Why small companies need local SEO

Small companies often misunderstand the impact that SEO can have for business in their local area.  Companies can often struggle to make an impression with a national search presence, but if they follow the right processes, they can turn their attentions to their local area and own that niche, which in turn can lead to more web traffic, enquiries and sales.  Don’t run before you can walk so to speak.

Before the internet exploded on the scene and changed the way we do marketing, local businesses had to utilise print ads, local magazines, TV and radio. These days, you can build on those old marketing tactics with blogging, social media, PR and more.  However having a website is key to visibility, providing information and staying competitive especially when providing local services. If you have a solid online presence and focus on appealing to your local community, there is the opportunity to increase enquiries and become a recognised local brand.  The best way to drive visitors to your website is via organic search using local SEO tactics.

Local SEO is search engine optimisation that is targeting its organic search strategy towards a local presence. Google will show what it believes are the most relevant local results when it believes that a search engine visitor is searching with local intent.

Google Pigeon

The Google Pigeon update that rolled out in the States in July 2014 has began integrating more generic algorithm signals into the existing local SEO signals. The algorithm update is likely to eventually fully roll out in the UK but the results have only shown a few signs here so far.  Google Pigeon has integrated more results from the likes of Tripadvisor, Yell and other directories mixed in amongst existing local business listings.

Google is supposed to be tightening up on the location-targeting parameters to provide more relevant results based on your search location.  However Google don’t always get it right and the algorithm updates can often throw up some odd results whilst in transition or in a testing phase.  Find out more about Google Pigeon in the ‘SIM Partners‘ study highlighted on Search Engine Land.

In the UK almost everyone over the age of 12 has access to the web in some form including smartphones, tablets and laptops. In fact the general public use the web as their number one source for finding information.  So its obvious that it pays to have a strong online local presence to target individuals looking for local services, products and information. People using their smartphones to seek out a restaurant in their local area via Google are only going to find those restaurants who have used their location on their website and are visible in the Google maps results.  The companies that have optimised their site for local SEO are more likely to have the most prominent search visibility.

Google My Business

Local companies need to integrate their business with integrated tools available via ‘Google My Business’ which brings together search, maps and Google+ to enable customers to find you across all platforms. Information can be made available including opening hours, phone number which can be clicked on mobiles and location directions for driving or walking via maps.  The Google My Business functionality can help you build your following via Google+ and give your customers somewhere to share and endorse your content and leave helpful reviews.  The tools available can help you stay closer to your customers and build lasting relationships as well as help attract plenty of new opportunities.

Now you know how important it is for your business to implement local SEO tactics, you can get to work on making the edits and using the right SEO strategy or work with an SEO agency to fine tune your local search strategy.

This local SEO checklist from Rand Fishkin at Moz is a couple of years old now but the fundamental tactics for local SEO still apply.

Here are a few additional tips to improve your local SEO presence:

Get Listed: Google My Business, Yahoo Local and Bing Places are all there to help legitimate businesses get noticed by their customers. It is worth registering with all of the webmaster tools so that you can submit your site and location details and check how they view your technical set up, submit sitemaps etc.

Go Mobile: Google is already starting to highlight in search results which websites are optimised for mobile by adding an icon.  It goes without saying that as mobile searches continue to outperform desktop searches that Google will add more weight towards sites that offer a good mobile experience. So if you are using WordPress or a platform that is easy to switch to a responsive design then consider doing it now.  If not then plan for the future and how you can take advantage of the growth in search on smartphones.

Apps such as Foursquare, Yelp and others are hugely popular, and when people check into a business via these apps, they often share this via Facebook and Twitter, which is free advertising for your local business. For each of these apps, there are special offers and updates that you can use to get your business out to customers, so do your research and go mobile.

Citation Links: You will hear the term NAP a lot when it comes to SEO, this refers to name, address, postcode, phone number (I guess NAPT would sound naff) and is used to reference the NAP on your website by cross referencing it with other NAP content on external sites.  Its important to note that the NAP on your site must exactly match all external occurrences to have a positive effect, even the odd few incorrect digits can reduce the quality and authority in Google’s eyes.  By registering or having your NAP placed on quality sites and niche directories you will help improve your citation links authority for local SEO.  You can often make your listings shine with videos, images, web links and an accurate description of your business.

It’s worth spending a little extra time using tools like moz.com or ahrefs to check the quality of potential website citation sources.  Make sure to check you are adding your site into the most relevant categories, a number of mismatched categories could potentially reduce the quality of your listing.  Review potential citations via manual research using one of a number of backlink analysis tools or via manual searches.  The other option is using a dedicated citation finder tool like those found in brightlocal, whitespark or yext.  If going the manual route store your citation information in a document like this one provided by Casey Meraz so you can keep updating it with a regular review.

Content & Blogging: Whether you blog once a week or once a day, regular blogging is one of the best ways to reach out to your local community to share your knowledge and business information, Google will also appreciate the fresh content. Keep your blog updated with regular, useful content that will keep your visitors engaged and coming back for more and encourage email sign-ups and social sharing whenever you can. Take a look at these incredible blogging stats via HubSpot to see the benefits of blogging.

On-site SEO: Go through your website and optimise the content for local SEO by adding your location throughout (albeit in an organic and honest way). The title tag is critical and should contain your business name, business type and city name.  Talk about your community in your blog, mention where you’re based on your Home Page, and consider adding Google Maps to your ‘Contact’ and ‘About’ pages. Your location is important to your customers, so it should be an important part of your website.

Customer Reviews: Whether you’re a restaurant, an SEO agency or a used-car garage, reviews can help highlight your business to those that may not currently have come across it. Not only does it show your quality to local customers, it can help improve conversions.  Google maps help show listings with reviews prominently.  Although reviews alone have not been proven to help rankings, Google does say that the ‘highest-rated’ businesses near you will be returned when you search with local intent.  For mobile device searches, review counts and average ratings can influence ranking and are usually more prominently displayed.

You can encourage reviews with links to your Google+ page or main directories on your site, social media and in newsletters but should not ask for them.  It goes against Google’s guidelines to actually ask for the reviews directly.  Let your customers choose as and when they should review your services.

Schema Data: Schema markup is starting to come to the attention of webmasters but is still heavily underused or misunderstood.  If used correctly schema markup can give a site a real boost for both generic and local SEO and help with sharing the correct information socially.

Competitor Research: It doesn’t take a genius to work out that to get to the top you need to out perform your competitors in all areas of SEO.  So carrying out competitor backlink analysis is important for local SEO and understanding what is making your competitors attractive to Google.  Finding out the top citation backlinks that your competitor has and going after them yourself can really help build new trust and authority towards your local search presence.

If you would like to discuss your local SEO requirements then get in contact with the RAD SEO team.

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