Like all other areas of SEO, local SEO is an ever-evolving entity. The last few years in particular have seen huge changes in the tools and techniques businesses need to use to rank well for location-specific searches.
Now, I’m not saying that these aren’t important – that would be stupid, right? What I’m saying is that there are many other elements that seem to have been given more importance since the “Pigeon” update last year.
So, where should SEOs and business owners is focusing their efforts? Are there still “quick wins” to be had? Here are my five tips for helping you, or your clients, get more local visibility in 2015.
Think Visibility, Not Rankings
Visibility is about controlling and dominating search real estate. If your local listing ranks top, with your website just below the fold, that might not be enough. What if your competitors are ranking with images on a visually led search and using Ad Words to secure above-the-fold real estate with locally relevant extensions, reviews, and social integrations? Even if they rank below your primary Web properties, they will have far more visibility, garner more trust, get more visitors, and probably convert more.
Google Places for Business and Google+ Local
Having said all that, you shouldn’t ignore Google’s suggested channels for ranking your business. They still dominate the primary real estate in any locally oriented search. So, how do you ensure your listing is presented as often, and in the best possible way, as possible?
In the past, it’s all been about reviews and citations. That much hasn’t changed. What is worth considering is the general shift toward ranking signals that can’t be gamed. This means it’s a very reasonable assumption that reviews will soon get more weight than citations.
Get the Basics Right
Though the standard of local SEO is generally increasing, there are still so many businesses that aren’t getting the basics right. One of the most common failings I spot is the omission of a custom Meta description.
This is another area where businesses are throwing away chances to attract new visitors by focusing on their rank rather than how they are perceived in the SERPs. Ranking number one only gets you in the shop window. If your Meta description is an isolated section of your page’s opening paragraph, and your competitors at number two and three have carefully crafted their snippets to make visitors want to click, you’re going to lose out.
Yes, citations are still important. Even though they can be easily gamed, they still represent a trustworthy indicator of where a business is located. If you’ve got 200 citations that all tell Google that you’re based in the same place and have the same address, in the same format, they are going to trust that information and reflect it in their SERPS.
There are now lots of different tools for identifying and maintaining your local citations on the Web. The most recent of these is Moz Local. These let you manage your entire online business directory listing from one place. These tools will push your business details to all relevant citation sources and make sure it’s always presented in exactly the same format as your Google listing.
Do Your Other Properties Rank?
As you know, the perceived relevance of particular properties will vary depending on the search term itself. If it’s a visually led search, you will probably get images ranking highly. If video is particularly relevant, you’ll see videos high up in the SERP. One of the best ways to work this out is to simply carry out searches using your key terms and take note of what shows up. This should tell you what type of media do well, but also what your competitors are doing. This is a great way to focus your efforts on the exact properties that Google deems relevant to your search. Do their Yelp listings sit below their website and places listing? What about their social properties? Are they getting good visibility? If so, which ones? If you can focus on developing these properties; making sure you have as much information on there as possible you will start to see broader visibility for your search. Another, often ignored, way to increase the visibility of these other properties is to do everything you can to help them rank. Though this seems counter intuitive (you should focus your SEO on your own website, right?), by linking to these other properties wherever possible will help increase their perceived authority and rank.
Your Google properties and company website should always receive the majority of your attention. However, by thinking more broadly about your visibility in the SERPs you’re likely to increase your visibility and perceived trust, not just by Google, but by potential customers, too.