Local SEO (done right) is great way to launch your site to the top of the SERPs. Google has paved an avenue for small businesses to rank online. The average brick-and-mortar business cannot solely rely on foot traffic, word of mouth, newspaper or Yellow Pages ads to deliver the customers. They need fast and measurable results. And one of the best ways to get those results is through Local Search.
But Local Search can just as easily be a juggling act. There are so many aspects to handle that it’s easy to get confused and drop the ball. And the overload of information in the blogosphere definitely doesn’t make it any better. Much of the advice out there is faulty and contradictory. Over-eager bloggers and commentators with their fingers itching to write about the latest news from Matt Cutts (Google’s Head of Webspam). Or, worse, they are pontificating about what they think the latest Google update means. If you’re a small business just trying to attract new customers, you can’t afford to waste time running in place.
In the process of attempting to rank locally, you can run into a muddled, messy swamp of misinformation. Here’s what you need: Solid, concise info to get your site out of a rut and on top of the search engines.
Thankfully, there is still a healthy amount of research and content out there to get you where you need to go. David Mihm over at Moz helped to mitigate the confusion with their 2013 post on local search ranking factors.
Now, we’re going to use this resource to find a clear, easy pathway to ranking locally.
What is a Local Ranking Factor?
Think of a ranking factor as a signal that the search engines use to determine the relevance of your site. The quality of that signal will help to decide if your site will rank. Now, there are hundreds of ranking factors that can be considered when trying to optimize your site, but many of them are either:
A) Obsolete. Meaning that Google’s algorithm has been updated or altered and doesn’t use that ranking factor as a measurable signal.
B) Irrelevant. As alluded to several times, Google algorithm is ever-evolving, contradictory, and confusing. Because of that, some ranking factors won’t help your cause. Also, a local search ranking factor could be different than a regular ranking factor (think of the difference between local vs. regular, organic SEO).
Many of these factors shouldn’t be worried about (or at least should be viewed as being of secondary importance). Now, I don’t say that to extenuate the importance of local ranking factors; I say that so that you don’t put your hand into too many baskets and stretch your time and resources too thin.
Before we delve into the most important ranking factors, I suggest you put your business on Google+, if you haven’t already. Google has a heavy bias for its own platforms, so you must adapt and use it advantageously. Hop on Google+ Local (formerly Google Places). Google+ Local, which is basically a reviews listing directory which allows users to rate the quality of your business or service, is crucial to the next section of this blog post.
Top 5 Most Important Local Ranking Factors
1. Proper Business Category
This ranked number one on Moz’s list. Basically, Google wants to know what type of business you run. When you sign up for Google+ Local, you will be asked what category of business you’re in. So, just as examples, if you’re a florist in Little Rock or a chiropractor in Dallas, you will need to accurately input that info. Simple, but vital.
2. Physical Address in City of Search
Let’s say that you’re a florist in Little Rock. Someone in Little Rock is looking to purchase flower arrangements for a wedding. He types into Google “Little Rock florist”. Now, since your business is in Little Rock, you stand a good chance of showing up in the SERPs. Also, if someone in Little Rock types in “florist” on their mobile device, you can show up in the results, as that person’s location will already be “locked in”. Google is placing bias to businesses that have immediate geographical relevancy with the search term. Unfortunately, if you’re a business whose street address is out of range, you’re out of luck. To continue the example, if your business is just outside of Little Rock, but you mainly service customers in the Little Rock area, you probably won’t show up as easily in the local results.
3. Consistency of Structured Citations
Briefly: A citation is a listing or reference of your business info. Name of business, address, phone number, url. For example, if your site is listed on Yelp, that would be a structured citation. When we talk about “consistency”, we’re talking about accurate info across all of your citations. If you have two listings (one on Yelp and another on Yellow Pages, let’s say), then the info must match exactly.
4. Quality of Citations
We’re going to equate quality with authority. A citation on an authoritative index or directory is very valuable. Authoritative means that it’s trusted, been around for a while, and has a naturally strong link profile. Try to snag as many quality citations as you can, because that is a good indicator that your business has authority in the local market (in the eyes of Google, anyway).
5. Consistency of Plus Page and HTML Page
The information on your website must match the information on your Google+ Local page. The name, address and phone number needs to be consistent or Google’s algorithm will get confused as to the validity of your listing.
Hopefully, you have a better understanding on what Google wants. They want qualified, relevant and accurate information on your business to help determine your ranking in the local SERPs.
A few final tips:
- When it comes to citations, it’s about quality and quantity.
- Don’t make any lapses or errors when listing your information.
- Attach yourself to authority. High quality inbound link, citations, etc.
- It helps if you’re in the city of search.
- Hop on the Google platform. An owner-verified Google+ Local page is a good start
Often, we make things difficult by trying to do everything at once. This leaves you vulnerable to mistakes, confusion and frustration. Just focus on a fixing one or two things at a time and go on to the next task. True, there are obstacles to ranking locally, but the solutions are often simple. You’ll see results if you take your time and do it right.