Local SEO Strategy for 2017- Complete Guide to Rank Your Local Business
The Pigeon update to Google’s Algorithm was launched on July 24, 2014 to provide more meaningful, relevant and accurate local search results. Ever since we have been living in the Pigeon era, a lot of businesses who have physical stores are having trouble with ranking their website for local queries. Queries such as “Chinese restaurants near me” or “Spa in Mumbai” see data aggregator’s such as Zomato and TripAdvisor rank higher within SERPs. This essentially takes away traffic from websites of brands who would want to rank for such queries. You need a definitive Local SEO Strategy to rule local search queries.
We will discuss how a brand that has local presence can improve their online presence to rank higher for local queries.
What is Local SEO?
Local SEO is an online marketing strategy that will helps local businesses to promote their products or services to local customers who are looking for such products or services. For e.g. an automobile manufacturer who has dealerships across multiple cities and locations can effectively use local SEO to target potential customers looking to visit dealerships in their vicinity.
Local SEO uses a variety of strategic approaches to getting businesses rank higher for local search queries including maps listing on Google My Business, Bing Places or listing on local citation websites such as JustDial.com, TradeMartIndia.com, TripAdvisor.in or creating content on business websites that has a local flavour.
It is estimated that 6-8% of all queries on Google are local in nature. This means that millions of people are searching for services and products locally.
What is the Pigeon update? How does it affect your Local SEO Strategy?
Google’s Pigeon algorithm update changes the way in which one needs to focus on their Local SEO strategy. This algorithm update introduced a major change – Google shifted the calculations for distance around a search query, which mostly reduced the search radius. For example, if you are living in Mulund (a suburb of Mumbai), then it would be very unlikely that your local search query would show listings for places in Thane (a city that is very close to Mulund). What implications does this radii change have from a SEO perspective?
- If you are operating a business at multiple locations in a city, make sure that you are optimizing your online presence for not just the city name, but also each and every location in your city.
- Make sure you are aware of synonyms used for localities / neighbourhoods. For example Lower Parel is sometimes referred to as Upper Worli or Nariman Point can be referred to as South Bombay. Use all synonyms while creating local content.
- Don’t change your NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number). Maintain the same as you did earlier.
Ready to get started ? Let’s rock local search queries with our Local SEO Strategy!
Google My Business, Bing Places & Apple Maps: Critical Local SEO Platforms
Ever used maps on your smart phone? I bet no one would dare to say no. We’ve been using Maps online and on our phone to avail driving directions or finding locations / places of interest nearby. Google, Microsoft and lately Apple have opened up their Maps interface for businesses. You can list all your business locations here and help local customers find your services.
For discussion purposes, let’s focus on Google My Business (also because Google has 90%+ market share in most countries). Any business that has a physical location should create a Google My Business account. Once you have created your Account, you can add all your business locations and get them verified. Here are some important points you need to keep in mind while creating your Google Business listings
- Create your Google My Business account using an official company ID. For example, create the account using firstname.lastname@example.org as opposed to using a gmail or a yahoo email account.
- Make sure that there are no duplicate locations that exist for your business. It might be the case that someone else has created a Google My Business listing for your location. In such a case, you can ask the current owner to make you the owner or to add you as a manager. You can also request for transfer of ownership to your listing.Once you have access to duplicate listings, make sure you delete incorrect listings and maintain the listing that has NAP (Name, Address, Phone) correctly entered.
- Get all your locations verified (published): Ensuring that your Google My Business Listing is verified is an important step to take complete advantage of your listing. If your listing is not verified, you can apply for bulk verification of all listings or individually get a listing verified via a phone call or by receiving a postcard to your business location via snail mail.
- Business Name: Google suggests that you use the same name as your business name. According to Google’s My Business Guidelines “You should represent your business exactly as it appears in the offline world”. Moreover, Google also states that “you may include a single descriptor that helps customers locate your business or understand what business offers”. Avoid adding keywords to your business name. This is definitely considered as spam and Google won’t spare you for doing so. You can totally avoid this penalty by reading through Google’s local business name guidelines.
