You want your business to get noticed.
You want to appear among the first results, when people in your area search for a trusted local provider.
Google AdWords isn’t your “thing” and social media hasn’t brought particularly great results either.
Well, you need SEO.
No, SEO is not as intimidating, difficult or costly as you may think.
In fact, in this no-fluff guide to local SEO we’ve broken down everything you need to know in order to get those rankings up!
Sit down, get focused and read on! Today you’ll learn:
- How Google decides, which local website should rank higher in related searches.
- Why and how you can use Google My Business to harvest leads.
- How to rank well for geo keywords; get a ton of raving reviews.
- How to build local links efficiently even if you don’t have huge budgets.
- And more!
The Local SEO Ranking Factors
Earlier this year Moz published their comprehensive study of the top local SEO ranking factors. The full list includes over 50 signals that directly or indirectly influence your website rankings, plus the negative factors that will slow down your website growth.
General Ranking Factors for Local Search
To break it down even further here are the top 50 factors:
- Website Domain Authority
- Quality and Authority of Inbound Links
- City/State in Google my Business Landing Page Title
- Click-Through Rate from Search Results
- Relevant Keywords in Domain Content
- Diversity of Link Profile
- Geo (City/Neighborhood) Keyword Relevance of Domain Content
- Physical Address in City of Search
- Quality and Authority of Citations
- City/State in All Title Tags
- Consistency of Citations
- Quality and Authority of Links Leading to Google Business Page
- Product/Service Keyword in Google Business Page Title
- Product/Service Keywords Used as Anchor Texts in Links
- Searcher-Business Distance (Proximity of Address to the Point of Search)
- Quantity of Inbound Links to Website
- Quantity of Inbounds Links to Website from Locally-Relevant Domains
- Geo Keyword in Domain
- Location Keywords in Anchor Text of Links to Domain
- Google my Business Page Authority
- City/State in Google my Business Page H1/H2 Tags.
- NAP Information Consistency
- Quantity of Inbound Links From Relevant Domains.
- Product/Service Keyword in Domain.
- NAP in hCard / Schema.org on Google my Business Landing Page URL
- Quality/Authority of Unstructured Citations (Newspaper Articles, Blog Posts)
- Quantity of Inbound Links to GMB Landing Page URL from Locally-Relevant Domains
- Quantity of Citations from Locally Relevant Domains.
- Business Title in Anchor Text of Inbound Links to Domain
- Volume of Searches for Business Name
- Quantity of Citations from Industry-Relevant Domains
- Google My Business Page Load Time
- Location Keywords in Anchor Text of Inbound Links to GMB Landing Page URL
- Relevant Category Chosen for Google My Business Page
- Product/Service Keyword in Google My Business Landing Page H1/H2 Tags
- Proximity of Address to Centroid
- Diversity of Inbound Links to Google My Business Landing Page URL
- Velocity of New Inbound Links to Domain
- Product/Service Keywords in Anchor Text of Links Leading to Google My Business Page.
- City/State in Most H1/H2 Tags in Google My Business Page
- Quantity of Inbound Links to GMB Landing Page URL
- Authority of Review Websites
- Individually Owner-verified GMB Location
- Quantity of Structured Citations (IYPs, Data Aggregators)
- Age of Google My Business Page Location.
- Diversity of third-party sites on which reviews are present
- High Ratings by Authority Reviewers (Yelp, YP, Google Local Guides ect)
- Velocity of Searches for Business Name
- Bulk Owner-verified GMB Location
- High Ratings of Business by Google Users (e.g. 4-5)
While there are numerous factors influencing on your website’s local rankings, your local optimization strategy can be broken into the following steps:
- On-Page Local Page Optimization: The Anatomy of The Perfect Landing Page
- Google My Business: Creating a Page That Bring Leads
- Online Reputation Management: Obtaining Reviews To Boost Rankings and Validate Your Business
- Link Building for Local SEO: Tips and Strategies To Dominate The Search
Click the title to jump straights to the relevant section or simply read on!
