Search engine optimization is vital for online success. While many businesses understand the basics of national SEO, few know about the ins and out of local SEO. If you’re a brick and mortar store than needs increased foot traffic or a business that services a regional area, then local SEO is what you need.
It’s different than standard SEO practices, so we created a local SEO guide to help you understand what it is and how you can use it to improve localized website traffic and create more conversions for your area.
When you finish this local SEO checklist, you’ll be able to implement local SEO and watch your business grow.
Local SEO vs. National SEO
SEO is any effort taken to improve traffic to your website by improving your rank on search engines such as Google. It uses both on-page and off-page methods to do this.
If your business seeks customers from anywhere or ships products across the United States, then the location of your customers doesn’t matter. You just want SEO to provide increased qualified traffic to your website. This is national SEO or standard SEO.
National SEO uses general keywords and SEO methods that don’t require localization. In many ways, implementing this type of SEO is easier than local, but you’re also dealing with higher competition on search engines and for keywords.
Local SEO creates an SEO plan designed to bring in customers from a specific geographic area. You want searchers within a certain distance from your main business location. If your business is in New York, then you find traffic coming from Michigan and Illinois, then it’s not doing anything to help with your business.
Local SEO is about determining what areas you want to visit your site and tailoring an SEO marketing plan to bring in those searchers using various local SEO techniques.
The Local 3-Pack
When customers look for services in their area, the first thing they see is Google’s local 3-pack. Originally, a list of seven, Google recently truncated it to only three, making this digital real estate even more valuable.
The 3-pack is a list of three businesses that provide the service or product within the area of the searcher. It includes their name, links to website and phone number, overall review rating, and a map that shows where each business is.
These are all above the standard search results. The tips in this local SEO guide help you not only rank better on Google search results but help you make that local 3-pack. If you want to improve foot traffic and interest in your business, then you need the local 3-pack.
It All Starts with Localizing Your Website
You need to have a website that lets Google bots know where you are and what areas you service. If you want Google to know where you’re located, then have a dedicated contact page that includes the name of your business, address, and phone number.
It also helps to use a widget that places your location on the contact page using Google Maps. If you want to make sure there is absolutely no confusion, then include schema markup that implicitly tells Google bots what your address is.
Schema is a programming language that provides context for search crawlers. They don’t have to scan the page and interpret the information. Schema is a signpost that says, “this is their address.” Schema has hundreds of pieces of code that tell bots everything from this is a blog post to this is a recipe.
Use schema markup throughout your site to help Google crawlers understand your pages.
You should also place your address and other information in the footer of your website, so it’s accessible on every page. If you have multiple locations in the area, then place those addresses on the contact page as well. You need to do everything you can to show Google your location and service area.
Mobile devices allow you to make phone numbers clickable. This can help not only improve your call rates but improve ranking as well. If a searcher sees your website and the number isn’t clickable, they might not call because they don’t want to switch from their current app to the phone dial pad.
The Importance of Testimonials
It’s common practice for businesses to seek testimonials from customers. You place them on flyers and other promotional material, but don’t forget your website. Google wants to provide search results to customers that are trustworthy.
Placing testimonials on your site is a sign of trustworthiness that Google notices. Testimonials should also include the city of the person, so Google understands that you service that area in addition to your primary address.
If there is low competition, it’s not difficult to rank on the local 3-pack for your city of address, but it becomes more difficult outside of that city. Google tends to place local businesses in the other cities unless you can convince Google you should be higher than the local businesses for that city.
Localization Keywords and City Pages
Standard SEO uses general keywords without any localization. If you want Google to know you service a specific city, county, or neighborhood, then you need localization keywords. These are standard keywords with a location added.
For example, if you’re a furnace repair company, the standard keyword is furnace repair, but the localized keyword is furnace repair in city name. While you shouldn’t use them much in your main web pages, they are perfect for blog posts and city pages.
City pages are web pages that provide information about your services and are dedicated to a specific city in your service area. You can include them under a header for your service area. The pages should include all the information a person from that city needs about your services. You can also include testimonials from people in that city for added clout.
If you serve multiple cities but don’t have locations in those cities, then this is a way to show Google you want to rank for them. SEO isn’t immediate, but you should notice improvements in rank for localization keywords within a few weeks.
Online Profiles and Local SEO
Countless websites have information about your business, and many allow people to leave reviews. Sites like Google My Business, Yelp, Facebook, and others tend to rank well on Google. While they may have no direct connection to your business, they can still increase traffic to your site.
The first step is claiming your listings, especially Google My Business. Google owns the platform and often uses information from it for local 3-pack and other snippets. You need to claim your business listings, which allows you to make changes.
Fill out the information completely to have a great looking listing and provide search engines with as much info as possible. If the sites allow for reviews, go through them, and respond with thanks to positive reviews and courteously and professionally to negative reviews.
Why is this important? Each business has an overall review rating on the local 3-pack that Google gets from several different sites. It’s important to know what people say about you and respond to it.
Localized Content Helps SEO
We talked a little about using localized keywords in blog posts, but we need to go further. The blog posts should not be general but speak directly to people in your region. You need to localize blog posts as much as possible to attract readers from your area.
It’s not just writing an evergreen piece with keywords but creating topics that relate specifically to the people you service. Blog posts provide Google with your knowledge and expertise in a niche area. Blog posts that provide good information and are localized rank well in searches from those areas.
Good blog posts lead to comments from local people. You should thank and respond to any questions they have.
Backlinks show Google your expertise and trustworthiness because your site was chosen by another to link information to. Local backlinks include any organizations you are a part of and media sites such as local newspapers, radio, and television stations.
Don’t know where to find local backlinks? Don’t worry, just check your competitors. Some platforms allow you to see all your competitor’s backlinks and you can go through them. Cherry-pick the best ones and see how your business can get a backlink from them.
Let Local SEO Grow Your Business and Customer Base
When people want information about a business or service, the first place they go is a search engine. They choose the top results and order the product or service. It’s only through local SEO can you earn those top spots including the local 3-pack.
We hope this local SEO guide helps you build your business. If you want more information about local SEO or are interested in an affordable SEO agency, then please contact our experts today.