Local search engine optimization (SEO), as the name suggests, is the optimization of a website for local search engine results.
Given the enormous amount competition for ranking high in the search engine results pages (SERPs), you must be aggressive in your local SEO efforts. Below are best practices for effective local SEO.
1. Schema Markup: The schema.org markup, which is a code that feeds your contact and location info directly to Google, is important because it helps the search engine understand what’s in your web pages. For this to help with your local SEO, be sure to have a contact page with your phone number, physical address, hours of operation, days of operation, and other information that will help people find you.
2. Keyword optimization: Keyword optimization is one of the most important factors in local SEO since local searches entail people searching for your business using a location-specific keyword phrase. Use tools like UberSuggest and Google Keyword Planner to find good long-tail keywords that aren’t too competitive.
Note that search engines and visitors prefer long-tail keywords as opposed to single-word keywords. The keywords, business name, and city or region should be used naturally in your content. It’s better to have the keyword phrase only mentioned ones or twice in a natural context than to use the keyword phrase 15 times in an unnatural way. Try to use the keyword at least in the title of the piece, the introduction, and in the H1 tags.
3. Make your site mobile-friendly: In 2015, Google made a mobile-friendly update, effectively making mobile-friendliness an important ranking factor. You can do this by making a website specifically for mobile use or making a responsive website that adapts to the size of the screen. Having a mobile-friendly website is also important because more and more people are using mobile devices to search for nearby services.
4. NAP: You should consistently have the same business name, address, and phone number (NAP) everywhere your business is listed. This means any time you have your NAP on your website and within local directory listings. If you spell out avenue in your address on your website, you need to spell out avenue in your local listings as well.
5. Increase the credibility of your business page: Google and other search engines use local webpage mentions (also called citations) to calculate the prominence of a business. Search engines consider both the quantity and the quality of the citations.
You should, therefore, encourage user reviews on Google My Business and sites like Yelp, Foursquare, Angie’s List, and Houzz for increased ranking in SERPs as well as improved business authority.
6. Optimize images for local SEO: The filename (the name the image is saved with on your computer) should include your target keyword such as “California-painting-experts-photo.JPG. The title text, which is the text displayed when users hover over the image, should include a description of the image and it should be keyword optimized.
The alt-text, which is the image displayed when there’s loading failure and which is very important to the visually impaired, should also include a description and it should be keyword optimized. Compressing the image to the proper size using tools like Photoshop increases the load-time of your site which is helpful for SEO.
7. Write meta descriptions: Meta descriptions are text that gives search engines and users a brief synopsis of each page on your website. This is not just good for SEO: a compelling meta description also increases click-through-rate.
The meta description should be unique and should be no more than 156 characters long. The description should summarize the business’s history, products, niche, and other relevant information and should be keyword optimized.
8. Do anchor text optimization: Anchor text is a hyperlink’s visible, clickable text. Google uses anchor text to determine what the webpage is about, meaning if the hyperlink “General Contractor Houston”, Google knows the page is about a general contractor who does business in Houston. You can hyperlink keywords in your more general content to the webpage that describes the relevant service.
9. Social media integration: SMM (social media marketing) is increasingly popular. Take advantage of this by integrating it with your website through social media icons. Your social media profiles will serve as upgraded versions of citations. Keep your target audience in mind when deciding what social media to use.
If your target audience is mostly young professionals, then LinkedIn and Facebook would be a good fit. If your target audience is artists, Instagram would be a good choice. Don’t create social media accounts just for the sake of having them. If you can’t realistically handle managing six different accounts, stick to one or two that would be the most beneficial.
10. Localized link building with credible sites: Google and other search engines consider links to be “votes” and the more links a site has pointing to it, the more it will show up in the SERPs. You should only build links with trustworthy sites that are relevant to your niche.
You can get the links through link exchanges, by writing guest blog posts, or by asking friends or relatives you know who have credible sites to link to you.
11. Google Maps listing: Google allows you to have a free Google Maps listing as part of your Google My Business account. Use this listing to host several regional pages on the same Google My Business account. Embed the different regional pages on your website to give directions to your store location(s).
12. Sitemaps creation: Create XML sitemaps for your regional pages. XML sitemaps are not only good for local search engine optimization, but they also help for quicker crawling and indexing by search engine bots and they help visitors find what they are looking for quicker.
13. Create quality content: The quality of your content will determine your ranking. The content should be well-written, informative, and unique. Ensure the content is at least 500 words long and keyword optimized. Be sure to update your content regularly (a blog is the easiest way to do this), but don’t sacrifice quality for quantity.
If you’re able to post eight quality blog posts a month, then go for it! But if you can only write two, that’s fine too. Quality should always be the number one priority.
14. Directory listings: Listings in a directory specific to your niche will help improve your local rankings. You should also create listings for more general directories such as Yellow Pages, Yelp, Google My Business, Yahoo Local Basic, Bing Places for Business, etc. to reach as many people as possible.
You should monitor your local SEO campaign and tweak it when necessary. Your local SEO strategy should be integrated in your broader SEO strategy and should be combined with other Internet marketing tactics.
Disclaimer: This is a guest post. The author’s views are entirely his or her own, and don’t necessarily reflect the opinions of Beanstalk Web Solutions.