Everyone with a phone has a map and a directory of businesses right at their fingertips. As a business owner, it’s more important than ever to be focusing on local SEO to make sure your can be easily found. If you’re not taking advantage of local SEO, your competitors likely are.
Over the years local SEO has become more and more complex, so we’ve put together a list of the most important optimizations you can make to take full advantage of local SEO.
Meta Titles, Descriptions, and Content
Although meta titles and descriptions seem like old-school, regular SEO, these can have a significant impact on your local standing. To refresh your memory, meta titles and descriptions are HTML elements that are added to your website’s pages that are displayed in search results.
The meta title is an important place to be adding your service/product keywords as well as your local keywords (ie. either the city name or province/state, depending on how broad you want to be seen). Creating these titles require a delicate balance; you could overstuff your title making it untrustworthy to both the search algorithm and searchers, and on the other hand, you can do too little which will result in little to no benefit.
A good rule of thumb for your meta titles is to place your priority keyword at the beginning, add your local keyword in the middle, and end with your business name. But be warned, there is no cookie cutter for meta titles; you will need proper keyword research and a writers touch to get the most out of your meta title.
Unlike meta titles, the meta description does not have as much pull in affecting your ranking. It does, however, help entice people to click through by giving them more information about your business and the page they are about to visit. Just like the meta title, proper research and a writer’s touch will get you where you need to be.
As for the content on your site, it should include local information and local keywords where relevant. I cannot stress enough to not keyword stuff your content with your services and location (be it city or province/state). It won’t help you rank — thanks to the Panda update — and it won’t help visitors on your site because they can see you’re trying to game the system.
To help boost your local information make sure your contact page (and any location pages) is easily accessible, have your accurate business information listed there, and include an embedded Google map that points to your business.
Google My Business
Your Google My Business (GMB) listing is another important aspect of local SEO. These listings can show up on the right-hand side of a regular Google search, and show various information about your business.
We’ll focus on optimizing your Google My Business listing, so for more information on how to create and claim your listing, check out this helpful article from Google.
Above is an example of a GMB listing that shows pictures, the business name, overall rating and number of reviews, business category, and the business’ location information. All of these individual parts are extremely important in ensuring your listing is properly optimized.
Humans are curious by nature and want to know more about something before making any decisions. Pictures on your GMB listing gives potential customers a better feel for your business; it’s a personal touch that shouldn’t be skipped. Adding pictures on a regular basis is also a great way to stay relevant and showcase your business.
Your Business Name
When optimizing your GMB listing, you want to make sure your business name is accurate to your marketing materials. This goes for anywhere your business is located online — consistency is key!
Keeping your business name consistent is also imporant because without your accurate name, you’d be breaking Google’s guidelines for proper listing management. It’s very common to see listings include keywords in their business name and this has helped people rank in the past, and currently — but it is against Google’s guidelines. This listing is free and hosted by Google, so you should be playing by their rules. If you don’t, your valuable listing could be suspended, can cause you to lose any reviews left by customers. Google has written an article for representing your business on their platform that is very helpful. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Reviews and Rating
As I’ve mentioned, humans are curious by nature; we need information before making decisions. On your GMB listing, that information comes from reviews left by past customers. It creates a sense of trust for your business. You’ll want a good number of reviews to show potential customers that people liked your business so much they had to tell the world. The number of reviews varies, but more is always better — especially if it’s more than your competition.
The higher your rating is (5 being the max) is also preferable. Don’t worry if you get a few bad or mediocre reviews and ratings; not having 5 stars is not the end of the world. Having less-than-stellar reviews is perfectly fine as long as you respond to them in a personal and professional manner. Leaving them alone could show that you’re guilty to their claims, and trying to remove them could spark a new wave of bad reviews. My best advice is to own up to these reviews and give your customers the best service you can.
Although not as noticeable as the other sections (located just below the Rating), your business category is important for Google to understand what kind of services you offer. Your primary category should be the most relevant to you and your customers. You can also add secondary categories depending on your other services. However, going overboard with categories can hinder your ranking and spread your business too thin, so be sure to pick the most applicable categories.
