As online search engines improve, more and more people are looking for very targeted results. The expectation is to find exactly what is being searched for on the first page of results. This is why people are in a constant battle to have their website rank highly for competitive keywords.
Focusing on broad, competitive keywords helps to some extent, but too many people still overlook the value of local SEO. By getting a better grasp of local SEO, businesses can capitalize on very targeted opportunities.
What are the keys to great local SEO? Here’s a closer look at some of the top factors that search engines love seeing out of any top-ranking website.
Google My Business Listing
It’s surprising how many small business owners don’t know much, if anything, about Google My Business. A Google My Business listing done the right way can have a significant impact on local SEO relatively quickly. In fact, one study shows a GMB listing accounts for 25% of a website’s ability to rank locally. It doesn’t take long to complete the profile, and even if it seems like basic information, it helps optimize local SEO very well.
Getting this information accurate makes a business easier to find, adds legitimacy, allows for some keyword optimization and impacts local SEO significantly.
Profiles help all businesses, and it makes no sense to ignore maximizing the potential. Fill out the listing, make posts, encourage reviews and more to see even more of a difference.
Most people are already aware of the importance of on-page content for SEO. The world has evolved a bit as far as what type of content works best. Gone are the days where shortcuts and keyword stuffing actually works. This is excellent news for people willing to put in the time and effort for quality.
Relevant, quality content is key. Length helps significantly as well. Striving for at least 1000 words on each page should be the norm.
There is more to it than just writing and letting everything else magically fall into place. Take the time with all on-page content to identify keywords and have them in page titles, header tags, meta descriptions, and more. Maximizing each piece of well-researched content will make every page on a website relevant.
Readers trust online reviews more than ever today (see our post on 4 Ways User Reviews Impact Your Search Results). That’s why a well-written, somewhat lengthy positive review is gold for any business owner. Reviews make a significant impact on local SEO, whether it be directly on a website, or listed in connection to a Google My Business listing.
It’s frustrating and tedious to encourage satisfied customers to leave positive reviews, but worth it in the end. Once reviews start coming in, others are naturally encouraged to write their own.
Yes, inevitably, there are bound to be a few negative reviews. Some business owners take those reviews as opportunities to respond personally. Others will just let the good outweigh the bad.
To gain trust and authority online, links are huge. This goes for inbound and outbound links. Search engines love seeing activity going both ways from a website. Of course, when focusing on search optimization we focus heavily on inbound links, also known as backlinks.
Inbound link authority is the single biggest ranking factor (>60% of Google’s algorithm!) because it provides basic understanding to a search engine on how to value a website. Having a backlink on a very credible site can be a huge boost compared to several hundred coming from less authoritative sites.
Specific to local SEO, inbound links should be coming from other local domains. That’s why it is crucial to network with other local businesses and different types of websites for those valuable links. Scoring a link from a popular local newsletter is just one example of great SEO value.
Remember that it’s not always a competition on getting as many links as possible. Quantity helps to a certain degree, but the quality is stressed more than ever before. Take the time to write for a guest blog or work with a trusted industry partner for those lucrative backlinks. Don’t focus so much on collecting links if they have little to no search engine value.
Additionally, search engines want to see link diversity. That means making sure that all backlinks are not coming from the same few sources (e.g., websites and servers). The more organic it looks, the better the website is trusted in Google’s eyes.
Mobile & Voice Search
Gone are the days where people are only doing searches at home. In fact, some people have ditched using a traditional computer for any search engine traffic whatsoever. Searching on a mobile device allows for instant research on the go, and a website that isn’t mobile-friendly becomes a waste of time.
67% of internet traffic occurs on mobile phones! Don’t lose that traffic simply because your website is not optimized for mobile use. Strive to be as accessible as possible. If someone searches on their mobile phone, they should be able to get the same information and enjoy a great experience as they would on a desktop computer.
The same goes for voice search optimization. Do you have a smart speaker at home yet (e.g., Google Home Mini, Amazon Alexa device, Apple smart speaker)? This is the fastest-growing sector for search engines so you want your website and business listings prepped and ready for those local searches. Most people who are performing voice searches are looking for something very specific and local. Missing out on optimizing a website for voice searches and specific, long-tail keywords can really put a business behind competitors.
Business Directory Citations
It used to be that people found local businesses through the printed Yellow Pages directory (to our surprise, they still exist, lol). But in the 21st century, online directories have become the ubiquitous norm. We’ve all used Yelp to find good eats, and there are hundreds more online directories these days. These directories are termed “citations” in the SEO world and are said to account for >10% of local ranking factors. So you definitely want to be listed in as many of these as possible, and more importantly, to be accurately listed in each citation.
The only thing worse than not having local business citations is having inaccurate information disseminated across the internet. While blatant errors are an obvious thing to avoid, subtle differences actually confuse the search engines resulting in less confidence. So while a human can discern your street address whether it’s abbreviated or spelled out, Google and Bing need to see the exact same name, address, and phone number across all the directories.
There are several publishers one can work with to get accurate citations, however, no one publisher covers every directory – and many directories require manual listings. If you’re looking to get started (or clean up a mess of historic citations), we have a standalone service that is also bundled in our monthly SEO service.
Social Media Signals
While no one can be exactly sure how social media impacts local SEO (e.g., when someone shares your homepage it doesn’t count as a new backlink the same as does a specific website linking to your homepage), but there is a definite connection. The more engagement on social media, the better local SEO will appear. That’s why we call it “social signals” rather than backlinks or citations. Just like with backlinks, it is about more than just collecting a set amount of likes and follows.
Make sure on social media that your business is as engaging as possible. Provide feedback to customers asking questions. Pose open-ended questions that encourage discussion. Have all the relevant links available for people to click through so that they have easy access to the main website.
It’s certainly impressive to see a growing list of supporters on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and more, but it’s the engagement with your website links that will begin to move the needle in search results.
Final Thoughts on Local SEO
There are immense benefits to focusing on search engine optimization for nearby traffic. Depending on your niche and region, you could receive hundreds or thousands of monthly recurring visitors to your website by users who are actively searching for your products or services. These are HOT leads! While every business can benefit from a proper, robust, and balanced SEO campaign, the only question is how long a campaign will take and need to continue in order to outrank the competition on page one of Google and Bing. Do as much as you can on your own to lay a good foundation, then get serious with a campaign by the pros.