As the sheer number of businesses setting up new websites grows every day, it can be tough for the small- to medium-sized business to stand out.
Local SEO has grown massively in recent years, thanks to the rise in smartphone usage, providing search results that are relevant to a user based on their current location, right then and there. For example, when I search for ‘sushi restaurant’ on my mobile sitting at my desk at Receptional HQ in Flitwick, Google provides me with results that are nearest to me:
This new way of presenting information in search engines presents countless opportunities for SMEs who want to get noticed amongst the big players. Here are five key pointers to get you going on the way to optimising your SME’s website for local SEO:
1. Verify your Business’ Google Plus Page
The first and most important thing you need to do is link your business Google Plus page with Google My Business. Google My Business allows SMEs to update their information across Google Search, Google Maps and Google Plus in one fell swoop, to ensure that a potential customer can find you wherever they are and whatever device they’re on.
Local searches lead to more purchases than non-local searches, and verifying your Google Plus page makes it possible for you to monopolise the majority of the search results pages for your brand name, especially for the Local Business Card on the right. For example, South Street Art Studios takes the top three spots across its website, Google Plus and Facebook pages, as well as the Local Business Card:
2. Optimise Your Title and Description Tags
A page’s title element is the most important ranking factor of on-page SEO and is the single most identifying characteristic for search engines to understand a page. A page’s meta description does not act as a ranking factor, but it does affect the page’s click-through rate in search results, so it needs to go hand-in-hand with your local SEO strategy.
Here are some key pointers to keep in mind:
- Every page should have a unique title and description. Use keywords for each page based on its content to make your individual pages easier for search engines to categorise.
- Include local keywords wherever you can, whilst keeping it natural looking. Here’s a good example from a local yoga instructor:
- Don’t go stuffing titles and descriptions with too many keywords, otherwise search engines will penalise you.
- Do not make your titles longer than 512 pixels (69 characters) or descriptions more than 920 pixels (155 characters), as search engines will truncate your search results and users will be less likely to click through as they might not know what they’d be landing on.
- Place keywords at the beginning of titles and descriptions. Search engines assign the most importance to the first word in the title tag and, from a user’s perspective, make the most out of characters by placing the most important content there.
3. Look at Your Images
It’s not just your text you need to optimise for local SEO; due to blended search results you can now see images on the search listings page, so it’s important to optimise your imagery for search engines.
Make your images search engine-friendly with this handy checklist:
It all starts with the file name. There are billions of images out there, so you don’t want to use a generic image file name like ‘image12345.jpg’. Instead, you want to use something descriptive to make it easier for your images to compete in rankings.
Because search engines can’t read images, you’ll need to use alt tags to help describe your image. Write a concise, relevant description that’s rich with keywords (without stuffing!).
Don’t forget to write content above and below the images on your website, using keywords where appropriate; the more the text is related to the image, the better.
Adding structured data mark-up in web content helps webmasters advertise their content better by allowing Google to better index and understand the content. For example, the types of information that can be marked up which then appear in Google’s search results as a rich snippet includes people, food recipes, events, reviews, products, business organisations and authors. It also gives users as much information as possible before they click through to a website, which is very useful as it can increase click-through rate.
So if you have one image that is highly related to your business, for example, you can ‘mark it up’ using rich snippets so that it will show up when someone Googles your business. To make your pages suitable for rich snippets in search results, add structured data to your content, and before hitting publish you can test it out by using Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool.
Most importantly, if you want your images to rank for localised keywords, make sure you do all of the things above – and add local keywords wherever you can for blended results that look like this:
In the example above Master Park has been able to claim the top spot for their brand name, a list of images hosted on their website as well as the Google Plus Local Business Card on the right.
4. Check Your URLs
The URL of a web document should be as brief and descriptive as possible, with a clear structure for websites with a lot of categories and sub-categories. It should take as few clicks to get to a page as possible, so that more link juice is passed from your homepage to the last document in a URL thread.
The following URL http://www.belfrywebsite.co.uk/news-events/events/the-great-redhill-pancake-race/ is a good example. It is more likely to get search engine-referred traffic due to the localised keywords in the URL. These keywords, like title tags, are used for determining relevancy and rankings.
Well-crafted URLs even serve as their own anchor text when copied and pasted as links. In the above example, a search engine might give ranking credit to the page for terms in the URL like belfry, news, events, great, redhill, pancake and race.
5. Don’t forget your web pages
Improve your local search results by providing street addresses, store hours, phone numbers, images marked up for SEO and maps for your business’ location/s.
It is best to provide a separate web page for each office/store location, to make each location’s web page specifically relevant to the county, postcode and local area.
For example, multi-store retailers should include their brand name, location name and product type in each title tag, with short and unique meta description tags.
Top tip: Use a plain text linked navigation system (in addition to an image map) to make it easy for search engines to follow.
6. Host User-Generated Reviews:
The internet has levelled the playing field for small businesses across the globe through the power and exposure of online word-of-mouth advertising. Peer-to-peer reviews are powerful because they give your potential customers a good sense of what it’s really like to use your goods or services. Here are a few reasons why you should host user-generated reviews on your website for local SEO purposes:
Fresh, unique content
Search engine spiders like content that is unique and updated often and user reviews are an easy way to create more of this. Content created by users can differentiate a product page where the e-commerce site has just used the same manufacturer description as everyone else. This, combined with the fact that words and phrases used by reviewers are often the same used by searchers, increases the chance of ranking well for searches.
Improve rankings for ‘[your product/service] + [location] + review’
When you consider that 61% of shoppers read product reviews before making any purchase, and that 41% of B2B buyers read user reviews, it’s a safe bet to assume that more and more consumers will be searching for the name of your product along with the word ‘review’, or related words like ‘ratings’.
I If your product or service is specific to any location/s, there’s even more opportunity for you to tap into. For example, hotels with the location name in their own brand name could bump travel websites down the rankings by hosting user-generated reviews on their sites:
Increased click-through rate on results pages
It is also worth noting that you can use rich snippets to help increase click throughs from search engine results pages. According to research from Econsultancy, rich snippets like these can produce a 10-20% increase in click-through rates, so even though the Facebook page is fifth in the results, it has a better chance of being clicked on.
Making little tweaks to your website can yield great rewards in terms of local SEO, but there’s so much more you can do. If you think you might need some help with your local SEO strategies, please feel free to get in touch with us. We’ll be happy to help.