11 Local SEO Essentials You Need to Know in 2019
Discover how to get your business found by local searchers
Local SEO is essential for small businesses who want their website to be found easily by customers in their local area.
Marketing to local customers can be a very effective strategy compared to wider marketing efforts.
Over half of all consumers conducting a local search on their smartphone visit a store within a day of their search, and 18% of local searches lead to sales.
However, despite the clear potential that optimising for local search offers, many businesses have still not quite wrapped their heads around what they should be doing to harness this valuable traffic source.
Despite it being the most important local ranking factor in 2018, over half of local retailers haven’t claimed their Google My Business Listing, and only 30% of small businesses have mobile-friendly websites.
If you want to get ahead of your competitors and make the most of local web searches, the time is now.
By making local SEO a key part of your overall marketing strategy you can attract valuable local customers and make more sales.
This article covers the main steps you need to take to make sure your website is optimised for local SEO so you can dominate the local search listings and drive more traffic to your site.
What is Local SEO?
Before reading on, it’s worth taking a minute to understand what we’re really talking about when we say local SEO.
SEO or Search Engine Optimisation is the process of optimising your site to make it easy for web users to find when they search for a related keyword term in a search engine like Google.
Local SEO targets searches that have local intent – meaning that the searcher is looking for something located physically close to them in the local geographic area.
For example, someone typing in “carpet cleaning parramatta” will most likely be looking for a carpet cleaning company in the Parramatta, Sydney area.
If you’re based in Parramatta, offer this service, and optimise your website well for this keyword and location, you might expect to get some traffic to your website from those searching for this term. (Note that the business with reviews appears at the top – more on that later).
Not all local intent searches include a specific place name. Google is quite clever at figuring out local intent and so it knows somebody searching on mobile for “coffee shops” is most likely looking for a coffee shop within a small radius of their current location.
Therefore it will tend to return listings for coffee shops in the local area.
So how do you optimise your online presence for these local intent searches and take advantage of the traffic they send?
That’s where local SEO comes in.
There are many different ways you can optimise your website to make the most of local traffic and we’ll go over some of the main strategies in this article.
1. Getting Ready for Local SEO Success and Keyword Research
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Before you get started with any specific local SEO techniques, it’s vital to cover the basics you’ll need to achieve good SEO results.
By their nature, local searches target physical locations, so you need to make sure you have a physical location with a real address and face-to-face contact with customers – businesses that sell products or services online only will usually not have much success with local SEO.
The eligibility rules for a Google My Business listing reflect this as well.
You also need to consider the area you serve and the level of demand and competition in your industry and city.
Some businesses will want to attract traffic from searches located anywhere in their city and the surrounding area, while others will focus on an even smaller area such as a particular suburb or district.
If there’s not a huge demand for the products or services you’re offering in the immediate vicinity, you may want to target a wider audience such as the entire city, rather than just the suburb you’re located in.
This might mean targeting terms such as “wedding venue sydney”, rather than “wedding venue bondi beach”.
On the other hand, Google is putting more weight on local proximity, so depending on your target market, it may not be worth the effort of marketing to searchers in the wider area, particularly if you’re competing with other businesses that may offer the same products or services at a closer distance.
Once you have a clear idea of your target market, you should do some keyword research to figure out exactly what your local customers are searching for.
There are many different ways to approach keyword research, which go beyond the scope of this guide.
However, essentially you want to come up with a list of search terms with local intent for which you would like your business to come up on the first page in a search.
For example if you’re a florist in Brisbane you might research terms like:
- Brisbane florist
- Florists Brisbane
- Order flowers Brisbane
- Flower arrangements Brisbane
- And so on…
Once you’ve come up with a master list of keywords, you can analyse each term to see how much traffic it gets (how many people search for that term each month) and what the competition is like.
You can then decide which keywords to target first.
2. NAP Consistency
Some of the vital aspects of achieving success with local SEO are very basic and simple. Things like keeping your name, address, and phone number (NAP) consistent across all your web properties shouldn’t be overlooked.
NAP citations are used in local directories and Google and other search engines use these citations as a ranking factor to determine your business’s authority in your local area.
