September 12, 2017 | Paul Jahn
Local Search Optimization
It’s long been said: it’s imperative to have a consistent name, address and phone number (NAP) across all local listings online. From Google My Business to Yelp, Foursquare to Internet Yellow Pages, and data aggregators such as InfoGroup, Axciom, Factual (relatively new in the field) and, most importantly, your website, all sources should have the same geography listed.
As David Mihm pointed out, Google searches the web for all the information it can gather about your business, pulling data from online directories, reviews, newspaper sources, blogs, etc. The only thing to beware of is, many of those websites obtain business information from the same aggregators as Google…
“If your data is wrong at those aggregators, it’s likely to be wrong in many places across the web, including Google.”
That’s as good a reason as any to make sure your business information is correct at those handful of primary providers in your country.
This happens all the time, quite often without business owners even knowing. Since Google has grown up now, it’s more important then ever to focus local optimization for users first, which indeed includes having a consistent NAP.
Steve Smith from S&S Pro Services wrote a compelling article I found on LinkedIn titled 6 Tips to Make Local Search Work for Your Company. We’d like to go further into a few of these tips.
A Few Ideas on Local Search
One idea for local search is to ensure your contact information is viewable on all of your website pages and local listings. Having a consistent NAP is obviously important, but it’s definitely crucial to have this information highly visible once consumers get to your web pages.
After all, we’re not just talking about search engine rankings; you want to make it as easy as possible for consumers to come to your (brick and mortar) door, too.
By this stage in the marketing game, making sure your website offers a good user experience across devices should be old news, especially given the rate of local search growth on mobile over desktop:
With responsive web design, the website conforms to each device size and view, catering to visitors whether they’re viewing your site on a laptop, tablet or smartphone. But, it’s still important to ensure your local geography is prominent on any of the device views, so visitors know where you’re located at a glance.
Another talking point I wanted to mention is being aware of algorithm changes from search engines like Google and Bing. This is always good for professionals in the industry to keep up on.
Business owners are very good at what they do, which is running a business; most of them rely on folks like us to keep them informed of these types of changes.
Google and Bing have both done a really good job in the last couple years at making their search engines better. Their focus really is optimizing for the user experience. This is just a starter guide (PDF), but it comes from Google itself:
“Although this guide won’t tell you any secrets that’ll automatically rank your site first for queries in Google (sorry!), following the best practices outlined below will make it easier for search engines to crawl, index and understand your content.”
Instead of showing tricks, the guide provides tips on improving site structure, SEO for desktop, AND tablets/mobile phones, dealing with crawlers and optimizing quality content.
What Are Some Good Local Optimization Tips?
There are three areas on which to focus when you’re looking to optimize for local search:
- Consistent Name, Address, Phone Number (NAP)
Let’s delve a bit further into each of these.
It’s imperative you write compelling content for your local audience. And hire a professional writer if you don’t already have one on board. This can help you in a couple ways:
For your own site’s SEO efforts, users may want to share your content on their own sites. This is just great link building.
The more compelling your content is, the more users may share your stories on 3rd-party sites. These sites often come up towards the top, whether it’s Yelp, TripAdvisor, Reddit, Avvo or others depending on your industry.
Can’t hammer it home enough: you must have consistent name/address/phone number across all venues. To that end, consider different 3rd-party resources when deciding how you want to ensure your NAP is consistent.
UBL is a source I’ve used before as they do have a couple inexpensive options. However, it can take awhile for the results to happen.
Yext is another option. Their packages are a bit more expensive, but are known across the industry to have quick results.
Pro tip – Google isn’t known for partnering with listing management companies. You really need to do this for yourself. The nice part is Google makes this process easy by using their My Business portal.
Reviews are hidden gems — they not only highly your business’s strong points; they can be a source of free “marketing” copy!
To get (more) reviews, encourage customers to write positive reviews on 3rd-party sites. It’s kind of a “no-no” to the search engines when you try to push this on your site, but you can certainly do that at your physical location.
Here’s a fantastic article from Greg Gifford at Search Engine Land on how to use in-person printed material to make it easy to encourage users to leave online reviews.
Local Search: Get On It!
Local search is an important aspect of online marketing. Which is, of course, near and dear to our hearts. We do everything we can to optimize for the user.
To recap our local search tips:
- Pay attention to how your business info appears across aggregators
- Create solid local content
- Display consistent name, address, phone number
- Be sure your website, landing pages, ads, etc. are responsive
- Encourage client reviews
This isn’t just from an SEO perspective, but also from the professional content, responsive design and usability standpoints. We do all of the above in concert because it’s not about just showing up in search engines for local keywords — it’s getting consumers to your door and turning them into clients.
What other thoughts do you have about optimizing for local businesses?