What is Local SEO?
Local Search Engine Optimisation is a useful tool for two main reasons, it enables your local customers to find you; and it also helps to push you to the top of searches that are locality specific. It works particularly well for businesses offering a service from a particular address, like restaurants, accountants, mechanics, florists, etc.. If your business type is quite common nationwide you might find your details buried way down the listings without it; even for somebody searching from the street next door. Is it the same as national SEO? No, the techniques used are quite different, which can give you an advantage if it is carried out correctly.
How do I get started with Local SEO?
For an example we will use Google, but the same considerations apply to similar platforms, and the more that you use the better. The first step is to organise a business profile on Google, the sort that you see pop up in searches with arrows marked a, b, c, etc.. It is entirely free and allows you to put a lot of information right where your customers are going to find it. Secondly, you will need some citations, which are anywhere that you can list your name, address and phone number online, matched to the same format as your company website; again, there are plenty of free listing directories. What is now very important is consistency, make sure that any abbreviations are used the same way throughout; minor differences will hinder any associations. Thirdly, get plenty of reviews for your company, listed on your profile page.
How can I boost my local search engine rankings?
The main factors affecting local SEO ratings are the number of citations, the number of reviews and the quality of the reviews. Positive reviews far outrank citations, so the more customers you can persuade to visit your profile and leave a pleasant comment, the better. Google does include a factor known as ‘centroid bias’ which is affected by your proximity to the centre of the place name used in a particular search. Associating yourself with a city might attract more listings, but too far down to be of any use, whereas siting a smaller town that is closer will put you higher up.
Do I still need normal national SEO as well?
The same rules still apply when your website is being rated so all the usual SEO staples are still valid. You do not need to put keywords into your Google profile, but it is essential to put you town and county in the meta headings of your website; along with your formatted address on each page, as a footer for example. Using the Schema Local format for company details ensures that they are best suited for search engines; and a Keyhole Markup File, developed to work with Google Earth, but compatible with other browsers.
Is local SEO suitable for in-house or best left to an SEO agency?
This depends on how much you value your time; as you can see it is relatively straight forward but time consuming, and requires accuracy to be effective. As with national SEO, rankings will require fresh input to keep the search engines interested. This requires new citations and reviews on a regular basis, which can often get pushed down to the bottom of a hectic to do list. Using an agency from the start ensures that all the right connections are made and makes it easier for them to follow on with regular updates and results monitoring. Hopefully by then you will be busy enough anyway, with orders pouring in.
Further Reading on Local SEO guides and strategies:
The definitive guide to Local SEO: http://www.searchenginejournal.com/the-definitive-guide-to-local-seo/47319/
Create a successful Local SEO strategy: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/230036
A Local SEO checklist: http://searchengineland.com/13-semantic-markup-tips-for-2013-a-local-seo-checklist-143708