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The SEO Advent Calendar: 24 Tips For Local SEO Success
Give your business the gift of local optimization this holiday season with columnist Marcus Miller's Local SEO Advent Calendar!
It’s that time again. The countdown to Christmas. The countdown to 2016.
This time of year always gets me to thinking about my marketing to-do list. It gets bigger every year (much like my children’s Christmas lists). This Christmas, though, I want to help you tick one big job off your marketing to-do list and give you the gift of improved visibility and Local SEO.
What Do You Want For Christmas?
More sales? More leads? More visits to your shop? All of this is only helped by solid online visibility and a positive reputation. What better gift could you give yourself this year to ensure prosperity of your business in 2016 and beyond?
However, like all business owners or store managers, you are time-challenged. No time for anything, let alone marketing. So my gift to you this year is 24 quick, simple tips you can put into place over 24 days to get your local visibility and reputation on track. These are all intended to take no more than 30 minutes (and, in most cases, far less).
So come with me and open the Advent calendar door to improved Local SEO for 2016 and beyond.
SEO Advent Calendar
Okay, so you can tackle these all in one go if you are super-keen (or mad), or, as I suggest, come to each one at the beginning of your day and tackle them one at a time.
Dec 1: Use A Local Phone Number
You are a local business, right? How can you better illustrate that than to use a local phone number? This is one of those “good for users and good for search engines” tips that you simply can’t beat.
Dec 2: Claim & Verify Your Google My Business page
Beyond your own website, Google My Business represents the best opportunity to quickly improve your local visibility. Yet many businesses have not claimed their profile. Get it claimed and get it optimized.
Dec 3: Optimize Your Google My Business Page
This is not complicated, yet is absolutely critical. In many ways, this is your shop window on Google, so you want to ensure that the information is complete and valid. Upload photos, and ensure you fill out all available fields.
Dec 4: Remove Duplicate Google My Business Pages
There is a surprisingly large number of duplicate Google My Business pages, and this can upset local visibility. A search for your business name that is restricted to Google+ usually will identify the page, and then you can report the page as a duplicate. For example:
site:plus.google.com "bowler hat" birmingham
Dec 5: Use Correct Categorization On Google My Business
Locate your page, and ensure the categorization is correct. This one tweak alone can have solid results, and if you are unsure, review the categories of other local sites in the map results.
Dec 6: Install An SEO Plugin To Your CMS
If you run WordPress, install Yoast’s WordPress SEO Plugin. This provides additional functionality, enabling you to create and filter sitemaps, noindex specific areas of the site that provide no value or are largely duplicate and tweak page titles and meta descriptions on a page-by-page level.
This is really useful; default WordPress is solid, but themes can often add new taxonomies for sliders and all sorts of meaning, so there is some cruft to tidy up.
Dec 7: Install A Local SEO Plugin To Your CMS
Yoast has a premium add-on for the SEO Plugin that introduces cutting-edge local SEO functionality for a tiny price. Opening hours, locations and Google Maps can all be added with the correct markup to help Google understand your site and improve the way your website is presented in search results. Best of all, it is super-easy to use.
Dec 8: Optimize Your Page Titles
You likely provide a range of services and have multiple pages for these services — so it follows that optimizing the titles clearly illustrates to a potential customer that you are indeed local. It also helps with local SEO, as Google loves page titles that help your users.
As an example, an emergency plumber may have the following service page title:
How much better would this be if it was:
Emergency Plumber - Birmingham, UK. 247 Call Out | Bob's Plumbing
We cover all the bases. Help Google and users understand quickly from the results what we do, where we do it and when we do it.
Dec 9: Optimize Meta Descriptions
It’s true that meta descriptions don’t directly influence positioning, but anyone who gives you that tired old line is missing the point. They do influence click-through, and that is what matters here. (It’s possible click-through and engagement may actually influence results, as well.)
Build on your page title with meta descriptions optimised to win you the click and the business.
Emergency Plumber - Birmingham, UK. 247 Call Out | Bob's Plumbing Emergency plumbing service across Birmingham UK. Call Any Time. Fast Service. Five star reviews. Call Bob at: 0121 123 4567.
Dec 10: Add Your Address To Every Page
Don’t be afraid to spell out where you are — to users and search engines. Add your name, address and phone number (NAP) in the footer or sidebar of your site. If you want to be really fancy, use schema markup. This further confirms where you are and helps you rank locally. Easy win.
Dec 11: Google Search Console
Google Search Console is a treasure trove (Christmas hamper?) of actionable information. It is diagnostic information with suggestions direct from the search engine. Paying heed to what you find here will only help Google understand your site and improve your visibility in search.
If you haven’t installed it, do so. If you have, review your account for any issues.
