This article was updated February 2019:
With the release of Google’s ‘Pigeon’ update back in 2014, local SEO suddenly became a lot more important for webmasters and developers. Optimising a site to pick up local searches was no longer simply a good strategy, it was suddenly an essential way to ensure online success.
Fast forward to 2018. Today, there’s no question that failing to optimise for local search is like having your shop in the middle of the outback. With nearly 60% of the searches being performed on a mobile device, Google is able to match the location of the searcher to the most relevant business within their local area. If local SEO is not a priority you are missing out on that ‘ready to spend’ local customer.
With that in mind, I’ve compiled the most essential tips for how you can make the most of Local SEO in 2018 and increase your revenue. With these tips, you can rise above the local competition and command a higher online presence amongst local customers who are looking for products and services like yours.
1. Claim your ‘Google My Business’ AND ‘Bing Places’ Listings If You Haven’t Already
First things first, if you haven’t claimed your ‘Google My Business’ listing yet to ensure that your organisation is locally represented, then it’s time to do that now. This is one of the essential building blocks of local SEO – it’s easy to do and will set the platform for your local SEO efforts. Getting your listing claimed will allow local customers to start seeing your business feature more prominently in Google. Here’s a basic overview from Google on how to register with Google My Business.
And don’t forget about Bing Places. Bing can’t compete with Google in terms of online search authority, but you can still attract ready to spend local customers to your business. Bing currently has less than 6% of the market share in Australia but signing up with Bing Places will bolster your local SEO rankings for users who prefer (or at least default to) Bing search.
2. The Best Practices for On Page Optimisation for Local SEO
As one of the most important parts of SEO, it is very important to make sure that all of your on page factors are optimised to give the best chance to rank locally. Below are some tips on what you need to do.
• Local Keyword research – it is imperative that you research the keyterms properly to make absolutely sure that you are focusing on the right phrases to get local ‘ready to spend customers to your website. For example, if you are selling furniture in Sydney you will find out during your research that you can focus on the different terms relevant to your business like “outdoor furniture in Sydney” or “outdoor rattan furniture in Sydney” and plan the rest of your onsite optimisation moving forwards.
• Optimising Title Tags – Without question this is one of the most important onsite aspects. It is the text that appears at the top of your website’s pages and also as the title of your listing in the Search Engine results. Search engines place a lot of importance on the keyterms that you add in your title tag and it helps them to understand exactly what the specific page is about. Think of it like a newspaper article, the title is always the most prominent part and grabs the attention of the reader. It also tells the searcher what your page is about which will ultimately help increase your click through rate.
• URL Structure – An example of good practice for a URL could be as shown in the image below:
You can see that the important keyterms and location are within the URL and again it will help search engine robots understand what your page is trying to be relevant for.
• Optimising your Images – Search Engines are not able to reliably read or understand images, so it is important to get the information of what an image contains in other ways. We can use what is called an Alt Text Tag to describe what the image is about. As long as you are not forcing the issue you can use relevant keyterms to describe what the image is about where applicable.
• GEO Tagging Images – GEO Tag and upload to your Google My Business and your website. Here is a great tool that you can use to help. Make sure not to GEO Tag all of your photos with locations, just the ones that are relevant.
If you take on board the information above then it will help you on your way to building a successful Local SEO campaign.
• Internal Linking Structure – Earning external links that point to your site will work wonders for your overall SEO efforts, but optimising your internal linking structure is also crucial because it supports website navigation, assists with website hierarchy and information architecture, and distributes page authority. You can find tips on how to boost your local SEO efforts with internal linking structures here.
3. Use Schema.org Markup for Your Website
This should be a huge part of the onsite optimisation practices that we have mentioned about and we’ll go into a bit more detail here.
Also known as ‘structured data markup’, this bit of code makes it easier for search engines to crawl your website and make inferences about it. It allows these web crawlers to learn more specific information about your business’ products, reviews, services and location.
Google would like to see more websites structured with schema, as ‘structured markup’ makes it easier for Google and search engines to understand the content and elements on a page which then helps them organise the content in their search results better.
With that in mind, websites using structured data markup could potentially rank better than competitor’s sites that don’t use it.
If you’re not sure if your current site uses this markup, you can use Google’s structured data testing tool to check. It’s relatively easy to use. Simply enter the URL you would like to check, and it will let you know if the markup has been properly implemented.
And even if you are using structured data, there’s a good chance you could be doing a better job with it.
Citations are very important when it comes to your Local SEO. They are mentions of your business on websites showing the name of your company, where you are located and your phone number. We will go into more detail on these in our post ‘The Role of Citations in Local SEO’ which will be coming up soon but for now please see some tips below on the important factors to consider.
• NAP – Simply, Name, Address and Phone Number. Consistency is hugely important here to make sure that you are giving search engines and users the correct information about your business.
