If Google search was a jungle animal, it would be a lion, because in the jungle of web marketing it is undoubtedly the king.
Online marketers are continuously striving to reach the echelons of Google’s search rankings in an attempt to fend off competition. In line with research that suggests that three quarters of internet users never actually navigate beyond page one, search engine optimization (SEO) has now become a necessity, not a nicety, for organizations that want to get to the top of the online food chain.

Admittedly, the concept of SEO is still quite confusing to non-tech savvy marketing professionals. The more worrying thing, however, is the fact that a large proportion of online marketing professionals that are failing to realize the importance of local SEO. Every business, and I mean every business (especially those possessing a traditional bricks-and-mortar store), should be making it a priority, particularly in light of Google’s latest algorithm update.

Pigeon has been released exclusively across the pond to provide more useful, relevant and accurate local search results that are linked to the user’s location searches. The algorithm also appears to have stopped organic and local results being blended.
So why is it important?

Alongside organic growth, showing up on Google’s front page ‘map pack’ will ultimately raise the awareness of a business and enable it to pull in customers from the immediate area. It is particularly useful for organizations that rely on footfall or local trade because it ensures they are visible and easy to find, which should, in theory, improve sales.

If your business hasn’t optimized its website for local SEO purposes yet, here are my top tips to get started…

Creating an account

The first step to climbing the rankings is to set up a ‘Google Places’ account and dedicate some time to filling out as much information as possible. This includes photos, videos, products and keywords, which should be easy if you have an SEO guru amidst your ranks. Don’t ignore business directories either as they make it easy for researchers to find your business.

Content and Titles

It’s then all about optimizing your website. Start by adding your town or city name in your page titles, Meta tags, H1 headings and most importantly, within your content. It’s no secret that in today’s environment, content is incredibly valuable, so where possible, try and include your business location, ensuring search engines know where you are. Make sure you make it user friendly rather than focusing on keyword stuffing.

Contact Page

Every business should have an ‘about’ or ‘contact us’ page. Again, this is relatively simple to do, but highly effective. On the page, make sure you include the name of your business, its address and any contact information, often referred to as your NAP information. It is also advisable to include an embedded Google Map, but make sure that it doesn’t just point to your address – it must point to your actual Google listing.

Images

Images are also extremely useful resources in helping improve your local SEO ranking. Make sure you’ve got ALT text on all your images and also include your location in the info section of the text. However, resist the temptation to saturate it with keywords and instead ensure it is naturally written.

Reviews

Reviews or testimonials are brilliant for obtaining crucial click-throughs, providing they are genuine and positive. Internet users will be able to see your reviews in an isolated pop-up when they search for you in order to gain a feel for your company. It’s also important to create a review page on your website which directs customers to your Google+ Local page, encouraging them to leave a Google+ review. As a business, you must be brave and ask customers to complete the review because customers don’t usually do it on their own. Maybe throw in an incentive to give them a little push.

Citations

And finally we come to citations. Admittedly, they aren’t as powerful as they once were, but they are still an invaluable part of Local SEO. Basically, this all about putting a reference or your NAP information on other sites, such as business directories or on social media. Make sure you’re consistent when adding your name to other sites, though, as inaccurate information will only hinder your chances. Although citation work requires time and patience, in time you’ll eventually see your Google search ranking improve.

Admittedly, SEO is quite a confusing area for non-search marketers, so if needs be, it’s worth looking at investing in an external agency to help you get started. The key things to remember, however, are to make sure you’re consistent with your tactics and techniques.
Oh, and don’t forget to invest in a mobile optimized website because let’s face it, everything is going mobile. And as smartphones become quicker and smarter, more and more firms are adopting ‘mobile first, desktop second’ strategies, so don’t be the one that gets left behind.
Happy optimizing!

By Kate O’Brien, Marketing Director at Daisy Communications.