Improving Your Local SEO
There’s a certain charm in owning or working for a business with an actual address. A place that people can go to; a place that’s uniquely for the business. Sure, online shops offer convenience but a physical store is more likely to form a solid bond with those who visit it frequently.
From bakeries and cafés to hairdressers and dental offices, these are the businesses we see every day whenever we walk to and from home. Friendly faces with services and products we trust wholeheartedly – that’s what a typical local business looks like.
However, there’s a certain kind of pain that comes with handling a local business.
For one, Local SEO is a lot different from SEO on a national scale. Local search results change more rapidly (and frequently) especially now that more and more people use mobile and voice search to look for things such as “the best Italian restaurant in town” or “nearest car repair.”
While it is true that National SEO requires more effort because of its scale, Local SEO is nowhere near simple.
Before you get discouraged though… don’t throw in the towel just yet. I promise you, all the effort you will put into your Local SEO strategy will be worth it in the end.
All you really need is a little patience and a keen eye for detail.
Think of Local SEO as a way of search engines lifting up the small, unheard voices of start-up owners and local businesses. For people in these industries, it might be a little challenging going up against the big corporations that are high above the SERPs as they are popular and have a great deal of resources to back up their SEO efforts.
Local SEO gives us little guys the leverage we need to make our products and services known to more and more people.
National SEO vs. Local SEO
National SEO doesn’t care for location as it’s for businesses who operate strictly online. With a scale as wide as the whole world, national campaigns are not only more difficult, they’re also much more expensive.
On the other hand, Local SEO is the exact opposite as it relies way too much on geography. It typically caters to businesses with physical stores which customers can visit.
With Local SEO, there are relatively fewer competitors as you’re only up against similar businesses within a particular area.
But if there are only a handful of competitors, why bother for Local SEO when there are other ways to advertise such as word-of-mouth, flyers or billboards?
You might be saying it’s just a waste of time, money and effort.
Let’s look at the statistics, shall we?
Local SEO: The Stats
1. Local Searches by the Billions
There is an estimated 2.6 billion local searches performed each month. This number nearly doubles each year. In connection with that, your customer might have googled you before they even stepped on your store as 80% of people tend to search online before making a purchase.
2. Local Searches Turn into Store Visits
Ranking in local search has a significant and direct effect on your in-store traffic. Google’s own research have shown that local searchers are prepared to take immediate action. 50% of those who conducted local searches on their phones visited a physical store within a day. 34% did the same, searching on computers or tablets.
3. Local Mobile Searches on the Rise
4 out of 5 of local searches end in a purchase. If that’s not enough to convince you to optimize your website for mobile devices, I don’t know what will.
Furthermore, 27% of mobile searches are to find a business’ specific location, 13% are for driving directions and 30% are for restaurants.
With these stats alone, you’ve got to admit… Local SEO means serious business.
Not to worry though! The very first thing you have to do is to learn the important things that make up Local SEO.
Elements of Local SEO
In Local SEO, there are five things you need to pay very close attention to:
NAP stands for your business’ Name, Address and Phone Number with area code. Sometimes, other businesses would also add their website info, hence NAP + W. Having this information will make it easy for potential customers and search engines to find you and your business.
Now this might sound like common knowledge but a survey by SinglePlatform proved otherwise. The company found out that 50 percent of SMBs have online listings that are inaccurate. Also, a whopping 70 percent reported that they do not have enough time to manage their listings on all the sites their consumers use.
Mismatched NAP citations can severely pull down your rankings, so before you list your business online, make sure to double check your information.
2. Google My Business Page
Whenever you search for local shops on Google, you’re greeted by a map with a suggestion of nearby establishments.
I typed in “local restaurants” and this is what it showed me:
This is called the Google Local 3-Pack. You have to aim to be here. And to be placed here, a Google My Business page is essential.
Your Google My Business page will put you on the map so that users will be able to find your business across SERPs. It also gives your audience the freedom to leave reviews.
On top of it all – it’s free. You don’t have to pay anything to be on the map. All you’ll need to do is spare some time to arrange all the details for your account.
