Tag Archives: Local SEO

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Thinking Global, Going Local: SEO from the Block by @SERanking

Want to adjust your SEO strategies to gain local rankings? Here is what you need to focus on.

The post Thinking Global, Going Local: SEO from the Block by @SERanking appeared first on Search Engine Journal.

Six steps to improving your local search strategy

With local search proven to be one of the hottest SEO trends of 2017, it is projected to maintain its standing among make-or-break optimization factors in 2018.

The competition between online and brick-and-mortar stores is heating up, and local search optimization can become a decisive factor in how a site ranks locally and, consequently, in how much traffic and clients it drives from local, on-the-go searches.

Fortunately, major local search tactics are not that hard to master. Follow the six steps below to achieve the best results in terms of SERPs, traffic, and conversions on the local battlefield.

Claim Google My Business

Failure to claim your company’s account at Google My Business may be the reason your website does not show up at the top spot of Google’s local search results. If you are not there (and Bing Places for Business), you are missing out on incredible opportunities to drive local traffic.

With Google’s local three-pack considered to be the coveted spot for every local business, you need to please the Google gods to get listed there:

  • Go through the verification process. Google will send you an actual postcard, with a private PIN inside (provided you register at the GMB website and you own a business’s physical address). P.O. boxes are not allowed.
  • Fill out all GMB listing elements: logo, photos, description, categories, business hours, payment methods, physical address (if any), phone number, website, etc. This information must be consistent across your website, GMB, and other directories.
  • Optimize your GMB listing. Ensure that all text elements are written for humans and feature your top-priority local keywords (e.g. city, neighborhood, type of service, brand name, etc.)

According to Google My Business guidelines, any business can be unlisted if they violate any of the following rules:

  • Using a URL redirect instead of a site’s actual URL
  • Stuffing a company’s name field with keywords
  • Registering multiple GMB listings for one company. If you have a multi-location business, read our guide to how to optimize your Google My Business listing to avoid a penalty
  • Using any address that is not your business’s actual physical address.

Register with online directories and listings

According to a Local Search Ranking Factors Study 2017 by Moz, link signals play a key role in how sites rank in local search. However, many website owners pay zero attention to online directories and listings, which are a safe source of relevant, high-quality links.

The process here is simple:

  • Find top business directories to get your company listed. Google, Bing, Yahoo!, Yelp, Merchant Circle, Citysearch, Better Business Bureau, Angie’s List, and Yellow Pages are a must
  • Research local business directories. Check out local media and government websites, or simply do a Google search
  • Fill out and optimize your directory accounts. Be descriptive, write for humans, and do not forget about keywords. Confirm that all business details are consistent across every directory.

Bonus tip! Like directories and listings, citation data aggregators feed search engines with crucial bits of information about your business, such as your business name, address and phone number (NAP). Ensure that all information you submit to CDAs is consistent. Do not confuse your customers and Google.

Optimize titles and meta descriptions

Titles and meta descriptions are still a biggie in local search. Customizable HTML elements act as ads that define how a page’s content is reflected in search results, and they have to be catchy enough to get clicked.

Since titles and meta descriptions are limited to ~50+ and ~160+ characters, they may pose a challenge. These tips should help:

  • Research the local keywords you want to rank for; analyze your competition
  • Place local keywords at the beginning of the tag (you might use a formula by Moz: Primary Keyword – Secondary Keyword | Brand Name)
  • Cut page names from your titles (e.g. Home, Services, Products, etc.)
  • Keep your titles relevant to corresponding pages; never duplicate your titles
  • Write title tags for humans; avoid keyword stuffing.

What it comes down to is this: Even if your business gets a coveted No.1 position in local search thanks to all of your SEO efforts, you still have to incentivize users to click on your link. Masterfully crafted and meaningful titles and meta descriptions can make a big difference.

Collect and manage online reviews

According to BrightLocal’s 2017 Local Consumer Review Survey, 97% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses, with 85% trusting them as much as personal recommendations.

