Local SEO - A Detailed Implementation Guide
Does your business operate within a specific geographic area? If so, it’s time that your business started paying attention to local SEO. In a world where competition amongst businesses is becoming increasingly tougher, it is important to find that any advantage possible that can get your business ahead.
What is local SEO?
Local SEO is simply the act of getting your business found in search engines for keywords which have a local intent. Improving your local SEO will get you found in the organic listings for a local keyword, but more importantly you will be found in Google’s ‘local pack’ which dominates the top of the search result. This local pack appears at the top of 93% of search queries with a local intent. See below for an illustration of a typical results page:
Why is it important?
Here are a few stats which show you the potential of local SEO:
- 4 out of 5 consumers use search engines to find local information
- 54% of smartphone owners use the Google Maps app
- 20% of all search queries performed in search engines have a geographical bias
- 50% of smartphone users who perform a local search, visit a store within a day
- 18% of local searches lead to a sale within 24 hours
- 78% of local searches performed on a mobile device lead to a purchase
What these figures really show you is that local SEO will drive highly targeted and relevant traffic that is ready to convert into sales/leads for your business. Think about the millions of Google searches done every day in the UK alone, and it quickly becomes apparent that local SEO is very powerful for small, localised businesses.
How has local SEO changed?
Firstly, we’ve seen an increased focus from Google on local SEO: it has realised that more and more people are looking for businesses within a specific geographic area. Since 2011 we’ve seen an exponential increase in searches with a localised intent. Below is a graph showing all searches including the words “near me” (e.g. ‘plumber near me’ and ‘restaurant near me’):
In recent years, Google has released algorithm updates which are specifically aimed at local SEO traffic. The most impactful of these updates came in August 2015 when Google released their ‘Pigeon’ algorithm update. A key element of this was the reduction in local pack listings from 7 to 3 listings. See the before and after below:
Essentially what this change means for you is that there is more competition to be found in Google’s Local Pack, those businesses which are investing time and effort in their local SEO are the ones that will win.
How to do local SEO
The process of increasing your business’ visibility in local search results can be divided into four key areas:
1. Create ’Google My Business’ listing
2. Create business citations
3. Get customer reviews
4. Focus on your On-Page SEO
An important part of doing local SEO is making sure that your NAP details are accurate and the same in all locations. NAP stands for name, address and phone number. It is a standard piece of information that all businesses share - regardless of size and industry - every businesses will have this. Search engines use this information when deciding which businesses to rank for local searches.
It is critical that this information is accurate wherever it appears. If it is listed on your website; in your Google My Business listing; or other citations throughout the internet, it should always be exactly the same each time. If your NAP details are different in several places then search engines may get confused and think they belong to several different businesses.
Google ‘My Business’ listing
Google uses the information you’ve entered on the My Business listing to display your business in the local pack, so having a listing is very important. Google also uses the listing as a central point to base the rest of the local SEO factors on. It will reference any other citations throughout the web and even on your own website against the information given in the My Business listing.
If you’re unsure whether or not your business has a My Business listing you can simply search your business name in Google and go through the reclaim process. This will enable you to edit the details and manage all aspects of the listing.
These are listings of your business details in key business directories throughout the internet. Below are the key citations UK businesses should be focusing on:
- Bing Places
- Thomson Local
- Central Index
- The Mirror Directory
- Yell (Yellow Pages)
- The Sun Directory
The list of citations above are not in order of importance; each industry will have some citations which are more important than others. For example, hotels and restaurants need to be found on Tripadvisor, but for a plumber this would not be a relevant citation. These citations are places where your customers may be looking for your business, so it’s important that your business is listed on here for more than purely local SEO benefits. They are often hard to fake because of the verification process, so they help search engines confirm that you are who you say you are. They are a key factor in improving your visibility for local keywords. As I mentioned earlier, it is critical that your NAP details are accurate across all of your citations. Google will reference all of your details in these citations against your My Business listing and discount any which are different.
Did you know that 88% of consumers have read reviews to determine the quality of a local business? Or that 72% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business? It is clear that reviews are important in encouraging trust in your business, but they also play a very important role in local SEO.
Reviews are almost always based on a scoring system, this means that search engines can use them in their algorithm for local searches. Reviews are a very good way of determining which businesses are good, so it is important to encourage positive reviews to enable search engines to recognise that you care about customer experience. There are many platforms for your reviews, but you should ensure that you are encouraging some on your Google My Business listing. This is important because it is within Google’s ‘ecosystem’ and they prefer reviews on here. Below is an example of what reviews look like on Google My Business:
All of the factors we’ve discussed so far are things which external to your business website, but your website is still very important for your local SEO. Firstly, you need to ensure that your NAP details are accurate and that every location of your business has it’s own landing page. The structure of these pages should also be uniform, for example: yourdomain.com/location/cambridge, yourdomain.com/location/st-neots and yourdomain.com/location/huntingdon. Secondly, you should ensure that your meta tags and page content contain relevant keywords, for example ‘Cambridge Plumber’ or ‘Italian Restaurant St Neots’.
The key focus for onpage SEO should be to make it easy and clear for search engines to understand the information on your website. On your location landing page you should include schema markup (see www.schema.org for more details) to clearly show what each piece of information is. An example of schema being used can be seen with Argos’s location landing pages; below is a screenshot of what the page looks like to users:
Below is a screenshot of what the source code of the page looks like:
As you can see above, each element of the address and telephone number has been marked up with the relevant piece of schema. This stops search engines getting confused by each piece of information.
We’ve seen from the aforementioned stats that your visitors will often be viewing your website from a mobile device. It is critical that your user experience is as good as it can be, meaning that your website design is responsive and your website speed is good. If the visitor has a bad user experience they’ll quickly be looking at your competitors instead.
If you’re a local business that operates within a specific geographic area then you absolutely need local SEO. Local SEO can deliver highly targeted and relevant traffic to your website that is ready to convert. Focusing on local SEO will give your business the competitive edge and ensure that consumers pick your business when they’re choosing which businesses to go with.