Nov 12, 2014

Looking into the Basics of Local SEO

We have been working with various clients since 7 years to offer them competent digital marketing services. Thus in this phase we have witnessed many changes in the search world. With the progress of the local business, Local SEO has grown significantly over the last few years. As per Google, 20% of the desktop searches have a local intent, however if you look at the mobile devices it jumps to a whopping 50%. The rise of Smartphone usage and better connectivity has become a mainstream element and leads to explosive growth what we call as the Local Search.

Local Search – What Is It?

We look upon Local Search as the online version of anything that you would look up in the phone book. It focuses on providing result that is relevant to a searcher based on their current location. It is about someone looking for a business, product or service within a specific area like “Donuts Lower Manhattan.” Google will provide you with the nearest store locations.

The purchase intent behind the local search makes it important to local business/ local searchers look for a seller, instead of the other way round –

  • 1.As per comScore, 60% of mobile local searcher purchase from the business that they found online
  • 2.As per comScore/Neustar Localeze, 78% of mobile-local searchers prefers an offline purchase
  • 3.As per Mobile Marketer, 70% mobile-local searchers call, visit, or make in-store purchases within one hour

Well, local search influences the ranking factors in a number of ways. However, what you must consider to steer your business in the right direction? Here are some key components that you must look into –

On-Page Optimization

On-page optimization is the building blocks of local SEO. However, in local SEO we consider the location also as a keyword. It kind of goes like this – product/service keyword plus the city and state should be there in the title, h1 tag, description, URL and page content. According to some SEO experts, adding schema markup can also helps to boost your rankings.

Three important signposts to follow during on-page optimization –

  • 1.Have the local keywords in the SEO title.
  • 2.Have address and phone number on every page.
  • 3.Contact us must have details of all the locations.

Let us site some best examples to create one page per product or service.

Plumbing Installation

URL: plumbing_installation.html
Title Tag: Plumbing Installation — Residential Plumbing Installation | Manhattan NY

Pipe Repairs
URL: pipe_repairs.html
Title Tag: Pipe — Residential Pipe Repair | Manhattan NY

Sewer Cleaning
URL: sewer_cleaning.html
Title Tag: Gutter Cleaning — Residential Sewer Cleaning | Manhattan NY

Google My Business

Find a loyal customer base with Google My Business, which allows your business to receive customer reviews and ratings, use the +1 button to endorse your content, and re-share your Google+ posts across the web. Google My Business helps to connect the users directly, whether you look for them on Search, Maps or Google+. Customer gets the right information timely, whether it is the driving direction to your business, hours of operation or phone number to click and call. You have more to optimize for local than organic ranking. You must also look into the Local SERP listing as well.

Local SERP listing

You will only find companies with a local presence to appear in this section. That is why your business needs to have a properly optimized Google Local Profile to rank higher. With Google repeatedly changing and re-branding their local listings so many times that even the experts feel confused.

Local Google listing

Google+ Local Listing helps to build a profile page for every business and organization in the world. Business can easily claim the listing to gain access or create a new one. As soon as you claim it, you can keep on updating it with information such as hours of operation, business categories, and even a cover photo. Google is in the process to merge all original Places pages into the Google+ platform. This will add a social layer that the original local pages do not have, giving the business ability to post updates and interact with people in a Facebook-like manner.

When you create Google+ Local Page, make sure you do the following:

  • a. Optimize information copy business by referencing keywords
  • b. Try to reference your keywords in the title
  • c. Do make sure that you associate the listing in the right category
  • d. Add rich media to provide a more enticing proposition to potential customers
  • e. Add your address in a consistent format
  • f. Encourage the customer to leave reviews on your business page
  • g. Create a listing for the physical locations

Local Search Directories

More than 68% Google leads the pack in overall search market share, but not so much with the local search. Local search space exists in a fragmented form and has a rife with competition from local directories and Internet Yellow Pages. Roughly, half of the mobile searches occur on apps. Google Maps is the most popular in comparison to Yahoo, Bing, Yelp, and Apple Maps and have half of the market share. Therefore, it is important to be listed on these sites through citations.
A citation is nothing but a mention of your business name, address, phone number on another website even if there is no link. This could be the business listing on Yelp, YP.com or Better Business Bureau. Citations are equivalent to SEO and search directories prefer to pay attention to lists on such authoritative directories. Besides the major online directories, you must look for opportunities on both locally relevant and industry-relevant domains.

