3 Things You Need To Get In Front Of Your Local Customers (With WordPress)
Many small and medium business owners struggle to reach their customers in their local community.
Local SEO is a field where a lot depends on how a business is starting it’s life, as changing tactics can take forever and can cost a site a lot if not done with care. Doing Local SEO right is also difficult and it can be expensive, and budget is often the largest constraint for SMBs. Fortunately, there are a number of ways a business can easily start the work of increasing their visibility in their neighborhood.
We assume that the following are already taken care of as they are some of the most basic things that need to be addressed in order to get your business to appear in search engines local search.
Google My Business
Register your business with all your locations/offices on Google My Business (formerly Google Places). This is the single most important platform for local search in Google which now lets users manage their business information , Google+, reviews and photos (read about the new functionaliy here: http://techcrunch.com/2014/06/11/google-introduces-google-my-business-a-new-one-stop-shop-to-help-business-get-found-online/). Add your videos, images and business information until it’s 100% complete.
Download our Google My Business Setup Guidelines
CMS for Local
Your website might be built on any CMS, but the single best functionality is provided by WordPress. With many plugins built for local optimization, it offers the best option for those who want to compete in Local search. It can easily be installed to any folder on your server, and can be customized to match your design with lots of templates. It is also recommended to build your blog on this platform.
The consistency of your business information is very important in local search. Your key information elements are your business name, address and phone number ( NAP in short). These elements will have to be identical throughout all your business listings (both Google and other).
And now the real work can begin!
1 - On Site Optimization
The optimization for local search is not that different than regular optimization. The most common approach to getting your business to search engines is to build local landing pages, one for every location your business has. This is important, because these local landing pages will serve as a solution to serve your visitors locally relevant information about your business. There are great plugins for WordPress to create perfectly optimized local landing pages:
LCB Local SEO plugin creates a location page (only one) for your single location business on the desired URL ( you can specify a slug). A 100% filled out plugin will create a nice local landing page on your site, complete with payment methods, opening hours and embedded Google map. This is a great and easy to use plugin for single location businesses.
Pros: very simple and easy to use, nice layout, free
Cons: single location, no complementary functions, can’t add content easily
This plugin lets you compile all your business information, and then add all or only parts of it to any page with shortcodes. This plugin has full schema support as well as QR code integrated and social buttons.
This plugin is great if you wish to build a custom page and integrate the NAP and other information piece by piece. There is a premium version as well, with multi location support and other features, but the free version is only good for single location businesses.
Pros: somewhat customisable, simple to use, nice but few complementary features
Cons: single location
This handy plugin adds microdata to the homepage of your site. It is perfect for single location businesses that wish to see their homepage in search engine result pages. The plugin only adds invisible microdata to the homepage though, which means that actual human readable content must be manually placed on the homepage of the site.
Pros: very simple, free, only adds microdata, geared towards single location businesses
Cons: no other functionality, no map integrated
This is a somewhat more advanced plugin, that can add microdata to custom post types as well as your regular pages and posts. It comes with customisable templates and CSS, as well as a nice Geo Sitemap generator built in. This plugin works great with multiple locations as well, letting you create local landing pages for all your business locations.
Pros: highly customisable, can be easily used for multiple locations, built in Geo sitemap, free
Cons: more complex, needs some coding knowledge
Most WordPress sites are already using the Yoast WordPress SEO plugin (or if they don’t they should), and the Yoast Local SEO plugin is the same level of quality for local businesses. It has full functionality for creating local landing pages, and a built in store locator. It’s very easy to work with, and is recommended for sites with multiple locations that need simple solutions. It is the only plugin out there that has the option to upload your business data in CSV format, which makes it much easier to display your business data for many locations.
Pros: easy to use, complete functionality, multiple location support and built in store locator
Why use one of these plugins though? Because they all let you add your NAP in a Google friendly format, called Schema local markup, which helps search engines identify and show your location. Some of these plugins also take care of Geo Sitemap generation, which can also help your business to get found!
As I wrote at the beginning of this paragraph, local optimization is not that different from regular optimization, and so you should incorporate your local keywords, your city and state name to your page title, meta description and local page content as well.
Finally, here is a guide from Avalaunch Media to help you build a great local landing page.
2 - Citations
The number and consistency of structured citations are one of the many factors of search engine visibility in local, and it is one of the most significant ones. The most common way of acquiring structured citations is claiming your listing on local directories. There are several types of local directories:
Usually, the single greatest challange a local business faces is building citations. Fortunately, there are many tools and services to help with building citations.
Whitespark Local Citation Finder is a great tool that helps you find and keep track of your citations, by matching your business name with keywords, and also let’s you search for competitor citations. The small business package is very cost effective for SMB’s. Whitespark also offers lot’s of other handy tools like local rank tracker etc.
The Brightlocal SEO tools are very similar to Whitespark, and offers the same functionality witha great dashboard to manage all your local SEO tasks. It comes with a great Google+ Local Wizard tool, that lets you compare your G+ page to your competitors to see how they perform and how it can help you grow.
Turn your social accounts into citations by uploading your NAP to them. Some social profiles let you add your business information, turning the profile into a great citation source in the process.
Citation Building Services
There are only a handful of trustworthy local citation building services (like ours:-) if you would prefer to outsource citation building. Though both Whitespark and Brightlocal offer citation building services, they are not cheap (there are cheaper alternatives, but often their quality is not that great).
The magic word in citation building as with all the other local search optimization is consistency. Always submit your business data the same way to all citation sources. As with all off site SEO activities, building local citations on large scale is not recommended, as the quality and relevance of the citations is what ultimately matters.
Local Link Building
A great way to boost your local efforts is to earn a few links from trusted local sites. These links carry significant weight, and may also contain your NAP in some form. These are also considered citations, which are generally called unstructured citations.
3 - Reviews
Reviews are the third most important factors in local visibility. On the scale of effort these require to get, they are right there with local citations. Reviews on both your G+ page and other local citation sources are important, as they both contribute to your average score, and can be seen on the search result page of Google.
Fortunately there are a few easy to use tools to help with acquiring them:
Whitespark has a nice free handout generator tool, which saves you some time and gives you a device specific PDF you can give to your customers!
Brightlocal SEO tools has this very handy badge generator, which allows you to embed a customized badge on your site. This is a very easy and straightforward way to acquire more reviews, and the best part is that you can change your badge and monitor it’s performance from Brightlocal dashboard!
There are other great ways to get reviews naturally, and there is a cool post on LocalVoxabout the most common forms that work!
Whatever you do, do not offer to pay or otherwise offer compensation for reviews. It is against Google’s TOS, and solicited reviews can cause you a great deal of pain.
So That's It!
3 simple but fundamental things you can do to make your business competitive in local search. I hope you got some useful tips out of this. Some more reading material about local search:
Do you have any other local SEO tips and tactics to get better Google local results? Share them with us in the comments below, we are always happy to hear new stuff.