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7 essentials to master local SEO in the UK

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If you’re a local business owner, you already know how important it is to rank in local search results.

The internet has become the primary source consumers turn to for local business information. Along with the rise of smartphone usage and better connectivity. Not showing up in local search is tantamount to local business SEO suicide.

Don’t believe me?

In 2015 Google said searches with a location qualifier as such “SEO company near me” have more than doubled in the last year. – Search Engine land

97% of consumers looked online for local businesses in 2017, with 12% looking for a local business online every day – Brightlocal 

This blog outlines seven of the best practices that you should be following as a UK business to achieve local SEO dominance.

  1. Conducting a NAP Audit
  2. Building local citations
  3. Claim and Complete a Google My Business Page
  4. Optimise local pages for target local keywords
  5. Adding Schema Location Markup to Your Website
  6. Gaining Local Reviews
  7. Social media

 

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1. Conducting a NAP Audit

 

What is NAP

First things first, NAP stands for Business Name, Address, and Phone Number.

Having constant information listed in key citation directories such as Yelp, Scoot, or Yell is integral.

Likewise having an inconsistent, incorrect NAP, duplicate listings or incomplete citations could, in fact, 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.

 

Conducting a NAP audit

BrightLocal’s 2018 Local Citations Trust Report showed that 93% of consumers are frustrated by incorrect information in online directories.

The first steps of a NAP audit are to check your Google My Business listing. 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. If you are unsure whether you have a Google My Business page simply “Google” your business name.

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.

Helpfully, back in April 2015 Moz updated their “Moz Local” tool to include UK postcodes. This can be used to check your current score.

In order to do this head over to Moz Local enter the name of your business and postcode. The Moz tool will ping Google and other important local search sites in the U.K. Select the most relevant listing to see your current Moz Local Score.  Alternative software for this includes Bright Local who CitationBust tool which crawls the web to find your current listings.

These tools will then highlight other issues where major issues could be with your NAP & local citations.

  • Incomplete Citations
  • Inconsistent NAP
  • Duplicate listings

Unfortunately, both of these tools are only free to a point and will charge for the clean-up process. Additionally, if you have a complex business history with many names, moves and multiple locations you may need professional assistance! Casey Meraz released an excellent blog detailing how a full NAP is best conducted.

In this, he outlines the process of:

1. Finding the incorrect NAP

2. Audit Your Citations

3. How to Record the Data

4. Outreach & Fixing

5. Follow Up, Record, & Repeat

 

2. Building Local Citations

 

Adding your business to local directories is time-consuming but fairly straightforward. However, what is not is not so easy is completing these local directories so that offer their maximum potential. As stated creating a local listing is time-consuming and tedious, but it’s precisely what a local business must do if it wants to rank highly in local search.

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:

A study from the Local Search Association/Burke Inc

This demonstrates the importance of ensuring you provide as much information as possible to each directory. Every added citation gives you a little local SEO uptick. The more complete you make that online listing, the better (leads, sales, clicks) you’ll do for customers who actually look at your entry.

List of UK citations

The below table created by search engine news (with a couple of extras added in) provides a list of key directory and citation repositories. – Reviewed in August 2018.

Directory
NOTES
Bing for UK 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 Is 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 on a daily basis. 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. Do a search for your business and if it’s there then claim it. If it isn’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, first do a search for your business and if you find it then claim it.

 3. Claim and complete a Google My Business page

 

Bit of a no-brainer – you really should create a Google My Business for each of your business locations. It allows businesses to create a (free) listing that will appear next to relevant search results. Google places these results in a prominent position on desktop search results, even more so on mobile.

 

Granite 5 Google my business listing

 

A quick and simple way of finding your Google My Business pages is to use this simple tool. http://www.michaelcottam.com/google-business-page-finder/

A key aspect is to ensure that each business location is filled with as many details as possible including:

  • The business’s name, address and phone number
  • Verified email address
  • A description of the business
  • The business location on a map
  • The business opening hours
  • Verified link to the business website
  • Appointment Links
  • Photos and videos related to the business
  • Reviews of the business left by previous customers.
  • Service links
  • Posts
  • The most relevant categories (up to 10 allowed).

