Local SEO. SEO for local businesses.
Why use Local SEO?
Unless you have been living under a rock, you have seen listings for local business appearing at the top of some search results in Google. Local listings—previously known as Google Place page listings, now known as Google+ pages—are a great tool for local businesses looking to get more customers.
Local search results differ from traditional ‘organic’ search results, as they are a search engine result representing a local business, instead of a web page like normal search results.
Users can see business contact details at a glance, and find the information they need, instead of having to click through and dig around a clunky business site.
Local SEO can be a powerful tool to attract traffic. In many cases, local SEO can lead to many more inquiries for local businesses than regular SEO rankings.
Does this mean you should scrap traditional SEO in favor of local SEO? Nope. You can do both, and increase the amount of potential traffic your site can receive.
How to rank high with local SEO.
Ranking high with local SEO takes a much different approach than traditional SEO. Google’s algorithm is looking for a different set of signals to determine the popularity of a business, to decide how high to rank it in the search results.
If you think about it, if a restaurant is really popular in a city, a whole bunch of links from sites all over the world probably isn’t the best factor to determine how popular the business is in a local area.
A better indicator of the importance of a local business would be mentions of the business name and phone number, customer reviews, and the proximity of the business to the area being searched.
Below is a list of the most important ranking factors Google use for local listings:
1. Physical address in city of search.
2. Proper category associations (you must choose the most accurate category for your business).
3. Consistency of structured citations (amount of pages listing your business name and phone number correctly).
4. Quality/authority of structured citations (quality of the sites listing your business name and phone number).
5. Html NAP matching my business page nap (exact correct business details listed on business listings and website).
6. Product / service keyword in business title.
7. Domain authority of website (amount and quality of links pointing to web site).
8. Proximity of address to the point of search (searcher-business distance).
9. Individually owner-verified my business page.
10. Proximity of address to city centoid (location of business to center of city).
These are the strongest factors fetched from Moz’s. If you want to rank high in the local search results, all you have to do is ensure your site and place page have more of these features than competitors ranking for your target keywords.
For a complete breakdown of the local SEO ranking factors, visit the below link, where one of the world’s leading authorities on local SEO publish an industry survey on the local ranking factors every year.
Moz’s Local Search Ranking Factors
Getting started with Local SEO.
To get started, the first step is to create your business page on Google+. Visit the URL below, and complete every area of your profile as possible. This means creating a detailed description of your business, uploading as many photos as you can, listing trading hours, payment methods you accept, and so on. The more information you complete in your profile, the more you increase your chances of Google ranking your page higher.
Google+ My Business
When creating your business listing, make sure you choose the correct category you want your business listing to appear in, e.g. if you provide plumbing as a service, you want to choose ‘plumbing’ as your category, not ‘trades’ or ‘home repairs’.
Citations are the links of local SEO. A citation occurs each time your name, address, phone number (NAP) is mentioned on the web. The more citations you have than competitors, the more likely your site will rank higher than theirs. The easiest places to build citations are the many local business directories available for businesses.
Visit the below list from the LocalSEOGuide.com for a more comprehensive list of local business directories:
55 largest local business directories in the US
Citations and reviews are the link building of local SEO. If you are only building citations, you only have half of the equation covered. To rank highly, you need to be aggressive in ensuring your business accumulates online reviews.
Many businesses struggle with this. This is because it’s tough to get customers to fill out reviews!
You have to make it easy for your customers. Make it easy for your customers to fill out reviews and you will get more reviews.
Include links to your business Google+ page on your site, email signatures, flyers, and business cards, prompting customers to leave a review. Encourage customers at the end of each job or transaction to leave a review. By creating every opportunity possible for customers to leave a review, you will significantly increase the amount of reviews you receive.
But whatever you do, do not buy reviews. This is a quick way to get into Google’s naughty books. Purchased reviews can be picked up by Google’s filters and not included on the profile.
The new meta: Microformats, Microdata, schema.org & Facebook Open Graph.
Microformats, RDFa, microdata & schema.org. Where to start?
A growing problem has emerged on the Internet in the past couple of years. There’s literally billions of sites and webpages with an infinite amount of information—all completely unorganized… A bureaucratic nightmare!
There are endless pages about movies, customer reviews, local businesses, product catalogs, and so on, and there has been no standardized way of organizing or presenting this information.
