How to Increase your Business’s Visibility for Local Searches

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Let’s face it, as a small business you probably don’t stand a cat in hell’s chance of appearing on the first page of Google for the search term ‘business insurance’. But, localise that search to ‘business insurance Farnborough’ and you will drastically improve your chances.

Optimising for local search is a vital weapon in the small business armoury. Local results are shown to those who search for businesses and places near their location. The results generated by these searches appear in the organic search results and Google Maps, and could become a reliable and lucrative revenue stream.

To give your business the best chance of becoming a big deal in your local area, you need to tick all the right boxes. Then, and only then, will your business feature prominently in local search.

Give Google all the information it needs

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The more information you provide about your business, the more relevant your business will become in the eyes of Google. You need to enter all your business information in Google My Business, including what you do, where you are and when you are open. Google will ask for your physical address, phone number and business category. Make sure all the information you provide is accurate and up to date.

Verify your location

The next step is to verify that the information you have provided is correct. Depending on the type of business you run, there will be one or more verification options open to you. This could include:

  • Verification by postcard
  • Verification by phone
  • Instant verification
  • Bulk verification (if you have 10 or more locations)

Once you’ve verified your information, you’ll be asked to review your details and make any final changes. Here’s the official spiel from Google if you need a little help:

Customers may choose to leave reviews about your business. Replying to these reviews can help to build customer trust and ultimately raise your profile (the better the reviews, the higher you’re likely to rank). You should respond to reviews with genuine, helpful responses. And remember, any responses you post will be public, so keep it polite, relevant and free from colourful language.

Add some snaps

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If you‘ve already read our post about the power of visual marketing, you’ll understand that a couple of pictures of your business can attract customers and help to tell your story. Images can also show prospective customers that you can supply the products or services they need.

How does Google determine your relevance in local search?

Google’s algorithms take a number of factors into account when determining the ranking of businesses for local search terms. This includes the business’s distance from the user, its prominence and relevance to the search.

  • Relevance

The more Google knows about your business, the better. Google wants to provide users with the most relevant results to their search. The closer the information contained in your local is to the search, the higher you are likely to rank.

  • Distance

There are no tricks here. Google will favour businesses that are closer to the location of the searcher. If the user searches for ‘shoe shops in Farnborough’, and you have a shoe shop located slap bang in the middle of Farnborough, you stand an excellent chance of ranking.

  • Prominence

Google will take into account a number of different factors to determine how prominent it believes your business to be. The number of positive reviews your business has received, the amount of quality content on your website and the number of links you have will all be taken into account. Your adherence to SEO best practices will also boost your local ranking.

Is it time you took local search seriously?

At DGTL, we can transform your business from a local flop to a hotshot in your target area. Combining SEO best practice with quality content and a little local know-how can give your business the boost it needs. Please get in touch to discuss your requirements with our team.

Examples of Good SEO Practice

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We’ve found out What SEO is, now lets take a look at some examples of good SEO practices.

Below you will find a selection of tips to improve your understanding of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). These are not definitive rules but implementable guidelines that focus on long term online success.

Fresh Content

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There is no such thing as a finished website. By striving to consistently add and improve web pages you are more likely to rank higher in searches, attract a higher volume of visitors and thus generate more sales as a result. As the old saying goes ‘Content is king’.

Higher page viewing times mean search engines are more likely to give your site a higher ranking. Baring this in mind, it pays to have content your customers can engage with for longer periods of time.

Adding a blog to your website is one of the simplest ways to keep your website fresh with new content. Consider a ‘News’ section, also.

When adding in optimised keywords into your content, it’s crucial that you stick to an appropriate density. For text that measures 300 words should generally use a keyword density of between 1-3%. Any more and you risk being penalised for ‘keyword stuffing’.

This all assumes you have your own content to use. If you’re running a little short we have a wealth of experience when it comes to generating content

How to get Higher on Google

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Search engine algorithms (the robots that rank your website) are forever changing. As per Google’s CEO, Eric Schmidt, in 2010, Google made over 500 algorithm changes. That’s 1.5 per day! No one quite knows the exact ins and outs of any search engine algorithm but we can look at their objective and deduce a plan of action from that.

