Local SEO is more important than ever. That’s why you’re always looking for the best techniques to dominate in the local search rankings and maximize your online visibility.
To provide insight into what’s working for local SEOs today, we reached out to my network of search industry experts and asked them a simple question:
“What is your number one secret for local SEO success?”
Here are their responses.
1. Build a Strong Citation Profile
Perhaps unsurprisingly, having a strong citation profile still comes up as one of the most talked about points on a local SEO’s checklist, as highlighted by Mark Scully of Learn Inbound:
“One of the most important aspects of Local SEO continues to be citations. You haven’t a hope of outperforming your local competition if you’re not investing a large proportion of your time into getting yourself listed on quality industry and city-specific citation sources.”
So, how do you do it? Simple! Take time to search for the common keywords used for your real estate industry and your location, identify the organic results returned for business listing sites, and then reach out to them to get your business listed.
As with any outreach, it’s about the value-add for the site you’re speaking to, so you should flag what makes your business a standout resource for their audience.
Attracting citations will be easier if you have a brand that people can warm to. Be sure to spend time focusing on the copy contained on the core pages of your site. Make your business sound irresistible by highlighting the value-add of your services, your core values, and what separates you from everyone else as in the long-term, it will be much easier to attract citations.”
2. Keep Your Citations Up to Date
As an extension to Mark’s advice, Craig Campbell recommends keeping citations up to date:
“It is also important to keep all the data on your listings consistent, using the same structure and information, and avoiding abbreviations as this will just lead to confusion with Google.
“Further to this, take the time to work on a strategy to earn links from other relevant local websites to build up local relevancy, something which will go a long way to helping you achieve some good local rankings while building up your citation and trust flow, two metrics which we all know Google gives a strong weighting to.”
3. Put a Plan in Place to Encourage Reviews
On a different note, Sam Charles of Float Digital highlights the importance of encouraging and responding to reviews:
“Reviews are a huge part of the internet now, and undoubtedly pivotal for businesses. Ninety-two percent of people regularly or occasionally read online reviews (BrightLocal, 2015), and 90 percent of people say online reviews influence their purchase decisions (Dimensional Research, 2013).
If increasing conversions wasn’t enough, reviews work wonders for your local visibility, too.
To increase your visibility in search engines locally, encourage users to leave reviews, and dedicate time to engaging with them. Remember to thank users for their feedback and motivate them to use your brand again in the future.
Always be proactive in responding to user reviews, even if you’ve received damaging reviews. Addressing complaints is important for your brand image, and publicly demonstrates that you’ll go above and beyond to achieve customer satisfaction, too.
Email your customers, set up review landing pages and put up signs in your store, but whatever you do, don’t be tempted to post false reviews. Posting false reviews isn’t only dishonest but it’s against Google’s quality guidelines, and doing so can have a negative impact on your local search visibility when you’re caught. It isn’t worth the risk, and you’ll almost definitely get found out.”
4. Make It Easy for Customers to Give Reviews
As an extension to Sam’s great advice, Marc Swann, Search Director at Glass Digital, advises local SEOs to:
“Make the process of securing reviews as simple as possible for your customers. Create a URL under your domain that redirects straight to the review form, and include the link in a short and friendly email request.
“You should also put resources into securing offsite reviews. As well as generating valuable citations or links, there’s potential for exposure to enhance your Google My Business listing via ‘Critic reviews’ or ‘On these lists’ sections. These can appear in your local SERP listing, giving you the competitive edge and generating click-throughs that boost your ranking.”
It’s all too easy, when running a local SEO campaign, to forget that back in 2014, Google claimed Pigeon created closer ties between the local algorithm and core algorithm(s).
As such, many of the tactics used by SEOs shouldn’t be ignored, with those understanding this bigger picture being able to use it as a competitive advantage, earning links from top-tier publications, creating authority content, and leaving competitors falling behind on the SERPs.”
5. Produce Epic Content
On the topic of authority content for local SEO, Freddie Chatt of EcomHacker offers his number one secret for success:
“Don’t neglect the need to produce epic content to improve your local SEO. Even a single great piece of content can make a vast difference to your local rankings with the correct internal linking through to your main pages.
Creating better (this could mean more in-depth, better designed or additional insights, as just a few examples) content, albeit less of it, will undoubtedly have a much better long-term gain than a higher volume of poor quality pieces of content on a regular basis.”