Since reviews can become your ultimate weapon for building trust and a positive reputation among your targeted audience, it makes sense to ask for them. As of 2017, 68% of consumers are willing to leave a review when asked by the business (70% in 2016).

So where do you start? Implement this simple process to manage your reviews:

  • Start monitoring reviews. Use one of these tools: Reputation Loop, Get Five Stars, Trust Pilot, Vendata, Awario, Social Mention, Mention, Talkwalker Alerts. You may also rely on Hootsuite and Tiny Porch.
  • Respond to each review, whether positive or negative. 30% of consumers consider an answer to their review as a key factor when judging a local business.
  • Manage Google My Business reviews for your SEO. According to Google, the amount and score of GMB reviews are calculated into local search ranking.
  • Manage Yelp, Facebook, and BBB.org reviews for marketing. These are the most trusted review platforms among consumers.

Bonus tip! Since consumers read an average of seven reviews before trusting a business, develop a strategy for generating ongoing positive reviews. Make sure to contact happy customers and ask for their reviews to mitigate the effect of negative reviews.

Use local structured data markup

Schema markup, a code used for marking up crucial bits of data on a page to assist search engine spiders in determining a page’s contents, is one of the most powerful but least-utilized SEO methods. With  ~10 million websites implementing Schema.org markup, you should start using this leverage against your competition.

However, structured data is not simple to master. As of 2017, Schema’s core vocabulary consists of 597 Types, 867 Properties, and 114 Enumeration values.

The good news is that Google has developed several tools to help business owners, marketers, and SEO professionals:

Bonus tip! Make LocalBusiness schema your top priority. Particularly, discover specific Types for different businesses below the list of properties.

Appear in local publications and media

On the link-building side of things, content is your most powerful weapon. Reach out to local publications, media sites, and bloggers to serve up content that soothes the pain points of local consumers. You will not only get coverage and reach new audiences, but you will also garner relevant backlinks that push your site up in local searches.

Follow this process to amplify your linkbuilding efforts through content marketing:

  • Make a list of local publications where you want your business featured or mentioned
  • Research the people in charge (e.g. editors, journalists, bloggers, etc.)
  • Figure out how to contact them
  • Start sending out your individual pitches with content ideas
  • Collect responses and find common ground on publication terms
  • Analyze feedback if your attempts fail
  • Rinse and repeat!

Bonus tip! Consider cooperating with other local businesses to build powerful content. Reach out to your partners to research ideas and create content with meat on its bones. Otherwise, you may fall short of beating out competition from national-level players.

Conclusion

SEO changes all the time, and local search is not much different. However, the six steps above will provide a solid bedrock for your local SEO strategy. Implement these tactics, and you will outperform your competition in local search results.

Google on Structured Data for Local SEO by @martinibuster

Google’s John Mueller offers an unexpected answer to a Webmaster Hangout question about whether a specific kind of structured data is essential to Local Search SEO.

The post Google on Structured Data for Local SEO by @martinibuster appeared first on Search Engine Journal.

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How to get started with local SEO

Local SEO proved to be one of the biggest trends throughout 2016 and 2017, and is expected to continue doing so throughout 2018.

Businesses that have been able to optimize their on-page and off-page SEO strategies are already reaping the supreme benefits of local SEO. For others, there are undeniable opportunities to begin their local SEO journeys.

Google suggests that 80% users conduct online searches for local businesses, while 50% of users who do a local search on mobile for a business visit its store within a day. Yet businesses continue to miss the opportunities that local SEO provides.

Don’t be that business. Instead, use the tips and tricks mentioned in this guide to get started with local SEO.

Claim your Google My Business page and optimize it

Google+ might have mostly fizzled out, but Google My Business continues to be a cornerstone for implementing local SEO. If you’ve not claimed a Google My Business listing for your business yet, this is the time to do so. The chances of your business featuring on the front page in a local relevant search improve manifold purely by having a well optimized and filled out My Business Listing.

Go to google.com/business, start the registration and verification process, and wait for Google to send you a postcard to your physical store location.

