Guide on How to Improve Local SEO
With the rise of mobile, ‘near me’ searches, businesses should focus on optimizing their presence for local search. When a business wants to know how to improve local SEO efforts, it means they want to make it easier for customers to find them when they are in the midst of a micro-moment, are actively seeking for a business, and have the intent to purchase.
Recently Google gave some tips on how to improve local SEO and ensure your business is showing up on the Google Map pack. According to Google, a businesses local search ranking is made up of the following components:
How to improve local SEO: Relevance
A search engine’s main goal is to serve up the business or webpage that most closely meets the searcher’s request, so it should come as no surprise that relevance of search terms is the leading factor that determines local search ranking. Because of this it’s imperative to include a detailed business description and as much information as is possible on all of your business listings, especially your Google My Business page.
How to improve local SEO: Distance
Another major factor that determines local search ranking is how close a searcher is to a business. If the searcher doesn’t include a specific location in their search, the search engine will approximate distance based on what it knows about the searcher’s location.
How to improve local SEO: Prominence
Figuring out a business’ prominence isn’t as clear as the previous two factors. When determining prominence, Google takes into account how well-known a business is in the offline world. Meaning famous landmarks or popular store brands will rank higher in local search results.
In addition to offline prominence, Google factors in what is known about the business online, including links, articles, and business directories. Having a strong online review presence can also improve a business’ prominence. Google is looking for business with a high overall star rating and a large number of reviews that are coming in on a regular basis.
Best practices for improving local SEO
While it’s hard to know exactly what factors affect Google’s local search algorithm most, Moz has conducted exhaustive research to determine what businesses should focus on when trying to improve local SEO. They include:
The Consistency of Name, Address, and Phone (NAP)
Consistency is key when it comes to your business’ contact information and how to improve local seo. Both on your website and on the many business directories you’re listed on, it’s important that your name, address, and phone number is consistent. For example, if your business’ address is 1234 Fifth Avenue, it’s important that you either always spell out avenue or always abbreviate it. Even though Google’s algorithm is super smart, switching up the format of your contact information could be detrimental to your local search ranking.
Maintaining consistency on your business listings is simple enough, but it will take some diligence on the part of the individual tasked with managing third party directories. To ensure you are maximizing your local search ranking, we suggest auditing the NAP information included on your business listings on a regular basis.
It’s also important that you include NAP information on every page of your website on the footer of every page. It is also strongly suggested to include a Schema.org Markup to provide search engines with all data that might be relevant to them, including business name, address, phone number, geographic location, online reviews, and even information about events.
How to improve local SEO: Optimize your listings
The content on your business listings like Google, Facebook, Yellow Pages, etc. also factors into your local search ranking. As a result, businesses should take the time to go through and optimize each one of them for local search. Below is a list of simple things you can do to improve your overall ranking.
Claim your listing: Most business directories require businesses to claim their listings and verify that they are the right individual to manage and update. The process is quite simple. Since Google is the most popular directory, we’ll review the process for claiming your listing here. However, most other business directories follow similar processes.
Go to business.google.com
Login to your Google Account (Gmail, G+, etc.)
Search for your business by name and address
Claim and verify your business
Update description: When writing the description you should include relevant information about your business that will help consumers decide whether or not your business is right for them. It is okay to include keywords in business listing descriptions, but you shouldn’t practice keyword stuffing. Search engines will notice and your local SEO ranking could be affected. It should be noted that Google has recently made changes to how it handles descriptions on Google My Business. Businesses can no longer edit the description within Google My Business. It has to be edited from within Google+.
Upload photos: Pictures help tell a visual story about your business and let customers know what it’s like to do business with you. Photos are also important for attracting attention to your listing and help you garner more clicks through. According to Google, listings with photos receive 42% more requests for driving directions and 35% more clicks to their websites. There are a number of different types of photos you can upload, but at the very minimum you should include:
It is recommended, however, that you upload photos on a regular basis to show off your business’ personality and engage with your audience. Before uploading any photo, make sure the size is optimized for the platform.
