It is crucial for a business to be found by location. A good quote from local SEO tool builder Bright Local sums it up: “The number one reason people search online is to find a location of a known business.” But how does Google decide what businesses turn up by location and how do you get your local business appear in location results? In this article we will discuss Google ranking, local SEO, how to do local SEO with or without a storefront, and why local SEO is important to your business.
How does Google Ranking Work?
Google uses a proprietary algorithm to rank websites for various search results. The ranking dictates when and where a site will show up in a Google search. Sites with a higher Google ranking will appear more frequently and above lower ranking sites. The factors that determine Google ranking are site usefulness, relevance, quality of content, speed, keyword usage, and structure. However, Google ranking is constantly adjusting search results which is why it is so important to stay on top of keywords. Google makes over 500 yearly changes to their site ranking algorithm. Many growing businesses accomplish this by hiring an SEO expert. A factor that is not usually considered is a business’ local presence on the website, also known as Local SEO.
What is Local SEO?
Local SEO is a marketing strategy aimed to help local businesses appear in search results based on the geographic location of a potential customer. When someone is searching for a business near them, Google ranking will list local businesses that they determine to be the best options.
5 Local SEO Strategy Tips
Businesses looking to have a highly effective local SEO strategy need to make their physical address easy to find. Here are 5 tips to improve your google Google ranking and Local SEO:
- Your business needs to have the company’s name, address, and phone number on the website. Remember this by the acronym, NAP; it is crucial that your NAP remains constant throughout your website, and other sites (like listings, directories, and community sites) as well.
- Your business’s name, address, phone number should be on local citation sites. Examples of local citation sites include Yelp, Google My Business, Bing, and Angie’s List. Google My Business is one of the most important citation cites because it helps your business to turn up in a local search, Google Maps, and Business Google. Using citation sites with a higher authority and trust score will deliver higher Google search rankings. To be competitive, use a tool like Whitespark to analyze which citations have been created by others in your industry. Adding these same citations will give you a leg up on your competition.
- Ratings and reviews are extremely important. A good rating and review on local citation site will increase Google ranking because it will prove your business is providing quality service. In order to create a healthy stream of reviews:
- Copy the URL of your Google My Business page
- Replace “/posts” with “/?hl=en&review=1”
- Send this link to satisfied customers, asking if they’d like to leave a review. Also, think about adding a comment section into your website and make sure to complete any interactions you receive
- Local Directories – although many local directories use paid models (such as chambers of commerce), many free local directories are available to help you maximize your local SEO footprint. Just make sure these directories are trustworthy and not replete with toxic links.
- Automated Local Listing Services – These are software companies that aggregate local directories to manage and target local SEO for your company. It may be worthwhile to obtain these services through an Agency or firm like SunCity Advising because they have access to better rates and can integrate it into your monthly service fees rather than all upfront.
- Moz Local – Moz only works with roughly 20 directories and although they claim to be hitting most of the major directors, we have found that there are omissions of major search engines like Yahoo and other prominent directories. Although cheaper than Yext, we find that it does not offer the same bang for your buck. Keep in mind, this is not Moz’s core competency.
- Synup – A newer player in this space, Synup offers similar services but we have found that the directors are smaller than Yext and of a lower quality. A word of caution: If you request a proposal or demo, be prepared for a bombardment of calls and emails!
We have personally had great success with local automated listings but it’s not a one-trick-pony, we utilize all 5 of these local SEO strategies to stay in the top spot for local searches. Remember that one of the most basic yet essential aspects of Local SEO, is a consistent format with your name, address, and phone number on all sites.
10 Tips for Using Yext & Other Automated Directory Platforms
1. Utilize all relevant keywords that you want to rank for in local search pack in your business description in every directory.
2. Use your primary key word in your business name.
3. Consider running ads in individual directories to bump you to the top of directories. The caveat is, the directories themselves likely have limited traffic.
4. In your business description, there should be one sentence describing who you are and what you do and a second sentence that has a call to action i.e.: contact us now. That is the only thing that should be in the first paragraph because when a user does search for a specific term and not your business specifically, it will show multiple results with a truncated description similar to a google SERP. If its more than 2-3 paragraphs in total, it will require a scrolling function for someone to read the entire description instead of a fixed business description.
5. In selecting categories, particularly if using an automated listing service like Yext or Moz local, the categories can be broken into 3 separate sections. For example, business services->marketing consultant->internet marketing agency. When selecting your primary category, the previous specific category of “internet marketing agency” is more appropriate. However, when selecting sub categories or additional categories, they can be broader. For example, business services->public relations. This is because the final term being used(internet marketing agency or public relations) are what the actual categories will be listed as in the directory listings. Whatever comes before the final sub-category, is irrelevant and won’t be visible.