Make sure you understand that Google only allows real business owners to have their My Business pages; so you need to work out an arrangement with your digital marketing consultants so that you continue to own the My Business listing even if they depart.

Your business name, address, and phone number (abbreviated as NAP) must match what you have been using for digital marketing till now. Also, lay special emphasis on selecting categories, business hours, types of payment accepted, etc.

Then, have top quality photographs of the office front and insides uploaded on to the profile. Digital businesses without a location can hide the address to still be able to claim their My Business listing.

Here’s what a well maintained and optimized Google My Business profile could look like on a search page.

Understand and master the art of citations

Here’s it, put simply – every mention of your business online is a citation. More citations are good for your business’ local SEO. How does Google consider a mention as a citation? Well, your business NAP has to be mentioned for it to be counted as a citation.

Too many businesses have already lost several months of efforts in getting themselves mentioned online, purely because of inconsistent NAP. Though increasingly there’s consensus among digital marketers that Google actually triangulates data and identifies slightly different business names as belonging to the same business using NAP, we’d recommend you play it safe.

Keep on optimizing your website for mobile

Though this is something every website owner must do, local business website owners need to speed up their game particularly well. That’s because a majority of local searches are done on mobile devices, and are intent-backed.

Responsive layouts, intuitive user experience and interface design, etc. are the basics; you need to step past them! Google’s Mobile Friendly testing tool is a great starting point. I did a test on a post I was reading recently, and was impressed with the tool’s validation.

How to get started with local SEO

How to get started with local SEO

Add business directories to your to do lists

Apart from giving you a valuable citation online, business directory pages for your business also garner more visibility for your business. Here are some action points for you.

  • Start with the most notable business review directory websites such as Yelp and CitySearch
  • Next, use this list of business directories and create your business profiles on each (target at least 7 complete profiles per week)
  • Look for niche specific business directories and create your profiles there
  • Look for local business community websites, and grab your listing there
  • Check if the state government has a Chamber of Commerce or equivalent website, and look for a way to get a mention there
  • Use the services of citation aggregators like Infogroup, Acxiom, and Factual
  • Look for an opportunity for a citation via local newspaper websites
  • Of course, remember to get your NAP spot on every time.

‘Localize’ your website’s content

You can do a lot to help search engines understand your business’ local appeal by optimizing your website for the same. Local content, for instance, can help search engines contextualize your website’s niche to its local service. Then, you could include an interactive map widget to further enhance the local SEO appeal of your website.

Also, consider creating a separate local news section on your website, wherein you could post content about niche-related local events. This will serve you well in terms of allowing the usage of local SEO relevant keywords.

Businesses such as restaurants, lawyer services, house repairs and interior décor, etc. have a lot to gain by using these basic tactics.

Be very hungry for online reviews

A Moz report attributes 8.4% of ranking value to online reviews. It doesn’t sound much, but considering how 88% users depend on online reviews to form opinions on quality of businesses, brands, and products, the eventual impact of reviews is significant.

Google My Business reviews are the primary source of SEO juice; you need at least 5 reviews for Google to start showing your reviews. Facebook Business reviews must be the next on your radar, because of the trust they inspire among online users.

There are several other review websites you need to take care of, to maximize the local SEO benefit from the same. To get more reviews, try out these tactics:

  • Motivate store managers and field sales personnel to get reviews from customers on handy mobile devices, asking them log in to, for instance, Zomato or Yelp, and doing it on the spot (consider giving them a little discount for the same)
  • Use email marketing, with a single link that takes users to the reviews page
  • Consider using a social listening tool such as HootSuite to be alerted of your business and brand mentions, which you can transform into reviews
  • It’s worthwhile seeking services of online reputation management agencies for this.

Invest effort in local SEO relevant rich schema

Schema markup can be added to your website’s code to enhance its readability for search engines. There are several scheme markup tags that specifically focus on local attributes of your website.

Local schema markup tags assists local SEO in two ways:

  • First, it allows search engines to understand your business’ local relevance
  • Second, it means search engines can show your business page result along with rich snippet info such as phone number, address, business working hours, ratings, reviews, etc.

