Guide to Local SEO in 2016
Even though the power and importance of local SEO is minimized in some circles, the truth is that SEO is far from being dead. In fact, it is more alive than ever before. The statistics prove it.
Whether you are new to local SEO, or you have a lot of experience in this area but you haven’t enjoyed the expected results in 2016, then the information offered in this guide will surely set you off on the right path and guide you toward success.
The Importance of Local SEO
Local SEO targets both desktop and mobile customers. Because of the results it provides, local SEO has become an essential component of any local business and brand that wants to thrive on the market.
According to a report published by Fresh Egg in 2013 more than 75 percent of people use their smartphones to check for local information. It’s not tough to imagine that number has increased since then. Another study from Google indicates that 95 percent of mobile users will either call or visit a local business after conducting a local search.
In other words, local SEO is paramount for your success in your niche. When done properly, local SEO can double or even triple your revenue. In this guide I will show you how to capitalize on the power of local SEO for your business and skyrocket your profits in the process.
Let’s dive deeper into local SEO and study some recent local SEO changes that have taken place in 2016.
The Most Important Local Ranking Factors in 2016
Here are a few of the most important local ranking factors you need to be aware of when optimizing your site locally:
1. Title Tag: title tags that start with the keyword have been found to perform better than those that contain the keyword toward the end. Change your title tag and make it more relevant for local searches by placing your main keyword at the beginning of the tag.
2. H1 Tag: your main keyword should appear in the H1 tag. If you have several categories of products or services, create a distinct page for each category and use the main keyword of that category in the respective H1 tag
3. H2, H3..H6 Tags: Take advantage of these to properly structure your page and tell Google what your main and supporting topics are. In the local space many of your competitors will not do this so it is a quick win.
4. Keyword Density: No, I am not telling you to overuse keywords, the takeaway from this is do not repeat the same word over and over again. If you need a number, shoot for 1 percent or less exact keyword density.
5. No Duplicate Content: if you have duplicate content on your site, Google will eventually penalize you. While you can technically rank pages with duplicate content in local SERPs, that is bound to change any day so get ahead now and make your content unique.
6. Image Optimization: optimize your images if you want to rank high in search results. Some of the aspects to consider here are image title, alt tag, caption and description. Since you are trying to rank locally, be sure to include geographically relevant text into those areas.
7. Multimedia: videos, images and any other multimedia element could act as local SEO signals. Even if they do not directly impact your rankings, they should increase engagement metrics and make your content more likely to be shared.
8. Number and Quality of Inbound Links: inbound links have maintained their importance over the years. Today, they are more important than ever, especially as they need to be relevant. As a matter of fact, many are saying that topically relevant links are more beneficial than authority links on unrelated sites.
9. Mobile Optimization: Google is all about mobile optimization. A responsive website with mobile friendly tags is ranked higher in local searches.
10. Local Citations: these represent a strong local ranking factor. Name, address and phone citations are imperative for your local SEO success.
Are you sabotaging your SEO rankings without knowing it?
1. THE ABSENCE OF A GOOGLE MY BUSINESS PROFILE
Probably the biggest mistake you can make with local SEO is to focus on anything else except Google+. While you don’t necessarily need a strong Google+ profile and Google My Business profile to rank higher in search results when it comes to standard search engine optimization, local SEO is a little bit different.
When talking local, a Google+ and Google My Business profile is a must if you want to be successful. Just type in “nearby dentists” and the first thing you will notice is a map of your area and a few listings of the most prominent dental offices around you. The trick here is that this information listed below the map comes directly from the Google My Business pages of local dentists.
In other words, if you do not have a Google My Business page associated to your Google+ profile, you simply won’t appear on that map.
2. LACK OF A SITEMAP
SEO experts agree that every local business needs to have an XML sitemap. This sitemap gives vital information to Google and Bing crawlers and make it easier for search engines to list your pages. The lack of a sitemap can definitely reduce how effectively Google can crawl your site.
