14 Local SEO Strategies for 2016
Adopting an active Local SEO strategy will help your business flourish locally. Whether you are a local brick and mortar retailer or a national brand, starting at home is an excellent way to get your feet wet with SEO and become a local authority. We always advise clients that before you worry about your visibility around the world, take the top spot in your home city and scale up from there.
So how to do you get started? Get ahead of your competition and stay there with these 14 local SEO strategies. Even without hiring an SEO agency, you'll be off to a good start by following this short guide. Your business will have a far greater chance of achieving higher search engine rankings, generate more traffic and strengthen your local web presence and authority.
1. Take Care of Your NAP Data
NAP stands for name, address and phone number with area code (there are people who also add the business website and make up the acronym NAP + W). This is the core information about your business, and you want to make sure that whenever this info appears online that it is as consistent as possible. What better place to make sure it's formatted correctly than your website?
First and foremost, you need to present your NAP in an easily crawlable HTML text format. Place it in your site’s footer, because that’s where your visitors will likely look for it. It’s important not to include the NAP in an image. This will prevent search engines from spotting it.
To boost the effectiveness of your NAP, even more, provide all the information in the standardized form.
To do this right, use schema.org local business markup. This way the information you provide will easily be identified by search engines.
<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=”telephone”>PHONE NUMBER</p>
<meta itemprop=”latitude” content=”LATITUDE” />
<meta itemprop=”longitude” content=”LONGITUDE” />
One of the most important steps is to ensure the NAP data on your website is consistent with what's seen on Google My Business.
There are a few things to remember, though:
- It’s better to have your public email address on the business domain of your own. This adds more credibility compared to email addresses from generic email service providers. For your information to be even more credible, use your domain email as the login for the Google My Business listing. This will show that it’s you who owns the business.
- It’s preferable to have a non-800 business phone number. It’s better to publish a phone number with your local area code.
- When choosing a category for your business, keep in mind that it has to describe the business itself, not what it does. The proper choice of category results in a listing jump, whereas an incorrect category can lead to your business information disappearing from the lists.
You need to check that the information you provide is in the same format and a 100% consistent across all the platforms and listings. Even the slightest discrepancy can cause your local authority to drop. We’ll talk more about checking your listings later.
According to a study by Local Search Association and Burke Inc., here’s the information that users expect to get when looking through local listings:
- Address (67%).
- Phone number (67%).
- General proximity to location (58%).
- Hours of operation (58%).
- Company name (57%).
- Website (55%).
- Prices (53%).
- General product or service info (52%).
- Forms of payment accepted (28%).
- Credentials (25%).
- Brands or trademarks (23%).
- Other company information (16%).
- Other product information (14%).
2. Make Website Sections for Each Geographical Location
Unless you have a separate website, it’s important to have a page or section that’s dedicated to each particular location.
The presence of such pages enables you to separate the information between local branches and deliver the content that’s relevant for each particular location.
Here are the key pieces of information you need to put on each page:
- Contact info and address of the particular location
- Embedded map
- Operation hours
- Location-based keywords. Those can be the names of regions or cities
3. Claim Your Business on Recommendation Platforms
Apart from claiming your business on Google My Business, think of other platforms and local listings:
Make sure your business is listed on those sites. Citations and local links will help to boost your local rankings and increase the authority of each location’s page.
And, if you have a dedicated section for each location on your site (as we mentioned earlier), you can link the listing directly to the corresponding page.
4. Have Separate Social Media Profiles for Your Local Branches
This one may get a little tricky.
There are some good reasons why companies maintain a single social media profile. It saves time and makes it easier to manage the account. It allows you to gain control over the consistency of information you provide. And it’s possible to demonstrate how big your social media following is.
But, here’s another thing. Facebook allows business owners to use locations. This means that you can control both the main, “parent” brand page, as well as all the connected individual branch pages (“child” ones).
This allows customers to find your business and interact with it as a whole, or at the local level.
It gives you closer, more personal engagement with your followers, but it also enables you to easily maintain consistency across all of the pages. In turn, it brings more traffic and clicks and increases social signals.
To help make it easier to manage more than one social media profile, consider scheduling your social media posts with software such as Buffer or CoSchedule’s content calendar. This way you can save time and still increase your traffic and engagement.
