Local SEO is supposed to be one of the easier optimization tasks, but more small businesses than ever are finding that it can be more difficult than anticipated. Every year the level of importance of each factor tends to ebb and flow some, but all of the included ranking factors here are traditionally SEO efforts that must be included with a website for local ranking success.
It all begins when you are able to make a proper category association for your website. You will choose categories at two distinct points during the SEO process. When you first enter your business details to create a listing, you’re asked to select a primary category for your organization. This primary category is the most important you can choose because the sub-categories that you fill in later are all based on the primary category.
1. Your Address Matters
Including the physical address of your business will help you show up in local searches. In the past, Google users would have needed to put the city location in a search to get local results. That still happens, but mobile device users also have local results for searches based on the city where they are based. If a user is in Seattle and they put in a search for “rental cars,” the first results will be local businesses and their addresses. All regional cities are filters into this results as well.
2. Citation Quality Counts
You need to have consistent citations in order to achieve consistent results. If there are differences in the name of your business or there is incorrect contact information in the citations that are online, then your ranking factors are going to be hurt dramatically. If you have moved your business to a new location, make sure that everyone knows your new location. Otherwise your domain authority will be split amongst all of the incorrect citations and not just the correct ones.
3. Your Content Must Match
The contact information from your social networking sources must match the contact information found on your website. This goes back to the overall quality of the information that is being provided to the internet at large. If you’ve got two different phone numbers, which one is a person supposed to call in order to get an appointment? Confusion is bad for business and its bad for your local SEO ranking as well.
4. Who Has Given You a Citation?
Just having a citation from another website is not good enough any more. There are great citations, good citations, and bad citations. The best citations come from others in your local community who are also considered experts in their industry. If they are linking to you in any way, even without an actual link but just through information sharing, then you’ll be able to have a better overall ranking. If your citations are coming from link farms and questionable websites, then there’s a good chance that Google might decide to penalize you.
5. Have Authority In Your Domain
Domain authority is a measurement standard that looks to see how well a website stacks up against similar websites. Many factors go into the domain authority score, from the amount of positive/negative reviews that have been received to the quality of incoming links. The goal of any local business is to publish a strong website. Getting social mentions, creating content that earns links, and engaging with your customer base are often the best ways to improve this ranking factor.
6. Always Verify
Google offers owners the option to verify their listings on their local Plus page. This is a basic process where all you need to do is enter a PIN to authenticate that you really are who you say you are. This gives search engines and your customers an added level of trust when taking a look at your business. The more trust that you are able to build, then the better off your search rankings are going to be on a long-term basis.
7. Include the City and State
The landing page title of your website cannot be ignored. It’s a common error to leave the landing description title tag blank. This will automatically populate the field or even leave it blank – both of which you do not want. Use your title tag to include the city and state/province of where your business happens to be located. In doing so, you’ll give the search engine crawlers another chance to emphasize local searches so you can connect with local customers.
8. Manage the Links
Google will penalize you for bad incoming links. Organic results are one of the biggest players in the local SEO ranking game. This means that you need to have authoritative sites giving you incoming links to your content instead of directory resources. Paid links that are incoming are the absolute worst thing you can have. Schedule time every month to just go over the links that come into your site and then contact site owners to take down links that could penalize you. If other sites won’t bring down this questionable links voluntarily, you can use the Google Disavow Tool to separate yourself from them and not get penalized.
9. A Good Reputation
Positive reviews are a good thing, but well written positive reviews will enhance your local SEO ranking. A good reputation has two factors that must be considered here: it only takes 10 reviews to get a star rating on Google and that rating can affect your placement. The quality of the review also matters because authenticity is what is sought. If your profile is getting flooded with reviews, there’s actually a good chance that some of them could get filtered out. Google says you can ask for reviews, but that you’re not supposed to solicit a positive review for an incentive.
10. It’s All in the Name
Your business name can actually affect your local SEO ranking. Names that have a specific service in the title tend to get ranked higher than those that have generic names. If your business doesn’t have service descriptors in it, then you can’t just change your name in Google. You’d have to legally change your name through your jurisdiction’s name registration process. For new businesses, however, take note: John Doe Services won’t generally rank as high as John Doe Plumbing and Electrical Services.
11. What’s Your Area?
Having your area code published on your Google Plus page provides you with a surprising number of ranking benefits. Local searches mean having access to local numbers. If you have a toll-free number that customers can use to contact you, then enter this number in the secondary listings as you create your Plus page or Google point of contact. The local area code will help to add a local ranking benefit because you aren’t seen any longer as a national entity.
12. Third Party Reviews Add Up
Having reviews on third party websites is just as important as having reviews on Google. This continues the establishment of your overall online reputation. The quantity of the reviews tends to matter first, then the quality of the reviews, and then the actual ranking that a reviewer has given you. Search engines are aware of the fact that reviews exist on other websites, even though they are soliciting their own customer reviews as well. This is done because it provides search engine users with more overall value. Not only do they get instant access to Google’s independent reviews, but they also provide links that are useful to third-party reviews.
13. Get It Tagged
Having all of your website tags with city and state locations, not just your title tag, can provide an extra ranking boost. Including city/state/province information with all of your website tags can sometimes be time consuming, but it could be beneficial. If you’ve got thousands of pages, however, that’s a time consuming, expensive process that you probably don’t want or need to do. Make sure all of your primary pages have this data, however, so that you’ll be able to effectively reach local searchers with your information.
14. Page Rankings Matter Too
Each page has an authority just as each domain has an authority. Most businesses will just focus on the page authority of their home page and there’s nothing wrong with that. This issue comes up for a business like a real estate company that may have different landing pages for all of the different realtors. Everything needs to come together and be designated within your domain authority so the most effective ranking can be achieved.
By focusing on these 14 local SEO ranking factors, you’ll be able to design a domain presence that will get you a potential #1 ranking on your keyword search terms. When done correctly, it can also help you create a higher overall conversion rate. Get to work today on these factors and the improvements could begin happening as soon as tomorrow.