So, you’ve ended up on this page where we talk a lot about local SEO.
Local SEO isn’t exactly a juicy, popcorn-worthy topic. Therefore, this tells me that you either run a local business and are trying to get as many people to call you or show up at your door, or you are a marketer looking for some easy to answers to difficult questions.
In either case, you’re doing at least one thing right – caring about local SEO. So, congratulations on that.
Local SEO is a funny little thing – it’s probably the youngest of all SEO brethren, and still the most powerful when it comes to immediate, tangible results that translate directly to cold, hard cash. That said, it is also a phenomenon that has bred countless myths and misconceptions.
I have been planning on creating a comprehensive, actionable local SEO guide for beginners for quite some time. With 2019 just a couple of weeks away, the time seems just right to finally get it out there.
Local SEO is an umbrella term that includes all the strategies and tactics that are used to improve organic rankings for local searches. Local SEO has one ultimate goal – let local searchers find you when they are very likely to do business with you.
2019 or 2050, one SEO fact will never change – we will never run out of SEO gurus who can’t see beyond keywords.
Despite operating in this industry for years now, this still amuses me every time I turn to Google. But I can see how it can be a frustrating experience for businesses who pay good money for such services. So, let’s get one thing straight – local SEO is nothing more or less than a localized cousin of general, global SEO. It still follows the fundamental tenets of SEO, it still holds good UX at its heart – just in its own local ways.
Most local strategies miss a simple point – understanding why it’s important to do local SEO right.
Don’t let anyone tell you that you can treat local SEO as an add-on or a frill to your other SEO efforts. I’ll let the numbers speak for me.
So, it should now be beyond every doubt that local SEO is important. With that, let’s get started with what really brought us all here.
For easier navigation and understanding, we will divide local SEO into its basic elements – the building blocks.These are:
We will discuss each block at length and see how you can develop deep-focus local SEO strategies and tactics to bring everything in order.
Improving organic rankings, improving the local search visibility, skyrocketing click-through rates and in general driving favourable actions through the roof – it’s all a matter of experience and expertise. Do check out how we – at HQ SEO – develop our bespoke, fully customised and 360-degree local SEO campaigns. To get in touch with our local SEO team, drop us a line here.
If you are familiar with the basics of general SEO, you shouldn’t have too much trouble understanding this point. Even if you aren’t, do stick with me – this is the most interesting part of every local SEO project. On-page SEO has one job – grab a share of organic traffic for relevant, closely related search terms through various content assets.
So, what sort of content should a local business really have?
Here’s a quick, generalised content scheme that most local businesses use:
Regardless of whether your business is hyperlocal or national, most pages and posts on your website will fall under one of these heads. One quick point to avoid any confusion – we won’t be talking here about optimizing your lead magnets or improving the lead flow. Our aim here is to work towards winning more organic clicks by optimizing on-page local SEO ranking factors.
In most cases, the home page is going to be the default landing page. What I mean by the landing page here is this:
Don’t confuse this with any other landing pages in your marketing campaigns. Unless specified otherwise, a local SEO landing page is your Google My Business landing page.
It’s not enough to just put the name of your business in the title of the landing page. You need to add more local context to it. As of today, a good way to structure the website title is as follows:
We’re trying to achieve two things here – contextual and locational relevance.
A service/product keyword in the title followed by some locational context sets your home page nicely. Don’t forget to wrap your titles in a correct title tag. Without this tag, Google can’t really understand what your page is all about.
Most Content Management Systems will do this automatically for you. If you’re outsourcing the design to an external developer, make sure they follow the best on-page SEO practices.
Here’s one question I get asked a lot:
I see people using the city/area name right in their business name. Isn’t that overoptimization?
Yes, it is. The difference is subtle here – you should use a locational modifier (city/area) in the title on YOUR website. When you actually add it as your ‘Business Name’ in the GMB listing, it just looks crass, spammy and weird – unless of course that’s your actual business name. Here’s an example:
There are quite a few factors that go into the making of good content. The fundamentals of good content are the same for local business websites. As far as the landing page is concerned, you need to be extra careful in establishing:
Very, very important. The content on your landing page must be relevant to your business, to your location, to your GMB listing and in general to what wins you most clicks. Any disconnect will make people bounce, telling Google your website isn’t really relevant to those keywords. Going a step further, make sure that every piece of content across your website follows this.
