7: Using Local SEO For Your Business

7: Using Local SEO For Your Business
In this episode, we talk Local SEO. What is it and why is it so important to small businesses. Local SEO is a massive opportunity for businesses that many just don't take advantage of. Find out how you can win at local SEO in today's podcast.

Resources for this Episode

Darryl: Welcome to My Bloody Website, the show where we talk all things online for small and medium business owners or executives who store [inaudible 00:00:07] to their bloody website. I'm Darryl King, your cohost.

Edmund: And I'm Edmund Pelgen.

Darryl: Hi Edmund, welcome to episode seven, my Lord, how are you going?

Edmund: Not too bad mate, yourself.

Darryl: Yeah, very good, got great feedback from last week's episode, our first guest on the show, Brendan Long, the lawyer, well done to him. Thank you for joining us. We got a lot of good feedback about having someone on the show, so I'm sure we'll do it again in the future.

Edmund: He was actually a grown up. Yeah, it wasn't just old t-shirts and ...

Darryl: That's right. Sorry, what was that?

Edmund: I was about to say, what are we talking about?

Darryl: We are talking about local SEO and what is it. This follows on a little bit from two weeks ago where we talked about evaluating your SEO provider and stuff like that, but there are lots of different parts of SEO and we are going to get into the detail of the journey of all paths of online to today, local SEO, what is it, Edmund, tell us. What is local SEO.

Edmund: Absolutely. Okay, so Google will tell you that a huge percentage, in excess of 50% of the searches that they see on a daily basis, are local in nature. What that means is, people are going online, on their phones or on their desktop computers and they're looking for things in their local area. Their search might be a plumber in my town, or an accountant in my town or what is the next ...

Darryl: Plumbers, [inaudible 00:01:32], whatever.

Edmund: Correct. So, local just simply means they're looking for something near them, around them to buy in their area, and that's it. But the majority, a large percentage of searches done daily, are local in nature. That's why local, getting found locally, is really important.

Darryl:  Okay, and we'll get into what all that means, but there's been a big change, which has made this become more relevant over the last decade, and I guess the question is, what is it, why does it matter? What drove this change?

Edmund: Yeah, absolutely. The reason is, you bloody mobile phone, the thing that you carry around in your pocket every day. The current generation of mobile phones are far more than just communications devices, they're internet enabled devices and people are changing their behavior because of their phones, to allow them to look for things nearby and locally. That's driven the change in search behavior, and it's increased the importance of making sure your website and all of the other digital assets you have, are optimized to get found for this local search, by people in your area.

Darryl: I think that people don't realize how targeted that is. Mobile devices, they're GPS beacons. We use, whether it be Apple maps or Google maps, whatever GPS system to drive around, move around, it even be walking in a new city to get you to where you need to go, that's the benefit that we see. The other side to it is that it always knows where you are down to that pin on the map. That street corner, [crosstalk 00:03:11] it knows where you are.

Local search results are that specific, and there's been some work I've been doing in the last 12 months or so with some providers, to the level of testing stuff that 500 meters away, half a kilometer, it might be two people getting completely ... even almost side by side, different devices, different, many locations, getting different search results based on what your mobile phone is telling them.

Edmund: That's right.

Darryl: They're here, they do this, they're on this type of device.

Edmund: That's it. Yeah.

Darryl: It's pretty targeted, right down to you're sitting in that café right now, right across the street is the best result for you.

Edmund: Absolutely. You can see it even on a desktop search now. They're slowly removing the ability to change where you're searching from and all that sort of stuff. I'll do a search in this town and I'll drive ten kilometers that way and it'll be different search result, even on desktop, right? Things are all about ...

Darryl: But the fundamental difference with desktop is, they're guessing your location because ISP routing, IP addresses and that can be a little bit flaky, and that's really the big difference, isn't it? On desktop, they try to do it and they try to it by getting you to tell them where you are, or making an assumption, but mobile phone tells exactly where you are.

Edmund: Yeah. And, think about it. Why did Google buy Android? Why do they own that? They do it because it gives them more information data about you, where you are, and what you're doing, and what you're looking for.

Darryl: Okay, so matters a lot because of mobile phone is the way that most people are now doing stuff. Let's go on then. Local SEO, so we know it's about being found locally. What are some of the things that come into play here. One of them is this thing called Google by business, but what are the things that we have to be aware of if we're trying to optimize for local SEO?

