If you run a local business, I think you would agree that people finding you is pretty important. In decades past, the most important thing for a local business was to choose just the right location. You had to be on a busy street where people that would want to buy from you would drive by and see your store. It was even better if you could be in the same shopping center as a business that had the same target market that you did. You’d also put your ad in the yellow pages so that people who were looking for your type of business could find you.
Times have changed a bit though. Location can still be important, but I know a lot of very successful businesses that have horrible locations. And nobody uses the yellow pages any more, so how do people find them? Usually online. In the US, more searches are done on mobile devices than on a computer. Why is this important? Because half of mobile searches are done with the intent of finding local results. And more than 60% of those searches result in a purchase. That’s a lot of searchers and a lot of buying that goes on due to local searches. So, as a local business owner, you cannot afford not to show up at the top of the local search results.
But how do you do that? That is a long and a complicated answer, and there are a ton of ranking factors that you can look at that will tell you what Google is looking for when it shows local results. Moz has a great survey that they put on every year looking at the top local SEO ranking factors. You can read a summary of the report here. There is a lot to ranking in the local results, so I wanted to give you three things that you can do to your WordPress site to take your local rankings to the next level.
Tip #1 On Page Optimization Is Important
On page optimization talks about how your page is set up and structured so that the search engines can better categorize it. If you are using WordPress, there is a good chance that you are already using either the All In One SEO or Yoast SEO plugin. Personally, I prefer the Yoast plugin, so that is what we are going to be using for the purpose of this post. And this is more of a beginner level post, so I won’t be talking about silo architecture or rich snippets here. I’m just trying to help you to get off on the right foot when it comes to your on page optimization. I’ll walk you through installing Yoast SEO plugin and letting you know what settings you should use for best results.
Step 1 – Install the plugin
If you don’t already have the plugin installed, the first step is to install it. I will assume that you know how to install a plugin. Search for Yoast SEO and install the plugin that looks like this:
And once you have installed it make sure to activate it.
Step 2 – Click SEO on the left side menu of WordPress
Down below settings on the left side menu on WordPress, you will now have SEO as an option. Click it and that is where we will make the changes to the settings on the plugin.
Step 3 – General Settings – Your Info
Under the General Settings, click the Your Info tab. Fill out all of the information that it asks for. Put your website name (usually your company name), select company, add your company name and your logo. Just a note here, your logo has to be at least 200px by 200px for it to work. Don’t forget to click save changes.
Step 4 – General Settings – Webmaster Tools
I’ve hidden mine for obvious reasons, but you want to make sure that you have verified for at least Google and Bing. For Google, go to Google Search Console and add your property. During the verification process, you will want to choose the html option. Copy and paste the part of the code that is inside the quotation marks (do not copy the quotation marks) and paste it into the Google Search Console box and hit save changes. Do the same for Bing and the others if you choose.
Step 5 – General Settings – Security
Unless you have multiple authors on your site that you want to be able to set posts to noindex or change canonicals and redirects, leave this at disabled.
Step 6 – General Settings – Onpage.org
I generally leave this enabled, though I don’t use the feature much.
Step 7 – Titles & Metas – General
Leave the force rewrite titles disabled and select the title separator that you like best. This is down to personal preference. Choose whichever separator you like best for your site.
Step 8 – Titles and Metas – Homepage
For this screen, leave the Title template set to the default setting. For the Meta description template, write out your meta description for your homepage. Remember, this is going to be what shows up in the search engines under your title when people search for you. Use your keywords in the description if possible, but it is more important to make this readable, and something that people will want to click.
Step 9 – Titles & Metas – Post Types
For this setting, I like to change it so that the title reads only %%title%% and delete all of the rest. I just think that it looks cleaner to have only the post title in the title bar and in the search results. I know a lot of others leave it as is, I just prefer it this way. I leave the Meta description blank because you should really write a custom description for each post/page for best results. Leave the Meta Robots, Date in Snippet Preview, and Yoast SEO Meta Box as they are.
I set the pages section up exactly like I do the post section.
I set the media section up as I did the top two sections. Make sure to click the save button!
Step 9 – Titles & Metas – Taxonomies
This is one of the most important settings in this whole plugin. In order to keep away from duplicate content penalties, make sure that for both categories and tags you leave the Meta Robots to noindex. You’ll also want to hide the Yoast SEO box. I am not including the Tags picture because it should be set up just like this one.
Step 10 – Titles & Metas – Archives
For the author archives, you need to either disable them, or leave them with the default setting of noindex. If you are like most local businesses and you only have one author, your blog page and your author archive will be exactly the same. Google looks at this as duplicate content, so you will want to make sure to get these settings right. It is a personal preference as to whether you enable or noindex, but make sure that you do one of them. This can also be a problem with date based archives, so again, either disable or noindex them as well.
Step 11 – Titles & Metas – Other
For other, I recommend changing the subpages of archives setting to noindex. This just keeps the search results cleaner and keeps other pages of your archives from showing up in the search results. Leave the rest of the settings as they are.
Step 12 – Social
This is all about Google’s Knowledge Graph. This will inform Google on all of your social profiles so that they can show them in the search results properly. Add all of your social profiles to this. Note – for the twitter username, do not add the @. The rest of the social tabs really do not have any impact on the local seo, so I am not going to cover them here. They are pretty self explanatory though, and you should fill them in if you plan on using social media marketing (and why wouldn’t you?!?!). I do have a quick tutorial on how to set up the twitter section here.
Step 13 – XML Sitemaps
Enable the xml sitemap feature and Yoast will take care of all of the rest. You do not need to do anything with any of the other tabs in this section. You do however need to log into Google Search Consule and Bing Webmaster Tools to submit the sitemap to the search engines. This is important!
