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Local SEO

Local SEO Checklist: How to improve local search rankings

Local SEO Checklist

This Local SEO checklist is a great place to start to learn how to get your local business found online.

Local Search Optimisation helps customers find your business online, and so they can find you offline and is one of the most effective ways for small businesses to increase their website visibility and traffic. 

If you’re a business that generates revenue from a brick and mortar store, you’re a service provider, or for any other reason you want to attract local customers to your business, then you need to consider local search optimisation as part of your digital marketing mix. 

Around half of all searches online are for local products and/or services.  Where searches are on mobile devices, this is much higher.   Therefore, if you’re not properly optimised for local search, you could be missing out on valuable exposure to potential customers online.

What is Local Search Optimisation?

Local SEO is the process of increasing your online visibility for locality-based and “near me” search queries.   That includes searches, performed by local customers, looking for products and/or services in your geographical area, searches including the name of your city, suburb or general area in the search query, and mobile searches or any other search with high purchase intent. 

Why does Local Search optimisation matter?

If you have a local business, shop, agency, or restaurant, local SEO is essential to attract customers from your local area.

Local Search optimisation ensures that your website is visible in search engine results pages for locations your business is based or where your services cover.    Without it, your customers can’t find you online or your physical store information.

It is also important to note that Google and other search engines use geo-targeting to return the most relevant websites and online content for search queries.   This is true whether the user includes a locality or “near me” in their search query or not.

Optimising for local search means an opportunity for your business to be listed in search engine results pages (SERPs) for more search queries when performed by local audiences.  This can be a great strategy for smaller global businesses with a local focus to create relevance vs, large global brands. 

Marketing at a global level means increased competitors, more customers to reach and so greater budgets, time and resources to succeed.  Whereas a locally-based strategy relies on marketing your brand, products, and services to local leads and customers only.  This can be more achievable for smaller businesses, allowing them to compete against big global brands.

Local SEO Checklist: Top 9 things to win in local search

1. Select the right Keywords

Like any good SEO strategy, local SEO starts with solid keyword research and selection.  Ensure your keyword strategy includes keywords and search terms based on your customer’s real search queries.   What are they talking about online?  What questions do they have? And what products and/or services are they looking for?  

Try typing in some keywords to Google to see popular queries in Googles search suggestions.  You can also look at “what other people searched” at the bottom of search results pages for your target keywords and search queries for ideas.  Your competitors, social media, Quora/ Reddit, reviews and real interactions with your customers are also great places to start.  

Once you have some ideas, there are several keyword research tools you can use to come up with lots of ideas for different search terms and words to target.  These tools will also help you analyse the search volume for each.

2. Optimise your website content for selected keywords

Once you have your keywords, optimise your website content for them.  This includes ensuring the correct use of your selected keywords and similar words throughout, such as in headers, title tags, meta descriptions, image alt tags etc. where relevant. 

The most important thing is to ensure that your content is relevant, rather than simple keyword stuffing.  Ensure your content adds value to the reader and in response to the search queries that will land users there.  That is, it is informative and unique, as well as relevant.

3. Create locality-based landing pages

Create a location-based page for each of the physical locations your business operates from.   If you have more than one site or physical store location that you serve customers from, it can be helpful to create a unique landing page for each of them on your website. 

Each of those pages can then be optimised for local search with local, and geotagged content.  Include a map of the local area with the address and phone number for the store or office.  Help your customers find you with information on how to get there, local landmarks, amenities available and images of the area, your shop front and/or office building.  These are just a few ideas of local content you can include on these pages.

4. Post local content regularly 

Keep each page fresh and updated with new local content. This could be updates from your team and/or local customers, local promotions, or sales available to those areas or local news and updates from the business.   This can help keep your local customers engaged and keep them coming back as well as provide an opportunity to post new, geographically tagged content that will contribute to your local search rankings. 

Share your local content far and wide through social media and via relevant Google business and map listings, ensuring to link back to the website page.   This will increase the reach of your content and drive more traffic to your website.  In turn, it will help increase your search rankings further.

5. Ensure your website is mobile friendly with good page experience

Improve your website performance to improve your search rankings.  

Ensuring your website is mobile-friendly, loads fast and has a good user experience is more critical than ever before.    This may require the assistance of a website developer or digital marketing agency with the technical skillset to make necessary updates to your site.   However, investing in the right help can go a long way to how your business performs online. 

Customers are time poor and online customers, even more so.  A study by Aberdeen found page views dropped by 11% for every second over two seconds a page took to load.  According to Google, for each additional second, it takes a mobile page to load, conversions can drop by up to 20%.  For a business that generates $10,000 a day, that results in around $2.5 million to $4.5 million in revenue annually.