The Anatomy of a Perfectly Optimized Local Page
First things first, you need to optimize the structure of your webpage for the local search if you want to pop up closer to the top. Here are the key elements:
Optimize Page URLs
Change the standard page URL /blog-post-1/ to something more relevant to your optimized phrase /best-lunch-offers-orlando/. The first 3-5 words in the URL carry the most value for Google.
Optimized Title Tags
The ideal tag is 50-60 characters long; includes a location targeted keyword; the title of the page/post plus your brand name. Thus, a properly optimized title tag will look like this:
Best coffee in Orlando | Ten Amazing Coffee Shops You Need To Visit in Orlando | CoffeCup
Here’s the formula:
Local keyword phrase in front | Title of Article | Company Name
Optimized Meta Description
While these days meta descriptions should rather be written for your users, than search engines, however leaving this assert unattended isn’t smart.
Meta description should be 150-160 characters long with a targeted location phrase organically included.Click To Tweet
Additionally, Brian Harnish suggests listing your phone number in the meta description as mobile users are likely to call your page straight from the search results.
Here’s how an optimized meta description looks like:
Best Dinner – your pit stop for cheap and exquisite lunch offers in Orlando. We get busy at noon. Call 949-955-4731 to book a table and claim your compliments.
Optimized Meta Keywords
Meta keywords no longer play that important role, yet you shouldn’t omit them. The rule of thumb is 2-3 keywords per page.
Use Shema Markup
Schema.org markup is essential for local optimization. Ever wondered how some websites get those clickable snippets? That’s Schema in action.
While Schema markup is not a ranking factor – we’ll talk about those briefly or jump through now – it produces a more detailed description of your business in search results that generates more clicks.
Optimized H1 Titles
H1 titles are mainly for humans, rather than search engines. There’s no limitations when it comes to the length, just make sure your h1 title sounds catchy and has a local keyword phrase organically incorporated.
For instance: 10 Amazing Hotels in Bristol For a Frugal Wallet.
When it comes to copywriting for local search here’s what you need to know:
Use location keywords wise. It’s okay to use your keyword and variations of it in the copy 3-5 times depending on the final word count. In fact, talking of length. The keyword should be used in the first 100 words.
Opt for longer copies. It’s no news that long blog posts (1600+ words) attract more social shares and rank hire in search results. When it comes to landing page copies don’t set a final word goal. Write as much as you need to write in order to capture your user’s attention and draw them to action. The average web copy word count is 300-600 words.
Structure your content. Make it scannable for those casual browsers. Add sub-headings and bulletin point lists; spice up the copy with relevant graphs and visuals.
Optimize images. Change the standard DSC0001 to something more descriptive like best-coffee-spot-in-Orlando.jpeg to help Google rank your image higher for respective search terms.
Optimized Website Loading Speed
Website speed is among the top ranking factors for Google these days, along with mobile-friendliness. Compress your images, choose a fast hosting provider and fix the unneeded codes that slow down your page. Use GTMetrix to test your website loading speed.
Add Social Media Buttons
Social signals give Google a hint about your website popularity. Yet more importantly, they help to attract more eyeballs to your content.
List links to your social media profiles at the footer area of your website on your homepage or at the top bar. Additionally, don’t be shy about placing sharing buttons on your blog posts and landing pages.
Done with on-page optimization? Let’s move the 2nd most essential assert of your local SEO success – Google My Business listing and page.
The Anatomy of the Perfectly Optimized Google My Business Page
In June 2014 Google announced the integration of Google Places and Google+ Local for businesses along with some additional services into one powerful behind-the-scenes CRM – Google My Business.
The core idea behind the product was to make it “easier than ever to update business information across Google Search, Maps and Google+.”
Unless you are already familiar with GMB, here are the product’s main features:
- Update and sync your business info on Google+, Maps and Search to make it easier for customers to get in touch.
- Add visuals and create a visual tour of your business interior.
- Steam your content to your Google+ page directly.
- Manage and respond to your reviews on Google+ and across the web.
