How to Optimize for Local Search
Making sure your website is fully optimized to attract organic and local search traffic is crucial for all local businesses. In this best practice guide, learn how to optimize for local search in 7 steps.
Learning how to do local SEO is something has dominated many a local business owner’s thoughts in recent years, as the upsurge in mobile device usage and a narrowing of consumer local shopping habits takes place.
For ‘mom and pop’ stores and smaller local brands, local pack listings also offer an opportunity to compete on a more level playing field against nearby rivals, as multinationals like eBay, Amazon, and Walmart hold steady at the top of the main organic search results.
When you sit down to plan how to do local SEO for your business, you’ll need to focus your attention on two distinct areas; on-site and off-site. On-site SEO covers everything that happens on your own website—including page content, keyword use, page loading time and design. That is, things that the website owner or marketer have full control over.
Off-site SEO is, as the name suggests, a term for all of the SEO factors that exist away from your domain, such as the number of links you have, the volume of reviews you receive, how many online citations you create, and how well optimized your Google My Business listing is.
Read on for our 7 techniques to optimize a site for local SEO.
1. On-Site: Local SEO Best Practices
The very first thing you must do when improving a business’s on-site SEO is to ensure you know and follow local SEO best practice. In short, the basics of good search engine optimization must be observed if you want to see your site rankings rise in the local pack.
To do this, you’ll need to carry out thorough keyword research. If you’re already using Google Ads or another form of paid search, begin here—look out for keywords that are generating higher click-through rates and conversions. And if you aren’t advertising already, there are lots of keyword tools available to help you identify the most appropriate search terms for your local SEO campaign.
Your keyword list will inform the rest of your on-site SEO activity. You’ll need to create a content schedule—best practice dictates that your content shouldn’t just be written to help you rank for a certain keyword. It should also be useful, informative, educational, entertaining or otherwise add value to your audience.
When creating new pages, ensure that you complete all metadata and give each page a unique title and useful meta description to entice searchers to click through.
You’ll also need to perform on-page checks regularly. This helps you to identify any underlying issues that could prevent better local SEO rankings or hinder the user experience. Make sure your site is free from errors by using an audit tool specifically for local SEO.
2. On-Site: Use Local Business, Organization, Product and Service Schema
Schema for local businesses is an under-utilized on-site SEO tool, with just 31.1% of websites employing this method of optimization—and the majority only using it in its most basic form. While search engines are increasingly sophisticated and use a host of AI and machine learning techniques, they can still only understand around 80% of what’s on a page.
Google has made great strides in recognizing search intent (you now no longer have to use the modifier ‘near me’ in local search to generate local search results, for example) but it can still use a helping hand. This is where schema markup comes in. It’s a piece of code which tells search engines what a particular piece of content is, and how it relates to other pieces of content.
You can use schema to help search engine algorithms understand the facts about your business more easily. Use schema markup tags that denote a local business, organization, product or service as a minimum throughout your site to help your content rank. Once done correctly, this can generate rich results in search with content highlighted in a knowledge graph (as a recipe, a review or article carousel, for example).
Schema is especially useful for local businesses as research shows that rich results generate more engagement, drive a higher quality of traffic, increase time spent on page, and push up visitor numbers.
3. On-Site: Improve Page Load Speed
Page load speed on mobile is now a critical factor following the Google Speed Update. This means that taking the time to optimize your page load speed can directly help you to improve local rankings. Likewise, the Speed Update will result in rankings loss if your site is slow to load on mobile devices.
The first thing to do is run a check on your current page load speed. There are several free Google tools available for this, making the task easier. Try PageSpeed Insights, the Chrome User Experience Report, and Lighthouse.
If your website is slow to load on mobile devices, you not only risk losing out on top search positions, you’re also likely to lose a lot of traffic. A poor page load speed should be tackled as soon as possible. There are several steps you can take to get your website back on track. Start by compressing images, using AMP for content, and displaying above the fold content first.