How to dominate local SEO: more challenging in an evolving local search environment

Getting a local business to rank high on Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs) used to be as easy as having a website, getting listed on some online business directories/citation sites and claiming your Google My Business page. Once you did those few simple things, you had an incredible shot at ranking high on Google for local keywords like “plumbers in Austin.”

But those days are long gone.

Local SEO is much more competitive
These days local SEO is more and more competitive. Why? Part of the reason is that many local businesses have finally realized the importance of doing the local SEO “basics” and are actually implementing those basic local search strategies. This means more local businesses are vying for a limited number of high-ranking spots.

The Google Local 3-Pack and Maps
It seems like only yesterday when Google showed seven local business listings in the Google Local Pack. Just over a year ago, the local pack was reduced from a 7-pack to a 3-pack (and soon to be a 2-Pack with one paid-for spot), making it even more competitive.

In light of this change, it is even more important for a business to expand their local SEO strategies by using a variety of techniques, like optimizing their Google My Business page, adding localized content to their site, getting listed on online business directories and citation sites and having happy customers leave reviews on Google and other third-party online review sites.

Google My Business: still important to local search
Over the past year and a half, Google has made a big push to get local businesses to claim their Google My Business page. Google has a separate team devoted exclusively to this initiative (aka Get Your Business Online or GYBO). This Google team has even partnered with local city Chamber of Commerce offices and local city government offices, as well as other business non-profits, like SCORE, to run local workshops showing businesses how to claim their Google My Business (GMB) page.

One of the things stressed during these training workshops is for local businesses to fill out as much information as they can on their Google My Business page — including uploading their logo, pictures of their business or products, their office/business hours, types of payments accepted, a keyword-rich business description and any other fields available.

By adding all of this information, the business will differentiate itself from those businesses who either haven’t verified their listing at all or have opted for the easy way out by providing only basic information about their business. Making your Google My Business page as robust as possible is a good thing, and it can increase the likelihood of your business showing up in the Local Pack.

Write local content
If you want to compete locally, you need to focus on putting local content on your website. (This is not optional if you’re a local business.) This may mean writing regular blog posts that mention news, local events and activities going on in your city and surrounding cities, promotions or specials you’re having at a particular business location, creating city-specific pages on your site and so on.

Just make sure that you write approximately 1,000 words of useful content on each page and use city-specific keywords throughout. Also, if you have multiple locations, you should set up a unique page for each of your locations.

Citations/online business directories
Local citations from online business directories — like Yelp, Foursquare, Citysearch, MerchantCircle and others — are a great way to get backlinks to a local business’s website. Additionally, since many of these citation sites have credibility with Google, a business’s listing on these sites can often show in top search results.

In some cases, these online business directory sites will dominate the top search results, as shown below in a SERP screen shot for “restaurants in Tulsa”:

When it comes to citations, you want to make sure that the NAP (Name, Address and Phone number) information about a business is correct across as many online business directories and other citation sites as possible. This can be a key factor in getting your business to show up in the Local Pack.

One way to do this efficiently is to use an aggregator service, like Infogroup, Neustar, Factual or Axciom. These aggregators have partnerships with a variety of high-quality online business directories. Once they have all of your business information, they will then “push” that information out to citation sites and other key data aggregators. This can help your local rankings tremendously.

Get 5-star reviews
Online reviews are becoming more important than ever. Not only do online reviews correlate with higher local rankings, but positive reviews also help you gain customers’ (and potential customers’) trust. In a recent study by BrightLocal, it was found that positive online reviews increased click-throughs by 22 percent.

Author: georged31093

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