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In this blog I explain 10 recommendations for your local SEO program, based on research and my own experience of planning and implementing local SEO strategies for B2B and B2C retailers.

Search engines have been working hard on fine-tuning their algorithms to provide high quality search results based on location.

Google is the best covered in the industry, with its Pigeon update launching in July 2014 and rolling out to UK, Canada and Australia in December. Use the links if you want to learn more about the update.

It’s one thing to know that local search is important and can affect your SERPs presence but it’s another entirely to know how to ‘do’ local SEO effectively.

Having spent some time researching, then actually implementing most of the core local SEO tactics for a few websites, I thought I’d share my thoughts on the top 10 things you can and should be doing, in order of priority (please note – my priority order, I’m not claiming it as a definitive best practice statement). 

You’ll notice that this blog is geared towards organisations with local offices/stores, rather than pureplay online stores servicing a local area.

This is because a significant chunk of local search is people looking for places near to them, whether that’s to buy products or enjoy local services, and many of the effective online SEO tactics are focused on physical stores. 

The search engines have also invested in tools to allow you to set-up local business listings to improve search visibility for stores.

Here’s my top 10…..

1. Create a unique landing page for each store

A unique store page can be optimised to provide content that is relevant to local customers and targeted at local keyword searches.

Start by thinking about your customers; what information are they likely to need for your store? A good store page should 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).
  • In-store promotions and offers.

From a pure SEO point of view, each page needs an optimised:

  • URL e.g. /stores/store-name rather than just a numerical store code like /stores/1234
  • Page title
  • H1
  • Meta description
  • Schema.org markup
  • Canonical tag (in case there are any filters that could generated duplicate content)

Please note this list isn’t exhaustive as there are lots of SEO considerations but the above is the minimum to cater for. Below is a good example from Selfridges, although the meta data could be better optimised e.g. the H1 for each store page is ‘Our Stores’ which has no reference to location.

selfridges store page

2. Add a business listing for each store

You can add your business to Google and Bing free of charge using the simple online set-up forms. Make sure you verify each listing, a small but important detail.

It’s advisable to create a business Google and Microsoft account to do this rather than creating the listing from a personal account. This is especially important for Google when you start linking other Google properties like Google+ pages and YouTube channels.

It’s important to add optimised content for the store listing, so think carefully about the business name, category and description.

You want the business page to be found for relevant searches but you also want the business listing to appeal to potential customers. 

The advantage of a verified business listing is greater SERPs dominance for brand searches, which can increase CTR. Below is an example of a startup I helped to build out its local SEO, showing Google results for a brand search. 

You’ll notice the reviews showing in the knowledge graph area, see 4. below for more info on the benefits. This is really important for SMEs where the business isn’t established enough to have the fuller knowledge graph data showing like a Wikipedia entry and social media icons (run a search on ASOS to see what I mean).

3. Build citations in relevant directories

This isn’t about link building per se; it’s about making sure your business is registered with well-known business directories.

If you focus on high quality domains and directories with a relevant audience, you will benefit from the domain association and potentially get direct referral traffic. Citations must use a consistent NAP format (name, address, phone number).

This is important as it provides validation to search engines that the same business is being listed in multiple authoritative places on the web, a good quality signal. So if your registered business name is Consulting Ltd but you trade as Consulting, then pick one and use it consistently, don’t switch between the two.

I recommend focusing on the free directories first. Create your business listing and use the same copy wherever possible for consistency and speed of set-up.

Then use a small budget to test paid for directories (often this is simply an enhanced service from the same service providers, for example an enhanced listing that is better promoted on the site). 

A good example is Touchlocal, part of the Scoot network. You can create a free simple listing with company name, address and basic contact details. However, to get your web address shown and an active link, you need to upgrade to a paid subscription (I haven’t yet for my own business in case you ask!).

The most commonly used directories for UK businesses are:

  • Touchlocal
  • Scoot
  • Yelp
  • Yell
  • Central Index
  • Factual
  • Foursquare

4. Add Google Reviews to your local business page

I’ve tested this on a few sites and spoken to a couple of trusted SEO friends. Google reviews can have a positive effect on ranking based on recency; if you are continuously getting new, positive reviews and your competitors aren’t, this will benefit your local SEO.

However, recency is the key factor here, so if you have a short-term boost of reviews and then nothing for months, it’s likely the SERPs boost will be short-lived.

It may also look suspicious to search engines if you get a sudden spike of 5 star reviews and then absolutely nothing.

I ran a simple test on my own website for six weeks. I did nothing else to my site apart from driving Google reviews by encouraging Clients to leave a review after a successful project (note – not paid for, which is a no go.

Read this on how Yelp labels reviews with a warning if they think they’re paid for). I did no industry PR or blogging and kept my social activity relatively muted.

