6 Tips on How to Optimize Your Website for Local SEO
I love local SEO. There, I’ve said it.
There’s just something awesome about helping brick-and-mortar businesses get more people at their physical location and about increasing the coverage of service-area businesses that operate locally.
Fun fact: did you know that 46% of all searches on Google are with local intent?
To put this into perspective, every second, 28,980 local searches are entered in Google.
Add up to this Bing, Yahoo, Apple Maps, and other local search engines.
Imagine getting just a fraction of these people to visit your business.
I know, right?
When it comes to local SEO, the limit is, well, nothing I guess? Considering you do it right and can handle the surge of people that is.
So, if you want to know how to tap into getting more local customers directly into your local business, look no further.
I’ll show you how.
What’s Local SEO About?
Local SEO is about increasing organic search engine visibility for businesses that offer their services face-to-face. It’s applicable for both businesses with physical locations and service-area businesses like electricians.
Remember, you don’t want to rank only on Google. You want to rank in all search engines that are relevant for your business.
You’re probably aware of Google My Business, so here’s another fun fact by the Local Marketing Institute:
“We were pretty amazed to read a recent study that shows over 56% of local retailers still need to claim their Google My Business listing. Also, nearly two-thirds haven’t claimed a business listing on Yelp. And over 82% haven’t claimed a business listing on Bing which is used for 1 in 5 US web searches.”
Yes, claiming a Google My Business listing for your business is great for local SEO. But, it isn’t the silver bullet. Google My Business is just the start.
The Difference Between Local and Normal Organic Results
Funny story, this morning, as I was getting ready for work, I dropped my phone and the screen broke. I entered my car, screamed like a madman for a few seconds, and then I came to terms with my clumsiness.
I did what any normal person would do: I went on Big G and wrote “phone repair shop near me”
So, Big G with all its wisdom offered me a list of phone repair shops that are close to my location.
The above is an example of the “Google 3 Pack”, which is a boxed area that appears for local searches in Google. Needless to say, the clicks that take place in this area are significantly higher than clicks outside of it.
But, we want to rank in both. This way, we’ll cover both the 3 Pack results and the normal organic result clicks.
Remember, Results Are Different Across Devices and Apps
Modern users use multiple devices and search using multiple methods to get a local search done.
I repeated my search from above on my mobile using the Chrome app, this is the result:
I did the same with the Google Assistant:
And I checked Google Maps too, just in case:
As you can see, each of the above shows slightly different data from the rest.
Don’t worry, the tips I’m about to show you will help you optimize for all of the above (and more!)
The Prerequisites for Local SEO
I can’t stress enough how important it is to have your website be mobile-friendly. And fast. And not look like a Word document.
Today, it’s fairly easy to have a mobile-friendly website. So if you’re still relying on that 10 years old website with Adobe Flash, don’t. Google Chrome stopped supporting flash, so your website will be super broken on all devices.
You can use the Google Pagespeed insights for mobile-friendliness tests. You can also use the Search Console mobile friendly tests too.
If you don’t have the basics right, you won’t get people in your store. Remember, your website is your online billboard for business. Treat it as such.
Tip 1: Do Local Keyword Research
If you’ve read the story and how I ended up with a broken phone, you’ve noticed I entered “phone repair shop near me” in Google to find someone who can fix it.
Let’s say you’re the owner of a mobile repair shop named Damage-B-Gone (don’t judge me.) And, you wanted to show for my particular search.
You want to rank for all searches like that, including:
- Phone repair shop near me
- call Damage-B-Gone
- Damage-B-Gone work hours
- Damage-B-Gone location
Notice that these aren’t your normal search queries, although some of them might look as such. Some of them have a special Rich Snippet that directly answers the user’s question, like for example when I search for the phone number from my hairdresser:
How does Google (and Bing) for that matter know what to show you? Answer: It’s on Google My Business.
But what about the “normal” keywords? Like “phone repair” and “mobile repair”?
