Getting to the top of Google’s rankings for local can be a very tough task. SEO’s place a lot of emphasis on external factors such as Google + listings, reviews, citations, and other various local optimization tactics. This is rightfully so as external factors do carry a lot of weight and link juice with them. However, before you go get external links you should look internally and optimize your website for local first. Without taking the time to optimize each page of your website, there could be a lot of wasted effort once you start gathering external links.
Moz did a 2013 industry survey where they asked industry experts from around the word what factors are the most important when it comes to local search ranking factors. You may find the entire survey here. It is worth noting that on-page signals accounted for 18.8% of the results which is the second highest overall ranking factor just behind place page signals at 19.6%.
What are the factors?
Well the first rule of thumb is to have great content. I know it sounds like a cliché now but it is absolutely the truth. Great content keeps people coming back to sites and is link worthy for other people writing articles on similar topics (just like how I linked to that Moz survey above). Great content [usually] includes a number of things aside from just words. Usually, graphics, images, interactivity, reviews, comparisons all enhance the users experience on a page. However, I guess you are reading this blog for more tangible and actionable recommendations so I will give that with examples from hereon in.
When writing content for the specific purpose of optimizing a page for a keyword we strive for nothing less than 400 words. Like a good Wikipedia article we try to give as much helpful information on whatever the topic of the page is and to be very clear each page has a purpose. It isn’t a good idea to break up to content into several pages when the topics are all relatively close (even if they are all separately viable keywords) such as ‘boat accessory’, ‘boat accessories’, ‘boat add ons’, etc. All of those keywords should be combined into a single awesome page and not diluted by having to spread ideas across several pages. It is important to get your keywords in the body of the content at least four times. I am not a believer of looking for a certain percentage of keywords, but only get the keywords into the post if it sounds natural.
We also recommend using bold and italics in your post to highlight the keywords. However avoid the <b> and <i> tags and go for the <strong> and <em> tags as they mean this word has a strong meaning for the page or it should have extra emphasis.
Your content should also have an image that enhances the page. However, appropriately name the image (it should have the keyword present) and squeeze the keywords into the alt tag of the image as well.
Titles, Headings and URLs
The title of the page should have the keyword right in it and if it is local try getting the city in there as well. Since the title is what appears in Google’s search result you will want to make it sound appealing to click on so just don’t stuff your keywords in there. Something like ‘[City Name] Boat Accessories | Name of Company’ would work really well.
However, in the heading (h1) of the document having that title would make no sense as you are already on the page and immersed in the brand. In the heading simply the keyword ‘Boat Accessories’ would work. Hopefully, elsewhere in the page your location would be apparent (such as an address with a local number in the header).
For URLs we always recommend having a clean and simple URL right off of the root of the website avoiding subfolders.
Don’t be afraid to help the user find other resources that they would consider useful whether internal or external. Great links improves the user experience and can keep them coming back and keep Google driving traffic to your website.
David Hammel is an SEO Professional, freelance writer, professional blogger and an avid boater. He is from the Napanee area and enjoys blogging for Atkins & Hoyle about his boating knowledge and experiences.