For my top three keywords, where I was regularly between positions two and five on Google, I was boosted up to the top slot for three weeks before my rank started to fluctuate again, though I’m still seeing more time at #1 six weeks later.

I’d caveat this with the fact it’s only a simple test and not a detailed study but the findings are enough to convince me that growing reviews isn’t just a ‘nice to have’, it should be an integral part of local SEO.

google reviews

5. Provide a user-friendly store locator

Make it easy for customers to find your store information. This is incredibly important on mobile where a poor UI design and page performance (e.g. slow page load speed) has a significant impact on exits/bounce rate. 

I like the Starbucks store finder; it works well on mobile and desktop [note – since writing this, I’ve found the mobile version not working on iPhone 5s, perfect timing!].

The UX is clean with predictive search to help you find stores quickly and provides local store information.

The local store pages are indexed for relevant searches, although there’s an issue to clear up with both the .co.uk and .com page versions appearing in the search results with no evidence of hreflang usage:

Please note that a high bounce rate on a store page isn’t necessarily a bad thing; the user might have found what they were looking for quickly and left, a natural exit.

What’s important to measure is the interactions on the page with different content elements, such as maps, store activity, calling the store etc. By measuring what is most popular, you can optimise the page layout to help customers and also work out if people are accessing information or just leaving.

6. Link your Google+ page to the local business page

That’s assuming you have a Google+ page, which I’d expect most businesses to even if it’s only being used to push blog updates and repurpose other social content like Facebook posts.

Tying everything together is important so you don’t have duplicate properties, which is surprisingly easy to achieve!

From experience, I know that Google accounts can get messy when you’re trying to setup a local business listing having previously created a Google+ page. If you find yourself in the situation where you have both, you can move the local features to the brand page so it’s all together.

Here’s a great write-up from Susan Hallam on her blog

Google is by far the most frustrating from a UX point of view. Before linking properties like Google+ and YouTube, make sure you’ve got your brand and business listing pages sorted and any duplicates removed. It can be mind-bogglingly complicated to unpick a linked YouTube channel.

7. Invest in local PR

Although this isn’t SEO, it’s closely linked and can have a clear impact on your local SEO. Local PR should target raising the profile of the business with relevant local influencers, both in press and through online channels like social media and blogger outreach.

A good local PR strategy will gain coverage from respected influencers with existing audiences, getting your story out there from people who will be listened to.

The SEO benefit is the likelihood of:

  • Direct traffic to the website from the PR buzz.
  • Referral traffic from domains featuring links in their stories.
  • Increased social conversation on your brand and shared links.
  • More Google review for the store.

PR activity can be measured, though it’s harder to tie to conversion outcomes than channels like paid media.

For example, when working with bloggers, you can track referral sessions from their domains and measure the performance of this traffic against conversion events and other KPIs. 

8. Use referral traffic to pinpoint conversations

There are likely to be conversations happening online about your brand that you’re unaware of. The referral traffic report can be a useful friend, highlighting which domains are send people to your website. Keep an eye out for new domains that are sending a significant volume of traffic (at least 1% of all sessions).

Do you know these domains? Are they related to your marketing? If not, then visit the source pages and work out why you’re getting traffic.

I’ve done this before for a retailer and found a few discussion forums where the company and its products were being talked about by a small but highly vocal audience.

We decided to join the conversation, being transparent about representing the company and asking if we could help answer any questions/provide useful information. The response was encouraging – we ended up converting more of the people coming from that domain by providing content and customised offers, including local store coupons.

They also started sharing more of our blog links and that in turn increased traffic to the site.

This isn’t unique to local SEO but it is one way of finding local conversations and encouraging them to grow.

9. Set KPIs to measure/drive activity

What does success look like for local SEO? If you don’t know the answer, you can’t measure performance.

Make sure you define your target outcomes and set the KPIs that you will measure this against.

Some examples:

  • % of store page sessions leading to event conversion e.g. calling the store
  • # customers redeeming in-store promotions downloaded from the website
  • # new Google reviews per month (ideally as % of footfall – if you don’t have that data, as a % of store page sessions)
  • # local keywords referring traffic to the website

10. Monitor competitor performance

It’s important to know what your competitors are up to in terms of local SEO. I recommend a simple benchmarking exercise, aligned to your KPIs. For example, monitor their Google reviews.

If they have social media profiles for the local stores, monitor the activity e.g. regularity of Google+ posts, number of comments, number of +1 shares etc.

If a competitor is doing something well, what can you learn? Apply this to your business. However, if you think the effort (time and cost) to play catch up outweighs the benefits, focus on other local SEO tactics. It’s hard to be the best at everything, so sometimes it pays to pick off competitor weaknesses and make yourselves the #1 in that capability.

