A How to Guide to Local SEO in 2015

2015 is just around the corner, and many businesses are likely to be looking at drawing up their marketing plans for the New Year.

Any business operating in & serving specific locations should without a doubt be considering local SEO as part of any marketing strategy.

Local SEO offers businesses the ability to appear to users that are located within close proximity to the said user. For example, if I were to search for “restaurants” right now, Google would provide me with the most relevant results that are closest to me. The same can be said if I were to search “restaurants in Manchester”.

Local SEO offers the ability to increase visibility on a regional scale, which is precisely why it should be at the forefront of any business operating in & serving a specific location.

That being said, if I were in London and I searched “restaurants in Manchester”, I’d get a different result to someone searching this phrase on a mobile device in Manchester, as would someone searching for the same phrase on a desktop in Manchester.

Whilst national SEO & local SEO share many of the same algorithmic factors, Google’s Pigeon update in July 2014 changed the game for local search, by improving distance and location ranking parameters, thus having an effect on the ever increasing use of mobiles in search.

Essentially, by undertaking a local SEO strategy, businesses can show up in both the standard organic results & within the mapped results.Visibility in the mapped results is becoming increasingly important for businesses as the mapped results not only show businesses in the immediate area in which a customer is, but they can also appear above the organic results on both desktop, and perhaps more importantly - mobile. When you consider that mobile search is constantly on the increase, this makes this even more valuable to businesses.

Conversion rate is another consideration businesses should take into account when considering local SEO. When a user is searching for something in a specific area, they are either looking for a local specialist, or a shop that they can purchase something for in that specific area. As these users are looking for services/products in a specific area and not on a national scale, local SEO typically results in a higher conversion rates than that of a national search.

Every year, Moz conduct a survey demonstrating the key factors when optimizing a website for local SEO.

The top 5 local ranking factors in 2014 are:

1. On-page signals, such as keywords in the title tag, the websites domain authority & the presence of NAP information (Name, Address, Phone).

2. Link signals such as anchor text, the amount of external links & the quality of these links.

3. External local signals such as the amount of quality citations built and the consistency of the Name, Address and Phone Number (commonly known as NAP) data across the different platforms ( e.g. your website, or external citations/directory listings).

4. Information on Google My Business, for example the relevance of the category, the presence of keywords in the business title & the geographical proximity to the person searching.

5. Review signals, including the quality of reviews and the review diversity & velocity.

Other factors include:

· Behavioural/mobile signals, such as click-through-rates, mobile clicks to call, check ins etc.

· Social signals such as a the authority of a businesses Google+ page, the amount of Facebook likes they have, the amount of Twitter followers they have, and how active they are across their social platforms

· Personalisation, i.e. the search habits of a user will control what they see to a certain extent.

What will be different in 2015?

The likelihood is that Google will continue to adopt this approach to local SEO, generally continuing to focus on the factors above. That being said, there are a range of other factors which should be considered & are likely to have an effect on local SEO in the coming year.

1. Mobile Experience

Long gone are the days of when desktops were the only thing used to surf the net. Since the arrival of smartphones, mobile search has gone from strength to strength & it’s expected that mobile search will exceed desktop search for years to come.

With this in mind, businesses should be looking to make their websites mobile friendly or responsive. This will help improve mobile users experience, which is likely to have an effect on how users interact with the site. This will send positive behavioural signals to Google, thus giving them more reason to rank a website in a more desirable position.

2. Great Content

Don’t worry, I won’t say it too much as we already know exactly who is king in the world of online marketing. One of the best ways to get Google to acknowledge a site is to create interesting & unique content. Back in the day, as long as you had fresh content going on your site, Google didn’t seem to mind if it was keyword stuffed, or was just simply not very interesting & essentially just a place for keywords & links. These days, Google rewards sites that are regularly creating interesting & unique content, which actually provide the user with interesting or useful information. Google doesn’t want you to stuff keywords either. Keywords should feature where it would be natural for them to do so.

3. Keeping Up With The Keyword (Topic!) Evolution

Since 2013’s Hummingbird update, Google has been focusing on conversational search queries & rewarding sites which cater for these types of searches. Optimising for topics rather than keywords is likely to enable businesses to perform better in the search results.

With an increase in voice recognition capabilities across platforms (Google, Youtube etc) this more conversational nature of search can be expected to continue, thus the optimization of any site looking for visibility in a specific location should look to optimize their site in this more conversational way.

Ultimately, a local SEO strategy which follows the guidelines above is likely to help increase a websites visibility in the location that they are located.

Whether you’re an SEO professional, or a local business making their first foray into the world of local SEO, if you’re not already following these guidelines, now is the time to get ahead of the trend ready for 2015.

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