With over half of all web searches now being done via mobile devices, this number being even higher for local search, it’s critical that your website is mobile-friendly. 

If that wasn’t enough to convince you, Google tracks mobile-friendliness and website performance for all websites and uses this data as a key search ranking factor.   This includes things such as load speeds, cumulative layout shift and mobile-friendliness.  This data is visible via Google Search Console and Page-Speed Insights Tool.

More on how your website performance can impact your SEO here.

6. Optimise your Google Business Listing

If you haven’t already done so, claim your business on Google Maps and Optimise your Google my Business Listing.   You can do this for each of the geographical areas you have a physical presence. 

To optimise each listing for local search queries, we recommend the following.

  • Complete every bit of information you can from service locations to product information… every bit of information should be complete for each listing.
  • Optimise all content with unique copy that is properly keyword optimised.
  • Ensure that each google maps or google business listing is linked back to the appropriate location page on your website. 
  • Request reviews from local customers and reply to them, leveraging keywords where appropriate.
  • Share website articles and local content via posts to your listings.  Ensure to link them back to the relevant content on your website.

For more, see How to Optimise Google my Business Listings for SEO

7. Ensure consistent Name, Address and Phone number (NAP) across all digital platforms

Ensure your name, address and phone number or NAP is consistent across all digital media and the footer of your website.  This is important for Google to recognise all mentions about your business and its location online.  The more mentions it can attribute to the same business – Your business – the better for your search rankings.    This includes on your Google my business listing as well as in your website footer and anywhere else your business might be mentioned e.g., Via local business directories.

The formatting of your NAP, including the spelling, commas, and spacing must be identical.  That is for example if the footer of your website says “street” vs. “st.” then ensure that it is treated the same and listed as “street” across all other mentions online.  Similarly, if you include a comma after this, then ensure it is included on all other mentions online.    Your NAP must be identical wherever it is mentioned with your business name online.

8. Get active on social media

Social media connects you with your customers and drives engagement.  This can provide new insight into your customers and what questions they have online, helping to guide your keyword selection as well as your content marketing strategy. 

At a local level, social media can help you connect with local communities.  It can help local content creators stay up to date with local news and source local content to share online. 

Social media is also a great way to share your content and drive traffic to your website.   This increased exposure to your content can even form part of a good backlink building strategy – note, social media links aren’t classified as backlinks however, they can just increase the exposure of your content which in turn can result in more references to your content. 

What’s more, social media accounts can rank higher in search results than many new websites, helping you get higher in SERPs than your website content could alone.

Read our article on ways to use social media to drive your SEO for more.

9. Get local business citations

Local business citations are a mention of your business with your NAP – Name, address, and phone number.  This can also include a link back to your website, customer reviews, and other information about your business, depending on the platform.

A great way to get local business citations is via online business directories that you can sign up for yourself.  There are hundreds of free and paid for directories available online that you can add your business to.  Many of which include “do follow” links back to your website which can help you build your backlink diversity, and so improve your local SEO.

Putting this Local SEO Checklist to use

We hang our hats on our ability to get local businesses in competitive environments better search results.

Found Online is a Local SEO agency with local SEO expertise and a local Sydney based team.   That means we know how to get you superior search engine results for locality-based and near me search online.  And we do it locally meaning we can create local content and we understand what is engaging your local market.  

Give us a call or email us to discuss a package that suits your needs.

Categories
Local SEO

How to Optimise Google My Business (GMB) Listing

How to optimise Google My Business (GMB) Listings

Optimise Google my business for local search and grow your business on and offline! According to Google, 46% of searches have local intent.  That’s a lot of user traffic.

Google my business or GMB is designed to help small businesses win for local searches.   A properly optimised Google business listing will improve your visibility online for locality-based and “near me” searches.   

It can also even help improve your website organic rankings.  That’s because Google my business gives Google meaningful signals on how you interact with your customers.  Your content, your posts, products, and services listings etc. all help improve Googles understanding of your website and your business.   As such, a properly optimised business listing on Google can help get your website higher in search results also.

What is Google my business (GMB)?

Locality-based businesses, or “near me” searches result in a list of business profiles above organic search results. These profiles include all the information a user needs to visit a business, make a purchase, or contact the company.   It includes a Google map view as well as links to the company website, customer reviews, questions and answers, and posts shared by the business on the profile page.

How a business listing appears in search

This is based on a search for “Google my business listing”. The panel on the right is how a business profile appears in search.

Google-my-business-listing

GMB gives access to business owners and digital marketers to claim their business listing or create a new profile.  That’s right, businesses don’t automatically own their business profile or control the information there.  Anyone can generate a Google business profile.  GMB gives control to business owners of their profiles on Google.

There are several things you can do on GMB.  This includes.

