Chances are over the last few years you’ve heard the term SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, a number of times. It’s become a buzzword in the online world. A concept that, rumor has it, can either make or break your site. Maybe you’ve done some research into SEO and feel like you’ve got it down, but what about local SEO? Are your site and all its associated pages optimized for local?
First off, what is “local SEO”? Local SEO is a broad term that includes everything from optimizing your website and business listings for local search to increasing the prominence of your physical storefront. The goal of all these efforts is to improve your relevancy and visibility in search results, specifically when the search term applies to a nearby business triggering Google listings and their associated location on Google Maps to display.
There are quite a few different factors that come into play for local rankings, but when all is said and done, we can break the algorithm down into three main pillars: Proximity, Prominence, and Relevance.
Proximity refers to how close your credit union is to the person searching for your services. This depends fully on the latitude and longitude of the searcher’s location and the distance between their location and your address.
If someone is searching “best auto loan rates” in Chicago, Google will not show results for a credit union in Milwaukee unless the searcher specifies that location. Generally, the closer you are to the searcher, the higher up they will be on your list of results. It becomes even more complicated when a person is walking instead of driving a vehicle because Google will show businesses within walking distance rather than a business that you would normally commute to.
Proximity is one of the hardest pillars to manipulate because you cannot just move your business address in Google to rank in other locations. Rather, you will have to optimize your Google Business profile and use other tactics like localized keyword phrases on your website to expand the radius for a particular search query.
In local SEO, prominence refers to how “popular” your business is to its users online. Generally, if your business is prominent in the real world, it will reflect automatically online without too much work, but there are some things you can do to help boost this area if needed.
To increase your prominence, you should focus on the following main factors:
Backlinks: I talked more about backlinks in my Organic SEO Guide, but backlinks are when another website links out to your website. When Google crawls that website and sees that other sites link to you, it is generally seen as a positive signal that demonstrates to search engines that you are a trustworthy business; one that others are talking about.
Social media: Social mentions, follows, reviews, and any activity that can be crawled and traced back to your website shows Google that you are active and well-known. If you are not currently using any or most of these platforms regularly, then it is best to start experimenting with them now so that you can start building a trustworthy online presence.
Positive Reviews: Getting positive reviews for your business is another way Google determines if you are a trustworthy business. The more 5-star reviews you get, the higher your “prominence” will be. Ultimately this will help you to rank better in local search results.
When it comes to reviews, you should also be replying to all reviews, negative and positive. Google wants to see that you are actively keeping your Google Business profile up to date and any activity is a good thing. Consider a few reputation management software company like Bright Local, Podium, or Birdeye that can help facilitate your ability to generate positive reviews while mitigating negative reviews.
Citations: Gathering business citations is the process of getting your credit union’s name, address, and phone number listed on as many business directories as possible. Your information must be consistent across all listings and match what you have in your Google business profile.
Building citations helps to show Google and Bing that your credit unions are a trusted, credible source of information on the web. Putting together a citation strategy is essential to success in local SEO, and it should be done with care as well because citations are permanent. Popular business directories include websites like Yelp, Angie’s List, Yellow Pages, etc.
When a user searches, Google wants to show the most relevant results to the search. Hence, whatever service, content, or information best satisfies the search intent will display first in the results. So, if your website and Google Business profile have those relevant keywords and services listed, you’re more likely to appear higher up on the search page.
Make sure that your information is not too complicated and make sure that Google understands what your content is about. Do this by completing your Google Business profile and posting regularly about relevant services in relevant areas and adding keywords in each of your posts, whether that is a post directly on your Google Business profile or your website.
Tools for local SEO
Finally, let’s take a look at some helpful tools for tackling local SEO.
GS Location Changer: This is a chrome extension that lets you set your location to any place in the world. It tricks your computer into thinking you are some other places, and when you go running a search result, you can see what is currently ranking in that area. Let’s say your primary business location is in Grand Rapids, MI. You’ve optimized your website and Google My Business page for this location, so this is where you will start to rank initially. On the other hand, your goal is to expand your visibility in local search and rank in the surrounding areas like Wyoming, Kentwood, Grandville, etc. With this plugin, you can change your address to Grandville and then rerun your Google search and see a list of businesses ranking for your keyword in that area. If you’re not ranking in the top 3, you now know you have to optimize your website to rank in that area.
Local Viking: Lets you optimize your Google Business profile and see your rankings in a really cool graphical grid layout. Traditional rank trackers are not usually good at tracking local rankings, but Local Viking is one of the few applications that let you see where you stand online from a local standpoint.
Bright Local: As mentioned above, Bright Local is a local SEO suite with many different features but is mostly known for its citation building services. It’s a handy tool for climbing the rankings, growing your reputation, and standing out locally.
Hopefully these tools and the advice above will help you get your credit union’s website to the top of the list! Don’t forget to not only optimize your site but your Google Business profile as well. Don’t have one? Now’s the time to fix that and help your members, potential members, and community find you as quickly and easily as possible.