6. If using an automated directory listing service and given the option to include address and a separate display address, be sure not to use the display address because it will show the address twice and looks confusing to users. Also, if asked whether or not you deliver or provide service at customer locations, there is no SEO value in selecting “yes.” It should only be used for businesses that regularly travel to clients or customers and are trying to limit the distance in which they are willing to travel to provide that service.
7. If you use a non-local phone number such as a “1-800” or “1-888” number, you should add that as your main phone number, but also include a separate display number with a local area code. This will indicate to the search engines that the national number forwards to a local number associated with your business. Including a phone number in the business description, as well as in the section specifically dedicated for phone numbers, may be considered redundant to a human user but also shouldn’t negatively impact you from a SEO perspective.
8. Make sure to add at least four photos when setting up a local directory listing and add at least one new photo per month. These photos should include a caption utilizing key words that describe the business services you are trying to rank for.
9. When focusing on ranking in a specific directory, a best practice for obtaining maximum visibility within that platform is to research your primary competitors, identify all keyword search terms they are using and add those to your listing as well. The maximum number of search terms for the directory you should use should be no more than 8 and should be broad, realistic terms that a human being would search for.
10. Upon completion of any directory listing, the link to your specific listing should be sent to current customers or clients that have had a positive experience with a request to review your business. Be sure not to provide any public incentives for doing so, or you are likely to be penalized by both search engines or the individual directory.
Google My Business vs. Google Plus for Business
Google Plus has been the “go-to” for Google social media—even with its lacking engagement base compared to other social networks.
However, it turns out that Google has recently discontinued Google Plus for businesses, and it has been fully replaced by Google My Business. The only functionality that was unique to Google Plus was the ability to post in a social media style; however, this functionality has been added to Google My Business, making Google Plus irrelevant.
Previously, you could create a Google My Business page and then a Google Plus business page would automatically be created as well. This process does not occur anymore, and it is presently impossible to create a Google Plus business page. So, the two platforms are redundant and content should always be posted solely on Google My Business. The logic behind this is that if Google itself does not value the Google Plus platform for businesses enough to allow accounts to be created, then it certainly isn’t going to reward content creation on the site. And, as we all have seen, Google Plus is not a platform that individuals use for social media purposes. There is a strong possibility that Google Plus will not even exist in the near future.
So, in terms of social posting, I am recommending to all clients that we automate Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Yelp, Bing Places, and any other directories that may be automated through Yext. Then, we can manually post to LinkedIn and Google My Business. The reason for this is that the frequency of posts to the latter should be much less (only about once per week as opposed to 3-7 times per week).
What if my business doesn’t have a local address?
Throughout this article, we have been discussing the importance of local SEO and Google Ranking for local businesses. But if you do not have a storefront, then how can you compete with other businesses?
There are three main options for businesses with no storefront regarding local SEO.
- Write content on your site that introduces a specific area you can service. Make sure to add a specific location to the title of the page, into the headline, and the meta description.
- Add individual pages that introduce projects that you have done at specific locations. In your individual page URLs, order your location first, then add your projects.
Google takes into account which label you prioritize first in your URLs, so if you find potential customers are searching with location-specific keywords, this is the most effective landing page URL structure.
3. Use Google My Business & website plugins to outline the area you service or pin specific locations and add map to your site.
Why should Businesses care about Local SEO?
- Local SEO assists in higher visibility for local searches. Everyone is going to get a different result based on geography. Creating a higher chance for your business to be discovered.
- Local SEO searches are often used to find a business or product. Meaning there will be a higher conversion rate from search to sales. More than half of Google searches based on location are made by customers who intend to purchase a product or service on the same day.
- Local SEO is an easy and effective way to advertise your business.
- Local SEO will target local customers, assisting in creating a customer base.
- Local SEO can brand your business as trustworthy. If you keep consistent business information and put your high reviews in the spotlight, then customers will believe you are a good company.
SunCity Advising is a local SEO company in San Diego. We have helped multiple businesses be discovered through SEO, keyword research, writing content, and website design. Check us out to get started on improving your company’s visibility and start getting discovered by customers.
Author: Daniel Barry
Daniel Barry is an Advisor at SunCity. His background is in digital marketing, SEO and operational management. His client portfolio includes successful partnerships with startups, small businesses, medium-sized firms & large corporations.
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