10 Local SEO Tips to Improve Rankings
Achieving good visibility in the local pack is of increasing importance to local businesses, especially those who find themselves unable to compete with big-ticket rivals in the main search results. If you’ve recently been charged with boosting your brand’s local search rankings, read on for 10 tips to take action right now. We also have more advanced local SEO tips here for you after you’ve completed this list.
Tip 1: Optimize Google My Business
No local SEO tips piece could begin without first advocating for Google My Business (GMB) optimization. It shouldn’t really come as a surprise to learn that Google wants to encourage use of its Google My Business platform but, according to our analysis of the trends seen in the Local Ranking Factors survey, GMB signals have become more important than ever over the last five years.
A quick glance back through previous surveys shows a notable jump in the importance of GMB signals between 2017 and 2018 – a shift that coincided with the launch of a variety of new tools across the platform.
If your business hasn’t yet claimed its free Google My Business profile, do this now. Our step-by-step guide to getting started talks you through the whole process, from setting up a new Google account to completing essential profile information such as business category and contact email.
With the basics done, you can begin to optimize your profile. Keywords are an obvious place to start – you’ll need to add keywords that are important to your business to your profile, just as you would on your website.
Adding photos can also help with your local visibility, with Google advising, “Businesses with photos receive 42% more requests for driving directions to their location from users on Google, and 35% more clicks through to their websites than businesses that don’t have photos.
“In addition to your logo and the picture you’d like to appear first on Google Maps results, you can post photos of products and events to keep customers in the know and show them what you do best. If you have a website, put your website’s photos to work by also posting them to your listing using Google My Business.”
Make sure that all profile information, especially your physical address (if you have one), zip code, phone number, opening hours and website URL are up-to-date and correct.
As Forbes columnist Jayson DeMers says, “Many third-party sites rely on Google for their information, so completing your business profile will increase your chances of getting featured on them. Google will also have more information to categorize your business, so it’s more likely that you’ll show up for relevant local searches.”
It’s also well worth starting to explore the potential of Google Posts, adding details of your offers, events and latest news a couple of times per week.
Tip 2: Build local links back to your website
Building good quality links from good quality local websites is critical for local pack visibility. Links are a well-known SEO ranking factor and their importance isn’t diminished when moving from traditional organic SEO to local SEO. In fact, our research shows that 100% of local SEO experts think link building is an effective way to boost local rankings, with local news, community and industry sites being the best sources of inbound links.
As you might expect, community is at the heart of local link building. Seeking out volunteering positions and searching for ways to give back to your community provide tons of link-building potential for local SEO.
Many of the link-building tactics you may already be familiar with can be adapted for local link acquisition. Creating locally-relevant content is a good placed to start, as is reaching out to local newspapers and media outlets with newsworthy updates from your business.
Local and regional media will often host annual business awards: entering a relevant category can lead to coverage and a link. Collaborating with a local influencer could also be an option, depending on your industry and business type.
Tip 3: Build (and manage) customer reviews
The 2018 Moz Local Search Ranking Factors study put customer reviews high up on its list of the top 50 most powerful local ranking factors, and reviews are still considered as important in 2020 — in fact, Whitespark’s 2020 version of the survey named them the second most important ranking factor.. The volume of reviews you have, how often new reviews are posted, how many positive versus negative reviews you have, and how many reviews you have mentioning keywords or using images are all taken into consideration.
As with most of our local SEO tips, taking time to establish a review generation and management process has wider benefits beyond simply boosting your local search rankings. Reviews are used as a decision-making aid by the majority of consumers, meaning they can directly impact on your bottom line, too.
Google is a popular review platform in its own right and generates more new reviews than its closest rival Facebook by a large margin. It makes sense to boost your business’ visibility in its immediate geographical area and focus on generating Google My Business reviews from unbiased local customers, especially if resources are limited.
To get started, develop a few ways to physically ask all of your customers to leave a review. This could be done as part of a transactional email confirming shipping, for example, as a courtesy message a few days after a sale, or using a tool such as Kiosk Mode or Link Mode in BrightLocal’s Reputation Manager. Make sure that you offer a quick outline of how to leave a review for customers unfamiliar with the process and include a link to your review page on Google.
Once reviews start coming in, be timely with responses, thank customers for their feedback, and take note of any areas which pinpoint opportunities for service improvement.
Tip 4: Build accurate citations
Building citations is one of those things that sounds a lot more complicated than it actually is. A citation simply means your business information (name, address, phone number) is displayed online. Typically, you’ll find these on directory sites, on social media profiles, and in content such as event listings or local newspaper stories online.
Citations are often included with beginner local SEO tips because they are easy to implement and are a local pack ranking factor. They’re considered ‘table stakes’ for local search. If you don’t get citations, you don’t get a seat at the table.
Google and lots of other websites use citations as a source of business information, so it’s important that you have sufficient citations to be found and that those citations are both consistent and accurate. Out-of-date or incorrect details can send confusing signals, both to search engines looking to verify your data for local pack purposes and to consumers wishing to find your business with a view to contacting or visiting you.
You can build citations manually, via a data aggregator, or by using a citation building service, which may well perform the other two for you!
If you’re going to build citations manually, you’ll need to source a list of citation sites and visit each one to submit your business information in turn. It’s vital to ensure that your NAP is entered consistently on every site. You should aim to build a mix of citations from local sources, industry sites, and general directories.
Tip 5: Make sure your website is mobile-friendly and fast-loading
None of us like to feel like our time is being wasted so the fifth in this list of local SEO tips is performing a speed test and mobile-friendly check. It’s well-known that the majority of searches now take place on mobile devices, so you can safely assume that a good chunk of your traffic will be visitors to your website coming from their tablet or cell phone – even if they do come back later from a desktop device. That means you’ll want your site to be easy to use on a mobile device and quick to load.
Google announced that page speed would become a ranking factor for mobile in July 2018. To check your page speed, Google suggests three tools;
If those tools show that your page is loading slowly, you’re not just missing a chance to improve your local pack rankings. Research shows that around half of your visitors will bounce from your site if they are made to wait just three seconds. Another study found that the average bounce rate for pages loading within two seconds is 9%, and at 10 seconds it’s 65%.
Slow loading pages can be:
- Ramped up by optimizing (compressing) image file sizes
- Minimizing or entirely eliminating page redirects
- Improving your web server to cut down on server response times and load the content the user sees first, first. That means having the server send data required for above-the-fold content first, with remaining data sent as the web visitor is consuming the first piece of content.
- Google’s open source AMP markup for mobile will also give page speed a helping hand.