I recently wrote about the mistakes companies make in SEO, which generated some views and shares. Upon reflection, I thought I would do a follow-up article to address a specific side of Search Engine Optimisation – Local SEO in Ireland and aim it at small business owners who probably don’t have dedicated marketing staff to do this for them.
One of the best ways to improve your home page’s authority is to develop backlinks and one of the easiest ways to do this is to register your company with local Irish directories, e.g. the Golden Pages, Yelp.ie etc.
The key element to this ‘backlink strategy’ is making sure you include your website’s URL so they can click and link back to your website.
As a small business owner, you are probably the managing, sales, financial, purchasing and marketing director combined. As (acting) Head of Marketing, you need to let Google and its local Irish audience know where you are located and what you have to offer. Although they have much lower engagement rates with Irish web searchers, it probably won’t do you any harm to let Bing and Yahoo know about you too.
Unfortunately, a lot of people seem to think that ‘local SEO’ is a confusing topic but it shouldn’t be so. There are a few quick, simple steps you can take.
1. Create Local Places Pages
As already mentioned, the first step is making sure that you have a local business page for all three major search engines (meaning you’ll have three different listings and dashboards to manage). All you will need to do is fill out your business information such as location, phone number, hours, etc. and then you’ll be all set with an account.
- You can visit here to get started with Google Places
- You can visit here for Local Yahoo
- You can visit here for Bing Places
2. Optimise and Properly Categorise Your Local Page(s)
Firstly, optimise your local page(s) by uploading a number of good quality photos, detail your hours of operation, and list the goods and/or services you offer.
Secondly, categorise your business correctly, e.g. search engines offer you the ability to place your business into 2-5 categories to help them understand what your business does. According to Moz Local, (formerly GetListed.org) search engines will “not display a business that is not categorised, or even worse, mis-categorised for a particular set of keywords.”
3. Accurate Business Citations
You need to make sure all of your information is filled out and you have consistent Name, Address and Phone (NAP) data for your company across all listings. It is possible that your business is already listed somewhere by someone else. This is ok. It means that someone has thought your business important enough to list it and, possibly, comment on it or rate it. You can usually ‘claim’ your listing when this happens. This is often referred to also as a citation.
You can claim a citation by first looking to see if there is another business by the same name with the same location.
First, a few tips:
- Use Google, Bing or Yahoo to see where your company’s local listings are found online.
- Consider using Google MapMaker to search for your business and phone number to help you see if there are any duplicate listings.
- Search for various names of your business. If you already have a listing created, that information is gathered from around the web so it might be incorrect.
You will have to verify that you are the owner of your business either by email, phone, or possibly traditional mail (in the case of FourSquare).
4. Online Reviews
According to a study published on Search Engine Land, Google looks at reviews as a major factor for ranking on the new carousel design; however more than anything your reviews are for Google users who see your company on a SERP (search engine results page).
Reviews are quick and easy ways for consumers to decide which link they want to click. Below is a screenshot of some of the reviews you’ll see right on a SERP:
Fortunately, there are many different ways to improve your number of reviews.
- You don’t want to have any fake reviews
- It is a mistake to offer gifts for those giving you reviews
- You want them to be as natural as possible and in the reviewers own personal style
You can put a button on your webpage so it’s easy to get started for visitors, prompt visitors to leave a review after purchasing something or visiting a particular landing page, or actually talk with people in your store or company about leaving a review.
5. Quality Photos
This point has already been mentioned re optimising your listing, but it’s so important it deserves its own section.
- When people are searching for local businesses, they want to see photos.
- Most local accounts including Google+ Local allow you to upload at least 10 pictures.
- Your goal should try to be to have that many photos uploaded.
- It’s also important to take photos of your actual building, both inside and out
- It’s even more important to take pictures of your products.
- Your logo does work, but it’s always best to have an actual picture of the company building as your main photo.
Before you take the photos, now might be a good time to consider tidying the pavement in front of your shop, giving it that fresh coat of paint you’ve been promising yourself, and sweeping the floor inside your shop.
All you have to do to upload photos is visit your local listing and click a little link that says “add photos.” It’s as easy as that.
6. Keep Your Local Pages Up-to-Date With Fresh Content.
The search engines prefer to rank websites that they consider to be more current as that would signify relevance to their users. By regularly adding fresh content, the search engines will see it as an active and up-to-date website. The easiest way to do add fresh content is to replace old photos with new – don’t forget to change the captions!
Creating fresh, local content is challenging but if you are a green grocer, you could talk about seasonal offerings, new products, new suppliers, etc. If you are a restaurant, you can add menu changes, seasonal info re fresh, locally-sourced Irish ingredients, etc.
7. Optimise Your Website
Part of local search is your actual website as well as what is being said about your site around the web—it’s not just your local listings and pages.
- Make sure you have your contact information (NAP) somewhere on your website.
- It’s also important to try and include city or regional keywords wherever possible
- Write content that is specific to your local area.
- It’s also a good idea to reach out to local organisations to establish connections.
- The more people you can connect with—local forums and organizations, etc.—the better chance you have that they might visit your website and hopefully link back!
8. What else can you do?
Local business directories are online hubs where you can list your business even though they aren’t considered major search engines, they are useful places to find local suppliers of goods and services.
- Some are completely free, whereas others offer a range of listings (free and paid).
- Some cover all of Ireland, whereas others limit themselves to a single city or county
- There are hundreds, so simply Google “local business directory Ireland” and see what comes up
Here are a few I have used in the past. I’m not saying they’re perfect for your business but you could give them a try – after all, they’re free and they’ll generate visits to your shop, phone leads and maybe even some backlinks to your website site
- Yelp http://www.yelp.ie/
- Yalwa http://www.yalwa.ie/
- Your Local http://www.yourlocal.ie/
- Local Directory http://www.localdirectory.ie/
9. Social Media, or micro-blogging
Social media has been described as “writing to yourself and hoping someone else will read it” and, if your content isn’t interesting or relevant, you might be tempted to believe this. However, it needn’t be like that. There are a few simple rules to follow :-
- Social media is not your social outlet, it is an additional, free form of marketing for your business, so stay “on message”
- List down the items you wish to publicise
- Write down simple sentences (tweets) to do this
- Save a few appropriate images (related to the above)
- Copy/paste your website’s URL
- Start tweeting
Remember, if you are using Twitter,you only have 140 characters – minus the characters you lose when you add a photo and URL.
- Not enough characters left for your message?
- No time to tweet during working hours (when your customers are reading tweets)?
- Don’t know what time to schedule your tweets?
Try using Klout.com – a useful (free) tool that enables you to
- Shorten your URL
- Advise you when the best time(s) of the day to tweet
- Has a simple, quick scheduling tool you can set up the night before
10. Strive for the Page One Position.
It’s not OK to be on page two or three on a SERP because, according to most studies, 85% percent of searchers never scroll past the first page of results!
- Aim for page 1 (85% of the traffic comes from here)
- When you get to page 1, aim for the top 5 listings (66% of the traffic comes from here)
- When you get to the top 5, keep on working at local SEO because everyone else should be or will be soon
Follow me on Twitter, @jamesobrienDCU