Phase 1: Market Research
I know it's not sexy, but we all need to do it.
For local search your concerns should lie with keywords which generate SERPs with blended local results, local specific results or the infamous G+ '7-Pack'. If you're not familiar with the '7-Pack' this is what it looks like:
The relevant keywords which are returning the above results are local-specific terms which you should be targeting to rank your business listings as well as your website pages.
Let's take a look at what happens when I search for 'SEO Agency', keep in mind that I am currently based out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Here are the SERPs for 'SEO Agency':
Now let's take a look at what the SERPs show when I search for 'Philadelphia SEO Agency':
Notice some similarities?
As you can see, your location does influence what your SERPs display, even when entering queries without any location-specific terms. So how do these websites influence their ability to show up in the SERPs for local users?
The answer is location-specific business listings.
At this point I'm sure there are at least a few of you questioning the efficacy of ranking for local search - they don't get much search volume after all. What they do get though is highly focused traffic which will convert at a high rate.
If a fat ROI and/or the ability to meet with clients person-to-person means anything to you then ranking locally is a string you should add to your bow immediately.
Phase 2: Doing it Right
By now you should have a pretty firm grip on what we're trying to do here with these local business listings. If not, let's refresh for a moment.
By creating contextual relevancy between your business and your physical location within the eyes of Google you will enable your pages (both on your site as well as the business listings themselves) to begin ranking for these local search terms, which are effectively geo-specific longtail keywords.
Moving forward, I'd like to cover some of the best practices you should abide by when creating your business listings. These guidelines are very important to follow - hopefully there weren't too many of you opening new windows after reading Phase 1 and spamming out a bunch of business listing sites
NAP is a common acronym used in Local SEO which stands for 'Name, Address, Phone Number'. You literally need all three of these things in order to register your business in the vast majority (if not all, but I don't like working in absolutes) business listing sites out there. This stuff needs to be totally uniform for each location and you should try to avoid ever having to change this information as it can be a major pain.
Your business name should be brandable (duh) and simple, easy to read and without any special characters like asterixes, underscores, hyphens, etc.
If you do not have a physical address you should look into using a virtual office (in your area) which will forward mail to your location. I do not use PO boxes, they look very unprofessional on a listing and many do not accept them at all. You can also look into co-working spaces or buildings which rent space for a few days a month. Once your address has been chosen settle on a format for the address and use that format in every listing.
Tip: See what address format Google Maps uses for the location, use that one.
2) Web Design
Your ultimate goal here is conversion, so make sure you have a website which looks professional, branded and is optimized for conversion.
Conversion optimization is outside of the scope of this thread but here's a great resource you should check out if you're not familiar with CRO:
3) Business Synopses
Just about every listing site I've ever seen has a section in their submission form where you write a general synopsis, or description of your business. Avoid the mistake that many business owners make and do not repeatedly use the same description across multiple listings.
Some of you will probably be tempted to automate or outsource this process and I can't say I'm against that at all. It's smart business. Remember, you're the boss - outsource simple tasks and save yourself for things like actually running your business and counting your money
Just make sure that the content itself is high-quality and includes your relevant keywords which you uncovered during Phase 1. Also be sure to include your location as well.
You should also make sure to optimize the photos/pictures which you include in your business listings, try to stay unique with these as well if you have the budget or photo library for it. Here's a good guide to SEO for Images:
4) Chase the Freshness Factor
Google seems to favor 'fresh' content over 'old' content when it comes to the SERPs, this same rule applies to your listings pages.
If you're not familiar with 'Freshness' take a look at this article: http://www.theedesign.com/blog/2014/serp-r...algorithm-rules
What I like to do is check out which of my listings are beginning to rank the best and then make occasional updates to those pages every few weeks. This is a philosophy I follow in lots of different areas of Internet Marketing - building on what works.
Making an Excel spreadsheet for this process is hugely, hugely useful.
Tip: When you did your market research, did you see something like a Yelp, Yellow Pages or other business listing site come up? If you did you need to make a listing on their. It's far easier to rank inner pages from a site which already ranks for the keywords you want to be ranking for, thanks Hummingbird
Hope you local business owners and SEOs enjoyed the post!
Here's some sites for those of you based in the USA, get to listing!
http://primeplaces.here.com/ (parking and petrol stations only at the moment)
This post has been edited by Anticsz: May 19 2014, 06:06 PM