There’s the broad, more competitive, nationwide or perhaps global side to SEO that is clearly a critical channel for many business and that certainly makes up the lion’s share of what we help our clients to achieve (generally pretty successfully!).
But for local search increasingly there are better tools, a better understanding of the algorithm used to generate results and more use of local search generated by the wealth of mobile platforms in use these days. If your business relies on local traffic then missing the opportunity to compete for positioning in Google’s local search results is an opportunity for targeted traffic lost.
So how do we define Local Search?
If you’re searching for a new red widget then you might well type ‘red widget’ into Google. If you’re signed into your Google account then you might see some local search results (if G feels it has a decent handle on where you are) otherwise you’ll probably see your standard organic results (and maybe some shopping results and some AdWords).
But if you add a location to your search because you don’t want to buy on the web, you want to find somewhere locally where you can go and actually see a red widget, maybe try it on, or sniff it, whatever you need to do, then you’ll quite possibly see a different set of results dominating the page – Local search results.
If you type in ‘accountants worcester’ into Google right now (go ahead, we’ll wait) you see what I’m talking about. You’ll have seen it before no doubt and it clearly represents local businesses that are probably what you’re after.
If you can’t be bothered, this is what it looks like:
And if you’re an accountant in Worcester, or you have a red widget shop, then you really want to be in those high visibility results right? Instead of those competitors? Yes, you do.
How does big G decide who gets into those local spots?
Just as with regular SEO there are a whole bunch of ranking factors at play. This is made a tad more complicated now that Google Places (your old, perhaps existing local business listing page) has been sort of replaced by Google + Local Pages (not to be confused with regular Google+ Pages – good eh?) and when I say ‘sort of’ I mean they are kind of merging. Right now Google has said they’ll sort this out, so you have a single definitive page, but that’s not the case right now – amazing.
What do you need to do to get ranking locally?
- NAP consistency. NAP stands for Name, Address, Phone. And the details on your website need to match both your Google+ Local Page and your citations.
- Being correctly associated with the right categories in your Local Page.
- Citations are lots of local directory type listings that confirm (via NAP details) that you are who you claim to be in your location. The quality of a citation is important and at Traphic we score them based on how commonly they are used by your competitors (sites ranking in local search where you want to be). You need as many of these as you need to rank where you want to rank.
- The Domain Authority and general upstanding inbound link profile of your website needs to be competitive.
- An understanding of your competition – How many citations have your competitors got? Where are they getting them from? How do you get in front of these guys?
A good way to get going with this is to make sure you claim your Google+ Local Page (simply go to create one via your G+ profile page and if it already exists, G will offer you the opportunity to claim it and get it in order. If it doesn’t, you make one).
Get yourself plenty of citations in local or relevant directories (think Yelp, Thompson, Qype, Hotfrog etc)
Keyword research is important…
Check what terms are actually driving results. If ‘Acrobats in Droitwich’ doesn’t pull any local search results then there’s little point targeting the term.
Google adwords search tool will help you do some keyword research to assess demand for your target terms (remember to set it to mobile devices if you’re targeting local mobile search) and make sure there’s a return on your efforts.
Google is serious about delivering solid local search results and if you factor in the rise of the smart mobile platform, local search is something you should be getting serious about in 2013 (if you want to sell red widgets to local folks anyway).
Next week we’ll take a look at the mobile search boom – it’s getting big and we’ll try and give you a relatively easy to understand overview of where you need to invest your time in that arena.