Local SEO is often a grey area for business owners and marketers, as they’re often left asking the question ‘what’s the difference between organic and local SEO growth?’. And, with the rules of local search ever-changing, it can be incredibly difficult for business owners and internal marketing teams to keep ahead of the curve.
Simply put, local SEO is a form of an organic SEO strategy, used to target the areas a business operates within and to aid growth of the online presence of a business within a specified locality. It’s a way for small businesses to compete in an extremely competitive online environment, without having to rely on costly outreach campaigns or the monthly services of a digital marketing agency.
The points below outline four factors that are vital for the success of any local SEO campaign in 2019, addressing the realistic steps necessary to ensure your local SEO is as optimised as possible:
1. On-page SEO
Many small business owners may not be able to commit to the services of an SEO consultant. However, this does not mean that local SEO growth is not unattainable.
On-page SEO refers to the additions a website owner puts on each page of their website to make the job of the search engines easier. When it comes to local SEO, it is vital to focus on the following factors first:
- Title Tags: When used correctly, title tags are incredibly effective to target the keywords you want to target. As a small or local business owner, it is important to understand the fine line between under and over-optimising your title tags.
- For example, ‘Plumbers | Manchester’ as a title tag is lacking in keywords, whereas ‘Best Manchester Plumbers in Manchester Highest Rated Best Manchester Plumbers’ is far too over-optimised. So, how can you ensure that your title tags keep search engines happy in 2019? Ensure that the keywords you use are both relevant and useful to the searcher.
- Ensuring title tags are no longer than a maximum of 70 characters is also essential, otherwise they will be cut off within the search results.
- Meta Descriptions: Not strictly a ranking factor, meta descriptions should include the keyword(s) you are targeting as a trust signal and method of conversion rate optimisation. With Google often changing the character limit, the recommended length may change again in 2019, however to be safe be sure to stick between 130-155 characters of well-optimised, relevant text.
2. Local landing pages
What exactly is a local landing page? Local pages are an incredibly effective way for business owners to target their areas of operation (and even some they don’t).
Landing pages must be written with the searcher in mind, and must remain unique. If done well, this tactic can continue to work well into 2019 and beyond. Take a look at these top local landing page tips:
- Ensure a minimum of 500 words
- Internal link to service pages
- Include <h2> tags and images (with alt text)
- Only write a maximum of 6 pages
- Optimise title tags & meta descriptions
- Link to local websites to increase relevance
- Ensure Schema code is added to each page
- Link to your Google My Business profile
3. Local citations & publications
Local citations from online newspapers and directory websites have been around for years, and whilst they do still carry relevance for local SEO, there is an even stronger factor which will continue to grow into 2019 due to the relevance of the link: Local news publications.
Google knows that any website owner can simply sign up to a directory and achieve a backlink, therefore the amount of manual backlinks that can be added to a site and still achieve effectiveness certainly dwindles out quickly.
Consider this – If you are a local barber in Manchester and get featured in a relevant Manchester-based online publication, the link is much more contextual and, even if you have had to pay for it, will be of a much more natural and higher quality than a manual directory submission.
Search for local online publications in your area and reach out to them for a guest post or sponsored article. If you have a link building budget, consider sponsoring a local sports team or event for a permanent do-follow backlink on their site.
4. Internal links & site architecture
Before diving into this final point, let’s look at what internal links and site architecture is, and why it’s particularly important for small business owners to get right from the start.
Internal links are a way for search engine crawlers to discover how content within your website is linked. The more natural an internal linking strategy, the better the ‘flow’ of the site. Essentially, a great internal linking strategy will make the job of the search engines much easier.
Site architecture refers to how your site is laid out for both users and for search engines. The biggest culprit in a poor site architecture is the menu of the site. If a menu is cluttered, poorly thought-out, or doesn’t make sense, search engines are going to crawl once and not bother to come back.
These two factors are so important because, with good site architecture and internal linking additions, you can rank your website without spending thousands on link building and outreach campaigns. And, for small business owners with a local SEO strategy, what’s better than saving money and ranking at the same time?!
The points below are actionable tips which can be used to ensure both your internal linking, content and menu structures are perfect for users, and for the search engines crawling (and ultimately ranking) your website:
- When targeting a service, create sub-categories to further target the long-tail keywords associated to the top-level page.
- Ensure the anchor text for internal links is natural. Plastering the primary keyword you want to rank for across your site will not cut it in 2019.
- Ensure your sitemap is not inflated and there are no errors flagged in Google’s Search Console.
- Block any duplicate URLs in the robots.txt file of your site.
- Ensure your URL’s are readable, particularly at the sub-category level as you begin to target longer keywords.
Local SEO growth does not need to be complicated, however it does need a carefully considered approach. The above tips provide a good start in making moves in the local search results in 2019.
This post was written by James Taylor, director of Dispense Digital.