Six Tactics to Rank Your Small Business Website in Google’s Local SEO Results
Google changes its algorithm as how it ranks websites and how it places them in the local SEO results, however the basics of local search engine optimization stay the same. If you implement the following 6 tactics in your online marketing you have done 70-80% of the work towards showing up in the Google local search results.
1 – Proper Google My Business Setup (GMB)
Your first step is creating your business account in Google My Business account. Make sure that you verify it right away. For any type of small and local businesses it is super important to have their Google My Business page properly set up. This service is 100% free and it only takes few minutes to do it.
Your Google my business page is not like any other local citation, and it is certainly not your ticket to the first page in google local search results. When you created and verified it you need to build it and keep it up to date. Start with correct contact details, your logo, few images from your business (and yourself, customer, neighborhood; usually between 5 to 10 images is the right number), products, your team, storefront, etc. There are several simple steps that you should follow to maximize the chances of having your small business ranked high in Google.
Avoid using targeted keywords in your business name. For example if you run a coffee shop in Sutton South of London and its registered name is “Coffee for Two” do not register it in your Google my business page as “Best Coffee for Two Sutton”. Simply use the same name as it has been used for registration, that should be the same you use for your local citation and social media fan pages, etc. unless you have registered a Business Name (or a trade name) and operate under that name. Use common sense, or you may risk getting a penalty in the future. Also make sure that you use the correct address and phone number that you used for other local citations you have done (including your social fan pages). Don’t forget to add your working hours.
Develop a keyword-rich description for your business. One to two lines is optimum. For example for the above example you could use ” We have been offering warm cup of coffees in Sutton UK since 2015“. In this case, you would attempt to rank for the “coffee shops in Sutton UK” keyword. If you live in a city that there are two (or more) of them in the world, then you need to be more specific. For example searching Google for “coffee shop Sutton” return 3.6 million results, while searching for “coffee shop Sutton London” would return about 1.9 million (because London dilutes the search results), and searching for “coffee shop Sutton UK” returns only 266,000.
Your Google My Business page is one of the first things that we check when we audit your website.
2 – Real Google My Business Reviews (vital for local SEO)
The number of Google reviews is one of the key ranking factors in local search, so is authenticity of them. As soon as you get five reviews or more, Google displays an average score on your local listing.
The reviews are very important in ranking algorithm, hence no surprise that many people are trying to sell fake reviews. Resist the temptation to buy Google reviews for your page. Google is smart enough to figure out the real versus fake reviews, and if you have those you will get penalized (downgraded in ranking).
You are anxious and need reviews, how do you get Google reviews?
The best and rational way is simply to ask your customers for reviews. And to maximize your chances of getting a five-star review, do that when your clients are very happy with your services.
To make writing reviews for your customers easier you could get their email address and send them the URL to your Google My Business. Another way is to have the link on your website, so send them right to your website and ask them to find the link to review your Google my business page at the footer (or somewhere they can easily find) of your website.
Some marketing twist would elevate the rate of the number of customer who would send you reviews. Tell customers that anyone who writes a review the chance to win one of your products, or will receive a 20% discount voucher, or other incentives. If you send a regular emails to your customers (you definitely should), a visible call-to-action to customer to write you a review on your Google my business page should be always there.
But, How do you address negative reviews?
Every now and then a business may fail to provide a descent service or product, hence receives an unhappy customer. Statistics show that unhappy customers are more likely to leave negative feedback and spread the bad word about their experience comparing to happy customers (see more on Groove).
Here are few tips how to avoid, and win back an unhappy customer.
- Never ignore a poor feedback; address it as soon as possible, and close the case.
- Customer is always right; so a phone call as soon as you receive the review could help rectifying the issue. Explain the business challenges that resulted the poor service quality. You don’t need to go into too much details, the apology does 80% of the work. Offer them an incentive to try your service again (like a free coffee, or 50% off their next meal in your restaurant, it worth it). When won them back ask them to revise their review on your Google my business page.
- Establish a transparent line of communication with customers about the work in progress. A monthly newsletter could do the job of keeping them close to what you do to improve the customer experience, new offers, better products, specialized services, etc.
Now let’s take a look at other factor involved in your local ranking on Google.
3 – Local on-page SEO signals
Google’s algorithm is being updated regularly to serve two purposes, a. stopping spammers and lowering the rank of poor content, and elevating the ranking of the quality and useful content.
In order to take the advantage of content for your ranking on Google, you need to develop relevant and quality content. The relevance and the quality of your content should be that good that readers actually read (Google measures on-page and bounce backs), share and like them; and that’s how that page will be ranked higher.
Avoid writing useless, diluted content, just for the sake of content. Always start with research on topics you want to write about. Do your research and obtain informative articles that are filled with actionable information. Demonstrate your expertise and people will spend time on your site, thus telling Google that your content is worth reading.