Create compounds between normal keywords and the locations you serve (Search in Location - SiL).
Insert Your Location to Keywords (SiLs)
Let’s say your mobile shop has a few brick-and-mortar establishments in different cities. So, how do you go about ranking for them?
Think like your customer. Let’s say your location is in New York. How will your customer search for your business?
They’ll go on Google or Bing and type “phone repair shop new york”. This is a format that’s a combination of normal keywords and locations. Using it is easy – just append the locations you offer your services in with the keywords you want to target.
Hint: If your establishment is located in a small town, use the largest nearby city instead. Chances are people are searching in the larger city due to the fact they don’t expect results to pop up for the smaller town.
Use Google Keyword Planner
Google Keyword Planner, which is a tool inside Google Ads, is a great way to get a grasp of what people in your location search for. Just select your location, language, and keyword and off you go.
Here’s an example with mobile repair in New York directly from Google’s Keyword Planner:
You can even go as far as to enter your competitor’s website into the tool and see suggestions on what to target too. Remember, don’t limit yourself to just your town/city. Do a state-wide search to identify opportunities your competitors might have missed.
Tip 2: Set Up Your Business Online
Now, it’s time to claim and optimize your Google My Business, Bing Places, and Apple Maps listings.
This process is pretty straight-forward, as the platforms offer instructions on how to do it from start to finish.
Let’s see how it’s done in Google My Business.
Claim or Create Your Business
If your business is already listed, you can claim it. If not, you can create it.
Hint: Don’t use keywords in the business name. It’s against Google My Business guidelines.
Choose Your Business’ Category
Since we’re going with the awesome mobile repair shop Damage-B-Gone, I’ll select that one:
Add Your Services
I’ll select the services my mobile repair shop will offer:
Add Your Address
Then, I’ll select the address:
Add Your Contact Information
Here, I’ll add my phone and website.
Remember to Verify
Before it goes live, you need to verify your Google My Business listing. Follow the instructions from Google, and you can either do it by phone or postcard. There are other methods for verification, but the two will do the job 99% of the time.
Optimize Your Google My Business Listing
Remember, the above isn’t the end of optimizing for GMB, far from it. You can always add more categories and more photos. You can also add work hours, additional phone numbers, and more.
Bing Places and Apple Maps
In a nutshell, the above is applicable for Bing Places and Apple Maps. Just follow the instructions and then optimize your listing.
Tip 3: Get Cited in Local Citations and Build Backlinks
Do you know what screams “this business exists”? Being listed in local mentions of your business. Technically, Google My Business, Bing Places, and Apple Maps are citations too, but I digress.
You’ll also need to build backlinks, as they are a major ranking factor for any website, no matter if it’s local or not.
First, let’s cover local citations.
What’s a Local Citation?
Local citations are online mentions of a local business’s name, address, and phone number. Local business directories, social platforms, websites, and apps can contain citations for a business.
If this reminds you of something, you’re right: local citations are backlinks. Only, the approach here is local, not global.
They help users discover local businesses and are a major factor that affects local SEO rankings. Active management of all citations of your business and making sure all the data is relevant and updated is the key to a successful local SEO strategy.
The Types of Local Citations
Aside from the major local business data platforms (GMB, Bing Places, Apple Maps), there are two other types of local citations:
Geo and Business Industry - Specific Platforms
As their name suggests, these citations include listing your business in location-specific and industry-related platforms. Examples of such platforms are the local chamber of commerce, government bodies, associations related to the industry, event-related local platforms, etc.
Normal backlinks can affect local SEO if they are created as citations to the business. You can still develop guest-posting, publications, the whole nine yards. Remember, they need to mention your business’ name, address, and phone number.
These can develop organically, as they are sites that mine data and list it on their websites automatically. The sad reality is that many of these citations are with “rel=nofollow” tags, meaning they don’t transfer page rank to your website from the citation platforms to your site. And, they can out-perform your website in search results.