Mobile Websites

A mobile website does not contribute to rank higher in the search results, but a website that is not mobile friendly or configured in the incorrect manner is not going to show good ranks in the search results. As per Search Engine Roundtable – “Google does demote non-mobile friendly Smartphone sites from ranking so well on mobile. And if you mess up with the techniques, they can hurt.” However, if your non-mobile site does not appear in the mobile search 61% of the potential users will abandon it.
When it comes to mobile website designs, you can make choice between responsive design and parallel mobile. Responsive Designs automatically responds to the screen size of the device and Parallel Mobile involves creating a duplicate mobile website. From an SEO perspective, it makes no difference which method you use, but it does make a difference from the development perspective. For companies implementing a responsive design means building a brand new site, but parallel mobile is less disruptive but chances exists as Google may regard a parallel mobile site as duplicate content, so you need to enter HTML code in each pages.

Review Signals

Consumer greatly depends on the reviews before making a purchase, irrespective of buying a product or service and Google take this into their algorithms. The attributes generally assessed based on quantity, velocity, diversity, and freshness.

  • Quantity

Local SEO experts are of the opinion that Google+ Local page have a positive influence than other review sites. Indeed depends on the number of reviews on a business’s Google+ Local to rank higher.

  • Velocity

Another micro-factor that Google consider is how fast you get reviews. If the number of reviews posted every month jumps from 2 to 20 Google will question their legitimacy as natural reviews occurs slowly.

  • Diversity

Reviews that sound similar in tone and content also raise suspicion and have those 5-star ratings as naturally occurring reviews have diverse feedback and contents.

  • Freshness

Online reputation management is an ongoing process and to remember the main signpost tells that recent reviews weigh heavier than older reviews. However, getting customer to write reviews is tough and you should not solicit reviews in the following manner –

  • 1.Do not offer incentives in exchange to reviews
  • 2.Do not post fake reviews
  • 3.Do not post reviews from the same IP address as Google consider it as red flag
  • 4.Do not swap positive reviews with other business owners
  • 5.Do not attempt to discourage bad reviews

Social Signals

Social signals have a significant impact on how well a web page can response. Social signal often goes beyond having a Facebook page. It involves activities and interactions such as –

  • a.Number of Facebook fans, likes, shares and comments
  • b.Number of Twitter followers, tweets that mention your brand name or include a link to your website
  • c.Number of people that have you in their Google+ circle

There is a correlation between social shares and the search engine rankings and the more time the content get likes or shares or re-tweet and post more valuable it becomes.

Social Media Presence of Small Business

Let us take a quick look on the social media presence of the small businesses, who tends to put more time and money, but buckles under the added workload.

  • a.Nearly 1/2 spend over 6 hours a week on a social media
  • b.1/4 spend 6 – 10 hours
  • c.1/3 wants to spend less time

Sharing good contents is the key to unlock social media benefits, but small businesses tend to ignore it.

Off-Page Optimization & Blogging

It is not always necessary that the traditional search engine optimization is going to work the local SEO. It tends to show a big shift and close the gap between social media, content marketing and SEO faster. Creation of unique content shared on social media is another means to attract backlinks. Google loves fresh content better to say they love to have unique, useful and informative content. Adding useful content on a regular basis would turn into a great marketing investment for future days.

Local SEO Mistakes to Avoid

Taking the right Local SEO steps improves your rankings, similarly a single wrong step can lower your rankings. Here are some red flags that you must consider beforehand –

  • 1.Using a toll free 800 number will make you miss the value and trust of using a number with a local area code. It is better to use local numbers on your site.
  • 2.Stop using those virtual addresses as it lowers your customer trust
  • 3.Make sure that you fill all your information on the Google+ profile to create a well-indexed social profile
  • 4.Make sure the keywords you choose are terms people use
  • 5.Your site should load quickly and provide a good user experience
  • 6.Stuffing the location and keyword can actually lower your rankings so resist the temptation
  • 7.Include social sharing buttons on your site to make it easily shared

Local SEO is a Bit Difficult, but Easy

Local SEO is both hard and easy than national SEO. It is easy since it helps to get good local ranking yet competitive than ranking nationally. There are more areas to focus and obtain local listings and citations that are not necessary for national non-location based campaigns. With growing use of Smartphones, local SEO will become a more important, thus the Search Engine Optimization Services need to grow their skill-sets. Now you are ready to take charge of the local SEO campaign and start reaching for more clients every day. Make sure that your NAP (Name, Address and Phone Number) data is consistent and you focus on the quality links.

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Pratip Biswas

Founder, Unified Infotech

I am an Entrepreneur and a Tech Geek with more than 1500 successful projects launched. I share my experience through my love for writing and help other entrepreneurs reach their business goals.