SEO Basics: An SEO guide to local SEO
If your business is local and you want to appeal to a local audience, there’s no need to go all-out for national search visibility. Local SEO is a must. You want people in your area or region to find you, which means optimising your website for local Google searches. This is achieved by telling Google exactly where you’re located. Here’s how to make it clear where you are, and achieve a good level of visibility when people in your area search for businesses like yours.
Google’s local search priorities
When figuring out local rankings, Google looks at three main things: relevance, distance and prominence. ‘Relevance’ involves what it says on the tin – basic search relevance. If someone types ‘web design Oxford’ into the search box and you’re a web design business in Oxford, your website should match what the user is looking for. ‘Distance’ examines how far away you’re located from the user, which means that being physically near to the user’s location should improve your rankings. And ‘prominence’ simply looks at how well-known your business is. It matters because Google likes to serve up results from well-known brands over less well-known businesses.
The basics – Telling Google your address
It’s important to tell Google where you are, and vital to do it in the right way. This is where you use something called structured markup, a dedicated type of code that tells Google exactly what it needs to know via exactly the right format. Local Business schema.org tags are what you need, placing them around your address. The closer your address is to the user, the better your search positions are for that person’s particular search.
The basics – List your business in Google My Business
For decent local Google search positions, you have to have a Google My Business listing including your location plus, ideally, photos and customer reviews. The more positive reviews you have, the better. If you respond to those reviews as well, acting as a ‘friend rather than salesperson’ in the search engine’s words, that’s even better. Your Google My Business name, address and phone number must match the primary name, address and phone number on your website for the search engine’s algorithm to join the dots properly.
If you’re a local business, where you are matters to your target audience. When you add your details to every web page, you give people what they need, and Google also appreciates it. If you have several locations, create a particular web page to list them on, keeping things crystal clear.
The basics – Do keyword research
Which phrases and words do people tend to use to find businesses like yours online? You can use Google’s AdWords keyword research tool to establish which phrases people use the most, then use them in your web pages to send powerful signals to the search engine about your locality.
You might discover, for example, that hundreds of people near you search for ‘web design services in Oxford’ and ‘website development Oxford’ each month. Using the phrases in your web pages helps Google surface the pages when people search using those terms.
Join the social media dots
It’s important to create a Facebook company page as a local business, simply because so many people use the network as an alternative search engine. Facebook also lets people review local businesses, so ask for reviews on there too. There’s more. You can also take advantage of other social networks: Twitter, Instagram and so on, to join in with relevant conversations and get your brand talked about. It all helps feed Google’s overall picture of your business, its reach, its popularity and how active it is online, differentiating you from local competitors.
Use appropriate title tags
To rank high for local searches, include your city or town and county in your page title tags.
Harness directories and other local focus websites
It’s also wise to include your business in as many good quality local directories as you can, for example, Yelp, since Google uses them to pin down your locality and relevance. Which in turn, can have a small yet useful positive effect on your rankings in the region.
Because some of these directory sites allow reviews from customers, they also provide fertile ground for you to take advantage of. If there are any other local websites that include lists of businesses in the area, you may as well take advantage of those too. It all helps cement your digital reputation as a popular local business that people rate highly.
Can you exchange a link with a related local business or two? It helps if you operate in the same or a similar sector, for example, you sell web design and another important local business just down the road from you sells photography services. Related businesses are always better than simply getting links from any old business just because they happen to be in the same area as you.
Use content marketing to boost your local visibility
There’s probably a good reason why you’re located where you are. When you write blog posts and pages about your reasons for being there, your rationale behind staying local and any other subjects that matter to local people, you confirm your local status to Google and users. The more you mention your location on your website in different contexts, the clearer you make it.
No time to deal with local SEO yourself?
It takes time and effort to win good search visibility on a local basis. If you don’t have the time, energy, skills or inclination, we can do it for you.