Whether you own a brick and mortar store or work on the web and cater to a specific region, local SEO matters. When somebody Googles "divorce attorney near Dallas" or "auto mechanics in Miami," they are counting on the businesses that show up in the results to yield the local results they are looking for. And Google jumps through a lot of hoops to present a very localized list to match the search criteria.
People search for businesses they can visit, and you do not want to miss out because you failed to target your online content to a local market. Therefore, if your company depends on local business, optimizing your local SEO is arguably one of the most important things you can do to gain web authority.
So which businesses are going to show up in the search engine results? Those that have optimized for local SEO! Search engines rely on signals such as local content, social media profile pages, citations, and links to provide the most relevant local results to the user.
Fortunately, local SEO is typically pretty manageable, and it's something you can technically do yourself. But it can be helpful to use some tools for tracking results and some marketing companies can help with local SEO setup.
On-Site vs. Off-Site Local SEO
There are two types of optimization which need to happen to get the best results in the local search results.
- On-Site SEO
- Off-Site SEO
First, on-site SEO (sometimes referred to as on-page SEO) is the process of optimizing your website's content and code for the best search results. Often, the most basic places to begin on-site SEO are content, meta titles, and internal website linking.
Off-site SEO (sometimes referred to as off-page SEO) is less focused upon, but it's still really important when you want to appear in the local results. Off-site SEO occurs through actions taken outside of your website to increase your visibility in the search results, especially if there is a map included in the results. Off-site SEO activities included online directories, third-party reviews, and backlinking.
Related Read: What are Backlinks And Do They Matter?
Make Sure Your Business Is Included in Online Directories
When you start your off-site optimization for local SEO, you'll want to begin with online directories.
First, you need to know that search engines will give priority to local businesses in their search engine result pages (SERP). For instance, somebody in Seattle who searches for "book stores near me" will see listings close to them. In order for this to happen, you need to be known as a book store in Seattle. Sounds simple, but how do you do that?
Types of Local online Directories
- Major online listing services - One of the first steps you should take is to claim your business on national directories that list local businesses. Begin with Google and Bing. Then, move on to Yahoo Local, Yelp, Apple, Trip Advisor (if it applies). Add pictures and as much information as possible. You will have to do this for each location.
- Hyperlocal directories - Some directories are locally based. These can be directories related to newspapers, schools, chambers of commerce, and other local organizations. When you sign up for these directories, you help your company stand out as more unique and authoritative.
- Industry-specific directories - Do some research to see if there are any industry-specific directories that you should be apart of. For example, for our company, UpCity and Clutch both have listings for marketing agencies that we need to be included in for Houston and The Woodlands. For industrial companies, be sure you’re included in the Thomasnet.com list, and for software, be sure you’re in Capterra's list as well.
Some tips to keep in mind about your local online business listings:
- Claim as many of your online business listings as possible. Start with popular ones such as Google, Bing (that powers Siri), Yelp, and Yahoo. There might also be some for your local community that you'll want to be included in as well.
- Each listing should be complete. This means no blanks!
- Keep your information up-to date. If you moved from the location on your listing two years ago, that isn't helping anyone.
- Stay consistent. You should use the same information (business name, address, phone number, etc) across all of your listings and on your website. Misspellings, missing suite numbers, and different abbreviations can all cause potential customers to get a hint of inaccuracy.
Make Social Media Profiles
Many people turn to social media for information about local websites. Your profiles on social media sites, like Facebook, allow people to interact with your business on the web. They can ask questions, read reviews, see recent photos your business has posted, and find a link to your website.
If you made your company's social profiles a long time ago, make sure you revamp them with updates, such as addresses, photos, and hours.
Collect Reviews on Third-Party Websites
Online directories typically encourage reviews as well. And, search engines value third-party reviews. In fact Google states,
"Google review count and score are factored into local search ranking: more reviews and positive ratings will probably improve a business's local ranking."
This is an important part of your off-site SEO. If you aren't already, encourage your customers to leave reviews! But, don't forget to respond to reviews (good or bad) that come in, addressing questions as you do. This shows people searching for you that you are an active participant in your business.
Refresh Your Website for Improved On-Site SEO
As for on-site optimization to improve local SEO, you should look for ways to bring in your city/town/region name into your website's content. Now, there is a right way and a wrong way to do this. You do not want to throw a bunch of cities in your website's footer and call it a day. Google isn't going to rank you any higher. Google is smarter than that, and in fact, you may get a slap on the hand.
Evaluate Your Homepage
When is the last time you took a serious look at your homepage? It's probably been a while, right?
Does it explain who you are and what you do? Does it tell your visitor WHERE YOU ARE or how to visit your physical location?
Don't make people search for your business' address. Depending on how many locations you have (probably less than 3) the footer is an ideal spot to add a store front address. For a business with multiple locations, a location's page might be needed. However, your website should always have clear navigation from the homepage to the locations or directions pages on the site.
Review & UPdate Meta DATA
Your Meta Title is what you name the page and it appears in the tab at the top of the page. Google says they use this title to understand and rank your website. Your Meta Description is not used to rank your website currently, but it shows up in the search results and can be read by potential visitors. Both of these are important
Choose an SEO title that's short enough (35 characters or less) and includes your local town/region. Your meta description should explain what the page is about and where you're at. Keep it at 150 characters or less.
Here's an example of our Title and Description for the home page and how it appears in search results. Every page should have a different meta title and description.
Evaluate and Revamp Web Content
On your website, every product and service should have its own page. The content on the page describes the service or product using specific keywords. You should look for ways to naturally use your city name in your page titles, as well as your text.
Tip: Come up with ideas and topics to write about on each of your content pages by doing some local research. What are people searching for? What kinds of questions do they have?
A blog on your website can also attract local attention because it gives you the opportunity to focus on different local keywords in each blog. Make sure your content offers value to the readers and also bolsters your local strength. For example: A oncology practice can blog about local breast cancer awareness events, and an entertainment venue could highlight "Fun things to do in [city name] during the summer."
Add Local Schema Mark-Up
Local business schema can help you optimize your web page. Local schema, a code that you can add to a web page to show search engines where you are and what you do, helps people find your business easily. Essentially, you are using the language of the search engine to simplify your information.
incluDe NAP Citations on Every Page
NAP, which stands for name, address, and phone number, should match up on every page it appears. A local citation may also include hours and directions, a business description, an image, a tagline, or driving directions. Double check that you have the same information on social media and review profiles around the web. Then, add your NAP to the footer of every page on your website.
Citations on your page and other websites benefits your local SEO when the data is accurate and the information is featured on high-quality platforms. If the data is inconsistent or not uniform, the poor citations can damage your local SEO and misdirect customers.
Many Local Businesses Benefit From Local SEO
A variety of local businesses benefit from SEO, from lawyers and doctors to restaurants and plumbers. No matter what kind of business you own and what kind of clients you are targeting, you cannot forget that your web presence is key.