Back in 2013, I wrote a Local SEO Guide blog to help you ‘Reduce competition and increase Google ranking…easily’. Although a lot of the advice holds true, the Google landscape is ever changing and local SEO was brought sharply into focus when, on 24th July 2014, Google rolled out an algorithm update that – for want of a name – Search Engine Land christened ‘Google Pigeon’.
For the time being, Google Pigeon has only been rolled out in the US but we can expect that this algorithm change will arrive in the UK and Europe in the near future. Over the past five months, the SEO industry has had the opportunity to see how searches for local businesses have changed post-Google pigeon.
I’ve put together seven simple things that you can do today to improve your business’s visibility in local searches and attract local traffic. This is especially important if you have a bricks and mortar business and rely on local footfall rather than offering products and/or services exclusively online.
Local SEO hack 1: Feature your name, address and a local phone number
It’s a good idea to add your business name, address and a local telephone number to your website’s header, so that it is visible on every page. Not only does this help Google spot that yours is a local business, it also helps your customers find your contact details quickly and easily without having to navigate to your Contact page to get in touch.
Local SEO hack 2: Add your business to prominent directories
There are seven spots available to businesses near the top of page one of Google in local searches. These days, sites that have more citations or directory listings are likely to rank higher, so we would recommend that you list your business on reputable directory sites. Most directories offer a free listing option in addition to more prominent paid-for listings.
We’ve put together a list of popular local directory and citation sources at the end of this blog to help you spot gaps in where your business is listed. Of course, it’s not possible for us to list every local site in your area but a quick Google search should give you a fantastic starting point.
It’s also worth asking your customers for Google reviews and star ratings as these draw the eye and not only help to make your listing more visible but also build trust by offering social proof that other people have used your business and had a good experience. We can see the visual impact of having positive reviews in the screen shot below.
While we’re on the topic of directories, it’s essential to have identical address details and contact numbers in all citations. For example, as my contact page on my website says I’m at Woodleigh Road, it would be a bad idea to abbreviate my address to Woodleigh Rd on directory sites.
If you do spot inconsistencies across your various directory listings, take some time out when you can to amend your listings and ensure they reflect your current offerings and details.
Local SEO hack 3: Create location-focused pages
As Google is looking for clues that your website will be relevant to local searchers, you might want to consider creating location-focused pages. Depending on your business, you could do this by mentioning or even having dedicated pages about local landmarks, parks, sports teams and/or locally relevant content or news stories that people might be searching for in your region.
Some websites manage to create a page per locality but this has to be done well or it can come across as spammy. If you do decide to create a page per place, try to give each page a unique focus, and create content that will be of interest and add value to your customer’s experience of your site.
Local SEO hack 4: Set up your Google My Business page properly
If you don’t already have a Google My Business page, make sure it goes to the top of your to-do list. Google My Business puts your business information on Search, Maps and Google+ so that your customers can find you from any device.
By having a Google My Business page, you can control the information Google has and presents to searchers about your business, including your opening hours, contact information, images and business description.
Google My Business also helps you to build a loyal fan base where customers can add ratings and reviews, +1 your content (the Google equivalent of a Facebook like) and share your Google+ posts across the web.
Google Maps has changed recently. Now when someone does a Google Maps search, local businesses with a Google My Business presence appear on the map and on a scrollable panel to the left that features their contact details, an image and the number of Google reviews/star rating. The chances are that if someone is using Google Maps to look for local businesses, they will begin their enquiries with the businesses that are prominent in this panel.
Local SEO hack 5: Create a system for encouraging reviews on Google+
One of the biggest barriers to buying is the customer’s fear that their purchase will be a mistake. Social proof in the form of rave reviews and testimonials can really help to overcome this barrier. As we’ve also seen, reviews hold a lot of sway with the search engines, including for local searches.
Try to ask your customers to leave a review on your Google My Business page if they’re happy with the products or services they’ve received. We found this excellent article on Local Visibility System about how to encourage Google reviews – the key takeaway is that you should try to make it as easy as possible for your customers. Prompt them at the point of purchase, for example, or by following up with clear instructions at the end of a project. We found a brilliant Google review generator handout created by Whitespark and Phil Rozek that you can give to customers to help them leave a review.
Local SEO hack 6: Earn local links
As a local business, you probably have lots of links within your local community. Although your priority needs to be staying relevant to your audience and providing them with high value content, are there ways that you can connect with local businesses or resources or encourage your contacts to link back to your website?
If Google sees that yours is a respected local business with high quality backlinks from other businesses nearby, this can also improve your visibility and the trust with which your business is viewed.
Local SEO hack 7: Engage with local customers on social media
If you do want to attract local customers into your bricks and mortar premises, social media could be one of the ways that you do it. It’s a good idea, for example, to make sure that you have a Facebook business page that’s set up to show that you’re a local business (this guide from Hubspot will show you how). This will give customers the chance to leave reviews but, also, it means that you can provide details about opening hours, parking facilities and all the stuff your local customers will want to know.
By creating a page where you respond to queries and share content that your customers will love, you can build up a local buzz around your business and drive new footfall through your door.
Resource: Local directories and UK citation sources
Below you will find a list of some of the current online local directories (although this list is by no means exhaustive):
118Information.co.uk – Add your business to 118 Information to get your website listed by BT, 118118.com, 192.com, 118500, Yahoo, Bing, Touch Local and dentonsweb.com
ApprovedBusiness.co.uk (Business to Business directory)
The iGroup (find the local business directory for your region)
Do you run a bricks and mortar business or depend on local traffic? Is there anything that has particularly helped or hindered your local SEO efforts? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the Comments section below.
If you want more help with your local SEO we’ve created The Local SEO 7-Step System, a game-changing online course designed to get you to the top of Google for local searches and make YOU irresistible to YOUR local customers