SEO done with aim of increasing the visibility of a business locally is becoming more important by the day. If the right strategy is implemented then businesses with a fixed location can become much more conspicuous to people online when their search relates to a type of business in a specific area.
Given that Google have stated that at least 20% of all searches relate to a location, you really do ignore local SEO at your peril. This is especially true when you consider that mobile search is expected to leapfrog desktop in the very near future, as between 40% – 50% of mobile searches relate to a location.
In this article we’re going to pretend to own a café in South Kensington, where thousands descend every weekend to take a look at the world famous museums. Getting a localised SEO strategy in a situation like this is imperative. For example, before meeting up with a friend in this area recently, I typed in ‘café south kensington’ into Google. When the results were displayed an array of seemingly respected cafés in that area were visible and after not much thought I ended up going to one of them.
So it’s clear that visibility in search engines in this manner is of particular value to very geographically focused businesses. What’s great is that the small independent shop can really beat the big boys with relative ease when it comes to local rankings. This is because the local businesses will have local content and local links. You’ll see in the example above that independent shops rank above massive chains. So what sort of strategy would we follow if we owned a café?
Use Google Places
If you do one thing recommended in this article, make sure this is it. Tell Google your company name, address, phone number and website. Make sure that the categories listed describe your business adequately and that your opening hours are all filled in properly. Once you’ve selected which payment options you can accept, add images of your premises, staff and product. You can add 10, so make sure they are fun and distinctive.
Put yourself in the minds of your potential customers at all times. If you were searching for a café, you’d want to see a picture of a pretty little shop in the sun with some tables outside, so put one in here! Supposedly images like these are preferred and more likely to be displayed over a simple company logo. You can also add videos and the same logic applies.
Before this information becomes available to searchers in Google Maps – which are increasingly displayed in normal SERPs – you’ll have to verify your listing directly with Google.
“Google say at least 20% of all searches relate to location, so ignore local #SEO at your peril”
Create a Google+ Business Page
This costs nothing and it allows potential customers to see what you share publicly, see your location, leave you reviews and +1 your business. It’s important that you maintain this and that you put the effort in and upload pictures and interact with other profiles. From a social perspective this is significant.
Your relative success with Google+ can effect rankings in the SERPs, as people who have you in their circles will be more likely to see you appear nearer the top of them. Once you integrate your Places and Google+ accounts you can then respond to reviews as well, which is another positive.
If you do this then you’ll gain credibility in the SERPs and stand out above your competitors. Aim to gently encourage customers to leave you one from their Google+ account if possible. We recommend that after every purchase from your shop that you make it clear to the customer where they can do this. If you have a loyalty card, kindly remind people to review you on the back of it. On the receipt you hand them you should do the same. You could even have a small sign on the counter encouraging the same thing.
Just remember that the reviews are all just a click away for the searcher, so don’t hassle people for them if they are clearly not interested – your reviews will probably suffer! Also remember that this will probably be a process that will take a number of months to become effective. Don’t try to take shortcuts as it’s very likely that you will be found out and that your business will suffer as a result. It should go without saying, but if you want good reviews then be delightful, not deceitful.
If local links are not present already then these are very easy to encourage quickly. If you’re an established local business then the chances are that you will have been mentioned in numerous lists and blogs over the years. If not, then just make sure you make people aware of the work you’re doing and the links will soon follow naturally. In our experience we have learnt that the most fruitful sources for local links are:
- Hotels – they often recommend things to see and do within walking distance.
- Local news websites – they are always keen to hear about a local business expanding, hosting an interesting event or donating money to a local charity.
- Area guides – these are invariably present on tourism and property focused websites.
- Bloggers – many are very focused on the goings-on in a particular locality.
- Council websites – sometimes they list local providers of certain services.
- Local suppliers or customers – they often list who they work with.
- Relevant directories.
It’s up to you to maximise the value of these. For example, make sure you have consistent citations present across the web. This just means that your business information (company name, address etc.) needs to be identical everywhere it is mentioned. If someone has noted down your details incorrectly then politely ask them to change them.
“It should go without saying, but if you want good reviews then be delightful, not deceitful. “
Onsite Content & Structure
Regular readers of the blog will know that we often state how important content marketing is to ensure successful search engine marketing. If we were running a café then we’d blog about the goings on in our area; the weather, the museums, the transport, the parks, events we’d hosted or helped with etc. Once posted you should get in the habit of immediately sharing these through your Google+ profile.
Make sure that your address is also present here and that your page titles and meta descriptions mention your business name, niche and location.
So now you know both why local SEO is vital and how you can best go about making the most of the opportunity to get more customers through your door with it.
Passion Digital have a dedicated SEO team that are used to dealing with businesses ranging in size from start-ups to multi-nationals. If you would like to know more about the search engine marketing services that they could offer you, then take a look at their SEO page before getting in contact with Mike.