Local SEO: how to attract local customers in a digital age

Paul Morris
Director | Superb Digital
7th December 2015

Once the preserve of tech savvy companies and big corporations, a website is something we now expect pretty much every business to have.

As well as what it might imply about your business in the 21st century, without an online presence of any kind, you could be losing out on a whole lot of business while your competitors' phones are ringing off the hook.

What is Local SEO and why is it important?

Local SEO is distinctive from other types of SEO in that it specifically targets localised and geographical searches. If you're running a brick and mortar business, and want to attract local customers, then your approach should definitely focus more on local SEO.

Local SEO has really come to the fore in the last few years. This may in part be driven by the rise of mobile internet, which is changing the way we search. Google's Pigeon update, which was launched last year, is an indicator of just how much emphasis the search giant is putting on local search results.

This can also be seen not just in the localised search results you receive but the way in which they are presented.

Google's Pigeon Update

You may have noticed when you are searching for a business in Google that it returns a list of nearby businesses in a little table, along with pins in a map denoting where those businesses are.

This table often sits above all other organic search results, helping it attract a great click through rate. This area including the table is called a ‘local pack' and it's exactly the kind of thing local SEO is targeting.

Businesses in Bristol

Pigeon changed a lot of the rules surrounding local SEO. One of these changes was the reduction in local pack results from seven to three, meaning the competition to get your business in these listings is fiercer than ever. 

Another game changer was the shrinking of the geographical radius around any given search. This means that implementing an effective local SEO strategy means more than just optimising for city name.

It makes sense to find out what geographical neighbourhood you fall into and start optimising for that name as well. So if your business is in the Stokes Croft area of Bristol it pays to start mentioning it on your website. 

Experts in the SEO community are constantly assessing how Google is changing to accommodate local search results, but exactly how do you go about optimising your site for local search? 

What factors can influence local SEO? 

There are many methods you can employ to help get your website ranking locally. Below I've listed some important strategies, but, as with all SEO strategies, the first thing you'll need to do is to focus on your onsite content. 

  • On-site optimisation
    Experts at seo specialist Moz have estimated that up to 21% of local ranking factors come from on-page signals. In other words, getting to grips with the SEO basics like good keyword research and regular quality content of is an absolute must for your local rankings. 
  • Location specific content
    As well as talking about your business you should use your website to talk about your city, town, and your local neighbourhood. This might work better on your about page but it's important to produce location specific content on your homepage as well. 
  • Outbound links
    Don't be afraid to link out to high authority local websites. Who is influential in your area? Be involved and support local organisations.  
  • Directories
    After the local packs (which it's now very difficult to outrank) local searches will often return a huge amount of business directories. Whilst the strategy of old was to hammer as many directories as possible, it now pays to focus a lot more attention on the most influential and local players. This can include the likes of Yell, Yelp, FreeIndex and Netmums amongst many others. Try typing in a few local keyword searches that relate to your business and see what directories come up the most; these are the directories you then need to spend time targeting. 
  • Name, Address and Phone Consistency
    Making sure your name, address and phone number (NAP) are consistent across all your directory listings may seem like a no brainer but it's an important local SEO ranking factor. Whether you get a link or not from your content, citations are also important, so getting your business name correct and consistent is essential. 
  • Reviews
    Reviews are important for two reasons. First of all people read them and getting good ones will give people more confidence in your business. The second is that they will help you rank locally. Getting reviews often involves being proactive so you should actively encourage your customers to leave reviews. There are loads of review sites and some of them do cross over with the directories. Make sure you target the ones relevant to your industry sector. 
  • Backlinks
    One of the consequences of the Pigeon update was to fuse local search ranking signals with more traditional SEO factors. In layman's terms this means that getting high quality links from high domain authority sites will all go towards helping your site rank locally. 

There's a lot more to attracting business online than just building a website. People still have to find it and one of the most common ways they will do this will be through a search engine like Google.

Getting your website to rank well in the search engine results pages (SERPs) for local search terms can take time and will largely depend on how on the ball your competition is. Stick at it though and you could be reaping all the rewards a highly optimised local business website will bring. 

For more information on local ranking factors, Moz have conducted a highly in-depth survey that's well worth looking over. 

About the author

Paul Morris is the founder and director of Superb Digital a Bristol SEO agency. Paul writes about numerous digital marketing techniques and strategies from SEO through to social media and content marketing. For more tips and insights read the blog or follow him on Google +, Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.

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