If you’ve already claimed your business on Google My Business, it should appear on the sidebar like so:
Just about to set your page? Here’s a checklist of the things you need to bear in mind:
- Double check your business’ information. Add your local phone number and business address and make sure all of them are consistent with the data you’ve placed on your website
- Make sure all uploaded images are high-resolution. Especially your profile image and cover photo. Upload as many photos of your business as possible as Google will display these when people search for your business.
- Choose the correct categories to avoid confusing your potential audience.
- Don’t forget to add in your opening and closing times and days.
There’s nothing quite like reviews to bring you all the way up, or drag you to the depths of hell. Especially online reviews. 90% of consumers’ buying decisions are swayed by online reviews.
But hey, if you’re confident with your products and services (and you should be)… never fret!
The power of reviews lies in the fact that it’s social proof. When people talk about you in a good and positive way and give you four or five stars, others will see this as a good sign and would definitely check your business out.
Reviews, particularly the good ones, enhance your click through rates and even your physical visits.
With reviews, you’ll also know what your business needs to improve on and what you should continuously do.
Again, your Google My Business page allows your customers to review your products and services. Facebook has a Ratings and Reviews tab for your page and there are a ton of other review sites that are definitely worth checking out.
4. Local Citations
When it comes to getting the word out about your business, the internet is pretty much your best friend. Aside from your own website, there are a ton of other sites out there where you can place your business’ details.
When your business is mentioned on another website, it serves as a citation. Link or no link, as long as your business was mentioned, that’s a citation. It comes in a variety of forms, depending on how a website will show your business. But it usually looks like this:
- Your company name, phone number, address and website link.
Sometimes, you can even add your social media links.
If you want your business to rank in Google, Bing and other search engines, local citations are a key component to get your name atop the SERPs. After all, it’s one of the top ranking factors.
Remember: the more citations, the higher the rank.
Google My Business isn’t the only place you can put your business’ details in. Bing Places, Facebook for Business and Yahoo’s Aabaco Small Business are other online business listing sites that can improve your brand’s visibility.
However, you have to be careful where you place your local citations. Well-indexed, legitimate and trustworthy portals (i.e. Yellow Pages) will help increase the level of trust a search engine has in relation to your business’ contact information and classification.
Local businesses with less-competitive niches, such as electrical and plumbing, can benefit greatly from citations even if they don’t have their own websites.
5. Localized Keywords
Of course, SEO wouldn’t be complete without keywords. Since localized search is getting more and more prevalent as the years go by, geo targeting keywords are recommended for local businesses. These are keywords which focus solely on location so that searchers are presented a local set of results, making it easier for them to figure out which establishments are closer to their location.
Geo targeting keywords usually include your business’ service or product with location-specific terms such as city name, zip code, area code, community name or nearby landmarks, tourist destinations, popular venues, and others.
Some examples are:
- Mexican restaurants in Makati
- Plumbing Manila
- Dasmariñas Cavite car wash
- Hairdresser in Kapitolyo Pasig
- Café near Luneta park
You have to do your research for this and as always, keyword stuffing is a no-no. This applies to all your website content, listings and citations. Keep it natural and only use geo targeting keywords when appropriate.
So how do you boost up your Local SEO? Here are some things you might want to do right now.
1. NAP Optimization
Consistent and accurate. That’s how your NAP should be across the entire universe of the internet. Your NAP must be in its totality – whole and complete – throughout every page of your website. Going against this might just negate everything you’ve worked hard on.
Make sure there aren’t any words or numbers added or subtracted from your business name, phone number or address. Also, keep in mind that your phone number should be local.
To make it easier for Google and other search engines, make sure that your NAP is written as text on your website.
Here’s a suggestion: Use this code for your website’s schema markup. All you’ll need to do is change the bolded text below with your brand’s details and you’ll be good to go.
