Are you having problems ranking in Google or Bing’s map or do you want more traffic from local directory websites? There are a few major things to worry about when you’re focused on Local SEO. Here is a simple 11 step guide to Local SEO success, it’s part of our methodology we call Linear Local SEO.
- Technical SEO Basics. Make sure your website obeys Technical SEO basics such as redirecting old 404 pages with a 301, having a sitemap.xml file, using only 1 H1 tag per webpage, and that your www version and non-www url version are canonicalized together.
- Business Location Citations. Known as Name Address Phone Number (NAP). You want to have as many of these as possible and have all of the one’s across the web as close to identical as possible.
- Reviews. Make sure you have a process to find happy customers and get them to review each of your business locations on Google, Yelp, Facebook, and other sites.
- Good Website Experience. Make sure your website pages have unique content, load fast, that their messages are clear, and that the path for a potential customer to convert is as easy as possible.
- Location Specific Pages. Do you operate in multiple cities? Make sure you have a page for each one of importance. Do you operate in multiple neighborhoods? If they have value make unique pages for each one of them too.
- Links. Links are the connectors between websites, pages, and documents and still factor heavily in Local SEO. Most local businesses have between 2 and 15 websites linking to them. Focus on getting more and higher quality links than your competitors and keep doing this even once you rank highly.
- Rich Markup. Use Schema.org, Facebook Open Graph, and Twitter Cards to markup your pages so they are easily shareable and understood by other platforms.
- Advanced Technical SEO. Do you serve customers in more than one country? Using more than one language? Make sure your use the correct rel=alternate tags. Also make sure your have your Google Search Console parameters set correctly.
- Track Conversions. Success comes from measuring and improving as you progress. SEO isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. It’s not a battle, it’s a 100 year war. If you’re not tracking your success at a level that is meaningful and sharing that with your team you’ll find winning at SEO to be much harder.
- Content Marketing. Once you’ve cleared out the majority of issues start content marketing by creating unique, attractive, innovative, and inspirational content. This will help improve your brand and will drive links back to your website.
- Google Changes. Pay attention, make sure your Local SEO agency or in-house SEO is paying attention too.
Questions To Ask Your Local SEO Agency
Are you looking at other Local SEO agencies or working with one currently? Here are some questions you as a business owner or marketer should ask to help you better understand the services you’ll be / are currently getting.
- Keyword Spam – Spammers have found a way to send junk keyword data that looks like it is coming from Google Organic in your Google Analytics. Your agency might be reporting spammy keyword data in your reports. This could be an honest mistake, asking them might help.Question to Ask: Are you filtering out spam keywords in my Organic traffic reports?
- Paid links are still bad – I’ve seen dozens of local businesses fall prey to this time and time again. If your agency is asking you for extra money to pay for a link, you might want to refuse them at first. There is a very high probability that Google will penalize you. They might be buying you a directory listing, native advertising, a charity sponsorship, or something else that could be very beneficial or socially good. It’s important that you ask them to disclose the purpose and if they think Google would consider it paying for a link.Question to Ask: Are you purchasing links for my site? If so, do you think they will hurt the website in the future?
- Private link networks are really bad – You’ll probably be aware if your agency is getting you these. These links usually appear on pages with file names such as “resources.html” or “list.html” or even “links.htm”. Private link networks are designed to trick Google and other search engines into thinking your website is more authoritative on a subject than it otherwise would be. Google has unleashed quite a bit of updates over the past few years which will penalize your site (or algorithmically demote it to use the correct vernacular) and make getting traffic from Google very difficult.Question to Ask: Are the links you’re getting me from a Private Link or Private Blog network?
- Getting directory listings each month isn’t SEO – There are agencies which consider simply submitting your business manually to a few directories each month is SEO. While this will help in the long-term, it will take a lot more time than it should. Instead use one of the various tools designed to distribute your NAP listings to directory websites for a small monthly fee to handle a large majority of this work so you can focus your SEO work elsewhere and see results faster.Question to Ask: Is there a way to get these local business directories done quicker so we can do other SEO things?
