Once upon a time, getting your site ranked high in Google seemed to involve a fairly straightforward set of rules. While it was nice knowing exactly what the search engine wanted you to do, this also made competition a lot fiercer and produced some odd requirements. As SEO has evolved, so has the need for a specific, Local SEO strategy.
Many restaurants, for example, started blogs because they knew keywords were important, even though very few people ever read them.
Nowadays, local search metrics are an incredibly important aspect of Google’s algorithm. If you run a brick-and-mortar business that relies on local customers, it’s vital that you understand how it differs from core search engine optimization services.
If you own a local business but aren’t seeing much traffic from your website, the problem may be that you are using generic SEO tactics. If you want to see improvement, you should understand the three biggest differences about local SEO:
In generic SEO, backlinks are crucial to a successful strategy. If a website has high-quality websites linking to it, Google will assume it is also a high-quality site and improve its rank as a result.
High-quality backlinks will still help in local SEO, but that’s not the only reference Google will look for when deciding if a site is worth their first page. Web citations are references on other sites that provide data about local businesses, including phone numbers and addresses.
The White Pages is filled with web citations. Citysearch has them, too. Most cities have at least one local directory unique to them, as well. Google looks to these sites to validate the fact that a business is, indeed, a local company they should consider for ranking.
Often, these sites don’t even provide links. If they do, they’re not necessarily very high quality. What’s more important is that Google associates these sites with local listings of real businesses.
NAP stands for Name, Address, and Phone number. These are the things Google looks for from web citation sites. Another key difference between generic and local SEO is that Google wants the NAP information it receives from these sites to be consistent.
If The White Pages list an address for a business and Citysearch shows a different one, the “file” Google collects on this company won’t have consistent data. As a result, Google will most likely lower the local ranking because it can’t be sure about the company’s current NAP information. The search engine wouldn’t want to send users to one part of town when, in fact, a restaurant had long since moved.
This is something companies don’t have to worry about when local SEO isn’t an issue. However, those with local customers must constantly check to make sure major registries have their correct NAP data or risk losing traffic. Even if a business owner updates Google+, they could still lose ranking if other sites show old information.
A local business could have their NAP information 100% consistent across every known registry and still receive Google’s cold shoulder if they receive terrible customer reviews. After all, the search engine wants their users to be happy with the results they provide, and it makes sense that bad reviews would make for unhappy users.
Obviously, no company wants bad reviews, but they are far more potent when it comes to businesses that need to focus on local SEO. That’s why local business owners must pay attention to them and encourage customers to leave them positive reviews.
One big similarity that local SEO has with the generic kind is that both are becoming less and less vulnerable to “tricks of the trade.” As we mentioned at the beginning, if you own a restaurant, mentioning “pizza parlor in Austin” 100 times on every page isn’t going to move you up the rankings, just like a similar tactic no longer works in generic SEO.
Instead, you need to actually think about what your customers want. They want to know how to find your business. They want to know that other customers have had a good experience there. Some generic SEO factors – like site load time – still apply, too.
Just like you do with your customers, think about what will make Google’s users happy, and most of your local SEO needs will be covered.