Engage with customers: Many business listings give you the ability to collect and respond to reviews about your business. Responding to and engaging with online reviews has a positive impact on where you rank in local SEO. Businesses should respond frequently to both positive and negative reviews. This will not only affect local search, but will increase trust and consumer confidence in your business.
Include up-to-date hours of operation: Having up-to-date hours of operation will mitigate instances of customers traveling to your business only to realize when they arrive that you are closed. If your business has special holiday or weekend hours, it’s important to update those when they change.
How to improve local seo: Review Signals
Online reviews not only improve local SEO, they also can help you improve business operations and influence purchase decisions. Because online reviews are so important, below are proven best practice to help you significantly increase the number of reviews you have coming in.
Determine the right timing: The timing of the invitation is one of the most important factors that determines whether or not the invite is opened and an online business review is left. The optimal time will be different from business to business, but our research has shown that sending them while the customer is still on site or automatically right as the transaction is closed will result in the most reviews.
To make sure the timing of the invitation is right for your business, we suggest conducting some AB tests. This will give you the data you need to help you make the right decision and ensure the highest click-through and response rates on your invitations.
Set expectation for the review: Another key tactic businesses should employ when trying to increase the number of online business reviews is having employees set the proper expectation for the review. When setting the expectation you should let them know:
When they will receive the invitation
Where they will receive the invitation
Why it’s important for them to respond
When you set these expectations and get them to tacitly agree to leave a review, you should see your click-through and response rates improve significantly.
Eliminate barriers: Businesses should make the process for leaving a review as easy as possible. One of the biggest obstacles customers face when asked to leave is how long it might take to complete the process. An online review management platform will streamline the process because it utilizes smartphones and apps, like Facebook and Google that your customers are already familiar with. This eliminates the need to register for a new account just to leave a review on your behalf.
Target the right review sites: A lot of businesses wonder which online review sites are best for them. Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet answer that works for every business. It will take some research for you to find out where your customers are going to find out information about your business.
We suggest that you build a balanced presence across all of the sites that matter to your business. At the very least you should be on the big sites like Google and Facebook and then dig deeper into industry specific sites, like Cars.com, DealerRater or Edmonds if you’re in the automotive industry or HealthGrades if you’re in medical or dental.
Invite via text: Text messages are fast becoming the preferred communication channel for many people. Think about it. Would you be more likely to open an email from an unfamiliar sender or a text from a number you don’t know. If you’re anything like me, you’ll quickly delete the email and open the text as soon as you see it.
Marketing text messages have a 99% open rate, 90% of which are opened within 3 minutes, which is considerably greater than email. If you want to improve your click-through and response rates for your online review invitations, you should strongly consider implementing a solution that supports invitations via text.
Use an online review management platform: An online review management platform will streamline the collection and management of online reviews. It will consolidate your entire online reputation into a single dashboard, making it easy to respond to reviews and monitor changes in customer sentiment.
How to improve local SEO: Social Signals
It is unclear exactly how much impact social signals like shares, likes, and followers on social media sites have on your local search ranking. Regardless of how much influence they have on local SEO, they still bring a lot of value. If you create content that is sharable, it could result in links back to your site, and quality links will definitely improve your local SEO.
Local SEO Link-building
Speaking of links back to your site, link building is the last local SEO improvement strategy to be discussed in this post. Put simply, search engines view links back to your site as votes which determines the site’s popularity. There are a number of different strategies you can employ to get links back to your site.
Create quality content: The best links to get back to your site are natural or editorial links. These links are unsolicited and come to your site organically. These links are more difficult to acquire than others, but bring the most value – especially if you’re able to get a link back from a popular blogger or website.
Develop relationships: Another way to get links back to your site is to solicit opportunities to contribute on the blogs of your vendors, partners, and popular blogs in your industry. A lot of times they will be happy to have someone else contribute a piece to their blog, and they will typically let you include a link back to your site.