Having accurate location information on your listing is imperative for ranking and allowing customers to find your business. This section — much like the business name — should be consistent across the web wherever your business is listed.
Keep an eye on your listing as competitors and other users (Google Local Guides) can suggest edits to be made on your listings. These suggestions are sent to Google, and they’ll either approve or deny them. Depending on other sources like your website, social media, and directories, they could approve edits with incorrect information.
There are more sections to your listing that should be optimized, but they typically are not as tricky as the above sections. Go through the Info section of your Google My Business listing and fill out all applicable fields so your listing is complete. If something isn’t relevant to you, don’t worry and just skip it.
Within your GMB listing is a section called Google Posts. Google Posts were created back in 2016 and have grown over time to become much more relevant in marketing strategies. These posts are treated similarly to social media posts but are seen within your Google listing. They are a great place to advertise new products, sales, and discounts or anything new happening with your business.
Content from Google Posts is now being seen within search results that show your business. This gives searchers more information about your business even before clicking on your link. Although Google hasn’t made an official statement confirming a connection between Google Posts and local ranking, it’s hard to believe that they aren’t in some way affecting your rank or trustability.
A regular post lasts 7 days on your listing, and you can have multiple posts on your listing at a time. If you have a month-long event you can set your post to show for the whole month as well. Adding the right call-to-action can also help with click-throughs to your website. If these posts are relevant to your business, give them a try and see what works best for you.
Online Directories and Citations
I’ve mentioned a few times now about Google pulling information from “other sources.” These other sources I’m referring to are directories. A directory is a website that houses many different business listings that are called citations. Think of a phone book — within a phone book are listings for people and businesses. If you’re too young to know what a phone book is, think of Facebook but with less social posting.
These citations are an important source to have your accurate business information shown. It is valuable online real estate that allows more people to find you and have search engines trust and understand you better. Some also have review sections which Google can see and use to determine how to rank you in searches. Consistency is key, so it’s important to have consistent and accurate information on each directory that you’re are listed on.
You’re probably wondering how many directories you should be listed on. My rule of thumb is the top 50 directories. Now you’re probably wondering what the top 50 directories are. These vary by location and industry, but WhiteSpark has created a great source to find the top directories in various countries. Diversify your directory management by adding your business to these top directories as well as industry niche directories, such as this directory for Self Storage Units. Try searching for “[industry] directory” (ex. “Self-storage directory”) and you might find some niche directories to add your business to.
Online Reputation and Reviews
Although I’ve already touched on this topic, it’s very important when conducting local SEO for your business. Your online reputation and reviews can make or break your business when competing against others local businesses.
The golden rule in getting these reviews is being the best company you can be, and let your customers know from time to time that you’d appreciate an online review.
What you should not do is:
- Buy fake reviews
- Ask friends, family, coworkers, and other people who have not used your services to leave reviews
- Bribe customers for reviews with discounts or freebies
- Have a device in your business for customers to leave reviews (these reviews come from the same IP address and can be flagged as fake reviews)
- Conduct review gating by emailing customers and only asking the positive responses to leave an online review
It is not worth your time and effort to create a fraudulent image of your business online. Just be the best business you can be and have excellent customer service.
What We Learned Today
There is a lot that goes into local SEO and what we’ve gone through is the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Overall, the key to ruling local SEO for your business is to ensure your location information is consistent and can be found on many sources, as well as building trust with both your customers and the search engines. To accomplish this you will need to optimize your website, your GMB listing, and citations while also gathering positive reviews on your GMB listing and citations.
Remember, the golden rule is to be good at what you do and have excellent customer service.
If all of this seemed daunting to you, don’t worry. That’s what we are here for! If you don’t have the time or ability to try your hand at local SEO, we have you covered. If you’d like to know more about our local SEO services, give us a call at 866.288.6046.