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Reach the top of local search rankings

SEO: search button on keyboardGetting the most from your website isn’t just about topping the Google rankings nationally ― for many small firms it’s about thinking local. If you don’t localise your search engine optimisation (SEO), you risk missing out on customers on your doorstep. We ask the experts how to go local

While some UK small firms on the web sell to customers all over the world, they are the exception. Most small businesses — especially those offering a service — don’t sell to customers beyond their own area, town or city. Clearly, many customers also prefer to buy from a local business because it’s convenient or they see it as less risky. So are you missing out on sales as you’re thinking too big with your SEO?

Search engine rankings - expert John Straw“Taking a more targeted approach, by localising your SEO, could give you the sales uplift you’ve been looking for,” stresses John Straw, founder and vice president of business development at SEO software provider Linkdex.

“Get it right and your website stands a better chance of being visited by the people most likely to buy from you ― those living nearby.”

Straw says more small businesses are cottoning on to the benefits of localising SEO and refining their approach to search engine marketing. “I was talking to my local chimney sweep recently and he was telling me how he got to the number one local search ranking on Google. As a result, he’s dropped all other forms of marketing.”

Separate national and local SEO

But how does local search engine optimisation differ from national? There’s a marked distinction, Straw emphasises. “National SEO is all about ensuring your site is technically optimised, contains content that is tailored to your audience and includes links from other websites, while local SEO centres on generating local leads using tools such as Google Places and encouraging user reviews on local sites. These can include local groups, blogs and news sites.”

So how can small, budget-conscious businesses get it right? “It’s about reviews, reviews and reviews,” stresses Straw. “Then get some more reviews, but make sure they’re good ones.

“I’d also recommend making sure your business address is clearly displayed on your ‘contact us’ page ― preferably with an embedded Google map. A smart trick is to list your premises’ latitude and longitude on the contact us page ― it helps Google clarify addresses. You can get the coordinates from Google Maps.

“I’d also advise getting links in local online business directories,” adds Straw. “The good news is localising your SEO can normally be done in-house at minimal cost.”

Five local SEO tips:

  • Encourage reviews and create links on highly relevant local sites ― such as local groups, blogs, news sites, complementary local firms and hyper-local directories.
  • Submit a free business profile directly to local listings via Google Places, Yahoo! Local and Bing Local, so when potential customers search maps and listings for local information, they will find your contact details.
  • Your ranking in local listings will depend on how close your firm is to the area specified and how close your business is to the person searching. To get a strong local listing you will need to build citations and get reviews.
  • Carry out onsite optimisation including adding your address on each page as well as your local phone number, rather than an 0800 number. Consider creating dedicated pages for specific regions.
  • Include a Google map of your location on your site.

SEO story

Fiona HumberstoneOne small-business owner who has realised the importance of localised SEO is Fiona Humberstone, managing director of Guildford-based Flourish Design & Marketing. “Although we sometimes work for companies located elsewhere in the UK and even overseas, the bulk of our business comes from Guildford and surrounding areas in Surrey,” she explains.

“Localising our SEO means we’ll hopefully stand a much better chance of getting sales and enquiries from search engine results pages used by businesses nearby. We’re still working on it, but we’ve made sure our Surrey address and local phone number is listed on every webpage.”

Flourish is still moving up the rankings for many of its search terms but, as Humberstone explains, it takes a few months before you can tell whether the changes you’ve made have been successful. “Our web developer has been keeping a close eye on our analytics, looking not just at SEO, but also why people exit certain pages. It’s an ongoing challenge.”

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