Local SEO in 2018: How to Make Google Work For You.

by | Nov 30, 2018

I’ve been involved in the SEO game for almost 10 years now, and I’ve seen a lot of different strategies and techniques come and go. Back in the halcyon days of my youth, it was relatively easy to take advantage of early search algorithms. Search results relied almost entirely on website “keywords” – specifically highlighted words intended to give search engines an understanding of the general gist of that website’s content.

My favourite trick (don’t judge me) was to literally fill the background of the website with 1000’s of repeated keywords in the same colour of the website background – rocketing that website to the top of search results while remaining undetectable to website viewer. Magic!

Of course, Google and friends got wise pretty quick to those early SEO shenanigans (the above example was known as keyword stuffing), and ever since, SEO has been an increasingly complex and competitive component of any healthy digital marketing plan.

For local businesses, localized SEO (ranking as highly as possible for searches specific to your local market) has quickly become a way to separate from the competition. Let’s look at an example: Before jumping into his car, Joe pulls out his smartphone and searches for a nearby coffee shop on Google. Within seconds, Joe is presented with a few highlighted results, complete with pictures, reviews, and directions. Additional results are available underneath, but how much do you want to bet Joe chooses one of the top results?

That scenario proves how important localized SEO is – it’s a business’s first chance to gain (or lose!) a customer they didn’t even know they had.

 

So how, in 2018, does a local business get to the top of those results?

  1. Build Up Your Local Listings!
    This is the first step in all of our clients’ SEO strategies. In the above example, we referenced the most important of all local listings – the Google My Business knowledge panel. There are dozens of other listing sources, some which apply to most businesses and others that specific to certain niches (like Google vs TripAdvisor). Every business will have different needs, so take the time to research which listing sources matter for yours.

     

  2. Ask your customers for online reviews!
    In the above example, the top coffeeshops shown to Joe all had something in common – lots of great reviews. This is an easy way for search engines to associate a local business with quality services. The most important platforms to ask for reviews are Google and Facebook, as they are used by the most consumers. But those niche listing services mentioned above also serve as review sources for many consumers (like Zomato or TripAdvisor). Choosing which platforms to build up reviews on will depend on what industry your business is a part of. And not that it needs to be said, but don’t make the mistake of undervaluing online reviews for your business!

     

  3. Make sure your website is mobile-optimized!
    The effect of mobile optimization (or lack thereof) can’t be overstated. Google recently began punishing websites that didn’t feature a responsive mobile layout, and studies show most consumers expect a business website to feature a user-friendly mobile version.

     

  4. Feature relevant content on your website!
    This is the age-old pillar of SEO, and it’s not going away. At the end of the day, if consumers aren’t likely to find the information they are seeking on your website, Google and other search engines will stop providing your business as a search result. This is a conversation that should be front and centre with your website designer and/or copywriter, featuring easy-to-read content that finds a way to strategically use keywords (though don’t go crazy with the keywords – they don’t have that much impact anymore, and can turn a well-written message into an eyesore). Also, make sure your business’s contact information is readily available and coded into the website properly.

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There’s no quick fix or magic bullet to healthy local SEO in 2018, but by following the above plan, you can give your business the best chance to get in front of as many potential customers as possible. By combining your local SEO efforts with a well designed website and strategic usage digital advertising, you can really begin to set your business apart from the rest.

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