ask for reviews, the more you will get.
So what have we learnt? First thing is every business needs local SEO. At least everyone with a physical location and/or a lot of competition in their respective markets.
Prime positioning and search engine results page real-estate along with increased website traffic and conversions are the key benefits to be gained from a solid Local SEO strategy.
Using your city, state or province in your metadata and page content makes for easy Local SEO opportunities. Always remember to optimize your image alt and title tags. While you’re at it, optimize your link title tags!
We also learned that Local SEO includes using an embedded Google Map whose address is linked and verified with not your business address, but the business address associated with your Google My Business Page.
Small things like citations, your company name, address and phone number should be consistent in all your online profiles. This includes everywhere on your website, your blog, your social media platforms, and all local directories and review websites like Yelp, Foursquare, and Trip Advisor.
Finally, we learned that customer reviews are so very important for Local SEO for so many reasons. Encourage online customer reviews, it will only help your business prosper.
We’ve had a lot of experience and success with Local SEO for our clients. If you’re looking for some help maximizing your Local SEO strategy or overall website SEO strategy, we’d be glad to help get you started.
Contact me for a free, no obligation, basic website marketing and SEO audit.
If you’d rather sit down or get on Skype and chat, give me a shout out on Twitter and we’ll get things going there.
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