11th May 2020
Improving your website for local SEO: The ultimate guide
Improving your local SEO is now more important than ever.
As many as 46% of all Google searches are now local due to the increased number of consumers adding terms such as “near me” and “close by” to their search queries in the hopes of finding a local business.
From looking for a nearby shoe shop to getting in touch with an emergency plumber, consumers want to find what they’re looking for as quickly and efficiently as possible with a simple search. Naturally, people are likely to click through to one of the first websites they see when conducting these searches, as they figure that the business will be pretty local to them if they’re showing first.
So, how do you get your website in front of those consumers? A strong local SEO strategy is the key.
What is local SEO?
Think of local SEO as applying the same, tried and tested search engine optimisation methods that you would to get your website ranking higher than your competitors, but on a regional scale.
Local SEO is crucial for smaller businesses that offer their products or services to a limited area, and is essentially a tool for easily letting customers know that you’re close to them – for example if someone was searching for “SEO Manchester.” The main aim is to get your website appearing for searches made by people local to you, looking for the things that you offer.
To emphasise the importance of this, a recent statistic shows that local searches result in purchases 28% of the time. Should you not be focusing on improving your local SEO, you could be missing out on the opportunity to drive a decent number of sales.
Read below for our top tips on how you can improve your local SEO.
Put together a keyword list
You’re doing this because you want people in your area to find you on Google, right?
So let’s think about what those people are actually searching for in relation to you and your products or services. This is keyword research, the process of highlighting the right search terms to work on and track accordingly.
Everything extends from the search terms you’re looking to improve your site for, so figuring out what those are is a vital first step in any locally focused optimisation campaign.
How to perform keyword research
You can just do some good old fashioned thinking to begin with.
What products or services do you offer, and within what area do you offer them? Are you a cafe based in Sale? A bicycle repair shop in Ashton? Think about all of the associated words and phrases that customers may use when looking for whatever it is that you do or offer, and write them all down.
Once you’ve done that, there are some additional, more technical activities you can do to pad this list out.
If you have Google Search Console set up for your website then you will have access to the search results information filed under ‘Performance’.
Here, you will be able to take a look at the search terms that are driving traffic to your site. This will give you a really good idea of how your site is performing at the moment, and it may produce some additional keywords that you’ll want to track.
Search volume is the number of searches a keyword gains on average, over a certain period of time. Having this information will help you shape which keywords you want to work on for your site, and we recommend this site to do so.
We use plenty of tools to track the success of our campaigns here at Pixel Kicks, and as far as keyword performance goes, we’d highly recommend SEMrush. You can plug in your keywords and track whether they’re improving or declining on a daily basis. You can even track those keywords for searches within a certain area, which is particularly handy if you’re only interested in a geographical audience.
The great news is that users who perform local searches are generally doing so with an intent, so getting ahead of the competition for these searches is extremely valuable. Get a list together, and you’ve got solid foundations to work on.
Optimise your website, of course
The core of SEO is getting your site onto the front page of search results for your area, and so to do this, you have to make sure that Google knows where you are! There are many ways to optimise your site, but two of the easiest ones to get started with are heading tags, and meta titles and descriptions.
When people first start writing for websites they may be slightly confused by the types of text made available to them. These are normally made up of:
- Paragraph (Normal text)
- Heading 1
- Heading 2
- Heading 3
So what do these actually mean? In essence, heading tags are used to organise the text on your page in terms of their priority. For instance, a Heading 1 (H1) tag is what normally applies to a page title, as this is the first piece of text that the search engine should read.
Following your H1 tag the next most important part of the page should be categorised as H2. This is normally the top tier of subheadings used to break the text down into sections. An excellent example of an H2 tag is the term “Site Optimisation” written just above! As this heading signifies the start of a new major section of our blog, we have made it an H2 tag. From there each level of the text should be tagged H3,4,5 and so on in descending order, for instance, below our “Site Optimisation” H2 is then followed by “Headings”, which is an H3 tag.
So why is this important? Using heading tags is the best way to direct Google in how to read your site during the search process, it will read through H1, then H2 and so on. Heading tags are an excellent tool for local SEO as inserting your area into your high level headings will ensure that Google reads them first, and so knows that your page is relevant to your local area.
Meta Titles and Descriptions
Meta titles are a piece of HTML that your page will display in search engines, on external sites and in browsers. Everyone will have seen one, but many people don’t give them a second thought. This is one area that you can use to get ahead with your local SEO.
Meta titles are an excellent opportunity to advertise your page to potential viewers, and also to tell Google just how relevant your page is. Search engines and their users will expect your meta title to contain a concise description of the content on the page and so you should write them accordingly.
When writing your meta title you should ensure that it is a persuasive statement to attract your human readers, and contains your desired keywords and concise description of the page for the search engines. These two factors combined will make for a meta title that ranks highly, and attracts those who see it to click through.
Meta descriptions are the text that backs up your meta titles wherever they are displayed. This is another fantastic opportunity to describe the content of your page, invite potential readers in, and of course make use of those all important local keywords.
