Local SEO: Ultimate Guide To Increase Sales & Generate Leads
Do you remember the last time you opened up your Google app and searched for a business near you? Chances are, you have done it countless times already, whether you were searching for an address or a phone number.
If you are also fond of local search, then imagine the other people doing it on a regular basis. And if you have a business – no matter the size – it is essential to understand and implement Local SEO.
Do you want your local business to rank in search engines and reach more customers? This Local SEO Guide is designed to teach you everything you need to know about it. But first, the basics.
Note: Before you get started trying to rank locally, I definitely recommend conducting an SEO audit of your website first, to identify all of your issues with your website.
What is Local SEO?
Local SEO is pretty much the same with traditional SEO strategies, though it focuses more on generating exposure from local searches. With the rise of smartphone usage, its significance in the online world is rapidly growing.
In its most organic form, Local SEO thrives in providing results that are consistent and relevant to a searcher’s current location. Given its efficiency, your business can strategically appear in both organic and local listings, thus achieving a higher rank in SERP (Search Engine Results Page).
Fun Fact: 75% of users do not scroll past the first page of search results. This further validates the importance of landing a spot on the said page, as it helps in reaching more people and optimizing the website.
How Local SEO Helps Small Businesses
Local SEO is all about increasing traffic, attracting potential customers, and making your business known.
This strategy, if practiced correctly, can help customers find you and allow them to learn more about your products and/or services.
If your website fails to appear on the first page of local search results, then you are definitely missing a lot of growth opportunities.
Best Local SEO Practices to Follow in 2018
Now that you understand how much impact local SEO brings to the table, it is time you learn how to implement it correctly. Below are the best local SEO practices that you need to follow in order to rank your business higher for local search terms.
#1. Local SEO Ranking Opportunities to Touch On
Competitive Analysis – Once your website is optimized for search engines, one of the important elements to consider is Competitive Analysis.
This is where understanding market competition (e.g. services, techniques, tactic, initiatives, etc.) comes in and helps your website acquire a crucial advantage.
Here is a powerful checklist for your Competitive Analysis:
- Identify Competitors – There are two types of competitors in the market: broad and niche competitors. You should analyze both of them in order to rank higher.
- On Page – After identifying your competitors, their website, content, design, and other technical aspects must be studied and analyzed thoroughly. Moreover, you must observe – and use, if possible – their keyword usage and repetition, content quality, and site design structure, among others.
- Off Page – This includes, but not limited to, backlinks, link building strategies, and indirect promotional strategies. These must be thoroughly assessed so that similar or better techniques can be used.
- Constant Surveillance – You should conduct a constant check on the various local SEO services your competition use. If you notice a change in strategy that could benefit your site, it must be applied.
Competitive Analysis is all about collecting data from your market competitors. From there, you need to combine it with your own strategy and knowledge to give your business an edge.
Local On-Page SEO – There are two main sectors when it comes to SEO ranking factors: OnPage and OffPage. The former, however, excels in techniques that are all easy to control and follow. This is where you are going optimize pages according to keywords your target audience is looking for.
There are a couple of important things to keep in mind, so you can ensure that your site ranks locally. They are listed as follows:
- Set up a website structure for landing pages to rank. For instance, you serve different cities. You can set up your site in a way that it will feature multiple landing pages for
- Optimize content using keywords. Not only should you focus on optimizing landing pages but also your website’s content. Add keywords that you want to use to rank locally. Make sure your articles are well-written, spelling error and grammar mistake-free.
- Include Clear Calls-To-Action. When people visit your site, you would want them to be converted into sales. This is where calls-to-action comes in. Start by making sure that your phone number is clear and displayed prominently. Add CTAs that help them identify what to do next, such as a “Request for a Quote” or “Call Us Now” button.
- Make your site mobile friendly. Since the so-called “mobilegeddon” in 2015, search engines have shifted their focus to mobile-friendly websites. That is because more and more people are using their smartphones to surf the Internet, buy stuff, and subscribe to services, among others. See to it that your site correctly displays on each and every mobile device.
#2. Basic Local SEO Checklist and Best Practices
Keyword Mapping – Keyword Mapping is where you pair keywords to certain pages within your site, allowing your visitors to see every page in a cohesive manner.
For this to be successful, you need to do the following:
• Identify which keywords to target.
• Determine the needed search volume to support your strategy.
• Know where you exactly want to be positioned in your industry.
It is important that you use a keyword with your city name on it.