The goal of any search engine is to match the searcher with the most appropriate website based on their search criteria. Search engines like Google and Yahoo generate income from PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising – You know, those ads you see placed around the organic search results? So, by attracting more visitors, search engines have more chance of a searcher clicking a PPC ad, thus generating profit.

Based on this incentive of matching up searchers with the perfect website, your time is better spent making an original website tailored to people. Tailoring your website to just look good to those pesky ranking robots is bad SEO practice.

Keywords

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Keywords play a massive part in SEO. With keywords being so important, it’s crucial that the process is well thought out and executed correctly. Keywords filter in to most other SEO practices in one way or another.

It starts with keyword research. Trying to rank for any random keyword or keyword phrase is like playing a game of roulette – A big gamble that you are likely to lose out on. It’s important to find a niche. A keyword phrase that has a good search volume and a relatively low level of competition. It’s not quite that simple but that’s a great place to start.

Optimising your website for long tail keywords is definitely worth considering, particularly if you are just starting out and can’t compete with the ‘big fish’. Despite having lower search volumes, long tail keywords are easier to rank for and are very specific. Whatever service or product you offer, the more specific the search term, the more likely they are looking for exactly what you have to offer.

It’s all about RESEARCH! And plenty of it. We can help you with this.

Image ALT Text

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First and foremost, ALT text should be descriptive in such a way that it can help visitors. If an image doesn’t load properly, or if the viewer has a condition that affects their cognition, the ALT text should communicate to them what the image represents.

This is also an opportunity to add in an optimised keyword as search engines do take them into account. It’s important not to overdo it though as this can incur penalties.

H1 Tags and Hierarchy

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Header tags, or h1 tags are more often than not the title of a particular page or post. It will usually be the largest text on the page and needs to briefly describe what the corresponding page is about. Search engines take the h1 tag into consideration when ranking your website.

There are also h2, h3, h4 etc. The idea is to use them to form a hierarchy down each page. As you go down the chain, less emphasis is put on each.

Each header tag you use is a great opportunity to get the right keywords in and attract the right visitors to your page.

Examples of Bad SEO Practice

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Bad SEO techniques will almost certainly end in failure. By attempting to game the system one of two things will usually happen. Either you will be penalised by search engines and ranked down or you will find short term success that will be undone with subsequent algorithm updates. These techniques are commonly referred to as Black hat SEO, with the exception of duplicate content and content light pages as these are often genuine oversights.

Although less common these days, agencies still implement these techniques in the hope of gaining short term, unsustainable success. They are reckless, risky, and can seriously damage a company. The list below should only be used as a reference.

Keyword Stuffing

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Trying to cram in too many keyword phrases can work against you. Not only is the passage of text less likely to read well, search engines are also more likely to penalise you. Striking a balance is the key here. A keyword density of between 1-3% is the generally accepted way of doing things.

Invisible Text

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Using invisible text to cram keywords into a web page is a practice that was once heavily used. Before search engines put policies in place to ban this technique, the internet was rife with websites using it.

Example: You’ve created a web page that has a background colour of #FFFFFF, aka white. You would then place text on the page with an ever so slightly darker shade of white, like #FFFFF0, aka off-white. This makes the text virtually invisible to a human reader but search engine crawlers would read it as normal.

Pages with too Little Content

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Content-light pages with short page view times can sometimes result in search engines downgrading your keyword rankings. Better to merge these pages together logically or add to them. Aim for a minimum of 250 words per page.

Cloaking

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In a nutshell – The content presented to a search engine spider is different from that presented to a user’s browser. The most common way of doing this is basing the content presented on the IP address of the spider or user accessing the website.

Cloaking is often used to try and trick a search engine into giving the specific website a higher ranking. Other uses are ranking a website for a different search term than the page content shows.

Duplicate Content

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Having content that is the same, or very similar, on multiple pages can incur a penalty to search results. If your duplicate content is on an external blog, for instance Tumblr, its important to link the original source (the one you want to have the ranking juice for) at the top or bottom of each post. This prevents penalties from duplicate content.

Paid Links

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Slow and steady wins the race. Attempting to buy backlinks from people openly selling them may offer some short term success but the method itself is irrelevant and unsustainable. Better to acquire quality backlinks over time. These will likely be more useful in the long run, more relevant to your business, and won’t incur any penalties.