The following article is an introduction in to the importance of local SEO for business and how to help rank in the local search results.
Local SEO for Business
What is Local SEO?
Over the last 2-3 years, Google and other search engines have made massive steps towards localizing search results for users.
Nowadays when a user searches for a local service, Google will display a list of business in the nearby location as you can see here for the search “Sheffield photographers”:
Notice that after the first 3 results of this regular search query, Google shows an additional 7 local listings (on top of the other regular organic listings on the page) which includes the business name, address, phone number, reviews and location pin of that business on Google maps. This is what local SEO helps you to achieve.
The advantage of optimizing your site for local SEO is that it makes it easier for local customers to find your services, as well as increasing your prominence in the search results. The main advantage here is that it allows local businesses to rank well in the search engines without having to to compete with large multi-national companies with multiple physical locations.
In this article, we’ll focus on how to achieve these local listing on the 1st page of Google’s search results.
Key Steps Towards Ranking your Business for Local SEO
1. Set up a Google Local Business Listing
The most important step for local SEO is to set up a Google Local Business Listing (formerly known as Google Places). This essentially allows you to add your business’ physical location to Google Maps, so that when people search for businesses in your area (or on their mobile phone), Google will be able to display you as a local result.
Setting up a Google Local Listing is very easy to do. Simply go to Google Places for Business and run a search to see if your business is already listed on Google Maps.
If you’re business isn’t currently listed, click on the option “No, These are not my businesses. Let me create my profile.” You’ll then be presented with a simple form to add your business – you’ll need to include your business name, address, city, phone number, post code and choose a category. Once you’ve done this, you’ll need to quickly verify your listing through your phone/postal address and you’re done.
2. Optimize your Site for Geo-Keywords
In addition to your Google Places account, Google can measure the location and nature of your business through keywords on your site.
If you add your city name to your homepage, title tags and h1 titles then Google will be able to understand the local nature of your business. For example, if you run a local dentist in Sheffield then you’ll want to include the city name in your title tag such as “Private Dental Surgery – Sheffield City Centre”.
3. Add your Physical Address to Every Page on your Site.
It’s important to add your physical location not just on your contact page but also in the footer of every page on your site.
This helps Google to “pinpoint” the location of your business, even without a Google Local Listing. Don’t forget to include your business times, opening hours, contact information and directions.
4. Build Links with “Local City” + “Service” Anchor Text from Local Sites
Similar to the geo-keywords on your site, Google can also understand the locality of your site based on your backlinks and anchor text. The more backlinks your have from local sites with geo anchor text, e.g. “Sheffield Dentist“, the more likely your site will rank for local business terms.
5. Add the Address Schema Markup to your Site
Schema markup is a type of HTML coding that allows Google to understand key pieces of information about your site. They can even display these markups of information in the search results.
For example, using the [address][/address] tags helps Google pinpoint your local business, which again helps with Google Local.
6. Build Citations from Local Sites, Businesses and Directories
Local citations are an online reference to your Business Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP). Like links to your website, Google uses local citations when measuring the authority and address of local businesses. Unlike links however, citations don’t need to physically link to your website.
You should aim to build citations with your full business name, address and phone details on local directories and websites.
For example, if you run Dental surgery in Sheffield then you’d want to get your business listed in the local pages, newspaper, Sheffield directories and possibly the local council website: e.g. Greenmans’ Dentist, 45 Wayfield Street, Sheffield, S17 3HJ, 0114 2360059.
Examples of directories where you can submit your site for local directories include Yelp.co.uk, Yell.com, 118.com, HotFrog.com and more. You can find an even biggest list at SEOMark.co.uk here.
Importantly, the more citations and links you have, the more likely Google will list your business as a local listing result. You should also make sure that you’re consistent with all of your local listing information and citations. If you move location, try and update as many of your citations and links as possible.
7. Get Positive Reviews from your Customers
As part of your Google local listing, Google displays user reviews and ratings under your listing. A positive rating (e.g. 4-5/5 stars) will help give users confidence in your service and increase your local business ranking.
You can encourage users to review your business through promotions, social media, email lists. You can also get your business listed on 3rd party review sites such as Yell.com.
8. Different Locations should have Unique and Separate Landing Pages
If you have multiple office locations than you should set up unique and separate landing pages (a different URL for the web pages) with unique content and title tags for each location.
For example, if you have offices in both London and Manchester then you should set up a landing page for London (with the keywords London in your page title and content) and then a separate landing page for Manchester.
If you don’t take the time to set up separate landing pages then it can sometimes cause confusion to Google and you won’t get the appropriate markup for either of your locations. You should also avoid using duplicate content for the landing pages as this can lead to duplicate content penalties with Panda.