By Tyler Ludwig / Interactive Marketing Manager, Rio SEO
Spring is finally here…and so are the countless ways you can bring local SEO into your marketing campaigns for 2014!
The days where a business owner could simply have a website and submit his or her information to Google Places are long gone. If you’re a multi-location brand, doing this for hundreds or thousands of local businesses is simply not scalable. Fortunately getting a jump-start for spring can be achieved with five essential updates to your existing marketing campaigns:
1. Syndicate your local business information
Understanding local business listings and how they are submitted across the web is still a vast world of unknown variables. Due to its complex nature, the local search ecosystem leaves many marketers confused on how, when, or why their information appears on Google, Yahoo, and Bing Map results. Fortunately there is an answer!
A quick way of ensuring your local Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP) are correct and validated in Google+ Local is to distribute your data to the entire ecosystem. This includes both paid and free options:
- Google Places
- Yahoo Local
- Bing Maps
Submitting your local business data to these sources allows “The Most Generous Search Engine for Local Businesses” (aka Google) to validate your information from more than 500 networks and bring your business closer to the top of local search results.
2. Integrate Google assets onto local pages
Incorporating Google products within your website and local landing pages might sound a bit obvious, but it’s something often overlooked. When Google looks to serve up your business for local searches, it places a lot of emphasis on user experience once the user arrives at your landing page. Increasing that experience can be attributed to such relevant items as:
- YouTube Videos
- Google Maps
- Google Webmaster and Analytics
- Driving Directions
- Google+ Sharing Buttons and Links
- Local Store Front Images (also in Google+ Local & Places)
Having a landing page chock-full of Google assets might seem like giving up too much space of your site to a third-party, but remember not everything needs to be included to increase your chances of ranking higher. Having relevant items that add value to users is going to help from a conversion standpoint and provide additional validation to Google.
3. Add Facebook and Schema markup
One of the largest and often missed items for improving the “readability” of your local website information is to include structured markup into your pages. We won’t go into too much detail around the full markup spectrum of Schema, OpenGraph and others, but for a full list that can be included check out schema.org/LocalBusiness. Think of Schema and OpenGraph markup like a to-do list for search engine crawlers. Placing this markup in the header of your landing pages will give the crawlers a clear path to what, where, and why your local landing page is helpful for local searches.
Based on your access to the structure of your website, making these changes can be quick, but if you are looking at a long road with your IT department check out Google’s Data Highlighter, and get your local content marked up in minutes! Not only does this provide a better picture when Google is indexing your pages, it also ensures your landing pages are ready for the continued convergence of search and social media.
4. Link local landing pages from Search Map listings
“So I can claim my local business information (NAP) and Google knows what page to send my map listing to, right?” Sadly, the answer is “no.” Unfortunately, this is a missed opportunity for most local businesses when creating their map listings on Google, Yahoo, or Bing. Often we assume that Google will automatically choose the best page on our website for each location, but often that page happens to be your homepage. A common reason for this is that a brand simply doesn’t have local landing pages for each of its local businesses. If you don’t now, make that your No. 1 priority!
For those of you who do have local landing pages, it’s time to start directing searchers (assuming the above three tips are in place) straight to the finish line. Taking the unnecessary navigational steps out of the hands of searchers is not only going to improve your user experience, it also increases conversions. The best part is that by submitting your listings to the search engines and to data aggregators with the attached local URL, you are also building relevant back-links from hundreds of niche directories back to your website.
5. Use software to automate your local SEO efforts
Having a solid local SEO foundation in place using the previous four steps can be fairly quick if you are managing 1-50 locations. On the other hand, managing hundreds or thousands of local listings across multiple local directories and devices can be the largest hurdle of them all. How does a single person or team keep a booming franchise or established international brand on the forefront of local search? Automation!
Imagine if you had to do all of the previous steps plus account for new or closed stores, holiday hours, new images, phone numbers, and so much more? Most likely you would be hiring more people to keep up with the processes. Automated Local SEO Software is the only way that multi-location brands are going to be able to keep up with the rapidly changing face of local search. Here are the essential pieces to look for when choosing a local SEO solution:
- Flexible Local Business Data CMS
- Ability to Create and Edit your Local Landing Pages
- Optimized Data Syndication
- Best Practice Local SEO Strategy In-Mind
Today, there are a lot of different options to manage your business presence online, but very few can help manage the entire process. Having a complete solution that can provide all of the steps to maximize your Google+ Local Ranking is something more and more large brands are struggling to get in place. Don’t get stuck below your competitors start your spring cleaning by optimizing for local SEO today!
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Posted April 9, 2014