Local SEO is an often under-utilised and frequently ignored aspect of the SEO of many websites. The facts are though that practically any website can benefit from an improved local presence. Since Google’s Pigeon Ongoing Updates, which commenced in July 2014, Local SEO has risen in importance. Businesses see how there is a genuine ROI opportunity for their efforts in Local Search Engine Optimisation.
We go on in this article to discuss why Local SEO is so important and how to rank well with Local SEO in 2015.
What is Local SEO?
Local SEO is a specialised form of local targeted online marketing. Local SEO enables businesses to promote their products and services to locally based customers. Tools typically used in Local SEO are the major search engines (e.g. Google) and specialist business directories (e.g. Yelp (including Qype), TripAdvisor, Touch Local and Superpages.
On 7th August 2015, Google reduced the previous local results listing from 7 pack to 3 pack, meaning that now only 3 local Companies show in searches with a local intent. This functionality integrates with Google Maps as well as gives Google visitors the opportunity to click “more” to view other local companies too. This reduction to 3 pack now makes it particularly enticing for Companies to have a presence in this highly prestigious online real estate.
Understanding the importance of Google Pigeon
Google Pigeon is the user-name (rather than Google name) given to a series of Algorithm changes by Google which started from July 24th, 2014. Google Penguin is designed to give enhanced and increasingly accurate local search results. To achieve this Google uses 300+ ranking signals used in the main search engine plus other features specifically locally targeted, e.g. distance of business from search, knowledge graph and increased use of local directories (e.g. Yelp).
The need for a Local SEO Audit
If you plan to measure your Local SEO results over time (and you really should,) then you will need a baseline. We highly recommend the completion of a baseline Local SEO audit; this will give you a clear audit of your current situation and also a roadmap of changes that are needed.
If you are experienced, you could complete this audit yourself, or you could employ a Company like us at Xploited Media to provide a Local SEO Audit for you.
About your Google Local Business Page
It’s essential to set-up a Google My Business account, details are available at https://www.google.com/business/. If you haven’t set one up already the benefits include:
- – It’s totally free to join
- – Your business would be found on Google searches, in Google Maps and also on Google+
- – Customers and prospects would have access to all of the correct contact information for your business
- – Customers can leave reviews of your business and also +1 individual pages as well as use Google+ to share your posts
Avoid black hat techniques / don’t spam
As tempting as it is to use black hat techniques (e.g. spam) just don’t. Even if you prosper initially, the likelihood is that Google will find out and punish you far more than the gain you had in the first place.
So avoid practices such as i) Keyword stuffing, ii) Adding multiple accounts to the same location, including use of multiple URLs, iii) Duplicate content – using the same content on different pages or sites, iv) Article spinning – e.g. adding similar articles to your various local profiles, v) Spam commenting – obtaining links to your local profiles by adding spam comments on other websites, etc.
Target at Neighbourhood and City Level
A key change since the introduction of Google Pigeon has been a much more local version of local. Think now more at a neighbourhood level than city level. The results for example for searches like “Cambridge CB4 florists”, “Cambridge CB7 florists” and “Cambridge Florists” will all now look quite different.
For very local businesses, e.g. shops (florists, butchers, bakers, photography studios, etc.) there is a much greater chance to secure very local searches. Also where a business has multiple locations, each physical location can be targeted more precisely for Local SEO purposes.
Ask clients for reviews
Reviews on your website, Google My Business account and Local SEO directories (e.g. TripAdvisor) are especially valuable as (if positive reviews) they are a key indicator to Google and prospects about the quality of your goods and services.
Whatever else you do avoid paying for reviews using a paid reviews service. Google and other sites look out for patterns, e.g. same e-mail / ISP address leaving reviews and will punish fraudulent sites. This is another black hat technique to avoid.
Wherever you can also seek to obtain Google +1’s on individual pages and reviews on your Google My Business account. This is usually easier to achieve than you’d think by simply contacting customers and asking them to leave a positive review. This could be achieved by a simple phone call and/or e-mail.
Use high quality unique optimised photos
When adding photos to your Google My Business account, your website pages and Local SEO directories try to add unique and high quality photography. Optimise them with keywords related to the photo too. High quality photography will be a key differentiator from competitors and can give a real boost to SERP results.
Create great titles and Meta descriptions
As with all SEO the Metadata is important. Always add a great title and meta description to each page including your local page(s):
- – Title – Stay with the limit of c55 characters (this depends on character width) and also use highly tuned keywords which describe your business
- – Description – Use the description of up to 156 characters to entice people to click your SERP result, making clicking as irresistible as possible!
Use other quality Local SEO websites and directories
For optimal Local SEO, it’s also advisable to have a presence in as many other high quality websites and directories as possible. Not only will these provide a great backlink enhancing your SEO but they are another opportunity for your business to be found.
Examples of general Local SEO web directories include Yelp (including recently acquired Qype), Thomson Local, Touch Local and Superpages. These have listing opportunities across many business categories and a listing for any business is suitable.
When adding a new listing always ensure that contact details are 100% correct. Also, use unique descriptions for each, i.e. don’t just copy/paste from your about us page or Google My Business page.
There will be some niche (rather than general) specific local directories too; these can be particularly valuable. Here are a couple of examples of niche specific directories with three sites each:
- – Food/Restaurants – Open Table, Trip Advisor, and Urban Spoon
- – Photography – Gig Salad, Photographers Directory and Wedj
For an extensive resource detailing over 1,000 local SEO (free and paid) websites and directories in 41 business niches visit this site. This will save you a lot of time and effort in researching, and it is well worth establishing a presence on as many of these sites as possible.
Build quality backlinks
Local SEO is much less dependent on backlinks than ranking in the past has been; this is especially the case since Google Penguin reduced the overall significance of backlinks.
It’s still a great idea though to obtain ethical backlinks to your business page wherever you can. Obtain additional backlinks on quality sites, which are related to your genre/niche.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our quick introduction to Local SEO, be sure to check-out our Local SEO main web page as well. We’d love to hear from you, so give us a call on 07517332549 or contact us to discuss your Local SEO project requirements.