Local SEO is a lot different from SEO for a non-geo specific brand. Any SEO expert or practitioner will tell you how local SEO ranking factors keep on changing, making it difficult for businesses to leverage the power of top places on Google SERPs.
Here’s a quick look at local SEO ranking factors, as presented by Moz in its 2017 Local Search Ranking Factors report.
It’s no surprise that external locations signals (citations) and review signals feature in the top 5 contributors. In this guide, I will talk about leveraging citations and reviews for ramping up local SEO.
A citation is an online mention of your business name, address, and phone number (NAP). Consider citations as the equivalent of backlinks for your business website, just that NAP citations do not need to be hyperlinked to your website.
A mention of just your business name, without the address and phone number, is considered a partial citation, and not as beneficial as a complete citation. That’s why NAP is valued so much, because it becomes the ‘string’ that counts as a citation that Google values.
The best practices you need to follow to ensure NAP consistency are:
- Citations help with local SEO are valuable only if they match the NAP of your website and your Google My Business page.
- Focus on picking up a format of NAP that doesn’t have any quirkiness or unique elements.
- Do a few Google searches for famous local businesses and see which name, address, and phone number formats they use.
Why Citations Rock?
Google uses citations as a factor for verifying the accuracy of the contact details of the business in their local business listings. Mismatching NAPs could confuse Google and cause it to either skip your listings, or show information that’s incorrect. On the contrary, if Google finds that dozens of websites mention the same NAP for your business, it’s all the more likely to include your NAP in its SERPs.
Business Directories for Citations
Here’s an action plan you can trust.
- Get your Google My Business listing.
- Make sure your My Business Profile is complete
- Create an alternate email ID to create profiles on business directories; trust me, you need it, to stay safe from hundreds of spam mails every day.
- Find a list of 50 (or better still, 100) online business directories; here’s a good source.
- Find a freelancer or budget some time on your own to create at least 5 profiles every day (do this, and you’ll potentially have 150 citations in a month).
- Also, look for niche specific business directories, such as Viator and TripAdvisor for touristy places, and Zomato for restaurants.
The common misconception going around in SEO spheres is that business directories are the sole source for getting citations. That’s untrue; there are several others, for instance:
- Press releases
- Profile pages
- Question and answer sites
- Article and guest post bylines
- Forum signatures
- Image and video descriptions
Go Big on Local SEO With Reviews
Review signals constitute 9.8% of local SEO. To devise a useful strategy of getting more traction via business reviews, you’d do well to first understand the reviews-relevant micro-factors that influence local SEO.
- Number of native Google Maps reviews
- Number of 3rd party reviews
- Product/service keywords present in reviews
- Number of reviews posted by authority reviewers
- Authority of 3rd party websites where reviews are posted
- Diversity of 3rd party websites where reviews are posted
Google My Business reviews
Getting your Google My Business reviews and stars to appear on the top of Google’s search result page can be a game changer for your local business. You need at least 5 reviews to show up there, and need to have more reviews than most competitors (which can be difficult).
With the help of Google Maps marketing, you can effectively promote your business to local audiences. Moreover, it makes a lot of sense to request all your recurring customers to leave a review; incentivize this by giving them a discount. Here’s a superb guide. Greg Gifford, SEO educator, suggests creating a ‘how to review’ help page for users so that they know exactly what to do.
A Comprehensive Business Reviews Strategy
Yelp is a pretty useful platform for getting your business reviews, because Google seems to value Yelp reviews highly. Don’t directly send your Yelp business page to users; instead direct them to do a Google search for your business + Yelp, click on the Yelp link in the search results, and then do the review. That’s because reviews done on Yelp via direct links can often be flagged and not published, because Yelp considers them suspicious.
Focus on people that already have a Yelp account, and motivate them to write long reviews. Make it a point to respond to reviews to create a sense of legitimacy around it (this makes sure Yelp doesn’t discard it).
By following a comprehensive business reviews collection strategy focused on your business website, Yelp, and Google My Business, you can move closer to completely dominating local SEO. See how The Violet Hour completely dominates the SERP using this strategy.
Local SEO is increasingly capturing higher proportions of global search volumes, and is the most vital enabler of success for local brands. Use the tips and tricks discussed in this guide to make citations and reviews the success factors for your local SEO success story.