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Jul 12

Optimising your website for Local Search

High Street shopping

I’ve been wanting to do a detailed post on helping businesses optimise for local searches, which is essential if their main customer base is nearby to their location (e.g. restaurants, solicitors, accountants, plumbers, etc).

Neil Patel over at Quicksprout.com has written an extremely detailed post on optimising your business web site and online presence for local searches. No point in us writing another post with essentially the same info and I think Neil covers just about everything you need to know on local search (it’s US focussed, but the same applies to the UK businesses). I really do recommend you follow every one of the steps Neil outlines – it will take some effort but you will see a noticeable boost in your search ranking for local searches

Quick update – there’s a few US specific tips in Neil’s post that don’t translate directly to the UK – I’ve added a section at the bottom of this post to give you UK equivalent tips.

A bit of background to help you

If you’re completely new to web site search optimisation and Neil’s post is a little above your head – I’ve put some background to what local search is below:

What is local search?

This is where people use Google (or Bing/Yahoo/Ask.com, etc) to find businesses in their local area:

  • On their PC’s/Laptops – when searching for businesses they input a location. e.g. people looking for a joiner will typically not search for ‘joiner’, or ‘joinery services’ (they’ll probably get a load of joiners from England which is useless to them). They will also add a location. e.g. ‘joiner edinburgh’, or ‘joiner edinburgh eh12′.
  • People searching on mobile devices – i.e. smartphones (iPhone, Android, Blackberry), or more recently tablets (e.g. iPad). Most of these devices by default use Google search (Google has 97% of the mobile search market). Google will automatically use the device location (with GPS, Wi-Fi) to provide localised searches

Google is smart enough to detect when people searching online use a location (either by using a place name it recognises, or using mobile devices). Google then shows results that are specific to that location, which are usually substantially different from regular search results that don’t use a location. Try it yourself – just search for ‘joinery services’ in Google, and then search for ‘joinery services edinburgh eh12′ – they will be quite different.

Some interesting research done by SearchEngineLand recently looked at how people search for local businesses online, with some interesting statistics (note that data is for the US, but we can use this as a good comparison for UK):

  • 59% of consumers use Google every month to locate a local business.
  • 71% of searches place value on the information contained in local search results (i.e. they trust them)
  • 60% of searchers used a town/city name in the search. 42% used a zipcode (Zip codes areas are larger than UK postcodes, but I think you can draw a similar conclusion).

If your business serves customers that are local to a specific location (e.g. Edinburgh, or even specific post codes EH1, EH4, etc) then optimising your web site for Local Search is much more important that optimising for general UK-wide, or even world-side search.

Making your business rank high in search engines for people searching locally requires a slightly different approach. However, if done right, you can expect an increase in local traffic to your web site, and even better, this will be highly qualified traffic – people nearby who are looking for the products/services you offer and looking to spend money.

How does the approach for local search optimisation differ from regular SEO?

We’ve done a couple of guides for search optimisation – ‘What is SEO‘ and ‘Do-it-yourself SEO‘. These cover the general guidelines for how Google determines what web sites appear in it’s search results and how to optimise your web site. For local search optimisation, the same approach applies, but with some changes in emphasis:

  • Keyword research – the main keywords that you are optimising for must also include your location (e.g. BMW servicing edinburgh).
  • On-page optimisation – you need to optimise your website for local searches. Title tags, meta-descriptions need to include location and Google wants to see your business address/phone number on every page (put it in the footer/header/sidebar – somewhere that’s always visible on every page).
  • Get your business listed in as many online directories as possible (e.g. Google places, Yahoo local, etc).
  • Leverage local social media searches – Twitter/Facebook, etc.

Updates on Neil Patel’s post for UK

Local search directories

Some of the directories in Neil’s post don’t have a UK equivalent, or work differently here:

  • Yahoo local – Yahoo UK outsources its local search business to InfoServe. You need to register your business with them to appear in Yahoo UK local listings.
  • Superpages – does not operate in the UK.
  • Yellow pages – in the UK, Yellow pages is now yell.co.uk. Unlike the US, this is not a free service, but costs from £90/year for basic listing to £2,500/year for a featured top listing. I don’t have any reliable statistics on how valuable yell.co.uk listings are and whether it’s worth the £90/year for a basic listing. If anyone has any positive experiences with yell.co.uk please let me know in the comments section
  • Foursquare – very popular in the US, but only really starting out over here in the UK. Neil’s advice is sound for Foursquare UK, but I can’t vouch for how effective it is.

As always, any questions or thoughts on this, you can get me on ar@search-motive.com

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