Anyone who runs an online business needs to get to grips with search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is the process of working to make your website rank more highly in results pages on search engines such as Google. There are a few strategies you can use to help your site rank better in local search results. In this article, we’ll discuss how you can improve your website SEO through simple WordPress improvements.
Why is ranking well for local search queries so important? According to Business Wire, 67% of Americans prefer to shop with local businesses where possible. Additionally, an estimated 46% of all Google searches have local intent.
Speaking anecdotally, I have seen the importance of local search results first-hand. 80-90% of the business for my web design agency, Lform Design, comes from within our home state of New Jersey.
Website design makes a big difference in your SEO performance due to a number of factors that we’ll look at in more detail. Fortunately, with a bit of know-how, it’s not hard to create a local SEO-friendly site.
Have I convinced you? Read on to learn a few easy web design and SEO-boosting tricks that can be applied to WordPress sites in order to give your business a leg up in local SEO boost.
How Does Web Design Impact SEO?
Whether you’re building your own website or working with an agency, the sooner you get your head around the fundamentals of SEO, the better. Many website owners make the mistake of only thinking about SEO once their site is up and running. However, web design can have a significant impact on SEO if you bear it in mind from the start.
There’s one main reason for this: Google prioritizes sites that are user-friendly. Good web design makes it easy for both search engine crawlers and human users to navigate through your site. Therefore, you should prioritize navigability and user-friendliness at every stage of your website design process.
Website design factors vary from page load speed to the domain name you choose. Each factor can all have a substantial impact on your SEO, for better or worse. And, since online businesses and company websites can live or die by their SEO, you’ll want to make sure the impact is positive.
It’s worth taking a look at Google’s Core Web Vitals to learn about these factors in more depth.
How to Improve Your Website Design for a Local SEO Boost
Fortunately, there are several ways to optimize your site for SEO, either at the point of design or by making amends later. Today, we’ll look at seven strategies that specifically relate to local SEO.
Let’s get started!
1. Optimize Your Homepage
Perhaps the easiest way to optimize your website for SEO purposes is to start with the content on your homepage. This will be where most of your website visitors land when they first arrive at your site, so you must make sure it’s up to the task.
Your homepage can achieve two important SEO goals:
- Attract local searchers to your site
- Keep them on your site longer, reducing your bounce rate
Your homepage should clearly tell your website visitors who you are and what you do. Since you are aiming to attract local searchers, you should be sure to mention your location prominently on your homepage. In addition, it should clearly signpost visitors to help them find the page they need on your site.
Here’s an example:
This is the homepage for Palmer, an advertising agency in San Francisco (and one of the top Google results for the search term “ad agency San Francisco”). Notice how it clearly states what the company is and does, references geographical location in a prominent place, and contains a descriptive menu to help customers find whatever they need.
2. Make the Most of Metadata
Meta tags are small bits of data about a web page embedded in the page’s HTML.
Sound complicated? Don’t worry, it’s fairly simple and you don’t need any coding knowledge. The easiest way to insert metadata on each of your pages or posts is to use the Yoast SEO plugin, available through WordPress.
Since you’re focusing on optimizing your site for local SEO, your metadata should include a reference to your business’s geographical location. This will tell search engines where you’re located and increase your chances of showing up in local results.
Here’s an example of how working with Metadata in the Yoast plugin looks:
Remember to optimize the metadata for each page on your website. If you have a blog (which you should!), then optimize the tags on each post, too.
Remember though, tags aren’t just for search engines. Make sure you’re only using a select few tags to group information, rather than spamming them.
3. Use Local Business Schema
Schema, also known as structured data markup, is a kind of code that you can add to each page of your website to tell search engines what the page contains. There is a particular subcategory called local business schema that can have an impact on local SEO.
Not sure if you have schema on your site? Use Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool to check:
You can add numerous different fields to your local business schema. At a minimum, I recommend that you add:
- Company name
- Contact information, including telephone number and business email address
- Physical address
- Opening hours
- Company logo
- A short description of what you do
You can always add more at a later date if you wish. You can also add schema to separate product or service pages. For local SEO purposes, you’ll likely want to focus on local business schema.