This is a delicate matter. The quality of the content is rarely dependent upon its length – but that doesn’t mean you can get away with a landing page that has a couple of sentences here and there. Aim to develop your landing page in a natural fashion and worry about the word count only when it’s too low (less than 300, for example) or astonishingly high (anything above 5,000).
When it comes to blog posts and other content marketing assets, you don’t really need to worry about the upper limit. For reference, a well-performing blog post takes about 7-10 minutes to read (1,500 to 2,500 words).
This is quite basic but still needs to be reiterated. All your content must follow the general SEO best practices. This means:
The NAP details – name, address and phone number – are non-negotiables for every local business SEO effort.
Here’s the best way to go about this:
The Business Name
As I pointed out earlier, the business name should always be the name that’s on your business cards. If I were to run a ‘Tom’s BBQ’ in London, ‘Tom’s BBQ’ will do just fine – no need to overoptimize and go for ‘Tom’s BBQ in London’.
The address should be precise, accurate and in the right local format.
The Phone Number
It’s quite likely that you have multiple phone numbers that people use to get in touch with you. While I understand the need for this, stick to using just one number that is present all over the internet – on your website, citations and the GMB listing.
This will avoid any potential conflict that can lower your localized search rankings. Moreover, having multiple entries will only confuse your potential customers. If you must, create a separate contact page to list other phone numbers.
3 out 4 local searches result in phone calls. If you aren’t doing this right, you’re literally making money for your competitors. We don’t want to do that – so, be sure to employ the simple ‘Click to Call’ code on your landing page. It’s a simple markup – all you have to do is wrap your phone numbers with the universal telephone schema
Read more about this here.
To go with the address, consider embedding a visual map location on your landing page. This quickly tells the visitor where you exactly are. Again, it’s not overly difficult and can give your UX and engagement a great edge. For seamless integration with your GMB listing and better local search SEO results, stick to Google Maps. Here’s how you can get the embed code. Here’s what our HQ SEO office address looks like:
In the same way, you can use Apple Maps Connect to put your business on Apple Maps and get an embed code for the same.
The NAP Schema
While we usually reserve schema for technical SEO, it makes a lot of sense to include it right here. The beauty of local SEO is that you don’t always need to get people to actually visit your website. As long as Google shows the important details (read: the NAP details) directly in SERPs, you are all set. To feature these details as rich snippets, you need to adopt the best schema practices (the ‘Click to Call’ is one). Wrap all the important details in a way that’s prescribed here, and Google will extract and display these directly in SERPs.
To future-proof your website, employ proper structured data markup across your website.
The Footer and the Contact Page
If your ‘Contact Us’ page isn’t the landing page, be sure to include the NAP details here all over again, in the same way. If you can’t embed the map link on to your landing page, the contact page is the best candidate for it. Here’s how we add our NAP details to the footer of our website:
The NAP details should also be present in the footer of your website so that people can quickly get in touch with you regardless of the page they are on.
Ah, the keywords.
We keep talking about keywords quite frequently on our blog. As far local SEO tactics go, you need to be on your toes all the time – because the competition is real and fierce. No better place to find this out the hard way than the keyword research.
Here’s what you need to keep in mind while carrying out the keyword research to boost your local SEO efforts:
It’s impossible to discuss all the nuances of keyword research here. Just keep this in mind – creative, result-driven keyword research is never going to lose you money. If this interests you, here’s a glimpse into our advanced keyword research strategy. You can also drop us a line here to speak to our dedicated local keyword research team.
Content marketing is in. There’s only reasons for this – the value it adds to your website.
Then again, do it without a strategy and all your marketing budget goes for a toss. Content marketing, when done right, really has no upper limit to the ROIs it provides – especially for local businesses. Most local SEO guides seem to ignore this point – and I can see why. It’s a time-consuming process. That, however, is no reason to chuck a potential windfall out of the window!
