Local SEO is a formidable tool that small businesses can easily take advantage of. Hubspot states ‘four out of five consumers use search to find local information’ therefore if your business isn’t optimised for local search you could be missing out on a significant proportion of potential customers. In other words what I’m trying to say is local SEO is of the utmost importance if you want your business to get noticed in search engines and generate more customers.
Without a local SEO strategy in place it makes it much harder for your business to take advantage of the local online demand for your businesses products/services.
To help with your local search engine optimisation I have created a comprehensive local SEO guide which will include everything from, local best practices to Google My Business and more.
By the end of the guide, I hope you’ll have gained a good understanding on how best to optimise your locally business in order to reach new potential consumers who make local searches to find products/services.
What is local SEO?
Local SEO is a digital form of marketing which specifically engages with search engine optimisation for local businesses and with society embracing technological advances it’s vital to grasp this concept.
By taking an effective approach towards your local SEO campaign it will give your business the chance the appear on Page 1 of the search engine results page. Whether this is done in the map pack, the organic listing or both.
The sole purpose of local SEO is to enable businesses to promote their product/services to the local area and customers.
For example, when I search for “tailors in Nottingham”, I am presented with the following search engine results.
You might be thinking will Google display my tailors business in it’s search results?
Well if you don’t implement local SEO think about all the traffic and potential customers you might be missing out on because your local business isn’t listed on Google.
Hence local SEO being so important. This will continue to be more critical in the near future due to the increase in mobile device usage.
Does my site need Local SEO or can I stick to Traditional Marketing?
Are you a local business? Then yes you do!
It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in. Skip Hire to House Removals. I bet your competitors use it.
This type of SEO is ideal for small medium enterprises (SME) in order to become more established within the surrounding area. However large corporations such as Sainsbury’s also take advantage of this method too often dependent on the business. Usually, if they have local stores and concessions they’ll want to be visible in the maps pack and SERPs.
Do you still use the Yellow Pages to search for a business or product/service… The most likely answer is no. There are much more convenient ways to find out this information all within arms reach: Mobile phones. And therefore because of this, it has changed the way we search for this information. Nowadays when looking for information most people will go straight to google and perform a quick search and glance at the first 10 results.
Typically speaking local SEO is almost always cheaper and more effective when compared to traditional methods such as adverts in the local newspaper or leaflets. As well as this with traditional marketing methods there’s no way to specifically target your audience and therefore it’s significantly harder to measure their effectiveness making it much harder to work out where to make cut backs.
Whereas with local SEO you can track everything. From how much traffic, leads and customers you are gaining from your local SEO and organic search traffic.
Often it requires less financial investment to set up and run all while generating significant returns when you get to the top of Google’s SERPs.
Local Search Optimisation
The best way to create a local SEO campaign is to include these four elements:
- On-Page local SEO optimisation
- Local business listings
- Online reviews
- Link building
On-site local SEO optimisation
The main job of a search engine is to show the most relevant data for each query. In other words, narrowing down the number of results available for a particular search term.
To make it even easier for the search engine, follow some basic SEO principles. Such as making a clear site map consisting of easy to follow links to all pages. And all alt text and video transcripts need to be up to date.
Keywords are also vital to use within a site. So that search engines have no reason to be uncertain and therefore rank better.
This usually requires including a location alongside a keyword. Such as ‘web design West Bridgford’ compared to ‘web design’.
Keywords should be built into content, meta descriptions, page titles, and URLs.
It’s also very important that the site is suitable for mobile devices so it’s easily accessible. When out on the go and not just when using a laptop or desktop.
On-Page local SEO checklist
I briefly touched upon a number of things that will help give your site greater authority. However, in order to ensure this if you follow the below for your businesses site it will definitely help. Starting from the top of the page and descending:
- SEO friendly URLs – Search engines much prefer URLs that are short, include keywords and have a logical structure. For example www.domain.com/sofas/leather-sofas/
- Title tag with your keyword and brand – As page titles are a ranking factor it’s an important aspect to on-page SEO. Whether you use a hyphen or a pipe is personal opinion but no matter what it’s best practice to have the keyword to the beginning of the title tag due to it having a greater impact with search engines followed by the businesses name. E.g ‘2 Seater Leather Sofas Nottingham & Derby | EastMid Sofas’. Yoast’s SEO plugin can be beneficial to use when creating a new page title it can help reduce truncation within the SERPs.
