2018 Local SEO: 9 Easy Ways To Beat Your Competition
You’re sitting in front of a local Google search screen scratching your head because your business didn’t show up when searching your niche with the words “near me,” so you know your local SEO could use help.
You’re starting to feel angry after seeing this because you’re not just “near” your business, you’re sitting inside it right now.
Then you begin to feel frustrated because, while looking at the search, you see all your competitors.
Finally, you begin to feel a sense of hopelessness stemming from not knowing where to begin to improve the result.
To add insult to injury, you’re not sure if you’re dealing with Google or trying to conquer the animal kingdom.
Hummingbird, penguin, pigeon, and panda are just a handful of Google’s Noah’s Ark of algorithm updates.
How can you keep up with all these updates to ensure your business appears in the local search results for “near me” searches?
You have a business to run and so does Google, which means you’re not likely to become an SEO expert and Google will never stop updating its search algorithm.
A 2016 report shows that 80% or $15 Billion of Alphabet’s, Google’s parent company, earnings were from search ad revenue.
How’s that for incentive to keep the algorithm changes coming?
That doesn’t mean you should give up!
As a matter of fact, you should be excited by the picture I just painted for you.
You’re not the only person feeling frustrated, and your search-result solution is much easier than you think.
SEO is very broad, but you’re here now because you know what’s wrong and you want to fix how your business shows up in local Google searches.
What the “fixes” will go over in this article are really easy to implement, and we will take you through each of them step by step.
Also, what you’re going to learn is the foundation of local SEO, an area that continues to be emphasized by Google.
#1 Decide how your name, address, and phone number (NAP) will look online.
When we talk about NAP, it’s not about you taking a nap while your competition is awake.
NAP stands for name, address, and phone number of your local citations and business listings.
On the surface, you might think that just because those three elements make up the acronym NAP, they are not the only parts of it that matter.
There’s actually much more to NAP than meets the eye. Some of the other categories that go into NAP are these:
- Business categories
- Business hours
- Business description
- Payment forms accepted
- Email addresses
- Fax numbers
- Alternate phone numbers
The reason you need to get the above right before moving on to our next suggestions is this: if you don’t get them right, the steps that follow could harm your business.
It’s also a very time consuming process to manually search for your listings and correct them.
In short, if you’re not actively managing your NAP, it could be hurting your business right now.
Here’s why having inconsistent NAP can either help or hurt your business.
When building local listings and a Google My Business, these listings do not always have links, but Google still uses the listings to find your business.
What the Google crawlers do is look at your NAP and stores this information in their database.
Google then tries to match your business information by searching across the web. If it is accurate, this helps your business because Google deems it accurate.
If the information is not accurate, this will hurt your local search rankings.
The definition of “accurate” is taken to the the extreme by Google because it factors everything included with your listing.
For example, if you list your business location on Yelp as 123 Woodward Ave and on FourSquare as 123 Woodward Avenue, then it’s going to appear inaccurate or a different business to Google.
Google doesn’t do this because they want to be difficult; it does this to ensure that its users can trust its listings.
Imagine going into Google Maps, typing “bank,” getting directions, and traveling 20 minutes only to find the bank is no longer there.
Also, if the addresses differ, Google cannot know for sure if the two listings are the same business.
Here’s how to make sure your NAP is as accurate as possible.
First, create a spreadsheet and, in the first row, create a column for each element of the listing info you need.
Next, fill in the row underneath each listing element, being mindful of how you want your business to show up online.
Once you’ve done that AND double-checked the spelling, you can go to citations and directories to list your business by copying and pasting all the info. This removes the chance of human error in entering it.
#2 Claim and optimize your business on Google My Business (GMB)
This will be your most important profile you set up for your local business.
97% of consumers have looked online for local business, and 12% of people do it daily.
You could achieve 60% higher click-through rates, which is the number of times your listing shows up divided by the number of people who clicked it.
Another reason this is the most important profile is because 90% of organic search traffic comes from Google and Google likely prioritizes its services over those of others.
This is important because it signals to Google that your listing is relevant for the search terms people are searching in your area, which builds trust as we described earlier.
Speaking of establishing that trust, let’s talk about how to populate your GMB business account.
We went into detail about why NAP is important and how to remove the human error side of listing your business information.
Google also gives you the opportunity to provide a brief description of your business to let searchers know what your business does.
Do not mistake this for an opportunity to “keyword stuff” your business description.
Here’s how you do get your GMB up and running.
First, check to see if your business is already listed. If it isn’t, you can start the creating process.
If your business is spoken for, there is a guide that you can use to get through that process for claiming a business that has been already.
Once you’ve claimed your business the next step is, you’re going to use the NAP template you created to copy and paste your business info into the correct fields.
Next, you’ll want to define your service area.
It’s important to be honest about this and consider the distance searchers are willing to drive to you if you’re a brick-and-mortar store or where you’re willing to drive if you’re a service-based business.
If you deliver goods or services, you want to click on your address and then click “yes” next to the “I deliver goods and services to my customers at their locations.”
Now start adding the zip codes or city names to which your business delivers services or goods.
