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Before we even talk about going local, or try and understand why you should use “local SEO” at all, consider why SEO in the first place.
Let me guess – you have a website, or a webpage, which you want people to visit, on which you may be promoting products, services, some news or information. What good is that page if you don’t have visitors landing on it and going through your content? This is where SEO comes in.
Different channels can be used to promote a webpage. Social media, newsletters, Google Adwords and paid campaigns can work wonders for your webpage amongst the various other channels. However, no other channel will show you holistic results, for free without any media spent, like organic SEO.
Now our area of interest being local SEO, let me answer what local SEO is.
We know that SEO is all about ranking your webpage in SERPs based on the keywords you have targeted for that specific page. So how is local SEO different?
Consider the following searches:
•“Mobile phone store”
• “Mobile phone store in Vienna”
• “Transformer 3 tickets”
• “Transformer 3 tickets in London”
So what is different in each case?
The first search term uses a “what” while the second term uses a “what” and a “where”. And the results are much more logical. You may be based in Orange County, California and searching for a Macbook Air. What is the use if Google refers you to a store that is based in Tokyo?
To minimise such discrepancies in results and to help users get to the information they are looking for in the quickest possible time, Google has concentrated on local SEO. When users type the subject of the information coupled with the location they are in, Google will return the most relevant results.
Hence, Google will return the name of a mobile phone store in Vienna for the first example, and the name of an online store or a movie theatre, both based in London, for the second example. This has helped searchers immensely in reducing time taken to get hold of the most relevant results.
As a website owner, you too can achieve a lot from local SEO. Let us now have a quick look through how you can implement local SEO for your business website.
The best practices for Local SEO implementation
Before you dive in for local SEO, you should consider whether you really want to deliver local results to your readers. This may not be necessary if you are an information site dealing with global topics, like music, history, etc.
Local SEO will work best for local stores, local service providers and local establishments like a doctor, a restaurant, a mobile store, a local theatre, etc. You should have a physical address to share with your customers and should be specialised on catering to customers in a specific area.
You may also target a number of different localities. In such cases, you should have different webpages targeting each location for the best results. This is because Google tends to return results based on “centroid bias”. In other words, Google’s SERP will return webpages that present businesses that are in the location mentioned in the search term, or nearest to it. The ranks are likely to fall as the business location gets farther from the queried location.
The very first thing that might come to your mind is restructuring your keywords and key phrases by adding the locality of your business and target audience. This means, you add the restructured key phrases (example: “mobile phone store in Vienna” instead of “mobile phone store”) in the on-page content, meta descriptions and page titles. However, this is never enough.
Claim a local profile
Start with strengthening your local profile. Create a Google Plus local profile mentioning your services, your location, physical address and phone number. The more information you are able to add to the local profile, the better would be the results.
Google SERP pages are most likely to present your local Google profile information for local search result pages.
Create local citations
Location citations are also a very effective way to rank in local SEO SERPs. Create citation for your businesses on the most popular profiles, making sure that the information you share is identical on all the profiles.
Abbreviations, numbers and every other information presented in the citations should be identical and should match with what you have shared on your Google profile. Make sure you setup an account on Google Places as well.
Reviews - and a special look at Google Places
Reviews from local customers can work wonders for local SEO. More than any other review platform, reviews on Google Places work the best. Request customers on your website and other profiles (even offline if possible) to share their reviews and experience on your Google Places profile for the best results.
As discussed, do not miss out on adding your local details in the meta descriptions and titles. The title should mention your location. However, the meta description should ideally present more information, if possible, like your phone number.
Try to add your address details, phone number and the other information you have shared in your Google profile in the footer of the web page for even better results.
You need to get a bit more technical here. Add schema local markups and a KML (keyhole markup language) file on your server for better results. Schema local markups help search engines identify and present your location better.
Guest blog posts and outreach techniques
Another great way to add citation for your business is through outreach activities like guest blog posts. A blog post would generally have an author bio accompanying the content. Add your business details along with the author detail, mentioning the same information that you have shared on your Google profile.
Effect of algorithms – the “Pigeon Update”?
Google algorithms have been noted to influence local search results for quite some time. While the Hummingbird update definitely helped in making clear that Google is intending to focus more on local search results, wherever relevant, the new Pigeon Update simply adds on to it.
To be fair, Google has not really named this update. SearchEngineLand had decided to name it, and we really don’t have a problem with it yet.
According to Search Engine Land,
It looks like Yelp and other local directory-style sites are benefiting with higher visibility after the Pigeon update, at least in some verticals. And that seems logical since, as Google said, this update ties local results more closely to standard web ranking signals. That should benefit big directory sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor — sites that have stronger SEO signals than small, individual restaurants and hotels are likely to have.
This update works into a number of other factors to consider SERPs for local results, and actually adds more to the Hummingbird update. Hence, the Pigeon definitely requires a closer look at when you are considering improving your website to perform better for local SEO.
There is a lot that has influenced local search results, mobile searches being one of them. Google has evolved a lot based on the behaviour of people making searches on mobile devices, something that was evident after the Hummingbird update.
A look at some statistics will help you understand how important mobile users and mobile search queries prove to be today for Google.
• 91% American adults carry mobile phones.• 56% American adults own smartphones.• 63% mobile phone owners access mobile Internet.• Wikipedia, Facebook and Amazonenjoy about 20% mobile traffic.• 46% shoppers look for local products and services using their smartphones.
Based on the above figures, it is pretty clear why Google considers mobile queries so important. The bottom line is, your website should be properly optimised for mobile devices, which includes smartphones and tablets, for the best local SEO performance.
There are quite a few social media platforms that are crucial for your business website if you want to score well for local SEO. Faebook, Google Plus and Pinterest should be the three platforms that you should be looking into primarily, if your business relates to visitors on these platforms. Foursquare can be another platform to watch out for – if used properly it can drive commendable traffic to your website through local search.
Hence, if you feel that your business can gain from Local SEO, it would definitely be a good idea to go through the points we discussed above. Simple implementations, when done ethically and correctly, can give an unbelievable leverage to your website which it may be missing at present!