Improve your Website’s Local SEO Capabilities
For many businesses with an online presence, local SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) performance and optimisation will lead to far greater consumer engagement and conversion than many of the standard ‘cookie-cutter’ SEO packages offered by agencies. Therefore it is important for an online business owner to actively ensure that the SEO service being provided match the needs of their business.
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This is particularly true for many SME’s (Small to Medium Enterprise businesses), who may be targeting local radius business within a close proximity. So let’s consider some of the factors that should be considered for inclusion within this type of business website, and actions performed by your online marketing team or agency.
Local Contact Information
Ensure your physical business address is provided in full. The inclusion of street number, name, suburb, post code and state/country information are all significant markers to assist search engines in determining your location and aligning this to the enquiries of searches performed within their search engines. Supplement this with an embedded Google Map within your contact page provides a user friendly and efficient mechanism for consumers to find and visit your location. The process of including a Google Map, provides geo location data in the form of latitude and longitude information into the html code of your page. Extend this further with geo-location meta data within the html constructs of each page within the website, to fully support a location based strategy in your website development.
Local Phone Number
The presentation of your business phone number that includes the telephone dialling area code prefix e.g. (08) for Perth WA, contributes to pointer information that accumulates for location data. This is similar to why including the post code of your location e.g. 6000 for Perth CBD, rather than just the suburb name in isolation, assists in the overall data collection surrounding location discovery.
Mobile Friendly Design
The increase in mobile data access (Smart Phones, Tablets) has massively increased, with nearly one-third of current online retail activity contributed through this medium. For local search queries, in real time, with the consumer out on the road, the capability for a user to be able to immediately locate your business, get mapping directions, see your opening hours, and be able to call you from their mobile device turns the tide in your favour. The biggest stumbling block to this are websites that have not been designed with a wide range of media device capability in mind.
Research and Recommendations
Consumers continue to look to their friends for suggestions and advice, as well as an opportunity for brag rights. Particularly for service based solutions, a little bit of research on the part of the consumer can ensure confidence in the service provider being selected. For businesses, the provision of social share tools, as well as the links to their social media channel profiles throughout their website, provide a number of options for consumers to expand their research, engage the business in conversation, and ask questions whilst refining their purchase selections which goes a long way to avoiding abandonment, or even non-consideration in the first place. For hesitant and/or cautious consumers, the length of engagement with a brand, may directly correlate to the price of purchase. During this time, the use of social media can provide ongoing product updates and special offers. For continued re-engagement and potential future additional purchases, this develops brand loyalty and the development of an extension to your marketing efforts, through the connected social network of this contented consumer.
The social signals through interactive users communicating directly to the company social media accounts, hash-tag of brand names, and use of product keywords within posts/tweets associated to the user’s location profile information will also contribute regional signals of who interacts with the business and where they are located.
Search Engines rely upon the construction of quality content, with the aim to match the needs of the searching public to the most appropriate content. Content that includes local references; place names, business names, addresses or people, all help with building the profile of the business and their theme, so that the website, and specific pages of the website can be paired with keywords as well as location references as appropriate.
For Medium to Large Enterprises with resource capabilities (staffing), operating a web based chat applet on the company website during business hours provides a useful means for consumer communication at the online POS (Point of Sale), and extends the local reach of the business.
Local Web Hosting
Where a website is hosted contributes to the load time speed for the page, due to the distance that the data packets have to travel round trip between the consumer and the hosting server. Speed delays in rendering a page add frustration to the user experience, leading to abandonment. Search engines also use this consideration towards achieving a quality experience. As such this may impact on positioning within the SERPs (Search Engine Results Page) for a website, as well as having a cost impact to pay-per-click campaigns due to the effect on quality score.
The IP (Internet Protocol) address associated to the domain name, provides location data for the hosted website server location, which the search engines are able to determine. Where possible, look to provide a local hosting solution to provide as optimised and regionalised experience to the intended consumer audience for the website.
Local Places Listing
Google, Bing Maps and Reviews, are just a couple of immediate benefits for businesses with free listings within Google and Bing search engines. This ‘yellow pages’ type directory for businesses on these popular search engines, are a very important location based tool to drive traffic either to the online website or physical business location. They include images, video, operating hours, information about the business and the ability for consumers to write reviews on service received. It is important that businesses claim their local places as well as regularly maintain an updated profile. A considerable amount of referrer traffic to the website can be derived from these online services. With the recent merging of Google Places into Google + for business, the capabilities of local and social now combine and become even more important and powerful.
Accounts with Local Social Review Sites
Yelp and FourSquare are social media examples, where businesses can have their services listed, providing another location based directory where users can engage with the business, as well as share with the wider community on their experience of interaction. Social signals, where search engines monitor the ‘online conversation’ and reviews contributed by consumers on these sites help to attribute further details toward the overall business online profile.
Submission to Local Search Engines and Directories
The effort and focus to improve local consumer traffic for a business, should start with improving the visibility of the business where the intended consumers for that business are located. Source good quality local search engines and business website directories, and manually submit the business profile customised to suit the receiving directory. Ensure all major search engines can access the website, and that the robots.txt and sitemap.xml files are current and complete to ensure all pages of the website are visible and able to be crawled and indexed.
Local Inbound Link Signals
Link building has always been an important component and consideration of the SEO landscape. Looking at inbound link patterns; the originating domains, the actual page where the link originates, and the anchor text, or keyword phrase used as the hyperlink back to the receiving website are taken into the data consideration by search engines to compile the link profile for the website. To support a local SEO strategy, the focus should reflect appropriately theme matched websites regionally placed to help support the indicators of location references.
Make the Most of Local Search Extensions in PPC Adwords
Paid advertising compliments SEO activities, and helps the search engines gather additional interactive information around the website and its consumers. As PPC becomes even more optimised for the growing mobile market, advertising extensions have improved to include Mapping Directions and Phone Numbers as part of the adverts to enable the consumer immediate and useful engagement options to either contact directly or find the business whilst out on the road. Consider campaigns optimised based on day and time periods that match the operational hours of the business to provide these types of advert extensions to take advantage and improve consumer engagement.
Whilst not an exhaustive look, you can see from the above list that there are a range of actions that can be taken that all work in conjunction to improve the local visibility through SEO strategies for a website and will contribute to increased local traffic to the site.