Local SEO is the methodology of gaining traffic from search engines based on geo-located searches by customers. Local SEO is a completely different beast than regular old SEO. In the last few years Google has introduced GEO results for local businesses for searchers. This has brought about new SEO methods to rank websites better locally. Local businesses can now more easily reach local customers searching for geo-specific keywords like ‘Kansas City barbecue’ or ‘Kansas City SEO’.
As you can see by the search above, Google returned a few local businesses sorted by their rating (and also in order from the best IMO). Ranking your website locally is not a simple process but with some time and work, you can get your business ranked in your geographic location. In the article we are going to talk about every piece of local SEO and ways to increase your local rankings in Google and other search engines.
Local SEO Ranking Factors
Ranking your website locally can be broken up into 8 different factors. Below is a chart provided by Moz that shows all the factors used to determine your local rankings in Google. These factors include:
- My Business Signals
- External Location Signals
- On-page Signals
- Link Signals
- Review Signals
- Social Signals
- Behavioral/Mobile Signals
Looking at the chart, we can see that the 4 factors on the left of the key are the most important but having every factor will help your rankings tremendously. We are going to go through each factor and talk about ways to build these verticals to increase your local SEO.
My Business Signals
My business signals is referring to Google My Business which is a portal for business owners to add and verify their businesses. This is the first step in increasing your local SEO rankings.
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Simply head to Google My Business and add your Business using the simple form provided by Google. Once you add your business, Google will send the provided address a post card with a secret code on it. Upon receiving this post card (usually takes a week or so) you can enter the code in Google My Business to verify your business.
It’s important to have all your business information written down somewhere as you want everything to be consistent everywhere. Your address, phone, business name and zip code should all be the same everywhere you add your business information.
Once you have verified your business make sure that you include the following in your listing for better results:
- Upload as many photos as possible. Take pictures of your business (inside and out). The more photos the better
- Choose the correct category for your business
- Add a local phone number to your listing
- Submit a business address that is consistent with your website
- Add and verify an email address with your domain
- Invite other local businesses into your circle
- Create local events with locations nearby your business
Here is an example of Tyton Media’s Google My Business page with consistent NAP citations.
Notice that we use a local area code phone number (913) and a consistent address with what is listed on our website.
External Location Signals
External location signals are also a very important local SEO ranking factor. They includes IYP, Citation volume, data aggregators and NAP consistency across the web. These terms may seem like jibberish to some so here is a short explanation of each:
IYP stands for Internet Yellow Pages. This includes any yellow page type of directory where you can add your business name, address, phone, category, etc. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of IYP websites that you can add your business to. A few popular ones are Yelp, Foursquare, yellowpages.com, mapquest.com and superpages.
A citation is a reference to your business on the web, either containing a backlink or not. Most of the time, these are found with NAP (name, address, phone) citations of your business. The more amount of these external citations, the better you will rank in the search engines in your locality. There are two types of citations…Structured and Unstructured.
Structured citations are usually found on business listings like yelp.com, superpages.com, yellowpages.com, etc.
Unstructured citations are found on job websites, event listings, online newspapers, or blogs.
To generate quality citations you can do things like:
- Use Ahrefs link intersect tool to find competitors local citations and use those
- Create an event at your business location and submit it to online newspapers
- Join your chamber of commerce or local business associations
- Use the local citation finder to see opportunities for citations
Data aggregators are companies that collect local data and distribute the data to search engines and online directories. There are 4 main data aggregators in the US and Canada. Infogroup, Acxiom, Neustar Localeze and Factual. Most of the data from these companies come from government databases and are considered highly accurate.
Below is a look at how local data get shared in the local search ecosystem map created by David Mihm. As you can see its a very complicated ecosystem but if you can get your business included in some of the main aggregators, it will trickle down.
Try using ExpressUpdate to add your business listing to a plethora of online IYPs and data aggregators.