5. Create Exclusive Content for Every Local Branch
It’s good to have citations, separate location pages, and social media profiles. But it’s still about the content, right? Because there’s no point in optimizing all the stuff if you don’t have the content to give to your clients.
You need different content when you try to get high rankings in multiple locations. To achieve the rankings you want, you’ll have to fill those local pages with content that’s relevant for each particular area.
This is even more important when you’re dealing with highly competitive local keywords. Why? Because you need to attract local links to get rankings. These can be from an online edition of a local newspaper, local reviewers, bloggers or business owners.
Here are some ideas for the content you can post on local pages:
- Info about events taking place in your neighborhood.
- Pictures or videos from those local events.
- Topics that are trending in the area or the community in general.
- Embedded reviews from local review sites.
- Local guides.
6. Create a Well-Optimized Local Website
To get high rankings, generate traffic and attract customers, you need to have a website that’s well-optimized for local SEO.
Duct Tape Marketing & Justin Sturges have conducted extensive research that highlights some of the most valuable findings of how to create a website optimized for local SEO.
Here’s what they came up with: A Visual Guide to Local SEO for Small Business Websites.
7. Build Off-Site Links
To generate higher rankings and get noticed online, your local business should build links to its site that are locally relevant.
Here’s what you can do:
- Start a blog on your website. Fill it with content and topics that are related to your niche.
- Involve guest posting on your site’s blog.
- Submit your blog to blog directories.
- Get featured in a link roundup post. Reach out to bloggers who write link roundup posts, ask them to include your blog post and explain why they should.
- Reach out to bloggers in your niche. Ask them for a review of your product or service and give them something in return.
- Find blogs in your niche and write comments on their posts.
- Discuss topics related to what your company does on forums.
- If you get listed on local business directories, this also helps to build links.
- Create a YouTube channel where you’ll post videos about your products or services. This way you’ll be able to put links to your site in every video’s description.
- Create a LinkedIn account where you’ll share blog posts as slide presentations on SlideShare. This way you’ll be able to link back to your site both in the descriptions and in the slides.
- Strong social media presence also acts as a means for link building. Encourage readers and social media followers to share your content, and never forget to include a CTA (call to action).
8. Generate Appropriate Local Content
You want your content to make as big of an impact as possible. To have this kind of content, it has to be unique, user-friendly and search-friendly too.
Below are the ways to create content that will positively influence your local SEO:
- Use customers’ testimonials when you create a landing page for a specific location to make it more unique. Also, include testimonials from clients who have used an individual product. Put those on related pages.
- Fill the pages of your website with visual content. Use tags to label the pictures and write transcriptions to videos.
- Write about special offers to differentiate one of your branches from another.
- Include bios of staff members that work in specific locations. This way clients will know who they are going to interact with.
- If you happen to be a sponsor of a team, event or other organization, write about it.
- Take part in or host events in different cities to be able to write unique content about those events.
- Post tips that will be useful for the audience in a specific area.
9. Get More Online Reviews on Third Party Review Sites
Reviews increase rankings and conversion rates and are an important part of any local SEO strategy. They also increase credibility. Reviews enable customers to see what other people think about your company.
Here’s how you can deal with them:
- Check if your business is listed properly on major review platforms (e.g., Google My Business, Yelp, etc.). Also, don’t forget about geographically based and industry-specific review websites.
- Study all the platform guidelines before encouraging your clients to review on any of them.
- Encourage your customers to leave reviews from their accounts and devices.
- Don’t push to put out too many reviews at once. Otherwise, they’ll be filtered.
- Improve customer service and always be ready to give a quick response to minimize the chances of getting a negative review.
According to BlueGlass, even though 90% of people base their buying decisions on online reviews, only 6% write reviews. With this small number having such a significant influence on your local SEO, it’s important that you do as much as you can to get those few reviewers to write you reviews. And if you can increase that number, that’s even better.
So, you need to give your customers another reason to write you a review. For instance, you could encourage them to write reviews by offering incentives to those who do.
Here are some ways you can encourage your customers to write reviews:
- Ask them to write a review.
- Add links to leave a review in emails, newsletters, and on social media.
- Offer a discount for those who write a review.
- Offer a chance to win a prize for those who write a review, but don’t offer free giveaways to everyone.