If you want your listing to show up on searches, you should check the box next to “I serve customers at my business address” and then hit “Save” to get the job done.
Now it’ time to verify your business with Google. The best way to do that is via snail mail.
Google will ask to send a postcard to your business with instructions on how to verify your address.
This proves to Google that the listing is real and that you receive mail at your address, giving Google confidence that if a searcher gets directions and drives to them, you’ll be there.
Those are the basics of listing your business on Google but you’re going to want to go above and beyond these by doing the following:
- Adding pictures
- Updating business hours, especially for holidays, so Google can confirm you’re open for business
- Including interactive actions for searchers like one-click phone calls, directions, etc.
Once you’ve listed your business, you can track the effectiveness of your listing via Google Insights.
#3 List your business in local listings
We talked about the most important listing, GMB, you should have on the internet, but now it’s time to get into the other listings that help searchers find your business on the web and that send business location signals to Google.
There are many places to list your business, but not all of them are created equally.
Each listing you create is called a citation, and Google can pick up on these citations to metaphorically link, because typically there isn’t a hyperlink connecting your local listings to each other on the web.
If you’re more of a visual person like I am, here’s what the local search ecosystem looks like.
As you can see, there are a ton of places to list your website. I will focus on the two I believe are most important.
Although Android users outnumber iPhone users globally, in the US it’s a close to an even split.
That means half of the people who are potentially looking for your business are saying “Hey Siri” prior to looking looking for it.
Apple announced in January 2018 that 500 million users were using Siri.
Here’s how to claim your business on Apple Maps:
- Go to Maps Connect
- Sign into your Apple account or create one.
- Read the terms and conditions very carefully like everyone always does when signing up for services. 😉
- Type in your business name and city.
- Select your business if it shows up or click “add new place” (which should be there if you’re on Yelp).
- List your hours of operation accurately.
- Be sure to list all the accounts associated with your business (Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, and App if you have them).
- Now you have a listing unless there are alerts. If you do, you have to clear those first, which Apple guides you through.
Now iOS users can search for your business using Siri or Safari on their mobile phone.
Becoming more accessible on mobile is a big deal because 63% of all web traffic occurs on mobile devices.
Also, 78% of mobile searches for local business information result in a purchase.
Yelp is important because Apple uses their system to show ratings and listings.
Small businesses made an average of $8,000 more in annual revenue with their Yelp account.
Let’s start making you more money.
- Visit Yelp’s business page.
- Claim or create your business in Yelp.
- Now start going crazy with your NAP details.
Yelp and Apple Maps are the two platforms I made sure you covered because of the impact they have with iOS users.
There are plenty of other local listing services out there and some are better than others for your city.
#4 Use Schema on your website for your address and business hours.
We mentioned hummingbird when listing the Google algorithm updates.
This update was a big one that gave Google the ability to understand your content almost like a human could.
For example, when you use the word “apple” in your content, hummingbird helps Google look at the context to determine if you’re talking about apple the fruit or Apple the computer company.
Schema is code on your site that tells search engines what the information on your website means.
Now that you understand the hummingbird update, you can now understand why Schema is a great tool.
There are many different types of Schema , but in this article we will talk about address and hours of operation listings on your website.
What follows can get a little technical, so if you have a developer working for you, have that person or company do it for you. If not, you can do it on your own.
- Generate the code using a generator.
- Copy the code and place it on your website in place of your address.
- Check your code with Google by fetching your URL or pasting the code into the box.
You’re going to want to follow the same steps above for your business hours using this generator.
#5 Spend time on your meta title and description.
Getting a number-one ranking in Google won’t do you much good if no one clicks on your listing.
If searchers are not clicking on your listing, you’re not likely to stay in the number-one spot very long.
Updating your meta title and description is one of the best ways to improve your click-through rate.
Your meta description is the short blurb about the page that is listed to help searchers know what’s on the page.
Most content management systems like WordPress automatically generate meta titles and descriptions for you, but they are not as good as ones you create on your own.
Before you decide to brush off meta tags as something not important, read this Forge and Smith case study.
It shows that one of their clients increased their revenue 24% year over year by using meta tags.
Now that we agree that metadata is important, let’s get into the specifics of how to make meta tags that will get people clicking on your site.
First, let’s talk character limits. SEMRush did an experiment and found that sites with descriptions larger than the 320-character limit performed better and ranked higher.
The meat and potatoes of having good metas is having good copy that signals to searchers you’ve got what they’re looking for.
Do your best not to be generic with your descriptions because you’re thinking you will attract a broader audience.
To create your meta description, first, consider what your focus keyword is and then write a natural description around that.
When you have your focus keyword in your description, it draws more attention to your listing because, in searches, Google will bold the words for searchers (see the examples below).
Can you guess what I searched based on the picture? The bolded words sends a clear signal that the listing is relevant to your search, making you more likely to click it.
Once you’ve identified your focus keyword, be persuasive but honest about what’s on your page and, if possible, include a benefit with a call to action.
#6 Get backlinks from local sources.
