Just as with possibly everything else in the world, change is perhaps the only constant thing when it comes to local search results. With the release of Google My Business in the summer of this year and the implementation of the Pigeon algorithm update, local search is now experiencing even more dramatic changes. Considering this and the fact that 80% of consumers search for local information using search engines, you’d definitely want to consistently show up in local queries. Consider as well that local search has a 157% higher chance of leading to a purchase than non-local search; it’s definitely time for you to give it the focus it deserves.
Local Search Optimization
You may have taken local search for granted all these years, and you’re not the only one who’s guilty of this oversight. But it’s high time you realize that local search holds considerable value of its own. Just like the general Google search engine, Google Local is also the world’s most popular search engine – in the local search arena, that is. This is why it is important for you to submit your site to Google Local and cover other important details such as ensuring a consistent NAP (name, address, phone numbers) for your business across channels and incorporating local flavor into the Meta data of your local web pages.
Go to Google Local and conduct a search for your company name and zip code or city. If your business isn’t listed yet, go to https://www.google.com/local/add/login and sign in to your Google account. If you don’t have one yet, sign up for one – it’s free. You may then follow the online instructions for submitting a free business listing. Be sure to provide as many details as possible. Indicate not just your business NAP, but also your hours of operation, categories for your business, a business description, and the payment options you accept. These pieces of information all make your business easier to find.
It is also advisable to get your business listed on other local business pages such as Bing Places for Business, Yahoo Local, and Yelp. Note that getting listed on these pages is a necessary first step towards establishing a local search presence. As mentioned earlier, consistency is important with regard to the information you provide in these listings, particularly your NAP. Consistency is a key contributor to local search rankings, along with making sure you are listed on the right websites.
Topping Local Search Post-Pigeon
Google’s Pigeon update put local search in the spotlight this year. The main purpose of this update is to integrate local search signals into the broader search signals of Google. As with their previous algorithm updates, Google’s aim is to provide more relevant search results and they believe integrating local into general search is one way of achieving that goal.
The purpose may be good, but the fact that the update has caused a lot of changes means that like the previous updates Google rolled out, the Pigeon, too, has succeeded in ruffling some feathers. Both local and national brands now find themselves in a fresh struggle to climb to the top of local listings and not all of them are pleased.
Ranking Factors That Have Grown in Importance Post-Pigeon
Rather than dwell on the negative effects of the Pigeon update, you’d be better off focusing your efforts on taking the necessary steps to protect whatever gains you already had prior to the update. If you’re taking local search into consideration just now, then you’d definitely do well not to listen to complaints about the update and focus instead on getting yourself to the top and staying there. One way of ensuring positive results for your local search optimization efforts is to take note of the ranking factors that have become important after the update. Those factors are:
- A website’s domain authority
- The quality of inbound links to your domain
- The quality of inbound links to your landing pages
- Your physical address in the city searched
- The quality of structured citations
- The presence of the city/state in the landing page title
So, what should you do in light of the growing importance of these ranking factors? Here are a few tips:
In a crowded and highly competitive arena, the strength of your domain is perhaps the most important factor that can set you apart. When search engines deem your domain a strong one, they will reward you with their trust and stamp of approval, and that is manifested in something most website owners want to achieve – excellent search rankings. In light of the Pigeon update, you now need to take a top-down approach to local SEO. Work towards building respect and high regard for your website and develop a strong link profile with authority sites.
Quality of Inbound Links to Domain
They say birds of the same feather flock together. In the world of local search, it is assumed that a website attracts links from other websites with the same caliber. When you get links to your domain from authority sites, therefore, search engines interpret that to mean your website is also an authority site. Needless to say, this improves your chance of earning good local search rankings. Work on your content marketing efforts to increase your chances of developing high-quality inbound links. The key is to get your business mentioned in a positive light by authority sites.
Quality of Inbound Links to Landing Pages
This is one of the factors where you will really feel the presence of the Pigeon. This factor was previously important only for ranking well in regular searches; it is now important for ranking well in local searches as well. Be sure to check your link profile and remove any low-quality and low-authority site that may be present there. Don’t hesitate to disavow all links to and from those sites using tools that also enable you to analyze and map out your link profile. If you know who the webmaster is for those sites, it would also be a good idea to request for the removal of the inbound links.
Physical Address in City of Search
If you operate a catering business in Los Angeles, showing up in local searches for caterers in Boston isn’t likely to do you much good. What you need to do is check your citation data and make sure all of your business listings contain your complete business address. This helps ensure you show up only in the most relevant searches. You should also avoid listing your business in nearby cities or towns, as that will only annoy online searchers and even Google, thereby causing your local SEO to suffer.
Quality of Structured Citations
The source of information is very important, even in our daily encounters. Would you, for example, believe your 10-year-old brother’s explanation of a mathematical theorem over that of your math professor? Of course not! In the same way, search engines take into serious consideration the source of your citations when they rank your pages for local search. In order to work well for local SEO, your citations in themselves should be of excellent quality and the websites where you are cited should be of high authority.
High-quality citations are those that contain accurate and complete NAP details. It should also contain a clear and concise description of your business, with keywords that make it easy for search engines to locate you. If you can include high-quality images in your citations, then you may even land a carousel position. Other than Google My Business, you should also build high-quality citations on authority sites such as Yelp, Yahoo Local, FourSquare, TripAdvisor, Manta, and Zagat.
City/State in Landing Page Title
When you take into consideration the most important local SEO factors, you’ll see that the value of having an exact address match becomes more technical than ever. It isn’t enough for you to ensure that your complete business address is cited in business listings across the web; you should also make sure these details are conspicuously displayed on your own website. This means indicating your address (especially the city and state) on your landing page title, the title tag, the Meta description, the H1 tag, and the landing page URL. If you operate in several cities, be sure to create a separate landing page for each city.
There are, of course, other factors to consider if you really want to do well in local SEO post-Pigeon. But the above factors are possibly the most important right now and it would definitely be a smart move for you to focus on them if you want to climb to the top of local search results and stay there. Don’t just concentrate on improving your rankings, though; work instead at building a well-rounded brand that’s easy for your target market to recognize. That may seem like an overwhelming task, but when you realize how big the payoffs are, you’ll be sure to agree it is well worth the effort.