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Did you know local listings in directories can help small business SEO? We’re going to go over some guidelines to follow when filling out online profiles – such as using a lot of pictures and video, ensuring a street address is EXACTLY the same as a Google Maps listing and more.
Let’s begin by explaining why a strong local search presence and visibility has always been important for multi-location brands. To be honest, it’s all Google’s fault: The search engine giant continuously makes this increasingly so, with local branded and non-branded terms playing an ever-greater role in search results. In fact, 90-percent of consumers now use search engines to shop locally – and these queries are taking place from maps, in apps, on the mobile web, from the desktop and even from GPS and other in-vehicle devices. Each and every Internet transaction boasts a local connection, via the user on a device which is tied to what we call a “geo-coordinate.”
Now, we’re going to speak directly to small business owners here: Basically, what we’re saying is, wherever your consumer is located and regardless of the device he or she is on, you need to be there when they are displaying intent and searching LOCALLY for either your brand or your service.
The Difference Between Local SEO and Local Listing Management
First, you should understand the difference between local SEO and “local listing management,” which many non-marketing types believe is one and the same concept. To the contrary, these are two completely different tactics, though completely intertwined, and smart business owners should be made aware that each is critical to ranking individual locations on Google. The leading search engine platform ranks multi-location brand websites based on three “common sense” factors:
- Best practice on-page validation factors (local SEO)
- High-quality local landing page user experience
- Relevant backlinks on directories and IYPs though listing validation
We can tell you from experience that local SEO (and SEM) are tedious and time-consuming to execute, so in order to achieve optimal results at scale, you will need to automate the process whenever possible. Keeping this in mind, let’s now explore the steps necessary to deliver the best possible chance of ranking each of your locations for local queries; indeed, checking each of these off a list as you implement them is your blueprint for scalable local SEO.
On-Page Validation or Local SEO Factors
The best practices of local SEO focus on the core foundation necessary for ranking in organic search for local items – for example, map rankings can easily improve when pages boasting localized URLs are attached to Google, Yahoo and Bing map listings.
Employ these simple, yet high-impact, best practices:
- Localize title tags (for example, “Sporting Goods Jacksonville”)
- Optimize meta descriptions (for example, “Sports Authority – Sporting Goods Stores Jacksonville”)
- Implement localized “schema markup” (proper “itemprop” for local business name, address and phone number)
- Localize URL structure (for example, http://stores.jcpenney.com/ca/pasorobles/clothing-stores-jacksonville-fl-32202.html)
- Localize on-page business content (hours, driving directions, local descriptions, etc.)
If you find yourself still somewhat unfamiliar with unstructured data, it’s kind of important to get yourself up to speed. Google has increasingly relied on microdata to better understand web content, and often suggests that webmasters utilize the Schema.org structure.
Though structured data is not a ranking factor – in other words, with all other things being equal, you won’t rank higher than a competitor based on schema alone – it enables the showcasing of rich snippets, which in turn enhances the user’s search experience through additional text and images.
Local Landing Page User Experience
Like just about any other demographic surfing the World Wide Web, local searchers fully expect a rich, engaging and high-quality experience…yet it’s a fact that many localized pages fail to deliver. Ironically, many of the things consumers are looking for may also help your local pages rank higher, such as integrating YouTube, Google Maps, Google+ sharing, Google+ Local links, Google Webmaster Tools and analytics.
The way we see it, the key is to make sure you integrate each of the following to enhance the user experience and enable customers to interact with your brand on each of your local landing pages:
- Ensure your website is mobile responsive
- Driving directions and maps on page
- Hours of operation including holidays
- Localized promotions and/or coupons
- List of products and services available at location
- Local videos, social media links and social sharing options
- Links to review sites such as Google+, Yahoo Local, Yelp, Angie’s List and others
Now, let’s take a closer look at the WANTS and NEEDS of local searchers. Actually, this is quite simple: They are looking to:
- Learn more about you
- Interact with your brand
- Find you RIGHT NOW and make a purchase, either online or face-to-face
What you must understand is that if you are making any of this counterintuitive or cumbersome to accomplish, you’re doing your business a great disservice.
Local Listing Management (NAP: Name, Address, Phone)
Local listing management offers multiple “measurable influences” to higher rankings in local search. What do we mean by that? Linking your map listings to local URLs, managing your NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) in the “local ecosystem” throughout data aggregators and managing your local presence on social networks ensures a consistent “data fidelity” process for RANKING HIGHER. But providing your business feed isn’t the only step – Google also ensures to reference hundreds of local data sources and local listing directories to validate your business information. The more your “NAP” matches what you have provided to Google, the higher you could rank.
