When I first created the first version of The Local SEO Formula back in 2011, local SEO was easy. Basically, all you needed to do was set up your Google Places page, claim it, and then get a bunch of citations (mentions of your name, address and phone number).
Then Google muddy up the waters when they moved Places over to Google+, introduced the Carousel, released the Pigeon update, removed the Carousel, and updated their guidelines to restrict certain optimization tactics (like virtual offices). In other words, with all the changes over the years, local SEO is now just as complex as regular website search engine optimization.
That’s the bad news.
The good news is that you are in complete control over one of the biggest local SEO ranking factors – your website.
Back in 2011, your website didn’t play a big role in your local SEO rankings. But those days are long gone and if you ignore the 6 website factors listed below, you will struggle to compete in local SEO. Whether you’re just getting started or if you’ve been at this for several years, review the factors below to ensure your website is set up properly to allow your business to rank high for local search results.
1. Contact Information
We’ll start with the easy stuff first. One of the most common mistakes I see is when businesses do not list their contact information on the website. Most importantly, make sure your name, address, and phone number (aka your NAP) are listed in text format on your website.
If you’re missing this information on your site or if you have it listed in images instead of text, then this is hurting your local rankings. This is an easy fix so let’s move on to the next factor.
2. Webpage Titles
The next factor are your webpage Titles (aka Title Tags). The webpage Title is one of the most important elements of a page for SEO because it tells Google what the page is about. Think your webpage Titles like chapters in a book. They need to be unique and descriptive so that it’s easy for the reader to quickly find what she’s looking for.
In our case with local SEO, the searcher is looking for local businesses. Therefore, it’s helpful to include the city and/or state in your webpage Titles to ensure Google knows your webpages are relevant when people are searching for a nearby business.
3. Schema Markup
Schema markup is relatively new, which means a lot of businesses are not yet using it. This is great news because it’s an opportunity to get a competitive advantage in local SEO.
Schema is HTML code that needs to be added to certain elements on your webpages. At a minimum, you’ll want to use schema markup on your business name, address, and phone number. Go to our contact page and view the source code to see this in action. Then have your webmaster validate your schema code using Google’s validation tool.
4. Location Pages
If you have multiple office locations, then you’ll want to consider building unique, robust location pages to give Google a 100% relevant page to rank in the search results. The key words here are unique and robust.
A very common mistake is to build lots of different locations pages with little to no content (or duplicate content). This will likely get you into trouble and hurt your rankings over the long term. Instead, build location pages with at least 500 words of unique content.
5. Great Content
Now that we’re on the topic of content, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of writing great content. Google is not interested in ranking webpages with mediocre content. In fact Google’s entire purpose is to identify the absolute #1 best webpage for every single phrase typed into their search engine.
With that in mind, clearly you need to take a long, hard, critical look at each webpage and compare it to the businesses that are already ranking at the top of Google. Often you’ll find that those other businesses provide more useful, relevant information.
6. Domain Authority
Last, but arguably most important, is what’s called your domain authority. Think of your domain authority like your website’s online reputation. If your website has a great reputation (high domain authority), then you’ll rank higher in Google.
How do you increase your website domain authority? Well, one of the biggest factors is the quantity and quality of links from other websites. In other words, if lots of other high domain authority websites link to your website (i.e. by referencing webpages and information on your website), then your website’s domain authority will naturally increase. On the flip side, if lots of low authority or spammy websites link to your website, then that can negatively impact your domain authority.
That’s why you hear so much about the importance of high quality backlinks. Again, this wasn’t a big factor in local SEO back in 2011, but times have changed. If you want to compete in local SEO, then you need to continuously be working to increase your domain authority.
Want More Local SEO Tips?
Click here to get The Ultimate Local SEO Checklist for tips on how to:
- Identify the best keywords in your local market
- Optimize your website for Local SEO
- Optimize your Google+ Local profile
- Get citations, links and reviews to boost your rankings
- And more…