Local search is an ever-changing game. With Panda, Penguin and now Hummingbird updates, it’s very easy to get confused and fall behind your competitors. The good news is that not many businesses are taking advantage of local Search Engine Optimization (SEO) right now. So, with a little bit of time and effort focused on the right things, the opportunity is there for you to get a leg up on your competition.
The Google Hummingbird update was created and put into place to process searches based on intent and returning more relevant results, rather than matching keywords. With this latest update in mind, and assuming you already have a quality website, I have put together a list of what I believe to be the top five things that you can do to outrank your competitors in 2014.
Google will not rank your website on a search from a mobile device if your site is not mobile-friendly. With that said, almost half of shoppers use their phones to look up local products or services. So if your website isn’t mobile-friendly, you’re missing out on almost half of your potential customers. The best way to fix this is to make sure your website has either a responsive design or a separate mobile site. Check out Google’s recommendations and their list of most common mistakes for mobile websites.
STRONG GOOGLE+ PRESENCE
Google+ is starting to affect search results more and more. In fact, according to Moz, a URL’s number of Google +1’s is the second most important factor in search rankings behind page authority or your pages reputation. The number of reviews you have, the relationships you build, the content you share and your overall Google+ profile all go a long way in your Google search ranking. And why wouldn’t it, since Google+ is part of the growing Google family.
A citation can be defined as anytime someone mentions you or your business on their website. Whether you are listed in an online phone book, referenced in someone’s blog, or mentioned on a website because you are sponsoring one of their events, these are all good for your local SEO because they prove that you’re active within your location and that you may be more relevant to local search results. You can start by getting citations from local search engines, such as Superpages and Yelp, then move onto local and hyperlocal blogs and directories like your city or downtown blog and your city or state directory. Finally, try to get citations from industry-focused blogs and directories if there are any. If you need ideas on where to get citations check out Whitespark’s citation finder.
NAP consistency goes hand in hand with getting citations. It only does you good to get citations if your name, address and phone number are exactly the same in every citation and everywhere else on the Web. If you don’t have NAP consistency across the Web it will negatively impact your local search because the search engines may think that you are trying to manipulate them and they will lose confidence in you. The best place to start is to claim your Google Places listing and use the exact same name, address and phone number you have listed there for all of your other listings and citations. Check out Yext to see where and how your business appears across the Internet.
SHOWCASED ON GOOGLE’S LOCAL CAROUSEL
If you are not familiar with Google’s new tool, search “hotels near new york city” and you can see an example. Since the carousel displays 20 results across the page, it’s not as important to be ranked first as it is to have all your information correct along with a unique image. You don’t want to look incomplete here. The main trick to Google’s carousel is to have a Google Places for Business and a Google+ Page. These are the pages where Google will pull the information from to be displayed on the carousel. If you don’t have these pages set up, Google will pull information from anywhere it can find it on the Web, and that means you will not be able to control what comes up on the carousel for your business. Finally, make sure you have the image that you want used as your profile on the carousel, as Google will take your profile image from your Google Places profile. If you haven’t uploaded one, Google will pull an image from the Web somewhere and it will be out of your hands.
On a final note, local search is not an exact science. There are numerous things that can affect your search engine ranking. These are just a few things I believe are going to be the most important moving forward in 2014 and beyond.
For more tips on how to utilize Google+ for SEO click here