- Custom insights and analytics that comes with AdWords Express integration.
Google My Business is a powerful too you can’t neglect to use.
If you have already verified your Local Business page, follow the next rules to turn it into an instead lead magnet:
Choose The Right Category
According to Mike Blumenthal “Categories are a critical piece of how Google determines the relevance (not rank) of a listing in local search … “.
In other words, choose your category based on your target keywords. Also, don’t be afraid to aim narrower e.g. Used Book Stores, rather than Book Stores. Google still guarantees that your business with show up when users make relevant searches. You can list your business in up to 5 categories based on the services you provide.
Be honest and avoid “heading jumping” a.k.a. getting listed in an inappropriate category to reach another segment of target market. For instance, your company offers luxury safari tours and you may be tempted to get listed in “luxury hotels” too for extra exposure to customers, who shop for luxury hotels. However, that is likely to result in unqualified referrals, customer confusion and act as red flag for Google.
Triple-Check Your NAP Information Consistency
NAP (Name, Address, Phone) should be consistent among all the directories and websites your business is listed at. Clean up any duplicate listings and make sure you update your information in a timely manner if any changes occur.
Optimize Your Copy
First of all, fill in all the information requested. Google pages with complete information tend to rank hire in search results for broad searches e.g. coffee shop in Chicago.
You should add at least 250 words unique copy as your business description. Use one targeted keyword at the first 100 words. If applicable, try adding your target keywords in GMB business title, along with your city at state e.g. LegalSmash: Personal Injury Lawyer, Orange County, CA
Optimize for Carousel Results
You can see carousel results a.k.a image row appearing in top of search results against the dark background when you make searches related to some industries e.g. hospitality, restaurants, education, entertainment or travel.
Each carousel result features an image, property name, address, reviews and some additional info on a case-to-case basis.
Make sure your GMB page features a selection of relevant images that Google can pool for carousel results. When uploading those, make sure your file name contains your business name + relevant keyword.
Plus, juicy attractive images will likely draw more attention and clicks from searches, rather than a map or a logo.
Now, as your Google My Business Landing page looks irresistibly attractive, let’s move to the next step – gaining reviews and validation from your customers.
NAP consistency, location keywords and image optimizations - the key optimization points for Google My Business pageClick To Tweet
Leverage Your Reputations and Rankings with Reviews
Peer-to-peer advice now crashes any other form of traditional advertising. When it comes to local businesses the word-of-mouth advertising plays a particularly important role.
However, when the personal network doesn’t bring quality referrals, users go online and surprise-surprise read and rely on reviews left by other users when choosing a local provider.
Google My Business is the first place you should focus on getting quality reviews and ratings. Once you get at least 5 of them, they could be shown as starts in search results.
So how do you encourage your clients to get on Google and write a few darling words about you?
There are a few actionable strategies for this:
Handout Printed Instructions To Your Customers
White Sparks created this amazing handout generator where you can create custom instructions on how to leave Google reviews for your business. Hand them out to your clients and you can offer additional perks or discounts for those who’ll show you their review to get the initial decent number.
Review Your Existing Assets
A lot of businesses have tons of compliments and testimonials piled up in their inboxes from delighted clients. Make a list of those people and reach out to them asking to simply paste the same words with a rating at your Google+ Business Page. Just make sure those words don’t pop up anywhere else on the web as Google will likely remove them.
Add a CTA to Leave a Google+ Review To a Receipt or Invoice
Billing online? Excellent, remind your clients to leave a feedback of your service at the bottom of a receipt, invoice or outgoing order notification.
Add a CTA to Leave Reviews on Your Website
Leaving a review should be made as simple as possible. Create a review us on Google+ button leading straight to the review page and place it prominently on your homepage.
Use Barnacle Review Strategy
Introduced by David Mihm on Moz, this strategy is bluntly simple, yet highly effective. In a nutshell:
- Login in at your Google+ Business Page
- Leave review for popular and friendly businesses in your niche. You can get some good results by searching “things to do in your market”; checking the recommended businesses on Google Maps; identify popular places on Foursquare.