<div itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/LocalBusiness”>
<p itemprop=”name”>COMPANY NAME</p>
<p itemprop=”address” itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/PostalAddress”>
<p itemprop=”streetAddress”>ADDRESS LINE 1</p>
<p itemprop=”telephone”>PHONE NUMBER</p>
<meta itemprop=”latitude” content=”LATITUDE” />
<meta itemprop=”longitude” content=”LONGITUDE” />
What’s schema you ask? It’s what will take your NAP game further. The code behind these markups are not shown or known to your site’s visitors but it is used by search engines to identify you.
The website schema.org can help you with this as they offer numerous markups for any website.
The reason you have to keep everything consistent is because it will keep you up in the SERPs. Constantly update your NAP, especially when you’ve rebranded, moved your business or acquired a new phone number.
2. Optimization of Title Tags
In terms of your on-page elements, your title tag is probably the most important element there is. After all, it is the very first thing your audience will see on search engines.
Title tags are those that appear on top of your browser tab. They are the ones being displayed once you bookmark a page. Be careful of the text you input because there’s a specific character limit and once you exceed that, the search engine will most likely cut you off.
Your title tag has to carry a short but clear description of what your audience will see in your page’s content. Not only is it extremely crucial for your prospects, it’s also important for your website’s SEO as this will tell Google what your page is all about.
If you want to up your Local SEO, make sure that your title tag contains your keyword and the city or state where your business is located.
Remember not to make it appear spammy. The more natural your title, the better.
Here’s a simple template for your homepage title tag:
Brand Name | Service Offered + City/State
Keep it under 55 characters and you’re good to go.
3. Optimization of Meta Descriptions
Meta descriptions are the search engines’ version of a book’s blurb. It contains the synopsis of your page and it can be found underneath your title tag.
Make it as interesting as you possibly can so that more people will click on your website. Keep in mind that this, like title tags, have a limit in terms of length. Keep it under 160 characters so your words will not trail off.
Also, remember not to carelessly throw your keywords here and there. Think of it as your short (but sweet) advertisement to searchers. You can also add in your city or state when writing your meta description.
You can preview your title tags and Meta descriptions on SERPs here before applying them on your website.
4. Image Optimizations
Repeat after me: Search engines cannot read images.
At least not yet.
This is why you need to optimize the images you upload on your site. Alt tags will allow search engines to crawl your images as they describe what they’re all about.
Alt tags on images can also help increase the rankings of your target keyword.
Here are some things you can optimize to guarantee an SEO-friendly image:
If you save an image on your computer, this is the name that comes with your image. Make sure that you optimize or change it completely before uploading it on your site. It has to have your target local keyword, like so: Car-Rental-Service-Manila.jpg
Google (and your users!) hate it when some elements of your website take too much time to load. Keep in mind that search engines consider site load speed as a ranking factor. The easiest way to address this issue is to compress your images. You can use Photoshop for this or online image compression tools such as compressor.io and kraken.io.
Alt Text and Title Text
Sometimes, images fail to load altogether and what appears is the alt text – a tool which is especially useful for visually impaired people. Title text, on the other hand, is a text that is displayed whenever a user hovers above your image. For these two elements, include your target keyword and local modifier to draw attention to the search engines.
If you want an in depth discussion about this, you can refer to one of our recent blogs that contain a lot of informative image optimization guidelines.
5. Mobile Optimization
In this time and age, most people use their mobile devices to search local services and products which are available within their reach. Keep in mind that 78% of all local mobile searches end up in offline purchases.
Keep your website mobile-ready with a responsive design and always be conscious of your site’s speed to avoid high website bounce rate.
6. Local Content Creation
Just like SEO for the national scale, it is important for you to keep creating exceptional content on a regular basis to up your Local SEO game. This is because your local search rankings are influenced by backlinks as well.
To create local content, you have to be well aware of your audience. Aim to give value to your locality by writing about local events, industry gatherings within your location or any information regarding your community.
However, don’t limit yourself on blog posts as there are a ton of other ways you can share local content. Podcasts, video, images, reviews from your customers, guides, listicles – all of these (and more) are part of local content creation.
Another advantage of creating your own local content is that you can share them outside your website, whether it be on your social media sites, off-page blog or other places on the internet.
Which brings us to off-page optimizations. Your website is your best marketing tool but with a little more push, you’re on your way to becoming the biggest name in your community.
