Local SEO Trends You Need to Know

*Updated April 12, 2017*

With Google’s constant algorithm updates, local search has been taken to a whole new level. Basic SEO practices like keyword research, meta tags, indexing, and penalty recovery are still in place. However, content, directory listings, and mobile optimization play a huge role in rankings.

Here are the major SEO trends you need to know:

On-Page SEO Builds a Strong Foundation for Visibility

The days of keyword stuffing are over and businesses without strong content will fall behind. It is important to write content for the reader and consider the visitors experience while writing content. Keywords should appear in important on-page elements including the page title, heading, and naturally throughout the page content. A few things to keep in mind while optimizing your site:

  • Optimize page titles: This is still a great way to help your SEO efforts. A page title gives the search engines and searchers an idea of what your page is about. You should keep the title under 70 characters and put keywords towards the front of the title.
  • Headline Tags: The purpose of headline tag is to tell the reader and search engines about the page’s topic. It is necessary to include a heading (<H1>) within the page’s HTML because it tells the search engine that the content is extremely important.
  • Image Alt Text: Images are a great way to increase opportunities for search engines to link back to your website. Always include keywords in the image alt text and file name.
  • Strong Content: Search for user intent will have a greater impact than direct keyword searches so sites must be ready with strong content.

Changes in Google Maps & Google Web Search

Here is another example of how local is playing a huge part in Google’s search algorithm. In the past you could search for “auto repair shop” on Google search and receive completely different results from a Google Maps search. The algorithm has helped to provide more consistent results between organic results and map results. Make sure you have your Google Places listing claimed and completely filled out to ensure that the correct information is being displayed on Google Maps.

Local Directory Listings & SEO

One of the biggest impacts Google’s Pigeon update was the increase in prominence of local map and directory listings. Directories are now being favored in organic results over local businesses. If you’re having trouble ranking the problem could be as simple as inconsistencies in your business information across the web. Google uses your name, address, and phone number to categorize and understand your business. Everything plays a role, from formatting to punctuation. Even something as minimal as “Main St.” and “Main Street” will come across to Google as inconsistency.

Here are a few ways to keep your information consistent across the web and help your overall rankings in 2015:

  • Claim your Google My Business listing and be sure your information is correct. This listing is verified by Google and is the best way to tell Google how your address should be formatted.
  • Claim your listings with local directories such as Yelp, Merchant Circle, Citysearch, etc… Once these have been claimed you will be able to update your business name, address, and phone number to be sure it is consistent.
  • Optimize your listings. Include photos, hours, contact information, website URL, and other relevant information to help your listing stand out.
  • Generate reviews. You can do this through email campaigns or adding a Yelp widget to your site linking back to your review page. It’s okay to ask people to write reviews for you; however, you should be careful how you go about this as many review sites discourage review solicitation.

Mobile-Friendly SEO

Having a mobile-friendly website has become increasingly more important. In fact, websites that are not optimized for mobile use won’t rank as highly in mobile search results.

You have probably heard the terms “mobile responsiveness” or “mobile-friendly” but does your site hold up to these standards? According to Google, a page is eligible for the “mobile-friendly” label if it meets the following criteria as detected by Googlebot:

  • Avoids software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash
  • Uses text that is readable without zooming
  • Sizes content to the screen so users don’t have to scroll horizontally or zoom
  • Places links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tapped

Failing to have a mobile-friendly website can have a negative impact on your website’s click-through rate. Google has also been known to penalize a site for not being mobile accessible. If you want to make sure that your website meets the mobile-friendly criteria you can use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to check your pages.

Take Aways

One of the most important things to take away from Google’s recent update is that users’ needs are constantly changing and Google will do what it can to provide them with the best user experience.

This goes to show that, unlike the common misconception that SEO is a “quick fix”, it is, in fact an on-going process that really has no end.

If any of this is confusing to you, or you want to work with someone that can steer you in the right direction – or take care of this for you, give us a call.

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