Keyword density is not as important it used to be. but this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t include the targeted keywords in your articles. Google needs to understand what the pages about, after all, and it does that by analyzing the words on it.
So make sure to include the targeted keywords in your posts, its title and SEO description tags. If your website is on WordPress, plugins like Yoast SEO make it very easy to add this info to website. Keyword stuffing will fire-back, so avoid it.
Don’t forget to include media for example relevant pictures that keep the audience connected. Images have been known to improve rankings for years now, and they can also serve as an additional source of traffic and backlinks. Go for paid image sources, or use license free ones on the web (see examples here and here). Creating a useful infographic about the topic could also attract lots of readers who hopefully like and share it.
Is your website responsive?
Statistics suggest that more than half of the Google searches are done on mobile, so your website has to be responsive. If your website is not responsive, it will not readable on smart phones and you lose 50% of potential customers right away. Invest on your website and build one that is responsive, and has intuitive navigation on smart phones. Use Google Mobile Friendly test to see if your website passes Google’s test.
Is your website secure?
Google has started giving priority to websites that use higher encryption in the other words use https protocol versus http. Most hosting providers will help you install an SSL certificate, which will encrypt communication between your website and its visitors. Another small investment that helps improve your Google ranking and worth a lot.
Is your website loading fast?
It makes perfect sense that Google added website loading speed to the ranking factors. Most of the visitors do not wait for more than 1-2 seconds to see your website load. There are several technical factors that can affect your website loading speed. There are several tools to check your website loading score. Test the loading speed of your website on Google Page Speed Insight and on GTmetrix. We identify all areas that could help improve website loading speed as part of our website audit. Contact us if need a free consultation.
Is your website is structured well? There are several online tools that you could use to test your website site-map, structure, broken links and other technical aspects of it for example Screaming Frog. You could start playing around with these tools, but make sure what you are doing. A better alternate is to leave optimizing technical aspect of your website and its on-page SEO to an expert team.
4 – Local off-page SEO signals
Who said backlinks are dead? Google has recently confirmed that its algorithm uses backlinks as a major ranking signal, and this is true for its local search algorithm as well. If your website ranks high in Google’s organic search results, your chances of getting ranked in Google’s local business results increase exponentially.
Here’s an official video where Andrey Lipattsev, a Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google Ireland, states that links and content are the two most important ranking factors. It’s a long video, but it’s certainly a useful way of spending an hour of your time.
So a link building strategy based on high quality content for your customers can pay off big time on your local ranking.
There are a lot of cheap link-building options in the market, specially places such as Fiverr. There are several problems with the paid link buildings bought from inexperienced ones on Fiverr and similar sites.
Firstly, the local citations these vendors make for you is hard to track down. Their report often is only an XL file that provides the link, and the authentication they used so later on you can use to change your NAT. But the problem is that a. they don’t do the multiples, b they don’t do the clean up, and c. when the XL file is lost (often happens) you don’t have a track of the citations to change if needed. The bigger problem with cheap local citations is that they only fill in the minimum on the business directories. they often fail to upload your logo, images, video and put your business in proper category and more importantly write a distinct description for your business. The choice of the business directory, and the category-based directories (see our list of business category directories here) is also a big play that often are missed by inexperienced SEO professionals. Local citation is more about the quality and less about the quantity. The description is an important anchoring.
Back links from guest-posts and local citations could help your local SEO, but if is done right. Press release sites (PR), general directories, blog comments, wiki sites, web 2.0 sites, forum profiles and so are proved less effective on your Google local SEO.
So what are the best links that you should go after?
Get back links from niche specific high authority site. I would love to get one from BBC.co.uk. Always try to get links that are too hard to obtain because there’s a lot of work involved into getting them. Hint: Use back links discovery tool like Ahrefs or Majestic to study your competitors’ links, and then try to replicate the ones that come from authoritative websites. Avoid getting back links from sites where everyone is able to create accounts and post links, though.
5 – User Engagement
Google monitors all aspect of your visitors from when they land on your website until they leave. Google measures, the time they spent as whole, the time they spent on each page, the content they read the most, if they left comment, review or likes and so on. Have a strategy content for your website. understand your business sector. When have a chance seek input and opinion from your customers as what topic they may want to learn more about. Be creative and innovative in developing content. Get professional waiters to help develop attractive, fun engaging content. Participate in local events, exhibitions and festivals, reflect the content back on your site to keep customers coming back and leave comment on your website.
Don’t forget clear and powerful call-for-actions on a visible spot on your website. Aim to offer an exceptional user experience while visiting your website.
6 – Social Signals
Google+ votes, Facebook likes and Twitter retweets coming from industry influences can help your local search rankings in a positive way. Avoid buying 50,000 facebook Likes from Fiverr. It doesn’t help if not it get your penalty from Google.
The number of real (not bought!) followers on the top social networks is a local SEO ranking signal as well. So be nice, post useful ad informative content on your social media and fan pages, attract real followers and Google will show you some love as well.