Keep in mind that some sites disapprove of incentivizing customers to write reviews. Don’t be afraid to simply ask your customers to leave a review, because it’s not only a great way to encourage reviewing, but it’s also a safe and straightforward way.
Alameda Internet Marketing offers a service to help you manage all this easily with our reputation management service, Reviewability. Read more here.
10. Add Photos to Your Google My Business Page.
Adding relevant business photos is another means to increasing your ranking. And according to The 2016 Quantitative Local Search Ranking Factors Study, adding photos to your Google My Business Page “came in as the 9th highest correlating ranking factor.”
Here are the different photos that you can add on Google My Business:
- Cover photo.
- Profile photo.
- Additional photos.
Google may automatically choose a photo for you, so make sure to check that you choose each photo yourself and that each one is relevant and necessary.
Add a cover photo that gives your customers a clear image of what your business is all about. It should also be a high-quality image that is large enough for a full-screen view. Cover photos are cropped to fit a 16:9 aspect ratio.
Your profile photo should also show what your business is all about, as it will appear next to your business name, but don’t use your logo because there is a separate place for logos. Don’t forget to add your logo photo, as it makes it easier for customers to identify your business.
Make the most of the space you have for additional photos. Add any photos that showcase your products or anything else you want your customers to see that will influence their buying decisions.
The types of photos may differ depending on what kind of business you have. Just think about what your customers want to know about your business and use your photos to answer their questions, so that they don’t have any reasons to leave.
11. Optimize Your Website for Mobile
You want your website to reach as many people as possible. To have this kind of reach, you have to optimize for mobile.
Optimizing for mobile is incredibly important for local SEO. The 2016 Quantitative Local Search Ranking Factors Study found that if you have a mobile-friendly website, you have “a better chance at ranking higher in the local search results.”
Also, according to the data in BlueGlass’s post, it appears that more people use smartphones to search for local information than computers or tablets, such as searching for directions to local stores, local store addresses, and business hours. And according to TeleVox, “94% of smartphone owners look for local information on their phone.”
So, if you haven’t already, you should optimize for mobile to target these customers.
If you’re not sure that your website has a mobile-friendly design, try Google’s mobile-friendly test. All you have to do is enter your web page URL. You should also check out Google’s updated guide on how to create mobile-friendly websites.
12. Check Your Business Listings
After listing your business on numerous platforms, it’s important to check your listings on local search engines because of they – and your customers – rely on this information to find you. Any discrepancies can damage your local authority. So, make sure your information is complete, accurate, and consistent.
Here are some sites you can use to check your listings:
If you use Moz Local to check your local business listings, here’s what you can do:
- Create and update listings.
- Find and resolve incomplete listings.
- Search for and resolve inconsistent NAP (name, address, phone) information.
- Find and resolve duplicate listings.
- Re-verify listings.
- Push listings to major data aggregators.
13. Consider Using Locally Targeted Paid Search
Depending on your budget, this may not be the best strategy for you. But, using locally targeted paid search is a great way to target specific locations, so it’s important to at least consider using it as part of your local SEO strategy.
For instance, you can use Google AdWords to target specific locations and make sure that you reach the right people. Do your research, use analytics to find out where both your potential and current customers are, then target those locations.
You can also exclude specific locations, which is another great way to make sure that you reach the right people. For example, if you only ship products to a few places, you could exclude the places that you don’t ship to.
If you use Facebook as your primary social media platform for your business, you may want to advertise on Facebook to target audiences in specific locations.
Or, if you use Twitter as your main social media platform, you could advertise on Twitter, where you can also target based on location and make sure that you reach the right audience.
Other social media platforms have targeting options as well. For instance, LinkedIn has sponsored content, and Pinterest has promoted pins.
14. Think About Global Potential
As you use these strategies to improve your local SEO, don’t forget to keep in mind the global potential of your business.
Depending on what kind of business you have, focussing on local SEO strategies to target a local audience instead of a global one may help you stay ahead of your competition. But, it’s important to think about how your business will grow in the future as well.
For example, when you create separate social media profiles for your local branches, make sure not to forget about the main, “parent” brand page. Put the same amount of effort into it that you put into the individual, “child” brand pages.
More Local SEO Strategies
Up for more local SEO strategies? Check out this guide to ultimate SEO domination!
Which is your favorite local SEO strategy? Do you have any other strategies to add? Please share in the comments below.