The importance of being ranked high on Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs) is well known, so I won’t re-tread that ground.
What is less well known amongst small business, is the importance Google places on local search.
If your business is focused on a particular town or county (e.g. “Manchester law firm”), then local search is your opportunity to get above the muti-million pound companies and their dedicated SEO teams.
By optimising for local search you can take advantage of the increasing use of maps, images and profiles within Google’s results, as well as the boom in smart phone searches.
There are three elements of Google’s local rankings algorithm that you should keep at the forefront of you mind at all times: location, relevance, and prominence.
- Location: Where your website’s content suggests you are based, what local directories & review sites are linking to you etc.
- Relevance: The industry you are in (e.g. solicitors)
- Prominence: How well linked are you from other local websites and how many reviews do you have, and how good are those reviews too?
This article will go through the steps you should take to optimise each of these signals.
Claim your business listing
The first step is to make sure Google knows who you are, what you do and where you are based. To do this, go to https://www.google.com/local/add and sign up. Here you can add:
- Description of your services
- Your business address
- Contact information (phone & email)
- Business hours
- Payment methods accepted
- Website URL
- Discount codes
- & more
As well as creating your business profile which will be shown in local searches, you will also get data on how many times you have shown up in searches and which keywords were used.
Google can then start to build up a picture of what your website is about and which searches for local suppliers you should appear in e.g. “Nottingham bars”
Another priority job should be to optimise your website’s content with strategic use of local keywords.
For example, rather than describing yourself as a “premium florist” call yourself “Exeter’s premium florist”.
Additionally you could add an even more local level of information so, for example, as well as being “Leeds jewellery store”, go further and become “Leeds, Headingly & Beeston Jewellery”.
The areas to review include
- <title> tags
- Meta description
- <h> tags
- Images descriptions and alt text
- Anchor text (your internal links)
- The page URL (e.g. www.brighton-gadgets/brighton-mobile-phone/)
You can also help make it clear where you are based by putting your address and phone number on every page.
Get listed in your local directories
Thanks to aggressive optimisation and link building, a lot of local directories will show up in search results for localised business searches.
With this I mind, it is important you are one of the businesses listed on these websites. For example, if my business were based in Nottingham I would add it to:
On top of this, you should also look at submitting your website to DMOZ.org. This manually edited directory is used by search engines, including Google, to find any websites they may have missed.
Famously slow to react to link submissions, only apply once and check back in 6 months or so (seriously).
As mentioned previously, prominence is an important signal Google uses to rank websites in local searches.
To research which websites you should target for reviews, simply search for the product you sell (e.g. “Bedford restaurant”) and make a note of the review websites you see, and then leave a review.
You can also piggy back on your competitor’s reviews by searching for where they are mentioned, and getting yourself on there too.