Remember, all Data Must Be the Same
Local citations can hurt local search engine rankings. If the data in the citation is all over the place – one citation says your business is located in New York, the other in New Jersey - you have a problem. Google crawls everything, so if it sees inconsistent data across citations, your ranking opportunities will decrease.
So, develop a strategy and do media listening to look for mentions of your business’s name and information. Then, request a manual audit of the citation, offering the correct information instead.
How to Prospect for Citations and Backlinks?
Easy – use advanced search operators. Learn them, love them, use the heck out of them. Seriously, they are the bread and butter of backlink prospecting.
You can go as far as to do this:
Performing that advanced search will list all the business directories in New York that are in Google’s index!
For normal backlinks, you can do the same search operators from above, but instead of “business directories”, you can enter “guest post”.
Tip 4. Don’t Forget About On-Page and Technical SEO!
We covered technical SEO a bit at the start, but still, make sure your website is fast, indexable, mobile-friendly, and user-friendly.
And besides doing the on-page SEO as you would with any other site, there are a few more things to do when it comes to local SEO.
Set-Up Local Landing Pages
By local landing pages, I mean pages that are specific for the locations your business works in. To take again my example with the mobile repair shop, if I had two shops, one located in New York, the other in New Jersey, I’d create two landing pages for each, like so:
Each of these will contain an embedded map location of the shop for its respective town, including citation info (name, local address, and phone number).
Be careful, as this might look the same as creating pages for different variations of the same keyword. This is a big no-no.
Instead, group similar keywords as LSI variants of a single main keyword and target them on one page.
Also, don’t get carried away to list all locations in New Jersey and New York in the local landing pages. Select a few locations that are of the highest importance and go from there.
Your Homepage Is the Most Important Page
And as the most important page, it should revolve around your most important location. Don’t try to rank for general keywords on a home page for a local business – that won’t happen. The people you want to reach want local results and Google knows that.
Instead, target keywords that are related to your specific location on your home page. If you have multiple locations and are using local landing pages, target keywords related to the location that’s of highest importance for the business (i.e. business headquarters.)
Leverage Schema Markup (Rich Snippets)
If you’re using WordPress, you can use Schema generating plugins like Yoast SEO.
Even if you aren’t using a CMS like WordPress, implementing Schema Markup is quite easy.
Google has a tool that generates Schema Markup based on the information you enter in it. Just select “local business” and your URL. You’ll enter a visual tagging highlighter, and you can start selecting data for each field. Then, click on the “CREATE HTML” button at the top right corner. You’ll get a JSON code that you can copy-paste directly into the pages.
Just to make sure, you can test the JSON code on the Google Structured Data Testing Tool.
Tip 5. Reviews Are Extremely Important
When was the last time you saw a shop with 2/5 stars rating and you still did business with them?
Google My Business reviews need to be nurtured, and bad reviews need to be addressed and, if possible, solved.
All in all, GMB and Bing Places is an on-going thing.
You need to answer reviews, no matter whether they are positive or negative.
Also, keep an eye out for incorrect edits. Google is pretty lax when it comes to who can edit your business’ info and randomly implements changes from random people.
Leverage Google Posts
Google Posts is a neat blogging platform within GMB. In a nutshell, it increases your Google My Business result’s visibility further by displaying content that informs your customers about anything related to the business.
Tip 6. Start Blogging
And not because there’s only so much space on the main website to target keywords.
Blogging is so much more than covering keywords. Go for quality. Also for quantity. Go for both quality and quantity.
We’d recommend developing a whole content marketing strategy that revolves around your local business and tailor it toward the marketing funnel. This way, you’ll cover the customer journey from start to finish.
Fun fact: Blogging tells Google that your website is actively updated and is a link magnet if you do it right.
Wrapping Things Up
I know that this is a pretty long blog post, but it’s like that for a reason. I bet my (currently) broken phone that you’ll outrank 99.9% of your competitors solely because of the fact they don’t do the above.
So, do follow the tips above and brace yourself for business growth!