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Local SEO Playbook

The Local SEO Playbook – Your Guide to Local Rankings

Look, if you’re a local business, meaning most or all of your business comes from customers living in your community, you must get very serious about local SEO.

Don’t worry, ranking locally for the kinds of things your prospects are looking for isn’t rocket science, but it does take a serious commitment to a handful of things.

In case you’re wondering if it’s worth the investment in such a commitment, let me share a few survey tidbits.

  • 98% of searchers choose a business that is on page 1 of the results they get.
  • 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations
  • 77% of smartphone users contact a business after looking for local Information

And, I could go on, but I’m guessing you see the point – if you don’t rank well locally for the things people are searching for marketing will be a lot harder and a lot more expensive.

Here’s the good news – focus on these five elements and you can expect great results from local SEO and search. (The competitiveness of your industry may dictate your ultimate results.)

Optimize Google My Business

If you’re a local business hoping to get found online you must pay attention to, claim, and optimize your Google My Business Listing.

Google My Business Listing

If this is news to you go immediately to Google’s Free Business Listing page and find out if you can claim your current listing.

Many people created or had created Google+ listings and Google made a mess of how this became Google My Business so you may have some cleanup to do to make sure that you only have one listing for your business and it’s the one Google thinks is your business.

Google 3 pack

Once you claim the right listing you need to make sure you take full advantage of all of the real estate and linking options available to you. This, by the way, is essential if your business is to ever show up in the coveted Google 3-pack for local searches shown above.

Make sure you have the right business category and subcategories chosen for your business.

Make note of the exact way your business name, address and phone number (NAP) appear. Exact meaning is is Street or St., is it Heating & Cooling or Heating and Cooling. Whatever you show listed as the NAP on your Google My Business Page, you’ll want to use consistently on your own website and across all directories. (More on this in a bit.)

Get markup right

Search engines are busy trying to adopt a consistent markup protocol to help use HTML code to properly identify things like businesses, reviews, addresses, books, movies and the like.

You can learn about the current popular markup for local businesses by visiting Schema.org.

Using proper markup for your address is kind of like handing Google your business card on a silver platter. It doesn’t look like anything to the naked eye, but Google spiders can be 100% certain what they are looking at when it comes to identifying an address on your web pages.

The good news is that you don’t really need to know anything about the underlying code to get this part right. Simply visit Schema.org’s Local Business NAP generator and fill in the blanks – The tool will produce the HTML code you need to add to your site in place of your current address.

There are other things you can do with structured markup and you can read all about it here.

Clean up citations

So, you might very well be familiar with a few directories like Yelp!, or maybe even an industry specific directory or two like Homestars or Angie’s List, but you probably didn’t realize that Google relies on hundreds of data aggregators and directories to help them sort out and keep straight all of the local businesses out.

So, getting your listing straight on Google is essential, but if you’ve moved, or changed your phone, or just listed your details in all sorts of ways in business filings or Chamber directories, there’s a good chance Google isn’t sure which listing is correct and that’s not a good thing.

Local Search Ecosystem in Canada

Google use many data sources to try to get the most accurate picture. The image above from MOZLocal shows the interrelation of information sourced between data agrregators, directories, and search engines in Canada.

The last thing Google wants to do is send someone to the wrong address when they search for a local business.

directory citations Local SEO Playbook

Above is an example of a local business that has multiple inconsistent citations online. The name is spelled out differently, there are three different phone numbers and at least two different addresses.

I’m certainly not picking on this business – In my experience, some sort of inaccurate data is out there for most businesses.

Use a tool like MozLocal and see just how bad this problem is for your business.

Once you determine there are a few inaccurate, inconsistent and incomplete listings use MozLocal, BrightLocalWhiteSpark or Yext to clean listings and suppress inaccurate duplicates that often occur.

You might also want to check out this list of industry specific directories.

This step alone can do more for your local listings than any other aspect of local SEO.

Create local SEO content

This one should be obvious but it kind of isn’t.

If you think about it, when you create a brochure and hand it to a prospect that pretty much know that you work in their city. But, when you create content online, you need to go over and above to spell out where you do your work.

Now, it’s easy to get spammy listing lots of local content and that can hurt you as much as help you, but you certainly should talk about where you work and in some cases have specific pages with case studies for specific trade areas, suburbs, and neighborhoods.

Don’t forget to blog and post about local events and happenings. Using your blog to take about community, customer, and employee related local news is a great way to spice up your local content in very authentic ways.

If you have multiple locations you may want to learn about and adopt what many SEO folks refer to as content silos for each location – here’s a great primer on local content silos.

