The need for local search engine optimization can be illustrated by a simple example: A person has had a toothache for two days. In order not to delay the problem, she enters “Dentist Frankfurt” in the Google search field. At this early stage, the person concerned does not yet have a clear idea of which dentist to visit. First she would like to know which dentists are shown to her on Google.
But the search results are not as uniform as you know from conventional searches. In addition to one to three organic search results – some of which lead directly to the websites of different dentists, but some also refer to evaluation or industry portals – between three and seven inserted results are highlighted on the first Google results page and with location PINs from A. to G. What the search engine user sees here are the explicitly local search results, which Google adds to the conventional web results as a so-called “Universal Search” insert. These are subject to different ranking criteria than is the case with normal websites, and this example from everyday life already suggests
Local companies basically have to use a “multi-channel” strategy in online marketing. Book Google AdWords? Offer vouchers at Groupon? Communication on Facebook? Recommendation marketing on KennstDuEinen? Actively tackle local search engine optimization? The answer to these questions is likely to vary depending on the service offered – local companies should ask themselves these questions in any case, because the area of activity “Local Search Engine Optimization” includes different disciplines such as classic SEO, but also measures that are unique to local Segment can be applied. After all, consumers not only get to the information most frequently searched for when searching locally (telephone number, address, opening times) via the provider’s website,
Local SEO Roadmap
What could a strategic “step-by-step” roadmap look like for a local company in order to ensure more visibility on the web?
A sensible plan for structuring and prioritizing the local SEO activities should answer some important questions: Where does the company currently stand from the point of view of search engine optimization? Which SEO measures should be tackled with which priority? And how much effort does it take to be better positioned than the competition? Local search engine optimization can be divided into three phases:
- Collect data and analyze competition
- In-depth analysis and special research
- Document measures and track metrics
Phase 1: Collect data & analyze competition
In the first phase, you identify search terms for which you want to be found in the web search. The prerequisite for relevant keywords is that users who search for these keywords actually make contact. Various means are available for this. In addition to an initial brainstorming session with pen and paper, the traffic and conversion data on your own website provide important insights. These are supplemented by the use of the Google AdWords keyword tool, Google Suggest and the “Related Searches” category at the bottom of the search results. Chargeable resources include Google AdWords campaigns with conversion tracking and keyword databases from providers such as Sistrix, SEO Diver, Searchmetrics or Seolytics.
The result of the keyword research is a list of search terms that are also sorted in descending order according to approximate search volume – a value that some tools provide from different data sources.
The identification of competitors in the Google search results in relation to the search terms researched is also very important. Competitors can be completely different companies than those that are part of the real economy. All kinds of blogs, news and question-and-answer portals or even spam projects may rank better than the company website – domains which from a business point of view do not actually represent competitors at all, but which, with a better ranking, may have relevant visitors from their own website “keep away”. The most important competitors are determined by searching on Google for the keywords researched, searching on Google Places or using fee-based ranking query tools.
Relevant ranking factors
In addition, it only makes sense to include those ranking factors that can actually be actively influenced. On the basis of the important expert survey “Local Search Ranking Factors 2012” initiated by David Mihm in the USA, the following relevant ranking factors for Google Places search results can be recorded:
- Optimization of the Google+ Local entry: verification, use of relevant categories, address and contact data consolidation, photos, additional information, link to the local Google+ page, collecting reviews – recently centralized with ” Google My Business “
- Optimizing the website: technical and structural on-site measures, off-site links, content optimization
- Local Citations: Update and expand company entries on relevant rating and industry portals
- Customer opinions: Number of reviews on the Google+ Local entry and on external review platforms
- Rating: Average values of the ratings on all relevant portals
Phase 2: Analysis & Research
After creating an industry benchmark, the individual ranking factors should be examined more closely so that appropriate measures can be derived for implementation. The sub-areas of website audit, local citations, ratings and link building play an important role.