Having your name, address and phone consistent across all IYPs, data aggregators and citations is the most important factor with external location signals. This means making sure that your business titles, zip codes, phone numbers and street numbers are the same across the web. The bots are now smart enough to know the difference between st and street so no need to worry about that too much. Just make sure you have a pre-formatted address that you can copy from. I use excel to save all of my businesses, their addresses, phone numbers, etc. This way I can just copy this information for any citations or IYPs and its all the same throughout the web.
You can also use Google Chromes auto fill to automatically fill in this data consistently anywhere you add your business listing.
On-page signals are super important as they were ranked one of the top factors in local SEO. This means the presence of NAP (name, address, phone) on your website, keywords in title tags, domain authority, etc. The point of on-page signals are to give relevance to search engines for both your geography and the services provided. Here are the most important on-page local SEO signals:
- Header tags
- Title tags
- meta descriptions
- content keywords
- NAP reference on every page
If you are trying to reach your local customers, you must add your service, location and brand in page titles, meta descriptions, title tags, images and in your content
Adding service and location in your header tags will increase your local SEO presence.
<h1>Affordable SEO Services in Kansas City</h1>
Title tags should also include your location and services. In this title example, we included our brand name to encompasses those searching for the brand as well.
<title>Affordable SEO Services in Kansas City - Tyton SEO</title>
Meta descriptions that include location and service keywords will get a higher CTR in Google search as well as a better ranking.
<meta name="description" content="Find affordable search engine optimization in Kansas City. Tyton Media offers quality SEO services for the Kansas City Metro area.">
Content keywords refers to the actual text content on your website. Adding references to your service and location in your text will help with local on-page SEO signals. Here is a snippet of content keywords from our website.
Welcome to Tyton SEO! We are Kansas City's leading affordable SEO service with over 10 years experience in search engine optimization.
Creating geo-based images can strongly beef up your local SEO campaign. Search Engine land has a great article on geocoding your images so we aren’t going to get super in-depth with this section. Simply creating unique images on your site with keywords in the alt tag and name of the image can do wonders for local SEO.
<img src="images/affordable-seo-kansas-city.jpg" alt="affordable seo in kansas city"/>
Including maps on your website will increase your on-page signals as well. Normally, adding a Google map to your about us or contact us page will increase your local rankings.
As you may know by now, NAP stands for name, address, phone. Sometimes you will see NAP+W (name, address, phone, website). You should cite your NAP on every page of your website using the schema.org structure discussed below. We have put our NAP citation in our footer of every page of the website.
<div itemscope="" itemtype="http://schema.org/LocalBusiness"> <span itemprop="name">Tyton Media</span> <div itemprop="address" itemscope="" itemtype="http://schema.org/PostalAddress"> <span itemprop="streetAddress">5601 west 136th tr</span> <br> <span itemprop="addressLocality">Overland Park</span>, <span itemprop="addressRegion">KS</span> </div> Phone: <span itemprop="telephone">913-334-7715</span> </div>
Another important on-page signal is structured data on your website…
"Schema.org is a collaborative, community activity with a mission to create, maintain, and promote schemas for structured data on the Internet, on web pages, in email messages, and beyond."
Simply put, its a type of markup that structures your data so its more easily read by applications like Google, Microsoft, Pinterest, etc. Structured data can be viewed, managed and testing in Google webmaster tools. You can also use Googles structured data testing tool to test the markup on your website for validity.
Below is a LocalBusiness schema that we use on our web design company’s footer:
You can use schemas for a lot of different types of data like events, products, reviews and places. You can view all schemas on the schema.org website. When you incorporate this data on your website applications will be able to consume it more easy. Having LocalBusiness schema on every page of your website will also increase your local SEO rankings.
Link signals and link building is often over looked with local SEO but its a very important piece. With local link signals, its more about getting links from local sources instead of high authority links like normal SEO.
