Local SEO Advice: Get your business to the top
Do you want to rank your local business in Google, Bing and other local search engines? Then our expert guide can help you.
92% of consumers go online to find local services. Yet many local UK businesses are not actively or effectively targeting their local search market.
If this sounds like you then you need local SEO services because local consumers are looking online for your services. With better local rankings, your page visits, as well as your conversions, will increase.
Local SEO is the process of making your company visible for geographically related searches. It is an effective way to market your local business online. It helps businesses promote their products and services to local customers at the exact time they are looking for them online. Simply put, if you want more local business, you need to improve your local SEO.
These 7 tactics will help guide you to improve on your local rankings.
- Claim and Complete a Google My Business Page
- Conducting a NAP Audit
- Building local citations
- Optimise local pages for target local keywords
- Adding Schema Location Markup to Your Website
- Gaining Local Reviews
- Optimising your website for mobile
1. Claim and complete a Google My Business page
Google My Business is a free and easy-to-use tool for businesses and organisations to manage their online presence across Google, including Search and Maps.
According to SEO agency Moz, GMB is one of the top local ranking factors for both “local listings” and organic results.
This highlights the importance of creating a Google My Business for each of your business locations.
To set it up, go here, then follow these steps.
Step 1. Enter Your Business Name
Google will first ask for your business name.
You have two choices here:
- Create a new business
- Claim an existing business
Start typing, and Google will search for your business in their system.
Step 2. Enter Your Address
If you’re claiming a business that Google already has in their system, this will be prefilled. Otherwise, you will need to enter your address.
Consistency is key here which we will cover later in the blog post
If you have a brick-and-mortar business with a storefront, just enter your shop address.
But you may be confused about what to enter here if:
- You work from home.
- One or more business partners and you both work from home (multiple addresses)
- Your business is mobile
- have a virtual office, but no real physical location.
- Serve customers at a physical location and remotely (e.g., a takeaway).
I suggest if you:
- have a real physical office, use that address.
- Work from home, list the home address of the person closest to the primary area your business serves.
- Only a virtual office, don’t use this address—not unless this office is “staffed during business hours.” Doing so is against GMB guidelines. Use your home address instead, PO Boxes are not accepted.
Step 3. Enter Your Exact Location
The next screen will show a map with a location pin.
You can drag and move this around to pinpoint your exact business location.
Step 4. Choose a Category
Google only lets you choose one category when setting up your Google My Business profile (you can add more later).
If you are not sure what category to choose – look at your competitors. Alternatively, Google provides a ton of advice about how to choose the correct category here.
Step 5. Enter Your Phone Number and Website
Just enter your phone number and website URL. Again, remember to be consistent.
Step 6. Verify Your Listing
Before your GMB listing goes live, you will need to verify your listing.
This is usually done via phone or postcard. Just follow the instructions from Google to verify.
Once verified don’t stop there. You should optimize your GMB listing further by:
- A description of the business
- The business opening hours
- Appointment Links
- More categories
- Photos and videos related to the business
- Reviews of the business left by previous customers.
- Service links
- The most relevant categories (up to 10 allowed).
2. Conducting a NAP Audit
Now you have a Google My Business listing set up it’s time to conduct a NAP audit.
What is NAP
First things first, NAP stands for Business Name, Address, and Phone Number. Having consistent information listed in key citation directories such as Yelp, Scoot, or Yell is important for local SEO.
Why Are NAP Citations Important?
Here are two reasons why accurate and consistent NAP citations are important:
- According to Moz, citation signals are one of the top local ranking factors. This is true for both Google’s “business pack” results and regular organic search results. Most likely, this is because consistent information across the web serves to further verify the data Google has on you. Having an inconsistent, incorrect NAP, duplicate listings or incomplete citations could be hurting your local search engine positions. Be aware, just because you didn’t create or publish the incorrect information doesn’t mean it’s not there.
- Google isn’t the only place people search for businesses. They also search via Facebook, directories, etc. Having an accurate NAP listed on those sites will allow potential customers to find your business. BrightLocal’s 2018 Local Citations Trust Report showed that 93% of consumers are frustrated by incorrect information in online directories.
So when it comes to local SEO, your job is two-fold:
- Make sure existing citations are correct and consistent.
- Build more relevant citations
The NAP audit
The first steps of a NAP audit are to check your Google My Business listing (GMB). It should have the correct NAP information in the way you want it displayed across the web. This acts as a base to correct all your other NAP and citations.
In this, he outlines the process of:
- Finding an incorrect NAP
- Auditing Your Citations
- Recording the Data
- Outreach & Fixing
- Follow Up, Record, & Repeat
By now it might have dawned on you how time-consuming fixing this vast amount of data could be. However, your first focus should be on the key citations, then by each business location then industry citations.
