There are a few things in life that feel better than seeing your website (or a website you designed) on the top of search engines. The only other things I could think of are bacon and coffee in a rainy Saturday afternoon. But those websites on top weren’t placed there by a fairy godmother who can grant your wishes with a flick of a wand. SEO is not magic, but an intricate, artistic, and scientific series of strategies targeted towards small goals that contribute to the fruition of a bigger one – to be on top.
With search engines, like Google, focusing on rolling out updates that prioritize high-quality content, it becomes more and more challenging to come out on top. But there is one easy workaround for this: Google has developed its first local algorithm that allows them to understand the context of the search query, particularly, where it is coming from. And by that I mean geolocation.
This understanding of the local intent of a user’s search query has created major changes in the search result rankings. For example, when you search for “barber shop” these days, Google doesn’t only give you the Wikipedia result defining what a barber shop is, it also gives you the closest barber shops in your location. This means that whenever you search for a query that may well be affected by the location you are in, it displays results that it assumes you want to go to. And the biggest takeaway from that is, it appears above the organic search results.
Don’t believe me? Try it.
Now, we in the web industry – both design and marketing – face a challenge due to the rising complexity of the process of optimizing our pages for search engines. With more and more rules and guidelines coming out, we are encouraged to produce a higher quality of content while also optimizing it.
In this article, we will be discussing the important aspects of local SEO you can use in your website.
Wait a sec, I’m not supposed to know SEO. I’m a designer.
Well, let me tell you this, my friend, SEO starts with you. Understanding these fundamentals will allow you to design a page the search engines like. What things would you not want to put in your website because of Google or Bing? How much copy should you allow? Will you hide a spammy paragraph stuffed with keywords just to fool the search engine spiders? Or will you be clean and allow your content and internet marketing team to fully utilize the design you worked at and optimize it?
This will also apply to you as a professional. Learning how to do basic and local SEO will allow you to have an idea of how to get more clients with the help of search engines. Imagine getting a client because he googled for “web designer in Pasadena” and your portfolio came out first? Wouldn’t that be awesome?
Oh come on! I know it is awesome.
So, start learning in this article. Who knows, you might even like it.
Before anything else, understand that it is essential for you to realize how important local SEO has become in a short span of time, and the changes it undergone.
After changing their algorithm, Google revolutionized the way their search engines understand specific and local queries. Because of this change, geolocalized queries had been more evident and more easily seen in the search result order.
A few months after this change, MOZ published a survey of local ranking signals for web professionals, so they could understand what the new change in algorithm meant for their sites and their positions in the search engine order. One of the most important discoveries they found was that local results and the location of the user has been given significant weight.
Consequently, Google Maps had started to make changes in its guidelines, especially for local pages who thrived in getting reviews and located via Google Maps, thus cementing the change and focus of Google in local searches.
This has been particularly evident in categories like hotels and restaurants where the local carousel of images were removed and information, such as booking hotel reservations directly from the results, were highlighted and put to the top.
What does this change in algorithm mean?
Well, this means one thing: local SEO is given more importance than ever before. Stats will tell you that consumers who search for localized queries, like restaurants, coffee shops, or hotels, want to delete the gap between the search result and the website itself. This means that they want to take less actions to complete their aim.
Using local SEO will help you gain visibility and better positioning in search results for people who matter to you. For example, if you have a web design firm, your clients will be able to find you much easier than normal because Google gives them the result that is closest to them. And there are other benefits like:
- Generating traffic on-site and to your business;
- Laying the foundations of a solid brand authority, trust rating, and brand recognition as people searching for related products and services will get a chance to see your presence;
- Increased conversions Because they are localized, visitors are more persuaded to convert into users since they will feel a sense of proximity, especially in dealing with business.
The caveats of local SEO
Now you know the benefits of using local SEO for both your online portfolio or the website you are building. But before doing anything, you need to understand that this will not be easy and will entail significant financial requirements. The reason for this is that you do not control factors such as the location of your company or the business you are consulting. If you are mainly located in a suburb and you have big competitors downtown, you would most likely be facing the centroid proximity principle where search engine algorithms favor those who are closer to the city proper.
Of course, you can add that to other factors that you cannot control, like user ratings, comments, reviews, and company buzz. This is where it gets tricky, because in reality, you are not only targeting search engines, you are also putting a target on human backs.
Where do I begin?
Now that you know both the benefits and the challenges you will face, it’s time to delve into the process. You need to answer a difficult question that goes like this:
Where am I going to put all my efforts into building a foolproof strategy that will help my website go on top?
Well, thankfully, MOZ helps us by stating simple actions:
On page optimization
It’s now time to use the geolocation thing we’ve been talking about. As the designer, and most probably the coder, you have to identify how to add geo-localizable content into the most important web elements. It is necessary to include the target city or regions in your URLs, Titles, Meta Descriptions, H1 and H2 Tags, and Image Alt tags. This will help Google believe that this is your location. It is also advisable to add the name of your company, the address (again, location), and phone number to the footer.
I also recommend you create a Geo Sitemap and a KML file.
How to create a Geo Sitemap and KML file?
KML files are the mapping tool used by Google Earth and Google Maps to find where your business’ exact address is, right down to the longitude and latitude. Once you’ve created and uploaded this particular file into your FTP, you then submit it to Google via Webmaster Tools.
There are a lot of Geo Sitemap Generators out there where you can download and then upload as CSV file into the site or enter your company’s information for yourself. Just note that once you entered your address, phone number, and other information into the generator manually, you will need to make sure that your description is rich with keywords. Remember that local search is becoming important, so using local keywords in descriptions is a good place to start.
After creating the Geo Sitemap and KML file, you can now submit them to Webmaster Tools to give a signal to Google to know and find the site’s KML using spiders and index the location of the site you are targeting.
Of course, like any SEO article will tell you, your content isn’t everything. It is also important to get mentions in other websites with your basic business information along with it. This will reinforce the presence of your website locally. The best way to do this is to start registering to local niche-specific directories.
Word of advice: be consistent with your information in all sources. One mistake might jeopardize everything you’ve worked for.
Dominate reviews and comments
Brand trust has never been lost in the limelight in this new update. It is always nice to have a diverse collection of comments and reviews by real people about your business, and this will allow you to perform better in local results. This is because you want Google to love you based on how much others love you. Remember how Google basically made content king? Well, they love to put content generated by users on an even higher pedestal. So, as much as possible, take advantage of buttons on the site where visitors can generate reviews and ratings. Remember that all reviews matter, even the bad ones, and especially the bad ones. Use this as much as you can.
As much as it sucks right now, the Google My Business page is important for your business. Make sure you fill every single detail possible and complete it according to Google’s guidelines. All the products, services, categories, photos, and descriptions should be accounted for. Also, it won’t hurt to be in every social network that takes advantage of your content. Make sure to include sharing buttons on the website design as well. And remember, use geo-localized keywords!
Google, along with every other search engine out there, can both be your friend and your enemy. As you feed it with the things it likes, it becomes more your friend than foe. As long as you do things that it likes – optimizing keywords, pages, local SEO, dominating reviews and comments, creating a social profile, and being awesome with content creation – it will help you to get to the mountaintop. It will bring your ratings up, and alongside it, your profit. But if you keep on hurting it with bad strategies and dirty tactics, it will turn against you, pulling you down into the abyss of invisibility where no one will care about you or your brand. Having said that, it is your role to be a search engine’s friend and it’s not an easy task, but it’s something you have to do to succeed. So, good luck!
Do you have any questions or any reaction? Feel free to comment below! We’ll try to answer all your concerns! 🙂