For instance, you are selling granite countertops and you want to target Tampa Bay. Your keyword should appear as “granite countertops in Tampa Bay.”
Although your business is yet to be big enough for searchers to type it in, they are still going to use your keywords.
To put it simply, more people are likely to search for what you sell than what your brand name is.
Domain Authority – Popularized and developed by SEO gurus Moz, domain authority refers to the measure of power of a certain domain name and, more importantly, is crucial in search engine ranking. There are three factors that help in determining a domain’s power: Age, Popularity, and Size. This can be a useful metric in considering the apparent quality of a website.
According to Moz, the calculation of a site’s domain authority is evaluated by different factors, such as the total number of links, linked root domains, MozRank, and MozTrust, among many others.
They are consolidated into a single DA score that can be utilized to compare and track your site’s so-called “ranking strength” over the course of time.
This gives you a basis of how well you are doing local SEO overall.
One way to improve your DA score is by getting more links from well-linked-to websites or pages.
Of course, this is not an overnight process and will require time and effort from your end.
Optimizing Title Tags, Meta Descriptions, and Headers
Putting up a webpage means marking up the text through the use of HTML elements, most of which are important in helping search engines understand the content of a page or site.
Title tags, meta descriptions, and headers contribute in giving meaning to each and every web pages. Above all, search engines use them to determine if your site is relevant for a particular search query.
They are so important that a single mistake is enough to hurt your search engine ranking (With the exception of Meta Descriptions).
Fortunately, most content management systems (CMS) nowadays provide decent tools to either edit or create meta data even without HTML coding knowledge.
Below are some of the best practice guidelines for optimizing title tags, meta descriptions, and headers.
- Should be 50-60 characters long in order to fit on result pages.
- They must be unique and descriptive.
- Do not forget to add important keywords but remember not to spam.
- According to Google, it is highly recommended that title tags include your brand, so make sure to put your site name at the beginning or end of each page title.
- Should be around 150-160 characters long, just enough to fit on result pages.
- Strategically target keywords, though they must be unique in each web page. Still, avoid spamming.
- Meta descriptions are like a short sales pitch, so make sure they are interesting enough to encourage users to click.
- Must include facts and information relevant to potential visitors.
- While you can be creative in writing meta descriptions, you need to make sure they work as a summary for the page.
- Only one h1 tag per page and it must be unique.
- H1 tag works as the title of a post on a page, so remember to include the primary keyword.
Every page in your site should have visible and optimized HTML h1 tags
Google My Business
Like it or not, you have to set up a Google My Business page if you want to optimize your site for local SEO. Think of it as your ground zero for everything about your business on Google. When you do a search on your smartphone, say, about restaurants in New York City, you will immediately see organic results just below the fold (though it shows only the top three local results). Now imagine the massive traffic opportunities your site can get from being listed on these competitive searches.
If you do not have one yet, then you must claim your Google My Business page and start optimizing it. Below is a step-by-step guide on how to set it up.
- Head here and click Start Now.
- A form where you can input your business information will appear. Enter the NAP (Address, Address, and Phone Number) info that appears on your site.
- List the correct categories. Tip: Make sure you select the relevant ones only. This helps customers – and even Google’s bots – to know what your business does exactly. While you can select many categories, try to be as specific as you possibly can.
- Verify your account so you can make further edits. You can do this via postcard (verification code is snail mailed to the listed address), phone (verification code is sent as a text message), and the instant verification option, email (only available if the same login details Google Search Console are used for My Business account).
Once your Google My Business profile is fully set up and verified, follow these best practices guidelines:
- Build citations via local listings to improve local rankings.
- Do not forget to include a keyword in the title of your Google My Business page. This should help in achieving a better ranking.
- Encourage customers to leave positive reviews on your Google My Business listing.
- Every file URL’s should be relevant to the photo. Do not just stuff words. In fact, the ideal thing to do is to include keywords.
- Create pages your profile that detail the services your offer.
- Select the decent and quality photos to upload.
#3. Behavioral Signals
Google’s mission in local search is to simply reflect as accurately as possible the real world online. This mission, however, requires the search engine giant to learn and understand a plethora of behavioral signals. And based on recent announcements and newly-released algorithms, it clearly shows that Google gives so much importance to these signals.
Apparently, it is only Google that has a decent, full picture of user behavior. Still, understanding a couple of hypothetical behavioral ranking signals can help you in your local SEO journey.
