09 May 7 Key Takeaways from the Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines
Local SEO has evolved. 6 years ago, you could make huge strides without links. Domain authority did not matter as much as a relevant address and well-structured citations (1).
But things move on. Local SEO is now a game of many parts and, like traditional SEO, there are many Local SEO ranking factors (2). Now, in 2019 and beyond, the key ranking factors as voted on by experienced SEO agencies (including Bowler Hat) are as follows:
Google My Business Signals
So, building 100 citations is not going to help you rank in local search. You need to focus on the ranking factors that are important today. And in this guide, we outline 7 key tips to help you dial in your Local SEO and get your local business ranking at the top of the map pack and organic results.
#1 – Have An Address In The Target Location
It might sound silly, but make sure you have an address in the location you want to target. I often get asked how to rank in the local pack for a location that the business doesn’t exist in and the simple answer is you can’t.
You still have the opportunity to rank in the localised organic results, but you won’t rank in the local map pack.
#2: Get Listed On Google My Business
Google My Business (GMB) is where you can tell Google, and the world, about your business. GMB is also a key ranking factor and is super easy to optimise. Just get your page created (if one does not already exist) and get it verified. Once verified, you then want to fill the page out with as much information as possible. Simply head to the ‘Info’ tab in the GMB dashboard and fill out all of the fields.
Really try to think what your prospective customers would like to see here: photos, business information, and posts are key to making your profile engaging for your prospective customers. The platform also supports messaging, reviews, and Q&As so be aware that this is part of your digital shop window and the more useful information you add here the better.
And don’t forget to keep this information fresh and up-to-date – if your business hours change then update them so your customers know!
#3: Create, Clean Up & Optimise Citations
Citation optimisation is an area that has seen big changes over the last few years. Historically, citation optimisation alone could generate big results. As is typical with SEO, there was often a “more is better” mentality which is certainly not the case – too many can make management difficult and consistency problematic.
Step 1 – Audit any existing citations out on the web to make sure they are correct. NAP (Name, Address & Phone Number) is super important to keep consistent for Local SEO. If there are still citations out on the web that have your old address etc, Google can easily get confused and will impact the confidence it has in your business. So the first step is to get all the existing listings accurate.
Step 2 – The next stage is to create listings in any relevant business or location directories (if they don’t exist already). Again, make sure you keep all information consistent and optimise the listings as best as possible by including things like images, opening hours, business description etc. These differ based on location and industry but any directories or portals that rank on the first page of Google for your keywords are a good starting point.
#4: Improve Your On-Page Optimisation
With Local SEO, we can rank in the map pack results typically directly below the ads and in the organic results generally below the map results. In an ideal world, we want a listing in both of these locations. Throw a search advert into the mix and you can be on the first page three times to maximise exposure!
Key factors here are to optimise your page titles, meta descriptions, and body copy – these are the basics but this is what gets results in Local SEO (and is all too often overlooked).
The template that I always stick by for on-page optimisation is:
Service in Location – Brand Name
So if you are a plumber called ‘Easy Pipes’ in Croydon, one of your page titles would look like this:
Plumber in Croydon – Easy Pipes
Now it’s not to say that this is perfect, but I can almost guarantee that it is better than the automated title that was created originally. So get started with the page titles and then gradually work your way through the meta descriptions too. Meta descriptions won’t have a direct impact on the rankings but can help click-through rates which in turn can influence rankings.
#5: Get More Positive Reviews
Just like meta descriptions, getting more reviews won’t help you rank higher. But they do play an important role when people are comparing your business to your competitors. The key here is to take it slow and steady. According to Bright Local’s recent study (4), 40% of consumers only take into account reviews written within the past 2 weeks.
So instead of getting a glut in a few days that will no longer be useful in a few months’ time, aim to get one or two good reviews a month. You will gradually start to build a solid portfolio of reviews and it will illustrate to viewers that you have consistently provided a good service.
Focus on getting reviews everywhere that matters – Google, Facebook, directory sites like Yell, portal sites like checkatrade.com – any sites that rank for your keywords. Support reviews are also important and an opportunity for you to show that you are the right people for the job.
#6: Start Your Building Your Domain Authority
As Local SEO has matured and become more competitive, domain authority has become ever more important for businesses in a competitive industry or location. You can do everything else right by getting your citations, GMB, and on-page all 100% on point, yet to get into the top 3 in competitive industries and locations you have to build some authority.
To do this you have to engage in link and authority building. Typically, the approach here would involve ensuring you have links from any and all relevant sites, portals, and directories. Relevant being the keyword here – if that portal ranks for your search terms it likely has value. If it is a backstreet site that no one ever sees, then maybe not so much. Think about whether this is a link that Google would trust. Is this a link I would show to my mom? (if she was a super white-hat SEO of course).
This is a slow and steady process but is well worth the results. You really have to focus on getting the right links, though. This is not a numbers game. Ensure you connect what should be connected and stay away from buying links.
#7: Review Your Pagespeed & Mobile Responsiveness
People like fast sites. Google likes fast sites. Ensuring your site loads quickly and is easy to use and understand on a mobile device is important for SEO. But, it is even more important for your customers – if your site takes too long to load or does not work well on mobile, users will simply bounce away and go elsewhere. You have done all the hard work, got someone to your site, and at the final hurdle, they leave, all because of one simple issue.
So it’s as simple as that. Use these SEO page speed tools to check your website speed and follow the tips to improve it. Make sure your website is responsive for mobile and tablet, and that it actually functions well (lets you fill out an enquiry form etc).
Local SEO Tips
Follow the guidance in these tips and you will see your site rise up the search engine results pages (SERPs). As ever, if you have any questions or are struggling to get your site to rise up then drop a comment below or get in touch and we will see how we can help.
If you have had enough of DIY SEO, check out our guides on small business SEO, how to safely buy affordable yet effective SEO, and our buyer’s guide to SEO packages – both of these guides exist to ensure you climb the rankings ladder whilst avoiding the snakes!