For businesses with a physical location, the concept of ‘local’ is incredibly important and therefore SEO practices need to reflect this. An increasing number of people search for local business on mobile devices, and conversion rates from such searches are high.
People performing local searches are looking for an address and/or a telephone number, searching for directions, and checking opening hours amongst other things. So, for example, if your customers are looking for the best Tacoma marketing agency in your local area, it would be helpful if your listing popped up in the first seven listings on Google Places. Of course this type of information won’t be of relevance to all businesses, but if they matter to your business you need to make sure you have accurate and plentiful local business listings.
Google Places appear when we use a local search term. So if you type in ‘pizza restaurant downtown Calgary’ Google will show you pizza restaurants it thinks you might like in the Google Places section of the web page. There will be lots of other listings on the same page, but research has indicated that the majority of people pay more attention to the seven Google Places listings near the top. However, in order to have your business featured in this crucial section on a web page, you need to implement the right SEO strategy.
Why is Local So Important?
SEO is an ever evolving field of play, but with the advent of the Pigeon update, the concept of local has become a lot more important in the last few months.
The Pigeon update introduced significant changes to Google’s underlying search algorithm. Unlike Penguin and Panda, which were cunningly designed to clean up the internet and remove some of the legion of spam websites, Pigeon is improving the user experience by supplying more relevant local search results.
Local businesses with a good local presence online have seen their search rankings boosted and as long as your business has a Google+ page with relevant information, it will be promoted in the local results. However, this is not the only factor at play.
The Benefits of Business Directories
The more citations and local directory listings a business has the better, but whilst listings on low authority domain directories won’t harm your website, listings on high domain authority directories will significantly enhance the visibility of your website in the search engine rankings.
A citation is a mention of your business, along with address and/or telephone number, somewhere on the internet. Many SEO experts believe that citations in the form of business listings account for the top 25% of local ranking factors. There doesn’t even need to be a link back to your website – a mention is enough.
Good examples of local business listings include:
- Google Places
- Yahoo Local
- Bing Places
- Yellow Pages
- Local Business Directories
This isn’t an exhaustive list, however, so do some research or pay an SEO agency to do the legwork on your behalf.
When creating business listings you need to be consistent. Every single listing you have needs to be identical. This helps to establish trust in your business and its location. If there are any discrepancies in how your business name, address or telephone number are listed, there is a very real danger that search engines will index your business as two or more separate entities.
To avoid any problems, manually check every listing you have in online directories. It is easy for mistakes to creep in, especially if you have outsourced listings to third parties. Verify as many citations as you can and if necessary, make edits to ensure information is consistent across the board.
Google Plus Guidelines
Creating a Google Plus page is an important strategy for local businesses, but SEO will be adversely affected if you are not consistent in the information you present on your listing. Google has some guidelines, which are intended to ensure there is as much high quality information as possible on Google Plus.
In order to be eligible for a Google Plus page, a business must have a contact telephone number, preferably a local one, available to customers during stated hours, although there are a few exceptions to this rule. A business name should be an accurate reflection of the name the business uses in real life. Businesses must also be careful to select the right category when creating a Google Plus page, as this helps Google to offer more accurate local search information to customers.
Mobile Friendly Websites
None of this matters a jot if your website is not mobile friendly. Local searches account for 50% of all mobile search queries and with Google’s recent announcement that mobile friendly websites will be given a rankings boost in a forthcoming algorithm change, business owners who fail to update their websites could be seriously missing out.