From the local SEO point of view, here’s what your content marketing efforts should do:
The question here is – what sort of content works best for local SEO?
A great local content piece will have these three qualities – it has incredibly high locational relevance; it is unique, original and shareable; as a standalone piece, it’s linkable.
Any local content asset you create that ticks all these boxes will ultimately boost your local SEO on a consistent basis. Here’s how:
Creating diverse, unique, original and absolutely kick-ass content will never ever hurt your business – it will only provide great returns on every marketing dollar. Consistency, relevancy and discipline are the keys to success, as we have discussed in our SEO content strategy guide.
Off-page SEO has many facets, but the most important is building links that matter.
Link building – unlike most other SEO tactics – is an art. Here’s a quick exercise – just Google something like ‘SEO link building’ or ‘building backlinks’. You’ll be amazed at how many conflicting advice, suggestions and tips spring up. Needless to say – most of these don’t work. Worse yet, a bad day at link building hurts your website and domain at a fundamental level. Getting Google mad at you sucks!
Let’s take ourselves back to this handy stat-studded study Moz published for 2018 (I don’t expect any sweeping changes for 2019). The two main takeaways in regard with backlinks are:
Query-based, intent-driven traffic is the bread and butter for local SEO. Ideally, if you run a Chinese takeaway in Manchester, you want to show up in the 3-pack every single time a hungry person in Manchester turns to Google for some Kung Pao. Moreover, showing up at the top in SERPs makes sure that whoever didn’t care about the 3-pack will anyway find you. Forget domain rating/authority and referral traffic for a minute – if you need your local SEO strategy to really pack a punch, these two reasons are what make local link building an absolute must-have for your website!
There are dozens of link analysis tools out there that let you analyse your link profile in qualitative and quantitative ways. Start with something that’s reliable and preferably free – like Moz Link Explorer. If you want more insights, move up to something more premium, like Ahrefs, a tool that I have relied on for many years. For a more local touch, you can try out dedicated local SEO tools like BrightLocal (I don’t see the upside to these if you already have Ahrefs).
Local link building is, in a nutshell, the traditional link building with a local flavour. So, the preferred referring domains here will be those that cater to your location and are at least loosely related to what your business does. There are multiple ways you can build a healthy local link profile for your business. Again, we can’t discuss all of these in details here – you can instead head over to our link building process page to learn more. If you want to know how an end-to-end, fully optimized local link building campaign can help you find and close dozens – if not hundreds – of new customers every day, write to us here.
Link building – local or global – is a delicate affair. Despite all the technicalities, it’s eventually all about being creative – as I have discussed at length in this post dedicated to creative local link building strategies.
Internal linking is a criminally underrated tactic – especially when it comes to local search engine optimization. These links aren’t just meh, because they eventually contribute to the UX – the master that all-SEO-ever has aimed to serve.
In fact, I will go so far as to say that no local SEO guide (or any SEO guide, for that matter!) is complete without a quick word about internal linking – something that boasts of massive benefits for little effort. Here’s why:
You will always have the 100% control over your internal links. So, if you haven’t been doing this for your website, take a day off other things and start linking.
As a local business trying to acquire new customers, you will always be at Google’s mercy.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – Google is good at what it does, and it does – to some extent – try to maintain a level playing field. Understanding and optimizing your website’s relationship with Google is the most important aspect of local SEO – and one that sets it apart from general SEO. In fact, no local SEO guide can ever be complete without discussing this relationship at length. The starting point – as you can guess – is your Google My Business listing.
For those who aren’t initiated in this cutthroat world of local SEO, a Google My Business listing is a sort of business directory. You submit your business information to Google, claim a pin on the map and let Google show your business details to local searchers.
There are two primary places that Google will display your listing on: Search and Maps.
Sounds good? It is.
Straightforward? Yes – until it isn’t!
It’s incredibly easy to make errors while creating and optimizing these listings – and there will be no way for you to know about these before your business takes a hit. So, make sure you get this right. (If you need a quick overview of how to improve your GMB ranking, we have you covered here).
