Local SEO: A Simple Guide For Local Businesses

a picture of Tom Donohoe
Written by: Tom Donohoe
Last updated: July 1, 2018

This is the ultimate guide to dominating Google’s Local search results.

And here’s the thing:

Almost half of all searches on Google are for local businesses. You’d be crazy to not want your business on the first page in your local area.

In this guide, you’re going to learn tested strategies that are working right now.

So if you’re looking to up your Local SEO game this year, you’ll love this guide.

Let’s dive right in.





What is local SEO?

Local SEO is the process of optimising your website and online presence for local results in search engines.

The theory is like standard SEO but the techniques used are very different. The main difference is that link building isn’t as important to getting high rankings.

In this chapter, I’ll cover the key concepts to be aware of to understand this guide.





Local SEO Definitions and Concepts

Name, Address, Phone (NAP)

Name, address, phone (NAP) is as simple as it sounds. In Local SEO, it’s crucial that your NAP is consistent across all digital mentions (citations) of your brand.

Citation

A citation is an online reference to your NAP. Google uses them when evaluating the online authority of your business. A citation doesn’t need to be linked back to your website to pass value.

Directory

A directory is the online version of the Yellow Pages. You submit your business to them online to create backlinks and citations to your business.

Local search results

Local search results are the same as normal search results. The key difference is that search engines will serve more ‘localised’ results based on your GPS location.

Ranking signal

It’s a factor that search engines consider in their algorithms when ranking website in the organic search results.

Google’s local business pack

The local business pack is the 3-5 featured business at the top of the search results. They contain reviews, contact details and their location.

Link building

Link building is an seo tactic that aims to create links from other website to your own. Links are consider a major ranking signal by most search engines.

Authority

Authority is a term scored by Moz, an SEO tool, that ranks a website on a scale of 0-100 with 100 being the best. It is used to judge the trustworthiness and power of a website.




Chapter 1

Your Business website

The foundation of your local SEO strategy is your website. And if you don’t have one it’s time to build one.

Without a website Google can’t associate tactics used in this guide to your business.

Let’s go through some basics for getting your business online.





Key Local SEO considerations for your website

This chapter is not a guide on how to build a website. If you want advice on that check out Website Setup.

But, I will cover the key things you need to do to ensure SEO success from your website.

Website Speed Matters

Google hasn’t held back in letting us know that a super fast website will help you rank better. Not only does it influence your rankings, it can also help improve your conversion rate.

In July 2018, Google will start using page speed as a ranking factor on mobile devices. Run your website through Google Page Insights. If you’re seeing a lot of required improvements might be time to seek help to improve page speed.

Go mobile-first

More than half of people who visit your website will be on a mobile device. If your website doesn’t cater to this audience than your losing half of your website traffic.

And to top it off most local searches occur on mobile devices. Google is much less likely to show your website in search results if it’s not mobile responsive.

Sometime this year Google will roll out mobile-first index. This means that your website is judged on the mobile version. And if your website isn’t mobile responsive you could see a big drop off in traffic.

Make it secure with HTTPs

In 2014, Google announced that they were using HTTPs as a ranking signal.

In August 2017, Google said, Chrome will show the “Not secure” warning when users enter data on an HTTP page. This means that any data point on your website (eg. your contact forms) will be “Not Secure”.

If you want to increase your conversion rate and have a better chance of ranking well in Google make sure your website is secure.




Chapter 2

Google My Business

Google My Business accounts are a quick win for all local businesses. Once you’ve set up a profile you can start getting some visibility in Google search results.

Want to know the best part?

It’s completely free! And you don’t need to be tech-savvy to set it up. In this chapter, I’ll cover how to set it up and optimise your listing.





Set up your Google My Business Profile

If you haven’t already head over to Google.com.au/business, and set up your account. It’s a pretty simple process. You’ll need to provide an address for Google to post you a verification code.

Once you get the code, verify your profile and then it will be ready to appear in searches.

I’m not going to go into great detail in a step-by-step into how to setup your Google My Business account. It’s super easy. Instead, I’ll refer you to Google’s guide to Google My Business.

I will cover how to get the best possible result. Try to follow these best practices for profile optimisation.

1. Complete the entire profile

A majority of businesses don’t complete their entire profile with all the features. Local search results favor the freshest and most up to date businesses. Offering detailed and accurate information will make it easier to rank.

