Local SEO is rapidly becoming one of the key ingredients for online success for every business looking for long-term success across search engines.
But, what is local SEO?
Local SEO is the art of improving a website’s visibility and ranking in local search results.
Typically, local searches tend to lead to more in-store visits and sales within 24 hours of the search being mad online. According to Google’s own research, 50 percent of mobile users are likely to visit a local shop after having performed a local search, whereas only 34 percent of people using tablets or computers will follow a search with a visit to the shop they found in their searches. Even more interesting is that Google says 18 percent of local searches lead to sales, compared to just 7 percent for regular, national or international searches.
Local SEO focuses on providing relevant results to people searching based on their current location. For example, if I search for ‘best accountants in dorset’ on my computer, Google displays results that are closest to me geographically. If I do the same search on my iPhone, the results are the same.
Google’s report also stated that 95% of people use their mobiles to look up local information about a business, with the main searches being to find the telephone number for a business, the hours of business, the physical address and other contact information.
Google released the Pigeon algorithm update in July 2014, which gained the nickname ‘the local update’. This update to Google’s algorithms considered location and distance, which led to a change in the type of results shown in Google search and Google Map searches.
What this means for your business is that there are lots of new opportunities for professional service businesses, bars, restaurants, tradesmen and retailers to really boost their online visibility within the locations in which they operate.
In early 2015, Google also launched its first mobile update, worryingly called ‘Mobilegeddon’. This update to its algorithms means that Google now penalises websites which are not fully responsive, which do not have a dedicated mobile version.
If your site isn’t responsive or at least has a mobile version, it could soon become much more difficult to find your business in mobile search results, which could mean a loss of revenue for any local company.
How to improve your local search results
First off, you’ll need to make sure your site itself is optimised for the search engines.
We deal with this in more detail here on our On-Site SEO page [link], but in general, you should optimise the content, page titles and meta description on your website to help Google understand your location. Your main keywords are still important, but your location will need to be considered within your copy in order for your site to rank.
Schema microdata should also be included in your optimization work.
Schema microdata should reside within the code of your site to make it easier for search engines to find and categorise the content which they’re crawling. Does your business have multiple locations? If so, each address needs to be marked up within the code.
Once you have optimized your website, and created the schema micordata to help the search engines find your site and categories it, we need to turn to the nuts and bolts of local SEO:
To rank well in search engines for local searches, these are the three core areas to focus on:
Google My Business
If you haven’t already got it, you’ll need to claim your Google My Business page, and then set it up correctly including all your company’s key information.
Once it’s been set up, the following information must be included:
- A long, unique description properly formatted, including all relevant links
- Select the right categories for your business
- Upload all pertinent company photos
- Add a local telephone number
- Add your company’s registered address (it must be 100% consistent with the address information on your website and in any local directories)
- Add a high-res profile image and cover photo
- Add opening times/days (if these are relevant to your business)
- Speak to your customers to get some real reviews to add to your profile (and on other relevant online directories)
Local NAP Citations
Accurate and consistent NAP citations can have a massive impact on your local SEO rankings.
Your NAP is your organisation’s name, address and phone number, and this information should be listed on your website, such as on your contact page as well as on all social media accounts and relevant business directories.
SEO Benefits of NAP citations
Since the launch of Pidgeon, Google has sharpened its focus on serving accurate localised results to people searching online. This update from Google makes it vital to ensure that your NAP information is current and consistent everywhere it appears online, and as such it is key to harnessing Google’s power in local SEO. Your NAP listings, on your own website or on any other site, is called a “citation”. Google and the other search engines such as Yahoo! and Bing, review these citations to make sure that they refer to a legitimate business location. If there are inconsistencies, then the search engines often penalise sites resulting in lower search engine rankings and less traffic to your site.
Source: Search Engine Land
Local citations are the instances of your business name and address found on other websites, such as business directories.
NAP (name, address and phone number) consistency builds citation trust by consistent address formats to ensure that all your business citations reflect your correct.
So, where should you place your NAP information?
Firstly, you need to make sure that Google can access your NAP information (i.e. it must be crawlable by the search engine bots).
Adding this to your own site is simple and should include your name, address and location on your website (such as your contact page and/or footer).
However, in order to build trust with users and with the search engines, and thereby boosting your rankings in local searches, we need to get this information on other websites like online directories and sites with a particular focus on your local area. By securing NAP citations on well-respected sites you get more SEO ‘juice’ from Google.