Website audit: on-site optimization
The creation of a website audit always makes sense from the point of view of search engine optimization. Regardless of whether this relates to the information architecture and usability, the internal link structure, simple HTML tags, meta information (robots tag, canonical tag etc.) or the content – there is almost always something to improve .
At the end, a list of the necessary on-site measures is the result of this work. On the basis of the on-site optimization, the effects of the other SEO measures also have a much more effective effect on the ranking of the website.
Local Citations: Creation of company entries on rating & industry portals
Local citations are an important component of local search engine optimization. These are company entries on industry portals such as yellow pages or rating platforms such as KennstDuEinen. Google crawls company information such as phone number, address or number of reviews and uses this as a ranking factor. It is important that a company presents itself everywhere on the web with the same company name, phone number, address and is entered in comparable, consistent industry categories.
Local citations also act as contact points for seekers. The following tools offer the possibility to find out more about the “status quo” of a local company on the web:
- Google search with company name “XYZ”
- Google search with “Industry + City”
- Local SEO tool Whitespark Local Citation Finder
A comprehensive, free whitepaper about local citations and how to use them for local search engine optimization can be found in the WinLocal Blog .
Reviews: Referral Marketing & Online Reputation
The importance of customer reviews cannot be overestimated. In addition to the positive effects on the local Google ranking (reviews on Google+ Local, reviews on rating portals), customer opinions that can be publicly read by users on the web play an important role in acquiring new customers and determine whether a company is User is contacted.
Local providers that do not actively take care of their online reputation are still rated by users. Therefore, one should actively take care of this aspect and motivate satisfied customers to post an evaluation on a relevant evaluation platform online.
The sheer number of user reviews is also an important ranking factor in a number of industries, in which both reviews directly on the Google+ Local entry and on relevant review portals are used to calculate Google’s ranking.
Link building: Link building for local search
Link building is an important aspect of local search engine optimization. However, you have to keep in mind that depending on the level of awareness of the local company, hundreds of arbitrary links are not necessary, but rather harmful.
Content marketing measures can be instrumentalized for “natural”, because voluntary, external linking: In a “de-commercialized zone” (e.g. blog), high-quality content that is extremely relevant for a local target group is posted on the company website are. Such information is often shared on social networks.
Phase 3: Documentation & tracking
In the last phase everything revolves around the documentation of the local SEO measures and the monitoring of relevant data points. However, the question arises, which metrics are worth actively being monitored at all?
|Basic metrics for local search engine optimization|
|Number of local citations|
|Number of links|
|Number of linked domains|
|Number of Google ratings|
|Number of external ratings|
|Number of actively used external review portals|
|Number of relevant keyword rankings in Google search|
|Website traffic through organic google search|
|Website traffic through links|
In addition to this data, which provides information about the effects of the local SEO measures on the visitor volume via search engines, it also makes sense to deal more closely with the conversions. After all, as an entrepreneur, you want to know how many contact requests the ongoing SEO measures actually lead to.
Therefore, the following applies: No reasonable success measurement without conversion tracking. There are a few rules to follow for measuring success:
- Measure channel SEM and channel SEO separately
- Phone calls received due to SEO and SEM actions are counted separately
- Evaluate contact requests using the website form
- E-mail inquiries from the website’s e-mail address count
In order to prove the success of the SEO measures, it is important to document the metrics before the start of a project. Only then is it possible to determine progress and to relate this to the individual measures of local search engine optimization. The benchmark with the competitors should also be repeated regularly. Based on the information collected, you gradually adapt your measures to the current conditions.
With Local SEO, smaller companies and service providers in particular have a powerful tool at hand to attract more potential customers to their own site. Anyone who does SEO anyway has less work to do when optimizing their own web presence locally. However, local SEO includes far more measures than classic search engine optimization.
A strategic local search engine optimization comprises three steps: Firstly, the research for relevant keywords, an analysis of the competitors based on the search results and the documentation of the initial situation before the start of the SEO measures. The second step is to analyze and research your own online presence. The compilation and observation of relevant SEO metrics only follow in the third phase.