4. Ensure Your Site is Mobile-Friendly
When I started my custom web design and development agency in 2005, we didn’t think or talk much about mobile-friendly website design. In those days, few people had internet-enabled mobile phones. However, the way we use the internet has changed beyond recognition in the last 15 years.
Approximately 10.5% of web traffic worldwide came from mobile devices by 2010. In 2020, that figure stood at around 50%. That means that mobile-friendly web design is no longer an afterthought or a nice-to-have, but an absolute necessity. By the end of the year, Google will have switched all websites to mobile-first indexing, which means the mobile version of a site will be even more important than the desktop version when it comes to search rankings.
Mobile-friendly website design is particularly important for those businesses targeting a local market. Why? Because people are extremely likely to search for relevant local businesses using their mobile devices while they are on the go. What’s more, 88% of consumers who do a local search from a smartphone visit a relevant local business within 24 hours.
The data speaks for itself: you cannot hope to promote your website effectively in local searches if your site is not optimized for mobile users. A high-quality responsive design will ensure your site renders well on all devices.
5. Ensure Your Site is Fast and Easy to Use
Did you know that 40% of internet users will abandon a website if it doesn’t load in 3 seconds or less? That’s an enormous amount of traffic and prospective custom you’re missing out on if your website is slow to load! A slow site can also seriously harm your search rankings.
In the context of local SEO, a slow site can destroy your chances of getting a spot in the coveted Google 3-pack.
Here are some of my top tips to help you speed up your site and keep your rankings intact:
- Choose a great, SEO-friendly hosting service. If you can afford it, dedicated hosting is a better option than shared.
- If you mostly want to attract local traffic, choose a local server. This will reduce server response time and speed up your site. Another option is to use a content delivery network (CDN).
- Compress images to the appropriate size. You can use a plugin like WP Smush to do this without losing image quality.
- Optimize your site scripts and remove any that are unnecessary. Plugins like Asset Cleanup are great for this.
- Keep your content management system, themes, and any plugins updated.
As a rule of thumb, I suggest aiming for a loading time of under 200ms for your site across the board.
Top tip: You can use a free tool like Google Lighthouse to check your site pages’ load times and more key info.
6. Optimize Your Content for Local Search Intent
Creating a steady stream of great content on your website, such as through a blog, has a significant positive benefit when it comes to SEO. If you want to target local customers, make an effort to create local content.
Here’s an example. I wrote this post on the Lform Design blog about the best web design companies in New Jersey:
As a direct result of this post, Lform Design is now the first organic result on a Google search for terms like “best NJ web design”.
Remember, you can also mention your geographical location in posts that don’t have a specific local theme, as long as it fits in organically. Here’s how we did it recently:
This post is about web design amid the challenges of COVID-19. However, it was easy to include a reference to our specific location in a way that fits organically into the piece.
7. Ensure Your NAP Data is Included
NAP stands for name, address, and phone number. In other words, your business’s contact information. Many businesses include their NAP data in their website footer, but you can go a step further than that. Why not have a separate “Contact Us” or “How to Find Us” page? If you have multiple locations, use a page for each location.
Here’s how Figment, a design agency based in London, does it:
The company displays the full address of each of its locations in the website footer, and then also has a separate page for each.
If you want to use NAP data effectively for local SEO, you must ensure it is consistent. How does your data appear on your website and in your Google My Business listing? It must be identical everywhere.
Fortunately, Google and search engines have gotten smarter about NAP, recognizing that St. = Street, for example. If in doubt, cross-reference your website and listings with a list of accepted abbreviations.
Robust SEO is vital if you want to run a successful online business, and never more so than for businesses targeting local customers. Since such a significant percentage of Google searches have a local intent, you’re likely missing out on a lot of business if you don’t put concerted efforts into local SEO.
You don’t need to be an SEO expert to lift your business higher in the rankings, though. You just need to understand the basics and apply a few important strategies rigorously. Start with the tips I’ve laid out for you here and you’ll be off to a flying start.