- Address: It is imperative that your address is correct and accurate. Only include information that is a part of your official address. Do not add nearby landmarks, unless you can’t point the map marker to the exact location. If you’d want to go through the complete Address guidelines, they can be accessed here.
- Business Hours: Ensure that the business operating hours are filled out correctly. If the business is closed on a date you can use the special hours field to add relevant dates and times.
- Phone Number: Make sure that you are using a local number on your local listing. It is not advised to use a 1 800 number or a toll-free number on your listing. In case you have a centralised call centre, you can avail services from Knowlarity or Exotel to generate unique numbers for every location and have them redirected to the board line or vice versa.
- Business Category: Use the correct categories for your business. It is also important that we select the primary category of the business wisely. For e.g. for a Health Centre check which keyword has more search volumes – Diagnostic Centre or Pathology Lab, and make that your primary category.
- Website URL: Make sure that you are entering the most appropriate URL in you Google My Business listing. If your website has different pages for different locations or cities, link to the relevant page rather than linking to the homepage.
- Photos: Photos play an important role in how your business is represented in local search results. Make sure you have uploaded high resolution and good looking photos of your locations. This will increase the click through rate of people clicking on your listing and then visiting your website. You can hire a Google Trusted Photographer to take a 360 degree view of your store location. Read about this program and find a Google Trusted photographer in your area.Use correct details for every location: Use the correct business name, category, address, store hours, phone number, website link, accessibility, amenities information, photos for every listing. Here are some points to consider.
Local SEO Strategy for your Website
If you are a business that has physical locations, it is imperative that your website serves local content and is optimized for local search queries. Most conspicuously, you need to make sure that the URL architecture or structure of your website mirrors your physical presence. Here are some points to consider for local businesses operating across multiple locations
- City / locality (neighbourhood) pages: Make sure that you have created either city or locality (or both) pages on your website. For example, have a look at agarwalpackers.com – They are a national brand that operated in multiple cities and hence have created a page for every city. For the local query “packers and movers in panipat”, this page ranks on position 1 on Google.co.in. So do 90% of all city pages created by Agarwal Packers! One needs to ensure that you are creating unique content for every city page: You can see that Agarwal Packers have taken the trouble to write a bit about “Panipat” city, thus creating unique content that has a local flavor. What if you are operating in only a handful of cities but have multiple locations of business in each city? Take your content strategy one level deeper. Create locality specific pages! Have a look at the listing page created by Weddingz.in for local search query “Wedding Venues in Chattarpur”:You must be thinking – Oh wait, isn’t Weddingz.in a data aggregator? Why would a brand need to do that? Simply because its delivering results for every data aggregator – from TripAdvisor to Zomato, every data aggregator uses a locality pages strategy to rank higher within local SERPs.Here are some guidelines to optimize your city / locality pages:
- Page Title: Use the focus keyword in the page <title> i.e. <Service / Product / Key Business> in <city / locality>. For example, Hair Salon in Bandra, Mumbai or Corporate Lawyer in Mumbai
- Meta Description: Use the focus keyword once in the META Description
- H1, H2 Tags: Make sure that you are having relevant page headings and use the focus keyword in the heading tags
- Content: Use the local keyword intelligently (with variations and synonyms) on the content of your pages. Write original content for every city / locality page.
- Images with ALT Tags: Make sure that images used on the city / locality pages are named using the focus keyword. We must also use the keyword in the ALT Tag of the images.
- Maps with driving directions: Driving directions create a great user experience for someone looking for your business. You can embed a Google map to better the user experience.
- Local Business Schema: Whether it’s Google or Bing, both advocate the use of Structured Snippets or schema tags on your website. Google recommends JSON-LD as the format to be used for schema codes. If you are having multiple location pages, make sure to use the schema.org/LocalBusiness schema tag on your page.
