Understanding your Location in Local SEO (UK)
Tim's slides >>>
Felipe's slides >>>
- Optimizing Your Business for Local Search
- Local Business Schema Markup
- Localized Content Marketing Tips
- Business Citations and Directories
- The Importance of Good Local Press for Local SEO
- How SEMrush Can Improve Your Local SEO
- Home Addresses and Local SEO
- How to Rank Multi-Location Businesses in the Same City
- Local Business Reviews: What Counts as Spammy Reviews?
Tristam: Yeah. Good afternoon, and welcome to another SEMrush live with me, Tristam Jarman, and Tim Capper and Felipe Bazon. Today guys, we're going to be chatting through how to understand your location in local SEO. With no further ado, if we jump in, and I can start with you, Tim, if you could introduce yourself and give a little bit of background on how we are all here today.
Tim: Hi, yes, thanks, Tristam. As you said, today we're looking at trying to understand your location in local SEO. I've been in local SEO with online ownership for... oh, gosh, before Google even came up with Google Maps. Yeah, it's all about the location.
Tristam: Exactly. And Felipe over to you.
Felipe: Hi, guys. Nice being here, the second time for a webinar here in the U.K., I normally do quite a few SEMrush webinars in Brazil. I'm head of SEO at Hedgehog Digital, a very unique digital marketing agency I'd say. We've got offices in Cornwall, people always get surprised about that. We also got offices in Bedford, and we just opened an office in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where I'm from. In the U.K, we specialize mostly in SEO for local businesses.
Tristam: Tim, are you happy and ready to jump into your presentation?
Optimizing Your Business for Local Search
Tim: Yeah, let's get cracking. Today, look, local SEO is all about your location, it really is as simple as that local SEO location. Of course, it gets a bit more complex when we start talking multi-locations. But the crux and the whole crux of this is understanding how your location, both on-site and off-site works in local SEO.
Search engines need to understand where your business is located, and in order to show your business to searchers who are searching for something in a geographic location. If you're on desktop, Google tries to figure out your IP, you've probably noticed at the bottom of your desktop. Google will give a rough estimate, or guesstimate rather, of where you are. But it really, really, really becomes refined when a user is searching a mobile, because the mobile pings off local cell towers, they get a pretty accurate description or location on where you are using GPS cell towers. This is really crucial, location is sort of the be-all and end-all.
Now, how do we get search engines to understand where you're located, and what products and services you're providing? We need to provide the correct local and location information both on-site and off-site.
Whether you're marketing on your own site, whether you're marketing off-site, whether you're marketing in the traditional press there's a couple of golden rules. Your business name really needs to be pretty much the same across it, you can't call it Bob's Best Plumbers one day and Bob's LTD the next day and Bob's Plumbing Multi-faceted Services the next day. Your name is your name.
Your address, street, obviously, your actual location, your town, your county, and your postcode. The way a lot sort of local SEO works and a lot of it is obviously, town and county. The minute you start moving outside of the county, of course, then you start looking at other SEO methods because then you're dealing national then you're going to the realms of national SEO. Use a local phone number.
There's a small little caveat and we don't really have time to go into all the things, but Google is smart enough to understand if your business name in one instance has limited in it, Ltd in it, or misses that. Google is smart enough to understand it's the same business. Same again with street addresses inconsistencies like Road versus Rd, or street versus St. It doesn't have to be that regimented, Google can sort of make these differentiations and understand these differentiations. But you want to keep your NAP, which is your name, address and phone number accurate across all sorts of platforms.
The second kind of golden rule is your Google My Business listing. When someone's searching your brand, you've seen on the right-hand side, I'm showing a knowledge panel there, which has got massive amounts of information on it. This is really kind of becoming the gateway to your business online. If somebody searches for your brand name, it's an open window, your business is an open window then.
You really need to optimize your Google My Business Page. Equally, when you start trying to serve products or services in the local search, so someone is searching “electrician”, and they may or may not use a location within that search query. Your actual local pack or your map pack is made up of your Google My Business Page. It pays to take the time to optimize it and it's not a “set and forget” because Google is building so many things into this all the time.
