Local SEO – The Essential Basics
Local SEO practice is being adopted by an increasing amount of companies in their efforts to drive sales and land new local clients to offer their service or product to. The guide below has been produced by our SEO team to assist website owners who would like to improve their local listing presence themselves.
Local listings have been displayed on Google for a number of years now, however Google have started allowing more industries to be displayed in the local listings as of late.
A local listing is the special section on a search engine response page that is reserved for local businesses that match a particular geographic location.
Below is an example of a Google Search Engine response page for someone searching for a florist in Essex. The websites that are highlighted with the grey box are the local listings.
This check-list of local SEO basics will help to get your website ranking within these local listings as more and more websites attempt to get their business or service featured.
1. Optimise your website for the local area
You need to make Google aware that you are targeting a specific geographic location for your service or product and there are various different ways that you can optimise your website to do just that.
Some business owners teach themselves the skill of SEO which is required to optimise a website, however there are many expert digital marketing agencies that provide this service.
In order to do so, you need to find geographic specific keywords that are related to your business. To find these keywords, you first need to list where you provide your services. For example, if you operate in London, do you operate in specific boroughs only?
Then, go into the Keyword Planner Tool and select ‘Search for new keywords and ad group ideas’.
You then want to search for search terms using your businesses keywords, for example if you are a personal trainer these may be ‘personal training sessions’ or ‘professional personal trainer’.
In addition to this, you want to follow these business keywords with your geographic specific keywords, such as ‘in London’ or ‘in Kensington’ so you search term should look something like ‘personal training sessions in Kensington’.
1.1 Geographic-specific keywords within your content
Not only do you need to use industry specific keywords within your content on your website, but you need to use geographic-specific keywords too.
For example a personal trainer that operates in Essex will therefore need to include the geographic keyword ‘Essex’ in their content.
You also want to include a page for each specific location that you are targeting. For example, you might offer a your personal training service in specific locations within Essex and therefore you will need a different page for each location, for example; Colchester, Chelmsford, Brentwood that each target those specific location-based keywords.
Each page of your website also has to have locally optimised title tags and meta descriptions.
Your title tag should have your primary keyword and your geographic-specific keyword included and your meta description should include your primary and secondary keywords, your geographic-specific keywords as well as your phone number or street address (if you can of course fit it all within 160 characters!)
1.2 Include your contact information on every page
On all of your pages within your website you also want to reference your NAP information.
NAP stands for the name of your business or service, the local specific address of where your business is and your local phone number that potential clients and customers can contact you on.
You can also embed a Google Map on your website, here is a quick tutorial on how to do so.
1.3 Include a locally optimised image
Increase the “local” relevancy of the page by adding in an image relevant to the location. Google doesn’t view images, it reads the file and tag details to work out what they represent.
So use a file name with the location in and make sure that you add an ALT tag that includes reference to the location.
1.4 Geographic sitemaps and geotagging
Do you have a geographic sitemap for your website? If not, you can quickly make one using tools such as Geo Sitemap Generator by entering your companies local details manually or by uploading your CSV file and then download the file it generated.
You then submit this site map to your Webmaster Tools.
A final tip for on-page optimisation of your website is geotagging your relevant images and videos that you have on your website.
2. Local services are dominantly searched for on mobile devices
This of course means that you need to make sure that your website is made responsive to mobile devices.
If your website does not respond, look or navigate properly or efficiently on mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones, then users will be put off using your services.
However, a website that looks great and has accessible call-to-action buttons will be favourable to the mobile user.
You may require a little bit of self-training in order to master responsive design, or there are web design experts that can do this for you.
3. Promote Your Website Locally
Getting your website noticed within the local community is essential in gaining reliable leads to signing on new clients and securing new sales ventures.
It is therefore important to get your website information on local search directories so potential customers and clients can find your business.
3.1 Get Local Citations From Local Directories
It is important that you create a local listing, or claim your listing if it has already previously been made, on a variety of different local search directories.
Here are some search directories for you to use, ranked in order of most important:
First of all, start with Google Places. An essential part of locally optimising your SEO strategy is getting your business a Google Places for Business listing or claiming an existing listing if you find that there is already one previously created.
Once you are in the Google Places for Business listing after signing into your Google account, you will be asked to add a business to the listings, where by you will search for your business to see if it already exists.
If it doesn’t, click on ‘No, these are not my businesses’ and then fill out all of the required information on screen.
Once you have created your Google Listing, Google will then automatically create you a complimentary Google Plus Business page.
Point 6.3 explains how to optimise your Google Plus page for local search terms.
Creating a Google Places account will automatically sign you up for a corresponding Google+ account. You can use your Google+ account to then set up Google authorship which will result in you achieving an advanced search engine listing which features your image to the left of the listing. Read our guide to setting up Google Authorship for more information.
Other directories you need to know about.
- Yahoo and Bing also offer a service that is similar to Google Places, all you have to do is make an account with both Yahoo and Bing and submit your business to their local directories. You can do this here for Yahoo and here for Bing.
