Optimising your website for search engines is highly competitive and challenging, especially for small to medium-sized businesses who do not have the same budgets and resources as larger corporations. For this reason, lots of businesses are now looking to a more localised SEO strategy to improve their rankings on Google and other search engines.
What is Local SEO?
Essentially local SEO does what it says on the tin – it involves optimising your website to rank more highly for relevant localised searches. The good thing about local SEO is that you don’t need hundreds of pounds to spend on marketing or hundreds of links to your website to gain visibility. It also tends to deliver more qualified leads.
Introducing the Google Maps Box
You may have noticed from your own searching that Google displays two sets of results; the organic listings and a smaller set (or Maps Box) within a box alongside a map. The Maps Box usually sits at the very top of the first results page and displays three local businesses seen to be most relevant to the search query. It is thought that around 33% people click on these results, so you should aim to rank here as well as within the normal, organic listings.
Within this blog post we will aim to provide you with 5 simple, actionable ways to improve your local SEO; aiming to get your business higher rankings within organic search results and a sought-after spot among the snack pack!
1. Check you are mobile friendly
Approximately 60% searches on Google come from mobile devices so it is essential that your website has a mobile-friendly (ideally responsive) design. Not only does Google consider your mobile-friendliness within its ranking algorithm, but customers are also much less likely to shop with you or contact you if they are battling to view your desktop site on their smartphones.
You can check if your website is mobile-friendly using this free tool by Google – simply paste your URL into the box and await your results. Hopefully, you’ll see a big green message advising you that your website is mobile-friendly. If it’s not, this should be your priority, so please get in touch with us at Worcester Web Studio to see how we can help!
2. Identify your local keywords
If you have been working on general SEO or PPC campaigns, you are likely to have already established some target keywords for your website. However, these will differ slightly for local SEO as they will need to bring your location/s into the equation. Luckily, identifying local keywords is easy-peasy if you follow the SiLs (services in locations) method.
Simply list your primary services or product types followed by all the locations that you serve, being sure to include plurals and variations of services. It is also worth bearing in mind that towns and cities are more popularly searched than counties or regions.
When your list is complete, decide on the most relevant keywords to target and use these within your website where possible (remembering to avoid keyword stuffing!).
3. Google My Business
When searching for a specific local business, Google will usually display a Google My Business “card” on the right-hand side of its organic listings. The Google My Business Card is made up of useful ‘at-a-glance’ information such as the address, opening hours and reviews – plus links to the website, directions and even social media profiles.
Google My Business cards are often automatically generated by Google using the information it has found about you online. However, you can easily claim your business listing to gain control and further enhance it.
To claim your listing, simply search for your business on Google and click ‘Own this Business?’ within the card. Don’t worry if you can’t find your card – it may not exist yet – but you can create one yourself at: https://business.google.com/. You will need to verify your listing with a unique code that Google provide to you by calling your business number or sending a postcard to your business address.
Once verified, work through your profile completing as much information as possible to help you outshine your local competition. There are lots of features available for you to utilise – from editing your descriptions to answering questions and responding to reviews. Be warned that despite verifying ownership, anyone is free to suggest edits to your business, so it’s worth checking on your Google My Business card regularly.
4. Online reviews
Online reviews have a whole host of benefits and play a significant part in improving your local SEO. Not only are they considered a ranking factor by Google, but they also have a huge influence on consumer purchasing decisions – giving customers good insight into how well your business (and competitors) can deliver on your promises.
The age-old SEO catchphrase of “content is king” is still somewhat applicable when it comes to reviews. Google’s bots (or spiders) are constantly on the lookout for unique, regularly updated content to crawl, and consumer reviews tend to tick both boxes!
You should therefore encourage your customers to review your business online as much as possible, and we have shared tips on how to do so in our recent blog post: Level up your business with online reviews.
Additionally, the phrases within reviews are often the same as those used by searchers, therefore increasing your chances of ranking well for relevant keywords – especially those including ‘reviews’ or ‘ratings’ which are notoriously difficult to optimise for.
5. Optimise your images
Search engine results pages (SERPs) are becoming increasingly varied; now including images and videos within the main listings where relevant. In addition to this, tools such as Google’s reverse image search are also contributing to search volumes so should not be overlooked when it comes to optimisation.
We therefore need to make sure that videos and images are SEO-friendly, starting with the file name! Sticking to a generic ‘image1’ type formula (or worse – a random combination of autogenerated letters and numbers) is almost enough to guarantee that your visual content will be buried beneath the millions of other images and videos online. Instead, label your content with a descriptive, meaningful name to increase their chances of ranking.
Remember that search engines use alt tags to read the content of your images, so be sure to also include your local keywords within these descriptions wherever it makes sense to do so!
Although there is no easy way to the top when it comes to SEO, a localised strategy could help you to outrank competitors in key areas of your business. Whilst we have only just scratched the surface, we hope that the advice above provides a starting point for your own local SEO success!