This is business branding that is free and it's business branding that Google uses. Right, so let's look at some on-site information. Your NAP information, so a single location business; I would always recommend adding your location in your footer. It's good for Google because Google runs it site-wide. It's good for Google and it's crucial for your customers. If you're a local business, the amount of times businesses don't put where they're located, it's crazy. If you're a local business, put your address on your site.
Multi-location businesses, like I said, that's a little bit more tricky, but at least have your head office because if somebody is searching for your brand name again, you at least want your business presence or your knowledge panel appearing for your head office. Then, of course, your location page is for your individual locations would have their own specific details on that page.
Local Business Schema Markup
Local business schema markup. A section within the local business schema markup or structured data, whichever you want to call it is a section on your address. Same again, remembering NAP information, your name, your address, the street name, town, county, postcode, as well as your phone number, should be myriad on your site, as well as in your structured data markup that's running across your site.
Find the best category within your structured data for your local business that fits your business, it's the same as Google My Business, sometimes they don't exactly have the specific fit for your business as a category, find the nearest one that best fits your category. If it doesn't, within structured data you can't find the best fit, then just use the top-level local business.
Same again, NAP consistency, your structured data must match the information on your site. Geo-coordinates within your structured data gives a search engine a better understanding of where your business is geolocated.
Don't spam aggregated reviews. In fact, Google actually just slapped down on aggregated reviews yesterday. If you want to look into this, you can just check the Google Webmaster blog just learned that they just did a published yesterday on how they're cracking down on reviews for local businesses. If you're spamming it, you're probably going to see those disappearing in the next few days.
When I said to get creative with your structured data in the two images there you can see how we've got, obviously, the aggregated review and we've got the price. Don't just follow the template, that sort of the Google Docs give you, which is $$-$$$ and too many people or developers just copy that, chuck it in, and it looks ridiculous. Get creative, use the best rate guaranteed, as I have done with the hotel there and on my own site as well. I don't have set prices, so it's naturally a quoted price. It gives the people the information they're looking for, it also takes up a little bit extra space within the search results, and it's eye-catching.
Don't forget a decent structure on your webpage, your H1s your H2s, try and include your product of that particular page or the service, reinforce it across the structure of your site. You're providing the right information to customers the right time, and I know people are sometimes very tempted to go for slick, very sort of design orientated businesses, but half the time you land on a business, and you don't quite understand what they do, because it's literally not on the page. Put your product and service on the page
Localized Content Marketing Tips
So, localized content. Your site is up and running. Now, how can we actually start targeting your customers? We can start doing this with localized content. Look, the days are gone when people, old SEOs, local SEO, five ways to get a taxi, six ways to drink coffee in your coffee shop. That kind of content really, really is nonsensical, it doesn't really add any value to your customers.
What you need to start thinking about is anticipating what a local customer is going to be searching or researching before they decide on what kind of products or services they require. Providing content that anticipates what a user will search through their customer journey is the kind of content you want to be creating.
Local content doesn't always just have to be obviously written content, it can be frequently asked questions, whether it be about a particular product or service, you may have a lot of customers that keep asking you questions about this. Can I use it in this instance? If people keep asking it, you can guarantee they're searching for it.
Different sorts of resources: when I say resources, do you have white papers? Are you a manufacturing business? Do you have technical specs? Don't be afraid to include this kind of stuff just because you want your website to look slick, you can still provide that information that people are looking for.
Video is great, and so are you a barber? Well, there's only so much you can talk about trimming beards, for example. But hey, you might be very flamboyant, and you might come off really well on video. Why not start doing that kind of stuff online and embedded into your site?
Business Citations and Directories
Now we get to off-site. We want to start reinforcing your location to search engines, and kind of three ways we can look at that is business citations, which increases your location signals. Yes, you may have a Google My Business listing, but you may not be mentioned anywhere else online.
The more information and the more prominence you can give to your business out there, in terms of business citations a.k.a business directory is great. It's like the old fashioned Yellow Pages, and again, now and again, people still search these. You'll be very surprised people still search and they're still another source of information, or traffic coming to you. For a local business, press is great.
