Updated for accuracy December 12, 2017.
When you’re shopping for a product or service locally, what’s the first thing you do? If “Google it” wasn’t the first thing that popped into your head, I’m honestly surprised. (And I’d like to know what did—leave a comment below!)
Potential customers will do the same, so it’s important to make sure your business is showing up in the search results. And not only that--a staggering 75% of searchers won’t go past the first page.
With data like this backing it up, you can see that local search optimization is an essential part of small business marketing, and there are several easy steps you can take to improve yours today.
Before We Start
Consistency is key. Decide exactly how you want your business information to appear and use the exact same information and formatting for every listing you claim, every place your details appear on your website, and every social media account you create. Search engines cannot distinguish between certain subtle differences and are very likely to count any variations as different businesses, resulting in multiple listings with just slightly different information.
Now that we’ve covered those basics, here are three simple methods you can use to improve your local SEO!
NAP is the industry term for Name, Address, Phone Number. This basic information should be prominently and consistently displayed on your website. The header and footer are good places for it because those areas of your site are usually static—meaning, the information is saved in one place and then called and displayed on each page of your site.
If you have more than one location, they should each be listed. Create separate pages for each physical address and include directions, phone number, hours, promotions, etc. Make it as specific to that location as you can.
Depending on the number of locations, it’s perfectly acceptable to list only your main or corporate address in the header/footer and list the other locations only on their own pages. Having more than two or three addresses in the footer will make the area look cluttered.
Final note: Your NAP should always appear in text form, not as an image. Search engines can’t read images, and you need them to find that information. This isn’t as much of a problem as it used to be, but I do still see it from time to time.
Claiming Your Local Directory Listings
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for you to claim your listings. The more places you’re listed, the higher your domain authority and the better your chances of appearing first in search results. Some are obviously more important than others, so I recommend always claiming at least these three:
Aside from these, it’s also a good idea to set up social media profiles, even if you don’t plan to use them. As I covered in last week’s blog post on social media mistakes, you don’t need to promote on every social platform. But taking five minutes to set up a profile can help you, whether you post to it or not, because those social accounts appear in search results and provide extra verification of correct NAP information.
I recommend having an account on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Yelp, and—depending on what type of business you are—TripAdvisor.
Check the Data Aggregators for Accuracy
There are four main data aggregators: Factual, Infogroup, Acxiom, and Neustar/Localeze. Basically, they scrape data wherever it exists, collecting it and providing it to the hundreds of online directories across the web, including the major ones like Google. They’re the top of the food chain.
If you click through to Whitespark’s infographic, it’s actually interactive, and you can see by mousing over different areas who provides data to whom and vice versa.
One reason it’s important to claim your directory listings is that they can be overwritten by a data aggregator’s information, even if the original listing was accurate and the aggregator got something wrong. Having a verified listing gives you ownership of it and keeps it safe from these changes.
But because it’s virtually impossible to manually maintain this many listings by yourself, it’s a good idea to submit your business’s information to each aggregator exactly the way you want it listed. This ensures that all those listings in directories you’ve never even heard of match your stated information, thereby increasing your authority.
Keep these local SEO statistics in mind as you plan your digital marketing for 2018:
Optimizing for local search is a digital marketing step you can’t afford to skip. Even though everything I’ve covered here can be done yourself, the process can be time-consuming, so don’t rule out the option of having a professional take it off your plate. After all, we’re here to make digital simple.
Catherine has a degree in English literature and a passion for all things marketing. As Digital Specialist, her focus is on web design, search engine optimization, social media, online presence management, and project coordination.