Most of what I know about online marketing has been gleaned from 20 odd years’ experience in marketing for business in the UK to customers primarily in the UK. While I have quite a few multilingual international projects in my portfolio, there are better sources of information on international SEO than me.
So, this post (and the subsequent webinar) will focus on how UK organizations can do their best work – although much of the ideas are transferable to other territories.
Note ‘local’ SEO, as described here, is work that is in addition to (not a replacement of) your ‘traditional’ SEO workload. If you’re not already creating great content that your visitors will love and share, publishing it regularly and ensuring your website is blisteringly fast, then you need to start doing that too!
Since the Pigeon update rolled out to the UK, Google has become even better at providing users with local answers to their search queries. And in the past 12 months, searches including the phrase “near me” have more than doubled making the importance of the Local Pack more important than ever.
To get ranked in the all-important Local Pack, then you need to ensure you’re feeding the Google machine the right information.
To do this you need to ensure you’re covering three main areas: your site, your local citations and your local link profile. We’ll go through the basics of these here, working down from global signals to local best practice.
Get Your Site(s) Right
From both a ranking and UX perspective – your site should be in the correct language for the people you’re targeting. Us Brits have historically adhered to the ‘English is the language of business’ rule, which while it still stands in many ways is outmoded and arrogant. It’s simple politeness to communicate with your web visitor in their native tongue. It’s also a huge context signal for Google.
If your site only targets English speakers in the UK, you need to make sure this bit of code is at the top of every page on your website:
Here’s what it looks like on www.bbc.co.uk :
View Source on your website to make sure it’s there. For single locations, that’s all you need, so go ahead and scroll down to the section on Local Schema. If you’re targeting users all over the world using different languages, you need to go the extra mile, so read on.
Location Specific Sub Folders
There’s a lot of discussion about how to separate out localized websites in the SEO community but if we take a typical example it keeps things nice and simple. To achieve maximum domain authority (for most reasonable sized businesses), it’s best to have multi language / country specific content on ONE DOMAIN. With each specific country ‘site’ in a separate SUB-FOLDER. So, your site for the UK would live in a sub-folder called /gb/
We call it /gb/ and not /uk/ because Google seems to prefer sites that use the ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 standard for country codes. Here’s how we’d create the sub folders to work for site(s) targeting three territories:
For each web page on a country specific site, you need to declare the country (and sometimes language) you’re targeting and the corresponding page on the alternative country specific sites. In the example you can see this bit of code lang=en-GB, which shows Google this content is in English (en) and targeting people in the UK (GB) with alternative versions of the content targeting people in Germany (de) and English speakers in the USA (en-US).
For really small sites you can declare the alternative language in the HTML of the page but it’s usually far more practical to declare the alt lang pages in a sitemap.xml file.
For Further Reading, Consider:
- Google Webmaster Central: http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/multilingual-and-multinational-site.html
- Check your country codes: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISO_3166-1_alpha-2
Most websites have a ‘how to find us’ section or ‘contact us’ page. Ideally you need one page for each physical location. For each location page you must include the Schema mark up for local businesses.
SEOs (at least those worth their salt) tend to talk about ensuring “NAP” is consistent in your Schema and across your local citations (about which, more below).
“NAP” stands for:
- N = Name
- A = Address
- P = Phone Number
At Noisy Little Monkey, we have evolved this acronym into the even more cumbersome “NAP-OLP” which stands for:
- N = Name
- A = Address
- P = Phone Number
- O = Opening Hours
- L = Logo
- P = Profiles (social)
Here’s the basics as deployed on the Noisy Little Monkey website using JSON:
It’s not a bad idea to get your location in the Page Title too – BUT remember to keep it short and sweet.
- Google Developers: https://developers.google.com/webmasters/business-location-pages/schema.org-examples
- Schema.org: https://schema.org/LocalBusiness
That covers the foundation of your website for the global and local basics. As I say, it’s not a cure all, it’s part of the rest of your on-page SEO mix. To check the rest of your on-page is right, download our Launch Support Checklist and Monthly Website Health Check List. If they’re too confusing, head over to Moz and download their SEO for beginners.
Optimise Your Local Citations
The Local Packs that you see in SERPs on your desktop or mobile device have ranking factors that seem to me to be at least as complex as the normal organic results. So, be cautious of anyone who lazily says ‘do this and you’ll rank.’
It’s more nuanced than just pushing the right buttons for Google. Here’s what we do at Noisy Little Monkey – it’s not the only way and it might not be the best way, but it works for our workflow and more importantly gets results for our clients.
Google My Business Page
At the very least Google My Business (GMB) needs to be verified for each location (find out more here) and each GMB page must have consistent NAP-OLP with the Schema back on the relevant location page of your website.
Sort Your Citations
Every local mention of your NAP should be exactly as it appears on your website. EXACTLY. If you see a listing with the phone number with the wrong spacing, if you see your address with the postcode mistyped, fix it. It can be time consuming and hard but it’s a high priority for long term success.
- This amazing slidedeck from Greg Gifford - http://www.slideshare.net/GregGifford/local-seo-will-help-you-live-long-and-prosper
Get Shared Locally
When people ask Steven, our head of SEO “what’s the best way to get links?” he typically replies, “Get a blimp.”
The logic behind his answer is that when people see this blimp parked above your office they’ll take pictures of it and share it on social media. Maybe the press will be interested as to why this blimp is tethered so dangerously low outside your office and they’ll come and write about it for the local paper or maybe even the early evening TV news…
Make sure you’ve added a URL on the blimp’s side, like “www.yoursite.co.uk/blimp" maybe and have something funny on that page and you’ve got yourself tons of editorially justified links from reliable news sources.
It’s an odd example but it would work for local links. You don’t need to rent a blimp, but you do need to do something interesting in your local community… even if it’s just sharing local events that might be useful for your web audience. If your business is a champion for other local businesses and relevant local events it’s more likely to get editorially justified, authoritative local links. The links you acquire don’t need masses of domain authority (though it is a bonus if they do), they just need to be trusted websites in your local area.
For example, at Noisy Little Monkey we run events (like this: http://digitalbuffet.co.uk/) where people can get together to learn stuff and have a few drinks. It costs us a few thousand pounds per event but it’s a small price to pay for enhancing our local reputation PLUS we get lots of links from local businesses and local news sites that it’s difficult for our competitors to replicate.
Have a think about what you can do locally to get a velocity of social sharing and some links from trusted sources (not just crappy local directories). The social sharing isn’t going to help you get a better ranking in the Local Pack but it will show you what sort of stuff people are more likely to share, so it’s good for proving the concept of your ideas.
If you’re stuck, then see where your local competitors have already got good local links using Majestic SEO and/or SEMrush.
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Editor's note: We retained UK English spelling on this blog post as much of the content is specific to the location.