8 Tips to Help You Improve Your Local SEO Rankings & Traffic
Local SEO is a tricky beast that is always changing. Years ago spam city was the ticket. You just created a Google listing in every city imaginable and gamed the system. Not anymore, but it’s not just because of algorithm updates. The way people search for local businesses has changed a lot over the past couple of years.
It’s mostly mobile now, so that means people are wanting info immediately and their search terms are as descriptive as possible. A few years ago someone might have just typed in “sushi restaurant” when they were searching on their home PC, but now their searches are more in-demand based, so a search could be “sushi restaurant on main street” to indicate their exact location.
SerpLogic’s local SEO service is something we have been working on behind the scenes for well over 18 months and have fine tuned our approach to really deliver outstanding results. I decided to take some basics and outline them in a little post, as I feel a lot of people ignore the very basics when it comes to local search. Let’s jump in.
1. Get Your On-Site Optimization Correct
I’ve noticed that a lot of local businesses don’t like creating multiple pages on their websites for specific keywords and this is silly. When I build out a local website I like to have different pages for all of the keywords and this allows us to really get the on-site optimization perfect for each keyword. Most websites I go through will have a couple pages that each target a handful of keywords and this isn’t a good strategy because you can really only fully optimize for one of the keywords on the page.
The page title, the H1 and H2 tags, the alt image tag, and the actual page content should all be built around a single keyword. There are really endless articles online that talk about how to do on-site optimization and even Moz has a decent on-site grading tool. I like to rag on them a lot because Domain Authority and Page Authority are a joke, but their on-site optimization grader is a very noob friendly tool that tells you what you need to work on. You just enter in your keyword and the URL and it gives you a grade and highlights the basic on-site areas that need to be fixed.
There is no reason a page shouldn’t be optimized perfectly. You don’t need to know any coding or programming skills really. With access to your HTML code or your WordPress dashboard you can handle everything.
2. Your Website Needs to Be Responsive
I see so many cringe worthy websites that look like they belong back in 2001. They aren’t mobile friendly and they fail Google’s mobile test. They are nearly impossible to view on a phone, and this is a huge problem because most local searches are happening on iPhone and Android phones. Nobody is searching for local businesses when they are home in the evening on their PC at their desk.
When someone wants something, they pull out their phone and search. If you don’t have a responsive website then you might as well close up shop and quit. There is no reason that anyone should still have a website that they had built years ago. The biggest reason that people aren’t all switched over yet is the price.
They all think a website is going to cost them $10,000 – $20,000 and I blame big agencies for this. They are charging some outrageous prices for the same exact design quality that you can get in the marketplace for $500. Heck, most of them are probably outsourcing those $20,000 websites to sellers here on freelancer.
Budget should not be a reason. Any business can scrape together $500 for a responsive website and if they can’t then local SEO shouldn’t even be a focus because they have much bigger problems to worry about.
3. Your Content Must Be Great (Stop Buying $5 Articles!)
Out of the last 5 websites that I looked at that came to me for local SEO, all of them had content that needed to be deleted. I literally deleted all of their content and had to start a fresh blog for them all. They were posting articles that were all 500 words and barely readable. They had no idea it was hurting them but when I asked them this they didn’t know what to say:
“What do you think your customers think of you when they actually read that crap?”
Let’s not even think about SEO for a minute. If someone finds your website and decides to browse around, they are showing an interest and that means there is a possibility of them spending money with you. When they start reading content that sounds like it was outsourced for $5 what do they think? They lose all faith that you are a legit business and will go elsewhere to spend their money. Shit content is a major black eye to your business.
On the SEO side we all know Google likes long form content and content that they deem to be helpful. Not many 500 word articles are going to be very helpful. If you are on a budget don’t think you have to buy $5 articles. If you only have $100 a month for content then just buy one very well written article for $100 instead of 20 shitty ones for $5 each.
4. Target Keywords People Actually Search For
Another thing I notice with almost all websites I look at is the fact that they are trying to rank for keywords that don’t make sense for them. I’ll give you a perfect example. A couple weeks ago I looked at a local restaurant in a very small city. I don’t even know if it’s even technically a city. Maybe the correct term would be a town? They had been paying a SEO company that most people here would know if I mentioned the name.
They were paying $1,500 per month and this company was working on 5 keywords. This company had all their old rank reports and actually sent them to me. They were seriously trying to rank for “restaurant” and “Italian restaurant” along with three other very generic keywords. Throughout the past year some of the terms jumped into the 300’s but as of the last report none of the 5 keywords were in the top 300 of Google, and this was tracking even local results in SerpBook.
