Getting your business to rank highly on Google’s search results used to be a simple process: have a website, list yourself on some online directories and have a Google My Business Page. That’s all it took to rank for something such as “Dentists in Vaughan.”
Those times are over. As we already know, Google regularly evolves in order to provide users with the most relevant search result. Because of this, local SEO is much more competitive than it used to be.
Highly Competitive Local SEO
Many small businesses have finally realized the importance of SEO and implements the basics of local search strategies. This means more businesses are competing for those limited top spots in search results.
The local search ranking factors have changed significantly over the last few years, making it more difficult to rank for local search keywords. The quick and simple SEO fixes of the past are not ineffective.
Understanding the changes to the SEO environment is vital, especially if you work with local businesses. Keep reading to learn about factors that influence local visibility, and recent changes that have had a large impact on current best practices:
Google Maps Results
Google map results used to show 7 results for local business listings. A year ago, it was reduced to 3, and soon, it will be reduced to 2. Of those 2 spots, 1 will be a paid listing result, making it even more competitive.
Due to this change, it is now even more important for businesses to focus on and expand local SEO strategies. Some techniques you can incorporate:
- Optimize your Google My Business page
- Add localized content to on site site
- Get listed on online business directories and citation sites
- Having customers leave reviews on Google and other third-party online review sites.
Google My Business Listings
In the last year or so, Google has pushed people to claim their Google My Business page.
Google has a team that is especially devoted to this initiative – Get Your Business Online (GYBO). This team works with local Chamber of Commerce, local city government offices and other business non-profits, running workshops to show people how to claim their Google My Business page.
Filling out as much information as possible onto the Google My Business page was a highly stressed point in these workshops. Uploading logos, pictures of the business or products, adding office/business hours, mentioning the types of payments accepted, and adding a keyword saturated description among filling out any other fields, should also all be completed.
By completely filling out the business listing, you give your business the opportunity to differentiate itself from others who have not verified their page, or have only provided the basics about their business. Having your Google My Business page filled to its maximum potential can increase the likelihood of your business showing up in the Google Map listing spot.
Citations & Directories
Having your business listed in online directories (sites such as Yelp and Foursquare) are a great way to build backlinks to a local business’s site. Since these directories, like Yelp have credibility, and are trusted by google, they often show in the top of search results.
When submitting citations you want to make sure that the name, address and phone number are consistent across as many directories and citation sites as possible. This can be a key factor in getting your business to show up in the local Map results.
One way to complete citations or have your business listed across a large number of online directories is to use an aggregator service. Some aggregators have partnerships with a variety of high-quality online business directories.They “push” your information to citation sites and online listings which can help your local rankings tremendously. Do research first though, to see which directories they provide your information to.
Online reviews are more important than ever. Not only do good online reviews assist with higher rankings, they also help your business attract and gain customers trust.
How do you get reviews? Ask your customers! Simply give them the exact URL of your preference site (Facebook, Google, Yelp etc..) and have them leave a positive review. Remember that having a variety of reviews across multiple sites will benefit you, both with SEO and also with brand reputation.
Although reviews are highly beneficial for your business, do not ask your customers to leave reviews all at once. Having a myriad of review posts in one day will look unnatural to the review sites, not to mention to potential customers as well. As a result, reviews could be hidden or not approved/posted if the site becomes suspicious of spam. Yelp is known for suppressing online reviews for a variety of reasons.
There’s no doubt that having positive reviews for your business on Google and other review sites makes your business stand out online. So let your customers know!
Write Content that Targets Your Local Area
If you want to compete locally, you will need to put efforts into local on-site content. If you are a local business, this is not optional! Having dedicated blog posts that mention local events or activities in your city, promotions that you are having, special deals at a specific location, or city-specific pages can all help localize your business. If you have multiple locations for your business, you can create a unique page for each location.
When writing content you want to make sure that it is approximately 1,000 words, and includes useful content. Add city-specific keywords throughout as well.