Local SEO – Increase Visibility
The SEO industry is buzzing with all kinds of news as it enters conference season and CEOs and webmasters start talking about what they’ve been doing all year. There isn’t a single topic that webmasters can ignore, but if there was one subject that will surely be in every conversation, it would be local search.
Google and other search engines haven’t made any secrets about making local search one of the priorities of 2016. This doesn’t look like much of a shift from the organic search that many SEO companies are proficient in now, but anyone who’s tried their hand at it knows how different of a field it can be.
First of all, the audience itself changes dramatically. Instead of thinking about what keywords most people will use, webmasters need to think about words relevant to a specific area. Considerations like culture, geography, season, and even politics can impact the effectiveness of a campaign one way or another.
There’s also more pressure to make the right moves, since customers will have a much easier time finding the physical location of a client. The effect of every SEO decision webmasters make is felt faster and its influence on the health of the client’s business is much more apparent. This is the reason why any local search strategy needs to be flexible, responsive, and reflective of the area’s temperament.
Fortunately, there are a few simple things that businesses can do to improve their digital presence. Some of them may run contrary to traditional search engine optimization rules, but make a lot of sense when seen through the local lens.
Before we delve into the specifics of these methods, there is one thing that any webmaster should have before even attempting to optimize any website for local search – an understanding of the client’s business. This sounds strange, considering that it should go without saying, but there’s a big difference between knowing what a client does, and understanding the business.
For example, the fact that a client provides cosmetic surgery is knowing what they do. That the same client wants to help people regain their confidence, on the other hand, is understanding the business. The difference lies in the degree of care that webmasters invest into their clients, which determines the effectiveness of a campaign.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way let’s get into how we can optimize for local search.
Relevance Over Domain
The first rule of local search optimization is that domain authority doesn’t matter (as much). Saying this will probably make more than a few webmasters shudder, and with good reason. Google’s pending Penguin update will understandably make SEO companies act cautiously when it comes to their link building, but we argue local search shouldn’t be the same.
More than the authority, webmasters should prioritize local relevancy when it comes to local search. If the cosmetic surgeon client we used earlier links to the organizational body of cosmetic surgeons, then that’s going to have a lot of link juice. But, it would be irrelevant to anyone that isn’t conducting research.
If that same client, however, links to an event happening in their neighborhood, it’s not getting any authority, but it’s going to get more traffic. The more links you have on local sites, the more clicks you get, translating into better brand visibility.
Webmasters have to remember that link building is more than about SEO value, it’s about using links that actual people will click on. Nothing re-teaches this lesson better than local search.
Determining Local Relevance
The question that then comes up is “what gives a site local relevancy?” Determining local relevancy is a task that requires some old-school advertising know-how. These are websites whose physical counterparts attract a lot of foot traffic. Schools, government agencies, and local attractions are great places to start building local presence, though there are some limitations.
The localities you link to need to have some connection to the business, which is where the understanding of the business comes in. Having their name attached to established institutions of the area is a big boost to any business’ digital profile.
Once the company has something to represent their name online, they need to make it as easy to find as possible. Most cities have their own business directories; make sure to have your business listed there. Doing this makes the business easier to find on Google, and it also makes the company look more credible and official.
The only challenge companies have with managing their listings is that many of them neglect to update the data. This is a task that most business owners forget to do when they rebrand, switch contact information, or move to a new location. Making sure these facts stay up to date not only maintains established relationships, but ensures new ones will be made as well.
Become a Local Resource
Finally, it’s best to create a local resources page on your site that other businesses can link to. This causes a lot of confusion among clients whenever we talk about it. This isn’t trading links with other businesses; it’s about sharing information to outsiders (potential customers) about something in the area.
Going back to the cosmetic industry as an example, a client can create a page on local herbal remedies that improve skin health and rejuvenation. If the information included is compelling and relevant, other sites will link to the page on their own, elevating the client’s credibility and digital presence.
Local search requires a vastly different mindset and approach from the rest of SEO, which is why it’s causing so much buzz in the community. Businesses looking to make a digital splash in their community need to find an SEO team that knows the nuances of local search. It requires a unique set of skills that not every company has the training or resources to handle effectively.
Make sure to vet prospective SEO partners for their experience with local search, and what they can bring to the table to boost your digital profile. Most importantly, make sure the SEO company you select is transparent so you’ll receive ongoing reports on your websites SEO progress and to validate the work they are doing for your company.