Local search results are the new storefront, especially now that many shoppers have transitioned from street-level window shopping to online browsing due to the Coronavirus pandemic. If you’re not appearing during consumers’ time of need, your brand must implement quick fixes for local SEO to show up when and where you’re needed.
Even before COVID, Google research made clear the local opportunity for brands—and the cost of not appearing prominently online when customers are searching for products and services nearby. More than 30% of mobile searches are related to location, and 28% of those searches for something nearby result in a purchase.
The Map Pack is where it’s at; in fact, Map Pack results appear on the first page of search results 30% of the time. If your locations aren’t ranking near the top of these local results, you’re out of the running before you’ve even had the opportunity to make a first impression.
To make sure you’re on the right track, we’ve rounded up our top local SEO fixes:
1. Write custom SEO tags for each landing page.
Meta tags provide essential information to site visitors and search engines. There are three main tags to optimize on your Local Pages:
- Title tag – Appears in search, at the top of the browser, in anchor text, and as the title in social shares. They are typically 55 to 70 characters in length.
Title Tags are still a weighted SEO signal so make sure to optimize them with non-branded keywords.
- Meta description – This appears below the title in search results and social shares to help searchers and search engines understand the page’s content. Ideally, meta descriptions are 150-165 characters in length, although Google may display more
Meta description tags are not in themselves a weighted SEO signal. However, the verbiage in the meta description tags can influence click-through rates. So make sure to include a call to action to encourage visitors to click on your website’s SERP result.
- Header tags – H1, H2, H3, etc. These header tags help search engines understand the page content’s hierarchy and importance and call out important pieces of information for readers.
H1 tags are arguably a minor SEO signal so it is recommended to include target non-branded keywords in the H1 header tags.
Also, make sure to include each store’s ID number and city or neighborhood name to differentiate the title tag from other locations. Duplicate title tags are a negative SEO signal so it’s an SEO best practice to avoid them. Optimize your other tags with hyperlocal information to help search engines and readers alike understand your relevance and connection to the local landscape.
2. Double check rel=canonical tags.
The rel=canonical tag helps prevent duplicate content issues by telling Google where pages are similar and the preferred source. Attributing the wrong page as the preferred source can confuse the search bots (possibly get relevant pages deindexed) resulting in lost traffic and revenue. Learn more about rel=canonical tags here.
3. Make sure you are using hreflang tags for multilingual pages.
The hreflang tag is an attribute that helps Google understand what language you are using on a specific page. Google can then ensure searchers see the result in that language. This is an essential consideration for global and multi-location brands. Sometimes Google can accidentally index a foreign language page in the wrong search index (e.g. Spanish landing page in English search). Hreflang tags help avoid this problem.
Moz offers a great resource on various use cases for the hreflang tag.
4. Optimize navigational breadcrumb links.
Remember the tale of Hansel and Gretel? Breadcrumb links are known as such thanks to the fable of the two children wandering in the forest who left a trail of breadcrumbs in their wake.
On your website, breadcrumbs may appear as a horizontal row of links at the top of the page that indicate the path a visitor took to arrive at the page they are on. This enables the visitor to quickly return to a previous point in their journey if they haven’t found what they need. They also help search engines understand the hierarchy of the pages on your site.
Make sure to optimize your breadcrumb links with targeted non-branded keyword phrases. Breadcrumbs are internal backlinks and getting this right is a quick SEO win.
5. Localize on-page content.
Include local keywords, neighborhood information, landmarks, and other differentiating information on your brand’s Local Pages. Don’t forget the power of imagery and video—these can help searchers understand the type of experience to expect at any one of your locations. They also offer optimization opportunities via descriptions, captions, and alt tags that can help you further demonstrate your local relevance to search engines. Check out these two resources for more on local content:
- 7 Content Tips for More Effective Local Online Marketing
- How to Maximize Unbranded Customer Searches for Your Multi-Location Business
6. Image alt tags.
Image alt tags help search engines understand the content of an image and are also an important accessibility feature. They may appear or be read out to searchers who cannot render or view the image. Ensure that each image uploaded to the local page has descriptive, localized alt text. They are also a minor SEO signal so include target non-branded keyword phrases (that read grammatically correct).
7. Add your local page URL to your GMB listing.
Sending users from an ad or search result to the homepage isn’t the best user experience, as they then have to keep browsing around to find what they need. Direct consumers from search listings to the most relevant local source of information instead.
It’s common to see GMB listings without website URLs at all or URLs that direct to the homepage. However, the local page URL is most relevant to the listing in virtually every case. What’s more, Google pulls in keywords related to search queries from the website linked to the GMB listing. Occasionally, you will see a result saying, “This website mentions this phrase.”
8. Fix any incorrect primary business categories.
Your primary business category in GMB impacts not only your rankings but the attributes available to your location, as well. Considering that GMB signals account for about 33% of your Local Pack rank weighting, it’s essential to get this right.
9. Add relevant additional categories.
Additional categories are a ranking factor, as well, and search engines will consider this as they attempt to find the best and most relevant answer for each query. Remember that if there are no additional pertinent categories, you should not add categories to have something there.
10. Report duplicate or spam business listings on Google Maps.
Spammers may create fake or duplicate listings to crowd the local results, steal leads, or increase their exposure. Other duplicate listings can be unintentional, but it’s best to report them and have them removed. To report listings, go to the listing in question > Suggest an edit > Close or remove > select “Spam, fake or offensive” or “Duplicate of another place.”
It’s also important to report businesses that keyword stuff their business name to rank higher for searches. Suggest an edit to have the name updated to the correct format, and fill out a Business Redressal Complaint Form,
With these simple fixes in order, it’s time to dig deeper and take your local SEO strategy to the next level. Take advantage of a free, customized local search audit, and together let’s discover where your most significant challenges and opportunities are right now, in the current environment.