Local businesses are realizing the power of Google more and more these days, and the ranking difficulty of local search terms is becoming more competitive every day. There is still opportunity for companies to rank on Google and attract new paying leads. Today we’ll be going over 12 ways to optimize your website for local search on Google.
1. Content is King
No matter if you’re trying to rank locally or nationally, content is and always will be king. Your landing page should have a minimum of 1000 words with images, videos, and infographics mixed in. Brian Dean of Backlinko found that the average Number one ranking website contained 1890 words.
Although word count obviously has an effect on your rankings, your end goal should always be based on the visitor experience, which we will be going into more detail in with number four.
2. Claim Google My Business Listing
Your Google my Business listing is what shows up in the map pack (see above) when a consumer searches for a local business. Here is an example of a Google my Business listing that has not been claimed;
From the picture you can see how to claim your Google my business listing. You have to click “Own this business?” on the listing.
The reason you want to claim your Google my Business listing is because it will boost your map pack rankings, and it will allow you to edit any of the wrong information on your listing. This is getting into NAP citations which we will be going over in more depth in number six and seven.
3. Optimize Your Google My Business Listing
The next step is to optimize your newly claimed Google my Business listing. The most important things to check are your name, address, and phone number.
The first steps are to optimize your name, by making sure everything is spelled correctly, and putting your keywords in your title (if you can do it somewhat naturally). In terms of the address and phone number, I think you have that under control… Make sure they’re right.
The next step is to put relevant, high quality images on your Google my Business page. If you rename some of the raw files of the images to your money keyword, this will help with relevancy.
Another thing you should be doing is working on getting reviews on your listing. Ask past customers to consider leaving you a review on your GMB listing, and keep it in mind with your future customers. Once you get these reviews, you should respond to each and everyone of them. No matter if they are positive or negative.
4. Work on User Experience
This is what we started talking about in number 1. Although you should aim to get a lot of content on your sites, every piece of content that makes it to your site should be there for the visitor experience.
You could write the most boring 10,000 word piece of content, and put it on a perfectly optimized website, and I’d be willing to bet that it won’t rank. You wanna know why?
It’s because Google’s number 1 priority is user experience. This is why factors like dwell time (how long a visitor stays on your website) affect the SERPs so much.
If SEO was all about how many words and how many times the keyword is found on the page, then rankings would be almost instant. Google would just have to crawl all the sites and find the highest word count.
We should be thankful that it’s not all about word count, or else sites that are actually made for the consumer would be getting outranked left, right, and center.
5. Optimizing Titles and Descriptions
This has to deal with the website, not the Google My Business listing. Every site has what’s known as meta data.
This is the title that you read before picking a website, and the quick (2 line) description that shows up in the Google search results. Here’s what I’m talking about.
The way to optimize these are pretty standard, make sure your keyword is in it. It’s important that the keyword appears relevantly, not obviously stuffed in for the SEO benefit.
Good Title: “Top Rated Winnipeg SEO Agency | Airborne Digital Marketing Agency”
Bad Title: “Let Us Help You Winnipeg SEO | Airborne Digital Marketing Agency”
Also, make sure they give the reader a reason to click on your website, as opposed to any of the other results.
6. NAP Presence
Earlier we touched on the NAP. This stands for name, address, phone number. They affect rankings heavily when it comes to local SEO, and you’re going to want to be sure that your NAP is present throughout your website.
The NAP also appears on local search directories (e.g. Yellow Pages, yelp, etc.) if you have claimed a business listing there, so that is something you’re definitely going to want to do.
These search directories can also be a great source for backlinks, which is something we will be covering in number 12.
7. NAP Consistency
Now that we know what a NAP is and that we need to have them, we’ll talk about NAP consistency. If high rankings in Google are your goal, you’ll need to make sure every NAP citation online is consistent with your NAP on your GMB listing.
If your postal code on your GMB listing is Z1Z 1Z1, but on Yelp it’s listed as Z1Z 2Z2, Google views this as an inconsistency, and your GMB listing will be penalized, and experience lower rankings.
Making sure that all of the information across the directories your business is listed in will help Google trust your business, which in turn will boost your local search rankings.
8. Pagespeed is Important
Another ranking factor that is important, regardless of if your website is trying to rank locally or nationally, is pagespeed.
Google provides an amazing (free) tool to test your pagespeed. It’s called Google PageSpeed Insights. It provides your site speed loaded on mobile and desktop.
It also provides reasons for slow loading websites, which give you valuable insights on why your website is slow.
