Guest speaker Nick Huxsted from Zoodikers outlines some of the key techniques for maximising the impact of your search marketing at a local level, ahead of his free Retail-focused Workshop at Kent 2020 Vision LIVE.
Up until the Internet pervaded nearly all aspects of modern society, customers typically found local businesses from one of the many paper-based directories. For many this form of local advertising was seen as a necessity in promoting their business to local customers and was almost always took the form of alphabetised listings.
The one drawback was that businesses tried to take advantage of customers with fingers too tired to trawl through the reams of listings, by naming their company AA Cars, then AAA Cars; until it all became a bit absurd and names like Aardvark Accounting were considered perfectly acceptable.
Nowadays things are very different. Of course we still have the online versions of the traditional directories, but the advancement of mobile technology and the dominance of Google in the UK has dramatically changed user behaviour and how potential local customers find your business.
One area that’s often overlooked is getting your business listed within the local search results. These listings often appear above the rest of the organic search results and can be a great tactic for driving local web and mobile customers through to your site.
With around 90% of all online searches clicking on one of the first three positions in organic search, optimising your website to improve your local search results is the digital and modern day equivalent of calling your company Abacus Plumbing.
Fig 1 (above): Local Search Results For “Restaurants In Canterbury”
So the question remains, how can you improve your rankings in the local search results? In very generic terms, SEO can be broken up into two main areas.
On-page SEO – Concerns all the elements you can influence on your own site, from content, keywords and the technical architecture of your site.
Off-page SEO – Looks at all the external activity concerning your website, from links, directory listings, social media metrics and reviews.
While there are a number of considerations that determine your websites suitability for ranking in the local search results, some of the key considerations are discussed below.
1) Optimising Your On-Page SEO For Local Search
Selecting the most appropriate keywords to target is one of the most critical elements of SEO. Get this wrong and you can waste months, or even years, going after keywords with little search volume, or those that are too competitive to obtain meaningful rankings.
If local search is the primary objective, it’s recommended that you include the geographical location in your targeted keyword. You can research the monthly search volumes for these using the keyword planner tool in Google Adwords.
Your business, the competition, search volume and the authority of your website will determine how local or niche you’ll want to go. For example the search volume and possible considerations for estate agents in Canterbury, Kent can be seen below:
Estate agents in Kent:
• 880 searches a month
• Highly competitive
• Your business will need to have county coverage
Estate agents in Canterbury:
• 220 searches a month
• Moderately competitive
• Targeted to the local audience
While estate agents in Kent offers a greater audience, you’ll have to consider the authority of the top performing websites and if you stand a realistic chance of not only competing with them, but overtaking them in the search results. If the competition is too fierce to appear in the top 3 results, the majority of users won’t click on your listing.
If you have a new website (or more importantly have a new domain) or if you haven’t actively promoted your website and content online, then a more suitable alternative may be to target a more niche geographical location.
Once you’ve chosen your targeted keywords they should be applied to the most appropriate page on your site. It’s important that the content of your chosen page reflects the keywords you’ve selected. If you have multiple locations then the most likely solution will be to create multiple landing pages, each reflecting a particular location.
The keywords should be applied to following “on-page” elements of your website:
Considered to be the most important aspect of on-page SEO, meta-titles can usually be updated via your CMS (content management system).
If we look at the estate agent Right Move, you can clearly see the keywords they’re targeting via the meta-title in the search engine results page (SERP). When writing your meta-titles try to keep the number of characters below 70 as anything longer than this and they can get truncated in the search results.
Not as critical for SEO, meta-descriptions are your chance to get customers to click on your listing. They should contain targeted keywords providing relevancy and a consistent message for potential customers. Try to keep the number of characters below 150 and use this opportunity to sell your company.
Also know as heading tags, they’re used to differentiate the various sections of content on a page. H1s are the most important for SEO, and diminish in value down to H6 etc…
If we keep with the Right Move example a good local H1 heading would be:
<h1>Kent Estate Agent</h1>
Content On Your Site
Optimising the appropriate pages on your site to include your targeted keywords will build your relevancy for local search terms. However it’s important to avoid keyword stuffing as this can be seen as a spamming technique. Try to keep the keyword density to around 4%.
In-depth, relevant content can help with rankings. The search engines want to display the most suitable pages for a users query. If your page is largely image based it can often be difficult for the search engines to read and understand the content on your page. If possible include a minimum of 300 words for each page.
NAP (Name Address Postcode)
Having your company name, address and postcode listed on your site will indicate to the search engines the physical location of your business. The listing of your NAP should be consistent across any online directories and your business listing on Google My Business.
2) Optimising Your Off-Page SEO For Local Search
Google My Business
Google My Business connects your business directly with customers, whether they’re looking for you on Search, Maps or Google+.
If you already have a Google+ account for your business, you can create a local Google+ page that will serve the same purpose.
Once you’ve created your page, you’ll need to verify the page (so Google knows your physical location is legitimate) by requesting either a phone call or postcard to be sent with a pin number to your business address.
Upon receipt of the postcard, the accompanying pin number will need to be entered into Google My Business. Once verified you’ll be eligible to appear on Google Maps and the local search results.
The verification process will also allow customers to leave reviews on your Google+ page. These reviews, the total number and their average star ratings will be displayed on your local search listing.
With customers taking peer reviews into consideration when deciding to purchase or use a service, both the quantity and quality of these reviews can help your business stand out from your competitors, whilst providing an unbiased appraisal of your business or service.
Creating directory listings with your business address will help to reinforce the physical location of your business. Listing your business on directories can often fall into two categories:
• Popular and respected directories
• Niche directories targeting your audience
You may have to do a bit of research to find the most appropriate niche directories for your business, but popular mainstream directories include:
• Thomson Local
• Free Index
Again it’s important that your NAP strictly follows the structure and wording from your own site. Any inconsistencies can confuse the search engines into thinking that the information is either incorrect, or even a different business altogether. Both of which can inhibit your rankings within the local search results.
As of July 24th 2014 Google rolled out its new algorithm update called Pigeon. Prior to the update local search and “traditional” Google searches often provided very different results. The new algorithm brings local search more in line with standard web rankings so you’ll need to apply traditional SEO tactics to your website that can influence your local search results. This is largely around creating great content and building ethical, quality links to your domain.
There are no shortcuts with SEO. Much like a business, it takes time to build your authority, credibility and rankings in the search results, but adopting the above techniques can help you improve your local search results and drive traffic, enquiries and local customer to your website.
Nick Huxsted will be presenting one of the many free seminars at Kent 2020 Vision LIVE on Wednesday 13th May 2015 at the Kent Event Centre. He is a digital marketing director for Zoodikers: a digital, social media and PR agency in Kent who work with local businesses to increase traffic, leads, customers and revenue.
Visitors can register for a FREE place at: www.kent2020live.co.uk