Here’s an example of how web results with local SEO schema markup appear on SERPs.

How to get started with local SEO

Local schema markup is beyond the scope of this guide, but here’s a good tutorial from Schema App.

Don’t forget to run your website through Google Structured Data Testing Tool to understand if the schema markup is done correctly.

Concluding remarks

As you read this, there are hundreds of potential customers searching for businesses in your neighborhood. Your website could be staring at them through their desktops and mobile phones, as soon as you get started on local SEO with the tips, tricks, tools, and methods described in this guide.

How to get mobile SEO for voice search right

Voice search and mobile usage are both on the rise and look set to shape the SEO industry for some time to come. Nonetheless, 62% of marketers have no specific plans for voice search in 2018.

How can marketers take action today to tap into two of the most important trends in the industry?

As mobile usage continues to grow, more and more users are comfortable with speaking to their devices rather than typing their queries.

Of equal importance are the advances in speech recognition technology that have allowed the likes of Google, Amazon, and Apple to offer a satisfying voice search experience.

There is plentiful context to make marketers aware of these emerging trends, with both mobile and voice search set to shape the future of the industry:

  • Voice-enabled personal assistants are installed by default on all smartphones
  • Google has revealed that more than 20% of searches on an Android device are voice searches
  • The Amazon Alexa app recently topped the app store charts. The Google Home app occupied second position
  • The Amazon Echo was once again the best-selling item on Amazon this holiday season
  • Speech recognition accuracy is now north of 95% for all of the major technology providers
  • Google’s mobile-first index is rolling out and will soon be applied to all sites
  • comScore predicts that 50% of all searches will be by voice in 2020.

Though the two are not perfectly aligned, there is a clear correlation between the growth of voice search and the ongoing rise of mobile.

As the Internet of Things takes off, voice will be one of the most important unifying factors across all hardware. Whether at home, in the car, or at work, there will always be a voice-enabled device close to hand.

And yet, a recent study by BrightEdge reported that 62% of marketers are unlikely to implement a specific strategy for voice search over the next 12 months.

This is not due to a lack of awareness of the trend, but rather a lack of direction when it comes to preparing for its implications.

In a clear indication of how significant the shift to voice-based searches will be, Google recently released a new set of Search Quality Rating Guidelines for the Google Assistant.

Though specific to the Google Assistant, we can safely assume that the same rules and objectives underpin the functioning of other digital assistants too.

As such, this document can prove both illuminating and instructive as we look to move beyond the hype that voice search brings and arrive at some tips to direct our mobile SEO efforts.

The findings in Google’s official guidelines for voice search evaluation, along with the best practices we already have for mobile SEO, can help us create a hybrid set of tips to improve any site’s chances of ranking in this new landscape.

This begins with some technical considerations, then moves on to a more nuanced understanding of how consumers are using voice to interact with their devices. Finally, we must create the right content to fit our target contexts, and find a way to measure our progress.

Technical SEO for mobile devices

As with so many aspects of SEO, crawlability is the foundation upon which a mobile SEO strategy for voice search must be built.

Put simply, if a search engine cannot access and understand your content, your chances of appearing in search results are slim. This has always been important, but it takes on a new level of significance when viewed through the lens of voice search.

Often, voice search removes the traditional search engine results page (SERP) and instead aims to provide one answer in response to a query. This is a search engine’s first port of call; it is only when one answer cannot conclusively answer the query that a more traditional list of results will be displayed.

Fortunately, there are some guidelines we can follow to increase the likelihood of our content ranking via voice search:

  • Schema markup: By adding schema markup, we can help to add structure to our website’s data. For example, we can alert search engines to elements that relate to events, prices, and people – among many others. When a search engine is trying to locate a response to a voice search, this extra information can prove invaluable.
  • XML sitemaps: Having a clearly structure sitemap that can be navigated easily both by people and by search engines will increase the likelihood that your information can be sourced quickly in response to a query.
  • Site structure: The structure of a website should mirror the journeys that users typically take when considering and making a purchase. For example, faceted navigation on an ecommerce site should aim to match common query strings.
  • Carry out a mobile SEO audit: Before embarking on any of the more innovative aspects of voice search, conduct a full mobile SEO site audit to ensure that you are in a solid position.
  • It is also worth reviewing the basics of mobile SEO to keep in mind the distinctions that set it apart from traditional SEO.

