In the past year local SEO has evolved. Once the slightly neglected area of SEO campaigns, Local SEO is now becoming a formidable element of any company's digital marketing strategy; regardless if they are targeting a nationwide, international or local audience.

There are many attributes to the growth of the importance of local SEO; Google+, the Google Venice update and Google's ever relentless desire to provide users with a more personalised experience have all contributed towards local SEO becoming an essential part of a company's digital marketing strategy.

Without a strong local SEO campaign, your PageRank will suffer, therefore this is something that digital marketers need to grasp right away.

To show you how you can master your local SEO campaign we're gonna run you on the ins and outs of the elements that make up local SEO and how you can use them to your advantage.

Google Venice Update

I know what you are thinking at this point; in comparison to some of the Google updates we have seen recently (the earth-shaking Penguin for example), Venice is actually quite an old update in comparison.

While this is true, this is also where a lot of digital marketers come unstuck and lose out on a valuable part of their Local SEO campaign.

Google Venice is kind of like Google's 'buy local' campaign if you will. What it does is basically return local results for your Google searches. This means that whenever you make a search that could have 'local intent' Google will return local results regardless of whether you have entered a location or not.

Of course, usually this would only happen if you were logged in, but not anymore; Google can detect your IP address and will return local results based on this information.

For the searcher, this is great, however for a digital marketer this could be dangerous. If you have worked a very long time in getting your long-standing rankings, you may find that they have been pushed down as the priority will go to local searches.

So if you have worked hard trying to secure that precious first page ranking, you may be aggravated to find out that you have been pushed down to second page or worse to make way for local listings.

So, how do you get round this snag?

Local SEO

Enhancing your local SEO is now an essential part to any digital marketing campaign. If you want your business to appear in local searches then you had better take note of the following information.

Essentially, local SEO can be broken down into five areas. These are;

  • On-page optimisation
  • Social media
  • Reviews
  • Citations
  • Mobile 

On-Page Optimisation

Typically of all SEO campaigns, the first steps will always begin on your own site. Making the correct changes to your pages will ensure that the relevance of your site to the locations that you are situated in are registered by Google.

There are many important on-page elements that you will need to take into account. Title-tags are an extremely important element in SEO. By including your location in the Title tag with give Google a big signal from the onset.

If your business covers a number of areas then you should include the country listing rather than that of individual cities or towns, which can often look spammy and take up essential character space needed for other information.

As is the case for some business models, including the location in the title tag where putting the location in the title tag simple does not fit in with the business model. If this is the case for your business then don't despair, for there are other elements that allow you to include location information. However, the Title-tag is a big one and it is strongly recommend it that you use it.

While Meta Descriptions are no longer classed as a ranking factor, they should still include your location; so make use of those 155 characters you have at your disposal!

On the page

When it comes to the content on the page itself, you should seek to include your full address and local phone number. This is so important and you absolutely must include this on your page. A good place to put this information is on the footer of the site, as it allows it to appear on every page.

Headers

Heading tags are another important element of that are crucial to good SEO practice. You should include your location in these, especially in the main heading. In a similar vein to the title tag, it may not be in touch with your business model to include the location in your heading tag, so you may want to put it in lesser headers to suit better.

Content

The way that you should treat your location in your content is in the way that it is a key term. Like all important keywords, you should include your location in your site's copy.

Blog

As I'm sure you are all aware aware now, content is a huge part of online marketing; this being said, all sites should have a blog. There are so many reasons for this. Not only are they a great way to communicate with your audience and demonstrate your industry know-how, but it will also provide Google with what it loves best: fresh and engaging content as well as a priceless resource for local SEO.

Many digital marketers will agree, a good ratio to split up the content of your company's blog is as follows;

  • 50% Industry relative posts
  • 25% Company Promotion
  • 25% Company publicity

 The last two of this list give you enough leverage to write locally aimed posts. For example, if your company has attended a local event, sponsored a local cause or if your team are taking part in any industry relative local activities.

Authorship

Make sure that you get your authorship in place. If your posts begin to gather a fanbase then including your authorship will build online authority and give your posts added strength.

Local sites, Profiles and directories

It is essential that you make sure that you have presence on sites that have local intent, such as business directories like Yellow Pages. Not only do these create links back to your site from locally relevant profiles, but they also give you exposure from a new audience. Sites such as Yelp even have their own online communities who use the site to find the best local places, which makes them a great place to be featured on your website.

When you are creating these profiles it is important that you use the same address as the one that you have listed on your site; never use a shortened version as this information needs to match.

