As people get more used to staying indoors, they tend to discover businesses around them through the Internet rather than seeing their physical facilities. This makes local SEO more crucial than ever to businesses targeting very specific geographic locations. With the digital marketplace getting more and more crowded, it’s essential to be in Google’s good graces to help your brand stand out from the rest of the pack.
As its name suggests, local SEO is the process of improving your visibility in Google’s SERPs in a specific locality. Unlike plain SEO, local SEO isn’t limited to improving rankings in just the regular SERPs. It’s also focused on helping a business climb the top of local business map packs displayed atop search results pages.
If you’re running a local SEO campaign, here’s our local SEO playbook to help you out. At the very least, you can treat it like a checklist of all the things you need to get done. Here’s what you need to do:
1. Display Your NAP on Your Website
Your business name, address and phone number (NAP) are the most important elements of your local SEO campaign. The name and the address help Google identify your brand and associate it with its geographic location. The phone number, on the other hand, serves as further validation that your business is located in the place where you say it is through its area code.
For your NAP to serveyou well, it should be stated clearly in your website. Typically, webmasters like to do this in their About Us pages. While doing that is perfectly fine, you can do even better by having your NAP displayed sitewide in every page’s header or footer.
If your business has several branches in different locations, a sitewide display of just one NAP isn’t the way to go. Just create a Locations or Branches page and state each location’s NAP there. It would be better if the NAP is accompanied by an image of the branch as well as an embedded Google Map of the place.
Lastly, remember to use the local phone number of your location instead of a mobile number or a 1-800 number. Using a local phone complete with a country and area code makes it easier for Google’s algorithms to know that your location is legitimate.
2. Claim Your Google MyBusiness Listing
Google MyBusiness is a free Google service that lets you create a business listing online. The data is then verified by Google and, if successful, allows you to start displaying your listing on Google Maps. When your business name is searched, Google will display its map location, an image and the general business information that you entered in it.
In some cases where the business owner doesn’t create a GMB listing, Google will create it for them. This happens when your business has been up and running for a while, sits on a non-obscure location and is known (and searched) by people in your community. In cases like this, you don’t need to create a new GMB listing. You only need to claim what’s already out there.
Needless to say, it’s important to have full control of your GMB listing if you want to rank in Google’s SERP-based map packs. Optimizing your listing is just as important as the SEO that you apply on your own website. Here’s how to do that and improve your listing’s ability to rank:
a. Claim or Create Your GMB Listing by following the procedure here. The process is pretty straightforward. If you’re creating a new listing, you’ll be asked to fill out a lot of fields pertaining to the specifics of your business. Once you’re done, the information will be saved but won’t go live on Google until you verify it. Here in the Philippines, you still need to do things the old fashioned way i.e. you’ll receive a code via snail mail to fully activate the account.
If you’re claiming an existing business listing, the process will be similar but the verification code will be the most important element. Once you verify your ownership, Google will assign ownership of the account to you and you’ll have the ability to edit and enhance what’s already there.
b. Fill as Many Fields as You Can. When filling out the fields in your GMB account, you’ll notice that there are a lot of optional ones. That doesn’t mean you can get lazy and just fill out the required text boxes. If you want to get a leg up over your competitors, you can start by outhustling them right here.
Aside from your NAP, enter your business hours, special hours, business category, appointment link, etc. The more fields you can fill with relevant information, the better Google will understand the nature of your business. This helps Google establish relevance between keywords, your website and its GMB account.
c. NAP Consistency. While you’re filling the fields of your GMB account, don’t forget to write your NAP exactly as it appears in your website down to the last space and comma. Uniformity between your NAP in your website, GMB account and local citations has a synergistic effect on the SEO performance of all three.
d. Upload as Many Photos as GMB Asks For. When you get o the part where GMB asks you to upload images of your business, don’t be content with just one or two. Try to take photos of each area of your physical facility as you can and upload them. The higher the resolution of the images, the better.
e. Get Genuine Reviews. If your business gets a steady stream of positive reviews, there’s a greater chance that it will climb the map pack rankings faster. You can get reviews by offering incentives to customers or clients to provide feedback that you can use to improve your products or services.
3. Add LocalBusiness Schema Markups. Making your business’ NAP visible on your website isn’t enough. You also need to help Google know for sure that it’s your NAP and not just some random alphanumeric string. To do that, you need to lace your NAP with specialized HTML elements called structured data markups.
