Local SEO is essentially optimising your website for people searching for services in a specific location. If you are a business with a physical office/shop/location, optimising your website for local based searches is key to ensuring that your website ranks well for potential customers in your area.
Local SEO is extremely important, and if you don’t believe me; there’s a handy guide here from hubspot with a few stats around Local SEO. If you don’t have time to read through them, here are a few top level takeaways from their research;
Your Google my Business page lets Google (and your customers) know that you do in fact have an office location. It allows you to drop a pin on your office/shop, which means your customers can then find you on Google Maps. This is the most effective first step you can take to ensuring local SEO coverage. It’s really easy to set up, and free - you can do it here.
Example; You own a Hairdressers in Bolton.
Your customers may search for ‘hairdressers near me’ ‘hairdressers in bolton’ for example.
As you can see, the search results show a map with pins, and a list of hairdressers in Bolton - who can call straight from the SERP (Search Engine Results Page). Without a Google My Business page, your business will not show up here , which as you can see here on this screenshot these listings take up pretty much all of the screen.
Setting up a Google my Business account is really straightforward;
First up is adding your business name (don’t try and cheat the system and put keywords in here, Google will penalise you for this)
Next up is adding your address, if you do have an actual physical shop/office - this is easy enough to do, however if you have a home office / mobile business - we advise you to put your home address here. Do not use a virtual office address unless you do in fact have full time staffing there, or Google will penalise you for this too.
Select a category which best describes what your business IS rather than what it HAS.
You will then move onto adding contact details such as your phone number, website etc.
Once you have completed these steps, Google then has to verify that the information you have provided is correct. The primary way for this is via Postcard. Google will post a physical postcard to your office/shop location with a verification code on it, you’ll then need to login and claim this as soon as you receive it, and you are then fully verified!
Once you have set up your GMB page, you then need to fully optimise it for your business needs. Ensure you add categories, services, opening hours, photos etc to make sure that your listing is as comprehensive as possible for both Google and your customers.
Research is usually required around what services your customers will be looking for, you may be a hairdresser who also offers other beauty treatments. Optimising for these searches too will ensure higher coverage across Google for these terms - These searches are known as ‘SiLs’ Service in Location.
Example of different SiLs;
Hairdresser in Bolton + Nail Technician in Bolton + Facials in Bolton
You may offer all of these services, and so you need to ensure that Google knows that it can show your website to its users when they search. There’s a helpful free tool which can help you find out more variations of how your users might be searching. You can also use AnswerThePublic for ideas around what your customers are looking for.
Citations are links back to your website from business directories/ social media pages. Consistent citation listings on sites such as; Yelp, Thomson local, yell.com, TripAdvisor, locallife.co.uk, 192.com and cylex-uk.co.uk can hugely impact your local search presence. By listing your business information on these sites who have high authority, you are helping to contribute trust and authority to your website. With Google’s last few updates focusing around EAT (Expertise, Authority & Trust) this kind of manual work whilst it may seem laborious, can pay dividends for your websites search engine coverage.
Additionally to general business directories, you may be able to get citations from local/ industry specific websites. For example, your ‘hairdressers in bolton’ may be listed on a Bolton business specific directory such as Best of Bolton and also on a beauty treatment specific directory such as Treatwell.
One thing to ensure is that all of your listings across all business directories are consistent. Inconsistent office addresses, telephone numbers & business names can all have an impact on your Local SEO. You can pay for softwares such as Bright Local to ensure that the information you submit is consistent across all citations.
Once you have got the fundamental basics listed above set-up, it’s time to start looking at how Google views your actual website. If you service a few different locations, creating seperate pages for each of these locations detailing which services you offer in that location is the most effective way to do this. The content on these pages has to be unique, you cannot copy and paste content and change the location, this will have the opposite effect and you will be penalised for this.
Another thing to note, is not to start creating pages for locations you cannot service. Creating ‘relevant, nearby location pages’ is best practice to ensure that you aren’t subject to any penalties. Remember, Google wants to provide its users with the most relevant websites first, if you try to cheat the system by creating multiple pages for the same service in the same location - this also will not help you to rank and could result in penalties;
Bad Practice Example:
Good Practice Example;
Identify your target keywords, and then ensure you use SEO best practice to create the pages.
Ensure your target keyword is in your H1, Title tag, meta description and anywhere else it makes sense to add it (See Statuo example below)
Ensure the URL for the page follows the above guidelines or similar. URL’s such as businessname.co.uk/post65352645761 don’t mean anything to Google. Descriptive URL’s are best practice SEO.
Keyword stuffing is a definite no-go. The trick is to write how you would like to read it - keeping in mind your keywords, location and any other information your users may find useful. Implementing contact forms, google maps, opening times etc can all increase trust signals to your local page.
Google looks at user signals as a part of its ranking factor, this includes metrics such as how long customers stay on your page (average time on page), how quickly they bounce (bounce rate) and if people take an action (fill in the form/ call you) and if Google determines that your page is bad quality (i.e 90% of traffic bounces straight off it) then this will be reflected in your ranking position. There's a handy guide here around website conversion which may help with your on page metrics.
If you are adding images to your page, ensure you are using unique, descriptive alt tags for your images, if your picture is of your salon: an image file name + alt tag of ‘hairdressing salon in Bolton’ will suffice. Don’t try to force/stuff keywords in here, just accurately describe the image as best you can.
Image file size is another ranking factor for google, if your images are too large in file size, this will cause loading delays and can increase bounce rate. Below are some interesting stats to think about;
We also wrote a helpful blog here about How images affect SEO, and which are the best formats to use.
Reviews from your customers are a ranking factor, reviews reinforce the EAT (Expertise, Authority & Trust) aspect of your website. Actively asking customers for reviews on Google, Trustpilot or similar can have a positive effect on the trust factor of your website. Keeping track and responding to your customers reviews can be done via your Google my Business page.
Once you’ve implemented the above, you should be in a great position to continue your ranking improvements, however, it doesn’t end there. SEO is an ongoing labour of love, leaving your website stagnant for 12 months will have a negative effect on your ranking position. You need to ensure you are posting regularly, whether it’s helpful blogs for your customers - like this one ;) Or whether its informing them of upcoming industry changes. There may be new industry regulations your customers need to know about, or upcoming events your business is attending. You also need to ensure that this content is linking effectively to any other relevant information on your website. Fresh, new, relevant content which can be promoted across other channels such as social media will go a long way to improving your online presence across Google. Theres a handy blog here on when your business should be posting on social media, depending on your industry.
Make sure you have effective tracking set up for your website. This includes setting up a Google Analytics Account, and also a Google Search Console Account. This way you can view and analyse your traffic and the pages your traffic is landing on, meaning you can then start to optimise further.
Just incase TL;DR
Good luck, and don’t forget - we know it can be a time consuming job, especially when you’ve got a business to run. The Statuo team are always here to help with any SEO questions you may have, or you may just want us to take it off your hands completely! Either way, you can get in touch with us here