As SEO affectionados have been aware for some time, Google places an overwhelming importance on local businesses and geographically serving businesses.
Local search also goes hand in hand with mobile search and it’s no wonder Google has placed such prominence on local and mobile search simultaneously when you consider the following:
- In Australia, 1 in 5 Google searches is local
- Australia has the highest penetration of click share from tablet devices (9.3%) and the third highest penetration of click share from smartphones (11.75%) in the world
- Statistically, local searches on smartphones are most likely to convert to an in store visit when compared to other devices
Unfortunately (and surprisingly) the businesses most with the biggest opportunity to benefit from the value of Google’s love for local search, small business and SME’s, are also largely overlooking local search optimisation.
As an exercise, we spent 30 minutes listing our favourite local restaurants in the Greater Sydney region. We did a local search audit and found that out of the 18 restaurants we had chosen, less than half had any local search optimisation or a Google + Local page!
Key Ingredients for Google Local Search Optimisation
Optimising for Google Local search or Local Search Optimisation (a more inclusive term factoring in Bing and Yahoo!) is and should be a part of any decent SEO strategy. Whether you conduct in house SEO yourself or use a reputable, well-known SEO company, asking about what local search optimisation you’re getting for your hard earned buck is critical.
Any SEO professional worth his or her wages should be able to factor in the following components as part of their Local Search Optimisation Strategy:
1. Create and optimise Google+ Local for your locations
Optimising Google+ Local (previously Google Places), is a proven way to occupy real estate often appearing well above standard results. Far from the only benefit, Google+ Local will also allow users to leave reviews which is another powerful signal in SERP and you’ll be able to see statistics on your visitors and the searches they conducted.
Relevance: Is all about how you listing and the information you’ve entered matches a user’s search terms. This means you need to fill out every detail you can give as well as uploading rich media such as images and video
Distance: An obvious one but consider that in large metropolitan regions, Google will divide the city into smaller parts. Place yourself in your customer’s shoes and think about how locals will be typing in their queries and mimic those localities as best you can.
Prominence: This is essentially a measure of your authority and how well known your business is across the web. Prominence looks at things like reviews, articles, directory listings and social signals.
Obtain Citations for your Name, Address & Phone number (NAP)
A citation is any mention of your business name, address, and phone number on the web or NAP for short and the more citations you have, the more confident Google is your place is a trustworthy establishment it should display in search results.
The are two important areas to focus on with NAP citations.
Firstly, NAP citations should be exactly the same wherever they appear. For instance don’t have 0412 345 678 on one site and +61412 345 678 on another.
The second thing to focus on is to get your NAP on as many quality sites you can get your hands on. A strong word of caution here, avoid black hat SEO techniques including dodgy content farms and directories. Browse the directory and see if the categories actually serve relevant results before adopting them yourself.
A reputable SEO partner will be able to obtain quality industry specific link and directories you should drop your NAP into.
To get you started, dropping your NAP into the following directories as free listings is a great idea:
2. Proactively source reviews for your business
Google views reviews as an extremely powerful signal and if you’re not getting them you’re missing out.
Some businesses, particularly in the B2B world, create email templates ready to send at the end of a happy customer phone call instructing how to leave a positive Google+ rating.
You may want to consider an automated system that sends emails exactly a week after transactions for customers to submit reviews.
It is important to think quality before quantity and most businesses (good ones anyway) find once they get the ball rolling with a few reviews, they begin to occur naturally.
3. Use rich snippets or micro-data on your website to optimise for local search
Have you noticed how some search results come with dynamic media such as star ratings, videos, pictures etc? Well they are a result of someone using rich snippets or micro data code on their website.
Rich snippets allow you to display images, ratings, recipes and much more
The best framework for micro-data is schema.org; which is an official collaboration by Google, Bing and Yahoo! and therefore supported by all the major search engines.
Surprisingly (to me anyway), many SEO-service vendors are still too lazy to implement micro-data markup on websites.
For me, it’s very clear how and why adopting micro-data code on your website is worth the effort. Google is increasingly changing search results and looking to bring more cues for users to assist in relevancy.
You can head over to schema.org/localbusiness and browse the schema elements that will work for your business.
You should then use Google’s structure Data testing tool to see how your link may appear in search results to check if you’ve done the process correctly.
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