Chapter 7 - On-page SEO optimisation for local businesses

Cheryl Luzet, now helps us bring the discussion to optimising pages on local SME websites.

What is Local Search Engine Optimisation?

When we talk about local SEO, we’re effectively working to get websites to rank in particular locations. These could be bricks and mortar businesses, or companies which visit customers in their own homes. We’re talking about businesses that do not operate nationally (except National brands with local branches) but cover a specific local area. This could be doctors, pizza shops or plumbers.

By targeting local search terms, you make your website much more relevant to the target audience, and it can be much easier to rank for a local phrase, than to target nationally, as the competition is more localised and weaker.

Local SEO has been gaining momentum over the past few years, with more and more searchers targeting more specific, local phrases and ‘near me’ searches.

46% of searches are local according to Hubspot.

Local Searches have a Higher Purchase intent

People who search locally are often further down the sales funnel than those who don’t include a location in their search term. These are people who know what they want and need to find somewhere to buy it.

Google knows this – compare search terms such as ‘yoga’ and ‘yoga + location’. The first one brings up searches and videos about how to do yoga, the second actually brings up classes in that location.

Google is also smart enough to understand implicit user intent and will show you local results for queries such as ‘dry cleaner’ and ‘restaurant’ without you specifying ‘near me’ or adding a locale to your query.

The Local Search Algorithm

On-page local SEO has changed a lot over the past few years. It used to be much more similar to the national algorithm, but now it is a completely separate beast. Local SEO is less about the phrases that you optimise your content for, and more about the signals that your website gives out. The days of hundreds of location landing pages optimised for different locations are over!

The content still needs to be relevant to the locations being searched, but other elements are also important to confirm to Google that your website generates the right local signals:

  • Google My Business
  • Online PR
  • Mentions online and citations in quality local directories
  • Local links/events
  • Local content

Not to be forgotten is the proximity of the searcher to the business being searched for; this is key for ‘near me’ searches.

Google is trying to identify the sphere of influence of the business, which is why the signals are so important as they can’t be faked quite so easily. Consistency is also key; don’t forget to check name, address and telephone number details on Google My Business and ensure that they match exactly what is found in other places online, such as your website and other directories.

Now for the local SEO tips!

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Tip #1: Test and tweak

Like with all aspects of SEO, you need to make sure that you test and tweak to see what works and what doesn’t, so that you can measure success and make changes to further boost ranking. What works in one industry won’t necessarily work in another, and what works in one area, might not work in another.

“What works for a plumber, may not work for a doctor.”

Local on-page SEO is very much an iterative process.

Tip #2: Keyword research for local SEO

Keyword research is vital for local SEO, so that you can identify what people are searching for in your area and how they are describing what you have to offer.

Do people search?

Bicycles Birmingham

Birmingham bicycle shop…?

This allows you to focus your content around the phrases that are getting the most searches.

As well as the main sales phrases, you need to identify the long-tail phrases which talk about your product and service and mention the local area. These local phrases can be used in blogs and longer content and they are great for bringing traffic and boosting relevancy. Brilliant for brand building, these phrases make your website much more findable online for those in the local area.

Tip #3: Relevance is key

Where on-page local search engine optimisation is concerned, relevance is crucial. Title tags and meta descriptions should contain the location keyword. In your longer content, try to mention local landmarks, as these give out signals to Google that reinforce your relevance to that location.

When adding the location to your content and tags, be careful not to over-optimise. Location keywords should be used far more lightly than other keyword phrases as they very easily start to look over-used. Naturally written content is definitely the aim of the game, from both the perspective of Google and the customer.

Tip #4: Make it useful, make it worthwhile!  

In order for Google to value a piece of content, particularly something with local intent, it needs to clearly demonstrate its usefulness.

Is it comprehensive and does it cover the whole topic?

Does it answer the questions that people are asking?

Google knows what these questions are and expects you to answer these in the body of the content, so the searcher doesn’t have to go elsewhere to find them.

The content should be fully comprehensive and deliver value to the searcher. Local pages should help those with a local intent, so information such as address, opening times, facilities, telephone number, car parking and nearby landmarks can all help the customer and importantly meet Google’s desire to deliver value to the searcher.

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Tip #5: Local Landing Pages to boost location relevancy

Optimise content for local phrases. If you have separate stores, make sure that you have a page on your website optimised for each location. Don’t be tempted to create a whole load of location pages for areas that you have no connection with though, this is where the signals are so important.

The content of local landing pages needs to offer value and be useful, unique and high quality. If it contains local references, case studies, landmarks or testimonials from local businesses, it can boost the relevance and connection of your business to that location.

Finally, don’t forget to test and tweak! Local SEO is not one-size fits all, and the right tactics need to be employed for your location and industry.

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