How to Build a Local SEO Presence in Google
Local SEO is essential to the success of the online strategy for a brick and mortar business
Visibility in the local search results is becoming increasingly important, as Google provides “near me” results to users searching for anything from restaurants, to taxi services. Appearing in the results is important both for advertising to users searching at home on their desktop computers or tablets, and for advertising to users who are out-and-about on their mobile devices. The number of searches each year on smartphones has overtaken desktop searches, and this is in part due to the increasing demand for information about businesses and services in close proximity to users while they are going about their daily activities.
With people looking down at their phone to find out which services are close by, rather than looking up at what is around them; the new way for businesses to generate customers is to appear first in the local search results for keywords relating to their service providing.
But how does one go about building a presence in the local search listings?
Where do you currently rank?
Before formulating a strategy for your local SEO, you should first look to see where you currently appear in the local SEO search results, and exactly how your business is represented by the listing.
Try typing in a variety of keywords into Google that relate to your business or the service that you provide. For example, as an SEO services company, we want to appear in the local pack for keywords like “seo agency”:
A quick check shows that we are in the local results:
Keep in mind that Google will serve you results based on the IP address of the computer that you are currently using, and therefore if you are not currently situated in the same geographic location as your business, then you will not see your business listing in the local search results (unless you enter the location as part of the keyword).
As we are located in Wimbledon a quick search for “seo agency wimbledon” allows us to see that we are in the local pack:
Once you have seen where you appear for each of the keywords that you feel are important with regard to reaching your customers, you can begin formulating a strategy to improve your current rankings.
The local SEO ranking factors
Google populates the local search results according to a number of factors, and understanding each of these individual ranking factors is crucial to knowing how to give your website the best chance of appearing high in the results.
Moz have studied the most influential ranking factors and these are presented in the pie chart below.
Capitalising on each of these factors will give your website the best chance of appearing high in the local results. Let’s look at the steps we need to follow in order to accomplish this:
Step 1: Optimise your website
This involves ensuring that your website is keyword optimised, with your location specific keywords within title tags and meta data; the correct NAP (name, address, phone number) information is displayed on your site; and reviews and testimonials are located on your website, along with high quality content.
Step 2: Set up your Google Places Page
If you have not done so already, setting up your Google+ profile, along with a Google Places page for your location, and verifying your brick-and-mortar location, is a good first step.
When carrying out this step, it is imperative that you select the correct category for your business, and add as much detail and information as is possible, including images, videos and any other relevant content. Anything that could possibly useful to customers should be included, like opening times, and payment options. Verifying your location with Google involves receiving a card in the post with a individual code that you must enter online.
Step 3: Create online citations
From the pie chart above, we can see that external location signals are one of the top ranking factors for the local search results. The more consistent the citations are, in terms of NAP (name, address, and phone number format), and the more of these citations that exist, the better the chances are of your website appearing high the local search results.
Consistent NAP information involves using the exact same format each time your business name, address, and phone number. Using different formats can confuse Google, and cause them to ignore certain citations.
For example, we were to list our NAP info on our website as as:
J SEO Ltd, 43-35 Church Road, 0203 603 0242
and also list our NAP somewhere else as:
JSEO, 43 Church Rd, 0203 6030242
This can cause Google to view these two pieces of information as being two different locations, which can have a detrimental impact on local SEO rankings.
There are many websites to create citations on, including Yelp, and Thomsonlocal. The more the better!
Step 4: Get reviewed
Review signals are also an influential ranking factor, and reviews like those on Google+ can contribute towards your local search rankings.
Encouraging happy customers to review your service through Google+ on their preferred review site, is a great way to accumulate reviews on a continuous basis and consistently improve your rankings.
Step 5: Share on social media sites
Social signals are an influential ranking factor, and are also a good addition to an overall marketing strategy. Creating a profile on one or more of the leading social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) and contributing fresh content to an interested audience, will not only promote your brand, but also contribute towards your sites ranking in the local search results.