Local SEO: How to Improve Your Local Visibility in Search Engines & Maps Listings

Local SEO: How to Improve Your Local Visibility in Search Engines & Maps Listings

If you are a small, local business with one brick and mortar location or a company that has many locations, “Local SEO” needs to be a high priority in your marketing strategy. For example, if your law firm or service business has many offices spread throughout a certain geographical area, you want to make sure that you show up on the first page in the local search results on Google. Obtaining top positioning and maintaining visibility on the listings and Google Maps is harder than it has ever been. Not only has the layout of the listings changed recently, but there are many algorithmic changes that can significantly impact your ranking if you’re not on top of them. We’ll explore further in this article.

Frankly, it is imperative for local businesses that lack national recognition to invest in Local SEO. In 2015, more Google searches happened on mobile devices than on computers for the first  time ever! So, let’s get started; how do you get to the top of the local listings on Google for local searchers?

Google “3 Pack”

Getting into the top 3 on Google Maps (also known as the “3 Pack”) is the sweet spot for Local SEO, but it’s also incredibly competitive, depending on your business. In August of last year. Google made some major changes to its local listings. Prior to this update, Google would show the seven top-ranked businesses on the results page. After the update, it cut down to three. The motive behind this was to show fewer listings on mobile devices. It has definitely made things more difficult for local businesses vying for the coveted top spots. The foundation to ensuring a top ranking in the 3 Pack comes from a few places.

  • First and most straightforwardly, claim your business on Google’s “Google My Business” local business platform. This is a free service provided by Google. It involves verifying your physical address through a postcard. The postcard will include a PIN number that you will then submit to Google My Business in order to make your local listing go live. Make sure all of your information (name, address, phone number) is accurate and consistent with what is on your website and on 3rd party directories, and that you complete your local listing profile as thoroughly as possible. Don’t forget to choose the most appropriate business category, include a detailed description of your business, photographs of your business (interior and exterior), and a link back to your website. In other words, feed Google as much information about your business as possible.
  • Second, make sure that your business obtains online reviews by customers or clients. The more positive reviews you get on different sites, the more you can start to build your online brand and reputation. Google compiles all of this data and includes it in their algorithms which can impact your ranking. Ideally, you’ll want to get as many reviews on your Google listing as possible. But there are other sites that factor into your overall visibility; Yelp, for example, is an important third party platform for reviews. Good reviews can also greatly improve your click-through rate, which Google also takes into great consideration.
  • Third, it’s a good idea to make sure that your backlinks are as solid as possible. With all of Google’s updates and tinkering over the years regarding their ranking methodology, links have always remained as a very influential ranking factor. But not all links are created equal: earned links from relevant and locally well-ranked sites carry over well, and can really give you a boost.
  • Finally, and quite importantly, your website has to be mobile-friendly. If your site lacks responsiveness, then you’re dragging yourself down. Over the past few years, Google has consistently issued a stream of updates that have rewarded responsive sites with higher rankings, indicating a very real push for industries to make sure that their websites work well on tablets and smartphones. Simply put, without a responsive website, it’s virtually impossible to make the first page of Google, let alone the 3 Pack.

Proximity as a Local Ranking Factor

It’s also important to note the difference between proximity and ranked-based Google Maps results. If you’re on your smartphone and you have location services enabled, then your Google Maps search will be subject to different standards and proximity becomes important. It’s not exactly understood what “signals” Google takes into consideration when dealing with proximity rankings, but it’s out of the control of the business owner where exactly people are searching and what results will show up for their query. More data will come to light as proximity results get more and more common, but for now, focus on a holistic SEO approach in order to get your business into the 3 Pack.

On-Page Optimization as a Local Ranking Factor

Your website’s on-page optimization is still very important when it comes to overall local SEO. There are several key items your website needs in order to rank well for local searches.

  • NAP (name, address, phone number) needs to be consistent on your website as it is on your Google local page and any directory listings. And it should be added into your website’s HTML somewhere for easy indexability.
  • Add location based schema to markup your NAP, hours of operation, reviews, etc. Schema markup essentially tells the search engine what your data (or HTML markup) means. Again, by hand-feeding the information to Google and making it easy for them to find it, chances are this will give you a rankings boost. This information will show up next to or under your listing on the search engine results page.
  • Your web page’s META tags and content should be optimized to your location as much as possible.  In fact, if you can get a geographic keyword in the URL of your web pages all the better. Adding a zip code to your META tags can also help.
  • If you have multiple locations, it is a good idea to have a page for each of those locations, complete with the physical address, telephone number, any other pertinent information to that location, and an embedded Google map.
  • Create “Local” Content. Create content that’s relevant and specific to your city. You can do this on your webpages or on your blog.
  • Link to your local citation pages (Google, Yelp, etc.)

Certainly there are many other things you can do to ensure you’re in the top listings for local searches, but these tips can get you started on the road to local success in the search engines.

Do you need help with your Local SEO? We can help! Click here to contact us or call 856-520-8218.

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