With the online ecosystem evolving at such a pace, you would think that geography would gradually cease to matter. After all, isn’t one of the top advantages of the internet the fact that it makes the world a smaller place? However, when it comes to spending money, customer sentiment belies this little advantage of the World Wide Web. People are more likely to trust a business near them than otherwise, regardless of price dynamics and reputations. As it is, with the services industries such as the F&B sector being limited by geography, this customer sentiment trend gives geography even more leverage.
This customer sentiment is influenced heavily by the fact that mobile searches are all set to outstrip desktop searches in terms of volume and clicks both. Even Google has started paying heed to this customer sentiment by focusing on local Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) algorithms. Local businesses now get more weight by Google when it comes to mobile searches. As a local business, though, you can’t just rely on the same SEO tactics to leverage these algorithmic changes from Google. You need more refined SEO tactics and profiles. What you need is to focus on local SEO tactics. Here are a few of the most basic ones.
Local SEO Tactics #1: Title Tags, Meta Description Tags, & NAP + W
With all the sophisticated and delicate SEO strategies and tactics out there, it is easy to forget the basics. It is similar to donning an Armani jacket for work but forgetting to put on your trousers. Things like title tags, meta description tags, and even Name, Address, and phone numbers (NAP) are very important in SEO. It is not just about having these things on all platforms through which you channel your online presence. It is about having these consistent across all platforms.
The title and meta description tags are like mini advertisements for your business. They need to not only be relevant to what your potential customer is looking for but also the page that has shown up in his search results. Recently, the space allowed for title and meta description tags was expanded by Google which means even more of an impact if you can optimise them.
You may not realise it but NAP is even more important than these tags. The reason for this is that it is one of the most potent negative ranking factors in local SEO. It isn’t NAP as it is that is the problem but inconsistencies between NAPs on various platforms. Most businesses don’t realise that NAP details need to be uniform throughout their online properties. This means everything from websites and social media pages to directories and posts. When NAP details clash, Google tends to downgrade the visibility of the result simply because it doesn’t know which set of details are accurate.
Local SEO Tactics #2: Schema.org Structured Data Markup
Structured data markup is recommended by Google when it comes to getting higher Search Engine Results Positions (SERPs). The best example of structured data markup is Schema.org. Schema markup is basically coding that you add to your website to make it easier for Google’s bots to gather data about your business, products, services, and reviews. If the Google bot finds it easier to find information about your business, then Google finds it easier to display it in its results. Thus, results drawn from schema markups will always find preference in the eyes of Google.
Google recommends the use of Schema.org and has gone out of its way to make it easier for business owners to implement it. It offers a structured data testing tool for free so that businesses can verify their websites and ensure that no mistakes have been made in the implementation of the code. In fact, there’s even a tool designed to make it easier for smaller businesses to use structured data markup. This tool takes coding out of the picture as the mouse can be used to highlight relevant data.
Local SEO Tactics #3: Google My Business & Bing Places Listings
Google My Business has to be the absolute basic step when it comes to local SEO tactics. Despite this, many businesses fail to properly utilise this game-changing directory. The local pack that shows up every time someone searches for something in their neighbourhood is curated from Google My Business Listings. These are the options you see right on top of the search results on Google. How many times have you searched for something and simply chosen one of three options in the local pack? Countless times, right?
Google My Business is probably the lowest hanging fruit for a small business looking to start out in the online world. Google actually handholds you through the entire process of claiming and setting up your Google My Business listing. There’s a physical element to the entire process too. You’ll have to verify your business to Google wherein the company will send you a verification code by post. You’ll have to enter this code online to claim your business. While getting the listing is easy, getting into the local pack is not.
You need to optimise your listing better than your competitors to show up in the local pack. As of the time this was written, Google only showed three places in its local pack. How tough it is to get in on the local pack action depends on where your business is located and how many competitors you have in the region. It is also advisable to get listed on Bing Places for Business. It is effectively the same thing and has the same process for claiming and setting up your listing.
Local SEO Tactics #4: Other Online Listings & Directories
Both Google My Business and Bing Places for Business are online directories. There are other smaller online directories that you should incorporate into your local SEO tactics too. Which directories you should target depends on your location and industry. The best way to find the best directories for your business is to search for the relevant product or service on Google or Bing. The search results under the local pack will reveal the most relevant online directories for your business and region.
The most important thing to keep in mind while getting a listing in these directories is that your information should remain consistent. The advisable thing to do should be to keep your Google My Business and Bing Places for Business as your master listings. You can model all other directory listings after these two directories. The information in all your listings needs to be the same even if you vary the content. This means consistency with your NAP info. Some experts even suggest turning NAP into NAP + W to include the website address, if you have one.
You should also keep a track of all your directory listings in a document. This will make it easier for you to keep your information consistent. For example, if your telephone number changes or you add a new number in one listing, you can then go about doing the same on all listings. This is a simple, effective and surprisingly ignored way of keeping NAP + W consistent across the board.
Local SEO Tactics #5: Onsite and Offsite Reviews
Reviews matter in various ways for a business. It doesn’t matter what kind of business you have. If you can get genuine reviews from your customers, it is going to help you in everything from conversions to local SEO. Reviews, you can say, are the holy grail of success for a business both online and offline. Various studies and surveys have shown various numbers of how many people trust online reviews but most of the findings are above 80 percent. There are various ways to get reviews as well. You can create a system from scratch, purchase review and reputation management software suites, and even take on review management services online.
You need to get genuine positive reviews on a minimum of two platforms. These two platforms are Facebook and Google My Business. Facebook is important because of its importance in social media, grapevine, and word of mouth marketing. Google My Business reviews are important because Google has indirectly hinted that they are a ranking factor in some way. This means that getting reviews on Google My Business will help you rank better in terms of local SEO. It is also advisable to get reviews on any third party platform that is relevant for your industry or region. For example, Yelp is a very crucial third-party review aggregator for many businesses in many countries