The importance of search engine optimisation (SEO) will be lost on no one that runs a website or knows anything about internet marketing. Featuring as close to the top of the Google rankings as possible based on your keywords is the single most important factor in drawing traffic to your website. It will play a big part in the whether your business succeeds or fails online.
Thanks to major algorithm changes, Google and other search engines have made their services much more user driven, providing results that are designed to benefit the individual. These changes have led to increased importance of local search engine optimisation.
What is Local Search Engine Optimisation and why is it important?
When you carry out a search on Google, you will notice that both the sponsored results and the first few organic results are locally based. The search doesn’t even have to be locally related; for instance, you could type in the word ‘pizza’ and be provided with a list of pizza parlours in your local area, or ‘cars’ and be given a selection of car garages within close radius of your home. All results feature address and contact details, as well as a map marking the location of each business. The order in which the results are displayed is based partly on the location of the user and partly on Google+ Local reviews and is designed to provide you with a more comprehensive service.
The importance of local SEO has grown significantly thanks to the ever-increasing number of mobile users. People that are out in town, for whatever reason, often use Google to search for services in the local area such as bars, clubs, and restaurants. Basically, if you have a business that relies on local custom, and you are not managing how your website is represented in the local search results, you are potentially losing out on a great deal of business.
How to optimise local search engine rankings
If you are not ranking in local search results, you are going to have to do something about it. Ideally, it is recommended that you hire an SEO firm to provide a full analysis of your site and work on putting the best SEO strategy in place; however, there are a number of different steps you can take to make your website more visible to search engine users.
Local keyword research
Keywords are the words and phrases that help determine the ranking of your website in the search engine results pages (SERPS). Although it will take some time, it is possible to come up with some great keywords to help elevate your site in the Google listings. There are plenty of good SEO keyword tools out there to help you come in with some competitive phrases; however, you should try to steer away from the popular words in favour of ‘long tail’ keywords that have a decent amount of traffic but not much in the way of competition. It is worth noting that the arrangement of phrases has a bearing on the results, so you should be careful not to end up with keywords that do not bring in any traffic.
Get listed in directories
Business directories are vital in a local SEO strategy and establishing a presence within local directories will ensure your business is more visible to potential customers. Directories such as Yell and Yelp are very useful as they each attract a large audience, as does mobile app FourSquare. Before registering with any of these though, you should first get started with Google Places. Signing up with Places is simple and only requires that you claim your business listing and fill in the required information. A link to your website and a short keyword-friendly description will also be of benefit. You will need to make sure that the information provided to each business directory is matching of the others, this means keeping addresses and phone numbers up-to-date.
Encouraging user reviews is a great way to build up your reputation and ranking with the local search results. Both quality and quantity are important here, but it is the former that will hold more relevance. Reviews are often critical in influencing the decision of a potential customer, so the more positive feedback you receive, the more business you can expect to generate. In order to have an “official” score on Google+ Local, you will need to have ten or more legitimate customer reviews, the majority of which must be positive.
Embrace image and video SEO
Being able to see what a business looks like before visiting is something that customers love. If you have pictures or a video tour of your business it affords potential customers the chance to see what your business is about and will give you the edge over competitors that neglect to include visuals. In addition, by using image and video alt tags, you can really benefit your SEO in an area that few competitors are focussed on.
Get a mobile website
In 2013, a great deal of traffic for small businesses comes from mobile devices. Tablets and smartphone usage is growing by the month and if you are a business that relies on foot-traffic, you should seriously consider a mobile website. A fast-loading, functional mobile site will help you convert mobile visitors into customers, as people shun non-optimised sites in favour of those designed for the web. Attracting mobile visitors will have a direct effect on the ranking of your site in the SERPS.
Research has shown that 1-in-3 searches on Google are now local, clearly demonstrating the importance of local search engine optimisation. If you run a small business, local SEO gives you the opportunity to grab a bit of the market for yourself and move out of shadow of the mega online rivals – for that reason, it should be embraced.