Working with Google is usually a non-complicated process. You can skip to the next part if you already have an active GMB listing. If not, start here – open a new tab, visit Google Maps, and look your business up. If something shows up, it’s quite likely a user-contributed listing (or auto-fetched by Google from other online citations). Here’s an example (no wonder it looks like an abandoned business!):
As you can see, there’s absolutely no helpful information available here. If you haven’t bothered about GMB so far, it’s quite likely that yours looks similar – and you need work on it ASAP. Click the ‘Claim This Business’ button and follow the instructions that pop up. Google will then assign you as the rightful owner of the business after necessary verification.
If your business is altogether absent in Maps, you’ve got a clean slate to start with. Visit Google My Business onboarding page and follow the instructions. It’s a simple, intuitive process and shouldn’t take too long.
The devil, though, lies in the details.
Let me say this as clearly as I can – the NAP details on your GMB listing should be EXACTLY the same as those on your website. Any error will only confuse Google because it will have conflicting entries for the same fields – one crawled by the Googlebot and another created by you via GMB.
The name field – as I have already mentioned earlier – should be your business name – don’t be tempted to put keywords in here unless absolutely necessary. I’ve come across many local SEO guides preaching over-the-top optimization of the name field, but it’s really an overkill.
The address field should be detailed, accurate and easy to follow.
The phone number should be in the exact same format as on your website. Google will make this automatically clickable for you, so that’s one less thing to worry about.
This is another vital step. Once you have entered your NAP details, Google will ask you to pinpoint your business location on the map. For best results, zoom in and put the pin exactly where the address is. Remember – if your customers visit your business, they will be using this location to find directions. Get this wrong and you have already started off on the wrong foot with a potential customer!
The business category is a loose local SEO relevance factor. Be sure to assign your listing a category that closely matches your business. This is how Google wants it done. It can be edited later on – but it’s always advisable to get it right the first time around.
Google lets you enter one URL that your customers can click on to visit your website. The home page is almost always the safest bet here – but don’t be too afraid to tinker around. We have already talked about this in the on-page local SEO section.
At this point, your GMB listing will be live. Before you can make any substantial changes to the listing, you will need to verify your listing – here’s how it’s done.
The GMB dashboard is self-explanatory. Be sure to explore each option and make sure you provide accurate information (business hours, attributes, amenities and so on).
You can’t just create a GMB listing and let if fly on its own. It’s your listing and you need to keep it alive by taking advantage of every engagement option Google provides. The local SEO bump you get from engagement is indirect, but it has a sort of compounding interest effect that gets stronger with time.
Three factors to consider and stay on top of:
Reviews are probably the most important factor that contributes to the click-through rate. I look something up, I see a 4.5 star rating from dozens of users, I click – simple as that. More importantly, the reviews are also the third most important ranking factor for Google’s local packs.
Of course, the reviews your business gets will always be a direct function of the quality you provide. Do good there, and hopefully the reviews will come rolling in. If not, you can always stay ahead of the curve and proactively seek reviews.
If you’ve been doing all the right things and you know the customers are happy, investing in reviews can have a lasting, positive impact on your business. As is the case with every business activity, it pays to be systematic about this. Here’s how we – at HQ SEO – help businesses like yours get those all important reviews through our fast, fully customised and trackable review generation process. You can also write to us directly here and we’ll have our team get in touch with you right away.
Once the reviews start coming in, you will need to manage them on a regular basis (preferably daily, if not weekly). Someone writes a glowing review – you thank them (and they will definitely come back). Someone has a not-so-good experience, you apologise, ask them to let you know more about what went wrong and update the response when the issue is resolved. The point here is to add a human touch to what essentially is a boring, lifeless listing.
Check the screenshot above for a good example of how to respond to good reviews.
Add as many quality pictures of your business as you can. Run a restaurant? Close a customer with some enticing pictures of your recipes. Have a construction business? Upload some pictures of your team at work, awards you’ve won and projects you’ve completed.
If you can (it shouldn’t be too difficult), upload panoramic, 360-degree pictures of your place of business as ‘virtual tours’. Not many businesses do it – that’s your cue! I have noticed that Google lets you request free quotes for 360-degree virtual tour photography by sending your lead to trusted photographers in your area. There’s an option to get a free quote for this within your GMB dashboard. Here’s more about that.