  • Add your business information to Google Maps, Search, and other Google services
  • Create or get access to a Business Profile on Google
  • Manage how your business information shows up across Google

So, how do you properly optimise Google my business listings for local search?

Following is a definitive guide for optimising your Google my business listing with 14 steps to follow.  Alternatively, Found Online offers complete local search optimisation services. Get in touch with us.

14 Ways to optimise your Google my Business Listing for local search

1. Claim or add your google business listing and verify your business

Claim your business profile so you can manage it in GMB.  If it doesn’t exist, create a new business listing. 

If you have multiple locations, you should claim or create a unique business listing for each one.   Link each back to the specific location page on your website to maximise your search results.

See Google’s guide for how to add or claim your Google business listing. Follow these simple steps to claim and verify your listing.

It is important to note that you must verify your business listing before you can fully optimise it for search.  It can take two weeks or more to complete this process so, if you’re looking for search rankings fast, we recommend you not delay in claiming or creating your business listing.

Once you have verified your business, you will be able to fully leverage all the features available via Google my Business listings including customer reviews, customer messaging and responding to the Q&A section.

2. Complete all your business information on your Google my business listing

Ensure that all information on your Google My Business listing is complete and accurate. 

Fill in all details about your business.  Don’t leave anything incomplete if you can help it.  Add business category, service locations/areas, hours of operation, products, or services you offer, accessibility information, COVID19 information and appointments link.  

Ensure to keyword optimise all of your profile information for locality-based searches and popular search terms.  When completing your business description, avoid copy and pasting it from your website or other local directory listings or this could be seen as duplicate content.

3. Check you have the best GMB Category selected

When selecting your business category, select the one that most represents what you do while being as specific as you can.  For example, Google refers to a nail salon in its guidelines.  For a nail salon, it’s best to choose the category “nail salon” category rather than “salon”.   

If your category doesn’t exist, though, select a more general one. 

If you could fit within more than one category and you’re not sure which to choose, select the one most others are using.   It is still important to be specific so have a look at you’re your competitors have selected and go with the same one. Avoid selecting the general option in these instances. 

You can add another category as a subcategory if you need to.  This will ensure you are ranking for the right search terms.

4. Add secondary categories

Second categories are helpful when you offer a range of services that could just as easily cover multiple categories.  

We recommend only selecting 1 or 2 sub-categories at most.  That’s because whatever categories you have selected, your listing and your website should reflect a business that operates in the selected category.    Selecting too many categories and your website is unlikely to cover relevant topics for them all well.

Remember, Google loves relevant content.  Therefore, Google will serve only relevant websites for given search queries.  You will not help your search rankings by selecting categories that you’re not optimised for.

5. Ensure Name Address and Phone Number NAP Consistency

The most important information to ensure you include is your Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP).  You must ensure your NAP is consistent across all digital elements.  And when we say it should be consistent, we mean that it should be EXACTLY the same!   Your website footer should include your NAP written identically to your Google my business listing and all online directories, social media and anywhere it is mentioned online. 

The precise formatting of your NAP should identical too.   For example, if “Street” as the full word rather than “St.” is used on your website, ensure this is consistent anywhere else your address is mentioned.  If there is a comma included after the street name in one listing online, it should be there for all listings of your address online, and so on.

6. Add images to your Google my Business Listing

Google will favour a business that has relevant and unique images on their google my business listing vs. a business that doesn’t.   Google wants businesses to use images that give the end-user an accurate feel for who they are and what they do.   Therefore, unique images of the business location, its products, services and/or team can be beneficial for improving your rankings for your business listing.

It’s important to avoid generic or stock images that offer very little insight into your business.  If you have used them, it’s best to remove them.   Google prefers original content that adds value to the end-user.  That is that it is informative, relative and/or engaging.  Stock images, unfortunately, fail to meet these criteria.

Photos taken on location can also improve your rankings via metadata recorded within the image file.   This metadata includes the longitude and latitude of the image location.  This is an additional geo-targeting signal for Google and can help with your local SEO.

7. Get customer reviews and respond to them quickly

Customer reviews on your business listing indicate to Google that you engage with your customers.  Replying to them quickly means you value your customer’s opinions and the review they left.  

Send a request for a review to customers after they have purchased your goods or services.  Even better, make the process of placing a positive review for you on Google easier by providing them with suggestions they can copy and paste.  Your suggestions are a great way to add some key search terms and keywords in which will also help your local search.

Aim for 5-star customer reviews.  Your listing will appear higher in search results the more five-star ratings you receive.  You see, as your average star rating increases, it shows that you are a good, reputable business that your customers trust.   And Google loves to support businesses that keep their customers happy.

The way you reply to your customers Google reviews matters too.  Replies are a great way to include keywords for searches you want to win on.  There’s quite an art to getting this right while sounding sincere and appreciative.  With practice though, you will be able to fully leverage Google reviews to optimise your business listing.