- Start posting reviews! Make sure those are well written, helpful and are written only for those places you’ve actually been to.
Results: Your Google+ Business Page gets exposed to users, who browsing the reviews of popular pages, meaning increased brand visibility and referral traffic. The businesses you’ve reviewed may return the favor and review you as well. Win-win.
Read the entire post if you’d like to know more details.
Network With Top Google+ Reviewers
Nifty Marketing published a great case study on how you can find top reviewers on Google+ and how you can use that data to your advantage. (Spoiler: It turned out most of them are Googlers).
Use QR Codes To Get Reviews
Image via EZ Local
Place QR code stickers strategically around your place (e.g. at the checkout) encouraging users to leave reviews. The link should lead directly to your review page. Additionally, you can add those to your promo materials, business cards or receipts.
Interact With Your Reviewers
Ask one of your stuff members to monitor and handle all the incoming reviews. Always reply with things like “thanks” and “we really appreciate that you had time to review us” and so on to encourage new users to contribute as well.
Curate content and share updates of your Google+ page, answer comments and questions your potential clients leave. Appear to be a friendly and responsive business as you actually are!
Google Reviews isn’t the only place, where you can create an account, list your business and encourage user interaction. There’s also:
- Yellow Pages
- White Pages
- Facebook Business Page
- Yahoo Local Listings
Having reviews on multiple platforms drastically leverages your brand’s visibility, pumps up your credibility and sends Google a massively positive ranking signal about your business.
Talking of links – you need those to dominate the local search. So your next step is to start acquiring them effectively!
Gather online reviews for your business with these 8 smart stategiesClick To Tweet
Link Building for Local SEO: Tips and Strategies to Dominate the Search
You have your website optimized and ready to convert browsers into leads. You have a Google My Business page with some shining reviews that already ranks well for related searches to your brand name.
Now it’s time to raise the bar and start dominating in the local search for relevant search queries. To make this happen – you need a great link profile.
Building Citations For Local Business
The quality and quantity of local citations leading to your website and you GMB page are among the top ranking signals for Google.
So what are citations?
Citations are mentions of your business name and address on other webpages, even if those are not linked to your website.
An example of a citation is your business listing at Yellow Pages or a mention of your business information on a local chamber of commerce page.
Why citations are so important?
Because they send Google a massive trust signal verifying that you are who you claim to be.
When citations texts are accompanied with a link or directly linked to your website, that a major contributing factor to rank growth.
David Mihm claims that citations make-up approx. 25% of the overall local ranking factors.Click To Tweet
So how do you build those citations?
Easier than it seems as there’s a number of great tools to help you out:
- Moz Local Citations Listing by City
- Moz Local Citations Listing by Category
- White Spark Local Citation Builder
In case you need even more suggestions take one of your competitors NAP information and paste it into Google search. You’ll see the majority of places, where they are listed. Take notice of that data.
Okay, I suppose you now have enough data for building links.
Step 1: Organize all the discovered opportunities in one long list.
Here’s the data you will need at hand:
- Your name as a verified business owner
- Valid email address that is likely to get checked by the business
- Brand Name/Company name as it appears on GMB page.
- Address, again as it appears on your GMB and website. Remember, NAP consistency!
- Zip Code
- Phone Number
- Landing page for location
Additionally it’s worth listing:
- Links to your social media profiles: Twitter/Facebook
- Link to your Google Business Page
- Twitter Handle
- Logo URL
Step 3: Optimize the Process of Building Citations.
If you have quite a long list of places you’d like to get listed at it might be worth to optimize this process by:
Hire a VA/Data Entry to fill in all the details for you, add the listing to the spreadsheet and send you over confirmations. Mechanical Turk can be a great source for help.
Use Roboform software to auto fill all the information for you and save you a ton of time on copy pasting.
Top Link Building Strategies to Earn Local Links
While citations carry great importance, earning high-quality links from relevant local resources should rank high on your agenda as well.