- Meta Description – Although it’s thought meta descriptions are not a ranking factor they do in-directly impact Click Through Rate (CTR), by giving a short summary of what the page is about. E.g ‘EastMid Sofas have a wide range of 2 seater leather sofas in-stock with Nottingham & Derby eligible for free delivery. To enquire, call the team today on 07123456789’. The screenshot below shows where you can find Google’s Yoast SEO plugin on a WordPress site if you have it installed. To then edit the information in the image below. Click on “Edit snippet” you’ll then be able to change the SEO title, slug and meta description.
- Headline tag (H1 tag) – Like page titles these hold quite some weight for search engines and what you will find is most sites like WordPress will automatically give the title of the post the H1 tag and ideally this will be optimised for a targeted keyword. I personally think it’s better to only use one H1 tag per page as it’s thought more h1 tags dilute it’s impact.
- Subheading tag (H2 tag) – Like your headline tag (H1) contains keywords for your business the subheading tag (H2) should also contain similar keywords
- Images / Videos – Including images and videos can help reduce bounce rate and increase the length of time a user stays on the site. If you do choose to use an image be sure to include relevant ALT text as when the site is crawled by bots they don’t see the image instead they see the alt text. Alt text is essentially a title for the image but be sure to use relevant keywords when doing this. If your website includes a video you’ve then got the opportunity to apply video schema mark-up, this is another way to help search understand your website.
- Keywords – It’s vital that your website’s content includes relevant targeted keywords throughout the copy but it’s thought the keywords have a greater SEO impact by including them in the first couple of paragraphs. However when doing this it’s important to not keyword stuff.
Local business listings
Search engines like Google and Bing have to go through and cross-reference a vast amount of data. In order to find the best results for that specific search. Therefore it is extremely important that you have listings of services such as Google business listings, Yelp and Bing places all with up to date and accurate data. This helps search engines understand what your business does as building a sense of trust for the website if the local listings are all up to date and matching with the information displayed on your website.
There are tools available like BrightLocal or Moz local whereby you’re able to type in your businesses name and then it’ll check all of the business listings to see if the data is correct, how consistent they are as well as whether they’ve got any duplicate listings.
Where can I locally list my business?
How should I go about a local listing?
Google! Start off by registering an account for your business with Google My Business Page. You’ll then be guided through multiple different steps to set it up.
Below I’ve made a list of some key points:
- When selecting from the different business categories it is crucial that you choose the most accurate option available.
- Ensure all NAP data is accurate and only include the business opening times if applicable.
- Encourage customers to give you reviews which you can then include.
- A well written and formatted long description is really important.
- If you’re a business that provides a service e.g Plumbers you’re able to provide a service location instead of displaying a business address.
Step by Step process
- Do an internet search on Google my Business.
- Click on the top listing whether it’s the add or the one below.
- You will then need to click the “start now” button in order to create a new business listing.4.The first bit of information you’ll be required to enter is the exact business name and click “next”
- Then you’ll have to input your address. Below the boxes where you’ll have inserted this information. There’s a tick box ‘I deliver goods and services to my customers’ if your business does that tick this box by clicking it. If ticked another box will appear ‘Hide my address (it’s not a store)’ if that is the case then select this too. However, if all information is 100% correct click ‘next’.
- You’ll then have a map shown if the pin isn’t in the correct place, pick it up and drag it to the right location where your business address is, then click “next”.
- If you selected the option to say your business delivers, pick the most suitable option and tick the circle. Then click “next”.
- You’ll then need to categories your business and click “next”. This needs to be fully accurate.
- You’re then given the option to input a phone number and web address for the business, however, this is only optional, then click “next” when accurately added.
- The next option is “Would you like to receive communications with personalized tips and recommendations to improve your business’s presence on Google?” if you do click “yes”, if you don’t click “no” and then “next”.
- You’re then needed to read the information on the screen to verify it then click “next”.
- You then will need to verify the address, you’re given the option to have a postcode sent with a code on if you want that click “mail” if not you can verify the address at a later date.
- Now it should all be completed.
Why does it need to be mobile compatible?
In today’s society nearly everyone owns a mobile phone or at least has access to one and typically speaking mobile users search for nearby business while out on the go. In order to get an instant result to enable them to walk into the nearest place and make a specific purchase that they wanted.
This is the main reason why you want your business information and website using local SEO that’s suitable for mobile access in order to benefit from local buying intent.
What if a location is not used when completing a search?
Not a problem. Do not worry the major search engines like Google and Bing have been improving the way they deliver appropriate search results to their users.
One method they use to do this is by recognising which country you are in, this is easily identified by your IP address, hence if you’re based in the UK Google will provide you with UK searches. It gets better, IP’s are able to pinpoint a more specific compared to just the UK.