Understanding context 

All language is contextual. The exact same query, at surface level, can in fact mean many different things based on how, when, where, and by whom it is said.

This is not a new discovery, but it is only recently that search engines have been able to understand the context of a query.

In part, this has been due to more sophisticated algorithms like Google’s Hummingbird update, which brought the concept of semantic search to life.

However, the biggest source of contextual information is the smartphone. Our phones are constantly sending and receiving data, all of which can be processed to comprehend our past, present, and even our future behaviors.

Now, when a user searches for a term like [canon cameras], a search engine can use smartphone data to understand the implied intent of the query:

cameras

This implicit intent, now known to a search engine, can help to shape and personalize the results that the user sees.

There are other effects of this deeper understanding.

Varied queries can ultimately express the same underlying intent. For example:

sunny

The expression of the response may differ, but all variations are ultimately answering the same question. The user wants to know what the weather will be like tomorrow.

This is helpful, as it allows us to see that we don’t need to answer every single possible query that is out there. Many guides on voice SEO suggest creating FAQ pages as a way to grow traffic, but this seems a stop-gap solution when we can do better. SEO needs to move away from creating “SEO pages” on websites that serve no real purpose other than to attract organic search clicks.

Thus far, our industry has focused mainly on what has been said by searchers. We pull a list of keywords with search volumes, difficulty scores and so on, and we map those to our pages. Where a page does not exist for a group of keywords, we create one.

A further level of nuance can be added by segmenting the keywords by purchase stage: informational, navigational or transactional, for example. These can also be categorized as ‘Know’, ‘Go’, and ‘Do’ moments.

That is useful, but it is overly simplistic. What we often end up with is a comforting illusion; a spreadsheet that smooths over the rough edges to provide a digestible view of what people search for, cell by cell.

Reality does not fit so readily into neat compartments.

In a presentation given last year, Tom Anthony of Distilled mapped out what the new ecosystem looks like, based on the huge amount of data a smartphone both sends and receives:

tom_anthony

Even this is a reduction, but it does at least provide insight into the broader picture.

What this means is that when working on a mobile SEO strategy, we should identify the contexts in which our content could rank.

These contexts can be strung together to create a map of the typical user journey.

This can be informed by demographic data, as there are telling differences between the generations. In particular, we should note that younger generations are more comfortable with voice search and use it in very different situations to their older counterparts.

voice_search_today

Stone Temple Consulting produced an excellent, in-depth study that goes further still to segment this data by income. In the chart below, all figures are in US Dollars:

voice search seo incomeSource: Stone Temple Consulting

What we find through this report is that there are notable variations at every level of analysis. By location, gender, device, income level, and age, we find that people use voice search differently.

Marketers would do well to perform research of their own to pinpoint the right contexts for their business to target, through qualitative research and quantitative analysis.

Creating the right content at the right time

Once we have plotted out the potential contexts in which we could communicate with our audience, we need to create the content that will hopefully help us rank via voice search.

Though this is a nascent field, there are already some useful studies that can guide us in this process.

Voice queries tend to be longer, due to their closer relationship to natural speech patterns. This provides a significant amount of data for us to analyze, compared with the shorter queries we have grown accustomed to.

Where once he had to infer a consumer’s intent based on feedback signals (click-through rate, bounce rate, conversion rate), we can now start this process much earlier.

We should also bear in mind the anticipated input-output relationship between the consumer and the device. For example, a spoken query that prompts a spoken response will need to be fed by content that is clear, concise, and conclusive.