Edmund: Yeah, absolutely. So, at a very basic level, if you are a local business, you need to make sure that your website is optimized for local search, so if people look for your product or service in the area by searching specific keyword phrases. That might be your product or service, plus your location, well, make sure your location is on your website. Make sure you list your Brisbane office or your Sydney office or any of that information. Make sure you've got your local address on your website.

What's really important in the local search that we'll talk about in a bit, is name, address, phone number, right? Consistency. So make sure on your website, they can see, this is the name of the business, your phone number, which is a local phone number, your address, which lists the address. Make sure the site, your content, is all optimized for local search discovery. Your keywords of where you are, basically.

Darryl: Yeah, and just to clarify too something that's changed, and you talked about it and the way you phrased it, was kind of old school desktop search, which is, hey, I'm searching for this with a location on the end. That's probably one of the big changes, is that, that's how you would do things on desktop. I'm looking for a coffee shop in Brisbane CBD, or whatever marvey. Now people are doing that the same way. They just put, coffee shop near me and the device and the search engine is helping resolve that.

Edmund: Absolutely.

Darryl: Where you are. Making that automatic.

Edmund: Yes, now I can't help myself as an SEO, I want to give Google the best opportunity to figure out where I am, so I'm going to, I will make sure that my page ... let's say I'm a pizza restaurant in Maroochydore for example, right? I'll make sure that it's on the site and the page, because someone on desktop search may still search for that, because they are trying to. In the old days, on desktop only, we were trying to search for product or service plus location.

 I want to cater for those people. You're right, and what I tell people now is that the data, the searches that Google provides us sometimes are, the numbers are inaccurate, because I might be on my phone, and with a phone, I'm not going to sit there and type plumber, Sydney. I'll just search for a plumber near me or a plumber and Google will know, based on where you are, it will automatically tack on that local search element, if that makes sense.

Darryl: That's why it's important to be on your site. You've got to tell it where is this website, what location does it have.

Edmund: Absolutely. So best practice is to make sure ...

Darryl: What's that called? What's the terminology for that block of data that you're referring to?

Edmund: You mean the name, address, phone number?

Darryl: Yeah, externally. There's a term that people use when they're referring to these things. And how they link back to you.

Edmund: Oh, a citation. You be talking citations?

Darryl: Yeah.

Edmund: Yeah, so you'll hear the terminology thrown around local citations, right, and that's like, "What the hell is a local citation?" At a very fundamental ...

Darryl: Sounds like a legal phrase.

Edmund: I know, it all comes from these terms, but basically all it is, if we're talking about citations for businesses, a citation is any mention of your business on another website or a platform, whether that includes a link or not. Does that make sense?

Darryl: Yeah. But that's what we we're saying, so your name, address and phone number, living on some other site like a yellow pages directory or, I might belong to a community group or whatever or local association and there might not be a link to my website, so that now, that detail, has power and influence over your local results.

Edmund: Absolutely. The reason why I said earlier on, NAP, name, address, phone number, consistency, is that the Google engine is trying to understand that your business is what all these other citations are talking about. The way that it does that is it sees on your website that you have a name, a business name in a certain way, an address written in a certain way, and a phone number in a certain format and local SEOs will talk about name, address, phone number consistency, so make sure the way you've written it on your website, is the way that it's listed on all these other directories and in the Google My Business system so Google can see this is .... they are all talking about you.

 That way, you avoid the confusion of maybe similarly named businesses and it wants to be able to attribute all these mentions or citations to your website. That's why, when they say name, address, phone number consistency, it's really important.

Darryl: Okay. That's really interesting, because we're talking about something on a site that doesn't have a link. We know links have value. Come back to this Google My Business. Where does this fall into it? How does that all ... it's a very powerful thing, particularly for local businesses.

Edmund: Absolutely. You want to build all those local links. You want to be in all those local directories, but the key thing you need to be in, to get found in local search is the system called Google My Business. It's a free tool provided by Google. Basically, it's an opportunity for you to list your business in their My Business system and put all of your information, your contact details, and it gives Google the ability to show your business in the Google maps that appear.

Darryl: Okay, so that's where it's used. That's one area it's used, right? So in maps. If you have maps, it shows up there, but it always uses that data on a general search, too, if it's location based, right?

Edmund: Absolutely, but the beauty is, by completing your My Business listing as comprehensively as possible with your opening hours, it allows Google to display that information in the search results in a way that is helpful to a mobile user. The classic example is, if I search for a business, the My Business listing or the map listing that shows up will say it's busy at this time or they're open until, do you know what I mean? Or you can call them at this number, it provides all ...

