Last month, there were rumblings in the SEO world that Google had quietly introduced an algorithm update that would impact local search results. Dubbed the “Pigeon” by Search Engine Land, this update appears to focus on taking tradition web signals into account when ranking local results in the search engine results pages.
While the update has initially only affected US English search results for the time being, it serves as a handy reminder to businesses to ensure their local SEO strategy is on point before it lands this side of the pond.
Here are four things you can do to kick-start your local optimisation efforts:
1). Create your Google My Business profile (and keep it up-to-date) – Like it or not, this is one of the most essential elements of local SEO. One impact of the Pigeon update is that the local map pack has reduced in size for certain keywords. This means that you might now only see three Google Maps listings in the results for a search term, where before the same search may have returned up to seven results. As a result of this, you should make sure your Google Maps listing and Google+ profile are well optimised by:
- Ensuring your address is filled out correctly
- Choosing the right category to describe your business
- Verifying your listing (which you can now do in your Google Webmaster Tools account)
- Using relevant keywords in your Google+ profile description
- Encouraging people to leave reviews
2). Make use of structured data – Highlight useful information on your website by using data markup to create rich snippets in the search results. The following types of content can be used to generate rich snippets:
- Businesses and Organisations
3). Include location-based keywords in your meta data – While this does not mean that you should stuff your title tags with location-appended keywords, if you know of an appropriate local keyword that describes your business, for example – “Plumber in Belfast” it makes sense to include it in your meta data.
4). Create listings on high-quality local directories – one of the most noticeable outcomes of the Pigeon update is that directory listing results from the likes of Yelp and other directory sites are becoming more prominent in the search results again (with many speculating that the Pigeon update is an outcome of Yelp’s antitrust case against Google). Identify which directories are most relevant to your business and create detailed listings on them that are useful to searchers. When creating your listings, try to ensure that your Name, Address, and Phone Number matches the same format (capitalisation, abbreviations, phone no. structure) as it appears on your Google My Business profile
With Google getting better at understanding the semantics behind search, it is more important than ever for businesses to get savvy with local SEO. However, whether you’re a novice or an expert, by looking at some of the suggestions outline above, you can start to improve your presence in local search results and tackle the bird head on!