A need emerged for a universal method to make it easy for search engines to quickly recognize this information.
Hence the birth of ‘meta data’ or ‘semantic data’ markup—new technologies that can be used on your site making it easier for search engines—and other technologies—to crawl, recognize and present your content to Internet users.
Considering banging your head against the wall, wondering why you’re reading such a soul-destroyingly dry topic? Well, don’t throw this book out the window just yet…
These new technologies mean you can have greater control over your search listings, make it easier for search engines to crawl your site, and achieve ‘rich snippets’ like the example below, with which you can achieve higher click-through-rates and get more eyeballs on your content. Think of this new technology like meta description tags on steriods.
Why use schema.org
So now we know what we can do with this new technology, where do we start? As always with new technologies, there’s an ongoing debate about the best to use—RDFa, microdata, hCards, microformats, the list goes on…
Well I won’t waste your time with a technical debate. Google, Yahoo and Bing joined together in 2011 to hit the data nail on the head and created a standardized approach with schema.org—a reference site for the Microdata markup technology, which allows you to cover all of your meta-data needs.
Google openly stated Microdata, and it’s sister-site schema.org, is their preferred technology, and made it clear not to mix ‘meta data’ technologies—fear of confusing their spider.
We’re here for high rankings and traffic, not a lengthy diatribe on each individual technology, so let’s go with what Google recommends for the purposes of this book.
How to use schema.org.
Google supports the below custom listings in the search results. If you have any of the below, your site can benefit from use of schema.org’s recommended additional markup for your site.
– Businesses and Organizations
– Video content
We’ll use an example of a business listing to see how it might normally be coded, compared to following schema.org’s recommendation.
Standard code for business details
<h1>Beachwalk Beachwear & Giftware</h1>
<p>A superb collection of fine gifts and clothing to accent your stay in Mexico Beach.</p>
<p>3102 Highway 98</p>
<p>Mexico Beach, FL</p>
Microdata formatted code for business details
<div itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/LocalBusiness”>
<h1><span itemprop=”name”>Beachwalk Beachwear & Giftware</span></h1>
<span itemprop=”description”> A superb collection of fine gifts and clothing
to accent your stay in Mexico Beach.</span>
<div itemprop=”address” itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/PostalAddress”>
<span itemprop=”streetAddress”>3102 Highway 98</span>
<span itemprop=”addressLocality”>Mexico Beach</span>,
Phone: <span itemprop=”telephone”>850-648-4200</span>
You can see how the above code gives the search engine a friendly nudge to recognize the information as a business listing, such as the address and the phone number.
While the above example will be just enough if you have a simple business listing, if you have any of the earlier-mentioned types of information on your site, you’ll have to log on to schema.org to follow their documentation to ensure your data is correctly formatted.
Facebook Open Graph.
While we know schema.org is the best approach for adding meta data to your site, there is one additional ‘meta data’ technology you should also use…
Facebook’s Open Graph language allows you to determine how your site listing appears when shared on Facebook.
If you do not include Facebook’s Open Graph code on your site, when a user shares your content on Facebook it will show a plain listing on the news feed, with the responsibility on the user to describe the article and make it worth reading. If you include Facebook Open Graph code, it comes up looking sexy, just like your search listings if you have been using your meta title and meta description tags correctly.
By putting your best foot forward, and making your listing show up correctly on Facebook, you will encourage more customers to click to your site, and increase the amount of likes and shares of your page. This will increase the social signals of the page.
Here’s an example of properly formatted meta code using Facebook Open Graph. As you can see, there are only minor tweaks required to make your page show up nicely on Facebook’s news feed… So go ahead and use it on your site!
<title>Buy Baseball Jackets Online</title>
<meta property=’og:type’ content=’site’>
<meta property-‘og:description’ name=’description’ content=’Wide range of Baseball Jackets online, for all leagues and players. Free delivery and free returns both-ways in USA.’ />
If you’re worried about confusing search engines by using several ‘structured data’ technologies at the same time, such as Open Graph and schema.org, don’t worry, you won’t have any problems.
Facebook Open Graph is mainly used by Facebook’s web crawler, not by search engines, so you can use Open Graph and schema.org in tandem without any problems.
If you want to read up further on Facebook’s Open Graph, or if you have complex types of listings on your site, checkout Facebook’s Open Graph guide below.
Open Graph Protocol