- Another important local directory to use is Yelp and Free Index. For Yelp, just sign up and submit your business’ details to the directory. You can do exactly the same for Free Index too.
- Yell and Thompson Local are the final local directories that you should submit your business too.
Feel free to submit your website and business details to other local directories that you stumble across too, but these 7 local online directories are the main ones that your website needs to be featured on.
4. Establish Trust With Positive Reviews
Naturally for this one you need to ensure you have happy customers or clients that will provide a review.
There are several ways in which you can get reviews for your business, one way is to make it easier for your customers to review you online. You can do this by adding buttons onto your website as a call to action for your customers to review your service.
Another way you can get more reviews is by simply asking. You can do this by either asking them via email, or if you are a business with a store, by asking your customers to do so when they have used your service. An important note is not to offer incentives for positive reviews as this will breach Google’s Web Master Guidelines.
5. Establish Authority With Local Links
Link building has been the backbone of SEO since the term Search Engine Optimisation started, as long as it is done naturally and genuinely.
However, as you are trying to rank for a local service, it is time to focus your efforts on local websites that are linked to your area.
5.1 Gaining the interest of local bloggers and websites
One way in doing so is by gaining the interest of local influential bloggers that have a local audience.
For example, offering for them to trial your product in exchange for a blog-style review of your service which will then result in a local link back to your website.
You can also run advertising incentives with local websites that are in the same industry that you are in, but are not necessarily your competitors.
5.2 Where are your competitors getting their local links from?
You can also check what websites your competitors have gained back-links from too, tools such as Majestic SEO allows you to do this, these websites are likely to be interested in your website too.
5.3 Citations count too!
Another important reference to make is through the use of citations.
Although they are not technically a link, having a citation or a reference to your NAP information (Name, Address and Phone number) on other websites helps with ranking locally.
6. Establish A Local Social Presence
Social signals are increasingly becoming a more important ingredient in getting your website successfully ranked in search engine response pages.
Therefore, when you want more local strength pointing towards your website it is important to make sure that your social media accounts are geared up for that.
You can opt to do this yourself, or if you find that you would prefer to leave it to Social Media Experts there are agencies that will happily help you with this.
6.1 Make sure your Facebook is set up as a Local Business
It is important that when you first set up your Facebook page that you do so as a Local Business or Place, this is because Facebook will not allow you to change it later on unless you have under a certain amount of Likes on your page.
6.1.2 Optimise your page
First and foremost, you want to make sure you display all of your locally relevant information on your profile including the address of your business, a local contact telephone number, opening times and website.
You also want to include geographic specific keywords within your description of your business to attract the attention of a local audience.
6.1.3 Building a local following
Building a local audience on Facebook requires some specific targeting and there are a number of ways that you can do this.
If you have set up your Local Business page from your own personal profile, you can simply invite your local friends to like the page using the tool provided on Facebook.
You can also become a fan of other related local businesses that aren’t your direct competitors and comment on their content, the authorship of your Local Business will be displayed and give your business more exposure.
Another simple task you can do is adding your specific geographic location to your status updates and photo uploads, as well as targeting geographic specific locations when running advertisements and promotions.
The final way is when setting up a Facebook advertisement, you can opt to target a geographic-specific area for wherever your business operates from or where your service or product is sold.
6.2 Gain a local following on your Twitter account
Gaining followers on Twitter is generally easier than gaining Likes on Facebook, and the trend follows for when you are looking to gain local followers too.
6.2.1 Make sure you optimise your profile
The same as Facebook, however you want to include all of your geographic specific keywords and information within your bio of your Twitter profile.
Make sure you have your location set on your Twitter profile so that when people search for your service or industry within a specific location your profile will be displayed.
6.2.3 How to get a local following on Twitter
By following other similar local businesses within your industry, you can follow their followers which are likely to be local customers in the hope that they will find your business relevant and follow you back.
Including your location on your Tweets will also gain you exposure when people search for your area.
You can also search your town, city or location in the Twitter search bar and pick up on local discussions and maybe chip in your own opinion or mention to gain exposure within your local community.
6.3 Is your Google Plus profile locally optimised?
The Google search engine is quite favourable of Google Plus, as you would expect, when it comes to judging the relevance and authoritativeness of your website and therefore it is important to make sure you have your business’ Google Plus profiles locally optimised.
6.3.1 Locally optimise your profile and page
First of all you want to locally optimise your profile, by this I mean your own personal profile in which your business page is attached to.
This is quite simple to do, all you have include your geographic-specific keywords to your information and about me section and add your location.
You can gain a local following by circling people you know from your email contacts or educational networks.
Set up your business page from your profile as a local business and include all of your relevant locally specific information such as address, local phone number and opening times as well as your geographic-specific keywords in your information and about me section as well as adding your location.
You can then suggest your business’ page to your local followers on your personal profile as well as adding them to your circles.