Darryl: Or they're closed.

Edmund: Yeah.

Darryl: If it's 11:00 at night, the local shop's closed, you don't want people ringing you.

Edmund: Google wants the tool to be useful to the user on the phone, so the more information you can put into the Google My Business system, the more info they can display, and they'll provide a better user experience to the local mobile phone user, looking for product and service. Google My Business. It's the most important one for optimizing your business in a local search.

Darryl: So, the key thing, I guess, number one thing to do, if you're thinking about local SEO improvements, get a Google My Business ...

Edmund: Correct.

Darryl: Just do it, unless you're not a local business.

Edmund: Yeah. The important thing to remember, is you have to be a local business, so you've got a physical presence, an address when people can walk up to or you serve a specific area and the other thing to is this concept of verification. When you set up your listing, Google is going to want to verify that the phone number and the address that you're at are real. This stops spammers who in the past, have pretended to be at certain locations, from gaming the system. They have a process called verification where you're putting your business, saying this is my name and address, phone number, etc., and they might verify by saying, "Hey, we're going to send an automatic phone call to your number just to check," and they'll give you a code, or they'll mail out a card with a verification number on it. That's really important.

Darryl: Okay. So, let's take away the number one from today is if you're a small business, medium business, you have a physical location, you want people to find your location or contact you online, this leads to them ringing you as well as finding your website and contacting you that way. They're all tied together. Google My Business, you need to be on it and to do it properly and do well.

Now, moving on, we'll go back to citations. We've talked about citations and we've talked about the net. This is where you're listed externally. Now, obviously, some of those listings will also have a link to your website. Not all of them are without, but their out there. How does someone start figuring out this world of citations. In theory, they should check if they've got citations and they're accurate, is that the place to start? How do they do that?

Edmund: I'm hesitant to tell business owners that they've got to go and audit their citations, because they think, "Crap I don't know how to do that, I've got to pays someone to do it?" I tell people straight out, there are opportunities for you to list your business in local websites that you probably haven't already done. A lot of people are, like you said, the members of local associations or local organizations, go and see. Does that organization have a directory listing or a listing of members? Make sure your business is in those.

At a very simple level, you've got a great range of local, free directories that you should be able to find. What I like to tell people is the easiest way to find a list of local directories, is to search for top ten or top hundred Australian business directories or whatever that is, because a bunch of us here have already done the work for you and have listed all of these directories already. So go and search for theirs, and then submit your business. Just make sure your name, address and phone number are consistent when you list them and as another spot on your website and as displayed in your Google My Business listing.

Local directories are easy to find.

Darryl: Okay, so there's two things that come out of that in my mind. One is, we'll talk in a minute about good directory, bad directory, good listing, bad listing, and that's the same, we'll talk about it at length. There's different value propositions there. Can local citations hurt you if you've moved offices. You're talking about the new ones, not everyone wants to race out and order, but is there a negative influence from having your stuff listed wrongly on [crosstalk 00:14:43] at some point get audited and fixed.

Edmund:  Yeah. It's a really good point you raise, because a lot of businesses will change addresses and move premises. So just be aware that if you're doing that, if you're changing your address and you've obviously updated your phone number, and things like that, then yes, you need to go through the process of updating the information that's on those local directories. You moving and leaving them the same with an old address, is going to call massive confusion.

Darryl: What's the easiest way to audit. Do I just search for my business name and then go through all the things that show up for me. Do I search for my business name and phone number or something so that I can find ...

Edmund: That's the simplest way. Just search for your business name, inverted commas, or search for your phone number is a great one, because your phone number is typically a ...

Darryl: Let's stop a second. You've done the inverted commas and people out there don't all necessarily know what search operators are. So here in Google, and the inverted commas are around your business name. If you're business name is John Smith Electricians, for example, you put quote marks before and at the end of that phrase so that the search engine only searches for those three words combined, or whatever is in there.

Edmund: Exactly.

Darryl: And that way, they all three have to show up on the result to display them.

Edmund: Correct.

Darryl: That's the sort of thing that not everyone knows how to do.

Edmund: That's a good point. That's us nerdy SEOs, that's what we do. That's why I suggest a phone number is a great unique identifier to search for as well, so if you've got a ... your business search for the phone number and ...

Darryl: It's a great way to test if you've even got it on your website, probably, because if you can't find it ... yours should be the best result for it. Takeaway number two is, you should probably do some form of audit and you can assign this to a staff member to do it. Search for and find all ... just create a spreadsheet. Here's the site, the page that it was on, this is what was listed, this is what needs to change. Just collect the data and then progressively someone can go through, contacting and getting them updated.