There are a few simple ways to speed up your website, that don’t require a bachelor’s degree in computer science;
1. Compress Your Images
If you compress your images on imagecompressor.com before uploading them to your website, you can cut their size (in terms of KB or MB) in half, or even more! The higher page size (in MB, not page length) makes your page load slower. This is why you should compress every image on your website. It doesn’t even affect your image quality, so why wouldn’t you?
2. Upgrade Your Hosting
Even if your site doesn’t get a lot of visitors, the cheapest hosting plan will cause slow website load times. Make sure you’re not being overly cheap when it comes to a quality hosting plan.
3. Use a Caching Plugin
If your site was built with WordPress, then you can install a caching plugin to speed your site up. I use W3 Total Cache. The purpose of these types of plugins are to “cache” your site, which essentially allows the web server to “memorize” your website, so it doesn’t have to reload all of the data.
9. Optimize Your Site for Mobile
In 2015, Google began penalizing sites that were not mobile friendly, which resulted in 70% of sites that were on the first page were mobile friendly.
Timeout— I should make sure that you know what a mobile friendly site is.
A mobile-friendly site is a website that visitors can easily view on a mobile phone. A site is mobile-friendly if you can view the text on the page without having to zoom in, or scroll left or right.
There’s a simple way to find out if your site is mobile-friendly— use Google’s tool. Google has a Mobile-Friendly Test, which will simply tell you if your site is mobile-friendly or not after you insert your url and run the test. It’s that simple.
10. On Page Optimization
There are several important things to keep in mind when considering your website’s on page optimization. On page optimization is an aspect of SEO you can control very tightly, and it affects our SERP rankings greatly.
The first thing to keep in mind is that you want to have your keyword on the page… sparingly. Please notice how I said sparingly. If you have the keyword in every sentence your site will never see the top 100 never mind number 1 results.
An optimal keyword density—how often the keyword appears in your text— is around 1-2%. If you stuff the keyword in as many times as you can, Google will just see your site as spam, because of the over-optimization.
Remember, Google wants quality content. Just write your articles naturally and sprinkle the keyword in a few times.
Another good practice is linking from your page. Whenever an opportunity arises for you to link out to another website (make sure it’s high quality and authoritative), do it. The other type of linking that is valuable is linking from one page of your website to another.
Let’s say you’re a lawyer, and on your home page you mention that you provide family law services. If you have a services page for family law, then you should link to this page with the anchor text being family law.
The other things to be conscious about are your NAPs and page content, which are topics we discussed in numbers 6/7, and 1, respectively.
Backlinking is and always has been a cornerstone of SEO. Although Google’s algorithm is constantly changing and evolving, the idea that backlinking will ever not be a critical ranking factor is laughable.
Of course the standards Google has set for backlinking has changed drastically over the years, but that is for the better. If you build high quality backlinks from authoritative, relevant backlinks, those will be valuable to your rankings for a very long time.
So how can you start building your backlink profile?
This is getting into a much more advanced level of SEO, but one way that is very effective is writing guest posts.
If you can find a high authority blog in your industry, reach out to them and see if you can write them a guest post. This is not a “simple” method, because it will take sweat equity.
Most (useful) guest post opportunities require you to write a 1,000+ word article, with accompanying images, infographics, and/or videos. Although these backlinks may be difficult for you to acquire, they are well worth it.
The best way to determine if a blog has high authority in your industry is using an SEO tool like Ahrefs. Unfortunately this tool does cost $99/month, but if you’re serious about your rankings, it is an invaluable tool.
12. Secure Your Site With an SSL Certificate
The last way to optimize your website for local search that I’ll be going over is to invest in an SSL Certificate.
If you’re scratching your head wondering what the heck an SSL Certificate is, don’t worry, you probably aren’t alone.
An SSL Certificate is just a form of security, to ensure that any data that transfers from the web server to the browser remains private.
It recently became an important ranking factor, and they are relatively inexpensive, starting at $100/year.
They also create trust between the visitor and your site, because of the lock that pops up, as shown below.
I hope you’ve learnt a lot about optimizing your website for local search! We’ve gone over 12 things that are integral to your rankings, and many of them you can work on without a whole lot of prior knowledge about SEO.
If you’d like to talk to an SEO professional about how your business can utilize SEO, please click here and fill out the form. After we receive your inquiry, we’ll go over your current web presence and the potential benefit of an SEO campaign. We will then schedule a meeting with you and outline our conclusion for your company.