Local search engine optimization, or Local SEO, is particularly important for businesses that compete in a local area. This includes many small and medium businesses (SMBs) that compete with other similar businesses in a town or city or other small regions.
The challenge for these businesses to be found on the internet is different than for big companies competing on a national or international stage. In some ways, it’s easier to compete in a given region than it is to compete nationally, but it also brings a different set of strategies and ranking factors for SEO.
Standing Out on a Local Stage
While many SEO tactics work for SMBs and should be included in your local SEO strategy, the big difference is to optimize for your product or service in the local market in which you compete. It’s not enough to just optimize for that product or service, you have to encourage search engines to rank you for that product or service in your market area.
Geotags added to keywords are only one strategy. Your keywords should include your local geographic tag wherever it makes sense in the page title, headings (h-tags), and copy. This helps define your service area for search engines.
Other Local Strategies – NAP
Search engines use your name, address, and phone number (NAP) as a sort of identifier or ID for your business. This helps search engines identify your business and its location. The challenge that often happens is that this NAP can vary among the businesses’ different online presences.
For example, if your business presence online still shows an old address, a different phone number, or even a variation of your name in some listings, search engines get confused as to whether this is the same business or a different business. When that happens, search engines lose confidence that they know the correct NAP for your business and are likely to show you lower in the search results because of that.
Citations and NAP
Citations are mentions of your business online. There are literally dozens and dozens of local directories where your business may be listed. These, along with local directories such as Google My Business, tell the search engines who you are and where you compete. If there is no consistency among these properties, you will be confusing the search engines, and your local rankings will suffer as a result.
Luckily there are ways to overcome these discrepancies and thereby increase your rankings for local search. Online tools such as Yext, and others, can offer a way to solidify your NAP in an automated fashion, making the job less manual.
If you don’t have the budget for an automated tool, your next step is to do a manual search of your business. Try searching by company name to see if any discrepancies show up in your NAP. Make sure all listings you uncover have the correct NAP, otherwise contact those listings with corrections. Do the same with a search for your phone number and then your address, again checking for discrepancies.
If you are aware of a past phone number or address, try searching those as well to see if they are still showing up online. Chances are, if you have a history of a different address, phone number, or company name, there will still be listings under those old identifiers.
After you have optimized your website for local search, you must make sure your online presence has a single NAP identifier. Giving search engines the confidence that they have the correct NAP, means they are more comfortable ranking you higher. Remember the mission of search engines is simple – to provide the best answer to a query. Give them the confidence that your listing is the best answer.