Edmund: That is important. It is important to change the details on all of the sites.

Darryl: Yeah, but what you said earlier is, "Hey here's some quick ones you can do to add some and then if there's some harder ones, I can't remember how to log into my yellow pages account, I don't know what to do," they can take more time. You don't have to fix all of them upfront, but you should be cleaning them up.

Edmund: That's right. It's not the end of the world. Google's pretty smart and they can figure a lot of things out, but just, I think, the key thing is making sure your current business details are updated in your Google My Business listing and then clean up the rest as you've got time and resources to do.

Darryl: This becomes a bigger problem. The bigger the business you are, if you have multiple locations, if you start to have locations in every three or four suburbs, this is a problem that you're probably not going to address yourself.

Edmund: No.

Darryl:  There are providers and agencies that specialize in local SEO citations and some of them have relationships with the larger providers, the Yelps, the yellow pages, and people like this, they can submit on your behalf. So say you have a McDonald's restaurant. There's not a whole team of people there necessarily keying up what was data for every site, they're using agents. The larger scale that you go to, there are people that provide these services.

Edmund: Yeah, large, multi-unit operators and businesses, they probably won't be doing this internally, it's a task for your agency or your SEO to fix, because it can be challenging at scale.

Darryl: And probably that raises topic if you are a mid-sized business with four or five locations, you need to consider the way that those locations are represented on your website, because you don't just have one location to stick on [crosstalk 00:18:09]

Edmund: That's right.

Darryl: But the detailed thing that they have to address.

Edmund: If you're a mid-sized business and you've got a couple of locations, best practice would be have a unique page for each of your locations that lists some information about the business with the name, address phone number and maybe an embedded map for that business and given that it's a physical location, you should have a dedicated Google My Business listing for each of those locations and that my business listing, when it points to the website, should point to the website address page of your location on your website if that makes sense.

Darryl: Yeah [crosstalk 00:18:44] Google marking you as a duplicate account and then not allowing you to have a ...

Edmund: Correct.

Darryl: Okay. Let's talk about the less pretty side of it, so if we're looking for links, local links, that's getting your website linked to from the same places you might get citations, but the topic of directories and getting links. There's a plethora places you can go to get them. How does a business, I know a marketing person, identify, and some of this you think is logical, but how do I identify sites I should not be on. What would we call, spamming sites, that I want to do. What's some common ways to identify, I should be here and I'm staying away from that.

Edmund: Yeah, absolutely. So the first thing is, if someone comes to you and says, "I can build you out all these local directory links for $20," or you're trying to buy a job on Fiverr to build out all these local links, don't do it. They're going to be spam. That's the simple thing I should point out at first. The reality is, if it's a real local directory, and you can see them. Most people can look at a website now and know if it's real or not. There were a lot of fake directories that have nothing on them except listings of businesses, without any other additional information. You can spot it. If they look dodgy or they're a little bit low quality, then don't submit to them.

Darryl:  The other thing is, they need to be related to the country or location you're in, so having my fish and chip shop listed on an Argentinian building directory ...

Edmund: It doesn't make sense. Absolutely.

Darryl: That's an obvious one. [crosstalk 00:20:20]

Edmund: Yeah, but Google's getting smarter about that and I'll ignore it and you're just wasting your time, but the other thing I should also mention too, is if you're in a specific industry, for example, hospitality, then there is naturally, and you'll know of them, the top five or ten food related directories or portals that you need to be listed in, so start with those.

The reality is that when you start getting a bit more advanced, the way that you figure out other good links, once you've done the obvious stuff, you know the good quality directories through local yellow pages, etc., the way you figure out what other good ones are out there is by looking at the competitors.

This is probably something that your SEO consult is probably going to look at, but there are some great little tools if you're inclined to dig into it, there's a great little tool called the What's our local citation finder, which has a $20 a month fee. I'll put that link in the details and ...

Darryl: Yeah, that's going to be a takeaway, where people can find the resources.

Edmund: It's a really easy tool to do, but for $20 a month, what it does I you basically put in your keyword phrase in your area and it looks, specifically it looks at the local businesses that are doing well in maps and local search, and it looks at their local links. It'll come up and say, "Hey, all of these businesses that do really well, they have these links and then you should probably go and submit your business to those as well." That's a really handy, helpful, easy tool.

