We asked business advisers on our Marketplace website to send in their tips and advice to help small businesses grow. Frank Vitetta of Orchid Box sent in this advice about using local SEO to increase sales and leads.
Today, more than ever before, search engine result pages (SERPS) are integrating localised search results into relevant searches – often even without the use of a place name within the searched term – and with the meteoric rise in mobile computing, users’ local search intent has risen too.
Essentially, users want and now expect to be able to find goods and services that are nearest to them wherever they are, and Google is providing them with exactly that. In 2011, 20% of desktop queries had local intent and more than 53% of mobile queries on Bing had local intent. These percentages are continually increasing.
Given these developments, if your business operates within a small geographical area then local SEO is invaluable for helping you reach your potential customers.
The rise of smartphone technology has certainly played its part: Google’s algorithm now takes into account your device’s geo-location to display the nearest businesses that are most relevant to your query.
Take a look at the example search query conducted on a smartphone above. As you would expect, the first results are paid search ads, closely followed by a global market leader (Expedia) in the top non-paid spaces. After that, however, we then have a series of local businesses that relate to our query, all within walking distance. For the most part, these sites have not had millions spent on their SEO or offline marketing; these are sites that appear thanks to their relevance and proximity.
As the screenshot shows, Google assigns the top local results their own small piece of real estate within the search engine result page (SERP). It collects information through a combination of websites, directories and local Google+ data that includes phone numbers and directions, making it easy for the searcher to contact a local business and potentially become a customer.
OK, so if you’re a local business and this all sounds fantastic, how exactly do you get your own piece of Google real estate?
Citations, citations, citations: a must for local SEO
What is a citation?
A citation is a listing of information on an external website containing key details about your business – including your NAP (name, address, phone number).
With such a listing you can also include additional information such as opening hours, discounts and other supplemental details should you wish. The information you include and the format your citation takes is up to you, as there is no strict syntax to follow.
However, it is important to remember that consistency is key when distributing your citations – ensuring that you use exactly the same formatting across all websites and social media, and paying extra attention to spacing, grammar and punctuation. This is an important factor to gaining strong authority within local search results as Google uses consistency to verify the accuracy of your information.
As a side note, you should be aware that citations – unlike backlinks – do not require a link to your website to provide SEO equity.
Why are citations important?
Citations are now one of the key factors in Google’s ranking algorithm for local businesses. What this means is that the more consistent that your citations are across the web, the more opportunity your business is likely to have for a higher ranking. This is because multiple citations from well-established sites let Google know that the NAP information about your business is accurate, as well as which industry it falls into.
If there isn’t any clear information about your business on the web – in other words, if you have no citations – search engines will have to rely on whatever they can find, possibly returning false details and ultimately leading to a loss of potential customers. With this in mind, citations are even more important for businesses that lack a significant online presence.
The bottom line is that for any local business, optimising your website and social media profiles’ NAP information is key to targeting your demographic effectively, and by gaining citations you increase the awareness and visibility for users within the search engines.
Where can you get citations?
Well-established directories such as Yell, 192 or Scoot are all good places to gain citations easily but don’t forget blogs and social media too!
Other sources include:
Articles/ guest post bylines
Image and video descriptions
And finally, some high quality UK directories you might wish to use:
www.192.com – generic
www.yelp.co.uk – generic
www.scoot.co.uk – generic
www.hotfrog.co.uk – generic
www.secretsalons.com – beauty
www.qype.co.uk – restaurants / beauty
www.cylex-uk.co.uk – generic
business.localmole.co.uk/ – generic
www.localstore.co.uk – generic
Frank Vitetta is the managing director of Orchid Box, a London based SEO firm specialised in local and international SEO. Frank and his team help businesses make better decisions, maximise revenue growth and improve business performance through search and various online channels.
Some sound advice for boosting your local SEO by using consistent citations from established directories and forums.
See on www.enterprisenation.com