August 23 2013

Best Practices for Maximizing Your Local Search Engine Optimization

Every local business wants to be ranked on the first page of Google’s search results, and rightly so. 75% of search engines visitors never make it past the first page of results, and 40% of searches have local intent. The days of simply adding meta keywords to pages are long gone, which is great news for folks frustrated with search engine results. For local businesses however, SEO has become a complex science of great web development, great content and great tagging to get – and maintain – top search engine rankings. Here are some tips for what to do in order to achieve your local search engine optimization goals.

Local SEO Tip 1: Local SEO must be stated as a priority early on

If being highly ranked on local SEO terms is one of your end-goals with your web development project, you need to plan for it before you even select a web vendor, a content management system or determine your budget. From the very first meeting you should discuss your website goals, understand your teams’ collective SEO goals and make sure that each of your choices supports those goals.

Local SEO Tip 2: Decide your local SEO focus and develop your plan around it

Hate to break it to you, but being on the first page of Google and Bing for all of your search terms isn’t going to happen. Instead, start with an initial plan for the top terms you want to optimize for and craft your SEO strategy around it. If the strategy you develop is scalable, you can expand your focus as your site evolves over time. A good SEO agency will be able to do initial and ongoing keyword research and tell you exactly what local terms and phrases specific to your business people are searching for so you take advantage of the best opportunities to generate traffic.

Local SEO Tip 3: Look at your site from both a user and search engine view
You know you are in Boise. Your customers know you are in Boise. But, search engines don’t know you’re in Boise unless you overtly tell them. Your website needs to clearly indicate your geographic coverage area on every single page. Yes, every single page. Additionally, search engines don’t easily read graphics so be sure your HTML content reflects your geographic coverage.

Local SEO Tip 4: Local, fresh content makes search engines happy
Everybody is talking about content, and as a local business it’s in your best interest to listen closely. Great, local, fresh content is very appealing to search engines. If you are a bakery in Boston, write about the most popular dessert indulgences in Boston. If you are a bank in San Francisco, write about the top money concerns of residents in San Francisco. The point is to write, write and write more. And before you write, do your keyword research and weave key terms with high search volumes into your content in a natural way. Remember, you are first writing for humans and secondarily for search engines so be authentic with just a tad bit of selfish optimization.

Local SEO Tip 5: Localize your content and SEO tagging strategy
Your meta titles and descriptions should contain geographically-specific references so that search engines and potential visitors understand where you are. Someone looking for a plumber in Chicago is more likely to click on your website when the title tag says something like “Chicago Plumber | 24 Hour Plumber Chicago IL | Joe’s Plumbing” as opposed to something generic. Likewise, your meta description should also support your geographically focused keywords. Although this is an effective strategy, tagging alone won’t get you to the top of search engine results. Your content must also be rich with geographically-specific references. Have I said that already? ;)

Local SEO Tip 6: Say Hello to Google Places and Bing Local
Much of the top real estate on Google and Bing is taken up by “local results.” These listings are driven by Google Places and Bing Local so be sure that you not only claim your business, but also optimize your listings. Ensure that your contact information is correct, select as many category associations as appropriate, upload great images and add any other details that might help you differentiate your business from the local competition.

Local SEO Tip 7: Online reviews are a tremendous asset
According to Nielsen research, 70% of customers trust the opinions of online strangers who they will never meet. Enlist the power of online reviews provided by local directories like Google Places, as well as directory sites like Yelp or industry-specific sites. Search engines prioritize business name mentions and location mentions, which theoretically increases your visibility, credibility and authority. Once listed, be sure you do your part to solicit customer reviews.

Local SEO Tip 8: Get local with social media
Social media and SEO are very much intertwined, and it’s important as a local business that all of your social profiles – Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube and LinkedIn – contain your geographic coverage area. Descriptions get indexed, as does other select content from your feed, so be sure to connect with as many other local businesses and people as you can and create great, shareable local content.

Local SEO Tip 9: Pay attention to your analytics
If you are redesigning your website and have existing site analytics, take a look at where visitors are from and what they are searching for on your site. Based on this information, develop a content strategy that caters to each of your audiences and the geographic area in which they reside.

Local SEO Tip 10: Trust the experts
The SEO world has evolved, and for search engine visitors that has hopefully created a better experience. Local businesses, however, need to understand that the SEO industry changes daily and it truly takes an expert to guide you in the right direction. Talk to a web development company that has proven expertise in designing great websites that are a tremendous local inbound marketing tool. The results you will reap will far surpass your initial investment.

For help developing a local search engine optimization strategy, contact ZAG Interactive.

  • SEO

posted by
Michelle Brown
Michelle Brown
VP of Sales & Marketing

ZAG Interactive is a full-service digital agency in Glastonbury, CT, offering website design, development, marketing and digital strategy to clients nationwide. See current job openings.