Google’s Research Blog offers the following areas for assessment when it comes to this kind of voice search:

  • Information Satisfaction: the content of the answer should meet the information needs of the user.
  • Length: when a displayed answer is too long, users can quickly scan it visually and locate the relevant information. For voice answers, that is not possible. It is much more important to ensure that we provide a helpful amount of information, hopefully not too much or too little. Some of our previous work is currently in use for identifying the most relevant fragments of answers.
  • Formulation: it is much easier to understand a badly formulated written answer than an ungrammatical spoken answer, so more care has to be placed in ensuring grammatical correctness.
  • Elocution: spoken answers must have proper pronunciation and prosody. Improvements in text-to-speech generation, such as WaveNet and Tacotron 2, are quickly reducing the gap with human performance.

This insight should flow directly into the site experience. If we know which task our consumer is trying to complete, we can make this process and seamless and as painless as possible.

There are some points that apply to any site aiming to create content for voice search:

  • Remember that a voice search is only the start of the user journey. If your mobile site experience does not match the user’s intent, they will complete the journey elsewhere. Use a user-agent switcher or a site like http://mobiletest.me/ to see how your mobile experience matches up.
  • Create content that responds to the most common conversational queries. Provide clear information that can easily be picked up by a search engine as it tries to provide one, true answer for each voice query. Tools like Answer the Public are useful for this task, but try to assimilate this information naturally into your content rather than creating a host of FAQ pages.
  • Map this content to a logical site hierarchy that is crawlable for search engines and useful for consumers.

Local SEO

Given that voice searches on a mobile device are frequently completed on the go, it should not be surprising that users often want help with navigation.

Interestingly, the growth in the number of ‘near me’ searches has slowed as people have come to expect Google to understand this implied intent.

Google uses its own Maps product to respond to these queries, so we can optimize our own Maps listings to help search engines and people to navigate better. There are a few tips to keep in mind when working on a voice search strategy for local SEO:

  • Ensure that names, addresses and phone numbers are accurate across all locations.
  • Consider using a specialist platform to manage your local listings and monitor your local search performance. There is a growing range of mobile SEO tools that can help with these tasks.
  • Make it easy for consumers to act on their intentions. This means adding in clear calls to action and directions to further information.

What’s next for search?

It is important to understand Google’s vision for the future of search.

The technology has improved dramatically, but it is still some distance from fulfilling the ambitions of Google and Amazon. When this technology reaches its potential, there may be no need for a query at all, as the digital assistant will be able to pre-empt our actions.

For now, marketers need to assist the assistants in the manner outlined above.

In essence, technology is enabling behaviors that have their basis in pre-existing states of intent. The industry is growing in complexity, but simultaneously it is developing into a more realistic representation of how people want to search.

Through better understanding of both people and technology, marketers can create a voice search strategy that will stand the test of time.

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Reviews are the Most Prominent Local SEO Ranking Factor in 2017 by @MattGSouthern

Reviews appear to be the most prominent ranking factor in local search, according to a recent study.

The post Reviews are the Most Prominent Local SEO Ranking Factor in 2017 by @MattGSouthern appeared first on Search Engine Journal.

Local SEO: Driving customer actions for enterprise-level brands

Multilocation businesses face some unique challenges in today’s local search landscape, but columnist Thomas Stern believes they can succeed by finding the right balance between centralized data management and localized content production.

The post Local SEO: Driving customer actions for…



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Local SEO for WordPress: How to Improve Your Local Search Rankings by @ab80

Here are seven simple SEO improvements you can make to boost the local search ranking of your WordPress site.

The post Local SEO for WordPress: How to Improve Your Local Search Rankings by @ab80 appeared first on Search Engine Journal.

Local SEO for service-area businesses requires a lot of servicing

What does it take to get noticed as a service-area business? Columnist Andrew Shotland explains some of the challenges facing these businesses and offers tips for how to approach your local SEO efforts.

The post Local SEO for service-area businesses requires a lot of servicing appeared first on…



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The holidays arrived early for local marketers

The holiday season has arrived early for locally focused marketers. Consider the developments that have occurred just in the past week: Google My Business API added new features, including the ability to manage your Google Posts. Facebook announced a number of tools and partnerships supporting…



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