An overview of business citations. Basically, it's an online resource other than your website that mentions you by name, address, may or may not include your phone number. It typically includes a link to your site. Obviously, because we're dealing with the U.K, it really only makes sense to use local citation sites, U.K citation sites.
You've got things like Scoot and Free index, you can actually add your events to these. Other citation sources that you want to look at are trade associations. Are you gas-safe registered, for example, they have a specific thing for that. Chamber of Commerce, social media profiles. Don't forget social media profiles need to all match the same NAP, trade reviews, are there any trade reviews? Do you use Trustpilot, etc? Make sure your business information is all correct.
The Importance of Good Local Press for Local SEO
Now local press. Local press is great, just build your relationship with your local press. Invite them to openings product launches that you're doing. Have you done anything for charity, use your charity, get hold of your local guy. Local football teams, local opinion pieces, something goes wrong, always keep your eye out.
Press releases; way too many people still throwing press releases out they're set and forget. Be careful with that unless it's for your niche market because press releases can build up quite quickly and will lead to bad things. When I say stay local, think about doing things with businesses that compliment your business. Are you a coffee shop, right? Well, if there's a car wash around the corner, talk to the car wash, come and grab a coffee while you have your car washed or vice versa. You can do interlinking benefits.
Just a final recap on this. Your on-site; don't ignore your titles and your structure. Make sure your address is on-site, structured data, localized content, Google My Business. Optimize posts to promote and build your reviews up. Off-site, remember business citations, use your press to your advantage and stay local. Use other local businesses and build those relationships.
Tristam: Awesome. Thanks, Tim. Felipe, should we jump into your presentation and then we can fire some questions off and get these burning questions answered for everyone.
How SEMrush Can Improve Your Local SEO
Felipe: I'll be talking a little bit about the listing management tool by SEMrush. But beforehand I will do a quick intro on just a compliment on what Tim said about local listings, and how can we work with that.
Well, back in the days, I think people will remember that business listings were all about the Yellow Pages. But things have evolved, and now business listings look something more like this, like Yelp and some other business directories. It's easier to find information, you get images, you get reviews, you get the address, you get the map, you get everything on your phone, or other types of business listings more common as well.
This is how the tool will work, how you get listed on these types of websites or business directories. What are business listings? They are online portfolios that contain information about your business such as, your address, phone number, hours, pricing, and products. Most of these platforms, they are free.
Sometimes your business is already listed there, this is where the listing management tool comes in quite handy to identify that. But you can always upload that manually, and in some cases, you need to claim your business. Meaning that you need to validate that you are the owner, like for instance, for Google My Business, which I would say is the most popular one, where you get a notification by mail, it used to be by phone to confirm that you're the business owner.
What does that have to do with SEO? Are business listings the same as citations? As my personal opinion here, like from an SEO standpoint, I'd say so. Why? Because since local business listings are used by search engines such as Google as signals to attribute local rankings more specifically to the local pack. I would say they're the same from an SEO standpoint... for those of you doing local SEO.
The local pack is the listings that Google shows up in the search results be it on mobile or be it on the desktop with the listings of certain businesses. Now we have the one that's an ad-free that's organic, let's say this is what we're talking about here today. Yeah, this is like the local pack for those of you that don't know. So, what does business listings have to do with SEO?
If you want to rank in the local pack, this is something that you really have to work on. This is something you really need to build for your website, therefore, there's a total correlation. Every time as SEOs listen to something that, oh, this is a ranking signal, we go crazy, don't we?
I started doing SEO back in 2007, and I started link building bookmarks here, and most of the things that I used to do was build business listings or business directories, do a bit of article marketing with a little bit of article spinning. Back in the days, it used to work, but Penguin I would say was the real game-changer and changed a lot of things for us. But that doesn't mean that business listings are not important, that we cannot do business directories anymore.
There are certain directories, they're still effective, they're still used by Google and other search engines as a signal, as a citation, and to attribute your local rankings. That's when the listing management tool from SEMrush comes into place; this tool will help us understand where our business is listed in the U.S, in the U.K.
