I attended the SearchLove Conference in Boston this year and came away with some valuable insights. This article will give you the complete guide to local SEO based on Greg Gifford and Mary Bowling’s SearchLove presentations. I will list and prioritize the main local ranking factors and give you some actual suggestions you can put into practice today to optimize your local listings.
What is the Difference between Traditional and Local SEO?
Traditional SEO uses on-page and off-page SEO tactics to get a website to show up for keyword searches, whereas local SEO uses on-page and off-page SEO tactics to get a website to show up in a specific geographic area.
Local SEO Ranking Factors
Google’s Pigeon algorithm helps Google provide more useful, relevant and accurate local search results. It has also improved Google’s distance and local ranking parameters. Your Google My Business (GMB) listing is one of the most important areas to focus on for effective local SEO optimization. Google My Business listings look at Relevance, Prominence, Distance and Search History when determining where, or even if, your business shows up in local search results.
- Relevance: How relevant is your business category/listing to the search phrase used by the user?
- Prominence: Traffic to your business listing. How established is the business online?
- Distance: How close the business is located from where the search is being made.
- Search history: The number of times it has been useful historically on the basis of relevance, prominence and distance.
Find the detailed guide on the Google My Business community
In 2015, Moz put together the below comprehensive overview of local search ranking factors.
On-page signals including great content on your landing pages is really important, but having great content is not enough if you want to compete in local rankings. It is critical to have great localized content. For content ideas on how to make your blog a local destination, check out Greg Gifford’s article on Search Engine Land.
There are several other on-page ranking factors that are important to mention. I’ve put together a complete list of on-page elements you need to optimize on all pages of your website.
- Title tag: City and State
- H1: City and State. Be specific, don’t just say “Our Work” or “About Us.”
- Content: City and State. Keep it natural; there’s no need to say “San Diego, CA” six times but make sure the content is localized.
- Image alt text
- URL: Especially when you have several locations, make sure the main page for a particular location is represented in the URL string.
- Meta description: Whoa! That’s not a ranking factor! True. But a well optimized meta description is reassuring for the users and they’ll know they’re about to click on something they’re looking for, so keep an eye on your CTRs!
- Consistent (!) NAP (Name, Address, Phone number) on every page, marked up with Schema.
- Local phone number.
I want to put extra emphasis on the importance of consistency of your company name, address, and phone number (NAP). You must have the same version of the business name for each listing. “Paper and Scissors” is not the same as “Paper N Scissors.” Use the same phone number, preferable a local area code number. Same goes for address. It might not seem like a big deal, but it could mean the difference of having your business show up on the first page of Google versus the fifth page.
Watch Your Citations
Citations are mentions of your business name and address on other websites. They’re important even when there is no actual link pointing to your site. When more trustworthy directories and sites are using your correct business name, address and phone number, your site has more potential for better online visibility since search engines see that other sites are referring you. When submitting your business information to other sites, make sure consistent NAP information is submitted.
Stop Spammy Link Building
Google penalizes websites with unnatural, spammy links. It does not mean you should stop building links. Usually, having links point to your site from high Domain Authority (DA) sites with relevant content is the best. That is true, but remember, we’re in the world of the local searches. Therefore, having links from other local businesses’ sites is valuable even when those sites have lower Domain Authority. In other words, take advantage of the business’ existing connections.
With local SEO, usually you have the potential to rank in the Google Map Pack and the traditional organic rankings (under the Google Map Pack). Below I have listed some of the most important ranking factors for both Google Map Pack and traditional organic rankings from Greg Gifford’s presentation.
- Domain Authority of the website
- Quality / authority of inbound links to site
- Optimized on-page elements (title tags, meta descriptions, h1, image alt text)
- Topical keyword relevance of content
- Geographic keyword relevance
- Physical address in city of search
- Physical address in city of search
- Consistency of structured citations
- Proper GMB (Google My Business) category association
- Proximity of address to point of search
- Quality / authority of structured citations
- DA of website
- Product / service keyword in GMB business name
- City and state in GMB title
- CTR from SERP
- Reviews and ratings
When it comes to local SEO, the question we get most is: “Can my business be included in the map pack if our location is not in that city (but we’re nearby and servicing residents from that area)?”
Mary Bowling’s answer was perfect, “If you don’t have a physical address in the given city, you are not going to rank in the local map pack BUT your website can rank in the traditional organic rankings with using the tactics I have just outlined above.”
Distilled and all the speakers did a great job at the SearchLove conference and everyone had a great time. As proof, look at how Will Critchlow and I are smiling on an early Tuesday morning!