When was the last time you searched for a local business by thumbing through your local Yellow Pages book? If you’re a Millennial, you may not even know that the Yellow Pages started as a book. Now that information is at our fingertips anywhere we go, local search is on the rise and not expected to slow down. In fact, Google found that half of consumers who searched for a business via their mobile device visited a store or location within one day, and 34% who searched from their desktop did too. If you have a local business who needs to drive traffic to a physical location and your website, it’s critical to optimize your site to maximize your search engine rankings. Follow these top ten best practices for local search engine optimization (SEO).
1. Localize your Content Strategy
Location, location, location! Realtors agree that location can make or break a sale. But did you know that it can also be a great strategy when trying to generate sales from your website too? With so many national brands and popular websites commanding high search engine authority, adding local flavor to your content strategy will help differentiate your brand and rank well with local searchers. Some ways you can inject local SEO power into your site is to weave localized keywords and long tail phrases into your site content, but most importantly in these areas:
- Headings (H1s and H2s)
- Title tags
- Alt image text
But don’t stop there – get creative! You can add localized testimonials into your site, featuring the customer’s hometown, or develop more content about your support of the local community. Your blog can also be a great way to add local content into your site, or you could add local case studies or white papers if relevant to your business. If possible, adopt a strategy that features local imagery and reference those places so that the content feels authentic.
2. Leverage Brick and Mortar Locations Online
If you have a business that has a brick and mortar presence, be sure to leverage that as much as possible for your digital presence. Create a non-dynamic page for every physical location your business has, and integrate it with your Google My Business listing and map. It’s also important to incorporate content specific to your location that has both value to your visitors, and ideally has some search volume according to Google’s keyword planning tool.
3. Add Schema.org Markup to Relevant Pages
A more advanced practice is to implement schema.org markup on your location pages to add each brick and mortar’s location’s Name, Address, and Phone number, or NAP for short. Adding this markup can help Google add rich snippets to your listing, which can help increase your click-through rate, and help search engines display your information correctly. Your NAP information is pulled from a variety of sources, so do your best to make sure it’s accurate across many platforms.
There are a variety of schema markups, each with a different purpose. Search Engine Journal does a great job at describing a variety of markup options. Once complete, test your markup using Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool.
4. Clean Up or Manage Your Online Listings
An essential part of every business’ local SEO strategy is to claim or cleanup your Google My Business and other online listings. For every business location, take time to complete your full listing, including relevant imagery and a unique description. You’ll want to ensure that your NAP is correctly listed, and that you only have one listing per location on Google My Business. Otherwise, the search engines will not know which one is correct, and split the SEO equity.
If you’ve recently moved or have numerous physical locations, this can be a significant effort, but well worth it in the end. There are even several third-party listing management tools that you can use if you don’t have time or desire to keep this information in sync on search engines.
5. Google My Business Best Practices
When managing your Google My Business listings, there are rules and best practices to be aware of. Here’s a quick rundown of how to optimize each listing:
- Your business name needs to be your real business name and consistent; descriptors are not allowed any longer in your business’ name. You can mention the town name in your description, but not in your business’s name.
6. Get Cited by Other Sites
- Do this: "Bank ABC", "U.S. Bank ATM"
- Do not do this: "Bank ABC Downtown", "U.S. Bank ATM - 7th & Pike - Parking Garage Lobby near Elevator”
- Your business should be in the correct categories (2-5 at the most).
- Positive reviews of your business - and the amount of reviews can help influence rankings because this helps search engines understand your credibility. The importance of this should not be underestimated.
- Always use a local phone number, not an 800 number in your listing.
- Within each local listing, link back to that local listing page on your website.
Another tactic to add to your local SEO strategy is get citations. A citation is a mention of your NAP, and some experts believe that high-authoritative citations are the top local search ranking factor. You can get citations from sites like Yelp, Manta, BBB.org, Facebook, Yellow Pages, Indeed, and more. What’s important is consistency across these sites and your website.
Search engines will pull data from a variety of sources to list your business location and phone number, including local directories like Axciom, Infogroup, ExpressUpdateUSA and more. The best results are found when city and state are included in the anchor text for backlinks.
7. List your Name, Address and Phone Number in HTML
To allow search engines to read this very important information, make sure to list your business name, address and phone number in HTML across your site versus buried in an image.
8. Get Social
A solid social media presence continues to add value to SEO and is becoming more important to search engine rankings. Search Metrics found that Facebook and Twitter shares are closely correlated with high Google search rankings, and found that the amount of Facebook shares of a webpage had the strongest association with rankings, second only to the number of backlinks.
To optimize your social media pages for local search, be sure to fill out all profile categories, post about local events, offer local deals, and work to get positive reviews on your social pages. And, don’t forget to include social follow links on your website so people can find you easily. If you’ve done all that, try taking it to the next level by working in Facebook sharing best practices and Twitter cards.
9. Make Your Site Mobile-Friendly
If you haven’t already, optimize your site to be mobile-friendly using responsive design. Many times, mobile-users are looking for your address or phone number while they are on the go, so it helps to embed that information in your global footer. If you aren’t sure if your site is considered mobile-friendly, take the test.
10. Develop Your Website to Load Quickly
The speed of your site is now a search engine ranking factor because a slow site – especially on mobile devices – makes visitors frustrated. Optimize your images to be under one megabyte and compressed for the web so they can load fast. Use Google’s page speed insights test to see any problem areas that you may want to fix, and be sure anyone who manages your site follows the same rules so your site doesn’t become bogged down over time.