With the amount of people using mobile search increasing year on year, optimizing a website for local search is becoming more of a necessity to remain competitive in the online space. When you consider that 9 out of 10 mobile search users have taken action as a result of a mobile search query (source: searchengineland.com) it becomes apparent that failure to implement a local SEO strategy could be losing you potential business.
There are similarities and differences between optimizing a site for a global and local audience. Keywords are important regardless, although in a local campaign, one would include terms with geographical location in, such as ‘electricians London‘. On page optimization is a must for either, and meta data, heading tags and content all need to be working in harmony to enhance your site’s ability to rank highly for your chosen keywords.
Adding a blog to your business website is another good tactic to capture location specific, long tail traffic. Writing posts which focus on the geographical area you are targeting, about topics in your market niche, is a good way of generating interest and possible sales from potential customers in the local vicinity.
Although there are similarities between global and local SEO for off-site optimization too, there are some tactics which are more specific to a local SEO campaign.
Choose a country specific TLD
If you wish to target a location in Germany, use a .de extension domain if possible. If you want to rank well in Germany, having a .co.uk won’t have the relevancy a .de extension will have. If your company already has a generic domain such as a .com, and doesn’t have the resources to acquire a country specific TLD and optimize it, set your geo-targeting to the appropriate country in Google Webmaster Tools.
Local Online Communities
Many towns and cities have online communities. Becoming a member of these communities and participating in discussions will give strong local signals to the search engines. You may even be able to get links back to your site, but don’t abuse this as it will be regarded as spam.
Although submitting to hundreds of directories is no longer considered an effective link building tactic, submitting your business site to a local directory will give strong signals to search engines that your company is connected with a specific area.
Google + Local
Earlier this year Google Places was replaced entirely with Google + Local. Having a Google + Local page is a vital component of any local search campaign. Unlike Google Places, Google + Local pages will be indexed. This may sometimes result in a business Google + Local page being included in blended natural SERPS.
Some SEO’s also believe that customer reviews on a Google + Local page, may be part of the algorithm the search engines use to rank sites for local search. This is an educated assumption considering that social signals are becoming an increasingly important ranking factor. The downside to Google + Local reviews for businesses, is that one bad review can harm your online reputation, so customer service needs to be outstanding in the offline as well as online world, to capitalize on the potential SEO benefits of reviews.
Like it’s global partner, local SEO is becoming more about adopting good marketing practices and connecting with potential customers, rather than cold, hard link building. As long as search engine algorithms use links as an important ranking factor, it will always be beneficial to build links from quality, local directories and to acquire links from local sites. However, getting involved in local online communities and getting your satisfied customers to leave reviews is a tactic which is becoming increasingly important to a local search campaigns.
Guest Author: Alastair Kane is an SEO Executive and local search expert who works for Strategic Internet Consulting a digital marketing agency based in the UK.