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Today, I had the pleasure of speaking at On The Edge’s “Marketing Within The Leisure Sector” event in London. I discussed the importance of Local SEO and what Google Pigeon means for businesses.
In this post I have provided the slides from my talk as well as an overview of the talk and key takeaways.
I have embedded my slides below for you to look through, or you can read through the rest of my post for an overview of my talk:
title=”Emma north how to catch a pigeon – on the edge london, leisure – may 2015 slideshare” target=”_blank”>Emma north how to catch a pigeon – on the edge london, leisure – may 2015 slideshare from Koozai
Local SEO has always been an important part of SEO as a whole for many years, with many businesses needing to be found online by local customers. However, with the rise in mobile search over the last few years, local SEO has never been more important.
In addition, the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) have changed significantly, with more prominence given to localities when Google identifies local search intent, including Knowledge Graph presence and address Rich Snippets:
Google Pigeon launched in the US back in July 2014 and rolled out to the UK, Canada and Australia in December. The update was the most significant update specifically concerning local SEO and was designed to bring local results and map listings more in line with traditional search signals.
This meant that more authoritative sites or those with better trust signals become more likely to appear in local and map search results.
Although there are many signals and factors Google takes into account when ranking sites for local queries, I have explored five key areas in detail to highlight some of the best ways to optimise a website for modern-day local SEO:
One of the biggest impacting factors of local SEO is effective on-page optimisation for your locality. It is important that both users and search engines can easily identify where you are based and the areas you operate in from the content of your site.
Some key areas to consider when optimising on-page elements of your site include:
You should be looking to include either your area or full address in these locations as appropriate and should always keep your address format consistent. For example, if you use the town and county in your address, make sure you use the town and county every time you use your address both on-site and externally.
If you have a number of premises’, you should look to have a unique page for each one. This should contain the address, operating area (if applicable) and some unique content specifically about that outlet. Each location page should be unique and should not look like a replica of one another just with locations changed. It is important that these pages are designed primarily for users.
Wherever you use your address on your website, notably in your site footer and on your contact page, you should be using Schema Local Business markup code to make it easy for search engines to understand the components of your address and location.
Check out this post from Luke for more information on using Schema markup for Local SEO.
Local business listings and profiles give search engines more signals to indicate your locality and strengthen their perception of your business in terms of scope and scale. Using your address or head office on many different strong business listings helps to build their trust in your business and increase your local search exposure.
There are many business listings that you should make sure you have secured, including:
You should also make sure you are included in any reputable, relevant listing sites specifically for your industry or niche.
Make sure you keep your address format consistent throughout all of your listings and complete as much information as possible. A more complete profile will be trusted more by both users and search engines.
In addition, remember to verify all of the listings that you can. This is typically via email, phone call, text or postcard. This verification further strengthens the value of each listing.
Citations are essentially mentions of your brand across the Internet that are not necessarily accompanied by a link. It used to be links that held all the value for websites in terms of external trust signals, but that is not the case any more.
While links are still important, the value of citations has grown as sites increasingly abused links through spammy link building and they became less valuable to search engines as a trust signal. As such, one benefit of achieving strong brand mentions is that they do not come with any risk of unnatural linking penalties that can harm your search engine exposure.
Citations are an increasingly trusted signal to search engines so it’s important that you consider this when conducting any outreach or relationship building with external sites. It is often much easier to get a site to cite your business than it is to get them to link to it, as webmasters are increasingly fearful of unnatural linking.
Some places you may be able to secure strong local citations include:
Social Media and your main social profiles should also be optimised for local SEO to help build relevancy for your location/s. The way in which you would do this varies by profile.
On Facebook, there is an Address field you should complete which should include your main business address or head office. Then, within the General Information section you can include your address/es again.
If you have more than 2 or 3 addresses, it would be better to provide a bulleted list of your areas rather than list lots of addresses. You could then have a separate Facebook page for each of your premises’, as long as you will be able to keep each one updated with unique posts relevant to each one.
This image shows how our address is include on the Koozai Facebook page.
There is less editable space on a Twitter profile, but you can still include your locality in both the address and bio fields in a similar way to Facebook.
As with Facebook, if you have lots of outlets, such as stores or restaurants, it’s worth having a separate profile for each one that you can optimise for each locality. You can then use each one to communicate specifically with local users who are more likely to visit or use your services.
Google My Business is a critical platform for your business to be a part of because it’s part of Google’s own social network, Google+. In addition, a verified local listing on Google contributes to the real estate you’re eligible to take up in the SERPs through both Knowledge Graph presence (the area on the top right of search results pages) or address Rich Snippets (your address included below your standard organic listing in SERPs).
Please note that while having a properly completed Google My Business Local listing does not guarantee presence in these areas, it does enable these features to be included in some searches, particularly for branded searches or searches where your website is the first organic listing.
When you set up a Google My Business listing, you are given three options for the type of profile you want:
Of these, the Local Business and Service Area types provide local search benefits, while the brand is better suited for national or global coverage. In many cases, it’s appropriate to have both a brand page and a local page, or a brand page and a local page for each of your premises.
When you complete your Google My Business local listing, it is imperative that you verify your address, which is done via a postcard sent to you in the mail. In doing this, you are proving to Google that you are a real business and location, thus building trust with the search engine and enabling you to reap the local ranking benefits.
As with any local listing or social profile, make sure you complete as much information as possible, as everything you provide helps to strengthen the profile and build more verifying citations for your business details.
You should optimise all of your main profiles in the same way, including:
Always complete any address sections and try to mention your addresses or areas in other relevant fields where possible.
Reviews are a very important part of local SEO as they provide search engines with one of the ultimate indicators of trust: customers or clients prepared to vouch for your business. Reviews are even included in the SERPs as rich snippets or, in some industries, even as part of an entire search results section:
Building reviews into your business workflow is a great way to build strong online reviews. Encourage customers or clients to leave you a positive review with prompt follow-up after a sale, or periodic requests for feedback in the case of ongoing business.
When considering reviews, you should consider the following “don’ts”:
Another important consideration for Local SEO is your competitors: how are your competitors achieving their local presence? What techniques are they utilising?
Some key areas to look at when reviewing your competitors’ local SEO strategies include:
Carrying out comprehensive competitor analysis will allow you to see what they are doing well and what areas they haven’t focussed on, potentially giving you an opportunity to do better.
As mentioned at the start, the use of mobile and specifically mobile search has risen astronomically in the last few years. As such, Google has adjusted its algorithm accordingly; prioritising websites which offer a good mobile experience over those that don’t in mobile search results.
Sites which are deemed “mobile-friendly” are given this badge in the mobile SERPs, encouraging users to click on the site in place of others which may not be considered mobile-ready.
In addition, mobile-friendly sites are now more likely to rank above those that aren’t; although of course many other ranking signals are taken into account when ranking websites in SERPs.
It’s critical that you check to see whether or not Google sees your site as mobile-friendly, before taking action to improve your mobile offering if it does not. You can test any page of your site using the Google Mobile-Friendly Testing Tool or via the Mobile reports in Google Webmaster Tools.
Check out this post from Luke for more information on becoming mobile-friendly.
Samantha Noble is well known within in the search industry, she even won the UK Search Personality 2016 at the UK Search Awards in November. This year, she continues to make an impact on the industry by judging not only one, but three, prestigious industry awards.