How to get started with Local SEO

Introduction to Local SEO

What is Local SEO and is it important you might ask? Well, if you are operating a location-based dependent business, it is probably the most important success factor of all.

You want to be found by people who are interested in your products and services AND who

  • are currently in the geographic area that (living, traveling, etc.)
  • are specifically searching for a specific product or service in combination with the name of our specific region.

Let’s face it, nobody jumping on an airplane to buy sushi. It has to be somewhere nearby! (Unless you’re in the luxury market.)

Did you know that 50% of the people who perform a local search on their smartphone visit a store within 24 hours? Even better, 46% of all Google searches are local searches.

In order to succeed with Local SEO, we have to optimize our website or e-commerce store for local search results on Google.

Search Engine Optimization

You might have guessed it already, besides optimizing for local ranking factors you also have to implement everything that is important to be found on a global scale.

At this moment, Google is taking over 200 ranking factors into consideration. Each element requires a different amount of commitment in terms of time, effort and has varying degrees of impact on your overall ranking.

In the beginning, you can ignore many of these factors and focus on those that have the highest amount of impact while requiring the least amount of effort and time.

According to MOZ 2017 analysis of Local Search Ranking Factors, these are the eight most important factors to rank in the first three positions of page one of Google.

  1. My Business Signals  (Proximity, categories, keyword in business title, etc.)  19%
  2. Link Signals  (Inbound anchor text, linking domain authority, linking domain quantity, etc.)  17%
  3. On-Page Signals  (Presence of NAP, keywords in titles, domain authority, etc.)  14%
  4. Citation Signals  (IYP/aggregator NAP consistency, citation volume, etc.)  13%
  5. Review Signals  (Review quantity, review velocity, review diversity, etc.)  13%
  6. Behavioral Signals  (Click-through rate, mobile clicks to call, check-ins, etc.)  10%
  7. Personalization 10%
  8. Social Signals  (Google engagement, Facebook engagement, Twitter engagement, etc.)  4%

If you’re new to SEO, don’t worry. It sounds more complicated than it is.

Local SEO Action Plan

Here is what we are going to do.

First, we build the foundation. Anything that is good for SEO, in general, is also good for local SEO.

Then, we add three additional local SEO strategies on top of that:

  • Technical solutions that help us to rank better locally.
  • Local content strategies.
  • Local collaboration strategies.

In this article, I am showing you the big picture vision behind any kickass local SEO strategy. Here is my plan in a nutshell:

  • We make sure that our business is correctly listed in all relevant local directories and search engines.
  • We create high-quality and relevant content.
  • We get backlinks from and to high-quality related pages, both internally and externally.
  • We create an excellent user experience across all devices. That means having a fast website with an easy to use interface.
  • We add additional, hidden local meta-data to our website.

Setting up the groundwork for Local SEO

Now, that we took care of global ranking factors, it’s time to set up all the tools and accounts that we need to get found locally.

In the beginning, we want to make sure that our local business can easily be found when people search with local search intent.

Local search intent can be implicit or explicit.

Implicit local searches use either a user’s IP address or customer information such as home-address to display more relevant searches. Most search engines and voice assistants such as Siri, Alexa or Cortana use AI and pattern recognition to identify keywords for which local searches make sense. For example restaurants, hair salon, or plumbers.

An example search phrase could be “best sushi restaurant”.

Explicit searches always contain a geo-specific keyword such as city name, area name, or meta-descriptive words such as “nearby”, “near me”, or “in my area”.

An explicit search might sound like “Siri, find a good sushi restaurant near me.”

Include your contact information on your website

It is crucial for all local businesses to include a physical address on their website. This can be in the footer of each page or on a dedicated “contact” or “how to find us” page.

An even better way to tell Google and other search engines that you are a local business is to include detailed meta-data in your website source code.

For WordPress website, you can take advantage of a free plugin called WPSSO PLM.

It allows you to edit all of your contact information, including precise GPS coordinates or opening hours in an intuitive user interface.

The information is then transcoded into Schema metadata and embedded as hidden information inside your website code. This allows crawlers and search-engine spiders to extract the data in a machine-readable format, while not affecting the user experience on your site.