Dec 12: Fetch & Render
Google has a tool within the Search Console called Fetch & Render. This lets you know how Google views your site. This is important in the world of responsive design, as if Google can’t render your site, then they may not trust that it offers a good user experience.
Review the results here and take heed of the recommendations. Usually this just involves unblocking some resources in Robots.txt, so it’s not too onerous, and we have seen this have a positive impact for sites competing for those top spots.
Dec 13: Unique Product & Service Pages
Most businesses offer a range of services. Many business have all of these on a single page. The first rule of SEO is relevance, so ensure you have a single page for each service, and make sure you optimize these pages for the what and where.
Emergency Plumbing in Birmingham Emergency Locksmith in Birmingham
One page listing all services can never be as relevant as a single page for each service provided.
Dec 14: Unique Location Pages
Odds are you provide your services in multiple locations. You may well have offices in multiple locations. There is some care needed here, but it can make sense to have pages for all targeted locations (and certainly for each physical office).
There is some nuance to how you should approach location pages so it does not turn into a spam fest, but in essence, you want to have a page for each location targeted or at least detail micro and metro areas you cover on your contact and service pages.
Dec 15: Social Links
Your brand extends beyond your website onto the social web, so be sure to spell this out. There are technical ways to do this, and the Yoast WordPress SEO tool makes it easy for you WordPress users out there. You can, however, get 90 percent of the way there by linking out to your social profiles and ensuring they link back.
Dec 16: Reviews On Google My Business
It may be a bit of a stretch to get you where you need to be regarding reviews in 15 minutes, but you can get started thinking about reviews. Online reputation is huge, and recent surveys show usage and trust in reviews growing all the time.
In brief: You need to be thinking about reviews and pushing folks (primarily) to your Google My Business listing.
Today, all you need to do is make a list of 10 clients you believe would be happy to leave you a review, and email them with the instructions.
This is a simple and effective way to be more visible and to win more clicks from search. Often, asking the client to Google your name and location and then directing them to the little “review” button on the listing for your business will be more than enough.
Reviews are an area where you can develop a strategic advantage, as most people are just not willing to go the extra mile, so don’t settle for being just credible — aim to be super-credible.
Dec 17: Social Reviews
Google is not the only place to leave reviews, and you can ask customers to leave reviews on your Facebook page. Social referral can be a huge factor for local businesses (Anyone know a local plumber?), and these reviews will often show up in a brand search for your business. Win-win.
Dec 18: Citation Reviews
The final places for reviews are the business listings and important directories out there. These work for users who are looking at specific directories, and they can again show up for a brand search for your business. Nothing looks better than someone searching your business name and your third-party listings all have it.
Dec 19: Show Reviews With Your Organic Listings
Google makes it relatively easy to mark up your site and show reviews with your organic listings. You need to insert a small section of correctly marked-up code and reference the review source, but it is super-simple from a code perspective and can result in your service pages showing five gold stars in the search results.
Dec 20: Citation Consistency
This is so, so, so important. It’s kind of dull but absolutely essential for solid local visibility. To make the most of your time, tap your details into Moz Local or one of the online tools, and get to work on any inconsistencies. If you really want to dig in, you will need to perform a manual citation audit, but it is all time well spent.
Dec 21: Citation Optimisation
If your citations actually pop up, or the sites containing them do, then you need to furnish them with the same level of attention as you would pages on your own site. Testimonials. Images. Opening hours.
What do your customers need to do business with you? Most people don’t go the extra mile. Do so, and you will see improved traction from your citations, and you may get an SEO kickback at the same time.
Dec 22: Citation Categories
Even if you have never created a citation or business listing, you could have several. Odds are they are not correct, and one key element that often gets overlooked is the categorisation. Ensure your business is listed in the correct category for the services you offer.
Dec 23: Yellow Pages Duplication
Many citation sources offer advertising options. These can allow you to be listed in multiple locations with different phone numbers and options. In the UK, the Yell directory offers this service, and we have seen it have ruinous implications on citation consistency. Find duplicates and nuke them, and certainly don’t pay the directories for them!
Dec 24: Local Links
I hate to say it, but it always comes back to links. There is a lot you can do. Much of it is really powerful. But you will still need links in many cases. The trick here is to get the easy links. Will your suppliers link to you? Are there local charities? Can you link out to customers? Do your social platforms have links? Do your citations link to the correct pages?
Links can be tough to get, but odds are you have several easy links that you have yet to gain. Spend 15 minutes looking at supplier sites and looking for charities with sponsor pages, and see if you can win a couple of local links to help give you that final push.
Dec 25 — Eat, Drink, Be Merry!
That’s it — the big day. If you have taken action on all of these points, or even several, you can kick back for a week or so and look forward to improved visibility in the weeks and months to come. What more could the busy business owner want from Santa?
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.