Local Local SEO might seem confusing, but thatâ€™s only because of its massive potential. If executed properly and with a focus on improving customer experiences, local SEO can be reduced to a simple series of best practices that any business owner can follow.
The Pigeon Update of 2014 completely overhauled the way local search works. Rather than relying almost exclusively on traditional search factors like onsite content and offsite link profiles, Google now scours the web for local directory websites like Yelp to determine the average rating and user reviews of local businesses, which it uses when determining rank. Sites with a high quantity of positive reviews rank much higher than sites with negative reviews or a low quantity of ratings.
As a result, many local search optimizers have been adjusting their strategies, focusing on a cultivation of online reviews through an awareness campaignâ€”posting Yelp stickers or URLs to their company profile on these external directories in order to drive more people and more reviews to them. Simple improvements to customer service and general operation, as suggested by critical or negative reviews, can ensure a greater probability of positive reviews, thus improving search rankings.
However, when most local businesses suffer from low local rankings, itâ€™s a symptom of a much biggerâ€”and much simplerâ€”problem. Spending weeks of effort on the cultivation of positive reviews wonâ€™t mean anything if thereâ€™s a major structural problem with your campaign, and unfortunately, this structural problem is terribly common.
Fortunately, diagnosing and fixing this issue is relatively easy once you know what to look for. The problem is most people donâ€™t realize itâ€™s affecting them.
In a word, the problem is inconsistency. And no, Iâ€™m not talking about the consistency of your branding, the consistency of your posting schedule, or the consistency of your user engagement (though these are all important pieces of your campaign as well). The inconsistency here, which can compromise your entire local SEO campaign, is inconsistency in your NAPâ€”your name, address, and phone number information which Google uses to categorize and understand your business.
If this seems too simple, thatâ€™s because it is. Google places a huge importance on the name, address, and phone number of your company, and even the slightest inconsistency of this information across the web can cause a disruption that causes your rankings to suffer.