Not everyone realizes that local search results are actually displayed using a separate algorithm from Google’s national search results. The local 3-pack of local businesses you see above the fold of organic search results are produced using specific parameters that are called upon when a local search is detected; getting your business featured here gives you massive visibility potential, and it’s far easier than ranking that high in natural organic searches.
However, if you’re going to rank in local SEO, you’ll need to play by a slightly different set of rules. Traditional SEO best practices, such as optimizing your site for mobile devices and pursuing an on-going link building campaign, should remain in place, but as you gear up for local dominance, you’ll want to make sure the following “starter kit” procedures are executed:
First, there’s onsite optimization. For the most part, the basic rules of national SEO on-site optimization will apply here. For example, you’ll need to ensure that your site is technically functional, with content that loads on all manner of devices and web browsers, you’ll need unique title tags and meta descriptions for every page of your site, suitable onsite content for every page, a seamless sitemap and URL structure, and other features important for the average user experience. However, you’ll also want to include some local-specific keywords in your content throughout the site, and you may even consider creating a geographically specific page, focused on your city or region. If you’re not sure your site’s optimization is on point, then it’s highly recommended to have a professional SEO audit on your site to identify any and all potential issues.
Social Media Profiles
Next, you’ll want to make sure you’ve claimed all your social media profiles around the web, including the heavy hitters of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. Once claimed, make sure to fill out your profiles completely, listing your location and describing your company in detail. This won’t help your local rankings directly, but will come in handy; many third-party directory sites look for company information on social media, so keeping your info consistent here will be a boon for your local citations (plus, you’ll want your social profiles to be available to those who might be looking for them).
NAP Check Across the Web
Your name, address, and phone number (NAP) are three of the most important pieces of information about your company in your local SEO campaign. Make sure all this information on your site and social media profiles is not only correct, but consistent—even a minor inconsistency here, like spelling, could mean problems later on for your campaign. When that’s done, run a thorough check across the web for any local listings you have on third party directory and review sites; if you notice any errors or inconsistencies, make sure you file to have them corrected as soon as possible.
Local Citation Building
Local “citations” are mentions of your business in third party directories, review sites, and other aggregators that list businesses in your area. The more of these mentions you have, and the more consistent your information is here, the higher you’re going to appear in local searches. You can therefore improve your possibility of ranking in the local 3-pack by building more citations on different sources.
Hopefully, you’re already working on an ongoing onsite content campaign for your website and brand, providing practical or otherwise valuable content to your visitors. If you’re trying to rank for local searches, you’ll need to improve your local relevance by posting local content, such as your brand’s involvement in local events or local news stories to cover with your own perspective. Get creative here!
Finally, there are local reviews. The more positive local reviews you have for your business, the higher your authority will be, and the higher you’ll rank in local searches. You can optimize for positive reviews by letting customers know of your presence on review sites, responding to people who review you there, and learning from reviews to continually improve your business. Just don’t pay for or ask for reviews directly, or you could be penalized.
Following these entry procedures won’t guarantee your site will rank in the top three results, but it will give you everything you need to get started with your local optimization campaign. If you’re facing stiff competition, or if your site doesn’t have much in the way of domain authority to start with, it could take several weeks to months of effort before you start seeing any progress. The good news is, your efforts will have peripheral benefits beyond just increasing your rankings in search engines, including increased visibility in third-party review sites and a stronger overall reputation.