• Citation consistency – As mentioned briefly above it is imperative that you have consistency in the information of your business on your citations. If you have incorrect or contradicting information it can affect your local rankings in a negative way and also present the wrong information to your potential customers.
• Where to get started with Citations – below you will find some great examples of powerful citations for you to get started. Check that you are not already on these sites and if not list your company details on them and you will be well on your way to starting your Local SEO Citation strategy:
• Inbound links – On the subject of citations, it’s worth giving inbound links a quick mention as they’re a great way to show Google that you’re a legitimate company. You can generate inbound links by creating share-worthy blog content or through guest blogging, sponsorships and partnerships, and scholarships.
5. Embrace the Power of Online Reviews
Enabling online reviews for your products and services is a good idea even if you aren’t worried about local SEO. A consumer survey late in 2016 found that 84 per cent of respondents trust online reviews as much as they trust an in-person, word-of-mouth recommendation. That, alone, is strong motivation to seek out more reviews for your products.
But Google has also hinted that positive reviews could be good for your local search rankings. This is taken direct from the Google My Business help page:
“High-quality, positive reviews from your customers will improve your business’s visibility and increase the likelihood that a potential customer will visit your location.”
Stating that positive reviews will “improve your business’s visibility” seems to imply that Google’s ranking algorithm takes reviews into account. Taken together with the fact that consumers read and respond to reviews, it’s clear that businesses should be encouraging review – especially on their Google My Business page.
How to get Google reviews?
There are a few simple steps that you can take to get people to add reviews for your business.
• Click here and type in your business name to get your Place ID.
• Copy your place ID and add it at the end of the URL here – https://search.google.com/local/writereview?placeid=
• Send the URL to your customers to give you a review. It’s as simple as that!
It’s important that you do not offer anything in return to your customers to ensure a positive review and to make sure that they are gained legitimately.
6. Add Location Pages to Your Site
If you operate in several locations, it’s a good idea to create a landing page for each one. Each location page should detail the respective store’s address, opening hours, promotions, customer testimonials and store descriptions. Make sure you DO NOT duplicate content across your location pages as this could result in your website being penalised. Also, using the instructions related to Google Maps detailed earlier in this article, make sure all your store locations are listed. You should also embed a Google Map that includes your locations on your contact page.
7. Target Specific Locations with Blog Content
You can target specific geographic search phrases in your blog posts to boost your local SEO efforts. To do this, carry out local keyword research as described in this article, and, when targeting locations in your blog content, try to make the information as specific to the location in question as possible, ensuring it’s relevant to customers in that area. You may want to include location signals to ensure Google and readers know exactly which area you’re talking about. Consider mentioning local landmarks, such as hotels, school districts and well-known entertainment venues.
8. Make Sure Your Website is Mobile-Friendly
Mobile search has now surpassed desktop search, making it essential to optimise your website for mobile devices. Provided you’ve followed the tips detailed in this article to optimise your site for local SEO, all you need to do is make sure your content is easily readable on handheld devices and loads quickly. Page loading speed is now a ranking factor with most of the major search engines.
9. Use Local SEO Tools
You might have to pay for the privilege of using some of these tools, but they can pay dividends by boosting your local SEO strategy. These tools vary in functionality, from ensuring your location is verified with Google to helping you source citations. Here’s some of the most useful tools we recommend:
Bonus Tip 1: Continue to Balance Paid and Organic Search
There is a fantastic opportunity with Local Page search. We can target mobile users, certain radius, time of day
Organic search still presents the best opportunities for small- to medium-sized businesses to expand their reach online. In fact, one research group found that just over half of all website traffic comes from organic search. As an organisation’s business continues to play an increasing role in organic search, it’s important that we continue prioritising organic SEO.
Of course, some degree of ad purchasing will help to bolster your local presence. The key is knowing how to divide your efforts so that you’re achieving optimal results. This is an area in which Smart Traffic can assist. We’ll help you strike the perfect balance between paid and organic local SEO so that you enjoy maximum online visibility with minimum investment – and all in the eyes of the customers who mean most to you.
Bonus Tip 2: Utilise the new Google Posts for your Business
Hot of the press – Google has now officially launched its Google Posts to all businesses that have a Google My Business Listing.
You can use this new feature to keep your customers and followers up to date with new offers, events or anything else that will help ‘ready to spend’ local customers use your business. The post will appear as a small snippet that can be clicked on the reveal the entire message and will also show in the search results and Google Maps whenever your Google My Business Page appears.
We hope that you enjoyed this article and we would love you to add your comments below if you need any help or you have any other topics that you would like us to focus on in the coming weeks.
If you’re ready to step up your local SEO efforts for 2018 get in touch with our team to find out more about how we can help.
Please feel free to share our infographic on How to Succeed with Local SEO in 2019