When it comes to Local SEO, following the best practices will definitely give you the most desirable results. There are methods and techniques that have consistently proven to be more effective, compared to those that are machiavellian where “the end justifies the means”. But, as major search engines keep evolving, the best practices in SEO also need to adapt to these changes.
Some SEO professionals, however, do not follow the best practices, and this could lead to the misuse of some of the best SEO strategies that would otherwise benefit your business. Here’s how you can achieve the local SEO results you want without having to manipulate your way to the top of the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).
Building And Mantaining Local Search Profiles
Claiming and setting up your business’ local profiles on the right online platforms is what’s needed in order to connect with local customers. It’s vital. Google My Business will help your business’ listing, but you should also list your business in other major search engines such as Yahoo Local and Bing Places. If you don’t have a social media presence, then you should create your business’ social media pages on Facebook, Foursquare, and LinkedIn.
Do’s: Provide your company’s phone number, website’s URL, links to its Twitter and Facebook profiles, hours of operation, and description. Include everything your clients should know about your business and leave no information out. You can also verify your business by providing your information, or the information of the business’ owner.
Don’ts: Creating multiple listings with the same address and under different names can lead to duplicate listings resulting in the removal of one or more of these listings from search engines. If your business has multiple locations, you can create different profiles for each location, each one with their respective NAPs (name, address and phone number). However, checking if an existing listing was already created is a good thing to do before creating a new one. Also, leaving your profile incomplete and not adding all of your business’ information can lead to lower rankings in Local Search.
You should also note that a brand page and a business page are not the same thing for search engines, and therefore, they’re not treated equally. Google’s latest algorithm update, known unofficially in the SEO community as “Pigeon”, now favors local businesses over local brands. This is supposed to benefit small businesses, but mostly the changes were made to improve the user’s local search experience.
Getting Review Sites To Work For You, Not Against You
Online reviews can be a double-edged sword; they can either help or hurt your business. However, it all depends on the quality of the service or product you provide. Google’s new carousel design bases its major local search ranking factors on reviews, and that’s why the best reviewed local businesses end up on top of the SERPs. Google wants local consumers to find the best businesses in their area fast by saving them the time it takes to check out review sites like Yelp, Angie’s List, Google Local/Places/+, Insider Pages, Citysearch, Bing Places for Business and Yahoo! Local Listings. Thanks to Google, reviews are now one of the first things you will see about a business online.
Do’s: If you want your business to rank higher on local online searches, you’ve got to think of quality instead of quantity when it comes to reviews from your customers. It doesn’t really matter how many reviews your business has. If the feedback from your clients isn’t very good, then your local search rankings probably won’t be either. So, if you want the reviews to be as good as your business, you can ask your customers nicely to provide honest feedback on the business’ website. Their constructive criticism can definitely help your products and services improve, and good online reviews will come as a result. Also, responding to reviews can be a good thing, whether they are good or bad, because it allows you to interact with your customers. And, who knows? Perhaps, bad reviews could turn into good ones, in the future.
Don’ts: Fake (or paid) reviews might mislead and misinform consumers, tricking them into making a purchasing decision based on false information. Also, these unethical practices are illegal, so abstain from giving yourself “five stars” if you don’t want to pay penalty fees and get the customer protection agencies on your back.
Fixing And Keeping Track of Your NAP
A business’ NAP (Name, Address, and Phone Number) is more important than ever in local listings, directories, and business profiles and websites now that Google’s ranking factors have apparently changed to favor local businesses after the last update to their search algorythm. That’s why it’s a good idea to check if your business’ information is accurate, to avoid confusion and make it easier for your customers to find you, both online and in the real world.
Do’s: Do a search for your business online and verify that the NAP is correct on Google+ Local, Yahoo Local, Bing Places and other local business profiles, if any. This data should be consistent on every place your business is listed. It must appear on all directory listings exactly as it appears on your business website. So, if you spell out “Avenue” on the website and abbreviate it by writing “Ave.” on your business listings, your ranking on the SERPs might get negatively affected.
Don’ts: Not adding all of your business’ information can hurt you when it comes to local SEO, so don’t hesitate to include local specifics that might be relevant in search results. Also, don’t forget to monitor your business’ NAP so you can keep track of changes and discrepancies in local business profiles or listings.
The secret to not getting your business website penalized by search engines is to just play by the rules. Following the best practices for local SEO will benefit your business in the long-term. You can claim local SEO victory the right way, without shortcuts or black-hat techniques, so your local SEO success won’t be short-lived.