Local SEO is an extension of the SEO practice as a whole. Local SEO is the process of optimising a local business’ website (or a specific location page of a regional or national business’ website) for the location it services. Optimising your site for the local area helps search engines understand your area of operation and better display relevant results to their users searching for services or products near them.
This is fairly self explanatory. Utilising local SEO tactics and techniques means Google and other search engines can provide highly relevant results to their users – this means they have provided a good service, which makes the search engines happy. It also makes the users happy as they are served local, relevant and quality businesses based on their search term and location. In turn, this leaves the local businesses (that have employed local SEO practices) happy as their results get displayed to relevant users who require their products or services. Thus, everyone is happy about local SEO. Let’s get into what’s involved:
There are many factors in local SEO, a lot of which overlap with ‘traditional SEO’ techniques, but are tweaked based no location. We have a few go-to techniques that are a must, as well as a few lesser-known, more technical aspects that all contribute to local SEO.
One of the first things we will do is ensure a company has a Google My Business listing. This is incredibly important in optimising a site for local search. Google My Business allows local businesses to submit their company details, location and contact information to the GMB database, of which Google will utilise when serving search results to its users, should it be relevant. It puts your business on the map (literally), allows users to see images of your company as well as see and leave ratings and reviews (which play a key role in whether or not Google will display your company to searchers). GMB listings are also shown as rich snippets in search results – you’ll no doubt have seen a map, along with a list of relevant local businesses when you’ve performed a local search on Google.
Another key aspect of local SEO is properly utilising structured data. This is, generally speaking, a job for your web developer as it is somewhat technical and requires some knowledge of coding and back-end systems. Fear not – a developer can get this implemented into your site pretty quickly; you can even do some of the leg work for them by using the structured data markup helper tool by Google (it’s free!).
Structured data is, initially, for ‘robot consumption’, however it benefits search engine results and, by extension, humans, greatly in that it provides them with key information about your company and website in an easy to understand format. Search engines read this data and add it to your website’s results in the search results page. It can also lead to rich results if Google deem it appropriate the to searcher.
As previously mentioned, ratings and reviews are an important factor in local SEO. Not only do they provide users with previous customer’s experiences and opinions on the company, but they also provide search engines with this data. The more genuine and good ratings and reviews you have, the more search engines will like your website. Be careful here: a large influx in ratings and reviews can be a negative ranking factor in Google’s eyes (even if they’re all perfect ratings). Google sees this as spam, as some have been known to try to exploit rating systems in their favour. The best thing to do is to try to get a steady trickle of ratings from satisfied customers you’ve worked with / sold your product to.
We’re into ‘general SEO’ territory here, but it’s not just about utilising it, it’s about how you utilise it. Metadata (namely meta titles and descriptions) are imperative to any successful SEO efforts. These are the initial contact a potential customer has with your site in search engine results and can be the deciding factor of whether or not they will click through to learn more. Meta titles are a ranking factor for Google and should be keyword optimised and relevant. For local SEO efforts, be sure to include the town / city you are targeting to give search engines a really good indication that this is your area of servicing. Be aware that meta titles only show 60 characters (typically), so anything over that is wasted and won’t be displayed.
Although not a ranking factor for Google, meta descriptions let users know what the page is about before they click on it. A relevant, enticing and informative description should be added to every key page on your website (ideally all pages) to get the best possible click through rate – just be sure to stay within the recommended 160 character limit.
It feels like we’re constantly going on about HTTPS implementation here at Alpha, but it really is a big deal. HTTPS ensures the security of information sent between users on your website and your server. Without it, you run the risk of hackers intercepting users information and stealing it – no one wants that.
Get your SSL certificate from Ventra IP and liaise with your developer to have it implemented. Google will favour a site with HTTPS over one without it in their results, not least you are offering an extra layer of protection for your users. This is especially important on eCommerce websites that take customer’s payment details.
Something else we’re always droning on about at Alpha is ensuring your site is mobile friendly. Google are moving to their mobile-first index in 2018, where they will decide on where to rank your website in their search results based on your mobile site, not your desktop site as they currently do. This means an excellent mobile site is incredibly important.
Page load times can be make or break for some users – Google estimate that 53% of users will leave a page if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load! That’s a pretty scary fact considering they also calculated that the average time it takes a page to fully load on mobile is 22 seconds! Some useful tools for improving your page load speeds are:
Pingdom Tools – we use this every day to determine page load speeds (be sure to test from Melbourne for accurate results in Australia).
Google’s Mobile Testing Tool – mobile speed testing from Google.
Both provide some useful insight into how long it takes to load your site as well as how to improve the speed (there’s always room for improvement!).
Now take your new found insights and knowledge of local SEO and conquer the search results for your area! We believe in you.