Why not take a look at some of the common behavioral signals that search engines – particularly Google – use to update local rankings based from the most primitive to the most advanced.
- Location of Search – Google has perhaps mastered the skill of detecting a location on any mobile device. While it continues to be a work in progress, its algorithm outcome is strong enough to influence how well a business ranks locally. There are different factors being considered but perhaps the most common one is this: the closer the business is in a location the higher it ranks in search queries.
- Click Through Rate – Also known as CTR, this one here involves people clicking on your website or listing. And like the aforementioned, the more people click on your site the more times it will appear in similar searches in the near future. One way to better improve your CTR is by optimizing your title tags and meta descriptions on each webpage. You can also improve your Google My Business page to have a more superior look, as it will help you outperform the competition and earn their clicks instead.
- Bookings or Check-ins – Through its partnership with different booking sites such as Expedia and OpenTable, Google has given users the ability to quickly book hotels and restaurants. Interestingly, businesses are now given to power to roll out their own check-in or booking feature, and this is thanks to the “Appointment URL Feature.”
#4. Social Signals
In case you did not know, Google sees social interaction as a key element in its local algorithm. This is why you should give so much importance to social media presence. It is vital to keep your foot on the ground, though, as keeping a stable social media presence is not easy. In fact, a number of social posts can only drive potential leads away. One common mistake business owners do is defining their social media as a means to broadcast their services or products. While you can obviously do this, the key to conquering this feat is to actually post and share interesting things that promote engagement.
Be it on Twitter or Facebook, create contents that encourage users to participate in conversations. You can jumpstart a contest or post fun facts about your services. You can upload videos that discuss the products you offer but in a fun way.
#5. Link Signals
Link signal are another step in solidifying your local SEO strategy, as it can persuade Google to point users to towards your site. For local businesses, the most effective technique is to use location-specific links. These are links that, in one way or another, can work as credible source relevant for your business’ location. For instance, if you sell gadgets and you both reference and link to a certain electronic store with which you somehow have a business relationship with (not a competitor). It is likely for your business to come up even if users specifically search for that electronic store.
Another type of link signal to practice is the industry-specific link, which is a link from any website that is relevant to your business type or industry. Since you sell gadgets (just an example, of course), you should link out to contents that talk about smartphones or iPhone updates. But for this strategy to actually come to fruition, make sure that you do not just include any link. It should speak of quality. This is where you link to authoritative websites or, at least, sites with high domain authority.
#6. Claiming Social Media Profiles and Business Listings
Claiming social media business listings serve one ultimate purpose: to be found more easily. No matter how good your website looks or how affordable your products are, these would not make any sense if they do not have the exposure. A recent study suggests that around 97 percent of people search for local businesses online. By carefully marketing your brand, optimizing your site, and claiming all listings and social media profiles, your site can be positioned in a way that your brand or business becomes more visible online.
This also helps in fighting brand identity theft, which has become a serious matter in the digital age. These thieves can hurt your business and brand. One way to minimize the possibility of some misrepresenting your business is to claim your business profiles and listings. This is not to mention the fact that it is a great way to maximize the power of word-of-mouth on the web.
Here are some business listing sites you can start claiming now:
- Facebook For Business
- Yelp For Business
- Google My Business
- Yellow Pages
- Bing Places for Business
- Yahoo Local
- Foursquare for Business
#7. NAPW Consistency
NAPW refers to the name, address, phone number, and website for your citations. And there are several reasons why your NAPW remain consistent in every citation. For starters, you do not want people to keep calling your old business phone number, not to mention them going to an outdated address. You also do not want to be redirected to a non-working site. More importantly, NAPW is used to determine if whether or not your business deserves to part of the local pack.
A consistent NAPW has proven to be a huge help with SEO, though it is a difficult one to measure on a small scale. Nonetheless, practicing consistent NAPW – and rigorously removing duplicates – can easily produce a net of 23 percent increase in local pack presence. Keep in mind, however, that it does not necessarily help you outrank competitors. It is more about building a credible online presence and giving customers access to your updated contact details.
#8. Online Reviews and Testimonials
Do online reviews and testimonials really affect local ranking? It holds true that these may be a small piece of the bigger picture – your online presence. However, more and more consumers are relying on online reviews and testimonials when buying. As a matter of fact, 93 percent of customers admit that their buying decisions are heavily influenced by either online reviews or testimonials.
