Written by: Bill Brown
Our search habits on Google have evolved hugely over the past couple of years, and in late 2015, Google confirmed that more people search on mobile than on desktop. With location data being provided more voluntarily by consumers when searching, location sensitive content has become increasingly important. Thus, if you’re building your SEO strategy, you cannot ignore the importance of local SEO.
If this is new to you, we have some tips and tricks that might help you out.
Conduct a Local Pack Analysis
The very first thing you should explore is to search for local competitors with your target keywords. This is displayed in a three-pack, with the most useful information such as a clickable phone number, address, opening hours and reviews. It’s called the three-pack as only the top three results for the applicable keywords are shown, with lower ranked results displayed by clicking to “More places.” These are the first results that are shown to users when they search for your desired keywords, so it is important to note who else is near you, what information they offer on Google, and build your profile to suit your chosen keywords.
Consistency Across the Web
To get into the coveted top three spots in your local three-pack for your selected keywords, you need to be aware of the 3 most important pieces of information used to rank the three-pack. This is often called NAP, or Name, Address, and Phone number with country and area code. Your NAP needs to be displayed prominently and consistently throughout all your presences on the web. Make sure they are error free on all of your web presences, as this could impact your ranking. Regularly search for your business name to make sure any mentions by other parties do not post inaccurate NAP information as well. The reason for this is simple – if Google cannot determine which among multiple versions of your NAP is accurate, they might choose not to list your business at all in the three-pack.
Make Full Use of Your Google My Business Page
Before you begin, make sure that you have claimed or verified your Google My Business page. This is on Google’s platform and is the very first step to proving your legitimacy with Google. This can also allow Google users to rate and write reviews for your business, a key metric in determining search result rankings.
Social Media Engagement
Google places a significant level of importance on Social Media accounts when ranking search results. Despite Google stating that the presence of Social Media accounts does not affect search rankings, what is not stated explicitly is that engagement with your customers and web audience do contribute to the “buzz” in your business and do influence search rankings. Make sure you plan and execute a social media strategy, with regular updates and respond consistently to feedback or inquiries on any of these platforms, especially those that are open to public view.
Create a Fast, Mobile-friendly Website
With the separation of desktop and mobile search, one of the key changes to Google in the past few years is that sites which are mobile friendly get a boost in ranking when searched from a mobile phone or tablet browser. Thus, it is essential for you to design a dedicated mobile website or a responsive one that adjusts accordingly to cater to mobile readers. Excessively long loading times, while not directly affecting rank, can also turn off visitors who would simply go to the next best search result on Google rather than wait for your page to load. Thus, it might be wise to invest some time in creating a fast loading mobile-friendly website for your business.
As with traditional keyword optimization, remember to optimize your title, meta description, header tags and such to cater to your selected keywords. Just put in additional attention to mentioning the locations you are optimizing for, this will go a long way in pushing your results to the top.
Identify Proper Keyword
Your choice of keywords is also equally important. Remember that you cannot optimize for too many keywords at once, with a maximum of 10 key phrases, and regular mentions of said phrases to enhance your local SEO results.
Get Registered on Local Listing Websites
Local directories and lists are also very important when optimizing for local SEO. Make sure that your business is listed on all the most prominent listing sites, such as YellowPages.com. When conducting a local analysis, make special note of all the listings of your top competitors for your shortlisted keywords, and make sure you at least appear on all the same listings that they are already on. This will give you a leg up when Google crawls for backlinks to your site.
Don’t Forget to Generate Online Reviews
Online reviews are also very important within the three-pack. A common behavior in search is to view the links in the three-pack in order of review ratings, starting from the highest rated. Find out all the most reputed review sites in your industry, and start building upon customer reviews on these sites. Together with reviews on your My Business page, Google aggregates your public ratings and displays this prominently on the three-pack. But do also make sure that you manage your reputation carefully, and address negative reviews in the right manner.
Another important facet of local SEO is the quality of your links. The more links you build from already high-ranking sites, the more credibility Google gives to your website. Do not pursue old-school black hat link building techniques, such as buying cheap links in bulk – having too many low-quality links do little to help your ranking and have been rumoured to actually hurt your rankings as Google has begun penalizing them in recent years. Try to build engaging content and eye-catching infographics, as these have been proven to have increased social sharing and thus build high-quality organic links to your site.
To sum it all up, you need to have a clearly defined local SEO strategy to rank high on local searches, especially in the coveted three-pack. Do take the time and effort to go through all the various aspects that affect your local search ranking, accompanied by the traditional SEO techniques of link building and content creation. When executed in parallel with a proper content marketing strategy, you can definitely get your business on Google Maps with local SEO.
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