Let’s run through what a completed profile looks like.

2. Pick a relevant category

It’s crucial to select a category that explains what your business does. Where possible you should keep this category consistent across social profiles, schema and other directories.

Here’s what you’re category looks like in a search result:

category example for local seo google my business profile

3. Put up as many photos as possible

Research from Google estimates that listings with optimised photos see a 35% increase in clicks than listings that don’t. This shows the importance of having a complete profile with optimised images.

You might be wondering:

“What photos should I upload to my Google listing?”. And that’s the right question to be asking. Not any photo will do. Google has outlined recommended photos that you should be uploading to your profile:

  • Logo image: use your logo to help customers identify your business with a square-sized image.
  • Cover photo: should showcase your brand. It’s the large photo featured at the top of the brand’s Google+ page, it will always be cropped to fit a 16:9 aspect ratio.
  • Outside business: Take several photos of the exterior of your business. So people know what it looks like from the outside.
  • Inside business: Take several photos of the interior of your business. So people know what to expect when they arrive.

All photos should follow Google best practices:

  • Format: JPG or PNG
  • Size: Between 10KB and 5MB
  • Minimum resolution: 720px tall, 720px wide
  • Quality: photos should be in focus and well-lit. And have no photoshop alterations or excessive use of filters. The image should represent reality.
4. Add your business address and a local phone number to your listing

This should be a no-brainer but you want potential customers to be able to find you or contact you.

It’s very important that it’s consistent with that on your website and local directories (more on this soon).

5. Add your opening times/days (if relevant).

If you’re operating between certain hours of the day and week include this information in your profile.

6. Get real reviews from customers

A ton of 5-star reviews not only increases your business trust but can give you a local rankings boost. I cover how to get more reviews in-depth in chapter 5.




Chapter 3

Name, Address & Phone (NAP)

Google interprets business information on the internet via mentions of your business. In particularly, your business name, address and phone number.

Growing a consistent profile of web mentions of your NAP will help build your trust score with Google.

In this chapter, we will explore this a little more.





How to optimise your local NAP

To optimise your NAP you’ll need to plan. I’d recommend setting up a spreadsheet with your business name, phone number (local if possible) and business address.

Everytime you mention your business online refer to yoru spreadsheet. Whether it’s on your website, social media, directory advertising. Copy and paste from your spreadsheet.

To take it to the next level follow these best practices.

1. Implement schema markup on your website

Schema.org is a collaboration between Google, Bing, Yahoo and Yandex to help their search engines understand the content on your website.

It allows them to display ‘rich snippets’ in their search result pages. For example you may have seen review stars for products:

an example of using schema markup review code to improve local seo results

At the very least local businesses should put in place local business schema. This will give context to search engines that you’re are a local business. You can include very useful information in this structured data. Such as opening hours, your NAP, and more.

Below is a useful snippet of code this you can request your web developer puts in the header of your website. Make sure to replace the  “Business Name here ” etc with your actual business information:

<script type=”application/ld+json”> { “@context”: “http://www.schema.org”, “@type”: “Type of business Here”, “name”: “Business Name Here”, “url”: “Business Website Here”, “logo”: “Link to Business Logo Here”, “image”: “Link to Business Image Here”, “telephone”: “Business Phone Number Here”, “description”: “Short Business Description Here”, “address”: { “@type”: “PostalAddress”, “streetAddress”: “Business Street Address”, “addressLocality”: “City/Town Here”, “addressRegion”: “State Here”, “postalCode”: “Post Code Here”, “addressCountry”: “Country Here” }, “openingHours”: “Opening Hours Here” } </script>
2. Make sure listings of your business are consistent NAP

Keep a consistent name, address, phone number across the web. I will say this over and over again and stress it’s importance.

3. Try to build citations of your NAP more on this later

In Chapter 6, I’ll cover strategies to build more citations of your NAP. But you’ll want to build mentions of your NAP across the web on relevant local websites.

This will give off positive signals to Google that you’re a local business.




Chapter 4

Local Reviews

Ranking your business website in Google’s local business pack is reliant on reviews.

And there’s more:

Reviews help with brand trust. People are much more likely to call or visit your website if you have a plenty of 5 star reviews.





How to get more reviews for your local business

If you want to get more reviews you have to be proactive. Yes, you can get a handful of reviews by providing a great product or service.