Your NAP information should be displayed clearly on your homepage. In fact, I think your footer is probably the best place.
If these details match those in local directories and niche directories, the search engines will know that both your site and the directory listing are referring to the same business and are more likely to return your business in the local search results.
If there are inconsistencies, perhaps because you’ve moved business location and haven’t updated your address everywhere yet, Google may struggle to understand that the two listings refer to the same business.
It’s therefore vital to make sure all your NAP information is kept up to date and consistent everywhere on the web, as much as possible.
There are various tools you can use, such as Moz Local, to search for your business and make sure all your NAP citations are correct.
3. Geo-targeted Landing Pages and Blog Posts
A landing page is a page on your site that’s been built specifically for a targeted group of web visitors.
If you’re targeting multiple locations, such as a number of different cities, you can achieve better rankings in the search engines by creating a series of geo-targeted landing pages that are each optimised for certain location-based terms.
However, you must take care to ensure that every page of content is completely unique and not just a copy of the same text with a different city inserted in the blanks.
Google’s Hummingbird algorithm update penalised sites that duplicated content in this way and updates since have continued to reward good quality content that serves the searcher and penalises low-quality content that exists for keyword purposes only.
For this reason, when you’re creating your landing pages you must think about how best you can serve the customers that they’re targeting and what sort of information they’re looking for.
Your business blog is another place where you can include keyword-optimised content and tags, and publishing high-quality content on a regular basis is a great way to improve both your general and local SEO.
Something else to be aware of is these pages perform much better when you have an actual physical presence in the city you are targeting.
If you are based in Brisbane and create a page targeted for Sydney customers, your page will certainly be less visible than others who are physically located in Sydney.
4. On-page Optimisation and Meta Tags
Before considering links and citations for local SEO, you must make sure your own site is properly structured and optimised so that search engines can read it properly.
This means using appropriate headings, including keywords, making sure your URLs are simple and well-structured and include keywords, and including your suburb, city, and sometimes your state in the meta title and description tags.
As well as being helpful for SEO, these tags provide a preview of your site for the user in the search listings, so they’re more likely to click through if you’ve written a compelling description and it’s clear that your business will meet their needs and is located in the local area.
5. Local Directory Listings and Citations
Adding your site to business directories used to be an effective way of getting more links to your site for SEO purposes.
The power of these links has been devalued now in regards to general SEO, but they’re still an important ranking factor for local search.
Most SEO experts agree that having good quality and accurate citations (listings in local directories) is vital for local SEO.
Google checks these listings to verify that the NAP data it has for your business is correct, and the more high-quality citations you have, the more authority your business appears to have in your industry and geographical area.
Entering your business into online directories can be tedious, but it’s worth making the effort to make sure you have a high-quality listing.
Make sure you have a well-written description, a full list of products and services and include extra information such as opening hours, accepted payments, and photos wherever possible.
Being listed in more directories is not only great for Local SEO, it also helps more customers to find you, as some people may search these directories for businesses directly instead of via a search engine.
6. Optimise Your Google My Business Listing
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Google My Business is a special listing or ‘profile’ for your business that will be shown in search results when they search for your business name or click through from a list of suggested businesses after conducting a local search, or via Google Maps.
Your Google My Business listing includes useful information about your business such as your address, telephone number, opening hours, photos, and reviews.
If you want to attract local searches, you must have a Google My Business profile and you should make sure this information is always kept up to date.
According to Moz, Google My Business signals are the most important local search ranking factor, so it’s definitely worth taking the time to optimise your listing, aiming for 100% profile completion.
Having a Google My Business Listing also encourages customers to leave reviews, which further increases confidence in your brand and is helpful for SEO.
Also, Google My Business have released a GMB app which makes it really easy to monitor and update your listing.
7. Match Your Service Pages to Google My Business Categories
When you create your Google My Business listing you can choose up to five categories to list your business in and you should take the time to choose the relevant categories for your business to optimise for local SEO and bring more targeted traffic to your site.
Categories help users to find more accurate results for what they’re looking for, so you should choose the categories that most closely align with the main services that your business offers.
