Local SEO: Get noticed in your neighbourhood

A listing on Google’s Local Search Display is the holy grail for service providers operating within a particular geographical area. The Local Search Display is the box housing three business listings and a Google map that shows up on your search results page. Winning a slice of this prized real estate will result in a marked increase in web traffic, and – provided your website’s up-to-scratch – more bookings. And best of all, it’s free. That said, depending on the competition, it’ll take some work to achieve.

In this blog post, we’ll look at some of the factors Google’s algorithm takes into account when ranking search results and the steps you can take to give your site a red-hot chance of making the Local Search Display.

Content

The content you produce for your website will help your ranking in a number of ways. Perhaps, most importantly, it will let search engines know if your site is relevant to particular queries. So for instance, if you run a landscaping business, you’ll want to create content that highlights keywords based on the services you want to be ranked for. These might include things like ‘retaining walls’, ‘stump removal’, ‘garden design’ and the like.

While these will let Google know that your business is relevant to inquiries relating to these services, your content should also let Google know you’re running a professional and well-regarded business.

Increasingly, Google is ranking websites on perceived quality as well as relevance to search terms. The reasoning behind this is to preference websites that offer informative and authoritative content over those that have simply stuffed pages with keywords.

The length of an article is one way Google ranks quality. So a page consisting of 400 words outlining different types of retaining wall construction techniques and materials will see your website rank better in searches for ‘retaining walls’ than a simple bullet-pointed reference to retaining walls on a home page or ‘our services’ page.

Quality content will also help your website’s ranking if people like it and link to it from their own websites or social media accounts.  

When producing content, make sure it’s original. Google can spot derivative content. If you’re running duplicate copy that has been cut and pasted from another website, your site could be penalised and pushed down the rankings.  

Reviews

Another way Google assess the quality of a website is by taking note of online reviews. So, it’s certainly in your interest to encourage your clients to leave reviews – preferably on your Google My Business site – but reviews on other sites will also help.

While it might be tempting to try and game the system, be aware that Google may penalise your site by pushing it down the rankings if it notices irregularities in your reviews. For instance, if your business receives two reviews per month on average and then receives 20 reviews in one day, Google may interpret this as a sign the reviews are not genuine and penalise your site. Similarly, a relatively high number of reviews from a single IP address could raise a few alarm bells at Google. If you are considering writing fake reviews (which we’d not advise) keep in mind that people are becoming increasingly savvy and can often spot a fake review.

The best thing is to do a quality job and back it up with great customer service. Here’s a blog post from Kissmetrics that’ll give you some ideas on how to get more online reviews.

Citations

A citation is a reference to the name, address and phone number (NAP) of your business. Directories, such as Yellow Pages, True Local and Yelp make for good citations. Chances are, if your business has been around for a while, you'll be listed with a number of these without even knowing.

Citations are helpful for a number of reasons. Firstly, they enable Google to corroborate your NAP. For this reason it’s important that it's listed in a uniform fashion in all citations. This means ensuring that the details are correct and also that the same punctuation and style is used. For example, if your business is called Short-and-Sweet Shortbread, make sure you’re consistent with the use of hyphens, i.e. don’t spell it Short and Sweet Shortbread in some listings. Likewise, If you use brackets around the area code of your phone number, then keep this consistent across all of your listings.

As many directories will list your business without contacting you. Run a google search of your business's NAP and check your listings are correct across all directories.

Here’s a list that Chris Finnegin from SEO Copilot put together of the most popular directories in Australia. Be aware that there may be directories unique to your industry. If, for example, you run a medical clinic, you’ll want to be listed with the Australian Doctors Directory and the Medical Directory of Australia.

Summary

Google’s Local Search Display has made the internet a more viable place for small businesses to promote their services. Where your business might have been up against companies with a national footprint a few years ago, your main competition, in terms of ranking, is now the businesses in your area. If you put the work in now, and do it right, chances are you’ll be enjoying a bigger slice of your neighbourhood pie.