What is Local SEO and how does it affect my rankings?
Local SEO is a specialized kind of online marketing that increases visibility for businesses interested in ranking for geographically-related keywords. A large part of Local SEO involves ranking in the Local algorithms, as well as ranking well in the organic results for Local keywords.
What types of businesses need Local SEO?
Any business that gets some or all of its customers or clients locally should consider local SEO. That could be a local restaurant, retail outlet, doctor, dentist /orthodontist or lawyer, but it could just as easily be a local ad agency. If you have a physical address in a city and expect people to go there, you should be doing local SEO for that location.
How is Local SEO different from National SEO?
While all of the elements that apply to national SEO also impact local SEO (on-page factors, links, social, indexing, etc.), local comes with a few unique elements.
The first and probably most important is that for local SEO you need to create and claim a local profile on Google (and other platforms as desired. See the Local SEO Guide for more information) Your local listing is what will show (usually) for localized search results.
The second most important thing is called a citation. A citation is any place online that uses your company NAP (name, address, phone number) all on the same page, in the same format as your local listing. This same format bit is pretty important. While Google is pretty smart, it’s best to make sure that your local citation efforts match your local listing as closely as possible. Don’t abbreviate in one and not the other (St. vs Street, (800) vs 1-800, etc.)
Third, reviews. Lots and lots of reviews (preferably really good ones.) Quantity and quality of reviews left for your business on your Google Places page is one of the most important local ranking factors.
How does on-site optimization differ for Local SEO vs. National SEO?
All of the same elements apply, but there are four things you should strongly consider mixing in. One, make sure your name, address and phone number are used on every page of your site, in the same format as your Google local listing (in the footer is an ideal location.)
Two, use your City and State names in your Title tags, Meta descriptions, and the content on your site (as it fits, don’t just force it in there.)
Three, make use of Schema local markup to better help search engines identify and show your location.
What are the most important signals that boost local SEO rankings?
The three biggest factors in local listings appear to be the number of citations, the number of reviews (primarily on your Google Places listing, though other places do count), and how positive the reviews are overall. From what we’ve seen, positive reviews will trump citations, so persuading your customers and clients to leave great reviews on your Google local page is the single most important thing you can do. Of course, there are some things that have a big impact and that may not be directly in your control, such as how close your business is to the city center.
What does the location of a business to the city center have to do with anything?
Google uses something commonly called “centroid bias”, which means that if someone searches for, say, Seattle Dentist, there will be a bias towards the dentist locations that are closest to the center of the city. While it is possible for a business in a neighboring city to rank for a metro keyword (i.e. a business in Cambridge trying to rank for a Boston keyword), if you’re on the outskirts of a city, or in a city neighboring a major metropolitan area, you’re going to be at a disadvantage.
Can you outline a brief action plan you’d recommend for new company looking to compete for local search results?
First, claim your local listing on Google Places, and make sure to complete your listing until it’s at 100%. This will require adding images, videos, and more. When creating this listing, DO NOT use any keywords or location names in your business title or business description that aren’t a part of your official business name or absolutely critical to accurately describing your business.
Second, make sure that the information from your Google Places page is spread across all of the other major local platforms, in the same format. Each of these will become a citation, which is hugely valuable.
Last but not least, do everything you can to get your happy customers to leave positive reviews for you on Google Places. You aren’t supposed to directly solicit positive reviews, but there are plenty of ways to encourage great reviews.
Can you recommend some ways a local business can 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 it in front of customers. Of course, if you want positive 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.
Is Local SEO an ongoing endeavor, or is it more of a set-and-forget expense?
There is absolutely an ongoing component. You should be getting new citations, reviews, social mentions and links each and every month.
Source: Search Engine Journal