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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.

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Lots of website owners trying to improve its SEO heed the advice that backlinks are important, and then put 100% of their efforts into creating those links from every website and social media platform they can find. What they overlook, is that the links that they have within their website, and how they are structured, are also important for SEO, and they play a role in helping visitors who visit that site too.

An internal link acts in much the same way an external link does in that when it is clicked, it will take the person who clicked it to a different location.

Whereas an external link will take them to a different website, an internal link will either take them to another page within the website, to another part of the page, or it could be used to allow the visitor to download something, such as a document file.

These are some of the practical applications of internal links, and it is important that the navigation that they can provide makes the task easier for visitors, rather than more difficult. Easy navigation means visitors are liable to stay longer on a website, and more likely to take action, which in many cases means they become a customer or become a subscriber to your email list.

From an SEO perspective, good internal links are desirable for many reasons. We know that when Google’s spiders crawl the internet, they do so using links that go to and from the hundreds of millions of websites that exist. If that is how they do it externally, then within a website it is the internal links that they crawl.

It follows that if your linking structure is optimised and provides a logical path throughout it, then Goggle will be able to crawl and index every page and all content that exists within your website. If so, then all those SEO factors such as titles, descriptions and meta tags contribute to the site’s ranking. Compare that to a website with poor linking where 50% of the pages are missed and therefore add nothing in respect of SEO.

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The question, ‘What’s in a name?’ gets used in many contexts, but when we are discussing SEO, it normally refers to the domain name of a website. In particular, the biggest debate surrounds whether you should use one or more of your main keywords in your domain name.

Several years ago, the answer would have been a resounding ‘Yes’ because having an exact match keyword in a domain name carried a lot of weight in Google’s ranking algorithm. Where this caused a problem for Google was a plethora of websites, many of them spammy, springing up using exact match domains, getting a good ranking, but offering little else in terms of relative or quality content.

Google soon realised this was bringing the quality of their search results down, and so they acted. In 2012 their algorithm was altered so that the spammy sites we mentioned did not benefit from their keyword domain. This also impacted some sites that would be regarded as not spammy, and since then there has been some confusion about whether having a keyword or exact match domain helps or hinders.

There have been several case studies and lots of comprehensive SEO testing to establish whether keywords in domain names make any difference to ranking. Whilst there are some variances on the scale, it is generally agreed that it can be positive, but with several caveats.

The first of these is that the amount a keyword in a domain name will influence a website’s ranking is limited, especially when compared to other factors like backlinks. It could tip the balance if all other factors were equal compared to another website, but it is not going to jump you from the bottom to the top of page one on Google.

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If you having been following developments in SEO, and in particular what direction Google has been heading in terms of determining the rankings of websites, you will have seen that ‘user experience’ has become one of the primary factors they apply.

For Google, it is no longer enough for a website just to have good information, it also needs to meet the needs of, and provide a better experience for, those who have searched, and then landed, on that website.

There are lots of complex solutions as to how a website might achieve these aims, however, there is one simple, and highly effective, method you can try, and that is to answer questions.

Questions, Questions, Questions

When we say answer questions, we mean the questions that get typed into Google’s search bar. When searching, what many people do is, instead of simply typing in a search like ‘SEO Melbourne‘, they will instead type ‘what is the best way to get SEO done on my Melbourne website?’, or ‘how can I do SEO on my Melbourne website?’.

Within your niche or business sector, you will hopefully have ideas as to what questions your potential customers might ask on Google, and if you do, you are even closer to taking advantage of this.

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In recent times Google has been making a number of announcements about mobile-first indexing. It had planned to roll out mobile-first indexing for the entire worldwide web in September 2020 but at the time of writing that has now been postponed until March 2021.

No doubt it brought a collective sigh of relief for those who have no idea what mobile indexing is, and therefore no clue how to prepare for it. The other group who may be relieved are those who knew what to do but hadn’t bothered to take any action yet.

In truth, mobile-first indexing is nothing to be alarmed about, although if you have no idea what it is, it might serve us well if we explain it to you.

Why Is Mobile-First Indexing Happening?

As a business owner, It can’t have escaped your notice that more and more of your customers are interacting with your online properties via their mobile devices. By properties we mean not just your website, but your social media pages as well.

It has also not escaped Google’s notice either, but for them, the trend is not just with regards to people going online via their mobile devices, but them also searching whilst on their mobile devices too.

This has developed to the point whereby we have crossed the point there are now more searches carried out on Goggle via mobile devices than there are via desktop computers or laptops.

As such Google has determined that it needs to change how it presents search results to take account of this, and that change is called mobile-first indexing.

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