Local listing management

There is a limited number of services and directories for location information. To stand out in local searches, it is essential that your business and contact information are listed in all of them. Even more important, you have to ensure that your business information is always updated whenever anything is changing such as opening hours or new phone numbers.

You can set this up manually or use a tool such as SEMRush to get this done for US-based businesses.

Sign in into your SEMRush account and locate the Listings Management tool in the sidebar. Fill out the form and enter your business name, US ZIP code, street address, and phone number. Then click on Check listings.

SEMRush will print out a list of all local listings across different platforms, search engines, and directories. Ideally, your business should be listed with the same details on every platform.

In the top left corner, you see how many listings were found with:

  • Correct data (100% match with what you searched for)
  • Issues, such as partially missing or incorrect information.
  • Not present, because you haven’t created a listing yet.

This is a great time saver and allows you to quickly audit your entire business across a multitude of services and directories within seconds.

Local SEO Listings on SEMRush

Creating local listings

The most important local listings service that any local business needs, is Google My Business. It allows you to “claim” a local address for your business and is completely free.

Depending on your industry and business type you might also want to create a listing on:

  • Google My Business
  • Apple Maps
  • Bing Places for Business
  • Yelp
  • TripAdvisor
  • FourSquare
  • Industry-specific directories
  • Social Media Networks

High-quality local content

Ok, great. You got your website, your business is listed in any local business directory imaginable with the correct content information, now what?

Well, it’s time to create high-quality locally relevant content.

What’s that, you ask?

There are three types of content that you can create.

  • Descriptive content of your products and services with geo-specific keywords. When someone searches for the best steak in town, they can find a link to your menu.
  • Link-worthy content. These pages and articles contain more generic topics and highlight your expertise.
  • Locally relevant content and news. Don’t be an island, be a part of your local community and connect with others.

All content types are equally important.

The primary goal of your content strategy is to help search engines understand that you’re a local business with a specific list of products and services.

Once search engines start to send local visitors your way, you want to demonstrate the quality of your services to them, to convince them to buy, or at least to pick up the phone and call you to learn more.

Reviews play an incredibly important part, especially for people who have never heard of you before. If you want to learn more about how to set up an entire review and reputation management system, make sure that you join my Inner Circle email list. I will publish a full article about this in the coming weeks.

If you’re struggling with content ideas, you can use a tool such as the SEMRush Magic Keyword Tool.

It allows you to find relevant keywords, keyword clusters and questions for any search phrase you input.

Each keyword or phrase contains an estimated traffic volume, keyword difficulty (KD), the average cost per click (CPC) on Google AdWords for this search term, as well as competition scores in the paid ads and organic traffic category.

To create locally relevant content for your Local SEO efforts, consider adding your geographic search term inside your magic keyword search phrase. This will help you to identify keyword phrases that are used within your region.

Be active in your local community

If you want to outrank your regional competition, you need more than great content. You need high-quality local backlinks. These help Google to understand that you’re a part of a local cluster of high-quality businesses.

Here are a few ways how you can get local backlinks.

  • Team up with local businesses who offer complimentary services to what you’re offering. If both of you link to relevant pages on each others’ websites, you’re boosting both of your rankings.
  • Join local business directories.
  • Speak at local community events.
  • Get interviewed in your local newspaper.
  • Create a podcast and invite local business owners into your show.
  • Connect with local thought leaders on LinkedIn.

Conclusion

Let’s summarize what we learned.

It’s super important to tell Google and other search engines including voice search that you, in fact, ARE a local business. This can be done in three ways.

  • Include an address on your contact or how to find us page.
  • Include meta-data inside your source code with your exact location.
  • Get listed in local directories.

You also have to communicate what products and service you’re offering, otherwise any keyword phrases of “location + service” wouldn’t be able to match your business. Try to include location-based keywords inside your products and services pages.

That’s the foundation.

To rank on the top positions of local searches you have to do more.

  • Create high-quality, share-worthy content to demonstrate your authority and to get other people to link to your website.
  • Use keyword research to find content ideas that have high search volume and low competition.
  • The more links you get from high-quality websites, the easier it is to rank for competitive keywords.
  • Pay special attention to your local community and consider teaming up with businesses that offer complementary services. Not only will this get you more referrals, but it will also create clusters of local websites, another ranking factor that demonstrates that you are relevant in your local community.
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