The art of local SEO is constantly progressing with new tactics and techniques spawning every year. And yet, there are certain processes and platforms that remain relevant in optimizing a business’s local search presence. The strategies outlined below have been considered local SEO best practices for last 5+ years, and we expect them to remain that way for many years to come.
Establish Your Company’s “Google My Business”
Aside from having a well-optimized website, the most important web property for local SEO is its Google My Business page. Once called Google Places pages and later Google+ Local pages, Google My Business pages are the listings that appear in the local 3-pack search results shown with the map. These coveted listings are reserved to only three businesses in which Google views to be the most authoritative and relevant. As a result, these search results provide exclusive marketing real estate for any local business trying to optimize its web presence.
The first step is create a Google My Business page. After you’ve established a page for your company:
- Populate your page to 100% completion. This includes all the fine details like your business’s hours of operation, location, contact information, etc.
- Choose the most relevant categories that describe your business, making the primary category the most relevant with respect to your SEO efforts.
- Properly link from your business’ website to your Google My Business page (you’ll see instructions for this on the page with specific code to drop on your site.)
- Submit the verification postcard (Google will send a postcard to your business’ address with a 4 digit PIN which you’ll use to verify your page.)
- Maintain an active presence on Google+ by connecting with related brands, joining communities, and sharing content.
Implement Local SEO Best Practices on Your Site
The next local SEO best practice is simply using the right words on your site, and in the right places. You’re geographic keyword target should be a given. However, you may want to do some research if you don’t know your primary keyword target. Visit the Google Keyword Planner to find the keywords that best match your business and SEO goals.
Once you’ve defined your keywords, you’ll want to be sure to include them in specific areas of your site. Using an example, let’s pretend your a litigation attorney that practices in Nashville, Tennessee. After researching keywords, you’ve pinpointed “personal injury lawyer” to be the primary keyword target the best reflects your firm. When optimizing your homepage, you include these keywords in the page’s:
- Page Title – (Example: Jane Doe, PLC | Nashville Personal Injury Lawyer)
- Meta Description – (Example: Consult Nashville personal injury lawyer, Jane Doe, PLC, for over 10 years experience serving as leading litigation attorney in Nashville, TN.)
- Page Copy – (Mention both the primary and geographic keywords in the page copy and in close proximity. Doing so in headers can also help be advantageous for local SEO.)
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to on-site local SEO best practices. For more in-depth guidance, use the Beginner’s Guide to SEO from Moz. Or for another example of on-site SEO best practices using Wordpress, here’s the latter elements optimized for FieldCrafts.com, a custom screen printer based in northern Michigan.
Get Listed on Directories, Social Media, & Other Sites
While the last best practice is focal to on-site SEO, this next vital strategy centers on cultivating a presence on other websites. It’s the ongoing practice of getting listing on reputable directories, social media networks, and other related sites (particularly those with local relevancy.)
The process focuses building citations, which are signals Google uses to evaluate businesses and determine its local search results. Citations are simply mentions of a business’ name, address, and phone number, and this information is the criteria Google uses to assess a business’ credibility and worthiness to rank. Ensuring your citations are accurate and consistently referenced will increase your businesses ranking capabilities in the Google local 3-pack.
Some resources you’ll want to use to build and optimize your citations are:
- The Best Online Local Business Directories for SEO by LocalSEOGuide.com
- The Best Local Citations by Category by Moz.com
- The Best Citation Sources by U.S. City by Moz.com
- Yext Power Listings Scan by Yext.com
- Local Citation Finder by Whitespark.ca
Building citations is an ongoing effort but will pay off in the long-haul. You can also include a citation at the close of articles, press releases, blog posts, and related content. Google will crawl and recognized these citations, which can further improve your local SEO efforts.
The Last Word on Local SEO
There are several of other variables that Google uses to determine its local 3-pack listings. From other local search ranking factors like a business’s proximity to the city center, domain/link authority, and Google My Business factors, mastering the craft of local SEO is both an art and a science. By following the local SEO best practices above, and evolving your own practice by following some the latter-mentioned resources, you can dramatically increase the local search visibility of your business.