Gavin Hirst - Friday 11th March 2016

Your guide to mastering Local SEO

With the recent changes to the Google search results pages, we take a look at the importance of Local SEO and whether the changes to the SERPs mean you should be dedicating more of your time to Local SEO.

Google SERP update recap

In case you missed our blog on this, Google recently made a significant change to the SERPs, removing the Ads from the right hand side of the page and adding an extra advert to the top of the page on ‘commercial’ search terms, meaning there are now potentially four adverts at the top of the page before a user sees an organic search result.

You can read more about this change here.

What does this mean for local search results?

Whether this change is the catalyst or you just need to look at your local SEO, now’s the time to do it. With more and more searches taking place on a mobile device and most desktop users now returning local search results, appearing for these location based searches is crucial to your long term success.

We can see from the screenshot below that the new SERP layout really emphasises the importance of ranking well in the map space.

New Google SERP screenshot - local SEO

With four ads at the top of a commercial search query, there are no traditional blue links to be seen ‘above the fold’. Even the first map listing sits just below the fold but it is the first organic link that a user will see and becomes an extremely valuable piece of real estate.

Google made a change to their local ‘snack packs’ in August 2015 with 7-packs replaced by 3 packs in desktop results (in line with the 3-packs already seen on mobile devices) which already put additional pressure on SEOs to up their game when it comes to local SEO. The shake down from this roll out was a much more competitive local SEO space – those who had previously occupied positions 4-7 were now fighting to get into those top 3 spots and those companies who had found themselves ranking well in the map space without really doing much local SEO had to up their game.

This new SERP layout is another kick in the backside to get your local SEO up to scratch. Here are 10 things we recommend focusing on in 2016.

Top 5 local SEO tips for 2016

1. Focus on citations as well as links

Well known to SEOs is the need to build quality backlinks to your site but did you know that for local SEO, building quality citations that don’t necessarily include a link is a good way of improving your strength in local search. Directory listings are a great way of building citations – memberships to industry bodies and organisations like the Chamber of Commerce can add real value at local SEO level. We recommend investing in directory listing across the board – sites like Yelp provide review data that shows up in Apple Maps which is increasingly replacing Google Maps on iOS devices.

2. Linking is still important

Local SEO also relies on the quality of backlinks to your pages and domain. Your local SEO will be impacted by your site’s overall domain authority and the page authority of your location pages and these are influenced by the number of quality links you have pointing to your pages and site as a whole. Continue to focus on creating content that is likely to attract backlinks from relevant sites and this will have a positive impact on your local SEO.

If you are working out of a relatively small city, trawl through the local blog network – these people are often happy to link out to a company’s website in return for free products or services or better still, a guest blog if they are closely related to your sector.

3. Proximity of your physical address to point of search

Although there is not much you can do about your location, the proximity of your physical address to the point of search plays a huge part in the rankings for local SEO. This means that if you’re located in Albany and someone is searching for ‘digital agencies’ on Queen Street in Auckland, you are much less likely to rank in the local results.

4. Topical keyword relevance across the domain

Although you may have a highly optimised location landing page with consistent NAP and good quality backlinks, this may not always be enough, especially in a highly competitive sector. Your competitors may also have this same level of optimisation and back link quality so it is about finding a point of difference. Do you have a lot of topical relevance across your site? Are you writing blog content that is specific to the location you are trying to rank in? Google looks at your topical relevance for a particular location so if you talk about that location through other pages on your site, Google is much more likely to rank your site within that location.

5. Focus on getting Google reviews

Through our research, we notice that when competing in a highly competitive sector, the number of Google reviews often plays a big part on whether a site ranks well in local search or not. Although there are exceptions to this rule, it is rare that we see a site with a higher number of reviews on Google ranking below one with fewer Google reviews. There is no science to this; it’s just a hunch but the more positive Google reviews you can collect, the better your chances of ranking well in the local SEO space.

Local SEO is here to stay and you need to make sure that you are competitive in that space or risk getting left behind. Whilst it is another element to consider as part of any SEO strategy, it is one we feel cannot be ignored by companies big or small.

Get in touch today if you want to talk to us about your local SEO needs.



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