1. Company Profile Optimization
As what was mentioned earlier, consistency is your best bet when it comes to your NAP. Avoid any discrepancies at all costs. One misspelled word might cause you a lot of missed chances.
Also, delete duplicate listings as it might severely hurt your Local SEO. Duplicates confuse search engines which might result in them showing the wrong information, or worse yet, they might not show your business at all.
2. Post Listings on Online Local Directories
There aren’t many physical directories around anymore as our world has switched to digital. They’ve endured this battle though, as they’ve taken the web by storm with their online databases which more and more small and local businesses use to post their information for increased visibility.
Fair warning though, keep in mind the sites in which you’ll post your listings on. Be meticulous. Aim for directories that are trustworthy and that would perfectly fit the nature of your business.
For companies in the Philippines, here’s a list of online local directories to get you started:
- Philippine Business Directory
- Yellow Pages PH
- Pinoy Listing
- Philippine Companies
- Business Directory
Again, NAP consistency. Also, fill up all the information the directories are asking from you.
Never underestimate the power of an optimized and detailed listing as it will not only drive traffic to your website, it might just be the one bringing people to your door.
3. Optimize Social Media Pages
Aside from your website and your Google My Business Page, it is important that your customers also see your social media profiles on the first page of Google if they search for your brand name. Here’s ours:
See how LinkedIn and Facebook are readily visible right after our website? That’s how important social media is to your Local SEO. Optimize it as you would your website and other citations.
For small and local businesses, the top five social media sites are:
Fix your profile with the same NAP you’ve applied on your website and other mentions. Also, some social sites would ask for relevant information such as a description of your company, contacts, founders, images and others, so make sure to fill them up.
Content is equally important in the realm of social media as much as it is on your site. Since they are becoming more and more like search engines, include relevant local keywords on the content you will be producing. Remember to be consistent with your content as well. Be as active as you can be and never forget to interact with your followers.
Another way of utilizing social media for the growth of your local SEO is to offer coupons that are for a specific location. If there’s an event near your place of business, it’s best to promote that on your social pages as well.
4. Encourage Customers to Give Reviews
There’s no shame in asking for reviews. After all if you don’t ask, you might not be given anything at all. So instead of waiting for reviews to pop up, have the courage to approach your customers first. Here are just some tips to do so:
Set Up Profiles on Review Sites
The internet is filled with review sites. – Some focus on specific industries and localities. As much as possible, set up profiles on each site. This is especially important for review-driven industries such as restaurants, hotels and bakeries. There’s Tripadvisor, Zomato and Looloo. If your business is not among these industries, there’s no need to worry as there are also general review sites such as Trustpilot and TrustLink.
The best way to get reviews? Ask your customers directly. Just do it. Ask. There’s no shame in it because your customers know just how important reviews are to you and your business. So gather up some courage and ask politely. Tell them just how much you would appreciate it if they left an online review on whichever site they prefer.
Print out notices on receipts or flyers or hand out small cards. You can even print out a huge banner if you’d like. Be creative and inventive. A little effort goes a long way.
Take Advantage of Your Social Media Channels
Some social media sites, such as Facebook and Google+, double as review sites. An occasional post asking for reviews can work but don’t overdo it because you might end up repelling your customers.
Create a Reviews Landing Page
Make it easier for your customer to find your review site with a landing page dedicated for reviews alone. Instead of listing down every single URL, you can make use of this one page and voilà – less hassle, less worry.
Whether they gave a good or bad review, thank them. It’s a simple gesture, but it speaks volume about you and your company’s values. You can even surprise some reviewers by giving discount coupons or freebies.
It all comes down to this:
- Set up your Google My Business page.
- Use localized keywords.
- Optimize your on-page elements.
- NAP consistency is key.
- Set up profiles on review sites.
- Get reviews, reviews and more reviews.
Local SEO moves and develops pretty fast. So if you haven’t started yet, do it now.
It might look really intimidating with the amount of work you would have to do. But take it little by little, step by step, and soon your business will be on its way to local stardom!