Unless you are trying to rank a website for a business that operates purely online, or if it’s a business that competes on a national or international scale, the ability to rank your business website for local search terms is vitally important. If you are a local business and not focusing on SEO that helps you appear on page one of Google for local searches, then you are losing lots of customers to local business competitors who are.
There are several actions you can take which will ensure that your local business’s website can compete with, and ideally, outrank your competitors, provided they are done correctly.
Below we have 7 of the most important ranking factors which Google look for when assessing local websites in its search engine results. Many of these can be implemented quickly and easily, while some may take a bit more time and effort.
Google My Business: Normally abbreviated to ‘GMB‘ this is arguably the most important ranking factor that exists for local businesses. It is essentially set up to let Google know what your local business is about. You need to include the business category, your business address, highly relevant keywords in the title, and even having your opening hours is a plus.
Linking: With backlinks, it is important that you focus on the type and quality of the backlinks rather than simply trying to amass as many as possible. By all means, try for high numbers of links, but make them quality links. Link signals which are especially influential in local ranking are the anchor text used and the authority of the websites that the backlinks are coming from.
On-Page Optimisation: This is often regarded as SEO base camp, but it is incredible how many local businesses fail to get this right. The main on-page signals Google looks for are page title, meta description, tags such as headings, the URL, and alt texts for images.
Citations: This is a signal which is often overlooked by local businesses, and yet using them brings your business more than one advantage. A simple citation has your name, address and phone number, or ‘NAP’ as it is referred to, and in terms of SEO, encourages Google to improve your search engine ranking. Having citations on sites like Yelp and other directories or social media sites also ensures that it can be found in more online places than just Google.
Reviews: Most local businesses rely heavily on customers recommending them to others via word of mouth, and the equivalent of that online, is reviews. Google seeks out reviews and they play an ever-increasing part in their assessment of a business’s local ranking. As a business owner, you should actively encourage your customers to leave positive online reviews. Never be tempted to use fake reviews, as they are easily spotted both by Google and by potential customers.
Visitor Behaviour: Google wants its search results to be as relevant and useful to those who use their search engine as possible. One way it measures this is by the behaviour of people who visit websites. They assess bounce rates, time spent on the site, click through rates, whether someone ‘checks in’ and if they call the business from their mobile phone.
Social Media: The massive expansion of social media use over the past decade means that any local business who doesn’t make use of one or more social media sites is missing out on a great way to connect with past, present and future customers. Google knows this and while there is some debate as to how much emphasis it places on social media signals, there is more to be gained by using them than not.