Since Google’s Pigeon algorithm update back in July of 2014, local search engine optimization has become even more important, especially on mobile devices. If Google explicitly stating the importance of local search with a significant update isn’t enough, take a look at your own search patterns; how often do you search for a local service (restaurant, bar, gym, doctor, retail shop, etc.)?
How often do you find yourself including “near me” in your search queries? If you’re like most, then the answer is quite often, likely even daily. There is no denying that local is so heavily intertwined with our day-to-day activities and interactions.
Yet, I can’t count how many local/center-based websites I’ve come across that have no local optimization. I’ve also worked with many business owners who don’t fully understand just how critical it is to have a local search engine optimization strategy in place. This presents a huge missed opportunity for these businesses to be at the forefront of what users want and when they want it, which is typically right now.
So what are the hidden secrets to higher local rankings? What are the tactics that no one is sharing? If you were hoping that this article was going to reveal new, groundbreaking local search engine optimization that’s never been discussed before, then you will likely be disappointed – but don’t stop reading just yet.
The truth is, successful local search engine optimization tactics are ones that business owners are often already implementing on a national level, just not on the local level.
Below, I discuss specific local search engine optimization tactics that I’ve recommended to my own clients that have proved successful through higher SERP rankings and increased local organic traffic. However, the key here really is resource investment and the trust that these tactics will work at the local level.
In my opinion, this is the most difficult tactic to get client buy-in with. Creating unique and engaging content for each business location is time-consuming and daunting. Sometimes a site doesn’t even have location pages and if they do, nine times out of ten, content from the national pages are simply copied over onto the local pages.
Not only is this not going to help with local rankings, the site can suffer duplicate content penalties. Canonical tags can be implemented but from a strategic standpoint, the national pages will likely be deemed the canonical versions, which leaves the local pages with little to no chance of ranking.
When a business’s offerings are essentially the same for each location, it’s undoubtedly hard to talk about said offerings in considerably different ways. Below are some potential ideas around creating content at the local level, specifically for Home, About, News, and Contact pages:
Background story of the business owner(s)
Things unique to the local area that are relevant to the business
Customer reviews (quotes, videos, etc.)
Putting these fields into a survey-type format for the business owners can help with gathering information to more efficiently and quickly create unique local content.
Hyper Local Optimization
Optimizing each local page’s metadata can also boost local rankings. This should mainly entail updating title and description tags. Keyword research, at the location level, should be performed to find the most relevant keyword phrase(s) to target.
Additionally, competitor landscape for each potential keyword phrase should be examined at the geo level to determine whether or not the page being optimized has a chance to rank organically. Lastly, you want to try to follow best practices whenever possible and stay within the character limitations so that the title and description tags aren’t truncated in the SERPs. Below are some tools that I use when performing local search engine optimization:
Google AdWords Keyword Planner tool (you must have an account and having higher ad spend gets you more specific search volume data)
Moz’s Keyword Explorer tool (you must have a Moz subscription)
Google SERP Preview tool
Local Citations & NAP
Simply put, citations are mentions of your business on the internet. Listings on Chamber of Commerce sites and directories are two common, legitimate examples. Citations validate your business’s contact information and the more credible citations your business has, the more likely you are to rank higher.
For multi-location businesses, consistency should be the main focus. NAP (Name, Address, and Phone Number) should be listed on the website as it is listed in your GMB (Google My Business) profile and any other online citations or listings. Completeness is also important. Make sure all local information is not only accurate, but 100% filled in. These are crucial when it comes to local search success in Google. Moz Local is a great tool for checking for any inconsistency issues.
Internal links, created when one page hyperlinks to another page on the same website, can also help local rankings. These types of links pass on what is called “link juice” in the SEO world. Link juice is equity that a page has based on a number of factors, including, but not limited to, other internal links, quality backlinks, unique & engaging content, etc.
Deeper pages become more easily accessible (by users and search engine bots) through internal links. Most optimally, top navigational pages should link to corresponding sub-navigation pages and so on. Doing so passes on a portion of the linking page’s credibility.
Again, the aforementioned local search optimizations aren’t new in the SEO world. In fact, they’re pretty basic tactics that [hopefully] your client is already doing. When applied on the local level, these can have a massive impact on rankings and organic traffic.
The challenge is the time investment. Yes, it’s hard to create unique content for every location. It’s time-consuming to optimize every local page and make sure that all citations are accurate. But if you can get your clients to understand why focusing on local is so important, the payoff is well worth it.