3. YOUR PAGES LOAD WAY TOO SLOW
According to a study conducted a few years ago, over 55 percent of your site’s visitors spend less than 15 seconds on an average on your site. If your site loads in 10 seconds, that leaves them only five more seconds to browse your content. In fact, if your site loads in more than 10 seconds, the bounce rate will exceed 80 percent on mobile and 70 percent on desktop.
4. MULTIPLE URLS LEAD TO THE SAME PAGE
It is quite common today to have two URLs that lead to the same page. For instance, www.cars.com/home.html and www.cars.com both lead to the same page. If you have multiple URLS you should look to 301 redirect them or to integrate canonical tags when appropriate.
5. LACK OF ALT TAGS AND HEADER TAGS
Alt tags and header tags (H1, H2…H6) are extremely important from a SEO perspective. While header tags are used by Google to categorize your content, alt tags are used by search engines to decipher images. Use your main keywords in both header and alt tags (image tags) in order to boost your local SEO presence.
6. YOU HAVE DUPLICATE LISTINGS
In a nutshell, you need to remember that Google hates local duplicate listings and citations. Try to remove duplicate listings as soon as possible in order to prevent them from hurting your ranking and to offer a positive experience to your prospects.
7. YOU MISS RELEVANT CATEGORIES ON YOUR BUSINESS PAGE
Another costly mistake you can make that could hurt your local SEO rankings is missing relevant categories on the My Business page. Think of these categories like main sections in Yellow Pages. The more relevant these categories are, the better is for your local SEO presence.
8. INCONSISTENT NAP INFORMATION
Duplicate listings go hand in hand with inconsistent NAP (name, address, phone) information. In addition to having the same contact information listed on both your website and Google My Business page, you need to erase all duplicate listings and to ensure all of your citations contain the same information.
Google is pretty smart, no doubt about that. Google’s bots are actually capable of comparing the contact information on your site with the NAP found everywhere else online.
9. NO CUSTOMER REVIEWS
Another costly local SEO mistake is having no customer reviews. While reviews are very important for users, they are crucial from Google’s perspective when ranking sites locally. If you have no reviews on your Google My Business page, you need to start asking for reviews now!
10. CHOOSING THE WRONG KEYWORDS
Keywords are essential for both SEO and PPC campaigns. Locally, the importance of keywords grows even more. When you choose the wrong keywords, you are missing out on traffic and conversions, not to mention you may never rank in some cases.
11. NO COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS
Another common mistake local business owners do is forgetting about or neglecting performing a complete and unbiased competitive analysis. Study what the top 5 competitors in your niche are doing and discover what actually works in local SEO. This includes keywords and types of backlinks used.
12. THIN WEBSITE CONTENT
Since Google changed their algorithm in order to incorporate more local SEO signals, the content on the website has become more important than ever. Since Google is driven by a “relevancy” mindset, you need to be relevant in everything you do locally, including content.
13. IGNORING SOCIAL MEDIA
Social media activity is strongly connected to local SEO. Even though Google does not admit it yet, local businesses that go viral on social media rank better in search results than businesses with no social media presence.
You’ve probably noticed by now that Pinterest, Facebook, Google+, Reddit, YouTube, Twitter and all other social media platforms appear on the first pages of Google when conducting local searches. As a matter of fact, sometimes a single thread on Facebook could become more valuable and show higher in search results than a page on your website.
14. IGNORING MOBILE
One of biggest local SEO mistakes that you need to avoid at all costs is not optimizing your website for mobile users. Local SEO goes hand in hand with mobile, as most people are conducting local searches on their mobile devices while on the go.
As more and more people are choosing mobile over desktop when browsing for local products or services, it is imperative to optimize your website for mobile users or create a mobile version of your site and redirect all of your mobile traffic to that site.
15. NOT HAVING RELEVANT LINKS
As I stated above, relevancy is the 2016 mindset used by Google. This impacts both your content and the links you have on your site. Your inbound and outbound links should be relevant for users and search engines if you want to dominate the local SEO market.
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