Not all links were created equal however. Those that will actually boost your rankings should meet the following criteria:
- The link can drive potential referral traffic.
- The link builds your credibility and leverages your brand’s visibility to your target audience.
- The link enhances your reputation.
Keep those points in mind when applying the following strategies:
Invest in Premium Business Listings
The first most obvious choice is getting an accredited listing with your local Better Business Bureau. Yes, that’s $500 per link. It’s a lot for most businesses.
But remember the principles mentioned above – this link perfectly meats all of them. Getting an accredited listing automatically leverages your business credibility, trustworthiness, plus often serves as an additional decision booster for customers to finalize the deal. It’s a long-term investment that will buy-off.
Another great option – local listing on Moz. The rate is $84 per year for one location and your business will be pushed to all the major data aggregators for massive exposure.
Make Friends with The Local Media
Local media folks are always on look out for good sources to back up their stories. That’s where you can step in. Here are the most actionable approaches:
Sign up as a source for HARO (Help a Reporter) – a nifty service that connects journalists with potential sources. Create a free account, choose your vertical and monitor a daily selection of queries landing in your inbox. It’s a great chance to get quoted by a national publisher as well!
Newsjack a.k.a capitalize on the breaking news in your area.
This could be played in two ways:
For instance, you are a local home security company and there has been a significant increase in crime in your area.
Send a letter of introduction to a couple of local journalists. Something sweet and simple like:
“I’m John Dee, owner of home security company XYZ. Your paper has been covering the increase in home crime lately. Was wondering if you look for expert quotes or advice on the subject for your next publications? Would be happy to help.”
Don’t get discouraged if you got a “no”. You are now on the journalist’s list and may be reached to on a different occasion.
Option 2: Create and publish a relevant material on your website e.g. “Homeowners Vacation Safety Checklist” and pitch the material to local media.
A sample letter may look like:
“Hi. I’m John from XYZ home security company. With the rise of home crimes in our area, we’ve prepared a special safe checklist for homeowners, who are going on vacation. Maybe you’d like to check it out?”
Make (Even More) Friends and Partner with the Local Educational Institutions and NGOs.
Do you know which links often carry the most authority?
Those coming from .edu domains – they are super authorities; they leverage your reputation as a do-gooder and they can bring you great traffic.
So how do you get those magical links?
Strategy 1: Become a Sponsor/ Make a Donation
A lot of schools, libraries and NGOs are often short in funds, sadly. Be a do-gooder and reach a friendly hand of help by offering to make a donation or sponsor an event. A $15-$20 investment can bring you 10-20x ROI.
Most establishments have dedicated sponsors pages, where they credit and link to all of their sponsors. You can find those with a quick Google search using a query: site:edu inurl:sponsors “Your Location”
Alternatively you can get on the phone and voice your inquiry to the local establishment rep.
GuideStar will help you find different NGOs in your area wouldn’t mind having a new donor on board.
Strategy 2: Start a Scholarship or Student Contest
Do you feel like offering some cash and encouraging the young generation? Start a scholarship or announce a student contest with valuable prizes e.g. a writing content/coding contest etc. Create a dedicated page on your website where you outline all the terms and details.
Next, use a slightly modified search query to find educational website that have a resources page where they list such things:
site:edu inurl:resources “Your Location” “scholarship”
site:edu inurl:resources “Your Location” “contest”
site:edu inurl:scholarships “Your Location”
Email the selected website with all the details and ask to get included.
Don’t forget you need to choose and announce the winners, once your submission deadline is due!
Need more ideas for local link building? Check out the following lists:
- 35 Local Link Opportunities You Missed
- Link Building 101: Local Link Building
- 11 Ways for Local Businesses to Get Links
- 33 Links and How to Get Them
On-page optimization, getting reviews and acquiring links is just part of the overall digital marketing strategy you can apply to your local business.
Here’s a great graphics created by Moz to help you assess what’s worth investing your time and efforts into and what’s not:
Congrats! You’ve just read a 4000+ words post. Now, grab your free checklist to start optimizing you website!