Local SEO 101: The Basics You Need To Know

Screen Shot 2014-02-24 at 9.32.19 AMCompetition for top spots on Google’s search results is a heavyweight fight, motivating the research and resources of businesses around the world. For smaller shops, this reality can be overwhelming, since few Main Street mainstays have the resources of multi-national corporations. Fortunately, Google recognizes this disparity in search contexts and the search giant has provided a conduit for local firms to make their voices heard. Here’s how to build your presence online, and grow your business in the process.

Creating a Place Page

Whether your business boasts an attractive website or not, the foundation of visibility in Google’s search rankings is the Places page. According to Moz, information listed on a business’ Google Places page carries a 19.6% influence on ranking in local searches.

A successful Places page is predicated on attention to detail, accurate information, and completeness. Listing both the industry and location of your business will put your site in a dramatically better position to capture incoming search traffic, since Google’s algorithm depends largely on these two factors. The task may seem like a chore, but to the world’s largest search engine, it’s a necessity.

Ensuring Consistent NAP

The contact information listed on your place page is known as your “NAP”; name, address, and phone number. This data effectively constitutes your business’ online identity, associating your place page with your website, and any subsequent directory listings with your business.

The implications of this fact cannot be overstated. In order to maintain consistently high page rankings and reap the benefits of Google’s local search system, every listing of your business online must contain the same NAP information. To this end, it’s helpful to keep a running record of places where your business appears. That way, should that information change, you have a clear and valuable resource to help with complete updating.

Listing in Third-Party Directories

Google’s search system is evolving, to be certain. However, some of the old holdovers from SEO practices of the past apply to your local business. For websites, outbound and inbound linking help bolster page rankings. For businesses, these “links” manifest in the form of listings in online directories. From Yelp to the Yellowpages, businesses looking to remain visible should make registration a top priority, or consider enlisting professional help to find and capitalize on available directories.

Attaining High-Quality Links

In similar fashion to website rankings, the quality of links (or in the case of local businesses, listings) helps determine Google’s overall search score. For example, a listing in the local chamber of commerce will more positively influence your business’ relevance rating than a listing on a less popular business directory. Local business development chapters will often have resources to help determine which sites all do the most good for your business.

Understanding Review Signals

We’ve all heard horror stories about how one bad Yelp review can take down a business, and the reality is that these tales are not without some validity. The value or damage born of these ratings is not limited to their viewing, but in the way that they affect page ranking. Common NAP information across ratings houses effectively ties all subsequent scores to your business’ SEO, turning positive appraisals into an SEO boon and negative reviews into legitimate injury.

Leveraging Your Social Following

The final piece of the puzzle is an arm of the Internet that seemingly affects every aspect of daily life these days. Establishment of a Twitter profile, Facebook page, or especially Google+ page and linking it to your website and Places page allows your followers to become a tool in improving search ranking. The formula is simple: the more followers and engagement, the higher the rank.

It’s worth noting, however, that not all platforms are created equal. In an effort to increase the legitimacy of their social network Google attributes added importance to pages on their system. +1’s, comments, and follows on this system help improve page ranking directly, working synergistically with the search engine’s indexing tools and local search system. A profile here will carry more weight, but a profile on all platforms helps increase exposure and visibility as a result.

With these elements in place, building your business online reputation is a simple matter of providing high-quality products and services, soliciting feedback and follows, and maintaining consistent contact information. The system involves a fair number of hoops, but once your local profile is established, the benefits to site and foot traffic will render your toil time well spent.