This Local SEO FAQ is an ongoing project. With 200+ questions on the docket to be answered, you can imagine how long this project takes. We update quite often so check back often.
Last updated on 12/19/14
General Local SEO Questions
What is SEO?
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the process of optimizing an online entity’s web properties (normally a website) to rank higher on search engines so that when potential buyers are looking for their goods/services, they can be found.
What is Local SEO?
Local SEO is the process of optimizing a local business’s web properties (websites, profiles, photos, videos, etc.) to rank higher on search engines (normally focusing on Google) so that they can be found when potential customers in their area are looking for their services.
How is Local SEO different from regular SEO?
Regular SEO is for websites like Amazon, Best Buy, e-commerce websites, news outlets, national brands, etc. that don’t care where their traffic comes from. For instance, Amazon could care less where you are in the world, they can ship anywhere. You, as a local business however, do care where you customer is in the world. If they live 2,000 miles away, you can’t help them, can you? So, your SEO has to be location specific and that’s what Local SEO is all about.
Normally if someone is doing a search for a product that Amazon might sell, like a big screen TV, they will type in “big screen TV’s” into Google. The searcher/buyer doesn’t care where the company is located, they can always ship them their TV. However, if the customer needs a carpet cleaning company, they do care about the location of the carpet cleaning service they need. They need someone local. So, let’s say the consumer lives in Nashville, TN, they won’t just type in “carpet cleaner”. They will type in “carpet cleaner Nashville”. In that example, “Nashville” is what we a call a geographical modifier. It modifies the search to make Google completely change their search results and a serve results based on local companies.
That’s the big difference between Local SEO and regular SEO.
Does Google rank local businesses (Local SEO) different than regular search results (regular SEO)?
Yes. Their algorithm to rank a local business is much different than it is to rank normal search results.
What does it take to rank higher on Google as a local business?
The algorithm Google employs to rank local businesses is really 5 fold. Google looks at:
- Your Google My Business Page
- Your Local Search Directories
- Online Reviews of Your Business
- Your Website
Google My Business Page
What is a “Google My Business Page”?
A Google My Business Page is a profile created by Google for your local business that gives basic information, such as your business name, address, phone number, website, etc. to local consumers looking for your type of business. It also houses your Google reviews so potential local customers can see what other past customers have said about your business.
What if I don’t have a Google My Business Page?
Your Google My Business page is the only way you can rank in what we call the “Map Pack” on Google’s results. It is also the only way for you to get Google reviews. If you want to do well in Local SEO a Google My Business Page is a non-negotiable.
How do I get a Google My Business Page?
Chances are that Google already has one for you if you’ve been in business for awhile, all you need to do is “claim” it. If they don’t have a Google My Business Page for you, you can create one.
How do I “claim” my Google My Business Page?
Go to google.com/places/. Click “Get on Google”. From there you will be able to search for your local business and claim it.
How do I create my Google My Business Page if I don’t already have one to claim?
Go to google.com/places/ Click “Get on Google”. After you search for your local business and can’t find it, Google will give you the option to select “None of these match. Add your business.”
What do I do after I claim my Google My Business Page?
You need to optimize it.
How do I optimize my Google My Business Page?
The short and sweet answer is that you need to fill out every piece of information you can. This includes photos, categories, etc. Fully complete your profile. Pay particularly close attention to your categories. Use as many as you can and that makes sense. If you’ve done this, you’ve done the majority of the things you need to do to fully optimize your Google My Business Page.
Local Search Directories/Citations
What are Local Search Directories?
Local Search Directories are websites that help local consumers find local businesses.
How do Local Search Directories help my ranking?
Local Search Directories give local businesses, such as yourself, a free business profile, much like your Google My Business Page. This profile allows you to have visibility on their website when people search. The more Local Search Directory business profiles you have, the higher you will rank on Google.
Why do Local Search Directories help you rank higher on Google?
Google uses how many Local Search Directories your business has profiles on to determine your popularity or what Google calls your “prominence”. If you’re a local business, Google thinks the more prominent you are, the more they should show you as a search result for local consumers using Google. Google measures your “prominence”, again, by determining how many Local Search Directories you are a part of.
What is a “citation”?
A citation is akin to a Local Search Directory profile. In school, your had to “cite” your sources, right? It’s the same thing in Local SEO. Every Local Search Directory profile your business has is a “citation source” to how prominent you are. A citation is simple a Local Search Directory profile. If you have profiles on 100 different local search directories, you have 100 “citations”.
What does “building a citation” mean?
This is just jargon the Local SEO community uses which means signing up your local business for a Local Search Directory profile.
How do I “build citations” or sign up for Local Search Directories?
Each Local Search Directory allows you to submit your business information, one way or another, and they will create a free profile for you.
Can you give a few examples of some Local Search Directories?
Absolutely. Here’s a list of the top 15 your local business should have a profile on at the very least:
How many Local Search Directories are there?
Depending on who you ask, some would say 1,600 and some would say 50. I would say there are closer to around 200.
What is NAP?
NAP stands for name, address, phone number. This is references usually in Local SEO communities as short hand for making the point that you business name, business address, and business phone number need to be uniform across your Google My Business Page and all of your Local Search Directories.
What is NAP consistency?
What we mean is that every little detail of your NAP needs to be the same across all Local Search Directories and your Google My Business Page. For example, copy your business name verbatim on each Local Search Directories as well as your Google My Business Page. If your business name is “A&A Carpet Cleaning” copy and paste it that way. Don’t write “A&A Carpet Cleaning” on one Local Search Directory and then write “A and A Carpet Cleaning” on the next. Keep it exactly the same. If you use “Street” in your address on Local Search Directories then don’t spell it “St.” on one Local Search Directory and then go back to “Street” on another. Always use “Street”. If you use brackets on your phone number such as “(222) 222-2222” then always use brackets. Don’t write your business phone number “222-222-2222” on one local search directory and then “(222) 222-2222” on another. Keep everything uniform.
Is NAP consistency really that anal?
Not really. Some local search directories will make you format you address differently or the phone number differently (sometimes with brackets and sometimes without). If that happens, it’s not a big deal. But always make sure you do everything within your power to make sure your NAP is 100% consistent.
Why is NAP consistency so important?
If your NAP is not consistent, 2 issues can arise. The most important issue is that if your NAP isn’t consistent, Google may have a hard time associating your Local Search Directory or Citation with your Google My Business Page. If Google can’t match the 2 together and understand they’re the same business, you can’t get credit for that Citation and the work is wasted. The second issue is that serious NAP inconsistency can actually cause Google to create duplicate Google My Business Pages for you.
How do online reviews help my Google ranking?
The more reviews you have of your business across the internet, the higher Google wants to rank you. They see it as rewarding local businesses that have a good online reputation.
How do I get online reviews?
Whenever you sign up for your Local Search Directory profiles, normally that profile is going to be the place where a customer can go and leave you a review. So, by virtue of signing up for Local Search Directories, you’re already creating places to receive online reviews.
What’s the best way to start getting online reviews?
That’s tricky because online reviews are tough to get. The best way is to just ask for reviews from your customers as you do a good job. Ask them to review you at a specific site and make it easy for them to find you.
Where should I start getting reviews first?
You should start getting Google reviews first. Google reviews will give you the biggest boost in ranking and will also be the place where your reviews are seen the most.
What sites should I get reviews on after Google?
After Google, the best place to start would be Yelp or Angie’s List.
How many Google reviews do I have to have before I get gold stars?
After 5 Google reviews you will receive the ability to have stars attached to your Google My Business page.