If your business demands in-store traffic, SEO on a large, global scale is fine. But you really need to be found in many other places.
Local search is not about traditional Google or Bing 10 blue link search results. It's searches made with a specific geographic area as part of the intent. Local search is about being found in multiple apps across multiple platforms from mobile to table to desktop.
Remember that Google's latest Hummingbird algorithm change means user intent is a major part of the query and which results will be displayed. For local search, you'll see more map-based results and less product info.
At a bare minimum, you need to have:
- Good content and user experience (mobile!);
- Proper contact information and citations;
- Your site marked up with structured data (Schema);
- and reviews, which augment it all.
Content is Still King!
First and foremost, your content is still King. Know the words on which people are searching for your products and your services. Make sure your content is accessible. This means for traditional desktop browsers, but also for mobile. Is your site mobile optimized? If you're using WordPress, Joomla or similar content management systems allow you to add a plug-in or extension and away you go, instant mobile site from your existing content. Better still, use a responsive Web design theme or template.
Make sure your content is as rich (if not exact) for mobile users as it is for desktop users. If you have done proper keyword research, you should have a good idea of what words and phrases searchers are using. Make sure you have local towns in the mix — where it is natural to do so. Simply dumping in a list of towns and areas around your city randomly doesn't make for quality content.
While search engines answer a user's query to see what + where + why, other mobile apps have specific intents in mind that already answer the "why." Local search involves Yelp, FourSquare and other location-specific searches. Remember, too, that in-app searches are not necessarily user-driven. Many are simply a functionality of the app. When a user opens FourSquare, for example, a map appears centered around the user's position. Suggestions of known and popular places nearly appear automatically in a list — without the user even asking. Make sure your content is found!
Contact Info: NAP and Citations
Two terms you may be hearing lately are NAP Info and Citations. Local SEO has become a validation process.
Start by having your proper Name, Address, and Phone number (NAP!) prominently on your site. Then, make sure you get Citations - mentions of your organization's Name, Address and Phone number in local directories and other locations. Citations are to Local SEO what Links are to SEO.
If you look, there's many directories you find that will help you get more citations. But for starters, make sure you've claimed your local listing on Google+ Local, Bing Local Pages and Yahoo Local! The Big-3 are still top dogs for citations. In fact, the folks over at MOZ even suggest Yahoo Local might be the holy grail for citations. Make sure you also claim the easy ones: FourSquare, Yelp, UrbanSpoon, and any local directory in your area. If you're a member of a local chamber of commerce, get your full NAP contact information listed on their sites, too.
You'll never hear an SEO say links aren't important. However, if the link is merely your URL without great anchor text, as long as it's listed next to your NAP info, it counts.
Most importantly: make sure your NAP info is consistent across all your listings. If you abbreviate your address (e.g.: St. or Ave.), then do it consistently across all your listings. Correct already entered listings, if necessary. If your organization contains an ampersand (&), make sure all your citations include it and not the word "and." Be consistent!
Structured Data (Schema) Markup
I've discussed it before on this blog: you need to use semantic markup on your website. It comes in a variety of names with subtle differences between them, but semantic markup are special codes you add into your HTML code that help search engines understand what your content is all about. At a bare minimum, you need to have Authorship markup, identifying your company with your Google+ page. However, you can use LocalBusiness schema to add semantic markup to your company's NAP information. Better yet, if you list your NAP info in a footer, include the markup on every page.
If you have products and list your pricing on your site, make sure you're using Product schema, too. The more information you provide about your local products, the easier search engines will be able to understand the meaning. As a result, your products may be the ones included in the next user's local search. If your products match that user's intent.
Thom Craver is an international speaker, digital strategist, author and adjunct professor. He specializes in SEO and Web analytics. His last article for SEMrush was "Fall 2013 Brings Potentially Scary Tricks and Treats to SEOs."