Search engine optimization (SEO) has always been an ever-changing industry as Google continually updates their algorithm. In recent years, these changes have been great news for local businesses. In fact, it’s no secret that Google’s algorithm favors local results.
With a large portion of users signed into their Google account with their zipcode documented, Google is able to personalize results based on where the user lives. This means that a person searching for a mail center in Austin no longer needs to type in their location. They can just search for “mail center” and Google will provide them with local results.
In July of 2014, Google unleashed their Pigeon algorithm update, giving much more weight to local maps and even directory listing websites like Yelp. What this means if you’re a local business owner is that your focus needs to be on optimizing your directory listings.
Here are four ways you can increase your chance of being seen at the top of local search results:
1. Claim and optimize your Google My Business listing
If you haven’t already claimed your business listing with Google, you’ll want to do that right away. Your business listing with Google is going to be the number one factor that determines your success with local search. This is because prior to the actual search results, Google displays three businesses enclosed in a special area at the top of the page with an interactive map.
You want your business to be included in these results. And in order to be seen in this special area, you need to make sure your information is up to date, complete, and accurate. This placement of business listings is what gives local search a huge advantage.
Google My Business reviews
The reviews your customers post online can heavily influence the decisions of others. But they can also influence the way Google treats your webpages.
Customer reviews are now integrated into local search results commonly referred to as the “Google 3-pack.” This is the list of the top three local business results discussed that also displays the rating each business has earned from customer reviews.
This can be great news if you have good reviews because users are more likely to click on businesses with higher ratings.
2. Add your business listing to other online directories
In addition to Google, there are many other business directories across the internet that you can use to your advantage. Many of the businesses listed in these directories will come up in searches, so the more directories you can utilize, the better.
If you’re not sure where to find these directories, here is a brilliant strategy to discover other online directories where local businesses are listed. While you’re adding your business to these directories, make sure your information is consistent across the board.
3. Add your business’ physical address to your webpages
When your business may have high national competition, you will need to optimize your pages for local search. A portion of this process involves ensuring that your contact information is consistent across all directory listings, including your own website.
Placing your physical address and phone number near the top of your page, like in this example from US Storage Centers, is a natural way to improve your chances of being listed closer to the top of local search results. Google uses data from multiple sources to determine your physical location, and when your contact information is consistent, it tells Google you can be trusted.
Just be sure you don’t use keyword stuffing by adding a bunch of locations in the footer of your webpages in an attempt to rank higher for multiple locations. This is an old tactic that is now heavily penalized. A better idea is to have individual pages for each service area you cover.
4. Display customer reviews on your webpages
Don’t be afraid to encourage your customers to review you. Even when you’re the number one result, without reviews, people are less likely to click on your business listing. But don’t make the mistake of offering compensation for reviews. This is strictly forbidden by most review websites, and because many people have been caught leaving fake reviews, it may ruin your reputation.
When it comes to displaying these reviews on your website, it’s fairly easy. Most review sites provide you with HTML snippets to paste into your webpages.
Optimizing for local search is easier today
Prior to Google’s focus on local search, many businesses had a tough time competing in the search results. Users would have to type in their location or they wouldn’t find local results, so businesses had to get creative with keywords. Today, local results are automatically guaranteed thanks to personalized search. These SEO tips are designed to help you leverage personalized search so you can reach more people.