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Local SEO

The Complete Guide to Local SEO

Local SEO is the process of optimizing your site so that you appear higher in the local search results. Optimizing for local search is a necessity if you want to continue seeing search traffic in the coming years and if you are not mobile ready; what are you waiting for?

Did You Know

    • 46 % of shoppers report using their phone to research local products and services. That is nearly 1 in 2 people searching locally before making a purchase. (Search Engine Watch)
    • Over 7 Billion local searches are performed every month on Google (Moz)
    • In 2015 local mobile searches are expected to surpass desktop searches. (E-Marketer)

The following local SEO guide is going to cover exactly what you need to do to improve your local search rankings and drive more local traffic to your website.

Creating a Search Friendly Site

Your website is the foundation of your entire online marketing strategy. You should make sure your site is optimized for users and friendly to search engines as well. Let’s take a look at what you should do to better optimize your website.


Fast load time

People expect your site to load quickly and if it doesn’t, they are probably hitting the back button. Google shares the love for fast loading sites since they want to provide browsers with the best possible results. If you have a slow site there are several steps you can take to improve the load speed. Your particular site will have its own issues, but here are some common steps to improve page load speed.

    • Optimize Image Files
    • Compress Code
    • Cache Site if WordPress Based
    • Avoid Excessive Inline HTML
    • Avoid Multiple Redirects

I do have some great news for you though, Google offers a free tool that evaluates your site and lists what you need to improve to make it faster. It is called Page Speed Insights.


Logo Optimization

Your logo is one of the first items discovered by search engines and it is a great way to set the tone for what your site is about. Let’s say your company is “Southern Donuts”. The alt text of the logo for your site should contain “Southern Donuts” + location + primary keyword.

That would look like this. “Southern Donuts of St Louis Mo, your fresh donuts headquarters”. As you can see this is not a keyword overstuffed phrase, just a short phrase defining your primary mission as a business. Some people are tempted to stuff several keywords into each image; this will hurt your site, and not help so avoid it.

You can also change the file name of your image as well. The file-name should include the business name and your target city.

Optimizing Title Tag for Keyword and Clicks

The page title is one of the most important parts of the page. It tells people and search engines what the page is about in the search results page. When you are crafting the perfect title for each page of your site it should meet the following criteria.

    • Include the primary keyword
    • Include a long tail keyword or keyword phrase if possible
    • Tell visitors what the page is about specifically
    • Create interest or a call to action to encourage a click
    • Page title should be 60-80 characters. Google now displays titles based on pixels but 60-80 characters is a good baseline to follow.

Although it sounds simple enough, creating the perfect title can be a little tricky. Take a look at paid ads for and sites that rank highly for your keyword to for title ideas.

Optimizing Your Meta Descriptions

Some people confuse this with the Meta keywords area. Meta keywords are useless and adding them just gives your keywords away to competitors while making sure your site alerts the spam police at Google. Don’t waste your time adding Meta keywords.

A Meta description on the other hand is the short summary that appears below your page title in the search results. This description can contain roughly 150 characters and should be a concise summary of your page.

If you are not using a content management system for your website, you will need to add this description to the following tag in your code.

Those of you yearning for even more information on Meta descriptions can find a detailed explanation on theMoz blog.

Remember each description should be unique and informative.


Optimizing Your Images for Better SEO
Images are overlooked all too often by DIY SEOs. A site with hundreds or thousands of images could miss out on a lot of potential traffic by failing to optimize images for SEO. Below we are going to take a look at the key components of your images that should be optimized.

Optimizing Image File Names

By default many of the images you upload will have a file name like “654614_orig” which tells us nothing about the photo. Let’s say that you are targeting “roofers in St Louis” and you have a lot of images of projects on your site. Giving each file a unique name like “new flat roof on St Louis home” will help Google understand what your image is about and will increase your sites relevancy for those terms. Avoid stuffing several keywords into a single file name.



Optimizing Image Alt Text

Adding alt text to your images allows your image files to be read by page audio readers for the blind and when an image cannot be rendered, alt text is. Aside from helping screen reading programs and text only browsers, alt text can also help search engines understand what your image is about. In organic SEO, the page keyword is usually included in an image for each page. In local SEO you can use a combination of your keyword and location. Using the “roofers in St. Louis” example, here is what it would look like.


