How To Approach Local SEO for Small Businesses in 2017

If you own a local business, then local SEO is one of the most important and efficient strategies you can use to gain an edge against your local competitors. Having a proper and effective local SEO strategy is your key to moving up in the local SERPs. Google has been putting a lot of emphasis on local search lately, so now is the time to reanalyse your local SEO strategy to figure out if you need to implement a new one.

A research conducted by Google showed that four out of five people use search engines when they are looking for a local product or service before making a purchase. When looking for shopping, food, or entertainment, people almost always want something local. So, if your website is not optimised and ranked properly, then you are not receiving as much foot traffic as possible.

A 2014 study showed that 50% of consumers would visit a local store within a day of search on their smartphones. All business should take advantage of local SEO and make their website more local-friendly!

We compiled this actionable local SEO resource guide that presents step-by-step highly effective strategies to help you through the process.

Local 3-Pack Listing

There is some up-front work that you need to perform on your website to make sure you are able to get the best possible rank, especially if your goal is to rank in the local pack listing (3-pack). One of the big changes was that Google cut the 7-pack down to the 3-pack. This means that there is a much higher competition for this section of local search results and that only business with strong and proper SEO practices will be able to rank their business there.

3-pack appears below AdWords ads. They are not ads, but the algorithmically ranked listings. Users then can click any of those results and the new business profile page will load. Clicking “More” at the bottom of the 3-pack will show the full page of local results with a large map on the right.

In order to rank in the 3-pack, you will need to rely less on building backlinks, and focus your efforts more on local reviews, local NAP citations, and My Business signals. We are going to get into that in the next section of the article.

3 local pack listing

Google My Business

The first thing you need to do is to claim your Google My Business page. Just follow simple instructions and fill out all the information.

Here’s what you should include:

  • Choose the correct category. This is essential as it helps Google classify your business and the type of search queries it will show your listing for.
  • Add a local phone number to the listing. You can add up to 5 categories.
  • Upload as many photos as possible to show people your services and goods, as this tells a story about your business
  • Add a long and unique description and include links
  • Add your business address and make sure that is consistent with the address you have listed on your website and in local directories. Also, verify your business location in order to have the best opportunity for it to appear in search results. You’ll have to wait 1-2 weeks for a postcard with verification PIN, or in some cases, you’ll have the option to receive PIN by phone call or text message, so make sure you take a phone call or text message option. After you receive the postcard, you’ll have 30 days to verify.
  • Upload a high-resolution cover and profile photo
  • If is relevant, add your opening times/days

 

It is an imperative to get your business listed on Google My Business. It’s free to use and it helps customers find your business on Google Maps, Search, and Google+. If you are not listed there, then the people searching for local products or services won’t be able to find you. This also allows customers to leave you a review. With genuine and positive reviews, customers will be much more likely to make business with you than your competitor.

On-Page Optimisation

A key factor in any SEO campaign is on-page optimisation. This should be your priority before you even start with building backlinks or citations because is one of the top ranking factors.

Your homepage should be the hub of information. Other subpages should be presented clearly in a navigation menu from there for each of the services you offer.

MOZ’s local search ranking factor report state that on-page signals account for 21% of ranking signals for local results.

on page signals

Photo credit: moz.com

NAP
As with any part of local SEO, your business name, address, and phone number on your website’s pages should be fully correct. Don’t add any keywords here and make sure you are using a local phone number. Everything on your pages should match your Google My Business profile.

Title tag/meta description
When writing title tag, make sure it contains a city, state, and your keyword. Arrange the words in a way that looks professional and not spammy. Here are some ideas for title tags.

Your meta description should be catchy and make people click through to your website. Again include city, state, and keyword, but you can also write your phone number as well. Make sure that title tag and meta description is unique on each page.

Header tags
The most important header tag is H1, and you should include city, state, and keyword again (don’t make it look spammy). Stick to only one H1, and make a hierarchy out of other header tags. You can get keyword or city in the H2 as well.

Page copy
The content on the page should be unique, relevant, and it should revolve around the keyword you want to rank for. 300-500 words article with a few headers that makes people do something (like call you or submit a form) is plenty.

Business hours
People that land on your page want to know when you are open, so display your working hours prominently. Write it in a text format, and you can also use a Schema mark-up for this.

Customer reviews/testimonials
With these you can build trust quickly, so a few real reviews is a way to go. To make it look more legit, you can include a proof that a reviewer is a real person (like their social profile). You can also include links to your review profiles on sites such as Yelp, Facebook, Angie’s List, Google+, etc.

NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number)

Having a consistency with your NAP is paramount and crucial. Be sure that you write your full NAP on every page of your website. You must also use the exact same and identical format and details when you mention any part of your NAP on other websites (such as citations).

Search engines use NAP details found by crawling the internet to judge the accuracy of the data in their own indexes. For example, using “25 Random Street, Miami FL” and “25 Random St, Miami, FL” can have negative effects. If your NAP is listed completely identical in all locations, then Google will deem them a more valid business.

By having your NAP consistent across all citations and business directories, you are also providing consumers the correct information right as they are making a search. Remember that 78% of mobile searches result in offline purchases!

It’s a good idea to use schema.org markup on your NAP so the search engines have all they need to display your information correctly.

Here we can see how they’ve added NAP in the site footer and marked it with Schema.org mark-up. You can use the code below; just adapt the bolded text to your information:

<div itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/LocalBusiness”> <p itemprop=”name”>COMPANY NAME</p> <p itemprop=”address” itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/PostalAddress”> <p itemprop=”streetAddress”>ADDRESS LINE 1</p> <p itemprop=”addressLocality”>CITY</p>, <p itemprop=”addressRegion”>REGION</p> <p itemprop=”postalCode”>POSTCODE/ZIP</p. <p itemprop=”telephone”>PHONE NUMBER</p> <meta itemprop=”latitude” content=”LATITUDE” /> <meta itemprop=”longitude” content=”LONGITUDE” /> </div>

Local Customer Reviews

You’ll want to spend time on acquiring local reviews since they have a direct impact on local rankings. Although your priority should be focused on getting Google reviews, you should also get some reviews on your Yelp page and on local directories.

You won’t be converting anyone who is searching for your services into customers if you have low quality reviews since majority of people will click the business with the best reviews.

At first, you should grab any low-hanging fruit by contacting and communicating with your existing customers and see if they would be interested in leaving you a review. You could also incentivise them with a discount, coupon, or anything else that may apply to your business. Another idea is that you can create a page on your website with instructions for your customers on how they can leave a review for your business. This is very effective for the non-technical people.

local customer reviews

Stick to a few main sites where people can drop you a nice review. Here are some review sites, depending on your business type (top 5 seem to help the most with local rankings):

  • Google+
  • Yelp!
  • Facebook
  • Industry specific review websites
  • Trip Advisor
  • Yellow Pages
  • BBB
  • Yahoo! Local
  • Angie’s List

You should be focusing your strategy mostly on Google reviews since Google’s algorithm revolves around them and people who use Google for searching click on the results that include them. You need 5 or more reviews in order for Google to show the gold stars in search results, and in order to get a 5-star review rating, you need to have 10 or more reviews.

Here are some ideas to get more Google reviews from your customers:

  • Customer handout – you should make it easy for your customers to leave you a review on Google, and you do this by making a simple handout with easy instructions to give to customers. This is especially great for the non tech-savvy people.
  • Review page on your website – you can make a simple page on your website with step-by-step instructions on how people can drop you a review.
  • Email your customers – if you have customers on your email list or you communicate with them through email, then this is a very effective strategy. Be polite and appreciative when asking them for this favor.
building citations

Building Citations

A citation is a simple online reference to your business name, address, and phone number (NAP). The most important thing is that they are perfectly consistent and same everywhere.

You can start building citations after your Google My Business profile is set up and verified. Is also very important that you did on-page SEO optimisation beforehand. Manual citation building is always recommended because that way you have full control over your citations. Also, keep track of all citations in a spreadsheet so you can always have it handy in case you need to change some of them or just to know which ones are done.

Citation Audit

Make sure that you first conduct a citation audit before you commence building new ones.

Bright Local (you can get a 30-day trial) is a great tool that you can use to see all your existing citations and update them if they are not the same, but also check possible duplicate listings.

With Bright Local, you can also see your competitor’s citations so you can add your own citation to the same websites. This way you can get the citations that the top ranking competitors have, so make sure that your website’s NAP is listed on all of them in order to match the competition.

Citation Building

There are 3 main types of citations that you should be building:

  1. Top national directories (such as BBB, YouTube, Facebook, etc.)
  2. Top industry relevant directories – you can find these directories by searching your keywords and city to see which directories show up
  3. Local relevant directories – this includes the chamber of commerce, your city’s business directory, etc.

 

Here is a list of the top citation sites where you should drop your NAP first:

In The End

Google is constantly updating its algorithms so the local search is always evolving. We hope that this guide for local SEO can give you a great jumpstart for your strategy.

Use our guide to rank highly on local search, build a strong online presence, and be one step ahead of your competition.