- Customer reviews / Testimonials: Having reviews from customers of your business is a great way to increase confidence and reduce anxiety of visitors. Not only that, but it improves the EAT (Expertise, Authority, Trust) score of your page. This in turn helps you rank better for local search queries. Zomato does a fantastic job at crowd sourcing reviews for business locations (restaurants) on every business page. Have a look: Also, you can use Review schema tags so that these reviews show up within SERPs. The location-wise contact page should focus on “company” related searches and are most relevant to B2B companies that are not offering local services, but have their corporate offices in multiple locations.When it comes to listing your business website on other sites, you need to be cautious with your approach. Always make sure that you choose quality over quantity. A citation or local listing is simply the listing of your business name, address and phone number on the web. For example, a doctor may have his/her profile listed on Practo.com or a restaurant would list itself on Zomato.com or a hotel on booking.com or Tripadvisor.in. These are referred to as structured citations or listings of businesses in relevant directories. Sometimes, it may happen so that you have not created a citation of your business. For example, this listing for a local Engineering coaching class was created by information that was obtained through third party data sources.
- Contact us pages: This, I’d say is the most underutilized strategy for ranking your business for the locations in which it operates. For example, if you have offices in multiple locations, you can create contact us pages for each of these locations. Do not confuse this with creating pages by city / locality as those pages target your service / product offering.The location-wise contact page should focus on “company” related searches and are most relevant to B2B companies that are not offering local services, but have their corporate offices in multiple locations.
Local Citations / Company Profile Listings
When it comes to listing your business website on other sites, you need to be cautious with your approach. Always make sure that you choose quality over quantity.
A citation or local listing is simply the listing of your business name, address and phone number on the web. For example, a doctor may have his/her profile listed on practo.com or a restaurant would list itself on Zomato.com or a hotel on booking.com or Tripadvisor.in. These are referred to as structured citations or listings of businesses in relevant directories.
Sometimes, it may happen so that you have not created a citation of your business. For example, this listing for a local Engineering coaching class was created by information that was obtained through third party data sources.
In such situations, it is important to contact the data aggregator and claim your business listing. Claiming your business listing would ensure that there are no duplicate listings created and moreover, you have complete ownership of all the information published on such a listing.
Some factors that you need to keep in mind with regards to local listings / citations:
- NAP consistency: Make sure the Name, Address and Phone number of your business location is consistent across all your citations and local listings. Make sure this also matches with local addresses mentioned on your website. Google definitely takes into consideration NAP consistency as one of the ranking factors for local search queries.
- Online Reviews: What makes or breaks your business online? Its reviews. Make sure you’ve got them covered. If you are a local business, then be ready to have a ton of negative (or positive) reviews hurled at you via multiple citation / listing websites. For e.g. Trip Advisor, Booking.com, Zomato and most aggregators have a review. A simple search for “review of matamaal” (Kashmiri food in Delhi, so yummmm) shows us all aggregator websites. Reviews are used by all these websites to rank locations in their listing pages. Moreover, these websites use AggregateRating Schema so that the reviews / ratings appear in Search Results. If your local business location receives a poor rating, this will get reflected in SERPs and chances are that people will not even click on your organic listing. Try to get as many positive reviews for your business. If you do have negative reviews, address those concerns and make it a point to reply to these reviews as a company representative.
- Top 30-50 Citations: Do you have a list of the top 30-50 local listing websites? We have compiled a list of top 50 local listing websites in India for a quick reference. You need to have your business listed on these websites as per your Industry / Category. Here are some niche company listing sites
- Healthcare & Diagnostics :com, Lybrate.com, Healthians.com, LabStreet.com
- General:com, AskLaila.com, Sulekha.com, UrbanPro.com
- Education:com, EduKart.com
Back linking Local SEO Strategy
Your back linking strategy is a critical cog in your Local SEO efforts. It is important that you conduct a back link audit of your website to check whether relevant local pages on your website are receiving links from local websites. You can run a quick report on SEMRush.com.
