Top 10 Local Search Traffic Signals You Need to Optimize For

A few weeks ago Search Engine Journal compiled a list of Top 25 Local Search Ranking Signals. In case you missed the article or don’t have time to read and take note of all 25 Ranking Signals, we went ahead and selected ten that we feel you should know about.

Claim Your Google My Business (GMB) Profile

Your first step to optimizing for local SEO should be to claim your Google My Business profile, so if you have not claimed it, you should do it as soon as possible. It is free and relatively effortless.

Once you do claim it, you will need to set some basic business information, namely your business’s name, address, phone number, hours you are open, and if you have a website, provide a link to your website. You will also want to set your primary and secondary categories to describe what your business is about, as well as enter in a business description.

If you are a local business that relies on generating business in your area, it is essential to claim this profile. On desktop and mobile searches with some kind of discernable buyer intent, these profiles are triggered and featured immediately underneath the ads and above the organic search results, so chances are good this will be the second thing searchers will see when they go looking for goods and services near them.

Add Photos to Your Google My Business Profile

After you claim your GMB profile, strongly consider adding photos to it. According to Google, “businesses with photos receive 42% more requests for driving directions to their location from users on Google, and 35% more clicks through to their websites than businesses that don’t have photos.” Photos add an element of legitimacy to a business, are featured in the profiles when searchers view them, let potential customers see any products or services you offer, and so on.

At a minimum, add your business’s logo, set a cover photo, and snap a quick photo of the outside of your business. If you can provide more than that, do so.

Claim Your Bing Places for Business Profile

Bing has a similar service to Google and Bing Places for Business functions as that search engine’s Google My Business. The profile is free to claim and there is no reason not to do it.

Create or Claim Online Directories and Citations

In the interest of definitions, a local “citation” is an online reference of your business and directories typically contain aggregates of these. Citations typically contain the name, address, and phone number (NAP), as well as the website and other details.

Effectively, citations and directories send online signals to humans and search engines that your business is a real-world entity. They also function as backlinks. Lastly, they come in a variety of forms, ranging from pure directories (like Yellowpages) to social media websites (like Yelp and Facebook).

You should make sure to create or claim a handful of at least the major ones, especially those that are free, as well as any site that is important in your niche (for example, every attorney should be Avvo). You should also make sure that you use the exact same name, address, and phone number everywhere this appears (it is also one of our featured points below).

Sample directories and citations include:

Create or Claim Review Site Listings

Reviews are incredibly important to local businesses since they provide real-world feedback to searchers and help searchers get an idea if they should consider purchasing that business’s goods or services. You should also claim your listings on the major websites, especially considering many of them are free to claim.

The four websites you should immediately prioritize claiming are Facebook, Yelp, BBB, and Glassdoor (this last one is more for hiring, but anyone with buyer intent is going to be influenced by low-review scores from employees if they happen to see those).

Create Social Media Profiles

Having a social media presence is one of the backbones to digital marketing, so chances are you likely have at least a Facebook page for your business. If you don’t have one or you don’t have profiles on the top social media sites (Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Youtube), you should claim these and do basic optimizations to the profiles/pages (add a logo, fill out business details and hours if possible, add a link to the site, and so on).

If you don’t plan on actively using the channel, make sure to leave a note/post/tweet or contact information to tell them where you can be found and contacted. Most people expect a quick response from businesses on social media when they reach out, so doing something like this will go a long way to ensuring they don’t become frustrated or mad when they make a contact and don’t receive a response.

Make Sure Your Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP) is Consistent Online

NAP stands for name, address, and phone number. You want this to be consistently the same everywhere it appears online, both for people and for search engines.

On the human side of things, you want to make sure it is crystal clear where your business is located and that your phone number is accurate. Doing so makes sure someone does not waste time trying to find something that isn’t there and minimizes frustrations if they need to call and can’t reach you.

On the search engine side, Google and Bing want to make sure they are providing the correct information. Additionally, it helps reinforce the signals that your business is a real-world entity.

Add Structured Data Markup (Schema) to Your Site for Local Business Details

To briefly describe what structured data is, it is code for websites that help search engines better understand the meaning and relationships underlying the text and elements that appear on websites. Described a different way, it helps search engines understand things on websites in a similar way to how we can look at or read something and “know” what it means. Additionally, structured data assists search engines with adding more advanced features in search results – if you have ever seen images, review starts, or event listings in the search results, these are made possible through structured data markup on the websites with this content. Lastly, the best practices version of structured data is Schema.

At a minimum, you should mark up your website with LocalBusiness Schema, which will assist Google and Bing in connecting the dots between your business’s NAP and business hours information listed on the website and everywhere else on the web.

For more information about structured data, consider looking at Google’s reference information on structured data and the best practices to implement it, the Schema website, and Google’s section on local business structured data.

Make Sure Your Site is Mobile Responsive

Chances are very good that if someone is looking for information about a local business, they are making the search on their phone. There is also a good chance that they are out-and-about when they make that search as well and likely ready to make a purchasing decision. In any event, this is your first chance to make a good first impression, so it is incredibly important to make sure your site is mobile responsive and displays well on their phone.

Make Sure Your Content is Localized

Lastly, make sure that content on your site is localized for your area. Depending on your brand and what makes sense for it, consider creating content about events and things going on in the local community or relating topics back to how it affects the local area.

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