Local SEO is a craft of its own – if you want your business to appear at the top of Google every time someone searches for your location and industry, you need to master it.
In this blog, we will be concentrating on appearing in the actual local/maps listings (as shown below) for the search terms that trigger them. There are a number of different local SEO tactics you can use to target longer tail searches, but it would confuse things too much to try and detail them in the same blog post.
Note that although I used a local qualifier to make these
results appear (by putting ‘Portsmouth’ in my search term), you’ll also see
this box appear when you search a term that has ‘local intent’ and Google knows
(or guesses) where you are. If you type ‘plumbers’ or ‘restaurants’ in Google,
it assumes you mean local ones and so shows you this information. This is
especially relevant on mobile devices where you should get results based on
your current location.
The most important thing for local SEO is to verify and add information to your Google My Business (GMB) page. There needs to be a separate page for each location for which you want to appear, each one complete with the information relevant to each location (address, phone number, etc.).
Google My Business used to be a bit of a pain to set up for
multiple locations but Google has made it a lot easier to create and manage
multiple pages under a single business over the past few years.
Here’s what you need to do:
First up, you’re going to need to go to Google My Business and set up your account.
You’ll be asked to fill out your business details and, if you’re setting up
multiple locations, provide the information of where your business is actually
You can add new locations later.
Before your business listing goes live, you’ll need to verify it with Google and there are a few ways you can do this. Most commonly, you’ll be sent a postcard to your business address with a verification code – this can take up to four days to receive.
Some business listings can be verified over the phone, by
email or instantly (if you’ve already verified your website in Search Console).
If you’re only operating from one location, then forget this
step and move on to #4.
To add a new business location, head to the main dashboard
in Google My Business and scroll down the left-hand menu, until you see the
“Add new location” tab.
You’ll be taken through the same steps you took when you created the main page for your business. You just need to add the relevant details for each specific location every time you add a new page: address, phone number, opening hours, etc.
All you’re doing here is creating a new Google My Business page (with the relevant info) and linking it to your main account.
Whether you’ve got one business location or dozens, you need to make sure all your business details are correctly filled out for each one. This ensures Google is able to provide the correct details to users, which is ultimately what generates foot traffic from your local SEO presence.
This is important so make sure you have the following
details correctly filled out for each location:
Collectively, all of this information is going to help users
choose between you and rival businesses. A complete profile of information
tells users you’re a legitimate business they can trust and details like
opening times can make all the difference when it comes to bringing online
searches into your stores.
Finally, images in your GMB listings are crucially important. First of all, people want to know you’re legit so show people the exterior of your building and include some internal shots with staff for good measure. Even if you’re a service orientated business and you’re simply listing an office, decide what kind of impression you want to make and invest in some high-quality photos.
For restaurants, cafes, hotels and other hospitality brands,
images are even more important. Users want to see interiors, menus, hotel rooms
and get a general feel for what the experience is going to be like in each location.
If you’re selling products instead of lattes, then upload
your product images. If you’re cutting hair, showcase some of your best work
and happiest customers (get permission first).
These images are where you’re going to show the best of what
your business has to offer – make the most of it.
This sounds really obvious, but it is surprising how many websites do not have this information. At a minimum, the address should be on your contact page, but if you are serious about local SEO it should be on every page of the site. Here are Google’s actual guidelines from its Local Business Quality Guidelines.
Putting the address on every page for a one- or two-location
company is usually easy to do and pays dividends in improving the local
relevance of a site.
You can find it here. This was updated a year ago, but it contains the latest information on how to optimise for local SEO. It isn’t the only valuable resource; there is a plethora of information out there (even on Google’s own site) but it’s a good starting point.
One of the major parts of local SEO is the citation aspect. A citation is a mention of your site on another site. In Google’s case, it uses a specific set of directories and listing sites from which it gains data. It then uses this information to cross reference your site. If you have a Google My Business listing, but don’t appear anywhere else on the internet, Google takes a dim view of whether you exist or not.
Having these citations is like your ‘digital footprint’ – Google
can track your existence across multiple sites and can verify that you have a
presence in the non-digital world by your listings elsewhere.
The key thing is to make sure your business is listed on
trustworthy sites and your business details are 100% accurate across all of
Here are ten of the top citation sources for businesses in the
As well as the list of citation directories that Google
exchanges information with, it’s also wise to find other local information
sites to associate yourself with, as it strengthens the links your site has
with its geography.
Wordtracker has a good guide to citation building. Don’t underestimate
the amount of time needed for citations. It’s not unusual for each location to
take a day or so, depending on the initial accuracy of the data and whether the
company is already there or not.
Schema allows you to categorise the important information on
your site, which also allows Google to deliver this info to users. If you try
and imagine how hard it is to identify an address or opening hours
algorithmically, you can see how this makes Google’s life easier. Telephone
numbers are simply tagged as telephone numbers, cities are categorised as
cities, and so on.
This allows Google to use your business details and include them
in search features, such as its Knowledge Graph.
Related article: How to optimise for the Google Knowledge Graph
Adding schema to your pages varies from a bit fiddly to pretty tricky depending on factors like your CMS and access to the right templates. If you’re not comfortable with handling schema code, then you’ll need to get a developer or agency on board.
There are there different formats you can use to add schema to
You can get more Google recommendations from this developer’s page for Local Business
Listings, which includes code samples.
First, you’ll need to determine which schema data you want to
make use of (opening times, reviews, telephone, etc.) and then find the
corresponding code at Schema.org.
Next, you’ll want to insert these code snippets into a
going with schema microdata, then you’ll want to find the relevant HTML code
and insert it into a new HTML file, which you can call in via PHP.
Either way, make sure you’re formatting your code correctly by
following Schema.org and Google guidelines.
You can use Google’s Structured Data
Testing Tool to make sure your code is correct, troubleshoot potential
problems and preview how your code will appear in Google Search.
It’s a great tool, so make the most of it.
Once you’re happy, head over to Google Search Console and crawl your schema
to check everything is working as it should. This might take a few days to
complete, depending on how often Google crawls your website.
If you’re not able to verify your schema markup in Google Search
Console, there are a few common problems worth looking at:
Basically, if you’re having issues at this stage, it’s almost
certainly a code problem and you really have to thoroughly analyse your schema
Welcome to the world of coding. Luckily, local business schema markup is pretty short.
Name, address and phone number – in local SEO parlance this is
called NAP, and you’ll see a whole load of guidance related to making sure this
is consistent. It’s extremely important to make sure that these bits of
information are the same in three places:
Google recently stated that it might consider suspending listings
that are not amended for six months or more, so make sure you remember to log
in regularly. You don’t want to lose a precious top three position through not
maintaining your listing!
Local SEO is an art of its own, related but separate from
organic SEO. To rank in the ‘Snack Pack’, a different emphasis needs to be made
in your SEO campaign with a focus on those aspects that help with getting those
prized map pins. For hyper-local businesses operating in certain spheres this
might be the most important aspect of your SEO campaign; for others it might be
quite important, but needs to be done alongside your standard SEO.
These tips should help you concentrate your efforts in the right
direction for the next time your MD says: ‘Why don’t we appear when I type
‘industry town’ into Google?’
Kerry is Head of SMB SEO. Kerry started her digital marketing career with a web design company back in 1996, then moved in-house as a digital marketing manager before moving back to the agency fold with Vertical Leap as an SEO specialist in 2006, moving to the department head role in 2011. She currently lives in Bishop's Waltham with her husband and daughter.
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