Almost two years ago, in August 2015, Google rolled out some major changes, which caused a rankings shakeup for local businesses. Location-specific queries resulted in three main results, rather than seven. While this created a more user-friendly experience, it also greatly increased the competition.
To Google, the primary aim was to make listings easier to navigate. While businesses outside the top three were left disappointed, the “rules of the game” soon became clear, prompting search engine optimizers to take local SEO more seriously than ever before. However, even after all this time, many businesses still haven’t rolled with the punch and recovered.
If you’re still getting to grips with the changes, these five tips will help:
1. Produce Outstanding “Local” Content
Fresh content “in the eyes of Google” means nothing nowadays. Content should never, EVER, be written for bots, but rather, for people. This is especially important when you’re trying to rank a local business. Rather than posting generic, run-of-the-mill blog posts, make sure they are county/city/town specific. You could even use your blog to name-check other related businesses (not competitors of course) and engage in some cross-industry promotion.
2. Maintain a Consistent Physical Address
Make sure you have a consistent, physical address for your business. If you work from home or don’t have a fixed location, consider renting a virtual office. This will not only boost your offline corporate identity – business cards, letterheads, etc. – but will give you all the SEO benefits of an area association. For example, having a tech company registered in Shoreditch, which has a high concentration of tech/creative start ups (it even boasts the nickname “tech city”), will boost your credibility and enhance your rankings for Shoreditch-based search requests.
3. Make Business Information Seamless Across All Google Platforms
All business information on Google Search, Google Maps and Google Plus, should be seamless across the board. Make sure all of the content is relevant and consistent, owner-verified, and mentions the specific city/area you’re trying to target. This is one of the only aspects of Google’s ranking criteria that favors duplicate content.
4. Embed a Map into Your Contacts Page
It’s important to have a map to your business premises, even if you don’t work in a physical office space. Read this tutorial to find out how to embed Google Maps onto your website. In addition, you should include the following information: opening and closing hours, driving directions, phone/Skype links, social media links.
5. Acquire Local Citations and Backlinks
A recommendation from a local blogger, who has a local readership, is far better than a backlink from a generic lifestyle publication with a high domain authority. Always look beyond the link juice. Brand mentions and recommendations from locals, are far easier to attain and could offer more benefits in terms of targeted traffic than authority sites.
Fundamentally, good local SEO is less about backlinks and domain authority (the competition isn’t so fierce) and more about building a loyal readership. So don’t be afraid to take a step back and humanize your approach.
Remember, quality Internet marketing isn’t just about rankings, conversions and traffic; it’s about improving the Internet. This is why so many dread Google’s algorithm updates. They upset the status quo and those who have been taken short-cuts know that their efforts will lose prominence overnight. As ethical search engine optimizers we should all welcome changes and take pleasure knowing that we’re doing things right. After all, we are the ones who will be rewarded in the long-run.