Step 14 – Advanced – Permalink Tab
The final step for Yoast SEO is the Permalinks tab of the advanced section. You want to make sure that you keep stripping the category, you enable the redirect attachment urls, remove stop words from slugs, and reove the ?replytocom variables. These just combine to make cleaner, shorter urls.
Step 15 – Test With Google’s Validator
The final step to this is to make sure that you do not have any errors. Go to https://developers.google.com/structured-data/testing-tool/ and click fetch URL and then enter your URL into the box. Once you click validate, Google will check for any errors. If you get all green check marks, you know you are good to go!
We See Great Results Using Local Schema Markup
There are a ton of great articles on local schema markup, but unfortunately, it still is not easy to implement on most WordPress sites. Some themes let you implement it pretty easily, but I’ve found a lot of those don’t work as well as advertised. There have been some plugins that were supposed to add the schema.org markup, but they are all either paid, buggy, or broken. Unfortunately that means that we can’t rely on a plugin to make this super easy for us. However, it still isn’t all that difficult, and I will walk you through the whole process.
Step 1 – Micro Data Generators
So the easiest way that I have found to create your schema.org markup is to go to the Local Business Generator page on the Micro Data Generators site. You’ll see a page that looks like this:
Look through the list of industries that they have. If you happen to be in one, you are in luck! Just click on your industry and fill out the form (more on that in a bit). However, if you are like most businesses, and your industry is not listed, you can just click on the local business link. So, choose the appropriate industry (or local business) and click the link.
Step 2 – Fill Out The Form
As far as I can tell (I did not look at every industry) the only difference in the form is that some have a place to enter a map url and some do not. What you enter into this form is very important. We want to make sure that your business name, address and phone number are consistent across the web. Since one of our goals is to show up in the local search results, we want to make sure that everything that we input here is exactly the same as what we have on out Google+/Google My Business page. I find it easiest to search for the company name and the city that it is in. This will usually show the Google+ page in the search results. I will then copy and paste the information from there into the fields to make sure that it is consistent.
For the map URL, I just go to maps.google.com and copy and paste the address into the field at the top. I’ll end up with a map that looks like this:
Right under the blue bar on the left, there is a share button. Click on that and copy the map link. That is what you will paste into the map URL field. Click submit query.
Step 3 – The Result
You will get a result that looks something like this. You will want to copy the result (not the top line, start with the <div) and paste it into notepad or text edit to clean up any of the quotation marks that WordPress can’t handle. I have to admit, I’m not even sure that this is an issue any more, but I still do this just in case. Some of the quotation marks and apostrophes would reek havoc when they were pasted into WordPress. I just do this to make sure that I don’t have an issue.
Step 4 – Add it to the Site
Personally, I always add this code to the footer. I’ll just add a text widget and copy and paste it in. I get asked a lot if you have to make this code visible. The short answer is yes, you do have to have it be visible. You can style it with css if you want to, but for it to be within Google’s terms of service, any markup needs to be visible.
Advanced Tips and Tricks
For those of you that did not fit into one of the industries that the Micro Data Generators page has a business generator for, you don’t have to stick with the local business category. I find that it works fine, but it will get you better results if you are more specific. Local Visibility System has an awesome post on how to choose the right markup for your business. If you want to check it out, it’s here – http://www.localvisibilitysystem.com/2014/06/30/how-to-pick-or-improvise-the-right-schema-org-markup-for-your-local-business/
Be Mobile Friendly
You would think that this one would go without saying, but I meet a lot of business owners that still have websites that are impossible to read on a phone. If you don’t know if your site is mobile friendly, check how Google views it here. You just put in your url, hit analyze and it will tell you whether or not Google considers your page mobile friendly. If you get the green bar that says, “Awesome! This page is mobile friendly,” then you’re good to go. If not…
What to do if Your Site is Not Mobile Friendly
Option 1 – The Best Option
The best option is to change your WordPress theme to one that is mobile friendly. Most premium themes are responsive and end up looking very good on a mobile device and pass Google’s mobile friendly test. Now, this is going to take some time to implement, but if you make up your mind to do it, you probably can. There are a lot of great training videos and tutorials on how to set up WordPress sites. WP Beginner is a great resource and they can walk you through changing to a mobile friendly site and it won’t cost you anything but time.
If you don’t have the time to do this on your own, you can also hire a web designer to do this for you. We do great web design at Two Cans, so if you’d like us to take a look at helping you to get your site updated, we’d love to talk to you.
Option 2 – The Paid Option
You can do the quick and dirty paid option, which is Duda Mobile. They will give you a great looking mobile site based on your site design, and they’ll do it instantly. It does cost $19 a month or $299 forever to have your site on your domain without any ads (which you definitely want!). While I don’t recommend this option as highly as the first, because I don’t really like separate mobile sites, and I don’t think that they look as good as a responsive site, they will definitely work.
Option 3 – The Stop Gap
If you need to save up to do one of the above options, this is the free option that you can use as a stop gap. There is a WordPress plugin called WPTouch that will give you a mobile site. It is free (there are paid options, but I don’t recommend them) and you can get your site up and running quickly, but it can be buggy. Again, I only recommend this as a temporary fix until you can do one of the above options.
OK, so we’ve gone pretty in depth into three major things that you can do to improve your local SEO results on your site. Does this mean that once you’ve done these three things, you’re done? Well… no. There are a lot of other factors that go into where a site ranks in the local search results. Citations, NAP consistency, social signals, inbound links, and reviews are just some of the factors that can impact your local rankings. But, if you do these three things well, it will get your site moving in the right direction.