They wasted so much money. This company didn’t even have the websites on-site done so that was the first thing we did. Within days we had them showing up in local results and I am confident that they will be at the top of the Google map listing in their area within a month. Their completion is so weak that we don’t even have to go crazy with links. Honestly, the on-site optimization is going to do most of the work. Then some solid citation building and guest posting for niche authority links will help maintain and strengthen their rankings.
5. Throw Keyword Density Out the Window
Remember back in the day when keyword density was a huge discussion. It was 5% at one time then people started to say content needed to be watered down and that the magic number was now 3.75%? It’s kind of crazy to think that’s how we all operated back then. But, we adjust along with Google’s algorithm and now you need to forget about keyword density.
I’ve ranked plenty of local website pages that only had the keyword in the content one time. The key is the on-site optimization as mentioned above. If you have perfect on-site optimization and even just have your keyword in the content body a single time you can still rank. Mix in some brand or naked URL links from authority websites and maybe just one or two keyword anchors and you will see great results.
There is such a thing as over optimization and it can get you slapped big time. Most of your energy should be spent building a handful of niche links that have some authority from both guest blogging and citations. You don’t need a lot, just a handful every month to show consistent links will do the trick just fine.
6. Audit & Grow Your Citations
If you have used multiple SEO providers in the past then a citation audit is something you should seriously consider doing. It’s actually something we do for every single local SEO client we have before we do any work. There are three things you want to look for when auditing all of your citations.
Duplicate listings are very common especially if you have purchased several services in the past. Most providers will just submit to a list and not check to see if you are already listed. Duplicate listings are not good, so remove them. Then you want to look for information that doesn’t match your current business name, address, and phone number. Make sure the address and contact information on your website is copied exactly on all citation listings. If the information is off even by a little bit, like an abbreviation, then it can cause problems. Finally, you want to look for low quality citations that Google wouldn’t look too fondly on. Remove anything that is even slightly suspect. Quality over sheer number of citations is the way to go.
If you want to do the audit on your own you can use Moz Local to scan your listings. They have a noob friendly dashboard and the yearly price is fairly affordable. Also, they show solid recommendations to get citations at for those that don’t have any idea. You won’t get the really niche specific ones, but it’s a decent start.
7. Focus on REAL Social Signals
For years people have been talking about how social signals were an important part of the algorithm but that just lead to fake accounts being made and botted signals being sent out. People would send thousands of fake signals and it didn’t do much. This lead to the “social signals don’t work” crowd to chime in.
They were half correct. FAKE social signals don’t work, but I can promise you that REAL social signals will help a local business in the SERPs. You can’t buy REAL social signals, so ignore any offer you see selling them. Even accounts that “look” real are worthless. Do you really think Google can’t easily identify spam accounts and real social accounts? You are a fool if you think you can fool the algorithm with fake signals.
- Post good content that people will want to share
- Ask your social media followers to share your posts
- Ask for email list to share your posts
It’s really that easy. You are going to get more of a social signal impact form 20 real shares than 1,000 fake ones. Come up with promotions that reward your customers for sharing on social media. Use a gate plugin that gives them a coupon code after sharing. There are so many ways and it really depends on the type of business you are.
8. Webmaster Tools Can Be Your Best Friend
“Don’t register for Google Webmaster Tools because that let’s Google spy on your website.”
Some people really believe this. To them, I say put down the crack pipe. Google has bigger and better things to do. There is a lot of good info in GWT that you can use so fear not and link up your website.
If you only use it for one thing, use it to see what is triggering your website to show in the SERPs. This will give you keyword ideas and I can’t tell you that I have found so many search terms for local SEO clients this way that I would have never thought of. It tells you exactly what they are searching for. This isn’t an estimate or a guess. There are the actual search terms entered into Google by people looking for a particular business or service or product that showed the website in the SERPs. With just a little work you can quickly rank for these keywords and increase your traffic. These are typically very easy to rank for! I check GWT weekly for all my local clients and can usually get ranking for a handful of additional keywords each month using this method.
And there you have it. Local SEO doesn’t have to be as hard as some people make it out to be. TBH, most of the websites that come to me for local SEO are in rough shape. The on-site optimization is way off and there is little to no effort put in. This is usually due to one of two reasons. Either the person is a complete noob and has no idea or they are just too lazy to put any effort in.
I hope some of you can put these simple tips to good use and get more visitors to your websites. Until next time!