Among the recognized structured data markup conventions, Schema.org is the most widely used, so we’ll stick to that. If you know how to write HTML and tinker with your website’s header or footer, you only need to follow this documentation and you’re all set. If you’re a non-coder, you can seek the help of a web developer and this should be easy for them to pull off.
As a last resort, you can use Schema plugins to do the job for you. WordPress’ ecosystem has a lot of these. However, just be aware that adding plugins can have an impact on your site speed or may have conflicts with your website’s design structure.
4. Localize On-Page SEO Elements. Known ranking factors in your webpages also need to reflect your target location whenever appropriate. When doing local SEO, mention the target geography in these fields:
a. Title Tags. The strongest on-page ranking factor needs to say what area you’re serving.
b. Meta Descriptions. Not a direct ranking factor, but it shows your target location in bold characters when it appears in response to a localized query. Good meta descriptions increase CTR, so mention your geographic location here.
c. H1 Text. The main headline text of a page needs to be marked up by the H1 HTML tag. It also needs to mention both the page’s target keywords and the target location for best results.
d. Body Text. Your content needs to reflect the location that you’re trying to become relevant towards. Make it a point to mention the country, area or city that you’re targeting in a way that’s natural, contextual and unforced when you write articles and landing page copy.
Localize Your Content. Local SEO’s centerpiece is your website’s ability to generate localized content that hits home to an audience confined to a limited geographic setting. When writing content, don’t do it in a way that’s very generic and applicable to practically any location that uses your language. Instead, write the content in a way that’s specific to an area.
For instance, if you’re writing content for a clothing store targeting Metro Manila, write your content in a manner that addresses the pleasure and pain points of people in the metropolis. Talk about the heat, humidity and pollution in the city and what type of apparel might work there.
If you’re writing content for a beach property in Palawan, talk about the resort as well as nearby attractions, local cuisine, culture and everything else that a person visiting the island might want to check out. By mentioning entities specific to your target location, you’ll send rich signals to Google that you have a high degree of relevance to the location.
5. Earn Local Citations. A local citation is an appearance of your NAP on a webpage outside your own domain. This can be something that you place there yourself or something that’s editorially given to you. Whatever the case, Google looks at citations as further proof that your website and GMB listing are associated to a certain location. The more citations you have and the more consistent the NAP information is, the stronger the localization signals for your website get.
Local citations may or may not come with backlinks. Regardless, they will certainly help with local SEO especially if they’re found on trustworthy sites such as:
a. International Business Directories. Think Yelp, Yellow Pages and other business listing websites with a global reach.
b. Local Directories. These are business directories that cater specifically to a country, region or city. In the Philippines, examples include Yehey, Pampanga Directory and others.
c. News Sites. News websites sometimes mention NAPs in news reports, press releases, classified ads and general business listings.
d. Chambers of Commerce. Many cities have chambers of commerce that run their own websites. Try to join these organizations and get your NAP listed on their site.
e. Social Media. Some social media sites allow business pages to be registered along with their NAP and other relevant info. LinkedIn and Facebook, for instance, are platforms where you’d probably want to establish a presence anyway. Make sure top fill out the fields for your NAP to create quick and potent citations.
Other local citation sources can include company websites of businesses you have strong ties with, non-profit organizations, school sites and government agency sites.
5. Build Local Links. As with any SEO campaign, backlinks from credible sites strongly influence overall search visibility. The only difference between regular link building and local SEO link building is the geographic location associated with the websites you’re trying to get backlinks from.
Basically, the idea is to get as many quality links from websites in your target location as possible. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the websites themselves have to be hosted in the area. It only means that the websites that you want linking to you should represent businesses that are associated with the place.
With local link building, contextual relevance and domain authority still matter. However, these qualities take a back seat when stacked against the location factor. If you’re trying to build local links, you can look at these following site types as possible backlink sources:
- Local directories
- Local chambers of commerce
- Local bloggers
- Websites of other local businesses
- Local civic organizations
- Local schools and universities
This doesn’t mean that links from national and international websites are useless. As a matter of fact, they can still help your SEO campaign immensely. However, local links seem to deliver more immediate ranking gains than their broader counterparts.
If you’re interested in some local SEO case studies, check out these older blog posts: