Local SEO is the practice of search engine optimization for businesses that serve a limited geographical area. Many business owners focus their websites exclusively on their customers and prospects. Their concerns are only about what people will see when they get to their sites. It’s a problem because most small and local businesses usually don’t have the financial resources to buy enough advertising to purchase any significant web traffic. Also, paid advertising doesn’t have the credibility that search engine traffic enjoys. This is the reason for concentrating on local SEO. However, when local SEO is important, Google becomes a de facto customer to whom business owners must try to appeal as much as their local prospects and paying customers. If Google isn’t happy, many of those people will never know that the business owner’s website even exists. A business’ website must please Google in content and structure to gain access to valuable, free traffic.
Getting Traffic Doing Local SEO
The two things to remember about local content are 1) searchers and 2) search terms. A local area search can be implicit or explicit. In most cases, Google or Bing will know if someone is physically in Kansas City, so a search for “pizza shop near me” or simply “pizza shop” will likely return a list of pizza places in/around Kansas City. If, however, someone in Boston is planning a trip to Kansas City, s/he will need to search for “hotels in Kansas City” to see Kansas City hotels. The main point is that a search is a question and the website content [should be] the answer to a searcher’s questions. Otherwise, the website will rank poorly for that search and the searcher will end up on someone else’s website.
For business owners looking to benefit from local SEO efforts, there are specific issues to consider in addition to general SEO tactics. The methods that have been covered such as link building, on-page optimization, and quality content are all very important things for a well rounded SEO campaign. For those trying to get traffic locally, there are some additional things to consider. One of the key things is to offer consistent Geo-location signals on your website. Geo-location signals would include company name, address, and phone number. In the local SEO space, this is known as the NAP, meaning name, address, and phone number. The NAP should all match up and be consistent everywhere it appears online.
Geo Location Signals and SEO
If a company is not consistent with its name, address or phone, it can cause confusion — for Google, for customers, and confusion for the business itself because information is not automatically updated across the web. Things can get off base when the business moves to a new location, expands to add a branch location, or when it changes or adds new phone numbers. While there are all kinds of things that could happen if geo-location signals are corrupt, it’s very important [from an SEO standpoint] that there is no confusion to Google and other local search engines. Companies’ local information should appear in the content, paragraph headings, page titles and meta tags.
Let’s suppose a dog grooming business is located in Chicago, Illinois. This business should be described as Chicago, Illinois Dog Groomer, or Dog Groomer in Chicago. Use those type of keywords: so a business is not just a veterinary clinic, but a Pasadena Veterinary Clinic, for example. Not just a massage therapy practice, but they are Indianapolis Massage Therapists. We aren’t carpet cleaners, we are Atlanta Carpet Cleaning Specialists. It does not matter what kind of traffic; whether it’s a local church, a store or a restaurant, the techniques apply. Whatever the niche market, it’s going to be the same.
Nearby, Suburban and Neighborhood Geo-Location
Also, SEO practitioners must not forget to mention some of the larger nearby cities and towns. The carpet cleaning company in Atlanta should make it clear in their web copy that they service Norcross, Marietta, Smyrna and College Park (if they do). While a potential customer in Smyrna might assume the carpet cleaning company in Atlanta also services her area, Google does not know that the company services Smyrna! Google needs to be told this explicitly. This is why Smyrna needs to appear somewhere on the company’s website. Then, the site can potentially be ranked in Google for the term: smyrna carpet cleaner or carpet cleaning company near smyrna.
Getting Local Business Citations
Citations are critical to local SEO. A citations is a reference to a local business found on a local website, a local directory, and on sites providing resources for local populations. Citations are basically like votes for a site, very similar to links. They are mentions of a Business Name and Address in other web pages; that could even be in news stories and press releases and things of that nature. No links to a website are necessary for a citation to be proper for a local business. That’s why it’s so important to have the NAP in place. Not all local directories or all local sites will allow a company website link to be included in a listing. If they do, by all means put the website link in.
Citations for local business SEO is equivalent to what backlinks are for general SEO. They help build credibility and they show Google that an organization is, indeed, an established business. The organization has a customer base and it actually is a business that is found and independently mentioned on the Internet. These citations could include a Yellow Pages directory listing, local Chamber of Commerce pages, so local chamber members are highly advised to be listed in the associated directory. Non-members are advised to join if it allows their company to get listed. Local business association pages like a local real estate association may have a resource page where realtors could link their real estate company information. Superpages.com is another large directory in which website information may find a home. These are a few examples of local citation avenues.
Citations From Local Business Data Aggregators
Data aggregators are useful places for submission of a business web profile, particularly those relying on foot traffic. So chiropractors, dentists, barber shops, grocery stores: it doesn’t matter what the offer is. If the goal is to get local foot traffic it should be easy for people to find the business location. Here’s where data aggregators offer a great way to get local citations rather quickly. So, for example, a business could be well-served by a listing on Neustar Localeze. These data aggregators connect with several different providers, such as companies like Garmin or the GPS navagation systems like Tom Tom, so people with GPS systems in their cars can find any local business easily.
These companies will list businesses on numerous other directories as well, increasing the number of local citations. Another useful aggregator is Factual, which specializes in location data. As mentioned earlier, Google and Bing have powerful, mobile-focused local search engines. They also sell a lot of ads to local businesses, so this is a major resource for those with the budget.
Enhance Local SEO With Directories
Sites like Yelp and Hotfrog have been around for awhile and are ideal for local business listings. Another less obvious source is local blogs. This is where a business can get positioned very high up in the search engines because Google, Yahoo, Bing will recognize that a company with, comparatively, a lot of citations will typically outrank its competition. Even relatively small cities and towns have blogs that are appropriate for most businesses. Bloggers are everywhere and they need content. Contact the blog owner about getting listed, maybe offer to do a guest post, or offer some specialized insight of interest to the local population.
Look for human-edited local directories. Best of the Web is a human-edited, well respected, fee-based directory. Most of the time, competitors aren’t willing to invest in paid directories. For a business owner willing to spend, this could be enough to move his/her site into the first couple of listings on Google for certain local search terms.
The better business bureau is really important. Local company websites should be listed in the BBB if possible. It is something that’s well respected. A lot of customers go there. A company that provides good quality care, customer support, and runs a good clean business operation shouldn’t fear being listed there.
Local SEO Initiative Conclusion
Everything covered in other articles here applies: good quality content, title tags, good material on the site, legible content, no over-stuffing of keywords. Those types of things are extremely important. Get regular backlinks, press release links, but then also make sure to get local citations, local links to the website, and listings in local directories. Make sure to use location in the title tag: so the site is not about a Golf Pro, it’s about an Orlando, Florida Golf Pro.
The company NAP (name, address, phone number) must be consistent everywhere it appears on the web. These elements contribute heavily to a highly-ranked web property and much increases in web traffic.