Local SEO Optimization
Jer Niedt, October 16, 2012
While not all websites need to engage SEO at a local level, many businesses rely wholly on the surrounding community, and the associated physical and electronic traffic. In a technological environment where mobile usage is skyrocketing, empowered by innumerable GPS-driven applications, proper geographic listing, and engagement, is essential.
On Page Markup
There are a number of ways to mark up site pages to further define attributes, such as geographic location, ratings, and reviews to Google. SEO is largely about further definition of your site to aid Google’s total view of your properties, and Local SEO is no different. Failure to define certain aspects leads Google to make an educated guess.
Microdata is a series of on page definitions that can be leveraged to imply further geographic relevance to Google, by eliminating the ambiguity machines encounter when attempting to define a page.
Take the searches to the right. If you type in karma, the number one result is about the religious concept.
Philadelphia, a geographic keyword, prompts Google to search for geographically relevant results, which are defined through a variety of means, including microdata.
In a similar way to geographic data, one can define areas of a page to Google for it to display in the SERPs. These range from raw ratings to caloric count of recipes.
In terms of local search relevance, much of local search is conducted from mobile devices. Often mobile users are looking for spur of the moment business reviews. Better SERP visibility could make the difference between obtaining a new customer or not.
Local pages should be optimized with an official Google places map, as well as directions from local landmarks, shown to the left. This requires a full and complete Google Plus Local profile. Multiple locations should have separate pages for each one.
Cross Site Local Signal Optimization
To cement the location of your business in Google’s mind, a consistent phone number and address should be populated in the footer on every page on the site. Footer address should reflect either the main location or sub location if the locations are divided up.
On-site optimization is strengthened by complete and thoughtful listing on external directory sites. Primarily, sites should be listed properly on Google, Bing and Yahoo business pages. Secondary listings on review and geographic social sites, such as Yelp, Foursquare, or Urbanspoon should be engaged when all of the primary listings are in place. Traditional listing resources are becoming more and more web-oriented, engage your local papers, radio, or TV.
High Quality Directories
Listing sites are generally of a high domain authority, appearing high up in Google’s search engine result pages. This means that as your site climbs the SERPs, you may already have an established presence at the top waiting for you. They are also terrific resources to engage user comments, whether positive or negative. Each review helps you craft future engagements with customers.
Business Citation Management
Citation management sites, such as Localeze and Yext, allow for single-point bulk optimization and distribution of consistent directory listings, utilizing rich media when possible. Built in analytic and feedback processes allow for mass corrections based on user feedback. This type of centralized control allows for accurate, up to date listings that can be changed in bulk, on the fly.
Outreach to Influential Yelp Users
Local decisions are very often driven by customer feedback, rather than sheer proximity. As such, it has become increasingly important to have customers post reviews on your site.
Outreach to high power users, in relevant geographic areas, who have reviewed similar products can provide quality feedback that can sway other user’s opinions. Yelp, the preeminent king of review sites, offers the perfect platform for outreach.
First, one can differentiate between registered users and the desired “power” users. Any user’s Yelp profile displays their friend and rating counts to ensure outreach to an active, adequately followed user. There is also an “elite” badge that appears on power users.
Even if a user has a decent number of friends and reviews, their rating distribution should also be scrutinized for an even and natural spread. Often, users are turned off by 5 star reviews, and especially a high number of them, because they may appear unnatural.
Outreach should involve commenting on the users comments, and establishing a relationship prior to requesting a review.
Google Plus Optimization (Formerly Places)
Google Plus Local has taken the local search torch from Google Places. Proper optimization of this property is of extreme importance, as it dictates how Google displays the locations in local search.
Complete, accurate, and verified information is necessary to list in the local search results, which often appear after the first 2 SERP results.
Additionally, mobile users using GPS may use the listing to find the location. Inaccurate information may mislead these individuals.
Become a Community Player
Knowledge of the local industry environment is key. Engage your community in the real world. Events are great sources of actionable social media material, both before and after. In addition to the community, engage your industry, become a leader in your field, even if its just socially.
As beneficial as the optimization and outreach can be online, nothing beats person to person contact. There’s a level of trust and sincerity that one can imply socially that cannot be met by any degree of SEO.
Become the community leader. If you can’t, build your own community, or lead in what you can. Social, technical, business, there’s a niche for everyone.
Attend meetings, network, network others, build your presence, engage others online.
The local search “game” is about defining your site to Google as completely as possible. Whenever a new social or listing property rolls out, claim your local presence, and consider how you can use it to either further define your geography or customer base to Google.