Everybody knows that SEO is important for your website and it’s overall success. Which is pretty easy to say, but not so easy if you’re a new business and maybe aren’t too sure what SEO is.
First of all, it’s important to know what local SEO is. Local SEO involves optimising your website so you can gain higher local search rankings. Local SEO provides search engine results that are relevant to the users geographical location. For example, when I search “best clothes shops”, Google will show results closest to my current geographical location:
This is particularly important for mobile searches. The user will be out somewhere and need to know what store is nearby. If you are a business with a physical store, then there really is no excuse not to optimise your website for local SEO.
Local SEO varies to general SEO, and there are extra factors that are included and influence results, as demonstrated by Moz:
So what are some things you can do to improve your local SEO and beat the competition?
Google My Business
The things you need to know is what you need to include once it’s all set up:
- A unique description that includes links
- Choose the correct category for your business
- Make sure your phone number and opening hours are correct
- Make sure your business address is the same as the one on your website
- Add photos
- Get reviews from customers
You’ll want to make sure all of your information is consistent across your websites, social media and My Business page. This information includes your business’s name, address, and phone number. Even insert Google Maps, to make it easier for your customers to physically find your business.
Plugins, Widgets and Tools
Plugins are a great way to ensure your local SEO will improve. Some plugins worth downloading and installing are:
- Yoast’s Local SEO plugin for WordPress:this plugin has had almost 15 million downloads, and has an average rating of 4.7 out of 5, so you know it’s worth downloading. The main plugin is free, but there are also premium plugins available for an extra cost.
- Schema.org: use Schema.org to generate code that will ensure your contact details are displaying correctly on your website. This is completely free, all you have to do is copy and paste the code and enter in your contact details.
- Moz Local: once you have your correct contact information on your website, you’re going to want it in all the local directories. Moz Local will do this for you. Simply enter your location data, and the tool pushes your listings to all major data aggregators, helping search engines to find your business. This costs $84 per year per location, but it’s not much to pay for convenience and improved local SEO.
- WordPress Local SEO: optimized the display of your locations and provides all the necessary information on screen.
You can advertise all you want, but at the end of the day word of mouth is a very strong influence over a customer’s purchasing decisions. In fact, in a survey conducted by Dimensional Research, 90 percent of respondents said reading online positive reviews influenced their buying decision, and 86 percent were influenced by negative reviews. As shown above, Moz attributes review signals 8.4% of its ranking pie factor.
So you’re going to want to gain real and positive reviews. Encourage your customers to leave reviews on Google or Yelp. It’s important to get positive reviews, as these websites allow people to see listings with a minimum star rating. Google will give extra rankings to businesses with reviews (particularly positive ones), so gaining reviews is a sure way to improve your SEO.
There are a few ways you can get reviews:
- Create a page on your website explaining how customers can review your website. This is great for customers who aren’t very technical and will need instructions.
- Put links on your web pages and emails signatures: if you don’t want to create an entirely new web page, then include links to review sites throughout your website and in your email signature block.
- Just ask. Email your existing customers asking if they will leave a review. Chances are, some of your customers can spare a few minutes to write a review, especially if they were impressed with your business. You can use tools such as Referlia to help with this process.
Make sure you ensure these reviews are organic and honest, or else you could find yourself in breach of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (CCA). Check out the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s guidelines on managing online reviews to ensure you don’t mislead consumers. A 2013 study found that one out of every five of all Yelp reviews is written by someone who claims to be a customer but isn’t.
Here’s a few ways to avoid legal dramas with reviews:
- You can encourage friends and family to leave reviews, just make sure they disclosure their connection to you.
- Offering incentives can leave you running the risk of breaching the CCA. In fact, in 2009 the Federal Trade Commission in the USA banned undisclosed paid endorsements altogether.
- Disclose commercial relationships. If a business advertises on your website, make sure they make that known in their review.
- Consumers may be mislead if you edit or omit reviews, particularly negative reviews.
- Don’t hire writers to do your reviews.
Utilising these few steps will ensure your business is able to improve its local SEO ranking and outperform the competitors.