Getting found online is hands-down one of the most important things your business can do.
But standing out above all the distractions of today’s digital world is tough, especially when your competitors are aiming to do the same.
This blog was originally a Meetup presentation. Download the original presentation or watch our Meetup here.
Let’s examine a visual example of what users go through when they are browsing the web or using their smartphones...
They are swamped with distractions. Whether it’s email, calendar notifications, or the infinite Facebook news feed, all eating away at the user’s attention.
Think about it… You are actively looking for Waldo and it’s still a task. Imagine if you weren’t even looking for him and how difficult it would be for him to catch your eye.
So that’s what it’s like trying to stand out among all the other digital distractions your customers face. But what if they’re actively looking for you on Google. What might that look like?
Yes, you’re all Waldos in their eyes. You and your competition are all looking to solve the same problems or sell the same products.
So you have to make sure you are one of the first Waldo’s they see.
Luckily, there are some tactics you can implement today to not only put your local business at the top but to also stand out from the other Waldos up there with you.
Google's Ranking System
The first thing you need to understand is what factors go into Google’s ranking system.
Moz put together this list of all the different things Google considers when choosing how to rank your site. While all of these are important, there are four key factors that have a special effect on local businesses.
GMB (Google My Business) signals, external location signals, on-page signals and reviews are all factors that impact general SEO but have a larger impact on your Local SEO. Below you will discover different tactics for each one that will help you boost your local company’s SEO.
Claim Your Google My Business Page
While Google does make ranking difficult, they do an awesome job of making everything else super easy. Visit this link and Google will walk you through everything you need to do in order to setup your GMB account.
This is the very first thing you need to do for your business. If you don’t have a GMB account, then you won’t be showing up on Google Maps.
Once you have followed the steps and set it up, be sure to include the following:
- Add a long, unique description that’s formatted correctly and includes links.
- Choose the correct categories for your business.
- Upload as many photos as possible.
- Add a local phone number to your listing.
- Add your business address that’s consistent with that on your website and local directories.
- Upload a high-resolution profile image and cover photo.
- Add your opening times/days.
- Get real reviews from customers (We’ll get to this).
Take a NAP
Your NAP (Name, Address, Phone number), whether on your website or on other listing sites, needs to be consistent. If you have your address listed as “S Maple Ave” on one listing and “South Maple Ave” on another, Google will view those as inconsistent addresses.
Make sure you’re listed on all the necessary local map packs beyond Google's (Yelp, Yellow Pages, Thumbtack, Angie’s List, Foursquare, etc.) and that all of them are consistent.
The nature of your business will dictate which listings you want to partake in and which ones you don’t really need. Professional services might be more valuable listed on Thumbtack, an attraction might make more sense on Foursquare, and a restaurant would get more value from TripAdvisor.
*Sites with review capabilities are even more valuable to your business, as these ratings will show up in the listings beyond the map list on your Google search*
Every business should be on Yelp, Yellow Pages, Bing and Facebook. Even though not all of these are directly Google related, Google still uses these listings as signals that confirm the validity of your local business.
And most importantly, when setting these up, USE THE SAME EMAIL.
When you have an address change or if you need to update something about your NAP, it can be a major headache to track down all the different email addresses you used to set these up. Be very meticulous when creating these listings.
Speaking of meticulous, it’s very important to maintain consistency among these listings.
InsideLocal conducted a survey of over 500 SMB owners and SEO experts and discovered that the number one ranking issue local businesses come across is Citation/NAP consistency across the web.
The next largest issue was duplicate listings on Google Places (or among other NAP listing sites).
Once you’ve confirmed all of your listing information is consistent, the next step is to remove any duplicates. This might happen if you move offices, open a new location or close a recent one.
You are probably wondering how to manage all these listings at once. We use MozLocal, but there are a reliable handful of other services that also serve the same purpose.
Cue the music everyone. You’re getting a bonus round.
All SEO is heavily reliant on what sites are linking to you. If you have high-ranking domains linking to your site, Google recognizes that and gives your site a boost in rankings.
For local SEO, you don’t need to be linked to from Forbes or Nike or any crazy-authority website. The key for local search engine optimization is to be linked to from local websites that are relevant to what you do.
You can try to get featured on local websites with higher authority, such as local news publications or local magazine sites.
Off-Page Local Search Engine Optimization Tactics
Here are some of our favorite off-page local SEO tactics:
- Apply to any local “competitions.” Coolest office space, professionals on the move, etc.
- Get involved with the community. If you sponsor or donate your company’s time to local charities, you are twofold improving your brand equity and creating more opportunity for your site to be linked to online when people mention you.
- Local Universities. Universities have a very strong domain authority. Reach out to local schools and see if they’d be interested in writing about your business or if you can sponsor any of their events.
- Sponsor a Meetup Group.
- Leverage current business relationships.
- PR Stunts. Sometimes, you have to take a risk to stand out. Controversy is very attractive for local publications to write about, but it doesn’t always need to be controversial to stand out.
- Creative guerrilla marketing campaigns.
