With Google’s new Penguin updates, local is making bigger inroads into the Google SERPs. Local SEO is relevant for a business with a local presence requirement, whether you are a lawyer, a dentist, a doctor, a restaurant or a painter.
Local vs. National SEO
Local and national SEO share a large number of factors in common such as on-page, links, social, indexing, etc. But local does have a few differences. For local, you want to claim your Google profile, which is the page that will show up in the local search results. Next, you need to get a citation. A citation is a website that uses your name, address and phone number – all on the same page. Make sure that your details are the same everywhere. Changing your address or zip code could confuse Google. Third, generate reviews. Lots of reviews. The more, the merrier. The quantity and quality of the reviews for your page are one of the most important local ranking factors.
Make sure name, address and phone numbers are on every page of your site, in the same format as your Google local listing. Use schema markups to better help search engines identify and show your location. Also include a KML file on your site. While some of this may seem redundant, it never hurts to send as many legitimate signals as you can.
Maximizing Local SEO Rankings
The fundamental way to do this is to increase citations, overall number of reviews and positive reviews. At this point, local results are quite Google specific. So, the more you can do in terms of getting a better page for your business, the better your outcome is going to be. Ask clients to leave positive reviews and to +1 your page, keep it updated and keep linking to it. Location being close to the city center helps, since Google assumes you are close to city center when doing a search.
Getting Local Search Results
Go to Google place to sign up for your listing and complete all the details. This includes adding images, videos and all the other information you can share about your business. But don’t get too “SEO” on this listing. You don’t want to over-optimize for SEO and make it look unnatural in any way.
Sign up at Yext. They will send out your information to other major local platforms in the same format. Each of these will become a citation, which is hugely valuable. Next, use a tool like KnowEm to get your social profiles. Yext and KnowEm do have a charge for setting up profiles, but it is well covered in terms of returns. Invest your money as you feel comfortable for your budget and start with Yext.
Along with making your profiles, don’t ignore SEO on your website. Make sure that at least some of the links you build towards your website contain your target city/state combo. And, although it isn’t entirely correct to encourage people to go to your profile and write reviews, do suggest that if your customers are happy with you they leave a review at your pages.
Tools for the Task
WhiteSpark provides services for locating local citation sources, and you can try them out. In case you are doing some local guest blog posts, you can add your bio into the post data and generate some citations from it.
Ways to Get Reviews
Let your customers or clients know that they can rate their experience with you on your Google Places profile. Have logos up in your windows or in your office showing the places where people can leave reviews. Include your profile links in your email communications (particularly in follow-up emails after a purchase or visit), direct mail and anywhere else you can think of to get in front of customers. Of course, if you want poitive reviews, you need to provide a product and/or service that warrants them.
And while this should go without saying, DON’T BUY REVIEWS. While Google doesn’t always catch fake reviews, they are working constantly to get better at it. Yelp, on the other hand, errs on the site of extreme caution and often banishes overly positive reviews.
Outsource or Self-Promote
Depending on what your budget is, you can make a few choices. From the tips above, you may be able to do a large part of this on your own. Or you can hire an agency that will take the pain away for you. While we can’t specifically make a recommendation for an agency, keep in mind that typically with SEO, what you pay is what you get. There are a large number of agencies, but as a start you can check the WhiteSpace service at $16.
Keep building up reviews and citations for your business over time, and you will rapidly see the number of visitors coming to your local business go up.