Focus on reviews

Reviews have become an incredibly important form of content. As the statistic cited at the beginning of this post suggests, people increasingly rely on reviews to make decisions about the products and services they purchase.

So, while you need positive reviews for social proof, you also need them as a pillar of your local SEO efforts.

Google factors review activity as one of the elements that helps determine what businesses show up in the 3-pack.

No, it’s not the only factor, but it’s an important one.

The image above from a BrightLocal survey demonstrates just how important reviews have become in the purchase journey for local businesses. Fully 82% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses, and a growing number are reading them them regularly.

Take a look at the businesses in the image earlier in this article. Reviews are displayed and play a large role in what businesses are shown – and for the consumer, what businesses are clicked.

Reviews are harder to get than they should be. Even a business with raving fans must work to get those reviews from happy customers.

The key is to ask often and make it as easy as possible for your happy customers to log in to the sites that matter and leave a review. Sure you’ll take a glowing email testimonial from a customer, but far better to push for a Google, Yelp, Facebook or industry review. (Check out this list of important industry review sites.)

You can always repurpose these reviews in email newsletters, on your site, or even hanging up in the store.

Many businesses are finding that they need to make review collection a process rather than leaving it to chance. Tools like GatherUp and Grade.us can help automate the process of review collection.

Take some time and make each of the five steps above a priority for your local business and you may find that local leads drawn from organic search can become your most potent lead generation channel.

Local-SEO-CTA

Optimize your google my business listing

How to Optimize Your Google My Business Listing

For local businesses, showing up on page one of Google is a must. It can mean the difference between success and failure. COVID-19’s impact on consumer behaviour has made this even more important – more on that here.

Any local business wanting to be found online needs a good local SEO strategy, and a good local SEO strategy starts with a completely optimized Google My Business (GMB) listing. It’s an easy, but critical first step.

a GMB listing is free to set up an will help you appear in local searches on Google Maps, Local Finder, and all mobile searches.

First thing’s first. If you haven’t already claimed your listing do it now. To claim your business listing go to https://www.google.com/business.

Complete Online Presence Audit

Enter Your Complete Data

Once you’ve claimed your listing, follow the steps outlined by Google and fill in ALL the information they ask for. This is incredibly important step to optimize your Google My Business listing, and many businesses just fill in the basics and no more.

The problem with that is, if you don’t complete all the details, Google knows elements are missing and will ask others to complete your profile for you by asking questions like in the image below.

How to optimize your Google My Business listing

Pro tip: When filling out your business listing try to use some useful keywords you want to rank well for in searches.

For detailed instructions on claiming your business check out this Google article.

Keep Your Hours Accurate

Keep your hours of operation up to date. If you are closing for a holiday or staying open for one, be sure to list those special hours. Your customers will appreciate the accurate information and Google will notice that your listing is being actively managed.

Manage and Respond to Reviews

Online reviews are critical to your visibility online. Those star ratings next to your company name in a search can either earn you more business or cost you potential sales.  I go into more detail on managing reviews in this blog post, but I’ll touch on it briefly here.

Managing reviews comes down to asking for them and responding to the ones you get. There are a number of ways you can ask for reviews, but here’s a useful post from Google if you want to create a link where you can ask customers to leave a review directly in your Google My Business listing.

In your GMB listing, actively managed reviews will help with your visibility. Respond to your reviewers. When you get a negative review, try to acknowledge the reviewer and offer an explanation where possible. This can help to win this customer back, but more importantly, it shows people reading the reviews that you are responsive and professional.

Add Photos

A picture is worth a thousand words. Photos on your Google My Business listing not only say more to your customers, they also increase the likelihood they will act on seeing your listing. I’ve read that listings with photos receive 42% more requests for driving directions and 35% more click-throughs to their website.

Google My Business Posts

Once you have your listing created, take advantage of the Posts feature. This allows you to create a social media-like post that appears as part of your listing.

Use it to promote a special offer, or contest, or anything you want to highlight. And keep it current. Google will actually remind you on a weekly basis to refresh your post, which is an awesome feature for the busy among us.

You can even add call-to-action buttons like “Learn More” or “Sign Up” to your post and drive traffic to a specific landing page.

There is no definitive proof that these posts have a direct impact on SEO, but they can increase the likelihood of a potential customer clicking on your listing, which indirectly helps by signalling to Google that your listing is relevant to whatever search terms were used.

If you have more questions about managing your Google My Business listing, send me an email. If you’d like to get a better idea of whether or not yours is working, try getting one of our Total Online Presence Audits.