Paid for software like Brightlocal CitationBust tool can help. This software crawls the web to find your current listings. It will also highlight any other major issues with your NAP & local citations. Such as
- Incomplete Citations
- Inconsistent NAP
- Duplicate listings
Additionally, if you have a complex business history with many names, moves and multiple locations you may need expert support from a professional local SEO company.
3. Building Local Citations
Stage two of NAP is to build more relevant citations.
Adding your business to local directories is a time-consuming but straightforward process. However, what is not so easy is making sure these local directories offer maximum benefit.
A study from the Local Search Association/Burke Inc. revealed that when consumers search for a local listing, they want to see the following information.
This demonstrates the importance of ensuring you provide as much information as possible to each directory. Every new citation gives you a little local SEO uplift. The more complete you make the online listings, the better (leads, sales, clicks) of customers who look at your entry.
Again, platforms like Brightlocal can help with this process and another reminder that consistency is key.
List of UK citations
The below provides a list of key UK directory and citation repositories where you should start generating citations.
- Bing Places – Submission for Bing.co.uk via My 118
- Brown Book – Brownbook.net is the free local business directory that anyone can edit. You can add business listings, update them, and review businesses free and instantly.
- City Local – When it’s time to add your business then select your area from the ‘Submit your Business’ page to get to the add listing section.
- City Visitor – Free listings for your business. Their business model is to promote businesses, special offers, items for sale, reviews and events in the area to their email list.
- Cylex – Here you can find companies, institutions, clubs, lawyers, etc. from all over the country.
- Foursquare – a local search and discovery service & mobile app which provides search results for its users
- FreeIndex – This is said to be the most detailed source of business information in the UK. “Each business profile contains a wealth of unique content that is not available anywhere else on the web.”
- Google My Business – One of the industry leaders in this space. Google Place Pages should be one of your first stops when securing your business’ online local presence.
- Hotfrog – Today Hotfrog is in 38 countries and helps 69 million businesses reach new customers globally. They have various advertising options available.
- Mister What – MisterWhat provides a comprehensive business directory of UK companies. See here for details about company addition
- My Local Services – A directory of businesses that are Rated and Reviewed by Real People.
- Scoot – Powers the Sun and www.touchlocal.com, Mirror, and Independent local directories, as well as a host of other local directories like localmole.co.uk, and so is one of your first stops for citations.
- Thomsonlocal – Thomson has traditionally provided a free paper directory delivered to UK households. This is their online directory.
- Tipped – An online community for people to share tips on places in their local area.
- TomTom – Sat Nav company with UK business directory.
- Ufindus – They have a very large user base that turns to them to find businesses daily. They’re said to “one of the fastest-growing search tools in the UK”.
- Where’s Best – A solid directory that is getting indexed by the search engines.
- Yell – Very popular UK Yellow pages site. Search for your business and if it’s there then claim it. If it doesn’t then add it.
- Yelp UK – People use Yelp to search for everything from the city’s tastiest burger to the most renowned cardiologist. Be sure they find your business when they search next.
- Your Local Guardian – Listings here are also replicated in other local versions of the directory
- 118 information – In its words, it is: “The primary source of Directory Enquiry and Web Directory information in the UK.” Search and claim the listing. They generally call back to verify you are the business owner.
- 192.com – Before adding your business, the first search for your business and if you find it then claim it.
4. On-page SEO and local services pages
On-page SEO is the practice of optimising individual web pages to rank higher and earn more relevant traffic in search engines. But before you can optimise your content you need to understand how users are searching for your services.
This is done via keyword research.
Brainstorm your service via location
Local keyword research isn’t complex. For most businesses, the primary keywords to target will be obvious.
Let’s say that you’re Car Garage in Luton. They’ll probably go to Google and type something like:
- “Garage in Luton”;
- “MOT test Luton”;
- “Car Service Luton”
If you need further inspiration for local keywords the keyword research chapter in this local SEO guide outlines a bunch of methods.
After brainstorming how you think customers will be searching for you it’s time to explore search volumes using Google Keyword Planner.
It’s then a process of determining which keywords you want to optimise your website for. Now many “traditional” on-page SEO practices can then be applied.
- Keyword in H1, title tag and URL
- Short, sweet, friendly URLs
- Enticing meta descriptions
This guide from Hubspot can help with you on-page SEO targeting.
Local service pages
If you target multiple services areas or have multiple store locations. You should create a unique location or store pages, these can be optimised to provide content that is relevant to local customers and targeted at local keyword searches.
Crucially, these pages must achieve this without compromising the user experience or appearing unnatural.
DON’T create multiple landing pages for the same location but targeting slightly different terms. This will not help you to rank.
As above, you must ensure that there is unique content on each page whilst at the same time providing the information your customers will expect to find on a local store page, recall that study from earlier in the blog? Examples could include:
- Address and phone number (in a standardised NAP format)
- Additional contact details e.g. email, contact form, social media icons.
- Map and directions (embedding a Google Map is a popular option)
- Opening times
- High-quality photos of the store
- Store services provided
- Calendar of events (if relevant)
- Testimonials or reviews relevant to the location
- In-store promotions and offers
- On-page SEO elements outlined above
- Schema markup – more info below.