As you can see, we have our keyword and a mention of location while making a sentence that makes sense. You may be tempted to add keyword rich alt text to decorative images on your site as well, don’t do it as it could be viewed as a spam tactic.



Optimizing File Types to Boost Load Times

PNG, JPG, GIF, and TIF files are all very common formats to deal with when creating or adding images to a website. Some images require that you leave them in a certain format and others are able to be modified. If you need a transparent background, PNG images are needed. If you have a simple photo, a JPG image can be used to reduce file size and increase page speed. Since choosing file types can be a complex process, here is an article worth looking at.


Optimizing Your Written Content

Everywhere you look people are telling you to write great content because it is something you really need to do. Once you have the great content, you need to market it, but for now let’s focus on how to make content likely to rank your site. As a general rule of thumb, the main content pages of your website should have 500 + words of original content. Within the text, you should mention your primary keyword about 2-3 times and a secondary or LSI keyword 1-2 times. Including your keyword as part of a longer phrase known as a “long tail” keyword is good way to rank for two terms on a single page. In the case of localized keywords, you can use variations. If you are targeting the localized terms “roofers in St. Louis”, then your content keywords could be terms such as:

    • Local Roofing Company
    • St Louis Based
    • St Louis Roofers
    • Roofing Company
    • Roofing Services

Just talk about what you do and how you do it and 99% of the time your content will have a good variety of relevant terms that allow Google to understand your content based on context. Sub-headings that use your keyword are given extra weight so try to add your keyword to at least one h1 or h2 heading on your page. While you may be tempted to force a location mention into the text, if it doesn’t belong, don’t put it there. Google has gotten very good at understanding content so you do not need to force a keyword.


Optimizing Internal Linking Structures

Internal links are all the links on your site that allow visitors to move from page to page. While the anchor text of internal links is not weighted as heavily as those of external links, they still are important. When you link to content on your site internally, you should use your keyword and variations of your primary keywords as the anchor for your links. Although simple, this little step can go a long way in better optimizing your website and boosting your rankings for a term. A well designed internal linking structure will also make your site easier to navigate and most of the time will reduce bounce rates as well.

Social Sharing of Content

The exact weight of various social signals is still a debated topic but most SEOs believe social signals help rankings. Incorporating social sharing buttons on your site is a good way to encourage people to share your content. In addition to the social signals, you will get exposure to more people who may want to link to your content. Add buttons that allow easy sharing on Google, Twitter, and Facebook at a minimum. Several free plugins exist for WordPress and HTML widgets are available as well so there is no reason to be without them.


Place Your Complete Address and Phone Number in the Footer

This is a very simple step but that does not mean it isn’t important. Placing your full physical address and local contact number will help people be able to reach you easily and will help Google better understand your location. You should also make sure your address appears uniformly on your website and all citation and directory sites for the best results.

Use Structured Data to Markup Info

Structured data allows search spiders to better understand the content on your page. Before you skip over this step, there is an easy way to do it! Google has been so kind as to create a Structured Data Markup Helper. In 2013 the team over at Seer Interactive put together a step by step guide for using the tool and even with limited knowledge; you can add structured data to your website.


Make Sure Your Site Is Mobile Ready
If you are not mobile ready, you are throwing money away each day. It is time to get mobile!

Make Sure Proper robots.txt are Used

The robots.txt of your site is what tells search bots what to do when the find your page. You can tell a bot to avoid a page completely or to avoid certain files. Robots.txt are often confusing to newcomers but here are two very good guides about them.


    • http://www.robotstxt.org/robotstxt.html
    • http://tools.seobook.com/robots-txt/

Often times web designers will set your site to no-index as they are working on it, make sure to check the robots.txt if you are launching a new site to avoid a headache or two.If you are using WordPress, you can learn more about modifying robots.txt on WP in my complete guide to WordPress SEO.

