For all the attention social media has received of late, “search” is still one of – if not the most – important traffic channels for local businesses.
It’s easy to see why: local search is contextually and temporally relevant. It gives users solutions to pressing problems right when they need them the most.
A user searching for “plumbers in Atlanta” isn’t just window shopping; she has an actual plumbing issue that needs to be resolved quickly.
The question now is: how can you get your local business site to rank well in search engines? What are the steps involved in getting top local rankings?
In this post, I’ll show you 5 easy steps you can follow to boost your website rankings in local SERPs.
The Importance of Local SEO
According to a BrightEdge study, 51% of all website traffic comes from organic search.
Moreover, organic search drives 25% of all visits to local business websites.
It’s not just about traffic volume. The highly targeted nature of local traffic means that you have a much better chance of converting visitors into buyers. This is why the average conversion rate for local search queries is 80% on mobile.
In fact, according to one survey, more than 80 percent of local businesses said that SEO was their best channel for attracting customers.
The data is clear: local SEO is crucial for the survival of your business. Below, we’ll look at some actual tactics you can use right now to improve your local rankings. But before that, let’s deal with a pressing issue: NAP consistency.
Before you start: Ensure NAP consistency
NAP stands for your business’ Name, Address and Phone.
NAP consistency essentially means that your business has the same address, phone number and name all across the internet. It doesn’t matter where your business is listed – Yelp, Yellow Pages, Google Places – it should have the same NAP.
There’s a simple reason why NAP consistency matters: search engines want to deliver the best possible experience to their users. Directing users to a business that doesn’t exist, has an incorrect name, or an out of date phone number impacts user-experience.
This is why ensuring NAP consistency improves your search results.
If Google or Bing know that your business is exactly what it claims to be (as far as a name, address and phone numbers are concerned), you will get a small ranking boost.In fact, according to one survey by Moz on local search ranking factor, NAP consistency has a significant weight (13.6%) in local search results.
Once you’ve ensured that you have NAP consistency, follow the steps below to rank your business better in the SERPs.
1. Register on Google “My Business” page
You need to start by registering your business on Google. Sign in with your business Google account and proceed.
Search your business and see if it is already registered with Google. When you can’t find your business, select ‘Let me enter the full business details’.
In the next step make sure you enter every business detail (name, address, phone etc) correctly.
For verification, Google will send you a code via mail on your registered address.
That’s it. You have successfully registered your business on Google. You can now go ahead and add some cover photos to make your profile look welcoming.
Once you enter the mailed code and verify your business, it will be displayed in the search result like this:
2. Optimize your website
Optimizing your website for local SEO is a different ball game than optimizing it for general search. People who look up for local businesses not only want general information about the business, but also the business hours, driving directions, reviews, coupons etc. Hence, a different approach is required to optimize websites for local SEO.
Properly optimizing your website for local SEO could account for as much as 18% of what Google weighs in its algorithm when ranking results.
Here are two ways you can optimize your site for local search:
A. Make sure NAP is on the website with schema markup
In a nutshell, schema markup tells the search engine what your data means, not just what it says when your website gets indexed in search results.
Think of schema markup as a code that you will need to put on your website to help search engines provide more informative results for users. The screenshot below shows how a local business in London has placed their NAP in the footer of their website, marking it up with schema.org.
You can use Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper to generate quick and easy markup to embed in your website.
While you’re at it, add your NAP in HTML as well.
As mentioned earlier, keeping NAP consistent everywhere across the web increases your credibility. This also helps search engines verify the information that you submit and allow them to cross-reference the details.
Avoid all abbreviations and short forms. See if addresses mentioned on your website are in fact in HTML – sometimes it is an image. To quickly check, hover your cursor over the text and see if you can highlight individual characters.
When you’re done, use Google’s structured data testing tool to verify data accuracy.
B. Ensure your homepage is focused on local keywords
Targeting the right keywords is extremely important for any business. Spend some time on researching and determining the most relevant keywords for your business, then add a local variation.
For example, if you’re targeting the keyword “cheap plumber”, add in your location to turn it into a local keyword (such as “cheap plumber in Atlanta”).
At the same time, make sure that you’re not overly focusing on local keywords. Add location-free head keywords as well to balance out the keyword distribution.
For example, BuloShoes uses its location – San Francisco – in the title.
When optimizing for local SEO, it is good practice to have your homepage focused on one keyword. Say, “Wine in Denver” in a title, meta description and the content you generate.
3. Build Citations
Citations are essentially mentions of your business’ information on other websites – even if there is no link to your website.
Even a phone number by itself is counted as a citation. For example, your business might be listed on yellow pages but your website is not linked to it.
Citations are a key component of search engine algorithms. Businesses with a greater number of citations will probably rank higher than the businesses with fewer citations. According to David Mihm’s Local Search Ranking Factors, citations make up to 25% of top twenty factors.
These citations are no good if they are not linked to your website.
Use tools like Whitespark or even Fiverr to find citations and manually link them with your website. This technique can dramatically change the local ranking of your website.
Pro tip: Citations from a well established and well-indexed website will increase your authority and boost your rankings.
4. Build and monitor reviews
Local reviews have a direct impact on local search rankings.
Although Google reviews are important, your focus should not be limited to getting Google reviews alone. Venture out to get reviews on Yelp, local directories and local blogs.
Begin by getting in touch with your own customer base and see if they are willing to leave you a review. You can even consider incentivizing them if needed (perhaps a discount coupon). Alternatively, you can create a dedicated page on your website – say mybusiness.com/review-us. Send this link in the email to your customers who have recently purchased your product(s) or service(s).
For example, Orange Restoration collects reviews from Google+, Angie’s List, Facebook and a number of other platforms.
Another way to go about it is to encourage your audience to review your business on Google, Yelp, etc. with a free Review Handout Generator.
On top of that, you can also monitor your reviews on Free Review Monitoring.
5. Build links to your website
Link building is an integral part of any SEO campaign.
Local SEO relies on links from other local websites that are closely related to your business or location. Relevancy matters more than simply getting links from unrelated domains with a high domain rating.
Ask any of your business partners (manufacturers, accountants, lawyers, software etc) to add you to their website. Next, find local websites and blogs that cover small businesses. You can do this by searching for “[your location] + blog”.
Say if you have a business in San Francisco. Searching for “San Francisco bloggers” shows me multiple blogger lists.
Contact these blogs individually and send them a personal pitch. Tell them what makes your business special. You can even arrange for special discounts and deals for the blog’s readers.
Another tactic is to search for “best of” lists for your industry in your city. Start by using a query like this ‘“best of” + “[your industry]” + “[your city]”’.
For example, searching for ‘“best of” + “bookstores” + “San Francisco”’ shows me a number of results:
Each of these could be a target for a link.
Another great way is to try and do interviews with the press to get coverage in local newspapers.
Over to You
Use the steps outlined above to start your local SEO process and boost your business’ rankings and revenue.
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