12 Ways to Win at Local SEO This Holiday Season
With marketers deep in the trenches of holiday planning, it’s important to ensure that all of the bases are being covered, and that a brand is well prepared for the influx of traffic to come over the important months of Q4. With emphasis now being placed upon a complex variety of platforms, devices and customer touchpoints, it’s not uncommon that some much-needed tactics may fall through the cracks. Take local SEO, for example. Because it often directly impacts not just online visibility against competitors, but also a customer’s in-store and eventual purchase experience, there is no better time than the present to make sure your local pages are correctly optimized.
The trick to local SEO best practices is understanding how to make something very uniform, unique enough to be found by customers in a given geographic area. Elevating your franchises in the SERP relative to the multitude of directories and related portals requires an ongoing effort – one that exceeds the usual NAP (name, address, phone) data that so often comprise the extent of the information a local page supplies potential customers.
The National Retail Federation provides a good backdrop here. They reported that 103 million people shopped online over 2015’s Black Friday weekend. A little under 102 million did their shopping in a brick and mortar store. Steering that crowd to your location is a goal that can be influenced by a well-executed local SEO strategy.
Google studied these shopping habits in 2014, right around the time they were rolling out the Pigeon update. They found that a 56% majority of smartphone searches have local intent among users who are out and about, and 18% of those searches resulted in a purchase within a day of the query. That’s some powerful data.
As with any SEO program, reaching and converting this audience depends on the successful convergence of onsite and offsite tactics. The focus of this article is on improving store location pages, but for the record—we suggest a thorough audit of any business and map listings, followed by claiming what you can, and amending each to reflect your location info as accurately as possible. There’s lots more to be done in that area, but this alone will keep you plenty busy.
Tackling the challenge of distinguishing one location page’s content from another requires introspection and granularity. Apply these best practices to your pages in preparation for the holiday season, and you’ll be well on your way!
Drill down to the neighborhood level
Businesses with multiple locations in a single city should incorporate content on their location pages, with a granular focus on immediate surroundings. City, or even borough, just isn’t enough. For example, Inwood and Kip’s Bay are both in Manhattan, but those neighborhoods are miles apart and have significant cultural differences that should inform the About Us, and similar content blocks of each respective location page.
This is a given. Name, address, and phone number are among the top things customers want to know when conducting a branded search for a store. Give this data (and hours of operation) high visibility, and make sure everything appears above the fold on desktop and mobile.
Incorporate meta data
Using best practices for titles and descriptions, draft meta data that include your location. The title can be as simple as Parent Business | Location. The description offers a bit more space to weave in location-specific verbiage as well.
Draft H1s, H2s, URLs unique to specific business location
As with any site, Googlebot is going to check yours for clues in the code to know what your location page is all about. Stick to one H1 tag per page, and put some location info in it. Tweak your location page URLs to help differentiate them, and send a clear signal to crawlers. Be consistent whether you go the subdomain route (location.business.com) or directory (business.com/location). Note: It is not a great idea to create a wholly unique URL per location (business-in-atlanta.com), because you’ll end up herding a bunch of cats with no authority.
Code some local markup
As with your URL, meta data, and H1 tags, using Schema markup in your source code sends a crucial signal to Googlebot. It’s pretty easy to go down the rabbit hole into a complicated Schema-fest, but using a few markups like openingHours and paymentAccepted is a good start.
Maintain social accounts for each location
A reasonably active social media presence on the big platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) with accurate NAP info and store-specific content can pay big dividends when steering customers towards your franchise. As a forum for promoting deals, events, and pictures of happy customers, social media provides added value and authority to your location with an immediacy that a location page sometimes lacks. Protip: Create a shared email account that can be accessed by whoever needs to make social updates, that way you’re not tied to a specific employee’s email address, which can be an issue when/if that employee leaves the company.
Keep a blog
A store location blog is a terrific way to keep your franchise page fresh and engaging. Update it with special holiday promotions, employee profiles, charitable events, and whatever’s happening around the neighborhood that your audience would find relevant. Use your blog in conjunction with your social media to amplify your messaging, and drive traffic back to your site.
Encourage testimonials and reviews
With so many product and brand choices over the holidays, customer reviews are a great tool in your local SEO kit. Not only are you highlighting positive experiences, but these reviews are unique to a particular branch. Ask nicely and make it very easy for customers to leave reviews on your site (avoid a lot of signups and red tape if you can). Acknowledge every review you get, good or bad, with a nice comment thanking the reviewer and following up where necessary. This type of goodwill goes a long way at any point of the year, but it’s particularly crucial around the holiday season.
Publish team bios
Adding a little biographical information about the staff at a particular branch is a simple way to build out some content that is unique from other locations. A good approach is to tack on an About Us or Meet the Team subpage that showcases employees. The homepage of your location should also include contact information for the general manager, or similar authority figure who can address any customer questions/concerns.
Include a founding date (“established 1907”)
Somewhere on the homepage, include a line of text indicating when the branch was founded. This a great use of a H2 tag in the body content of the home page. You can also add foundingDate markup code to the site.
Use local images/video
Whether on your blog, home page, or both; adding some images of your business, staff, surrounding landmarks, even the parking lot can all help separate one location’s content from another. Images and video have the added benefit of breaking up boring blocks of text, while helping customers visualize their experience. The benefits only accrue when combining this tactic with social media amplification.
Provide written-out driving directions with specific neighborhood/location names and landmarks
A common cop-out for location pages is to display the location pinned to a Google map or similar embedded tool, with the address underneath. While that’s generally enough to get a customer from Point A to Point B, an opportunity is missed for punching up the uniqueness of your location. Include some written-out driving directions with different starting points (From the East, take I-8 to Exit 7B), and weave in neighborhood-specific verbiage like landmarks and cross-streets.
We know that customers are all about local search when they’re out shopping, and that those searches very often lead to sales. In “SEO-Time”, Black Friday is right around the corner. Now is the best opportunity to align your location pages’ content with these best practices, so that Googlebot and other crawlers have the opportunity to fully internalize the changes you’ve made.