A Beginner’s Guide to Local SEO

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If your business relies on local people for its trade and you also have a website, then it’s essential that you carry out local SEO in order for your customers, both existing and potential, to find you.

However, local SEO is not the same as national or international, as it comes with a few unique, additional elements that you’ll need to consider. The first and most important of these is claiming your local listing on search engines, most ostensibly Google Places and Bing Place for Business.

It’s simple to set these up, although Google Places does take a while to send through the necessary pin numbers at times, if you choose the ‘postcard’ option. It’s an easy process to sign up to both Bing and Google though, just follow the prompts.

Before you get started though, there are a few additional things to think about.

  • Your address and contact details – make sure that these are 100% correct and use the same format as any other web listings that you have, including those on your website (more on this later)
  • Have you set up and claimed a company page on G+? If not, do so either before or after you set up Places
  • Can you find a way to ask your customers for reviews on Places? Perhaps plan a mail shot via newsletter once you have Places set up
  • Is your site optimised for mobile

Citations

As mentioned above, you will need to ensure that your listing is set up in such a way that it’s uniform with all of your name, address and phone (NAP) details that are currently listed online. This means that any place online which lists your NAP details must list them the same as Places.

For example, if you list your phone number as international, eg., +61 2 8006 4428, then it must appear this way everywhere. Likewise, for addresses, don’t use abbreviations in one place but not in another, and don’t omit the country on one site but list it on another.

Hang on, Citations? What are they?

Citations are just as described above, places on the web that list your business address. Commonly, these are found in directory listings, but before you go all out and decide to list your business on every directory site that you can find, you should be aware that you need to take care.

Backlinks to your site are usually a good thing, but thanks once again to Google’s algorithm updates, it’s wise to proceed with caution when it comes to directories to ensure that the site is a good one.

To choose directories for your listings:

  • Go for big name business directories such as Yelp
  • Keep smaller listings highly relevant to your industry
  • Look out for low quality directories that are poorly managed and attract spam links and avoid as necessary
  • If in doubt about a directory, don’t bother

More isn’t necessarily better in this case and you want to ensure you don’t harm your site by exposing it to low quality sites.

Reviews

The third thing that you need to do to ensure that you’ve optimised off site for local SEO is get reviews. Google Places allows your customers to add reviews to your listing and the more you have, the better you look to Google and the higher the bots will rank you.

Bearing this in mind, it’s a good idea to do everything you can to gain reviews, so ask family friends and customers. You can do this with email newsletters or even an in store print campaign that asks customers to review your business when they get home. If you’re listed on big directories, it doesn’t hurt to ask for reviews to be placed on them either.

Schema Markup

This is more complex and is likely to be something that you’d want your webmaster to carry out. Schema markup is what allows snippets to be displayed under a site’s URL in search and looks like this:

Schema markup

In the top result, there is the usual Meta data to be found underneath the listing for the movie. However, in the second result, there is additional data such as reviews, information on actors etc.

For businesses, more important information can be added to the markup, such as opening hours, events, testimonials and even pricing information.

The Techy Stuff

Schema markup basically uses additional code that’s ‘wrapped around’ the HTML that your site’s built on. You don’t have to have coding skills to be able to use it, you can find online generators that can make the code for you and then ensure it works using Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool.

If you use WordPress, there are some schema generator tools out there; however I haven’t found any that work well as yet (any suggestions welcome!), so you may have to dig around a little and indulge in a little trial and error.

Other Local SEO Considerations

When you’re writing copy for your site, do bear local keywords in mind to further boost local SEO. This should never be overdone – don’t try stuffing the place name of your business in wherever possible, it will do more harm than good – but it will help if you have local area place names scattered throughout the site.

Meta information should also be updated to reflect your location in descriptions and titles (forget keyword Meta data, it’s not crawled anymore), so if you’re based in Melbourne and you’re a florist, then your description would reflect both these facts. Don’t repeat the same thing over and over on every page of your site though, as again, this could do more harm than good.

All of this will help your business to be more discoverable in your local area. This is important in these heady ‘always connected’ days, as it’s likely that people will find you whilst on the go via a mobile device. Carrying out local SEO will ensure that your site is ranked above others in the area that stick to traditional SEO.

Think Mobile

Finally, since many of your potential customers are likely to be searching via a mobile device, ensure that your site is mobile friendly. People leave a site very quickly if it doesn’t perform well and this will harm any local SEO effort that you put in too.

With this in mind, if your site isn’t responsive, or mobile ready, then make sure it is. Responsive sites are highly accessible these days, especially if you use WordPress (plenty of free and premium themes available), so they are affordable for most businesses and definitely worth the bother.

UPDATE: See our post on Local SEO Tools.

17 SEO Myths
Kerry Butters

A prolific technology writer, Kerry was an authority in her field and produced content for a variety of high profile sites in her niche. Also a published author, she adored the written word and all things tech and internet related. Sadly she passed away in February 2016 after a valiant battle with cancer.

5 thoughts on “A Beginner’s Guide to Local SEO

  1. Noor says:

    Kerry – very well laid out article! I’m surprised that you missed stuff that you need to do within Google Plus / Maps to ensure that it’s done properly. For example, duplicates within Google Plus can play havoc, so can getting listed in the wrong category.

    Another BIG factor I’ve seen with the ability of my citations to drive more juice to my Google Local ranking is whether they are complete and claimed. I typically use a third-party tool like Synup.com or GetListed.org to scan and see how complete my citations and whether they’ve been claimed. Saves a whole bunch of time.

    On top of Google and Bing, I’d also try to get listed on Factual (feeds directly to Apple Maps) as well as Here.com (feeds to Nokia and Windows Phone Maps).

  2. Kerry Butters says:

    Hi Noor, thanks for reading :) I was going to do another local SEO article for the more advanced user so I will include any relevant info in that. Thanks for your comments too, I will be sure to look at this in more detail in the next piece – any further info very welcome!

  3. Gaurav Sharma says:

    Citation for the places listing is very important and it plays an vital role for increasing your visibility but surely its important to check the directories before submitting anything about your site. Google penalty can destroy the online business in a min and it would be hard to get back. You have well mentioned everything but I would like to add few points like. adding address markup and contact markup on site by schema or RDFA will impact a lot in getting leads to your site. Having video of you local business will also affect positively.

    I think this SEO guide http://theninehertz.com/complete-website-seo-guide-part-1/ will help you more to learn things more deeply.

    I would welcome your thoughts as well.

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