8. Post articles linked to your website

Google Posts are almost like mini ads with a picture, description, offer landing page URL etc.  They are a great place to share your blog content and to link back to your website.  And the more times you share your content online, the more opportunity it has to reach more users online.

Google has insight into how you and your potential customers are engaging with your Google My Business listing and the more activity associate with your listing, the better.  Posting interesting content and sharing articles from your website is a great way to increase activity on your listing as well as to increase engagement.   

GMB posts with linked content can also contribute to better search rankings for more search terms and keywords.  This will, in turn, increase your online visibility overall and drive more traffic to your website.

Found Online offer locally based content writers to support your content marketing efforts. We can help you improve visibility online. Get found online, Get in touch to see how.

9. Post locality-based content

Locality based content is relevant to users searching for businesses in their area.   It is more engaging, and it will more likely include location-based keywords and other geo-targeting attributes.

If you have a few locations, each location will need regular content to be shared on the given google listings.   You must share unique content via each.

Take images from the local area, including news stories relating to people from the area and content relating to products and services you offer from each location, particularly if they are unique to the shop, office, or storefront in that area.

 There are many ways to make content locality relevant.   Whatever your content, ensure you are including keywords relating to the location and its surrounding areas to maximise performance.  

10. Enable customer messages

By enabling customer messaging via google business listing, you allow customers to contact you more easily.  A contact is an opportunity to tell them about your products and services and to, ideally, convert them to a sale.   Therefore, the more ways for a customer to contact you the better. 

Using the Google my business app, go to the “customers” page and enable customer messaging.   Once enabled, a button will appear on your profile which customers can click to message you.

There is even the option to add automated responses to customer messages.   Not only does this help you and keep the customer happy, but it can help you improve your average response time. 

You should be aiming to respond to customers within a maximum of 24 hours.   The better your average time to respond, the higher your listing will appear in search.  This, again, is because it tells Google that you readily engage with and value your customers.

11. Answer questions via the Q&A section to promote information about your business

Q&As is a section on your GMB listing for crowdsourced questions from people online. Similar to Google My Business reviews, customers can leave questions here with the expectation the business will respond with an answer.

Anyone can answer questions posted on a business profile.  That includes the business and other customers too.  Google and customers are more likely to perceive user answered questions as unbiased. They, therefore add credibility and trustworthiness to your profile.

However, it is also important to answer questions about your business when you get them.  It’s a great way to promote your business in a good light.   Customers also like to have their questions answered promptly.  This is information they need to make a purchase decision.  Unfortunately, many businesses are failing to answer questions posted on their profiles.  So, by answering any of yours, you’ll get a competitive advantage.

12. Add your own questions to Q&A section

Yes, you can add your Q&As to your listing.  Add questions that your customers frequently ask, then answer them as the business.  Creating an FAQ section this way is great for search and it’s something your competitors probably aren’t doing, so will give you an advantage.

If you add these commonly asked questions and answers, they will also head off questions potential customers have.  This means your answers are already there and they will likely perfectly answer common search queries.

13. Clean up old listings that could be competing with your relevant ones

If you have old, irrelevant listings, remove them.  Mark closed business locations as permanently closed. 

This will avoid competing in search for your other nearby locations and will ensure customers are interacting with the correct business and GMB listing.

If your business has moved address and you created a new listing for your new location, you need to mark the business as moved.  You should also transfer your customer reviews first.  It’s important to refer to Googles guidelines for listing your business profile.  Do it wrong and you run the risk of losing all your hard-earned reviews and search rankings. 

14. Ensure you stick to Googles Guidelines for representing your business

Familiarise yourself with Googles Guidelines for representing business on Google.  You will need to abide by these to avoid being penalised. 

Unfortunately, businesses are making simple mistakes that are hurting their search rankings.   These include things like adding addresses to nonphysical locations, selecting the wrong business category, duplicate content or duplicate listings and many more.   Google can penalise you for mistakes like these.

Getting Google penalties can be challenging to recover from and can hurt your business.  Therefore, it is very important to follow Googles guidelines on representing your business and its information on your listing correctly.

Hire an SEO like Found Online to optimise Google my business listings for you.

Optimising your GMB business profile is relatively easy to do.  Unfortunately, many companies simply lack the time and expertise to do so properly.  Simple mistakes are easily made and, unfortunately, very common.  These mistakes can invertedly hurt search rankings and undermine SEO efforts.  

Found Online SEO agency Sydney is experienced at getting google business listings ranking higher in local search for businesses.    We have proven success in helping small and local businesses in competitive industries get to the top of page one search results.   

Contact us on 02 7906 8405 or via website enquiry to find out how we can help you get found online.