From time to time, Googles prompts users to upload pictures of businesses they visit. If your listing gets user contributed pictures, it’s a great engagement signal.
Alright, your competitors are probably not doing this, and it’s your chance to show your customers that you care. GMB allows you to communicate with your customers on a personal level. All the messages that are sent to you can be forwarded to your listed number via the Google Allo app or other similar text messengers.
Lots of people ask questions on GMB pages. They want to know if you sell a particular brand of beer, they want to know if you attend emergency service calls, they want to know if you provide free quotes and they want to know if you accept cheques instead of cash.
Whenever a question pops up, you will get a notification in your email from Google. Try to answer the question as clearly as you can.
Google My Business lets you write posts (similar to what Google Plus did, years ago). Don’t go overboard and write lengthy articles – treat these like slightly fatter Tweets. Announcements, offers, deals, coupons, promotions, competitions, news, events – everything is fair game here. Don’t forget to use tracking links in posts to unlock some optimization possibilities.
I understand that this all may seem like a wild ride – especially if you aren’t familiar with how local SEO really works. Moreover, there are countless other aspects of local SEO that simply cannot be explained in a single post. As a response to this need, we – at HQ SEO – have developed result-driven, ROI-efficient local SEO services that help you rank higher for profitable search terms, improve click-through rates and get more business on a consistent basis. If you need to know more about how these services will be customised for your requirements, do feel free to get in touch with us here.
Remember the good-old local directories and yellow pages?
Online business citations are just like those – just a bit more organized, a touch less frustrating and a whole lot more accessible. Think Yelp, Foursquare and YellowPages.com, for example.
These directories are also called local search engines by many, and thus business citations can be treated as not-so-prominent equivalents of your GMB listing.
Not a lot of your customers will visit these websites as the first step. A typical customer will turn to Google, find your business, see if it’s good for them based on reviews, pricing, distance, services, hours etc. and then, just to double check, turn to Yelp. So, for now, let’s assume that no customers will ever find your business via these citations.
Then why build them at all?
Here are two important reasons:
If you want to get started with business citations, start with the biggest names first and move on to your local directories. Here’s a comprehensive list of the top 50 online business directories in the USA.
A typical citation flow will look like this: industry agnostic, global directories (Better Business Bureau, for example); industry specific global directories (TripAdvisor, for example); local directories; hyper local directories, unstructured citations.
Since local relevancy is a huge point of concern for local SEO, it’s a good strategy to list your business in all local directories. Finding such directories and manage dozens – if not hundreds – of citations is a tough ask. At HQ SEO, we help you get around this problem with our original, fully managed citation creation services.
An important factor you can’t afford to miss while building citations is the consistency of NAP details. Every citation must provide the same name, address and phone number for your business – get this wrong and you’ll just end up confusing search engine crawlers. If you already have active citations all over the internet, Moz has built a ridiculously easy to use citation checker tool. Put it to good use – as shown above.
Technical SEO has one job – to turn your website into a friendly playground for search engine crawlers, and not a hostile minefield. Since crawlers can’t tell a ‘local’ website from a non-local website, the general technical SEO ideas stay the same for local SEO. Doing technical SEO right has can have an enormous impact on your bottom line.
Some of the most important technical SEO factors you need to look after are:
SSL is important for every business website. Getting it sorted ASAP (if you haven’t already) is a no brainer. Remember to employ proper redirects if you are adding a new SSL certificate onto a domain that already has a live website.
Google loves fast-loading sites with no bloatware, unnecessary scripts and unresponsive codes. Make sure you work with your dev team to improve the site speed across pages – especially your local landing page.
Once again, it’s a no brainer. Here’s why – every third mobile search has something to do with locations and local businesses. The Mobile First Indexing has gained a lot of momentum in 2018, and come 2019, mobile-hostile websites will struggle to maintain organic rankings. Consider implementing Accelerate Mobile Pages (AMP), if it doesn’t conflict with the UX.
We can’t really get into the technicalities here, but here’s what you need to do in this regard:
Duplicate Content and Canonicalisation
Hosting duplicate content on your website is a waste of resources and badly hurts the UX. For these reasons alone, you need to stay on top of these messy issues. But there’s another solid reason to do this – it wastes your crawl budget and in general, makes life difficult for crawlers.