While meta titles are limited in length, meta descriptions are unlimited, however Google will only display 160 characters. This means that when writing your meta descriptions you must take care to ensure that your entire message and even a call to action fit inside this character limit to make the best use of this tool.
How to edit your meta titles and descriptions
Here at Pixel Kicks we use a variety of different tools for editing meta titles and descriptions, but our favourite has to be Yoast SEO which we use on all of our Wordpress sites. Yoast is an excellent plugin that helps you to build your meta titles and write your meta descriptions all in a clean and easy to use WYSIWYG interface displayed on the page editor.
Use Schema for Local SEO
Another way you can prepare your site for the Google algorithms is by applying their structured data markup to your pages.
Are you familiar with the term ‘position zero’ in the search results?
We’re all after ranking at number one, but we often forget that some search terms present a featured information or answer box at the top of the search results, before the standard listings begin.
What is Schema Markup?
Created in collaboration between Google, Bing and Yahoo, schema is a common group of tags that can be applied to a website to help search engines understand and display data in a better way.
Applying schema to a website page will heighten its chances of appearing in an answer box, carousel and other rich snippets that the markup can generate.
…and why is schema important for local SEO?
These rich snippets are a fantastic opportunity to get ahead of the local competition and appear more prominently in the search results, particularly carousels, which may appear to display a range of restaurants in a specific area.
Search Engine Journal’s guide to schema for local SEO goes into perfect detail on all of this, including how to implement this on your own website.
Create content with a local theme
A strong website should have a blog section, primarily used for posting updates about your business, but also offering more in-depth pieces about your industry. This is a great trust factor, showing website visitors that you’re a genuine business that knows what it’s talking about. It’s important to keep your blog regularly updated – a minimum of one post per month is a good target to aim for initially, with this showing potential clients that you’re on top of things and still fully operational.
Your content doesn’t always have to be specifically about your industry or business though. If you’re trying to improve your SEO in your local area, then community based posts can prove useful. Interesting blog posts about things such as your local area’s history or landmarks can gain traction with nearby web users. Shared on social media from accounts that promote local content, your blog posts can end up with a good amount of local traffic, and even if users don’t click, this sort of regular content can help your company become a much more recognised brand within the community.
Combining industry based posts with local content can also help you to improve your rankings. Writing blogs about your service offerings specifically in a local field provides a good opportunity to include local keywords that you want to rank for – of course, you don’t want to flood your work with those keywords, as that will cause more harm than good, but including one or two preferably within a heading tag, can go a long way to helping push up your local rankings.
Encourage reviews on Google
When selecting results for a search query one factor that Google considers is the authenticity and authority of a site, and it does this by evaluating many forms of data made available to it. One of these sources is your Google reviews.
Many people do not realise that reviews have an effect on SEO, but in actual fact plays quite a big part. In short, Google will use this data to assess whether or not your website is trustworthy based on the experiences of those who have already used it. If you have received negative reviews, then Google will not want to show your site in search results in order to improve the searcher’s experience.
For this reason then, it is very important that you do your best to grow your number of reviews, and aim for that golden 5 star rating. The more reviews you have, the more legitimate your score becomes and Google will see you as a trusted source of information. This will lead to your site being shown higher and higher in search results.
Another important aspect of your Google reviews is answering them. Responding to your reviews shows you to be actively engaging with your customers but also helps with your SEO. Saying thank you for good reviews, and responding to negative ones helps Google to see that you care about your community, and in turn will help in boosting your website in search results.
Claim and update your Google My Business listing
Easily one of the most valuable tools in local SEO, Google My Business is a free directory-style offering that will help your business gain visibility on Google Search and Google Maps.
Often, businesses will have a My Business listing without realising, with the majority being automatically generated by Google. However, they’re not editable unless you claim the listing as your own. Whether you’re claiming a pre-existing listing or have a newer business that doesn’t yet have one, the process is relatively simple. Google will send a postcard to the registered business address to verify that you’re a company representative – once received, all you have to do is add the verification code from the card onto Google My Business, and your listing will instantly be yours.
Google My Business listings are more important than ever, thanks to the ever-increasing use of voice search and virtual assistants. These listings are commonly used when people search for things such as “Italian restaurants near me”, or “shops that are open now” – by adding as much information as possible to your listing, your business has a chance of appearing in any relevant local searches, with the result offering users useful functions such as instant directions to the business from Google Maps, or the ability to call the business directly at the push of a button.
You can add useful information your listing, such as:
- Contact details including your address, web address and phone number.
- Opening hours.
- Highlights – short information snippets that display your business’s strongest selling points.
- Products – the ability to showcase your range with photos and prices of your stock.
- Services – a way of displaying your core service offerings.
You can also keep your profile updated with social media style posts that usually appear below your listing, highlighting things such as key business updates or special offers.
Optimise your social media accounts
For any business, social media can and should be used to boost your online visibility. We recently published a blog detailing how to grow your social media presence for small businesses, with lots of useful tips on why and how to be socially active.
While it’s debatable as to whether or not Google’s algorithms take social media into account for search engine rankings, if used correctly social media can certainly increase your local exposure, particularly on Facebook.