Duplicate Google My Busines pages

One of the common issues with Google My Business is there can often be duplicate listing for the same business location. Duplicate listings are problematic is when Google is ranking one listing that is pretty blank and has no reviews and is filtering out the listing that has tons of reviews and other Knowledge Panel features.

There are several reasons why duplicate GMB pages might exist. Automation is one such reason. Google itself, as well as other services, may occasionally create pages for local businesses that they feel do not already exist.

There are a range of ways to fix this

 

4. Create local pages to target local keywords

 

The next stage is to 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.

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

 

Key-page-for-creating-page

Image source https://econsultancy.com/blog/64164-local-seo-best-practice-dos-and-don-ts/

The next step is to optimise is the page from an SEO standpoint including:

  • URL e.g. /stores/store-name-location
  • Page title
  • H1
  • Meta description
  • org markup – See more info
  • Pointing your G+ My business website link (and other social platforms you own) to each location
  • Building citations / Links for each new location page
  • Canonical tag (in case there are any filters that could generate duplicate content)
  • If you only have one address, but many service areas you could also include it within your footer as an additional reference.

 

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UK businesses can claim a free website audit & 30-minute review call.

 

5. Adding schema location markup to your website

 

Although it is fairly easy to implement especially with the rise of JSON-LD and Google Tag Manager, many businesses still don’t use Schema.org Markup on their websites.

Schema is incredibly useful when trying to achieve relevancy with your business in local searches and improve search engine visibility. Although Google doesn’t directly current count schema as a ranking factor, it is proven to improve click-through rate, since adding this extra data will grab the attention of users, which in turn improves click-through rate which in turn leads to improve rankings!

 

schema-with-wthout

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 a number of elements of on your website, this will improve the visibility of your business in local search results.

Google users use Schema.org Markup to give your content more prominence in search results and to surface it in new experiences like voice answers, maps, and Google Now. They have an excellent guide which gives an explanation for each option & examples of the Markup code used.

Implementing Schema For Local SEO

As this blog is on Local SEO we will focus on the local business Tag. As mentioned, the easiest way I found for managing Schema is through JSON & Google tag manager. If you don’t currently use tag manager or don’t know what it is I would check it out. Basically, it is a free tool that makes it easy for marketers to add and update website tags — including conversion tracking, site analytics, etc.

The first step is creating the code. Below is a copy of the code used we use for Granite 5.

Then head over to https://search.google.com/structured-data/testing-tool you can copy and paste the code and see how it will be crawled by search engines. Then it’s a case of altering the section to reflect your business and reviewing the code formatted correctly.

Google-schema testing tool

 

<script type="application/ld+json">
{
 "@context": "http://schema.org",
 "@type": "LocalBusiness",
 "@id": "https://www.granite5.com/",
 "name": "Granite 5 Ltd",
 "address": {
 "@type": "PostalAddress",
 "streetAddress": "Unit 5 Valley Court Offices",
 "addressLocality": "Royston",
 "addressRegion": "Hertfordshire",
 "postalCode": "SG8 0HF",
 "addressCountry": "UK"
 },
 "geo": {
 "@type": "GeoCoordinates",
 "latitude": 52.1208617,
 "longitude": -0.0705416000000696
 },
 "url": "https://www.granite5.com/",
 "telephone": " 01223 208008",
 "openingHoursSpecification": [
 {
 "@type": "OpeningHoursSpecification",
 "dayOfWeek": [
 "Monday",
 "Tuesday",
 "Wednesday",
 "Thursday",
 "Friday"
 ],
 "opens": "09:00",
 "closes": "17:30"
 }
 ]
 }
 ]
}
</script>

Once updated for your business its time to head to tag manager. Create a new HTML Tag, enter the created code and add a trigger to fire on all pages.