This occurs on your mobile as well as your laptops and therefore your search results become increasingly relevant. This location is displayed at the bottom of the search results page.
These help search engines drive traffic to a website despite how well that site is ranked.
They also encourage a higher click-through rate as consumers are more likely to trust an online review. Due to it being genuine proof. And therefore you should always ask customers to leave feedback.
This can be done via a call-to-action, follow-up email or word of mouth, and all reviews should get a response no matter what.
Where can reviews be left?
Reviews can be left on a variety of platforms from Google reviews to social networking platforms like Facebook.
Google reviews can be found by searching for a business e.g I’ve searched for ‘Tough Mary’s Bakehouse Nottingham’.
The screenshot shows the first page of results generated and on the right-hand side of the image, there’s a panel which pulls in data from Google my Business containing key information such as NAP.
Then towards the bottom of the sidebar is there your business reviews are located, this is where you’d also go to write one by clicking on the ‘write a review’ button and then a pop up will ask you to insert the review you’re wishing to leave for that business.
Where’s the best place to leave a review?
In my opinion, Google reviews have a far greater impact compared to the likes of Facebook reviews. Due to them automatically being a displayed on the screen without having to click on a google listing. To view a facebook page when a search for the business is being made.
Does my business have Google reviews?
In order for any business to have Google reviews they must first have a Google My Business account with a verified business listing. This will then all be featured in the right hand sided bar similar to the Tough Mary’s Bakehouse google search screenshot.
There are 3 ideal types of links. Those that will give direct referral traffic, links that build your reputation and finally links that build visibility with your target audience.
By following these types of links it means that you get quality over quantity. You are not set for any kind of link. And because of this, it gives a lasting impression on the search engine. Which is then passed on to your customer making it memorable.
A great way to achieve this especially for small local businesses is checking with your dealership to see if they have a section on their website whereby you can display some business information often this is found under a dealer section just displaying NAP data.
By having links it means it’ll improve your business’s search engine ranking for all searches. Due to it generating a greater authority as well as showing to search engines expertise and trust. Link buildings is crucial for websites using a brand new domains as they are almost none existent to search engines and therefore I’d recommend working with a Digital PR agency.
Basic Step by Step Link Building
Step 1: know who your audience is at this moment and then know who your ideal audience is. This means you’ll need to know what your current audience does. And how you find them in order to expand this.
Step 2: you then need to have a clear picture of the current and ideal audience. Then create a note of possible websites that can help you reach out to the ideal audience. Then do this for your current audience and then try and get links from these websites.
Step 3: Content. Get writing appealing content for your audience, I’d recommend having well-structured articles with internal links to your businesses website.
Step 4: Outreach. Some industries have relevant websites that allow guest posting which is a great way to link build. Another approach could be to reach out to your local newspaper e.g Nottingham Live to try and get some content displayed on their website and in the paper.
Step 5: Social media. Use all of the available relevant platforms to reach out to new and current audiences. Do this by posting your blogs on there.
Track your results
The main aspects you’ll want to track is conversions and organic traffic. With these all being very easily measurable it’s worth having a look at the results. In order to see what’s working/not working in order to see if anything can be done in order to improve it.
- Your businesses local ranking hopefully will have increased since implementing local SEO and the best way to find this sort of information out is by using tools like SEO Monitor, Accuranker or SEMrush. It provides automatically up to date ranking data for all of the keywords you choose to track.
- You’d hope that after adding local SEO to your site that it’ll have an increased click-through rate to your website and therefore you’d think that your site’s traffic is higher. However the best way to see the results of your Local SEO on your site is by using Google Analytics which is a free tool. This way you’ll get a sense as to whether your traffic and conversions are growing over time. You’ll eventually get to a point whereby you’ll be able to gauge your business peak seasonal time.
In my opinion, where possible I would use an expert to carry out any kind of SEO strategy as work is usually carried out behind the scenes. E.g Towards to start of a local SEO strategy keyword research is going to be carried out to determine how to optimise the website, usually when mapping keywords to pages there’s a thought process e.g focusing on middle to bottom of the funnel keywords which have high intent so that relevant quality leads are received.
In addition to this, running a business is exceptionally time consuming and as a result many owners don’t have the time to learn about SEO as well as make website changes. Initially local SEO requires a lot of time to implement aspects of the strategy such as metadata creation and citation building.
However there are also small businesses that don’t have the resources to use an SEO agency or freelancers to implement local SEO and therefore following a guide like the one above is extremely important to implement local SEO correctly.