MVMG Power Tip: When taking all of this into consideration, make sure you:
- Claim and manage your map listings across Bing, Yahoo and Google with the same valid business data.
- Claim and manage your listings in major data aggregators like Yext, Factural, Neustar Localeze, Infogroup Express Update and Acxiom.
- Claim and manage your listings on major social networks like Google+, Foursquare, Yelp and Facebook.
Automating Local SEO for Better Performance and Reduced Cost
Are you looking to save time while securing relevant local traffic at the lowest cost-per-visitor? Each of the following steps can be automated to help in these regards:
- Local landing pages
- Mobile-optimized pages
- Local SEO best practices and schema markup
- Local listing management
- IYP and directory management
- Search engine map management
MVMG Fun Fact: A recent case study found that automating elements as mentioned above assisted multiple department stores with achieving a CPC below $0.07 from local SEO, compared to the $0.60 they had been spending on paid search. Further, a recent Google study revealed that consumer electronics retailer RadioShack found that over a period of four months, 40 to 60-percent of clicks on its store locator resulted in visits to one of its brick-and-mortar locations. Of those visits, 85-percent went on to make a purchase at that store while the average order value increased some 30-percent.
Summarizing by Analyzing the Five Things Most People Forget About Local SEO
We’re going to repeat a couple of themes here as we work towards the conclusion of this blog, but it’s important in the larger scope of things so we can emphasize what’s vital for your company’s local heartbeat.
There are no two ways about it – local Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can be tricky. Not only do you have to accomplish and implement all the customary SEO actions, you now must understand a new layer of more complex SEO activities. Most tech-savvy business owners have a somewhat grounded understanding of how to accomplish local SEO, but diving into a deeper level of the pool can get confusing.
Example: Most people believe that in order to be successful with local SEO, you MUST have directory listings. This is true, but to a point – first, though, you must ensure that several other factors are in order, as directory listings don’t come first in local SEO. Next, you have to make sure that you’re getting listed with the RIGHT local directories while knowing how and where to find the local directories that are unique to your geographical area. Finally, you have to ask yourself if you’re optimizing for your “geospecific hyperlocal neighborhood”…not just the general location of your business.
As we alluded to, things can definitely get confusing…
The Top 5 Things that Most People Forget About Local SEO
In order to address some of these major issues, we have assembled the top five things that most people forget about local SEO; indeed, if you’re looking for local search traffic, you need to make sure that you go through each of the five issues below.
What you’re about to take in could represent a huge boon for your local SEO.
1. Accuracy and Consistency in Online Listings
As we covered, the most important component of local SEO is a trinity of information known as NAP – Name, Address and Phone Number. Where it gets confusing, though, is in the area of accuracy and consistency of this information. What’s vital to remember here is this: In order for the local search engine or directory to validate the presence of your local business, it must make sure that every point of data aligns properly.
2. All Other Valuable Information in Directory Listings
While it’s easy to find yourself listed in local directories, it’s not so easy to fill out these local directories to their MAXIMUM POTENTIAL. These directories should be filled out with as much information as possible – address, phone number, general proximity to location, hours of operation, company name, website, prices, general product or service info, ratings or reviews, comparison of features/services/other info, forms of payment accepted, credentials, brand or trademarks, other company information and other product information, et al.
3. Building Full-Fledged Social Media Accounts
This is a point that many businesses miss: Your customers are using your place page or social media page as your “de facto website;” instead of visiting your website, many customers choose instead to look you up on TripAdvisor, Yelp, UrbanSpoon or Facebook. You need to have locally-optimized accounts on every meaningful local listing…and platform.
4. “Begging” for Reviews
One of the best things about local search is that it’s mostly under your control – you create your local listings, optimize your Google My Business page, pimp out your Facebook account and take all the other actions that bump you to the top of local search results. But there’s one thing you cannot completely control, and that’s reviews. Still, there are plenty of ways to motivate users to give reviews (which are hopefully positive): In exchange offer them free drinks, a shout-out on Facebook, discounts, props – whatever. At the very least, remind them to leave a review.
5. Honing in on Hyperlocal SEO
This tactic is still in its infancy, as Google has indicated that it is using or testing a “neighborhood algorithm” because local neighborhoods are hard to fit into a search engine algorithm. This is where the power of a website comes into play: By optimizing your company website via “neighborhood terminology,” you can accomplish wonders in local searches, targeting the informal space of your neighborhood while also ranking in the official algorithm-selected region.
All the conventional SEO enhancements and techniques are given a complete “makeover” when they’re viewed in the light of local SEO. At the end of the day, a local business depends on local SEO…so ensure your company’s success by heeding the advice we’ve shared in this blog post.