Local search results have been around for many years now, but with each new update rolled out by Google, either announced or unannounced, the need to optimise for local search results is increasingly important.
But whilst there is plenty of information and advice on how to optimise your website or your marketing for the search engines, the focus on localisation is often rather vague. In fact I have come across several examples recently of people recommending a form of SEO localisation which amounts to little more than either translating text verbatim, or using boilerplate text.
If the recent algorithmic updates released by Google over the past few months have demonstrated anything, it is that tactics such as these are likely only to result in your website being severely disadvantaged.
So if optimising for local results is important for your business, what techniques should you be implementing in order to have the best chance of both appearing high up the relevant search results for your local area, as well as remaining on Google’s good side? Here are 12 tips for localised search engine optimisation.
1. Domain Name
Naturally if your website is already established then it may be too late to think about choosing a suitable domain name. However, if you are looking at setting up a local business presence or a new website presence then this is definitely the first step toward optimising for localised results.
If your domain they can include the area or town relevant to your business then clearly this is going to help stand out as a relevant local result. Remember, if buying a domain name which includes multiple words, one of which may be a town, use hyphens rather than underscores as this will be more accurately interpreted by Google when identifying local place names. Just be sure not to use more than two hyphens and don’t spam!
2. Domain Extension
Again, if your business is already established then this won’t be as easy to change, but if possible it is always preferable to make sure that your website domain extension is as localised as possible. So if your business is based in the UK, having a .co.uk extension is better than having a .com extension.
3. Web Host Location
There is some evidence to suggest that Google takes into account the physical location of your website’s host server. So if your business is based in the UK, it may be of some help to have your website hosted in the UK as well. Google has not released any specific word on this matter, and opinion is divided. However there are many major players who swear adamantly that their.co.uk websites hosted in the UK perform better than .co.uk websites hosted elsewhere, such as in the United States.
4. Address In The Footer
It is extremely important to make sure that your business’s postal address is included in the footer section of every single page within your website. Doing this significantly enhances your local relevance as far as Google is concerned.
5. Local Directions
On your contact page, in addition to your postal address and a map, include some text which provides local directions. Inevitably you will be including various place names and town names, as well as road names, carriageways and motorways.
6. Register On Google Maps
This is one of the most important points in this blog. I cannot emphasise enough how crucial it is in terms of localised SEO to make sure that your business is registered on Google Places. When people search specifically for a local business, those businesses which have registered on Google Places will be listed at the very top of the page, above the organic search results, often with a map displayed on the right-hand side which clearly indicates your business’s geographic location. This is better than having a sponsored listing, and it doesn’t cost anything. Visit https://accounts.google.com/ServiceLogin?service=lbc and make sure you get your business registered as soon as possible.
7. Local Events And Community Issues
If possible try to include a page or section within your site which focuses on local events or any community related issues connected with your line of business. Most businesses will have at least some connection to the local community. If not, perhaps it might be worth establishing some sort of connection, even if it is minor sponsorship of a local charity event. This is perhaps a little cynical, but there are almost certainly issues and events which you can write about which will demonstrate to Google that your business really is local and relevant.
8. Local Directories
As well as making sure that your website is submitted to major online search directories, also make sure that you submit your site to local directories. Some of the major directories such as Yelp and Thomson Local will enable your business to demonstrate a local presence, but there are also opportunities such as those run by the local Chamber Of Commerce which allow your business to be listed alongside other businesses in the area.
9. Use Of Language And Words
One of the biggest mistakes many businesses make when contracting a copywriter or SEO specialist to market their site is to hire the services of someone who is not local to the UK. Inevitably this means that the language, use of language, vocabulary and spellings do not conform to local UK styles. Even looking at the word ‘localised’ it is immediately apparent whether this is to do with the UK or the US simply because of the fact that it is spelt with the letter ‘s’ rather than a ‘z’.
But simply translating text is not enough. The way in which British writers write is inevitably unique, and cannot be replicated merely through translation or the correction of spellings. But it goes even further than this, because in many parts of the country there will be specific ways in which things are described, including local vocabulary. So whereas one website might be talking about an alley at the back of a property, a writer based in East Yorkshire may be more likely to talk about a “10 foot” at the back of a property.
So using UK writers who specialise in writing using British English rather than American English, and by using words or vocabulary specific to the region you can significantly improve your website’s apparent relevance as far as Google is concerned.
10. Images And Alt Text
There are two benefits to including images of local places and locations within the pages of your website. If you have ever experimented with Google’s image recognition tool you will be aware of the fact that it is apparent Google is able to roughly identify images of some locations and features. Whether or not this provides any measurable advantage in terms of localised optimisation is unclear at this stage. Certainly Google has not published any information on it, but there are a few experts experimenting with the idea, and some at least claim results which could prove that in some cases it may be of benefit.
But the second and perhaps more obvious advantage is the fact that having pictures of local places also enables you to include captions, filenames, image titles and alt text which emphasise the fact that the business is directly connected to these known locations. Of course from the point of view of real potential customers visiting the website, photographs of the local area also help to foster a feeling of confidence that the business really is local and relevant.
11. Twitter And RSS Feeds
We certainly do know now that Google is paying much more attention to social media such as Twitter. It may be useful therefore as a small aside to embed a Twitter feed on your site which highlights local events and news. This Twitter feed could include headlines from the local paper or radio, as well as information regarding events run by local museums, galleries and the town council. Don’t overdo it, but if used sparingly and sensibly could well improve the localisation of your businesses website.
12. Avoid Boilerplate Text Or Spun Text
Far too many businesses seem to feel that if they have a business website which needs to provide a number of localised presences across the UK that it is acceptable either to have a page or section within the site specific to each location, or to have a sub domain specific to each location. By itself this isn’t wrong, but the way it is implemented almost inevitably means that boilerplate text is used, with great swathes of text duplicated over and over again with only minor changes, such as the place name.
Similarly, spinning text so that on each page the town name and one of two local details are changed will almost certainly mean that following the recent Penguin update Google will penalise your site quite severely. There is simply no shortcut to creating unique, custom and original local content written specifically for each geographic location.
Do you optimise for local search results? Have you found some methods work better than others? What do you do in order to maximise your business’s visibility for local searches? Please leave any comments, thoughts or questions below.
Image Credit: http://www.seo-creative.co.uk