- Writing an article that challenges the status quo.
- Being first in your industry to offer a brand new product/service.
- Spy On Your Competition. Use a tool like SEM Rush to see where your local competition is getting linked from and try to apply the same tactics (in your own unique way of course)
A less-common but highly effective tactic for your on-page optimization is using SCHEMA.
SCHEMA is a code you put into your site that google crawls and displays in your Google search results. Location-based businesses benefit the most from using this.
Here’s the code that you can adapt to your own website:
<div itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/LocalBusiness"> <p itemprop="name">COMPANY NAME</p> <p itemprop="address" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/PostalAddress"> <p itemprop="streetAddress">ADDRESS LINE 1</p> <p itemprop="addressLocality">CITY</p>, <p itemprop="addressRegion">REGION</p> <p itemprop="postalCode">POSTCODE/ZIP</p. <p itemprop="telephone">PHONE NUMBER</p> <meta itemprop="latitude" content="LATITUDE" /> <meta itemprop="longitude" content="LONGITUDE" /> </div>
All you need to do is change the text in caps to your own details — simple.
So what does SCHEMA look like on Google?
What can more advanced SCHEMA look like on Google?
As far as content, you need to optimize your website copy to make sure Google understands what you do and where you do it. Your homepage is the most likely to rank when showing up on Google, so that’s the first page you want to optimize.
Use keywords such as your service and location(s) within your url, headings and conversationally within the body of your content. Be very careful not to keyword stuff. This will actually hurt your website. The more natural the language, the more likely it is that Google will help you rank for the right keywords.
You can create other pages on your site that are specific to the locations you serve, and although they might not rank, they will give your homepage a massive boost (as long as you make the navigation logical).
Another tactic is to write blog articles that are specific to the location(s) you serve. It doesn’t need to be promotional, just informational. This will not only help your users learn something new about their location but it helps Google understand what locations you specialize in.
It also helps to embed a Google Map on your homepage or even within your interior pages, such as blogs or about pages.
Case Study: South Florida Personal Injury Law Firm
By utilizing the blog, creating a series of articles on how to avoid car accidents in specific cities proved to be a valuable strategy for this client.
We measured their SEO performance immediately following the publication of each article. We also published case studies for each of their focus locations.
One article focused on Hollywood Florida and how to avoid car accidents in that city. Within three months we saw a significant lift in their Google rankings for all of their Hollywood keywords.
Their average position for their Hollywood keywords went up 15 spots. That’s an average lift of a page and a half on Google.
So we forged ahead using the same tactic for Miami, specifically a case study that used all the right keywords (personal injury, car accident, etc.) in a conversational manner.
The results, after only one month, were staggering.
All of their Miami keywords shot up by a net of 1,184 positions. Considering how much of a long game local SEO is, to see such a sharp boost in only a month was very encouraging.
Keep in mind, within the same timeframe, we were creating and publishing several articles focused on each of these locations. Don’t put all your eggs into one article and hope that it catches. Make sure you are executing multiple content efforts until you hit the sweet spot.
When following this tactic of location-specific blogs, make sure you link them within your site appropriately.
You should also have a page for each location you serve (if you serve more than one location). On this page, include the map, related articles (blogs), case studies for that area, etc. Anything that makes sense.
No-brainer, but please make sure your site is mobile-friendly. People aren’t carrying their laptops around when they are looking for your restaurant.
Now that your site has the necessities for local ranking, you are now a Waldo. It’s time to separate yourself from all the other Waldos!
Looking at the image above, you see three Waldos. You know which one you are not going to choose, all because of the reviews. This is an example of the power of reviews.
How do I get them to review?
Obviously, give them an awesome experience to remember and write about.
At your location, physically (kindly) ask them for a review on Google.
If you know you’re providing a great experience, but they aren’t reviewing, there’s an alternative.
You can digitally ask them to review your site. Tread very carefully, though, and keep it as genuine as possible.
Google even provides you with instructions on how to create a single link that your users can simply click on and be brought straight to your Google review page. It’s very simple.
While Google is an obvious platform to have positive reviews, don’t neglect the rest of those listing and review sites, as they affect local SEO too.
Don’t forget to do this for Yelp too! That’s what Apple maps use, so you don’t want to miss out on all those iPhone users who are too lazy to download the Google maps app. Just don’t leave a digital footprint for Yelp, they discourage businesses from asking their customers for reviews.
There’s tons of other review sites (TripAdvisor, Foursquare, even Facebook) that show up in the search engine listing when you search for your business. These stars show up under the listing as opposed to the Google map region.
Here’s an excellent example of what your local business can look like on google if you get reviews from multiple sites. Lots of stars!
SEO now stands for HEO—Human Experience Optimization. Create an easy to understand, fluid experience in your digital corner of the world and Google will reward you. The better interactions you get on your site and other relevant channels, the better you will rank.
Don’t just be Waldo in your location. Be a five-star Waldo.
Hearing about growth-driven design for the first time? Learn more about the three pillars of GDD and how this methodology can help you solve your greatest marketing challenges.