Local SEO has been a popular tactic employed by small businesses over the last few years. Compared to its national counterpart, local search optimization gives local businesses a competitive edge against larger and well-established businesses.
Overall, it's a valuable tactic that every small business needs to consider, especially with the rise of mobile devices.
Local SEO vs. National SEO: How are they different?
While they’re pretty similar to each other, local SEO has a geographical component that favours local businesses. Unlike national SEO, it takes into account signals from other businesses located in a particular area or provide a listing of local businesses.
Essentially, local search engine optimization allows small businesses to compete really well in a particular geographical city or area.
Why invest in local search optimization?
The Local Pack is Google's response to our growing usage of mobile devices by making it easier for businesses and users to connect with each other. Whenever a user clicks on a business listed on the Local Pack, they can immediately pull up relevant information such as its address, phone number, website and directions.
So should your business focus on local SEO?
Local SEO can and should be used by businesses that mainly focus on serving a geographical area, but If you have plans on expanding nationally or internationally, then stick to the regular/normal SEO.
For example, a pizza restaurant whose goal is sourcing local ingredients will greatly benefit optimizing for local search. On the other hand, a furniture company that serves the entire country won’t benefit by focusing its efforts on local SEO.
How to Rank Better on Local Search Engine Optimization
Properly optimize on-page SEO elements
On-page ranking factors elements play an important role in SEO so making sure your page is properly optimized will help you rank better.
1. Use geotargeted keywords
Like national SEO, the local variant requires you to focus on keywords that describe what your business is all about. However, it’s a good idea to append your location to those keywords so that you can indicate where your business is located.
2. Business information on your website
Make sure that your business’ contact information is displayed on your site – i.e. the footer. This helps Google identify where your business is located and lets it associate you with an area.
- Business Name
- Full Address
- Telephone Number
- Email Address
An ideal place to display your information is on your website’s footer because it shows up on every page.
3. Optimized page titles and meta descriptions
On search results, or SERP, potential visitors get a glimpse of who you are and what your website is all about based on your title and meta description. You’ll want to make sure that these elements are properly optimized so that your page ranks well and attracts clicks.
- Page Title: Optimize your title by using your main keyword along with your location. It’s important to make it descriptive while keeping it under 70 characters.
- Meta Description: While Google tends to dynamically pull in relevant snippets of text, it never hurts to optimize your meta description to maximize its impact.
Again, it’s really important to use your local city’s name on your title and description. For example, Vancouver businesses can have “Mr. Handy’s Furniture Store | Vancouver, BC” as it’s title.
4. Ensure your site is fast and mobile friendly
Having a fast and mobile friendly website is something that you’re to want to have. With recent changes to Google algorithm, fast and responsive sites gain preference over those that are sluggish and are restricted to desktops. Being able to meet your customers on their smart phones isn't just a best practice, it can actually sway their purchasing decisions.
Take a moment to digest this data from Google. 70% of Canadian consumers who searched a product or brand on their phones immediately visited a store or website. If you're a business, that number is pretty significant, especially when combined with the Local Pack.
Create or Claim your Google My Business (GMB) Listing
Having a Google My Business (GMB) account is essentially how a business shows up on Google Maps. I’m listing GMB as a separate section just because it is quite comprehensive.
If your business doesn’t have one yet, create one. If your business already exists but you don’t own it, you can claim ownership of it.
1. Provide comprehensive information about your business
The first step is to obviously complete your listing with the right information. The more you information you provide Google, the better it’ll be able to rank you.
One thing that you need to make sure of, is to choose the right category for your business. It’s pretty easy to select a general topic, but it’s important that you drill down and find the exact one for your business.
2. Your name, address and phone number (NAP) is important - CONSISTENCY IS KEY
So remember how you listed down your business’ contact details on your site? For GMB – and for local SEO – it’s important that your NAP remains as consistent as possible. While Google is smart enough to understand slight deviations, it helps your overall rank if your NAP is consistent throughout the web.
3. Upload images and accumulate reviews
Google loves seeing its users engage with search results so having great images on your GMB profile is a big deal. It plays a key role in driving engagement online and it'll also benefit your rank.
You’ll also want to ask for reviews from your customers because you can take this as a form of social proof and as a ranking signal.
The better your reviews are, the more confident people are shopping with you. From a local search engine optimization standpoint, high quality reviews have a direct correlation to your rank on the local pack.
Get listed in top directories
These local directories, also known as citations, are also pretty important. Along with your business’ SEO efforts, Google uses these local directories to identify what businesses are available in a given area. Whitespark, an SEO firm focusing on local search, compiled a list of top citations for Canada:
- Industry Canada
- Bing Places
- Web Local
You can visit Whitespark to see a larger list, but regardless, you’ll want to sign your website up on these websites. Aside from inbound links, these citations are one of the major ranking factors for local search results so they’re important for businesses.
One great thing about these listings/citations is that they don’t even need to point back to your website. If your business' NAP is fully or partially mentioned, Google is smart enough to recognize it and will pass on some SEO juice to your ranking.
Local SEO is a pretty complex topic but investing in your local presence can pay off. With competition at a national level increasing, small businesses that can leverage local SEO to reach customers that are willing to support local businesses. Plus, a properly optimized business can quickly reach customers on mobile devices and as they shop around.