Ever since the Pigeon update has launched, Google has stressed further on the importance of high quality backlinks and overall authority of local search factors.
- First and foremost, check Google Search Console (Webmasters) to see whether Google has levied a manual site penalty on your website.
- Next, check whether any algorithm updates have imposed a penalty on your site. You can use the Panguin Tool and map your Google Analytics Organic traffic to the latest algorithm updates.
- Third, use SEMRush.com or Moz to run a check on the number of links your website has and the quality of those links. Check your anchor text distribution and make sure that you are getting links from relevant keywords. It’s not a good idea to have over-optimized anchor tags.
- Check the disavow file (in Google Search Console) and make sure that its updated with the domains that are spammy.
Once you have audited your current backlinks, you can go ahead and craft your new back linking strategy. Here are some tips to obtain links to local pages of your website
- Link your Google My Business locations and Bing Places locations to the relevant location / city page on your website as opposed to linking the location to your Homepage
- Obtain links by creating profiles on citation sites / local listing sites. Again, make sure that these local listings link back to your local pages.
- Create profiles of your website in local city directories that list relevant businesses in cities.
- You might want to do a blogger outreach and have local bloggers review your products / services on their blog. While choosing such bloggers, try to focus on getting bloggers who are writing about the city in which your business is located.
Leveraging Social Media Channels for Local SEO
Social Media and Local SEO go hand in hand. Almost all the social media channels have features that will allow you to create / setup local business profiles. Let’s have a look at some of these channels:
- Facebook: Facebook has a Business Manager that allows you to setup all locations for your business across cities. You can use these locations in Facebook “Drive Store Visits” Ads. Although, these location pages don’t seem to have a direct SEO impact, having these locations will help in dominating Facebook Graph Search for your brand keywords.
- Pinterest: Pinterest drives a ton of Referral traffic for lifestyle / health / travel / fashion brands. By setting up boards on Pinterest for various locations relevant to your business and then pinning images from your blog / website to these boards will help you achieve incremental traffic gains and visibility. Make sure that you are linking your pins to relevant pages on your website so that you have deep links to your website as opposed to taking every visitor to the homepage of your website.
- Quora.com: Quora is a place to gain and share knowledge. It’s a platform to ask questions and connect with people who contribute unique insights and quality answers. If you would like to project your brand as a thought leader in your industry, there is no better place than Quora. Sign up as a company representative and start answering questions related to your industry. While answering question, try to provide genuine help and if want to plug in your brand, do so with full disclosure. Although the link backs from Quora are “no follow”, they still affect your SEO as Quora Question & Answer pages are crawled by Search Engines.Quora also provides you the opportunity to setup a blog. Not many know of it. By setting up a blog on Quora and publishing original content, you can generate back links to your website. Although these links would be self-created, I’d recommend this strategy for businesses that publish a ton of blogs regularly and posting a blog here would not harm your SEO.
- LinkedIn: In a bid to keep users engaged on LinkedIn, they launched LinkedIn Pulse – a publishing platform for LinkedIn users. Pulse offers you a platform to voice your opinion in the form of articles. Obviously, you can link back to relevant pages on your website via an article. If you haven’t yet started publishing on LinkedIn, the time is now. Just visit: https://www.linkedin.com/post/new and get started.
- Slideshare: Yes, Slideshare. Ever thought that Slideshare could get you referral traffic and back links? No? You can use the Slideshare platform to create presentations relevant to your business and also link back from text / images on slides. Make sure that you are not publishing confidential information and keeping your presentation detailed & informative. Do not look at this channel only from a SEO perspective. Use Slideshare to build thought leadership, educate customers and establish a brand. Note: You can also leverage Scribd.com as a platform for sharing corporate presentations.
The channels suggested above also form your Social SEO Strategy. We’ve tried to add a local angle to these channels keeping in mind that we are talking about Local SEO.
Do you need help in crafting your Local SEO Strategy? Reach out to us today!