One of SEO's greatest challenges is the local ranking, but in an era of location-specific search results, it's a challenge worth undertaking.
In this blog post, I’ll cover one of SEO’s biggest challenges: ranking in the search engines for your local listings. We’ll go over how Google determines local rank, how to optimize your website, best practices, and resources.
How Google Computes Local Ranking
Distance - How far is the search term (restaurants) from the location term (Minneapolis) used in a search? If the user doesn't add a location keyword in their search, Google will use the user's current location.
Relevance - How well the listing matches what the user is looking for. This is why it's important to have accurate information out there.
Prominence - Is your business well known? Google will look at mentions across the web to understand how popular your business is. I would also tack on reviews to this as well. You are more likely to rank higher if you have an abundance of good Google reviews.
For more information, check out this Google support page.
FIRST STEP, Creating and optimizing your Google Listing
It is easy to create a Google listing for your business (it's also free) and this is the first step to rank locally.
You can create this by going to Google My Business. They have a very simple onboarding process to help you properly list your business.
- Include as much information as possible. It’s imperative that your name, address, and phone number (NAP) are accurate. This is called a citation, and these are extremely important to ranking well in the local results. You’re given the option to list hours, information about parking and payment, photos, and place your business in relevant categories.
- Next, you need to verify your business listing. (Google should guide you through this too). This is usually done with a postcard sent to the business address with a verification code.
Meet the local pack:
Your ideal goal should be to rank as high as you can in this social pack for your businesses' city.
Best practices for ranking locally
It’s important that you have a localized keyword strategy to support your efforts to rank in the local results. You can implement this on and off-site.
- Make sure you have your business address on your site (usually in the footer).
- Make sure your NAP (Name, Address, Phone number) is consistent throughout the web. Why? Google doesn't like inconsistencies. It confuses Google (and users). Yext will show you how your business listings are doing for free.
- Get reviews from your customers. Google sees reviews as endorsements for your business, and this will really benefit your SEO efforts. Google will favor showing a local pizza place with 20 5-star reviews over a pizza shack with no reviews.
- Get involved with other local businesses/sites. Become a part of the local chamber of commerce and get listed on their site. Donate to a local event, team, or charity to get a shoutout on their social media and a link to their page.
Determine your ideal search queries
It's important to know what you rank for, what you want to rank for, and what your competitors rank for. If you own a pet shop in Minneapolis, then a valuable search term you should show up on is "Minneapolis pet store" or "pet store in Minneapolis".
Put your ideal keywords in a spreadsheet, purchase a keyword tracking program, or hire an agency to help with this process.
BEAT YOUR COMPETITION
It is crucial to be aware of your competition and beat them in every area of the web. Being the better business (customer service and website navigation wise) will result in a higher rank. This can't be faked with keyword stuffing or other poor SEO tactics.
- Is your website easier to use?
- Is it mobile-friendly?
- Is your phone number easy to see?
- Do you have quality content?
- What about social media?
- Do you have more reviews and higher ratings?
- Do you have high-quality photos?
- Is it easy to contact you through the site?
- What keywords do they rank for?
- How high do they rank in the local pack?
- Are they using paid advertising?
DON't BE AFRAID TO GET HELP
If you genuinely care about ranking well in your area, you should consider hiring an agency. Most businesses don't have the time or knowledge of how to properly do these things. They can fix up the technical issues on your site, make sure your listing are legit, add high-quality content, manage social media or paid ads, conduct A/B testing for conversion optimization. and more.
https://moz.com/researchtools/ose/ (You only get 3 free searches a day).
Ahrefs - Backlink Checker and Competitor Research
Google Webmaster Tools - Site's search performance
Hootsuite - Manage your social media.
Moz Local - Get all of your listings in one place.
Do you have further tips or advice for ranking in the local results? Comment below!