The allure of getting backlinks from places like The Wall Street Journal or NerdWallet is very exciting, but the truth is you’re probably better off getting backlinks from local sites.
Backlinks are when a site links to your content from their site as a reference to where they got the information from.
I know this sounds crazy but hear me out.
The reason why a backlink coming from local news station or newspaper is stronger than national/global site is because it shows Google you have clout in your local neighborhood.
The good news is that these sites are easier to get backlinks from and provide you more value.
One strategy is to join a chamber of commerce in your area and ask to be listed on their website or to allow you to write a profile for your business for posting on their site.
Another strategy for those creating content is to start sharing it with local newspapers and TV news programs for posting on their websites.
If you’re creating great content, it shouldn’t be too far-fetched for you to have your content shared on their site or social media.
#7 Create pages and content specific to the areas you serve.
Speaking of great content, if you’re not creating content around the specific areas you serve, it’s time to start.
There is substantial value in having pages and content that are specific to your area, both for technical reasons and for outreach reasons.
One technical reason is that it gives you a reason to naturally place your city name in the URL of your content’s page.
The second super power of having local content is that it entices local newspapers and news stations to share your content on their website.
Remember, they present news that matters to the people in your area. If your content is generic, they’re not likely to share it when you reach out to them.
If you’re nervous about reaching out to them, keep in mind that you’re helping them as much they can help you because they’re looking for news to write about and you did some legwork for them.
You can also spread your content out wide by pushing it out to your social media accounts. There are tools that can do this for you.
Instead of going to each account and posting individually, there are ways to automatically post your content to blogs without any extra work.
#8 Provide tools and resources that give a reason to visit your site.
Some may consider tools and resources as content and others may not, but instead of debating this, let’s discuss the power of tools and resources.
These are items that provide free value to your website visitors.
A resource provides a reason for your visitors to share your site with others, creating more backlinks to and awareness of your business.
You don’t have to create a fancy tool that solves world hunger. It could be as simple as pulling together public resources into on central spot on your website to help users.
Let’s say you’re in the home mortgage industry. You could link to a website or PDF that defines all the terms and also to a financial calculator and other relevant tools.
After doing this, you can reach out to the sites and businesses that created these tools and say, “Hey, I’ve linked to your tool on my resource page. Feel free to share my resource page.”
Also, you can create a tool that automatically finds a solution for your website user.
A good example would be, if you are in the fitness industry, to have a calorie calculator tool on your site. This would be of great value to a person who is considering getting a personal trainer in the area.
You don’t need to break the bank to create a tool. Just head to CodeCanyon, purchase the prebuilt code, and pay a few extra dollars to have your programmer implement it.
#9 Think mobile first.
I am mentioning mobile last, but you should always think mobile first.
I talk often about mobile and the importance of having it be the center focus of your website design. As I mentioned, 63% of all web traffic occurs on mobile devices.
If you need more convincing, consider this: most of your visitors will leave your site if you’re not appearing on their non-desktop device properly.
The best way to accommodate virtually every screen your site could possibly land on is to implement a responsive design.
A responsive design adapts your site to the screen size of the visitor and rearranges the elements of your site for the best experience possible for the device being used.
Vertical Response created the great GIF shown above to show how responsive sites react to different screen sizes.
If your site isn’t responsive, you may need to work with a designer and programmer to make it responsive.
If you’re not married to your design or have been planning to change it design anyway, you can get an inexpensive design by buying a premade theme that is already responsive.
Doing so will cut your cost and time for development and design more than half because the foundation is there already.
Another focus area for your site is load times. There are numerous ways to speed up load times, but let’s focus on AMP.
AMP stands for accelerated mobile pages, and this code helps your content load faster.
If your site takes longer than three seconds to load, you can expect around 40% of your visitors to abandon it before it loads.
AMP has been shown to speed up sites 15% to 85% by cutting out much of the extra glitz and glamour code that isn’t needed by mobile users.
The open-source initiative was a project collaboration between Google and Twitter to create a more enjoyable mobile internet.
It’s best to apply AMP to your site’s blog directory only because you cannot use forms to capture leads on AMP pages.
The easiest way to get AMP implemented is when you have a WordPress site.
There are many AMP plugins that will take care of the whole AMP process for you with a few clicks.
Not showing up in local search results can be really frustrating because you know there are people in your area looking for businesses just like yours.
If you want the safest way to improve your traffic locally that is nearly update proof, following the tips and tricks in this article will surely help you dominate your competition.
You will be well ahead of the competition if you focus on these areas:
- Standardizing on your Name-Address-Phone-Number (NAP) info
- Claiming and optimizing you Google My Business (GMB) profile
- Listing your business in local directories
- Using schema for your address and hours on your site
- Optimizing your meta title and description for click-throughs
- Getting backlinks to your website from local sources
- Creating pages and content surrounding your local area
- Providing tools and resources to your visitors
- Getting your site optimized for mobile devices
This may seem like a lot of work, but if you take action on one area each day, you’ll be firing on all cylinders in less than two weeks.
Have you successfully increased your local visibility in a way I didn’t cover? I would love to hear about it in the comments!