Achieving high local search engine rankings requires a delicate balancing act between giving Google what it wants, yet stopping before you over-saturate your site with SEO. Plus, this isn’t normal SEO – this is SEO for a specific geographic area only. The truth is that there is still a lot of mystery behind search engine results, but there are some well documented ways that you can boost your local web rankings.
Here is a game plan for how to best allocate your local marketing time and efforts to come out above your local competition.
On Page Keywords
Keyword placement is critical for any website, but their influence on local rankings is even more important. Start by ensuring that the site’s home page contains all of your main keywords, ideally ones that are also in your domain name. Place terms in the first paragraph and the top heading, but avoid using them too often, which can actually cause listings to fall. But most importantly, include some indicators of what area your business serves. This may mean by saying that you do XYZ service in XYZ location. It can also mean listing service areas (but don’t list too many – stick to the general metro areas!). This signals to a search engine both relevancy for a keyword phrase and for a location.
Local Listing Optimization
After optimizing pages for your primary keywords, ensure that you stake your claim on the local market by including your contact information, business name, city and state prominently on your site, and on local listings. This final step is the key to increasing your local exposure by letting search engines know you are a major player in the area. Not sure which directories you need to be in? These are the “musts”: Google+/Google Places, Yahoo! Local, Bing Local, Yelp!, and any industry specific directories that are locally based. There are plenty of others, but these are where you should focus your attentions first.
Inbound links to your website have been a major ranking indicator for years. These days, it’s not just the number of links you have, but also the quality of the links that determines how much they make or break your website’s credibility. Links from credible review sites (e.g. Yelp!), influential city establishments (e.g. Chambers of Commerce, business associations, universities, etc.), local media and bloggers will boost your listing, as they establish your site as an authoritative source of information. Start connecting with these types of sites and look for ways to secure exposure, establish partnerships, or build meaningful relationships with influencers – social media should be your first starting point.
Speaking of social media as a starting point, this is an essential part of local SEO success. While social media activity isn’t a leading ranking factor, it can still have quite an impact. Creating and maintaining a Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social accounts can increase your web presence, create additional links to your site and serve as a major traffic driver, so invest the time in cultivating a strong social presence.
Speaking of reviews, websites offering products or services should strive to get good ones on popular review sites, such as Yelp!, Angie’s List, or others specific to your industry. Facebook reviews also hold quite a bit of weight. Even bad ones can be turned into a positive experience if you contact the poster and offer to rectify their issues and respond promptly. These review sites work to boost your site in two ways. First, they link to your site and create an inbound link. Secondly, they mention your website name, thus boosting your web presence.
What other ways do you try to create more opportunities for exposure for your locally-focused business?