There are a number of ways to get local links and citations but here’s a few:
- Give an interview to a local reporter about your website or business
- Offer a scholarship or job to students in college
- Create a AMA on Reddit in your local community (and relevant subreddit)
- Build a local meetup community and cite your NAP on the events page
- Join a meetup.com local event. Contact them about sponsoring an event and get a local citation
Start with these and you should see a big increase in your local search engine traffic.
With 10% influence on local SEO rankings, review signals are a needed piece to ranking well in your local search area. These are reviews of your website or business on review channels like Google+, Trust Pilot, Feefo and other rating systems.
Google correlates good reviews with a good business so they will naturally rank that business higher for local searches. If you noticed when you search a local business usually they are listed from highest rated descending.
Having reviews is not only important for local SEO, but its important for your business as well. Having a good review implementation is necessary to gain as many positive reviews as possible. Whether its sending an email upon delivery of a product or calling customers and asking for reviews, these signals can have a strong impact on your local rankings.
Here are some simple ways to get more reviews from your customers:
- Link to review profiles on your website
- Try this review handout generator by whitespark that walks your customers through reviewing your website
- Get a ‘Find Us On Yelp’ Sticker
- Add your review profiles to your order confirmation email
- Set up an email to send 30 days after your customer receive their product, asking for a review
Social signals can be likes, shares, +1’s, tweets, etc. When you increase your social media presence, you’re ranking presence will follow. This is not a direct causation but more a correlation.
Building a good social media following can have a huge impact on your local SEO rankings as well as your business. Having a large amount of likes or followers increases buyer confidence and exposure to your business. Getting social signals may seem like a huge feat but there are a few simple ways to get started:
- Create a how-to guide and share it on all your social media profiles
- Make a paid page like ad on Facebook
- Like and follow other profiles to get return likes & follows
- Be active on social media using hashtags frequently
- Add all your social links on your Google+ page
With these helpful tips to generate more social signals, you should be able to build your brand and get social media authority.
Behavioral Signals/Mobile Signals
These signals are based on user behavior both in google and on your website. Search engines use the following behavioral ranking factors:
- Type of access
- Click-through rate (ctr)
- Navigational paths
All of these factors depend on both the user experience on your website and the user experience of your website in the search results.
Time of day can have an impact on behavioral signals. Whether people tend to click on certain website more in the morning.. or at night.
Session duration is a very useful behavioral signal. The average time a user stays on your website can give search engines a good idea whether your website is good or not. If a lot of people come to your website and leave right away, there must be an issue, whether its your page load time or user interface.
While not all user engagement signals may be indexable, they can still play a role in page engagement. Afterall, session duration is a key indication of interest, even with the problem of idle pages. Implicit indicators, like mouse hovers, play a role in user monitoring systems.
Users that frequent your website (return visitors) give your website great behavioral signals. If users are returning to your website, than you are offering a good service or have a good UI. Getting people to come back to your website multiple times is great for local rankings (correlative).
Type of access
Where you are accessing websites from has an impact on the behavioral signal. People interact with websites different depending on if they are on a mobile device or a desktop computer. Having a website that is responsive (works on all devices) is very important for this ranking factor.
Google has a simple mobile friendly test to analyze your URL to see if the page has a mobile-friendly design. Websites should be accessible and navigational on any device your visitors are browsing from.
Click through rate is how many times your website is seen in Google and how much it is clicked. The formula for CTR is:
clicks ÷ impressions = CTR
This is one of the most prominent search quality feedback in many algorithms for search. Increasing your CTR can be done by adding rich snippets, getting reviews, add phone extension and schema.org structured data.
Personalization refers to the unique results per user. Its the convergence of local, social and mobile which is personalized to each persons search results.
In conclusion, if you have a brick and mortar business or even a online web business, local SEO is an important piece of having an online presence. Customers look to Google for reviews and authority links for brand trust.
Being able to reach your local market can increase your business and exposure in your community. With this guide, you should be an expert on local SEO and how to implement it. If you have any questions or comments, please oblique below.