There are several reasons why these two are important:
- Influence your ranking in local search engines
- Determine which result should surface (usually, the ones mostly clicked on)
- Imply consumer purchasing decision
As you can see, online reviews and testimonials are both critical to the overall success of your local SEO strategy. Remember: Search engines like Google are so passionate about providing searchers with the best user experience. If you have bad reviews and testimonials, chances are, you will rank low compared to businesses with positive reviews and testimonials.
#9. Schema Markup
Schema markup is actually one of the latest evolutions in the world of SEO. This powerful form of optimization – albeit least utilized – can dramatically influence your local ranking.
- What is Schema Markup?
It is basically a code (i.e. semantic vocabulary) that you place on your site to help search engines provide more informative results to users. If you have used rich snippets before, then you will have a better idea of how schema markup works. For instance, you can use schema markup to feature your event schedule page to allow SERP to display a list of upcoming events. This, in particular, becomes valuable information for users. To put it rather simply, schema helps search engines understand what your data exactly mean, not just what it says.
- Is It Even Necessary?
Let’s say you are uploading photos to your blogs. While you can optimize images by using the right file name and keywords on it, adding schema markup makes a huge difference. You can use markup codes to actually better define what the image is about and thus help search engines understand what it really means. Just keep this in mind: Search engines are machines built to confirm or verify information in their structured language. With Schema Markup, you are helping them understand vital information about your site using their “mother-tongue.” Hence they can better provide users with relevant information.
As the term suggests, a citation is merely a mention of your business on the Internet and it can be in any form:
- Only the name of your business
- Name and phone number of your business
- NAPW (name, address, phone number, and website)
- Why Citations Are Important
A citation that includes all information is called Complete Citation; whereas one or two is missing is “Partial Citation.” In any case, citation contributes to the overall success of your local SEO strategy. Google loves citation, so to speak. That is because a business mentioned a couple of times deserves a better ranking.
- Understanding Quality Vs. Quantity
The internet provides access to a ton of website listings for your citations, but you need make sure they’re high quality citations. A good practice is to build at least 100 citations. You’ll want to make sure that citations are updated from time to time (depending on circumstances such as if you changed offices, etc). Remember that Google employs citations as a way to verify the accuracy of your business details in local rankings. A single outdated detail is enough to hurt your local SEO strategy.
#11. Lead Generation
Yes, you read that right – you can use local SEO to better your lead generation strategies. It is a fact that SEO helps rank your site’s local rankings higher, and it is usually done through the use of business-related keywords. Interestingly, when potential visitors search those keywords, they can find your site on the search results page. This eventually creates organic traffic as they click through your link. And if your content addresses their needs, you gain the opportunity to convert them into leads and then sales.
Below are generation strategies that you can use:
- Friends – You can always tap your friends for leads and referrals, especially that they are the easiest persons you can discuss business with. Just be casual and let them understand the type of business you are into. You can start by providing them contact details or link to your site. From there, they can work on tapping their colleagues whatsoever and refer your business.
- Customers – Have you tried subscribing to a service that you really like? And chances were, you told your friends or family members about it. You see, customers can easily become a source of leads when they are satisfied with your product or service. Without second thoughts, they will sign up and will even tell others about your business.
- Facebook Group Members – Here, it is all about consistency. Facebook’s algorithm in groups tends to put your initial engagement rate low, but it is actually smart. Only if and when you show consistency in posting will your posts become more visible to more members of the group. Just be smart and consistent but remember not to appear spammy.
#12. Local Link Building
Local link building is a process of accumulating links from other sites to your own. Apparently, search engines use these links in two fundamental ways: to discover new web pages and help determine how well these pages should rank in search results. Although local link building can be a difficult process, its benefits are unmatched.
Here are some reasons why local link building is important:
- Improves search visibility. When you start building relevant links to pages that are actually useful and valuable, everybody just wins. And Google loves it when you enhance user experience.
- Increases brand exposure. Believe it or not, people have this default trust in links. While you may think of links as a marketing tool whatsoever, for most people, they can easily build positive associations. This is most especially if these links are from trusted source or sites.
- Links simply send positive signals to Google and can even be the litmus test for future signals.
Fighting for the #1 spot in the search engines can be tough, especially if you are a new comer to local SEO. But with this guide, you now have a deeper understanding of what Local SEO is, how it works, and how to perform it. You also have a much better understanding of how local SEO can benefit your business. From the information above, you can now start to dominate in your local area.
If there are any questions or concerns, I would love to hear feedback in the comment section.