For businesses marketing on the local level, SEO is a critical tool meant for getting in front of customers and prospects. Yet Google’s ever-changing landscape and evolving algorithm makes it difficult to know where to best invest your time.
This year’s MOZ Local Search Ranking Factors survey gives us an insiders’ view by combining the feedback of 35 of the industry’s top thinkers. Here’s a closer look at their feedback, and what you need to know in order to effectively market your business via local search today.
What are the big trends?
Local SEO is a quickly growing field. The prevalence of mobile phones and tablets is changing how searchers interact with businesses online. Google is increasingly looking at searches on maps, actions such as users clicking on your phone number to call you, and customer reviews for search information. In addition, if you’ve recently searched for a local business (for example, car washes in Dayton, Ohio), you may have noticed that the search results have changed.
Beyond the typical listings, Google’s now offering a scrollable “carousel” of results at the top of each search engine results page. While many new factors are impacting local search, many of the core elements remain the same.
What categories of my marketing do I need to think about?
From a marketing perspective, study findings mean that local business owners and entrepreneurs need to consider how they can best invest the time and resources available to them. In order to stand out in the search results, business owners must understand what areas Google evaluates when ranking sites and use those to drive priorities.
Here’s a closer look at the relevant categories and what you need to know.
Place Page Signals: What’s included in your business listing on Google? What categories is your site listed in? What keywords are in your titles, headlines, and on page content? If you miscategorize your services or add some that don’t fit, you will likely experience penalties from Google that could affect your ranking.
External location signals: Search engines rely on various external signals to verify the information provided on your website. For example, is your Name/Address/Phone number (NAP) information consistent across all the sites you’re mentioned? Do other sites or customers mention you in your locality, such as websites or niche sites describing areas of your business? Do you have tracking phone numbers that will harm your online reputation and your position on Google?
On-page Signals: There are a number of factors Google looks at on your website itself. Do you list a local name, address and phone number that are readable by search engine robots? Do the keywords in your page titles and headlines include cities, states, or other local information? What is your broader SEO performance, such as domain authority, link profiles, etc.?
Link Signals: What does your overall link profile look like? That is to say – who is linking to you? What anchor text are they using? What’s the quality and relevancy of their site to your business?
Review Signals: Are people reviewing your business on Google Plus, Yelp, and other review sites? What’s the quantity, frequency, and diversity of reviews?
Social Signals: Social media plays an important role in search results. Google looks to see if you have active accounts on the major networks, and tracks metrics such as Google + activity, Facebook likes, Twitter followers, and more.
Behavioral and mobile signals: As consumers access your site through multiple channels, behavioral and mobile signals matter extensively. Google considers issues such as click-through rate, mobile clicks to call, and check-ins when ranking local sites.
Personalization: Google takes a closer look at your own past actions, including terms you’ve searched for, sites you visit frequently, and links you’ve clicked to personalize your results and make them more relevant to you.
What steps can I take today to start improving my rankings?
With this context, it’s easy to see that there are a few key areas to focus on when you’re working to get traction in a competitive market. If you’re ready to take a closer look at the effectiveness of your SEO strategy, here is a few point action plan for tackling the basics of good SEO on your site.
- Is your business and website listed in Google under the proper category?
- Do you have a physical address in the area being searched?
- How often is your business mentioned by “authoritative, industry-relevant, trustworthy” sources? These could include name mentions (such as online newspaper articles) or links.
- Is your name, address, and phone number featured clearly on your website?
- Do you list your location in your title tags and in the headlines on your site? (For example, it’s the difference between “Where to Get Great Sushi” and “Where to Get Great Sushi in Salt Lake City.”)
- Are you actively getting customer reviews on Google, Yelp, Insider Pages and other sites?
- Are you building high quality links back to your site?
Local search is a necessary marketing strategy for any small business working to connect with customers locally or regionally but you need to know three things: It’s high tech. It’s time intensive. And it’s always evolving. In most cases maximizing your local presence is not a DIY job. A reputable firm like Be Locally SEO is committed to helping our clients become best positioned to maintain a high rank and visibility in the months and years ahead.