Reduce Bounce Rates with Great Content

If you are not tracking your website with Google Analytics or a similar program, go ahead and do that now. Once you have about a months worth of data, you can began to see what content gets the most interactions on your site and what content people do not like. The bounce rate of your site is the number of people who visit a single page and then leave. Having a high bounce rate is a good indication that your content is not reaching the right audience or that your internal navigation is lacking. As you continue to accrue data about your website you will get a more in depth looking at how visitors behave and where you lose the most visitors. If you see pages that a high percentage of people are exiting, you need to review the content and make sure it is of high quality. Before you can understand and improve your bounce rate, you may need to learn more about Google Analytics. Here is a guide to teach you about Analytics. On the most simplistic level, you should write content that answers specific questions common in your industry. This alone will drive your bounce rate down.


Create a Great User Experience

What is a great user experience? A great users experience is when a person lands on your site, easily finds the pages with the specific content they are seeking and can easily navigate to related information on your site. Using SEO helps create a better experience because it allows the user to land on the page specific to their query if done correctly. While A/B testing is the best way to create the ultimate user friendly layout, you can get started by simply viewing how people move around on your site and what they search for on your site. Google Analytics is again a great tool for this information.

Keep the Most Important Pages Close to Home

Google looks at a website as a hierarchy. The most important pages of your site should be less clicks from the home page than less important pages. If you have a specific keyword you want to target, put it on or near the homepage. Terms that are subdivisions of the main terms can be two pages from the home page and so on. Here is a good visual of a proper site layout.


Congratulations!

If you followed the steps above, you are off to a great start with your local SEO campaign. Don’t stop now though, it is time to start building citations and links to your site.


Creating Local Listings on the Big Three
One of your first steps should be to create your local listings on Google, Bing, and Yahoo. If you are not familiar, here are the instructions for each of the three.
    • How to create a Google Places Listing-https://support.google.com/places/answer/142902?hl=en
    • How to Create a Bing Local Listing-https://www.bingplaces.com/
    • How to Create a Yahoo Local Listing- https://smallbusiness.yahoo.com/local-listings/

How to Optimize Your Local Listings
Once you have created your listings on those three platforms, you will need to optimize them for the best results. Google is the leading search engine so we will focus on how to optimize your Google listing. You can simply repeat the process with Bing and Yahoo.

Completely Fill Out Your Profile.
Pretty simple, just make sure every piece of information you have is filled in completely. When writing your description you should mention your primary and secondary keywords as well. Also be sure to include a correct address and complete phone number.

Upload Images and Videos
Google and users lover rich media and images. Upload high resolutions photos to your Google page. Before you upload them, change the file names to reflect the city you are targeting and include the location in the alt text of the file as well. Additionally upload a video to Youtube and include your primary keyword and location in the title of the video. Add that video to your Google page.

Get Reviews on Your Page
Reviews are an important factor in local SEO. Ask your clients to leave a review for you and if you have to, offering discounts for leaving reviews works well. The reviews should be honest and I do not advice leaving fake reviews as you will likely get caught.

Make Regular Posts to Your Page
Just like with your website, being active on your page, sharing information, and engaging with your clients will improve the quality and rankings of your page. If you do not have a ton of original content, curate and share related information to keep your page fresh. The few basic steps outlined above will make your page better optimized than many of your competitors. If you want to dive deeper into optimizing your page, here is a good guide that goes into great detail.

Inbound Link Building
Inbound links are a very important, yet often overlooked component of optimizing for local search. Several studies have found a correlation between top organic rankings and top local search pack rankings. Link building can be done in many ways, here are a few ideas to get you started though.

    • Niche directories
    • Guest posts
    • Local directories
    • Infographic Sharing
    • Video Sharing
    • Audio Sharing
    • Resouce Pages
    • Broken Links
    • Competitor link building
    • Noted national directories, Yahoo, Best of the Web.
    • Build a blog network with expired domains.- See Google Link Building in 2014 for Details
    • Used tiered links – See Tiered Link Building Guide for Details.
    • Software Submission- See 17 Untapped Backlink Sources for Details.
    • Fiverr
    • Outreach Link Building
    • Donation links
    • Relevent Blog and Forum Commenting
    • Email people mentioned in your blogs and show them what you have created, they just may link to you!
    • Call the Website Owner and Ask, pretty simple, I know! You can get contact info for the Whois listing.
    • Send a teaser of your post to people on your mailing list

If you want to build even more types of links, Jon Cooper put together a nice guide on Link Building.