Another thing that you must do, (which surprisingly many people forget to do) is to verify your all of your profiles. Not only does this highlight to Google that the information that you are provided is valid and trustworthy, but it also shows that you have control of the profile.

In the past many companies have found that their profiles have been hijacked by hackers and subsequently have been unable to gain control of the information that is being used, therefore showing Google that you have control over the profile is vital.

By providing as much information in these profiles they will become hubs for information concerning your company and the products that you provide, as well as building interest on sites such as Yelp and local directories.

As well as local sites, you should look to have presence in these kind of areas;

  • Local press 
  • Newspapers
  • Local TV stations
  • Local radio

  These places usually have local business listings which can do wonders for your site.

Social Media

Social Media is another factor of your digital marketing that has become essential these days. How are you supposed to become known to a local audience without being social? Having a social presence on the main authoritative social media platforms (such as Facebook) is essential to a good local SEO campaign.

Much like the local profile sites, social media pages will supply the search engines with important information about your business, as well as exposing you to another audience. Make sure that you include the address and location of your company in these, exactly as it appears on your website.

When it comes to the most authoritative social media sites you want to have your company featured on, you will need to put your location in the following areas;

Facebook: Include your location in the 'General Information' and 'About' sections of your profile.

Twitter: Include your location in the main bio.

LinkedIn: Include your information in your company's description.

Google Local

If you are trying to enhance your local SEO campaign, then you really should make sure that you have presence within Google's local platforms. Google platforms allow you the chance to feed to Google directly all the information about your online business.

Without a presence on the likes of Google Local your chances of ranking in local searches will eventually be affected. Though Google haven't officially stated as much yet, there has been enough noise made about it for it to be fairly obvious that at some point soon this will come into play as a leading SEO factor.

So, make sure that you are listed to all of Google's local platforms. Ensure that you have added your business to Google Maps and fill in every single option that is available; provide as much information as you possibly can and as always make sure you list the address as the same as the one on your company's site.

One more thing, do not forget to verify your listing! Once you have done this Google will send you a postcard that will contain a verification code.

Google+

Google+ is Google's 'social media' platform. It is a crucial part of your local SEO campaign and you need presence on here, so make sure that you create a profile. When creating your company's profile, make sure that you choose your company's category carefully as this will provide relevance to your whole profile. As before, include all the information that you can here.

Again, as always you need to make sure that the address you use is identical to the one that you have used on your site and make sure that you verify your site on your Google+ profile. To do this you will be provided by Google with a line of code, which is required to complete the verification process.

As well as Google+, you should also think about working with other social profiles, such as;

  • Pinterest
  • YouTube
  • Flickr
  • Tripadvisor

Reviews

These are possibly the toughest element of a local SEO campaign to crack. Obviously, you can't force people to leave your company good reviews and you can't censor what is said. However, you should never refuse the opportunity to ask for reviews as customers love reading about previous customer experience.

Requesting reviews is a good way to reach out to your clients, so do it! Ask them for their feedback as it will help improve your customer service.

Some good review tips

  • Be prompt in requesting a review, as soon as possible after you have provided them your service.
  • Make it easy for them to leave a review; include a link to your Google profile
  • If you don't hear back from them, follow up with another email. However, don't harass them
  • Don't offer an incentive, this can often sound like you are buying their feedback
  • Don't ask reviews for high-spam sites like Yelp, this could damage your profile
  • Never fix your own reviews pretending to be a happy customer, you will be found out and the backlash of this is often sever

Citations

A citation is a mention of your business on another website, but it doesn't include a physical link. These are gold for your digital marketing campaign. To get hold of good citations you should find out where your competition are gaining theirs and then try to gain your own.

To help your search;

  • Search for your Competitors Domain plus elements of their address.
  • Search for your domain but use '-site:yourdomain.com' at the start of your search as this will remove listings from your own site
  • Search the competition on Google+ to see where they are gaining reviews from
  • Search for your targeted terms

Mobile

Mobile search constitutes roughly 40% of all Google searches with local intent, so you really shouldn't ignore it. This figure doesn't even take into account apps that are used with local intent, or the fact that Android users are permanently logged into Google, which automatically generalises personalised local results.

Also you should take into account that Google Now is available on iPhones and iPads. Google Now is Google's new product that provides up-to-the-minute local information for its users.

Many digital marketers that ignore mobile lose out a lot on their local SEO campaigns; don't be one of them.

In conclusion

I can't stress the importance of local SEO in your digital marketing campaign. Even if your business isn't targeting a local audience directly, by implementing these tips into your SEO strategy you can be sure that you don't get duped out of PageRank by local listings, Google Venice and personalised searches.

Get onboard with your local SEO practice.