Imagine creating a content library that answers all your customers’ questions and contains posts that are so useful and relevant that you see a flood of organic traffic to your website. You’re delighting visitors left and right, and preparing your sales team for the influx of new business.
Then, you check out the audience section of Google Analytics and see that 100% of your organic traffic came from areas well outside the region you service, maybe even outside of the country.
But it’s not a sign that you should throw in the towel on your content marketing efforts, it’s just a signal that you need a local search engine optimization strategy. If you have a brick-and-mortar business or only service certain geographical locations, it’s essential to optimize your website for your location, because the stakes are high.
According to research by GO-Globe, 89 percent of study respondents said they had searched for a local business on their phone, and 58 percent reported doing so daily. Of those, half visited that local business within a day. This means if you’re not appearing in local search, you’re losing potential customers.
But it’s not enough to just show up on page 1 of your targeted SERPs. In this post, we’ll walk through everything you need to consider when optimizing your website for geo-targeted search terms, including local queries that don’t specify a city or state.
Google is no dummy, so the search engine automatically personalizes SERPs according to a person’s location and browsing history to provide the most relevant results. But it can’t send searchers to your page if it can’t tell where you’re located.
On-page SEO signals include factors such as your URL, title tag, H1, linking, image file names, social sharing buttons, and more. When it comes to optimizing for geo, some of these signals are more important than others. (Still, check out this post from Brian Dean to get the big picture of what you need for on-page SEO.)
You will want to ensure that your business name, address, and phone number (a.k.a. NAP) are present and consistent on each page of your site, with an emphasis on consistent. Many businesses include this as a footer, just like this Boston boutique, Olives and Grace:
You can do this by adding your NAP to your Schema.org markup. You can view more information on how to optimize your local business site with Schema.org, but if you already know what you’re doing, here’s the code you need to add or change your NAP:
Your location should also be included in your homepage title tag and within your website’s content, whether you have a blog or just product descriptions. Including your region in your URL is also a strong signal, but it’s not always practical for a homepage.
In this case, you should consider having a dedicated landing page for your location that includes your city or state in the URL, as well as an embedded Google map with your business marker. If you have multiple locations or a broad service area, you could have a page for each region you serve. Alternatively, you could have a page that lists each of your locations, either with an H1 tag or a link to a map. Here’s an example from Sweetgreen:
Once your on-page factors are set, be sure to keep an eye on the Audience > Geo section of Google Analytics to see where your visitors are located, and identify any issues that may be causing confusion or poor targeting.
Google My Business
This is the first thing many brick-and-mortar businesses do to boost their web presence. If you haven’t already, register your company’s Google My Business page. This handy little summary pops up when a user clicks your name in the top section of SERPs, potentially giving them all the information they need when deciding whether to pay you a visit.
Your Google My Business Page includes your address, hours, phone number, popular times people visit you, photos, reviews, and links to your pages on third-party sites, such as Yelp or social pages. Here’s an example from the “craft beer Boston” SERP:
It’s important that this page is thorough and consistent with your brand and messaging, because searchers who view this may not even make it to your site. Ensure your description and categories are on point, and that you have as many high-resolution images as possible.
Aside from creating content that’s been optimized for local queries (which we’ll dive into shortly) there are some other factors that play into your regional SEO:
Link signals are very important to your local SEO. Within your content, you can link to other local businesses (maybe not the competition, but complementary businesses or those with whom you have partnerships), government sites, news sources, or educational resources from local institutions. Relevancy is key, so think about what might be useful to your customers. Inbound links are a little harder to obtain, but getting involved in your community and hosting events is a great way to gain links, especially from your area newspaper.
External Location Signals
Your external location signals include the presence of your NAP and other business information in any third-party directory, such as Yelp, Angie’s List, Better Business Bureau, or Yellow Pages. This is another reason why a consistent NAP is essential, because these directories will pull your information from that. You should note that some of these sites also host reviews, and you’ll want to monitor what people are saying about you.
Your customers can leave reviews in many places, including your own site, third-party directories, social media pages, and online forums. The more reviews you have (good or bad) coming from your region, the better your local SEO. As mentioned, though, you will want to keep track of your reviews so you can respond appropriately, and we recommend Trust Pilot as a tool to help you do that. Also, here’s a handy list of online review sites from HubSpot.
Even if you don’t plan on actively posting, you should have social media pages on all channels, including Google+ (yes, it still exists), Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. If your business is highly visual in nature, say in the fashion or art industry, then you should be on Instagram, too. Many users look first to social media when researching a new business, so you at least want a presence if not a full-fledged strategy for engagement.
Optimize Your Content for Local Search
Of course, content marketing is at the heart of what we do at MarketMuse, so we wouldn’t leave you without tips on optimizing your content for local search. Here’s a video from our Customer Help Center that explains how to do it using our software:
For instance, let's say you're an attorney specializing in bike accidents. You could create content that informs visitors about the current bike lane coverage in your city, as well as statistics about bike riders in your area and tips on staying safe while riding. Additionally, you could report on news that affects bike riders, such as changes in traffic laws or new bike paths.
Here's another example: If you’re a boutique on your city’s Main Street and you find that people are often searching for shopping destinations in your area, it may be a good idea to write a post that positions Main Street as the go-to place to shop in your city. Describe and link to other businesses nearby, and make an enticing case for searchers who want to spend a day shopping in your town.
You don’t even need a blog to have optimized content. You can examine your location page for ways to improve the breadth and depth, including written directions, maps, and information about your area. Product descriptions can also be optimized for local search, but beware of keyword stuffing.
Local SEO is of course a means of bringing more customers through your door, but it’s also a way to help your customers find what they need. This, in turn, helps you connect with your community and establish your business in an organic way.
Embrace your community and ensure that you show up in relevant SERPs any time someone in your area searches your key topics. Our team of SEO experts is standing by to help.