This makes it really easy for Google to see that the categories chosen are a good fit for your product or service offering.
If you’re not sure which categories to choose, you can look at the listings of your competitors to see which categories they have included their business in.
You can also check out the category list on this website which appears to have the entire 2000+ categories you can scroll through for ideas.
Also, be aware Google can and most likely will, spontaneously change your business categories over time.
Google gets data for Google My Business listings from a range of sources (not just from business owners) to keep in line with its philosophy of always providing the most relevant information to users.
If you choose a category that is not truly representative for your business, expect it to be removed at a later date.
8. Implement a Review Acquisition Strategy
Positive reviews can have a huge impact on your business and are a big ranking signal for local SEO too.
Reviews can also help to turn search traffic and views of your business listing into click-throughs to your site, and conversions into sales.
Think about your own decision making process when searching for a local service provider.
Do you check out the reviews of the businesses you are considering contacting? Would a 4 to 5 star review rating make a business seem more favourable to you?
93% of online shoppers say that their buying decisions are influenced by reviews and 84% say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends and family.
For these reasons, a major part of your overall marketing strategy should be focused around acquiring as many positive reviews as possible.
You should set yourself clear targets for the number of reviews you’re aiming for each month and the star rating you want to achieve.
As there are many different sites where customers can leave reviews (Google My Business listings, Truelocal, Tripadvisor, etc.) you’ll probably want to concentrate your efforts on just a couple of places.
The best way to get great reviews is to provide great service and products, so customer satisfaction should be your main priority.
It also doesn’t hurt to simply ask customers to leave a review. Many customers wouldn’t even think about writing a review on their own, but they’ll be happy to do so if asked.
9. Local Business Structured Data Markup
Structured data is a way of providing information about your business in the code of your website that Google and other search engines can display directly in the search listings page.
Also known as Schema markup, this code is the language of the search engines.
Many answers to search queries tend to be shown within the search results now, completely removing the need to click through to get information from a website.
These are referred to as ‘rich results’.
You will have seen a ‘rich result’ before when searching for information about a business, for instance a star-rating in the search results.
Whether you’re looking for opening hours, a postcode, a phone number or product information, you type in a search query and and there’s the answer displayed right at the top of the search results.
This is structured data/ schema markup in action.
It’s particularly important for local businesses to use this markup so that important details such as opening hours are displayed on your listing.
You can learn more about local business structured data markup at the Google developer guide.
10. Maintain an Effective Social Media Presence
image via https://www.pexels.com/
Social media is a whole other branch of marketing, but you can also use your activity on social networks to improve your local SEO and brand presence.
Social channels can be an effective way to stay in touch with your local customers, present special offers, share new products, and acquire reviews and recommendations.
Your social media accounts are another place where you can publish content that includes location-specific keywords and you can also geotag images and promote local events, which provide further signals to search engines that you have a presence in your targeted local area.
11. Combining Online and Offline Marketing Techniques
While your online marketing strategy is important, you shouldn’t abandon your offline marketing efforts.
Local networking and relationship building are equally important for growing your brand presence locally and can also help with your online strategy by attracting organic links to your site from other local businesses.
Communicating with your customers in the real world will also help you to learn more about them so you can serve them better and target them more effectively online.
Encouraging your customers to attend events, follow you on social media, sign up to your mailing list, leave reviews, or recommend your business to a friend, closes the loop and combines your online and offline marketing strategies to build customer loyalty and grow your customer base.
There are a lot of ingredients that go into an effective local SEO strategy and it can be tricky juggling all the pieces.
If you feel a bit lost or simply don’t have the time or resources to invest in SEO, you could consider hiring a local SEO expert who can plan and carry out an effective strategy that will result in your business website bringing in more traffic from local searches.
Now over to you
Can you see how Local SEO could benefit your business? But does the thought of implementing it yourself make you feel overwhelmed? If you’d like to learn more about how we can help, we’d love to hear from you.
Author - Maz Hancock
Maz is a SEO Specialist based on the Gold Coast and enjoys working closely with digital marketing teams and ambitious local business owners to implement SEO in a way that’s results-focused, simple and effective.