A quick guide to local SEO

We run the rule over local SEO to help you take advantage.

1. What is local SEO?

Local SEO is the practice of improving an organisation’s visibility within local search results.

In recent years, location-based search results have risen in prominence thanks in part to the increased usage of smartphones and tablets. According to Econsultancy, by 2011, over 40% of mobile queries had local intent, which is why Google and other search engines have adapted to bring increasingly relevant results to users on the move.

2. How has Google changed its algorithm for local search?

In July 2014, Google unveiled the Pigeon algorithm update, which became known as ‘the local update’. It took into consideration location and distance, leading to a change in the results for Google search and Google Map search.

Google Places became Google My Business and was given far greater prominence in results, whilst queries didn’t need to feature a location for locale results to appear. All of this means there are new opportunities for businesses such as bars, restaurants, tradesmen and retailers to achieve greater visibility within the locations they operate.

In addition, in the first half of 2015, Google launched its first mobile update, dubbed ‘Mobilegeddon’. Whilst this change was about giving preference to mobile-ready sites, both this and the local update are about improving the search experience to users on the move.

3. What changes can I make to my website to improve my visibility within local results?

As local results are primarily designed to help people on the move, it’s essential that you have a mobile-friendly website. Without that, you’re likely to fall foul of mobilegeddon and therefore struggle to rank in local results.

It’s important to follow a best practice approach to SEO to build your strategy on a solid foundation. From there, you should be looking at optimising the content, page titles and meta description on your website to help Google understand your location. Your main keywords are still important, but your location will need to be considered within your copy in order for your site to rank.

Including schema microdata will be useful too. This is a type of microdata within the code on a site that makes it easier for search engines to understand the content they’re crawling. If you have multiple locations to your business, each address should be marked up within the code.

Another useful tip is to embed a map within your site. This reinforces the other content and data you’ve added to ensure Google knows exactly where your business is located.

4. What is Google My Business and how can I use it to my advantage?

Google My Business gives businesses greater visibility by placing key information on Google Search, Maps and Google+. It’s a feature that has been designed to make it easier for businesses to have a stronger search presence within local results and for users to find relevant information.

The important thing is to add as much important information as you can (e.g. opening times, phone numbers, reviews, menus, etc) and to choose the most appropriate category for your business. This information is not only useful for searchers, but it makes it easier for Google to understand what you offer.

Crucially, if you have multiple locations, make sure you create separate listing for each location. This will improve your chances of ranking in those locations. For example, if you’re a footwear retailer with stores in Liverpool, Leeds and Manchester, make sure they each have a dedicated listing in Google My Business.

In addition to Google My Business, local results will often include review sites - particularly TripAdvisor and Trust Pilot. This can increase the visibility of your brand but to make sure your website ranks, it could be worth adding widgets for Trip Advisor and Trust Pilot on your site and encouraging your customers/audience to post a review.

5. If local results are dominated by Google My Business and TripAdvisor, will I see a drop in traffic to my site?

Google My Business will provide a lot more information to visitors at a glance, which means many may be able to get what they need without clicking through. However, if you adapt your SEO strategy in the right way, local results have the potential to offer you far greater visibility where it matters.

Whether it’s your site that appears (from a more rounded SEO approach), your Google My Business profile or a TripAdvisor page (both of which include a link to your site) local search results will provide more opportunities to raise the profile of your business, products or services.

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