But if you want to see the reviews flow in you need to put in the work.

Here’s a couple of strategies that work well for generating new reviews for your local business.

1. Go after low-hanging fruit: your existing clients

If you already have a ton of happy customers then you should have no problem getting the ball rolling.

It’s as simple as asking them to leave a review on Google, Facebook or any other channel that your website is on. If you’ve served them well they will be more than happy to leave a review.

2. Create a landing page on your website explaining how to review your business

Some of your clients may not know how to leave a review. So, you should make it as simple as possible for them!

Create a landing page that shows them how to leave a review on Google, Facebook and your top directories.

3. Put a link to review your business in email signature

You’re likely sending emails to clients daily. Why not leverage this by including a link to leave a review for your business.

A consideration is that if you are having a tough time with a client to remove this from your signature before sending. You don’t want to give them the opportunity to leave a bad review.

4. Send out an email campaign to your customers/subscribers

Draft up a email asking your existing customers to leave you a review on your Google My Business profile.

You can direct them to the landing page I mentioned earlier. Or you can make this process super simple for them by provide a link that pops open the review box with 5-stars pre-populated.

A note on bad tactics

While you can influence people to leave a review of your business you should never pay people to do it.

I have seen businesses post tasks on Airtasker asking people to leave a positive review. While you can get some short-term gains with this strategy more often than not you’ll be caught out.




Chapter 5

Localised On-page optimisation

On-page SEO for local business owners follows basic SEO best practices. But, there is more weighting on on-page factors in local SEO than for national businesses.

It’s important that you optimise your individual web pages to get the best results possible.

Let’s run through them.





How to do on-page SEO for a local business

You follow the same process to optimising your on-page SEO for a local business as you would with a national company.

However, you want to include the city/region your targeting within all your on page elements.

1. Title Tag

Add your City/Region, plus a relevant keyword, within your landing page title tag. Here’s an example:
an example of an optimised title tag in local seo

2. H1 Tag

Add your City/Region, plus a relevant keyword, within your landing page H1 tag.

an example of an optimised h1 tag in local seo

3. URL of your landing pages

Add your City/Region, plus a relevant keyword, within your landing page URL.

an example of an optimised page url in local seo

4. Keywords in your content

Try to add your City/Region, plus a relevant keyword, within your landing page content.

an example of an optimised keyword in local seo

5. Keyword in image alt text

Add your City/Region, plus a relevant keyword, within your landing page image ALT attributes.

an example of an optimised alt text in local seo

6.Embed a Google Map on your landing page

Embed a Google map with your business marker into your landing page

an example of an optimised Google Map in local seo




Link building vs Local Link building: what’s the difference?

When building links for national companies you check domain relevance, authority and page context.

It’s a bit different for local businesses. While relevance, authority and content still matter. The location of the website linking to you has more importance.

A link from a local newspaper with average domain authority and topical relevance would be a great link. Compared to a link from a blog site with high domain authority that is in another state or country.

Links vs brand citations

Another key difference is that branded citations of your NAP can be super beneficial.

A link isn’t always necessary to pass value to your domain. If you can get a mention through PR in a local newspaper with of your business name, address and phone number that can be very valuable.

Link building Strategies for local businesses

There are many link building strategies that you could try for local SEO but below I’ve outlined a few that work.

1. Business Directory submissions

Submit your local business to business directories in Australia using a consistent NAP. Look for niche industry related directories. Submit to hyper local directories, eg in your local city.

2. Local PR

Try to gain coverage in local newspapers or publications. They often have high authority domains and links will be valuable.

3. Sponsorships

Sponsoring local organisation, events, sporting teams or charities is a great way to earn links. A small contribution can be enough to earn you a link.

4. Localised Link building

Reach out to local websites that are in your niche and try to get a link.

5. Partners link exchange

Turn to your relationships with other local business who aren’t your competitors. Offer a link exchange where you both benefit.

If you’re looking for more link building ideas, check out this great article: 80+ Link Building Strategies You Can Try Out Now.

Keep in mind that the strategies are not tailored to local business. But you can adopt the strategy and put a local twist on it.




Over to you

I hope you enjoyed my local SEO guide!

Now I’d like to hear what you have to say. What’s the #1 tip that you’re going to put in place?

Let me know by leaving a comment below.



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