One of the inevitable consequences of the rise of the smart phone is the increasing frequency of local searches. It stands to reason that, if you’re looking for something particular by performing a search on your mobile phone, it’s quite likely to be because you want the thing you’re looking for to be nearby (at least, nearby to where you are currently).
As well as this aspect, it’s a well recognised phenomenon that there have been an increasing number of searches based on a local area over the last 5 or so years, even amongst those people using desktop or laptop machines to perform their search.
So, if your business can be seen to have a local element – ie the majority of your customers are likely to come from the local area – you really need to be optimising your site to take advantage. Here’s how I recommend you go about it:
1) Name Address Phone Number (NAP)
You need to ensure your company name (or the name you trade under if you’re eg self employed, which could, of course, be your actual name), physical address and the phone number of your organisation is displayed on your site.
Some people suggest you should have each of these details on every page of your site – for instance in a footer – and I would certainly go along with that, especially as it can also help in terms of enquiries if people have read to the end of a page and then see your contact phone number whilst they already may have the thought in their mind to contact you.
You can simply have the NAP info on your home page and Contact page if you wish, but I would recommend featuring it on every page if it fits in with your site design.
2) Google My Business
Google has an irritating habit of changing the name of its local business listings service on an ongoing basis (eg Google Places being a previous incarnation), but for now it seems to have settled on Google My Business as being the name it’s happy to use.
You should ensure that you have a Google My Business listing, and equally ensure that the Name Address and Phone number details recorded in it are identical to the ones you feature on your site.
Further populate this listing with info such as Opening Times and accepted methods of payment, as well as ensuring you are listed in a relevant category, to give Google as much info as you can that could help with your local search listing.
3) Don’t try to Fool Google
If your business doesn’t actually have a physical presence in a particular location (ie you don’t actually have a building / office / shop in the area you claim to), you are more than likely to be penalised for pretending you do. My advice is to only include NAP information for locations where you do have an actual physical presence. (Google is also wise to the fact that you may be listing yourself in eg a virtual office, when actually all that happens is mail gets redirected from there. Again, my advice would be to steer clear of this sort of thing).
4) Local Directory Listings
There are many internet directories that claim to have an influence with search engine rankings. However, there are only a small proportion of these that will actually have any real bearing on where you might be listed in the results for a relevant local search.
I’ve found there are approximately 80-90 UK-based directories that can help your rankings in Google. You should ensure that you try to gain a listing in each of them, with some of the more well-known ones being:
As well as some lesser known sites, such as:
As with your Google My Business Listing, you need to make sure the Name Address and Phone number information is identical in each (that is, identical to the NAP info on your site).
5) Inbound Links
Not surprisingly, considering we’re talking about search engine optimisation, inbound links to your site play an important factor. As well as the local directory listings as mentioned above, you should try to generate multiple quality inbound links from other sources.
In order to ensure local relevance, I recommend looking at things such as your local Chamber of Commerce or other business groups, for example the BNI or similar networking organisastions. An inbound link from one of these sites will help associate your business with the local area you’re targeting.
You can also look to get links from local clients – eg from their blog by asking them to mention they’ve just had some work done or bought something from you, with the blog post including a link to your site.
And you musn’t forget that, just because we’re focusing on Local SEO, it is still SEO we’re talking about, so quality links are always going to be an important factor.
6) On Page Optimisation
With SEO in mind, obviously it makes sense to ensure your “on page” factors are optimised as well as possible. These will include such things as the metadata on the pages (Title tag, Description tag), as well as the visible text content that site visitors can see.
Incorporating the geographical areas within the text of these elements will help from a local optimisation perspective, especially if you include specific local information, such as referencing surrounding town names and landmarks that are specific to the local vicinity.
You should try to get as many favourable reviews as possible in the major review sites, such as Trustpilot or Reviews.co.uk. You can encourage satisfied customers to write reviews on your behalf with a follow up email once they’ve completed their purchase.
The rule of thumb for 3rd party review sites is – the more good reviews the better, so long as they are genuine and from a site that Google is likely to recognise as an authority, rather than one simply set up to assist with a site’s rankings.
8) Social Media
Similar to getting good reviews, encouraging your customers to talk about you on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter will help with your optimisation efforts. Especially useful is if the people discussing your business are located nearby to your premises, as that again helps associate you with the local area.