It can be easy for the big wins to dominate your SEO strategy. The high readership, high authority bonuses can seem more beneficial to you – and your clients – than optimizing locally. It may be hard to justify spending budget on optimizing for what is often perceived as low-conversion areas, but that’s simply not looking at the bigger picture.
Ignoring local optimization, especially in the wake of Google “Pigeon,” is becoming more and more detrimental to enterprise companies. This trend isn’t likely to plateau either, as the search landscape continues to move towards personalized, location-based SERPs.
Let’s take a look at some of the main reasons for optimizing locally:
It’s well established that Google is serving up increasingly personalized search results based on a variety of factors, including location. So, if your website is optimized solely on a national level, it’ll increasingly be missed off the SERPs in favor of companies that do optimize locally.
‘Snack Pack’ Result Listings
The struggle for visibility becomes even more pressing considering Google’s recent introduction of local ‘snack pack’ listings – essentially less SERP ‘real estate’ for business listings. Google has cut down the number of displayed results from seven to three, meaning there’s much more competition to be visible above the fold.
Therefore, it’s crucial that you get your local listings in order to stand a fighting chance of making the new top three results. Adding as much extra information as you can will help to increase your click-through rate should you be featured in the top three results – pictures, recent reviews, and opening times can all affect how likely a user is to notice your business.
It’s important to dedicate pages on your site to each location your business operates in. This will be the base from which you build authority for your local listings. On this page should be as much information as you can provide for each location, but the most important factor ought to be the NAP citation – that is, the name, address and phone number. The individual location’s page will be the target of any links you earn from external sites, building the page’s authority.
Maintaining consistency across each NAP citation is also crucial, so make sure you avoid multiple variations of business names or using both international and local phone area codes. If more than one person is involved in using listings and directories, it’s probably a good idea to implement an internal process to make sure your NAP citations are standardized.
Building local links to localized pages is simply a more targeted version of traditional SEO activity – you simply aim to earn links specifically from local sites. An example would be to get involved with a charity event in the area and subsequently create a story about your support and fundraising results. You can then offer this story as a press release to local media with the aim of attaining a link to the local branch page, and if this is successful you’ll have effectively built authority through local links to that page. If the charity themselves do likewise – all the better!
In conjunction with on-site listings, it’s important that you take advantage of the external listing opportunities available to you. If your company’s local branches aren’t listed on Google+, this ought to be your first port of call, as Google favors listings in one of their own products.
Make sure that at least your NAP citation is included, and the link to the corresponding local page is listed. From there you can seek out other reputable directories such as Yelp and follow the same process. Just as traditional link earning benefits from a qualitative approach, citations ought to be attained from high-quality targets, and ought not to discount quality in favor of sheer numbers.
Personalized search results also appear regularly in SERPs served up to mobile users, as mobile users’ search queries include location data. And, since mobile usage purportedly surpasses that of desktop users, failing to appear in local searches could represent a strikingly large loss of customer base. Even broad terms such as ‘furniture’ return a single, national brand result and then a selection of three local furniture businesses based on location. Screen space is a prime factor so it’s important that you aim to appear in the top three listings.
The steps outlined above will go a long way to helping you appear in localized search results for mobile users, but there are further methods to help you fully optimize for these devices. Implementing click-to-call tags on your phone number listings is important, as is making sure that your geolocation data is correct and up-to-date.
Gaining reviews from your customers provides much more value to your brand than simply bolstering your confidence. Not only does Google love to see that you have reviews (lending more authority to your brand) – users love to see reviews too.
It’s been shown that users are more likely to click-through to your site and convert if they feel they can trust the brand. It’s a good idea to make the review process as simple as possible encourage people to complete them. If you offer your customers a variety of options for which they can place a review, this will go a long way to helping avoid this.
Reviews are certainly a ranking factor, but they can be a double-edged sword. As with all digital marketing techniques, honesty and transparency are key. Trying to game the system and fake reviews are easily picked up by Google, resulting in a drop in rankings.
Openly soliciting reviews is also frowned upon by many directories, as it is seen as duplicitous behavior. Simply pointing your customers in the direction of your reviews pages at the end of the selling process will suffice.
Finally: Assembling the ‘Trifecta’
The more visible your company is on a local level, the more likely a customer will naturally find and choose your service. On top of this, a local presence will complement your overall efforts to maintain a presence on page one.
If your ads are in order (and this can be easier locally because local ads are cheaper than national ads) and your national optimization is strong, you can establish a large presence on the first page of a search query’s results – culminating in a brand trifecta: ad results, national results, and local results.
Screenshots by Ian Harris. Taken July 2015.
Image credit: Vadim Georgiev| Shutterstock.com