Review Schema

If you have a certain number of Google business review you can also add stars to organic listing using the “aggregateRating”. The same principle applies on added a section to the schema code.

Fordham scotsdales google stars

 "aggregateRating": {
 "@type": "AggregateRating",
 "ratingValue": "4",
 "reviewCount": "31"

6. Gaining Reviews

 

Local search engines love online reviews for one primary reason, consumers love online reviews. In fact, Bright Local Consumer Review Survey 2017 shows that [Tweet ” “88% have read reviews to determine the quality of a local business”]

Showing that almost 9 out of 10 consumers have consulted online reviews in the past year to help with their decision on whether to use a local business or not.

Review Signals

Additionally, Google consistently delivers local results and does favour organisations with better reviews. According to MOZ’s 2017 Local Search Ranking Factors Survey, online reviews are thought to make up 13% of how Google and other search engines decide to rank search results. The pie chart below provides the visual break down of the different variables:

Moz 2017 local SEO ranking signals

 

This is backed up by another survey conducted by BrightLocal highlighting that “47% of consumers picked a business because it had positive review stars”.

Brightlocal why click on that business

Not all reviews are equal

Quantity: Some Local SEO experts feel that reviews on a 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.

Before you embark on creating a review acquisition strategy. It’s a good idea to give some thought to which review platforms would work best for you. The other thing to keep in mind before we get into how you can obtain more reviews is understanding the different review policies of each platform. For example, Yelp strictly forbids small businesses from soliciting online reviews and will act swiftly if it detects something fishy.

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.

Review score added in Google results: Expect an increase in click-through of up to 30% by showing stars in Google results.

  • Google organic results (SEPRS) – Through Rich Snippets
  • Google Shopping Stars & Reviews
  • Google AdWords Stars & Reviews

reviews in organic search results

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.

reviews website widgets

 

7. Social Media

 

Social media has become integral to many areas of digital marketing and it is no different when it comes to local SEO. With billions of active users, it is a great medium to build fans, followers & brand awareness. Social media marketing for local SEO encompasses many of the elements of the previous points, from gaining reviews to NAP and citations.

Social content ranks well on search engines. What happens on TripAdvisor, Facebook and Yell influence how Google and other users perceive your business. What people say about your business, their feedback and reviews are publicly accessible to your prospective buyers. And this, of course, has a massive influence on your lead generation and ultimately sales.

The other aspect of social media is brand promotion. The basic principle of getting your name out there still stands true, the tools and practice have just evolved into the 21st century, primarily through social media. Overlooking social media can harm your brand and reputation, lower your revenue, and hurt not just your SEO, but your entire business. Adapting your strategy to include social networking can present a huge opportunity.

Many potential customers may choose to research your brand on a range of social media platforms including Facebook, Yelp or TripAdvisor. On these platforms, they can see a star rating or reviews from your customers.

Reviews from citations in local SEO results

Online Brand management

The new ways in which people search for your brand highlight the importance of monitoring all possible social media listings. As a rule, you should claim as many social media platform listings as soon as you can, Even if you never make an update, controlling your business name on social accounts will prevent someone posing/stealing your brand. As mentioned earlier in the blog each platform needs to line up with your NAP and be completed as fully as possible including:

  • Business name
  • Phone number
  • Website
  • Full address and postcode
  • Link to other social networks

 

Conclusion

 

Local SEO is a rapidly moving phenomenon and failure to embrace it can result in a loss of future business and earnings. There are many other aspects of local SEO that we could have mentioned in this post – mobile responsiveness and backlinks key amongst them, these have already been discussed in earlier blogs or will be covered at a later date. These are seven steps that every local business should be able to explore. If you would like advice on your current local SEO performance please feel free to contact your local SEO experts: [email protected]

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