If you have the ability to create high-quality content every day on behalf of your business, do so. This could be in the form of new pictures on your social media platforms, a podcast with indirect marketing references or a blog with relevant how-to articles concerning your industry.
Your purpose with this content is to begin building a web of links around the internet that point back to your landing pages. As the major search engines begin to associate your site with relevant keywords, you will rank higher for those keywords.
Localizing your link-building and keyword strategy helps to accelerate the visibility process. Because there is a much shorter SERP line for a business in a particular city than there is for a general term, you will access top listings in a much shorter period of time.
Once you begin to get consistent traffic that comes from top listings in your local area, the major search engines will naturally expand your listings outside of that area.
The above tips are only a start in making sure that you achieve the visibility and viability you need to create a great customer acquisition strategy.
There is more competition than ever for the eyes and dollars of the modern consumer, and you can never let up on your online marketing. Keep your ear to the ground and take advantage of all new technologies that can help you automate or outsource these essential functions.
In time, you’ll begin to outpace your competition, but don’t expect these tips to work alone–use them in tandem for the best results.
6. Identify Easy Link Opportunities
Understanding the importance and the correct approach to link building in a local SEO campaign is something that was brilliantly highlighted by Greg Gifford in his recent BrightonSEO session.
He made a number of top tips and suggestions on the topic of finding link opportunities, as well as why Possum made it essential to focus on ways to earn both industry-relevant links and local links.
According to Greg, local SEOs should always start their local link-building campaigns by identifying easy link opportunities through existing relationships, local sponsorships, local volunteer opportunities, local offline groups and, of course, by taking the time to analyze the link profile of similar businesses located in other cities.
A site needs unique local links to win in the SERPs but must also have a strong foundation of those easy-to-acquire local links. Another commonly overlooked success factor: make sure not to point all links to your homepage.
7. Organizing the Proper On-Page Elements
The major search engines are looking to your page for indicators of a physical location that will help index your content geographically. Moz estimates that this is the most important factor if you are looking to increase local search ranking.
Make sure that your page includes a proper page title, localized meta descriptions, at least 100 words of content, and a consistent NAP. You should also include structured data to help create rich snippets in SERPs.
8. Consistent NAP
NAP, or “name, address, phone number,” are the three elements that must be consistent across all major search directories. If they are not, your listing won’t get the search ranking it would otherwise achieve.
Even a change as small as abbreviating the word “street” in your address on one platform while writing it out on another, may cause Google to view the listing as two separate ones. Use the copy/paste function across platforms in order to ensure zero human error.
9. Updated Information
The major search engines, Google especially, are sticklers for bad links. If your physical address is incorrect or your business profile links go to a dead website, you could lose a great deal of trust within search engines.
As soon as it is updated in the real world, it should be updated on the internet. This includes rebranding your business with a new name.
10. Submit Only to Relevant Directories
Long gone are the days when submitting your website to every directory you find would get you a search rank boost. In the modern world of search optimization, directories that are irrelevant or poorly received will actually hurt your ranking.
Make sure that you only submit your listing to directories that are relevant to your industry and are well respected.
11. Claiming Your Online Business Profiles
Your address or business name may already be in the major search engines or on prominent review websites, even if you did not take action to place it there.
You will often find a warning box prompting the owner of the business to claim the listing as soon as possible. If you do not, your competition may very well do so and sabotage your brand, even driving traffic away from you to a competitor.
12. Using the Schema.org Business Markup
A relatively simple way to ensure that the major search engines receive consistent information about your business is to use the schema.org business markup.
This is a feed that is created specifically to help small businesses, and it organizes your data in a way that is easily accessible to Google.
13. High Quality Pictures
It might seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at the number of small businesses that use high-definition avatars and timeline pictures. If you want better stats in your customer acquisition results, you must realize that your first impression is the lasting one.
Hire a professional photographer if you must, but make sure that your pictures are competitive with the best of your competition.
Consider stock photos a backup plan, unless you have no other options. They look less authentic, and will never match the local flavor of your original shots.
14. Be Aware That Local Means Local
Rewind five or six years and, sadly, businesses could find ways to rank themselves on the local pack for areas outside their own geographical region.
It wasn’t unusual to take on a client and find that they’d created listings in just about every city they could think of and find any old address in. This should never have worked. But it did.
There’s no doubt that local SEO has its own tactics, which are essential to earn visibility on both the traditional SERPs and the local pack. Earning both local and industry-relevant links are more important than ever before.