Darryl: I'm just going to throw in there for our listeners, because not everyone's necessarily on the website. On My Bloody Website podcast.com, under each episode, there are individual posts, each episode has a resources section where we put links to whatever we've got, things like that. There's a transcription of the whole thing, there's the video on YouTube, it's all there, so if you're listening or watching this somewhere else, the show notes on our website are there and you can subscribe by email to be notified when an episode comes out as well. That's where we talk about the resources we're putting them under the audio and the video post on the website.

Okay, Ed so in those, you had fine quality directories, that's going to help the average person out there know, or use a bit of business logic too. If it's not really related, let's stay away from it. What about, I don't want to do any of this. So, you already touched on it, so in most cases, an SEO provider will offer this service, there are standalone businesses just do it, where would I if I don't want to have anything to do with local SEO.

Edmund: If you just search for an SEO provider in your local area, and when you call them up, you just say straight out, "Hey, I'd like you to build me some local directory links, some local citations. Do you have a local search campaign," is what you'll ask for and they'll probably offer to set up your My Business listing for you, and do all of your local directory submissions. That's the thing that you'll be asking for. It should be a one-off investment, because once you've submitted and listed your business, there's no need to keep charging you, so it should be just a one-off investment for your business and that will do that for you. That's what you're asking for.

Darryl: Okay. And I guess the other important thing ... a lot of the sites that you might get on, depending on your industry, so if you're a tourism business, you might be on TripAdvisor, or people like that. If you've got a Google My Business, which we're recommending you do, a lot of these services have reviews. So, you can do reviews. This ties into the way that you're viewed by search engines. If you're getting reviews and if you are being ... and it ties into the human side of it. If people are reviewing your business, you're probably a real business. If there's a lot of stuff going on and the sentiment is generally good, that's a reputational thing, to a degree, trust signal.

You talked about how if I refer you to someone, there's trust in there because we know each other. It's the same way. How do we just say, it's not just about a link to this other stuff. People do reviews. There's a process that businesses should be doing, and they don't do. It used to be testimonials, well a review is a testimonial, a testimonial is a review. Tell us, Ed, what should a business know about ... what's some simple advice about improving the reviews they get?

Edmund: To get a good review, you need to deliver a great service, fundamentally, so if you're a bad service ...

Darryl: Different things that people just turn up and review stuff, some people do, some people are serial reviewers, but in a lot of cases, you have to ask.

Edmund: That's simple. So once someone has had a good experience with you or a good service, then you just build it into your processes with your front of house staff or your back house staff or whoever's responsible for handing over that receipt or that last touchpoint with the client. Ask the client. Ask the customer, "Hey, if the service was good, if you love the product, would you mind leaving us a Google review?" Just ask them straight out.

I'm going to point you to a resource, and we'll have the link in the show notes that will help you put together a little, one page guide that you can hand out to customers that shows them how to leave a Google review. Once again, What Spark has created a tool called the review handout generator. You put in your details and it'll generate this little one page form showing people how to go to Google, search for your business name, here's the button, click this, leave us a review. It's called the White Spark review handout generator and we'll leave the link to that in the show notes.

Darryl: Yeah, it's great. I gave that to someone the other day for their business and I said, "It's really, really cool. We're actually going to just pretty it up a little bit better and do our line, because I have a designer in house. We're going to stick in every box we send out." Every box of their product, it's just going to be in there. Will everyone fill it in, no. But it's about trying to encourage people to ...

Edmund: You don't ask, you don't get.

Darryl: That's right. And look, there's positives in that anyway. If someone gives you a three star review, and they tell you why, there's an opportunity for you to improve what your offer is. At the end of the day, it's serves everyone quite well to do it. So all right, well, that's really good Ed, I think we've covered all those, there's two or three takeaways that we'll put after there, but do Google My Business, pay attention to your citations on your site and start thinking about where you might be listed and then obviously, getting reviews. Those are three key things that, action from us tomorrow.

Edmund: Yeah, fantastic. Well, I think we've come to the end of this episode, what do you reckon Darryl?

Darryl: I reckon we have.

Edmund: Excellent. And if you once again, have enjoyed this podcast, if the information was helpful, we'd love it if you'd share it, if you'd subscribe to the podcast on our website, My Bloody Website.com. Leave us an iTunes review, that would be awesome, and because reviews help people find it and they will trust what you're saying about this podcast if it was helpful. So, I look forward to chatting with Darryl and you guys next week when we continue this discussion about My Bloody Website. That's it for me.

Darryl:  That's it from him.