It will check your business name, your address, and everything and see if your listing is working properly. Then it will let you guys update that and manage your listings on all these directories at once. It's a big time-saver for us that's doing that local SEO, and it's a good way to manage our listings in these different directories.
How does that work? Quite simple. All you have to do is enter your NAP, like Tim said, name, address, phone number, and the tool will look into all these 37 business directories or websites in the U.K, business listing websites. It will give you an analysis of how it's ranked, how it's listed and after you've checked everything, you can start distributing that, and the tool will do that for you as well. We go in there, we add our business name, our address, our phone number, our zip code, and then we press check to validate.
Once you have everything sorted, you press Distribute, and then you can define how many listings you want to manage, and all you have to do is press Play now, and the tool will help you sort everything out.
Home Addresses and Local SEO
Tristam: Fantastic. Thanks very much, Felipe. We've got some questions coming in. “Is it okay if I use my home address to put on my Google My Business Page? I'm a bit nervous about putting it online”. This person actually runs a business from home, I think it's online Skype service that they offer coaching. What are your thoughts guys on putting your home address?
Tim: Well, under the Google My Business guidelines, just purely based on what you said you're online, you don't actually meet clients, and technically you don't service them. Under the guidelines, you're not really eligible.
The basic premise is, if your business address is listed, that means customers can come to you during your office hours. In this instance, they can't so you should hide your address. When you put your address into GMB, or when you actually go through the follow-up procedure, it does give you do customers come to you or do you go to them? It will hide your address and then you can actually select service areas. If you serve a particular town or county, you can select those or multiple towns and counties. Yeah, so in that instance, definitely hide it. It's not a problem because you can then define the areas you serve.
Tristam: Excellent. Then another question has come in. “Personally, I think some local listing sites are just awful, I never use them to search for any other businesses when looking at a product. Anyone else?” That's an interesting one on what your feelings are of these sites, whether you use them or not.
Tim: Yeah, I mean, personally, I don't use them. People do use them; if these were never used, Google would not display them. Although I may not use them and the other user who wrote that may not use this, if they weren't used, Google would not display these.
Felipe: Well, personally, I sort of don't use it, and I'm with Tim on that one. I mainly use it for SEO purposes as well, I look if the competitor is there and as Tim said people do use it. But yeah, from an SEO standpoint or from a user experience, I'd say, standpoint, I just use it for local SEO purposes.
Tim: Yeah, and don't forget, Google My Business quite clearly states what their ranking factors are, and one is specifically prominence. Prominence, like I mentioned, or Felipe mentioned, if you're not mentioned online, Google only has your Google My Business listing, there's nothing else... okay, maybe a Facebook page.
But literally, there is no other reference to your business in the online world, in the algorithmic equation, your prominence is just not there. If you happen to be in a town that has less than 10, of whatever service providers you are, then you're always going to be on the front page. Great. But if there's more than 10, then you need to put some effort in.
How to Rank Multi-Location Businesses in the Same City
Tristam: I'll just read the question: “Can I have two or more Google My Business listings in one city? How do I rank for multiple locations?”
Tim: Okay. You've got two locations in the same city. The way I would play that is, obviously, your homepage is going to be for that city, you provide that and then you would have your location pages. I don't know where you are, but narrow it down, define it by the area.
I'm just going to say London, say King's Cross and Knightsbridge, you would have that particular location. That page specifically, you would optimize it for Knightsbridge and King's Cross. It would be great if somebody just searched London and you would appear both of them in the local pack, that would be fabulous. However, the truth is London's 45 miles wide and Google still gives you more local, so you still need to optimize that. Yes, you can have two different GMB listings as long as, of course, you've got a defined address, as well as a defined phone number for that. Create them, verify them, optimize them, fill them in.
Tristam: Anything to add on that Felipe?
Felipe: My take here would be, make sure you have your listings for every different location well optimized and appearing correctly when people search for it. I would say that's where you're good to go, you maximize your chances of getting traffic.
Local Business Reviews: What Counts as Spammy Reviews?
