Should you be focusing on local SEO?

Should your online marketing campaign be focusing on local SEO? Here, Liberty’s new recruit Ben Magee offers some helpful hints and tips.

With so many facets of online marketing out there, it can be hard to know whether to use local, organic or PPC optimisation to bring traffic to your website.

Ultimately the importance of local SEO depends on the size and type of your business, but it’s hard to dispute that it has a huge role to play in any optimisation campaign and is dangerous to overlook given the recent trend of Google updates.

Venice Update: a move towards universal results

The Venice Update that was rolled out back in March targeted local search results and had a huge impact on all local business owners.

Unlike previous Google updates, Venice made local search results more relevant. Presuming you are allowing Google access to your location, the Venice update serves up the results it deems most relevant to your query and where you are.

Prior to this update, searches that involved place names would return a Search Engine Results Page (SERP) full of organic results. Post-Venice searches for services now return a first page dominated by Google Places listings.

What this ultimately means is that, when a Google search is performed, the user will receive results based on their location rather than general results about the industry.

So what can I do to rank better locally?

In his annual compilation of the opinions of the leading minds of Local SEO, David Mihm set out what are currently accepted to be the major dos and don’ts of ranking well on a SERP that is dominated by local results.

The top 5 most important factors based on this survey are –

  1. Having a physical address in city of search
  2. Proper category associations
  3. Proximity of address to centroid (the central point of a city as allocated by Google, not a Terminator robot…)
  4. Domain authority of website
  5. Quantity of structured citations (Internet Yellow Pages, data aggregators)

While these points may seem fairly self-explanatory, points 1 and 3 have the potential to cause problems if they’re not considered before embarking on a Local SEO campaign. For example, a business that provides services across all of South Wales but is based in Caerphilly will need a well-structured local SEO campaign to also rank well in Cardiff, Swansea and Newport.

In this instance, the company website will need to have references to the areas served, either on their contact page or preferably on unique, keyword rich pages devoted to each separate area.

Potential pitfalls of local SEO

In the same article, the most important negative ranking factors were also collated, and the two most common mistakes were multiple place pages and inconsistencies of name, address and postcode (NAP) across the internet.

Duplicate business listings are a problem as they can result in Google overlooking both entries entirely when retrieving localised results. To avoid this, ensure that your business only has one listing, and that all the information contained on it is correct.

When verifying a local page, Google seeks to corroborate the submitted contact information by crawling external websites to determine both the validity and importance of a page. Inconsistent citations across the web confuse the Google spiders and will be detrimental to a local SEO campaign. While this may sound obvious, it is important to remember that each instance of an NAP must be identical, for example ‘st’ is different to street, and ‘ave’ is not the same as avenue. Before starting out, be sure to settle on an NAP and keep it consistent across the internet.

So what does it all mean?

When deciding whether or not to focus your efforts on optimising for local results it depends on your target market and which keywords have been chosen. If your keywords involve a location, you need to seriously think about whether your Google Places page is optimised to draw traffic from any and all areas that you believe to be relevant.

In short, post-Venice, if you’re not doing an AdWords campaign or vying for positions in the local market, you could find yourself fighting for one of two organic slots above the fold on a Google search results page and could really struggle to make an impact on highly competitive local markets. That’s why local matters and where Liberty can help.

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