____

So there are your 10 tips for local SEO. Here’s a handy summary slide I put together for the #EcomChat we held on local SEO a few weeks ago.

What is your local SEO advice?

Please drop by with insight into what you have learned works for local SEO and any comments on what I’ve written. I won’t take it personally if you disagree.

Ask the experts

I’ve got a good handle on SEO but there are subject matter experts out there for local SEO (and SEO in general) and I highly recommend following these people on Twitter and striking up a conversation:

Of course there are others, so feel free to suggest local SEO voyeurs via the comments thread.

Thanks for reading, James.

James Gurd

Published 11 June, 2015 by James Gurd

James Gurd is Owner of Digital Juggler, an ecommerce and digital marketing consultancy, and a contributor to Econsultancy.He can be found on on Twitter,  LinkedIn and Google+.

49 more posts from this author

Comments (11)

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Ahmed Khalifa

Ahmed Khalifa, Natural Search Specialist at schuh

Nicely done James. I pretty much agree with all of your points.

I would also recommend everyone to use the free Moz Local tool https://moz.com/local/search where you can check your listings on Google, Bing and other local citations which include Foursquare, Yelp and Scoot. I find that they help a lot

Duplicate, inconsistent and/or incomplete listings does not help your visibility but the Moz Local tool helps to root out these problems and where exactly can you fix them.

almost 2 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Hi Ahmed thanks for dropping by and adding your recommendation - it's a great shout for the Moz Local tool.

thanks
james

almost 2 years ago

Jon Baglow

Jon Baglow, SEO Consultant at 3WhiteHats

Great post James, great to see a really informative and pretty comprehensive article.

With point 2, it's important that any existing Google+ pages are cleared up too, as Ahmed mentioned. With changes to Google Maps recently, I've found that Michael Cottam's Google Business Finder works well to find all the pages that are created under the name of the business.

http://www.michaelcottam.com/google-business-page-finder/

Thanks for this post! Really handy!

almost 2 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Hi Jon
Appreciate you taking the time to comment and glad you liked the blog.
Thanks also for the advice. I'd not come across Michael Cottam's tool before, so a nice addition to the armoury!
thanks
james

almost 2 years ago

Daryl Cygler

Daryl Cygler, MD of Making It Happen at DC Digitas

James,
Nice summary of things to do. All great tips here.
For me the simplest and yet most effective way to get brand recognition is embedding the mapped business location whilst being logged into Google My Business. Let me explain…..
You see it all the time, websites embed business locations within maps (good practice as detailed above) but it only ever shows a red pin with NO business reference. If you embed the map whilst being logged into Google My Business it will actually place the business listing name over the map AND in combination with the red pin. Straight away it is offering more value than a blank red pin. Best to see a live example, go here to see it in action. http://www.fuelequipmentspecialists.com.au/contact-us/
Just another little trick for the marketing arsenal….

almost 2 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Hi Daryl
Thanks for sharing your insights.
Yes agree that getting as much of your local info into map locations is important. That's why setting up high quality business listings is really important. It also stands out for general Google map users where a company name can be pinned to the map and then additional info displayed on click/hover over.
thanks
james

almost 2 years ago

Tap Analytic

Tap Analytic, Marketing lead at Tap

Local SEO has a huge impact on your sales. There are more chances of conversion in case of local SEO. You have explained it in deep details and The list of experts is another Plus.

almost 2 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Taylor Angel, SEO Analyst at Real SEO Company

Through

over 1 year ago

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Taylor Angel, SEO Analyst at Real SEO Company

Through this post I have got introduced with 10 recommendations for our local SEO program, based on research and our own experience of planning and implementing local SEO strategies for B2B and B2C retailers. It’s important to know what your competitors are up to in terms of local SEO and I am so pleased to get this valuable information which really support us more.
<a href="http://www.dentalseo.services/">dental seo services</a>

over 1 year ago

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Saul Malpass, Founder at The Content Marketing Factory . com

Hi James,

Have you got any thoughts on home page location relevance? Basically this means including clear references to the location within the homepage of your site. I have seen numerous cases where the home pages of companies are out ranking local specific pages which may or may not be down to authority etc. But a common theme on those websites were that they had listed their multiple locations with phone numbers on the home page.

over 1 year ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Hi Saul,
Great question. The key is probably down to page authority as the homepage should typically have the greatest authority, so if you have multiple pages competing for the same location targets. the homepage is likely to trump deeper pages unless the deeper page has been super optimised.
I'm not sure why you'd want to list all the local details on the homepage when you also have local specific pages, seems better to have prominent links for 'locations' and then point marketing to the deeper pages. A link to each store page from the homepage is definitely valuable, and large store bases could neatly be handled in a pick list that is SEO friendly.
thanks
james

over 1 year ago

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