Facebook offers the opportunity to add your business address, website and contact details, so straight away you’ve got another citation there and a chance to have that page showing in localised search results. Not only that, but this makes it easier for potential customers local to you to come across your business page.
Creating and sharing local based content, engaging with users and even supporting other local businesses on Facebook is a great way to let customers know who you are and where you are. Seeing that businesses are active on social media is a huge influencing factor as to whether or not customers will contact you or make a purchase, so make it easy for them to see that you’re still operating by staying active.
Create location specific landing pages if you have more than one address
If you have a business with multiple locations, it’s likely you’ll be working on the optimisation of different location-based keywords.
Businesses with a single location will have it easier, revolving their SEO around keywords such as “Manchester plumber”, but if you operate in different towns and cities, it’s difficult to give each location a fair dose of SEO effort. In those cases, you might be targeting lots of similar search terms, just with different locations – “Newcastle bakery”, “Sunderland bakery”, “Middlesbrough bakery” etc.
There’s little you can do to optimise a single page on your website for all of the varied location terms, aside from flooding the page with them all (something you definitely should not do). This is why it’s important to consider adding multiple pages to your website – a different landing page for each location.
Not only does this enable you to better target your relevant keywords and get you better search rankings, but it also improves the experience of visiting your website for the user. When a user searches for one of those terms, they’re looking for a local business – if they click through to your website and find a landing page that is created around the local area they were searching for, they’re more likely to remain on the site and convert into a customer.
Have a Google Map on your contact page
You won’t find many good, optimised websites that don’t have a Google Map embedded on their contact page. Why? Because it’s a simple yet effective way to boost your local SEO.
Not only does this offer a clear, visible location to potential customers to make it easier for them to find you, but it also sends a signal to Google telling them where you are. This goes hand in hand with customers making a localised search as Google can clearly identify your physical address, and better place your website in the search results. With this one simple addition, you can help drive traffic to your website from relevant searches.
Note: Research suggests that this is the most beneficial when placed on your Contact page, so it’s not best practice to embed a Google Map on every page of your website.
When link building, think local
Just as you would look to grow your business by making nearby connections, you’ll benefit from expanding your website’s link profile by obtaining links from the sites of businesses and publications in your area.
Local link, you say?
When we think of link building we often have this grandiose idea of obtaining the most authoritative links possible from DA60+ websites. This isn’t as important for SMEs operating on a local level.
With local links, you’re much more focused on building a network of links that indicates relevance on a local level. That means building up a list of citations, correcting NAP information and so on. More on this in the next point.
Where can I look for these links?
Straight to the point, here’s a list of suggestions if you’re looking to grow a local link profile:
- Local news publications and blogs
Are you featured in any stories? Perhaps they featured you when you launched? Maybe you’ve got a big update on the way and your business is being covered in the press. Having a link in any articles like these would be great.
- Any suppliers or partners you work with
These links can often be reciprocal, meaning you each link to each other’s website to share the mutual benefit.
- Local influencers and bloggers related to your industry
Perhaps there’s a restaurant reviewer that operates in your area. Gaining links from sites with relevant content is a big win, especially if there are local indicators within the piece.
Use local directories
Getting your website listed on as many reputable online directories as possible is not only a great way to boost your visibility and make it easier for customers to contact you, but it also works towards driving your local SEO. Google indexes directory entries, so this can increase the chances of your listing ranking highly, even if your websites’ not quite up there just yet.
It’s essential to ensure your business has a listing on all of the major directories such as Yelp, FourSquare and so on, but for smaller scale businesses who operate on a regional level, there is great benefit in checking out some local directories too. This could be anything from directories created by your local newspaper website, to particular niche directories in your area.
In order for your directory listings to be effective you want to make sure that:
- All of your citations (business name, address and phone number) are accurate and consistent across all directories, and that these are all updated accordingly if any information changes.
- You include a backlink to your website, where possible. Some directories will ask for a fee or a reciprocal link for this, and others may offer it for free.
- Your listing is comprehensive, providing plenty of photos and a thorough description with a breakdown of your services, where applicable.
While backlinks from directories may not provide the same SEO benefits as those high quality organic links from websites relevant to your niche, spending the time to create these listings is a great way to maximise your exposure to potential customers whilst strengthening your online SEO.
We hope you have found our tips to improving your local SEO helpful, and if you make use of all these methods you should see a great improvement in your results. As with all optimisation, it is not an overnight process. You should ensure that you are regularly checking up on all of the above topics and be constantly improving where necessary in order to climb up those search results. Even those who rank #1 for all their keywords can benefit from these tips, as they will help them maintain their excellent standing.
If you want to improve your position when searching for local keywords, then our expert team is here to help. At Pixel Kicks, we have a wealth of experience in optimising websites to appear on the first page of search results for local search queries, just search “web design Manchester” and see where we turn up!
We have years of experience working with a variety of different industries to boost their rankings, from transforming the presence of local eCommerce businesses to offering niche services in digital marketing and website design for law firms.
If you would like to improve your visibility to people searching in your area then please get in touch with us today to see how we can help you.
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