Part 1 of a two-part series, these Local SEO Tips for 2017 will help you plan and implement new local SEO strategies to rank higher in local search results.
Meet Customers Where They Are Online
As mobile search and voice search become more popular, local searches have also increased. Google’s Micro Moments Guide states searches for businesses “near me” have increased 2x in the past year and that 1 in 3 smartphone users purchase from a brand other than the one they intended to because that brand showed up at the moment they searched for more information.
Local search has been the salvation for many local businesses because a physical proximity to the user is such a large ranking factor in local search results. But the reduction of the local pack to three businesses and more ads competition for visibility in local search has gotten tougher.
The good news is there are things you can do to reach qualified customers at exactly the right time in their buying process to convert local searchers into paying customers. These local SEO tips for 2017 will help you improve your local search ranking and beat out the competition.
LOCAL SEO TIP 1: Be Mobile-Friendly & Prepared for the Mobile-First Index
Google tells us that the number of mobile searches now exceeds the number of desktop searches. Not surprisingly, they have begun experimenting with creating and using a mobile-first index.
With a mobile-first index, algorithms will primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content to understand structured data, rank pages and show snippets in search results. If your website does not have a mobile version, Google will eventually get around to indexing the desktop version, but you’ll rank much lower as Google caters search results to the majority of searchers which are mobile users.
Having survived Mobilegeddon, and with the ramp up for Google’s mobile-first index, it is clear that in 2017 mobile-friendly websites and content will soon be the sole competitors for the top spots in search engine results.
Keep in mind that the mobile-first index is still in the experimental stage. Google’s Webmaster Trend Analyst, John Mueller recently stated in a Google Hangout (at the 51 min. mark), “I don’t have any dates. It is not going to be years. I would guess, later this year sometime. But we will inform people as we get closer, as we have a date, so there is sufficient time for people to resolve issues that they might need to resolve.”
That means businesses who are not currently mobile-friendly and mobile-optimized still have time to make the changes needed to compete when the new algorithm rolls out.
To be considered mobile-friendly your website must have:
- Responsive design to conform to mobile device screens
- Website content that can be read on mobile devices without zooming
- Navigation and links that are easy to select on mobile device screens
RESOURCE: Use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test Tool to see if Google considers your website mobile-friendly.
LOCAL SEO TIP 2: Consistently Publish Fresh Locally-Optimized Content
Locally-optimized content has become a clear differentiator in local SEO. Content with local information interests local customers, generates links, and produces more leads.
There was a time when you could stuff a few paragraphs with your keyword + city and call it SEO content. If you knew how to make it look at all natural, it worked well and helped your web page rank high in search. Then content marketing exploded, and the garbage started piling up.
Fast forward to 2017 and the rules have changed dramatically. Search engines are looking for fresh, quality content from trusted sources that answers searchers’ queries with a high level of specificity. Think Siri. Locally-optimized content caters to that specificity and makes your content highly relevant in hyper-local search. What happens is your webpage ranks higher in search results, attracting qualified traffic.
How to Create Fresh Locally-Optimized Content
- Publish consistently, on schedule, on your website, and periodically publish on other hyper-local websites to reach an audience you normally wouldn’t.
- With your keyword research in hand, think about the questions your customers ask search engines. Your content should clearly answer those questions like you are part of a two-way conversation because you’ve already answered, “Where to buy Cronuts in Dallas?”
- Consistently publish expert-level content to your blog in the engaging formats preferred by your customers. (Concise writing and images work for all industries, but yours might have an audience that prefers video or podcast, and you should provide that.)
- Create content about your industry and local events to become a resource for the community.
- User-generated content such as customer reviews and testimonials are a gold-mine for SEO. Not only does it create authenticity and proof of engagement; it also provides a constant stream of fresh content that uses the words and phrases customers use in search.
- Add content markup to your metadata, so your keyword + geo-designator appear:
- In your Title Tag
- In your Page Title & H1 Headers
- Within your content in the first paragraph and where appropriate.
- In the Alt Texton your images
More Local SEO Tips for 2017
Read Part 2 of this two-part series on Local SEO Tips for 2017. See how backlinks, citations, your online reputation, and AdWords message extensions can help you outrank the competition. Customers are using local search to make immediate purchase decisions. Make sure your business is visible at the top of local and mobile search results.