We discussed how search return pages are broken up into several valuable kinds of real estate, and that many of these valuable areas of the page are dominated by local search returns.
We discussed how search engines, because of the ubiquity of mobile search, presume most searchers have local intent. About how this is specifically true in industries where the location is an important factor for searchers (people looking for a plumber in Tulsa probably don’t care how good a plumber is in San Francisco).
We talked about how, no matter how well your page is optimized for SEO in general, if it is not optimized for local it might still never gain traction.
Last but not least, we talked about four things you should do to get your website ready for local optimization:
- Have a physical address for your business
- Have a local phone number for your business (not an 800 number + not a vanity number)
- Make sure your business information is consistent on all of your materials and sites
- Claim your business on Google My Business
If you have completed all of these tasks, we are ready to move on to some more advanced local optimization techniques.
Finishing Your Google My Business Listing
As you fill in the information for your Google My Business listing, make sure your listing is compliant with all of Google’s rules. Basically, this just means that you need to accurately list everything, but, just in case, here are Google’s rules:
You will notice that when you claim your business on Google My Business, you will also be asked to register your business categories. Pick from the list all of the categories that actually apply to services that your business provides. You want to pick between one and ten categories (most businesses will have trouble finding more than four or five that will actually apply).
You should fill out as much information about your business as you can. Adding information helps potential customers find your site through your Google listing. If they like what they see on your listing, they will be more likely to visit your actual business page.
I totally understand that much this optimization work may seem boring or annoying, but you should see it as an opportunity to increase your business.
Remember, the goal of any optimization is to increase the opportunities for customers to find your business and for them to be interested enough that they visit your brick and mortar location or actual web page. Every place your business appears is another opportunity.
Everything on the internet about you is a representation of you and your business. No matter if it is your Facebook Page, your Yelp Page, your Web Page, or Google’s listing of your business, how it looks matters.
You want to see every page as an invitation to do business. Look at each page and ask yourself, have I done enough to make my business look attractive to customers?
What Is NAP?
NAP is SEO speak for Name, Address, and Phone Number.
Every year, MOZ (a digital marketing company that specializes in local) initiates a national survey identifying the most important factors in local search. In 2013 the number one factor in local ranking was consistency of NAP information. In 2014 NAP consistency ranked as the number 13 factor affecting local search results.
The number one factor in the 2014 survey was including your city and state on your pages.
So, what you want to accomplish is to have an area on every page on your site that has the name, address, phone number, city, and state of your business. There is a particular form of HTML markup you can do for this called “Schema” markup.
As you probably know, one of the ways that search engines determine rankings is by sending bots to scan your websites and determine if your site has the things they look for in a website that it believes will satisfy searchers. Schema HTML markup is a specific type of markup designed by a consortium of search engines to help with standardizing design in order to help bots more efficiently do their job.
One form of Schema markup is Local, it is designed to immediately satisfy bots as to the optimization of your site for local.
Think of it like this, when a civilian sees the medals on the chest of soldier, we know to be impressed but we probably do not know what they all mean. A career soldier, however, can immediately tell what the medals are for. When bots see your local schema markup, they know you are optimized for local, they see the medals on your site’s chest.
You can either ask your web people if your site has local schema markup or you can learn more about how to do the markup yourself here: www.schema.org or here http://schema-creator.org/organization.php.
The other important element to markup is making sure you have the exact same NAP information consistent everywhere your register or market your business. If you sign up for social media accounts, you should enter the exact same business information, in every way, on every single site. If you give out business cards, they should have the exact same information presented in the exact same way.
You should also have an embedded map and directions on your site as well. This is another way you can reinforce to bots and search engines where your location is. It is, obviously, also helpful to your potential customers. The whole point is to make your site more useful and your brick and mortar business location more easily found by potential customers. If you have not integrated maps into your site, you can find help here:
Consistency + the Importance of Citations
Every place your business information is listed on the web is considered a citation (by the algorithms governing search rankings).
Citations are another important part of local rankings. It is really important to have your NAP consistent across every web property you register your business at or for.
Citations are one of the more bizarre but important parts of optimizing for local. Why should you have to connect your site to a bizarre litany of bizarre indexes in order to rank higher in local search?
The search engines think that sites with more and better citations are more likely to provide better results. In terms of local search, having your NAP information appear on other local websites or websites that they think are important shows the search engines the value of recommending your site.
Many years ago, the oldest person in any community was considered to be the wisest person in that community. Search engines are looking for the businesses most likely to satisfy their searchers, so they try to find a way to determine the wisest business to recommend via the search results page. Think of the number and quality of your citations as the rings on the tree of your business, they tell the search engines how wise it is to show searchers your page.
Unfortunately, for business owners, this often results in work that does not seem particularly interesting or satisfying.
There are local and national indexes like the Internet Yellow Pages that you should claim or register your business on. There are social media sites like Google +, Facebook, and Linkedin that you should sign up for. There is probably a local better business bureau that your business should be listed on.
You might be wondering why your citations need to consistently list your business information. If your citations are inconsistent, bots will see your business as several entities and not as one.
Imagine if you were a successful working actor, but that you listed yourself sometimes by your first name, sometimes by your last name, and sometimes by your middle name. People would not be able to look at the movie posters, ads, or credits and know they could expect you to be in the movie.
In much the same way, making sure that your sites are listed consistently prevents confusing the bots or splitting the impact of the citations you establish.