These sites could include the following:
- Local chamber websites
- Industry directories
Whether your business is just starting out or it has already been around for decades, it’s important to utilize the tools and information that Google gives you in order to compete on a local level.
Good reviews on sites like Google and Yelp can encourage people to check out your business, improve conversion rates on your site, and even help boost your rankings in organic search engine results, whatever industry you work in.
Reviews Improve Conversions
In a recent survey of the impact of reviews for your business, show that 90% of people read reviews and a whopping 88% said that they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations when it comes to making a decision to buy a product or service. However, what’s even more significant is the fact that a similar percentage (86%) was influenced by negative reviews.
Put simply, the vast majority of people now read reviews as part of their pre-purchase research before making a decision to buy anything from a business.
Is your website highly rated?
On sites like Yelp and Google, people can only see listings with a minimum of 1-star ratings, so if your business is in an industry most of your competitors have online reviews, your own reviews may not even show up in the results if you don’t have enough positive reviews!
Should you ask for reviews?
This depends on which review site you want to get good reviews on. Some review sites discourage asking customers to submit their own reviews, while some openly support it.
Yelp, for instance, discourages businesses from soliciting reviews. Yelp believes that directly asking your customer for reviews may jeopardize its integrity. The reason being that users might believe there is a bias in favour of positive reviews, and therefore, untrustworthy.
Google, however, encourages getting reviews for your business
So, how do we give you a steady stream of online reviews?
The best review sites (for your business)
There are many review sites on the web, but you should initially focus on the the ones which will deliver the best results for your industry:
- We start by searching for your company name and brand name(s), to find the public reviews that you already have. We’ll highlight any bad reviews, and discuss with you if and how you should respond to each one.
If there are a large number of negative reviews on a particular review site, relative to good ones, we might recommend concentrating on this review first of all to generate more good reviews to outweigh the negatives.
- Let’s say you own a sweet shop. In this case, we will do some relevant non-branded searches, such as “sweet shop Thames Ditton” and other similar search queries. If your shop already has some positive reviews then great, we can build on that. If there aren’t any reviews though, we will develop a plan to build up good reviews to start appearing when people enter these kinds of search terms.
Industry Leaders & Key Competitors
- Thirdly, we perform a range of searches of your main competitors and industry leaders to identify where they have reviews posted about them and what kind of reviews these are. This will help us to target the same and similar review sites as your competitors are already on.
Asking your customers for reviews
Link to your review sites from your own website
- We will work with you to create a new webpage or simply a call to action to go on multiple pages of your site with links to your profiles on the key review sites identified above. Next, we need to get visitors to go to this page from other areas of your site, which can be achieved by placing calls to action on relevant pages of your site, and your email signatures, such as “Check out what our customers say about us”.
Add review site info to your business cards
- Some businesses have had great results from handing our business cards that include a URL to an important and relevant review site. I attended a course in home DIY in Exeter a few years ago, and as I was leaving the teacher gave me his business card, and on it was the URL to hotcourses.com profile. Because their profile page had so many great reviews of their course, it was listed as one of the best DIY courses on hotcourses.com!
Add a review request to another email
- Another way to get right in front of your clients to ask them for a review is to include your request in another email which you typically send them. For example, I have an account with a forex broker and recently attended a trading seminar they held in London. A few days later, I received an email with some useful links to more free training material from the same company. At the end of this email, they added “Would you write a review about our training sessions?” A simple, timely and easy task because they put a clear link in the email to their review page on the own website and my login codes to make it easy for me to do as they asked.
If your business has a local focus, you’ll definitely want to get some good reviews on Google Maps (Google+ Local).
But, in order to write a review on Google, users must have a Google Account (and despite the omnipresence of the internet giant, not everyone will have one. If you customers don’t, they may not want to spend time setting one up simply in order to post a review about your business. So, we will always make sure you can provide your customers with an alternative review site.
Obviously, you can filter out any of your customers who already have a Gmail account (such as firstname.lastname@example.org) since you’ll know they have a Google Account, and target them for Google reviews first.
Regular, Continuous Reviews
Google and the other search engines often penalize sites that suddenly have a lot of reviews posted about them (Google assumes you are trying to cheat your way up the rankings). So, it’s best to get your reviews submitted gradually and regularly over time.
At digitalpact, we will help you to make acquiring and managing your online reviews an integral part of your business development.
Contact us today, to talk to a Local SEO expert about how you can grow online reviews, conversions and sales.
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