- Adding blog posts is not automatic SEO – I’ve seen this complaint frequently as well, a business will have paid an agency to blog once a month and a year later nothing has changed. If the blog posts are not compelling enough to cut through the noise in today’s world and do not match up to keywords you wouldn’t be able to get otherwise then they probably aren’t helping your SEO too much. Instead focus on writing about subjects that your audience really cares about or that will attract new linking websites to you.Question to Ask: How are these blog posts helping our SEO? Are they helping attract traffic our other pages can’t? Are they getting us new links? If so, what kind of links?
About My Local SEO Services
I have been building websites since 1994 and doing Local SEO since 2006. I have worked with some of top brands and companies including Travelocity, Southside Bank, Cash Store, Statewide Remodeling, Ritz-Carlton, Allie Beth Allman, A-Max Insurance, iDeal Floors, US Steam, and UMoveFree. I follow a core set of principles to always be Honest, Accountable, and Transparent with my clients and to focus on ethical SEO work that is remarkable. I write about SEO and Marketing for numerous websites such as Search Engine Land, Search Engine Journal, and Social News Daily; and travel the country speaking about Local SEO at conferences and meetup groups such as Pubcon, Confluence Con, Interactie Strategies, Rocks Digital, Dallas SEO Meetup, and SearcHou.
I want to help you and your business, no matter what size or budget. I am here to serve you and help you navigate the world of Local SEO to improve your business, not mine.
How to Rank Better using Local SEO
So how do you rank better? Well there’s quite a few components to increasing rankings, and each one contributes to the various types of search result sets people can see when performing a search and can help drive traffic from different sources. Google and other engines call these signals. You don’t need to have all of them perfect, you simply need to do have more signals than your competitors.
Name, Address, Phone Number (NAP)
This represents the name, address, and phone number of your business. You need to make sure that anywhere this appears on the internet that it is exactly the same. The NAP impacts your local or map search result rankings in search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo!
Getting links from other websites is critical to making search engines want to rank your website higher. There are various ways to get new links ranging from ways that are within the guidelines of Google and Bing and ways that are far outside of their guidelines and could lead to troublesome issues with those search engines. Make sure you research link building tactics before you implement any or algorithms like Google’s Penguin update will impact your site in a negative way that is difficult to reverse, or worse could bring on a manual penalty. Links impact both Organic and Local results.
Your website’s content should be unique, authoritative, and compelling. Often local businesses will use boiler-template, non-unique content that ends up getting them in trouble with search engines. Run through your website and make sure that your content is completely unique by using tools like Copyscape to make sure no one else has copied your content or that you haven’t copied it throughout your own website. There are ways to display legally required or manufacturer required content that would otherwise lead to trouble without causing negative issues in your search rankings. Content can impact Organic and Local rankings.
This is the great foundation of all SEO. Technical SEO impacts Organic results the most, though it can be used as a signal for Local / Map listings and other ways of ranking local businesses. Make sure you do the following
- Remove the ‘meta keywords’ tag if it’s on any of your pages
- Add a rel=canonical tag to all pages
- Make sure your site has a sitemap.xml file and submit this to Google and Bing webmaster tools
- Make sure your title tag is not spammy containing a max of about 70 characters
- Make sure your meta description contains your main keywords
- Place Facebook Open Graph tags on your pages
- Place Twitter Card code on your pages
- Use Microformating, RDFA, or Schema.org code on your pages where appropriate (e.g. for your address information)
Early research so far shows that to rank in Facebook’s Search you need to have likes on your page for personalization settings, and a larger number of ratings. Make sure that your Facebook check-in page and your Facebook ‘fan’ page have been integrated together. Then find ways to get more likes from local residents and ratings of your business. FB Business listings impact Google Local Search and FB Reviews show up in branded searches on Google.
Google / Bing listings
Make sure you claim each listing in these search engines. Often they might prefer to rank local businesses with a claimed listing in their system. Optimize these listings for the keywords you want to rank for. This impacts the local results within these engines.
More positive reviews is highly correlated to a higher ranking position in most search engines. Have a strategy to get new reviews from satisfied customers. Make sure you know what search engines and review websites look for in spam or fake reviews to avoid having your hard work be wasted. Reviews impact your local or map rankings and also help on queries such as [business nam] + [reviews] by displaying positive reviews about your business that could impact sales.