Optimization for local searches is a point of great interest among website owners. In fact, the entire concept of online marketing boils down to presenting oneself in the local market. What you’ll find below is a list of several factors that massively influence how you rank in local searches. In essence, citations and content are the two key elements.
Most commonly coming from online major data providers, such as Yellow Pages portals, a citation is one of the most essential tools in local search rankings.
A citation includes websites, addresses, business names and phone numbers, referencing back to each other. Most commonly found within a business listing’s “Web Pages” tab, the citation can be managed using the Google Maps Webpages Importer tool. Using this tool, found under the Advanced Link Manager, you can even glance at the citations your competition uses. Put bluntly, citations are a kind of directory listing.
Keep in mind that you should have a certain consistency in your listing, in particular NAP (name, address, phone number). If you don’t have it right now, you can outsource the task to a third party service. In addition, you should make sure your NAP is presented in a consistent way; SEO gurus concur that your rankings will drop if you have an improperly presented NAP. Google normalizes data and can compensate for minor inconsistencies but you shouldn’t stray away too much from the widely accepted format. Citations are an excellent way to drive customer leads and customers themselves in an organic way to your business, making them another focal point for your online marketing efforts.
Some third-party services you can try for this task are Localeze, UBL and Yext. They can’t do all the work but they are capable of cutting down on your workload, which can help a lot in the long run. By far, the most respectable service out of the three is Yext, so don’t be shocked to hear it’s also the most expensive. One reason why customers love Yext so much is that it allows for real-time updates to any listing, making it easier to achieve that crucial consistency factor we mentioned before.
Content is another massive factor that determines how you rank among local businesses. To get the content just right, you should always includes your location as one of SEO keywords. From headers to anchor text, titles and body copy, location should be peppered everywhere on your website. Don’t go overboard, though, but do make sure it’s unequivocal for both search engine crawlers and human visitors. Inbound link anchor texts should have the location of your business, as should the description and any snippet of outward-facing text you have control over.
3. Directory Listings
In its beginning, the web was simply a string of directory listings. When Google showed up, things changed forever but that doesn’t mean directory listings are entirely useless. When it comes to local SEO services, directory listings are perhaps the best tool you’ve got. Google+ Local aka. Google Places used to be a really amazing tool for that purpose, ensuring that whatever business goes on the internet is immediately spotted by Google. Keep in mind the NAP rule we discussed previously. Always go through Google’s policies to ensure your business is actually relevant. If you’ve done everything right, listing your business in a directory should massively boost your rankings compared to other local services.
4. Display Your Business Information
Finally, one thing you should be aware of is that NAP details should be included on your website too. Though it won’t help your ranking, consider adding an IP address too for the sake of completeness, since Google still looks out for it. Not just Google, but all other search engines want to know if the results are going to be relevant to the user doing the search, hence why they consider the IP address and return websites closest to the user.
For example, simply searching for “carpenter” will return the all websites that the search engine classified as offering carpenter services, with those closest to the user on top of the results, even if no location was entered as part of the search query. If the user is somehow refusing to share location, Google will ask a local area to be specified.
The final thing to be aware of is that you must have all your NAP details on your own website as well. You may also want to consider listing your IP address. This won’t help you in your ranking efforts, but it is something that Google looks out when returning results. Nowadays, all the major search engines, including Google, Yahoo! and Bing, want to make sure that their search results are personalized to the needs of the person entering the query. This is why they do also look at the IP address of the user in particular. For instance, if someone were to simply search for “pizza,” they will first be shown a number of local results, even if they didn’t enter a location in their search results. If, however, Google is unable to find out what the location of the user is, then they will ask whether the searchers wants to specify a local area instead.