- Pointing your Google My business website link to each service location
- Building citations/backlinks for each new location page
- If you only have one address, but many service areas you could also include it within your footer as an additional reference.
5. Adding schema location markup to your website
Schema is incredibly useful when trying to achieve relevancy with your business in local searches and improve search engine visibility.
Let’s make that clear, Schema is currently not a ranking factor.
Schema helps you communicate what the webpage is about. That’s not a ranking factor but it’s a good practice all around.
Businesses like attorneys, doctors, restaurants, electronic repair shops, small eateries, sandwich shops, electronic sales locations, and more use schema markup to help generate rich snippets for their businesses.
What is Schema?
For those who do not know, Schema.org is a Markup vocabulary created and recognised by leading search engines to help them understand the information presented on your website. Using this it is possible to Markup elements on your website, this will improve the visibility of your business in local search results.
Implementing Schema For Local SEO
Depending on your website platforms it will be depending on what best to implement schema.
- If you have a WordPress website then there are free schema plugins that can help.
- Directly adding the code to your home or location pages on your website. Here JSON-LD generator tools can help create the code.
- Alternatively, you can add schema via Google tag manager (however this isn’t the most reliable). We have a guide that helps to explain what Google Tag Manager is if you don’t know.
Before ever adding code to your site, you want to make sure that the code is working correctly.
The best way to do this is by testing it in Google’s Structured Data testing tool.
If you have multiple physical locations (different addresses, phone numbers, etc.), you will need to follow this entire process for each local landing page.
6. Gaining Reviews
Local search engines love online reviews for one primary reason, consumers love online reviews.
Google consistently delivers local results and does favour organisations with better reviews. According to MOZ’s Local Search Ranking Factors Survey, online reviews are thought to make up 6.5% of how Google and other search engines decide to rank search results.
You potentially customers as also influenced by reviews BrightLocal highlights that 47% of consumers picked a business because it had positive review stars.
Not all reviews are equal
Quantity: Some Local SEO experts feel that reviews on Google My Business have a more positive influence than those on other review sites. Indeed, there does appear to be a correlation between the number of reviews on a business’s Google My Business page and ranking.
Velocity: How fast you get reviews is another micro-factor. If the number of reviews posted each month suddenly jumps from 2 to 20, Google will question the legitimacy. Natural reviews are usually acquired slowly over time, not all at once.
Diversity: Reviews that sound similar in tone and content also raise suspicion, as does having a string of 5-star ratings and nothing else. Naturally occurring reviews will generally be diverse in both content and feedback.
Freshness: Recent reviews are more heavily weighted than older ones. New reviews obtained on a steady basis send positive signals to the search engines.
Setting up A Review strategy
The tricky thing with reviews is encouraging customers/clients to leave positive reviews, various research tells us that most people are happy to provide a review.
You can’t force users to post their review on Foursquare or Yelp or give you a five-star rating on Google+, but you certainly can encourage them. There are plenty of ways to motivate users to give reviews. In exchange, you can provide them with discounts, a shout-out on social media, whatever. At the very least you should remind the customer at least twice to leave a review.
There is also a range of review management tools available online. A tool we commonly use is reviews.co.uk. It’s a paid tool that starts £45 per month but can take some of the legwork out of collecting reviews.
It has a bunch of useful features including:
Review Booster: This is where the reviews company will email your previous customers for a review. Depending on your volume of previous/existing customers, you can have up to a good number of reviews in the first week.
Website Widgets: When you collect some verified reviews, you can add badges and widgets to your website. They will help you show your prospective customers that you are a trusted Business.
7. Optimize Your Website for Mobile
Today a growing number of mobile users look for local businesses every day.
The large majority of smartphone owners conduct local searches with varying degrees of frequency.
This fact is well established by multiple surveys and behavioural studies over the past several years. Google has said formally and informally at different points that “local intent” search constitutes 30, 40 and even 50 per cent of mobile queries. The current official number is 30 per cent.
This highlights the importance of ensuring your mobile site is optimised for your customers.
Is your website mobile-friendly
The first step is to check if your website meets Google’s requirements.
You can do this with Google Mobile-friendly test.
Online businesses need to make content available to their audiences where they spend most of their time. The focus is to have a mobile responsive website that will end up helping SEO and engaging with mobile users.
Here are some tips to help ensure your website loads quickly (no more than three seconds)
- Use bigger fonts that are easy to read
- Use images and copy sparingly, conveying only the information you need (no room for filler on a mobile screen!)
- Ensure intuitive UI for great UX
Every local business should be able to explore the seven steps outlined above. Furthermore, you also need to track conversions as best you can (call tracking, contact form conversion tracking, etc.). Otherwise, you will have no clue if your local SEO efforts are translating into leads, customers, and ultimately, more revenue for your business.