If you are a website owner who wishes to rank your local business in major search engines like Google, Bing, Apple Maps, then you just clicked the right link.
You are probably already aware that claiming and optimizing your Google My Business (GMB) listing is the focal point of local SEO. If you haven’t heard about it, then get ready to learn something new today.
While claiming your GMB listing is a good starting point, there’s more to local SEO than that just it.
Let’s get down to it then:
What is Local SEO?
Local SEO is the process of ‘optimizing’ your online presence so that you attract more business from relevant local searches, usually done on Google, Bing, Yelp, Apple Maps, etc.
Among its competitors, Google has emerged with an estimated ~87% market share (in the US, at least). This means that most people use Google to search for local businesses.
So, this guide will be roughly 80% focussed on optimizing your online presence on Google.
To start with, you want to ensure that your website is optimized for mobile visitors. Statistics show that 61% of searchers are more likely to contact a local business that has a mobile-friendly site. Regardless of where you rank, nobody is going to want to make contact with an ugly, hard-to-use website.
1. Keyword Research
Most people think that local keyword research is a difficult thing, but this doesn’t have to be the case.
It’s easy; just make a list of all the services you provide and the locations you serve… then combine them to create a bunch of potential keywords.
There are lots of ways to generate local keywords.
For example; Imagine a plumber in Toronto—they might want to rank for keywords like:
- “plumber in Toronto”
- “emergency plumber in Toronto”
- “clogged drain cleaning in Toronto”
- “Toronto plumbers”
Another way is to get keyword suggestions from sites such as Craigslist, Ahrefs, etc.
Google autocomplete is another great, easy way to generate keywords- just type your primary keyword into Google and note down the suggested searches.
You can also compare what keywords your competitors rank for, and get other relevant long-tail and related searches.
2. Google My Business (GMB)
GMB is arguably the most important part of local SEO, as the experts will tell you. However, the power of Bing Places and Apple Maps listings can shouldn’t be ignored.
Setting them up isn’t rocket science. It’s as simple as following the instructions offered by Google/Bing/Apple.
With Google My Business in particular, there are a few things that tend to trip business owners up.
GMB is one of the highest local ranking factors for both organic and “snack pack” (or “Local 3 Pack”) results. You’ll need to submit your business name, phone number, address, website (optional), and your exact location when Google prompts you.
Remember, when setting up your GMB profile, Google only lets you select one category. You need to think about what your business is before you set it up. When you start typing that into the category field, Google will suggest categories as you type.
3. Local Citations (NAP)
Citations are online mentions of your business, which usually display the following way: name, address, and phone number—also known as NAP (Name, Address, Phone).
There are two types of citations (main ones): structured and unstructured.
Citations are referred to as structured when the NAP information is presented in a visually-structured manner. These citations are usually on business directories, social profiles, map software etc.
On the other hand, unstructured citations are mentions of your business in an unstructured format. They usually appear in blog posts, newspaper and magazine websites, wikis, business blogs, etc.
Why are NAP Citations Important?
Consistent NAP information across the Internet helps to further verify the data that Google already has on file (GMB) for your business. Inconsistent NAP information, on the other hand, will confuse, mislead, and misdirect both Google and potential customers.
Google is just one of the places people search for businesses. Searches are also done on Facebook, directories, etc. Having a pin-point NAP listed on those websites will allow potential customers to find your company, which translates into more customers and revenue.
4. On-Page SEO
A number of “traditional” on-page SEO practices apply here, like:
- Keyword in H1
- Keyword in title tag
- Keyword in URL
- Short and sweet URLs
- Enticing meta description
However, there are some other things you need to keep in mind when ranking locally, like displaying NAP information and adding appropriate schema markup.
There may also be significant differences in approach, depending on the number of locations a business has.
- Set up your site structure to rank local landing pages
- Optimize your homepage
- Optimize your local landing pages
- Add schema markup to your pages
You’re exempt from the rule of optimizing your homepage around your primary location if you have hundreds or thousands of real, physical locations.
5. Link Building (for Local Sites)
Recent research shows that “link signals” are the crucial ranking factor for local organic results.
For the “local 3 Pack,” link building is the second most important factor to determine ranking.
There are several other ways to build links to local business websites, such as:
- Create and promote a useful local resource
- Guest blogging on a related website, preferably one the ranks well
- Improve popular content (try the “Skyscraper Technique”)
- Try Link Intersect from ahrefs to find out who is linking to your competitors, but not to you
- Use even more link building tactics
6. Reviews (and Other Unending Activities)
Having a “set it- and forget it” mentality is definitely the worst thing you can do when it comes to SEO.
Local SEO is no different.
Here are a few never ending activities you should keep in mind, and make part of your marketing routine:
- Keep active on Google My Business
- Publish new content regularly
Here are the three most crucial ongoing tasks with GMB:
- Respond to customer/client reviews
- Be in the lookout for incorrect edits
- Use informative Google Posts to keep your customers informed
The most important one is #2: you need to watch out for incorrect edits to your listing.
Google allows anyone to suggest an edit to any Google listing with the “Suggest an edit” button.
Google will implement many suggested changes without notifying the business owner or validating the information.
Since getting these details wrong can damage your rating, it’s worth giving it a quick check once a while to make sure everything is still accurate.
I know that seems like a lot of information to take in at once. Let it sink in, because if you follow the advice above, I can guarantee you’ll be ranking better than 99% of your competitors.
Don’t forget, you also need to track conversions as well (things like call tracking, contact form conversion tracking, etc.). Otherwise, you won’t know if your local SEO genuine efforts are paying off, and leading to more revenue for your business.