SEO: it’s something all of us would want to completely understand, as it is the key to organic search success.
But all those algorithms, acronyms, abbreviations, bots, and everything else in between that comprise a search, make it pretty easy to get lost in. This scenario is the same even for local search. Thankfully, there are more specific key points that can be used to move us in the right direction.
Keyword Research for Local Search
Before you can optimize your website, social media profiles or anchor text for link building, you have to know what keywords you want to use. There are several ways to optimize your keywords:
When planning your optimization strategy, the first thing you can do is take a look at some geo-specific keywords + ‘your main keyword’ to see how many times they are searched, using Google AdWords Keyword Tool. When it comes to local search, you are not only targeting industry-specific terms but geo-specific terms as well.
Type in your keyword ideas in Google search, then scroll down to the bottom to see the related searches.
You can also look at your top competitor’s website (the one that ranks the highest for your main targeted keyword phrase) to see what keywords it ranks for, using online tools like SEMrush.
On-Site Optimization for Local Search
Once you have your keyword in place, the next thing you will want to do is optimize your own website for local search. Let search engines know what locations you are targeting by including the following information:
Title and Meta Descriptions
For search results, your website’s SEO title tag and meta description, or other related snippet from your website are the first things people see so make these areas count by locally optimizing them by either adding your location in the title and your contact details in the description
Local Address & Phone Number on All Pages
Another good signal to search engines is a local street address and phone number on all pages. This is when your footer can be most be most beneficial. Make sure that that the information you have there is actually in the text and not in an image.
If you have more than one location but only one website, create a page for each physical location. That way, anyone searching for your school in a particular region, city, state or country will be directed to the appropriate page.
Embed a Map
Not only is embedding a map on your website an easier way to find your school’s location, it also makes Google search bots crawl it more, especially if it’s consistent with information on other site listings concerning your school.
Local Search Directories
Once you have optimized your site for local search, you should begin some off-site optimization. The first places you should look at are related local search directories. The most important would be Google Places, Yahoo Local, Bing Local, Yelp, Merchant Circle, Superpages, and Yellow Pages. You can also use tools like Whitespark Local Citation Finder to help you find local directories related to your school.
Link Building for Local Keywords
Next thing you should start doing is building links to your website. There are many great ways to acquire links. Here are some local linking options that you choose:
Related Local Businesses – Look for businesses that are in the same industry, but are notcompetitors. See if those websites have resource pages that link out to other businesses similar to yours. Then see if you can strike up a dialogue with the business owner and convince them why they need to have your link listed as a valuable resource to their visitors.
Local Bloggers – Find bloggers that are in your region whose audience might be interested in your business. See if you can arrange to do a guest post for them or get them to sample your products or services in exchange for a review on their blog.
General Local Resource Pages – Search for local business resources that may not have come up in your local directories search and find out if you can get your site listed.
Competitor Backlinks – Using tools like Open Site Explorer, find out what backlinks your local competitors’ websites have to see if you can get yourself listed on them as well.
Local Events – Be on the lookout for events in your area such as industry conferences, expos or shows. Check the event’s website to see if they link to their exhibitors and sponsors. If they do, invest as an exhibitor or sponsor of the event to get your link on their site as well.
Local Charities – Give back to your community by sponsoring and donating to local charities. Many will have websites that thank their local sponsors and donors, linking back to the sponsors’ and donors’ websites.
Local search engines use NAP information to judge the accuracy of the data in their own indexes. This data is found by crawling your website or from providers like Yelp, Yellowpages.com, Citysearch, and more. Consistent NAP information is essential to getting more citations and improving search engine rankings.
For example, if someone does a search for “all boys school in London,” and this phrase isn’t anywhere on your homepage in text but your website says that you’re an all boys school in London, that is certainly going to hurt you.
Here is what you can do to improve your NAP and search engine ranking:
Tell your audience who you are with text, not just images.
From a user experience perspective, it can be pretty frustrating to not be able to figure out where the school is located, what grade range it is, or what kind of school it is from the home page. And while it is frustrating for your users to go digging to find out those exact details, it is frustrating for bots, too — and that hurts you.
Every school homepage should have a line of text that explains in short what their school is and their address. An example would be placing this beneath or beside your logo. Below is an example of a header with the contact details next to the logo:
Find a way to describe your school using text only.
Always find a way to discuss what your school does, who you are, what you represent in text. With the ongoing web design trends today, incorporating long text on your website can be challenging so make sure to use new, if not unique fonts.
Your footer is not really meant to be a place to get too creative. By default, it is where most users scroll to get basic information about your school. Your school’s website footer should include the following in text:
Your school’s full, official name
A brief description of your school, if not noted in the header or elsewhere on your site
When the key information here is in place, you should be well on your way to improving your school’s local search rank. Bear in mind that when doing local search optimization it takes time to see the results. It will take months, if not a year, before you see any of your hard work pay off but in the end it’ll be worth it.
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