There isn’t one magic fix that will get your business in Google’s local 3-business listing. In order to have good visibility, you need to work on your entire SEO. Local search results are more competitive than generic pages and Google’s continuous changes have made it much harder to stay in the top three.
There’s good news, however. You can implement a few simple improvements and increase your visibility in both the short and long-term, and eventually earn a spot in the coveted three local slots.
1. Base keyword research on local search
Keyword research is the foundation of any good SEO campaign and most SEOs turn to the free Google Keyword Planner. This tool is a godsend for when you need generic keyword lists. For local search, however, it becomes less useful, particularly since Google terminated their local search filter in December of 2015. It is, as such, difficult to simulate local search keywords based on the city you’re in.
To make up for this, SEOs need to do either of the following:
Edit URL to include the ‘near’ parameter – You simply type in the query and then adjust the URL by appending “&near=city.” This will give the same results as if you’d searched while near the city you entered.
Use ‘uule’ parameter – Simply add a base64 encoded version of the “Canonical Name” of your location to each search, a parameter known as ‘uule’.
Target particular GPS coordinates with software – Use an algorithm to geotarget keywords using GPS coordinates. This is the simplest solution that gives the most accurate results. You can use some of these software tools.
After landing your keywords, you need to make the research work for you. Use content creation to nab your focus keywords, starting with the low-competition keywords, and be sure to include HTML tags and anchor text.
2. Use your easy linking opportunities
Link signals such as linking domain authority, inbound anchor text and number of links account for a significant portion of ranking factors, so you really need to work on your link profile as your most important signal.
Unfortunately, organic link building requires time. You must have a large stock of good content which influencers will be interested in viewing before you can get your inbound links. Instead, you can find other methods of building your online brand reputation as well as work to find opportunities for collaboration with influencers within your niche.
Midtown Houston SEO – Hub Wired Media experts have shared experiences on local SEO-focused techniques which they have found to be successful and efficient for link creation. These are some:
- Partnerships with local business websites
- Links from directories such as Yelp
- Links from local press news pieces
- Links for local Chambers of Commerce
One of the easiest ways you can earn high-authority links is to help webmasters identify and fix broken links within their links profile. You just need to look for popular posts (lots of shares and interest plus in-depth content) and find broken links. Contact the webmaster and offer up your own content to substitute the broken links. There are SEO tools you can use to do this successfully.
3. Research your Competitors’ Link Profiles
Competitor research can provide a number of insights, including the domains that your competitors are getting backlinks from. You can use any of the many competitor tracking tools to uncover link-building opportunities you may have missed. You will need to:
- Find sites which have backlinks to two or more of your competitors, but not you.
- Determine the domain authority level of all those other sites (easily gotten from whatever tool you’re using).
- Draw up a list of most relevant and influential domains for further action.
- Carry out link outreach by offering high-quality content for relevant posts with the site webmasters.
You can use tools like SEMrush and Screaming Frog for competitor backlink research.
4. Ensure uniform NAP information
Your name, address and phone are the most important details you should share when targeting local SEO. There’s a hook, however; these details must be consistent across every website on which they are listed. This means that you can’t have “North Street” in one listing and “North St.” in another.
You can use rank-tracking software which monitors your site/brand citations and for any NAP inconsistencies found, contact the directories or webmasters involved and request that they correct the mistakes. On-page signals such as NAP are very important for local SEO organic rankings and local pack rankings.
5. Optimize Google My Business listings
Your Google My Business profile is the most important ranking signal when it comes to the local pack ranking, but the good news is that it’s very easy to optimize. This is what you’ll need to do:
- Go here for instructions on how to claim your listing.
- Verify your GMB account.
- Confirm that your business details are current. A few common mistakes include errors in opening and closing hours and erroneous category listings.
- Have a link to your official website.
- Include high-quality business images (replace any images that have been up for a year or more).
After setting up your GMB page, one of the best ways to ensure it stays optimized is to get good customer reviews and increase your citations on local listings.
6. Collect customer reviews and testimonials
Social proof is one of the most important weapons in your arsenal when it comes to local search. Case studies, testimonials and reviews are important ranking signals and persuasive copy pieces which can often decide whether or not a customer chooses you instead of a competing business.
It takes a bit of effort to earn customer proof, especially because Google heavily frowns upon reward schemes for reviews (you can be penalized for this). These are some creative ways you can build reviews:
Offer link-creation opportunities – Many customers will leap at a chance to be featured in a case study because it earns them free publicity, and some of your customers have businesses which they want to promote. If you don’t have time to create your own case studies, use a site like Case Study Buddy.
Encourage customers to review you – You can encourage your customers to leave reviews after visiting your establishment or using your online services. You can also give out leaflets, ask customers when paying at the till or print out QR codes in business cards and/or receipts.
Ask – Yes, you can actually just ask. You won’t get reviews from all of them, but you will from some, particularly if they’re very happy (or very annoyed) with your services. Work consistently to create a stream of positive feedback on platforms frequented by your customers.
Start off your local SEO campaign by focusing on the basics – Google My Business listings, keyword research, competitor analysis, etc. – and then work on more complex techniques like targeting specific landing pages. Focus on the most important techniques working your way down.
Guest article written by: Mark W. runs on of the successful SEO company in Houston. He spends a good chunk of his free time shedding light on various topics related to online marketing and SEO in general.