Today I am writing about the controversy that many SEOs are talking about when it comes to local search engine optimisation. I would like to welcome you to my first blog here. I am James Donaghue, an establish British SEO freelance consultant living in Thailand. I am regularly called upon by companies in the travel industry for my advice on not only SEO but digital marketing as a whole.
I actually conduct all of my business in the UK, but I live in Thailand for as many months of the year possible. Living in a tourist destination I often meet people working in the tourism industry from Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore
Local Google Search Results By James Donaghue
The local SEO concepts I am about to touch on are relevant to any global market. One of the main points I would like to talk about is digital marketing as a whole. Local SEO is no longer simply reliant on SEO. In the past, local SEO was pretty simple. Firstly, there was not much competition. Secondly, Google Maps could show up to 8 results on the first page of Google’s search results, and Google Ads (then Google AdWords) only took up the first two spots.
It is fair to say that there really was not much to ranking local businesses for searches such as ‘Digital Marketing Agency Kent’ or ‘SEO Consultant Thailand’. However, Google’s continuous algorithmic updates in order to deliver high-quality search results have had a huge impact on the way digital marketers and SEOs approach SEO for their clients.
One of Google’s goals is to make sure the person searching for the keyword phrase has a pleasant journey through the websites that they click on. These changes have meant that organic search results have been pushed down around the middle of page 1 when people type in search terms that Google’s algorithm teams as a local search.
Let’s have a quick look at how Google currently lists its search results.
- Google Ads Take Up To Four Spots On Google Search Results
When people search for local businesses, Google Ads come at the top of the page. There are usually four spots available for local businesses to fight for. With four Google Ads search results coming at the top of the page, organic search results have been pushed further down the page.
- Google Maps Only Shows Three Map Results On Page One
There was a time that all you needed to do as an SEO is start by getting your client in the top six to eight positions on Google Maps. This made it fairly easy to have a client’s website showing on page one. From here, continually working on the maps results would bring your client’s website higher up. The main point here is that once the client saw he/she was on page 1, that was enough to continue the contract and work on organic as well as maps results.
- Google Maps Results Is Now Reliant On Reviews
Local SEO for Google Maps used to be all about getting quality citations. The more you could get your client on, the better the Google Maps results would be. However, Google has changed things up and now citations need to also have reviews. This created a huge problem so far people thought buying fake reviews was the answer.
Well, it was for a short period of time until Google adapted and penalised those sites that had reviews from accounts predominantly from accounts that are not from the area in question. It is slightly unfair in some respects because restaurants and tourism-based companies were getting penalised, but Google has adapted its algorithm with its Google Business pages. This means Google know if the business is a local plumber with 50 reviews from people living 200 miles away.
In actual fact, the main issue with reviews is people bought them online. The accounts leaving the reviews were not even from the same country let alone the same locality, and this is why some websites were being penalised. The only way to get shot of the penalty was to try and get the company originally hired to place the reviews to remove them.
- Schema Results Have Started To Turn Up In Some Instances
Another search result pushing local SEO results further down the page has been schema. It is a snippet of information that answers a question or explains more about the search term. Most good SEOs would have set schema up as part of their on-page SEO strategy.
- Mobile Friendly Search Results Are More Important Than Ever
Having a mobile-friendly website will affect all of the above results. Google Ads uses Google Page Speed Insights to judge how well the website is optimised for mobile users. This not just specific to local SEO. Any website that hopes to rank on Google needs to firstly, make sure their site passed the Google Page Test, which gives a score out of 100. Next, mobile indexing first in Google Webmasters needs to be carefully monitored.
How Have The Above Five Concepts Changed Local Organic SEO?
Organic search results are now at the bottom of the pile. That does not mean digital marketers should ignore link building or not challenge for the organic search spots. It just means that link building is no longer the sole strategy. You could say an SEO approach is no longer enough. Instead, a digital marketing approach using all the options available should be included in your local SEO strategy/
Right now, Google Ads takes the top four spots, then the next three are taken by Google Maps, then schema if it is applicable to the search (only Google knows), and then the organic search results are at the bottom of the pile.
Why Use An All Round Digital Marketing Strategy For Local SEO?
We still need SEO. On-page SEO diagnostics are still incredibly important. Keyword density still needs considering, H1 and H2 headers still need to be configured, meta tags also need to be added. On top of this, the quality of the content and the images are all reviewed by Google’s algorithm. Then a link building strategy should be implemented.
The major difference today is that for your clients to gain a decent ROI from your services is by getting their company name and website on the first page as many times as possible.
As a result, you need to dabble in Google Ads, add citations, make sure your clients encourage their customers to leave reviews on citation websites and ensure schema, as well as mobile coding, are configured correctly to get the optimal page load speeds. Then as mentioned, the link building strategy needs to be implemented – this should always take into consideration competitor analysis.
- Your client will now show up on Google Ads
- Your client should reach the top 3 of Google Maps
- Your client’s site should be part of the schema results
- Your client’s site should also rank in at least the top 3 for organic search results
Your Client’s Website Should Show Up Four Times On Page One Of Google
If you have implemented the correct strategy, which is obviously reliant on your client’s budget, then your client will be seen four times for a single search term. The more search terms you work on, the more traffic your client is going to get. With the client’s site continuously entering into the minds of the people searching on Google as they scroll down the page, the chances are if they do not click on your client’s site first, they will come back and click on it when they return to their search results.
Most people tend to look at two or three different companies. They may also decide to email those companies or call them. Making sure that your client’s contact details are easily visible both on the Google search results as well as on the landing page is imperative.
With all these components structured and worked on strategically, you will be surprised just how pleased your client will be with your digital marketing services. For me, all of this comes as second nature, and I have been able to help friends, family, friends of friends, and so on. Most of the time I do not need to advertise my services because I get so many recommendations through word of mouth my team always has enough work, and it is continuously growing.
This leads to another concept, and that is scaling your business. When you become well-known for being a guru when it comes to local SEO, your phone will not stop ringing. It is hard to say no to business, but if you want to scale your business without it getting into a mess, then doing in a timely manner is the best way. For me, advertising would just add more pressure and expense that right now I do not need.
The slowly, efficiently, and surely approach is working for my business. Myself and my team continue to develop without rushing things. I have found that if you rush things because you have taken on so many clients, this can reduce the quality of your work and often lead to a bad reputation – the total opposite of what you are trying to achieve.
If you want to know more about SEO, then click here for more about James Donaghue.