Tristam: Awesome. What I find quite interesting is the spammy reviews that we're getting, so negative reviews, as well as populated by sort of in-house people or friend of a friend type thing. Really, what are your viewpoints or what would you class as spam? There's probably a multitude of people out there, that it's crossed their mind that without going out to customers that they could ask people they know, can you just drop a positive comment?
Tim: I mean, look, I'm always ranting about it if you look on my blog, online ownership. I've been ranting, in fact, this week about purchase reviews, the algorithms don't catch them, they're blatantly obvious. Personally, I don't think that the spam filter or the spam algorithm that they've got is fit for purpose.
Tristam: Well, just quickly what would your top tip be on... because I even know, I've heard about the quite prominent digital marketing people saying that their companies have even had like unscrupulous spamming in reviews and stuff. Yeah, what would your kind of one takeaway be if you woke up, and you were seeing that someone might be trying to sabotage you with some spammy reviews?
Tim: Yeah, okay. Well, so firstly is hopefully, they're idiots that actually leave a pattern because of course, you need to create fake accounts, and those fake accounts, then need to obviously leave the review. Hopefully, they're idiots and they create a pattern, in which case, you can document, you can flag them individually, you can contact Google My Business support or you can jump in the Google My Business Forum, and one of the product experts will take a look, and we can escalate directly to Google.
But if you had a bad review or two or three bad reviews...in your response, please don't say, “oh, you were never a customer and I don't have a record of you, and this is a fake review.” Don't do that, because other people reading or looking or checking out your site, expect to see a range of different reviews. And if there is a bad review and you are then calling them out as fake.
Even, let's say, for example, you know it was fake, 100% you know it was fake; every other customer doesn't know that. They don't know what you know, they don't know if you've had a fallout with an employee or whatever, just respond to it with a clear head as if they were a legitimate customer. “Sorry, you had that bad experience, here's our email address, contact us.”
Tristam: Anything to add on that, Felipe?
Felipe: I'm not going to lie that when we put a new business up, or even for ourselves, we do ask family and friends to kickstart those reviews. I don't see anything wrong with that. But you can not rely on that, so that why once we get things going, we use that link that Tim mentioned, from the dashboard that you can send to the clients.
We find that some industries, people are a bit reluctant to kind of like review the business because they don't want their competitors seeing that they're working with a nice company and so on. But at the end of the day, you need to keep pushing that I think you just need to trying to get as many as you can in a nice way.
Tim came up with a good point on like bad reviews as well. Trying to learn from that because if they left a bad review, it could be an opportunity for you to improve your business. I think one of the nicest features over the years that was enabled on Google My Business is the ability to reply to it. Back then we couldn't, we just saw those bad reviews and we had to live with it, we had to go to the family and friends to get good reviews to cover them up. But now, as you can reply exploit that because I think that's a very nice feature.
And with regards to spam, yeah, I think there is a long way to go, they need to improve maybe the validation process to tell it's a real person or something like that to leave the review. I know it will cause more friction for people to leave reviews.
But it's the only way I see them combating that because as everybody knows, you can go into Fiverr and get 1,000 reviews for a fiver.
Tristam: Excellent. And we had a couple of questions on reviews. And I guess it's still the same state of play that we should not be incentivizing reviews.
Tim: Yeah, look, everyone's got... all different platforms have different rules. If it's Google My Business, it's you should not incentivize for those publicly.
Tristam: What happens behind closed doors, stays behind closed doors. Excellent. We are also approaching the end of today's SEMrush webinar. I don't know if you guys have any roundup points before I round us all up. One top tip, let's take it away.
Tim: For me, it's going to be Google My Business all day long; optimize it, don't ignore it, you've got an opportunity to post on there, you can share on there, cross-post.
Felipe: Complementing what Tim said, I would say build up your local presence, exploit your local media, complementary businesses, and obviously you need your Google My Business. But build up your brand, build up your reputation in your local area. I think you will also be rewarded with not just citations, but mentions in the media.
Tristam: Excellent. Just to round off today, don't forget, we've got the global marketing day happening on October the 30th, there's a link in the chat. And then I'll just pop up your get into a local pack, Tim, for everyone who wants to get ahold of that. Some really useful information in there, I'll drop all our Twitter links in there as well.
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