You can use free/premium services like Copyscape to find pages that carry duplicate content. Depending on the nature of these pages, you can either use smart 301 redirects or repurpose the content to make sure that every URL on your website hosts nothing but original content. If you are syndicating content from other places, make sure you attribute proper credit to the creator with appropriate canonical attributes. If you are using your own content as guest posts on other websites, request them to do the same for you, so that Google knows you are the creator.
There are no easy turns when it comes to technical SEO. A full-scale technical audit is usually the best way of finding and resolving ALL technical SEO issues that keep your website from being indexed and crawled properly. To get you started, we have put together a handy technical SEO checklist – one that lets you audit your website for technical SEO errors in a matter of 4 minutes!
2018 was the coming of age year for voice search. With every major digital / electronics player – from Google to Apple and Microsoft to Amazon – making their digital assistants an integral part of most of their services, it’s time for local businesses to jump on board the voice search boat.
While discussing on-page local SEO, I said that structured data markups help voice searches. There’s only one reason for this – voice search pulls up information directly from various relevant schema attributes. The brand name, address, hours, prices, location on the map and even reviews – everything that can be schematized is fair game.
If you want to be more adventurous and futuristic, you can enable important bits of information on your website to be TTS friendly (text-to-speech) with the
speakable: attribute. Google talks about this here.
Here’s a quick review of where the most popular voice assistants get their data from, and how they stack up against each other.
|Search Engine Used||Bing||Bing|
|Business Directory Used||Google My Business||Apple Maps||Yelp||Bing|
|Reviews Extracted From||Google My Business||Yelp||Yelp||Yelp|
|Create Your Listing||Here||Here||Here||Here|
Social signals matter for all SEO, and local isn’t an exception. While it’s true that social signals carry the least weight among all local SEO ranking factors, there are many reasons for you to take these seriously.
We all know that social media engagement has a direct and indisputable impact on brand awareness – not to mention the high-relevancy social traffic your landing pages enjoy from this. This is especially true for local SEO. A global brand like Nike or Starbucks getting yet another Facebook Page Like isn’t a big deal. For a small, local business, however, this means a world of possibilities.
For example, having a local business Facebook page help you reach customers who use (intentionally/accidentally) Facebook Search for their everyday local queries:
You not only build a loyal customer base over time, you create an impressive brand image and wide-spread social proof – things that matter to local SEO in direct and indirect ways.
Here are some local SEO tactics for social media:
It should be clear by now that bringing your local SEO up to the ‘code’ is a mix of sweeping changes and delicate tweaks. I understand that doing this on your own can be challenging – especially if your website is riddled with problems that go all the way down to your servers. HQ SEO’s local SEO services are geared exactly to tack such deep-rooted issues.
Coupled with a comprehensive local SEO audit, we make sure that at the end of the campaign, your website is optimized in every way to rank higher for profitable, high competition keywords on a local level. To request a proposal, scroll down to the bottom of this page, or get in touch with us.
We have boiled down every important local SEO check discussed in this post into a handy, concise local SEO checklist that you can refer to when you sit down to assess your website. If you are a marketer, you can use it as a comprehensive guide to assess client queries, chalking up quick plans of action and following them through to track and optimize the results.
As far as local SEO is concerned, 2019 has two things in store for us – interactive search channels (voice/visual) and enhanced local relevance for every search. You can cover your local business website for both of these with the detailed, actionable local SEO strategies I have discussed throughout this post.
In serving your business and search engines, SEO keeps moving closer and closer to serving the end customer. Ignore this simple string of logic and you ignore what matters – the focus on the bottom line. If you run a local business, you’ve got to follow the best SEO practices, or be prepared to concede the all important organic real estate to your competitors.
At HQ SEO, we have helped numerous businesses leverage the potential that comes with organic rankings and visibility. Visit our case studies page to get more insights into how our services can help you grow your business. To get in touch with our local SEO team or to know more about any other service, do feel free to write to us, or request a free proposal by filling in the form below!