WordPress is the behemoth of web content management systems (CMS). It’s flexible, it’s adaptable, it has been downloaded nearly 50 million times and powers nearly 30 percent of the world’s websites.
The other great thing about WordPress is it’s very search-friendly. You don’t have to be a genius coder to optimise your site to rank well in search engine results pages (SERPS). We’ve written in the past about common mistakes that people make when building a WordPress site, as well as how we see SEO right now. One thing we’ve not looked at especially closely though is web visibility on the local scale, so it’s time to address that.
Why Is Local Digital Visibility Important?
Simply put, nearly half of all internet traffic now is generated by mobile devices, whether a smartphone or a tablet. Inherent in these is GPS, and the big search engines now are trying to return increasingly relevant data, which includes your location. There’s no point them showing you a clothes shop in London when you’re somewhere in Birmingham.
Any business will start locally: a small fanfare opening, a note to the papers, inviting friends, so why should your online presence be any different? So here are our tips for making sure that your business website stands out from the crowd when it comes to people who want to shop local.
When it comes to web design you hear a lot about optimised code and optimised images, but what about your content? It doesn’t matter how quickly your page loads, or how well laid out it is if the content isn’t right people either won’t see it, or won’t care.
The first step is to establish what your audience’s needs are. This won’t necessarily be what you want them to be, or what you think they should be searching for to find you, bear in mind, so research is crucial.
Once you have this you can start writing, recording and generally just creating useful, relevant content to draw people to your site. Some of it will be geographically non-specific – about your business, your service, your products – but if you make sure that some of the posts, whether blog posts or pages, relate to something specific to your region, it will help push you up the local rankings.
Different pages or posts will have different keywords or address different viewer needs, according to the strategy you will have looked at before. There are lots of factors to consider when creating crawlable content, but since we’re using WordPress, the Yoast SEO plug-in can take out some of that hard work. It helps keep your on-page optimisation on track and points out areas that may need improvement.
Keep Track Of Your Links
Studies have shown that when it comes to ranking, links are still the most important signal when it comes to generating organic, local rankings. This incorporates links within your site to other pages or posts, as well as people linking to your site and appropriate anchor text when you make your own links. Just remember, these things take time to build and grow – there is no quick fix.
Quality, Not Quantity
While the number of links coming into your site from different IPs and domains is important, it’s actually more important to have fewer, more relevant links coming in. One high-quality link to your site from an industry leader within your sphere will be far better than a dozen low-quality, irrelevant links. You can use link tracking software to find and remove unwanted links.
Search & Rescue Broken Links
Another great plugin, Broken Link Checker, will identify and correct broken links contained within posts, pages, and even comments. The last thing you want is for a search engine to crawl your page and penalise your ranking because a certain page no longer exists. It may also be worth checking that search engines aren’t already doing this by looking at how they’ve indexed your site. Google and Bing both provide tools to do this.
Relevant Anchor Text
Mentioned above, your anchor text (the text underlying the link) should be optimised to mention your location. Don’t over-do it – keyword stuffing is frowned upon. If you’re not sure, have a look at what the competition is doing and see what could be considered acceptable within your industry.
Speed Up Your Site
Website speed still remains one of the biggest factors in the way Google ranks websites, so while not directly related to localisation, being faster than your competitors may well help.
There are many ways to speed up your site, and some great plugins to help you do it too. Some tips included caching, compression (of both pages and your images), cleaning up your theme, and not including any more plugins than necessary.
Make Your Site Mobile Friendly
As we mentioned previously, many customers will be looking for you using their mobile phone. In fact voice searches for business for “______ near me” have doubled in the last year, and that one in three users purchase from someone other than the one they intended because that’s what came up when they searched for more information.
Google is now prioritising mobile-friendly sites above their desktop counterparts too, so it’s even more important to make sure your site is as good on an iPhone as it is on a laptop. Here’s a couple of ways you can do it, including some that are particularly easy to do in WordPress.
Design Specifically For Mobile
WordPress has a very nifty little function called wp_is_mobile(). Use this to detect different devices at a server level, and then create and deliver custom experiences for your mobile viewers.
Use A Responsive WordPress Theme
When choosing the theme for your WordPress site, make sure it’s responsive and scales down properly across all devices.
Release A Mobile App
If it’s something that could work for your company/business model, look at developing a mobile app. According to a recent study, 89 percent of time spent online on mobile phones is done using an app. Users like apps that allow them to engage with their favourite brands – it can make it easier to sell products (like the eBay app), browse events (TicketMaster app) or make restaurant bookings.
Create Accelerated Mobile Pages
These are pages that are designed specifically for mobile devices. WordPress, in fact, comes with a default AMP plugin you can use to create such pages. These are listed first on SERPs when the user is searching from their mobile. If you’d like to know more, look at our piece on Accelerated Mobile Pages.
Take Full Advantage Of Google My Business
Physical location, user reviews, business descriptions and categories all affect your business and rankings on SERPs. Google My Business bundles a whole bunch of them together.
If you don’t have one, create a Google Account (you don’t have to have a Google Email address for this) and claim the GMB page for your business. Make sure you fill in all the relevant information including hours of business, a description of what it is you do, and, of course, the URL of your website. You can then look at widgets and plugins that pull data such as photos, maps, and reviews from Google to incorporate into your site.
It’s also worth adding a plugin that allows users to submit reviews to Google right there from your site. Engagement in this way not only helps your SERP rankings, but helps increase consumer trust.
Structure Your Data
Structured data allows you to add additional information about your business within the HTML tags that form your website. This can help your business listing appear richer, with things like reviews, star ratings and descriptions.
When Google finds your business, if you’ve got a plugin like Schema running, it will give customers much more detail when you appear in the SERPs.
Bear in mind this might not improve your position within the SERPs, but the inclusion of more information is shown to encourage higher click-through rates, which in turn CAN impact rankings.
Use Location Keywords In URLs
The structure of your URLs can impact on your rankings too. When WordPress first started, URLs were ugly, taking a format of http://www.mywebsite.com/?p=9897. Nowadays they’re a lot better, but you have to go into your settings to enable them.
“http://www.mywebsite.com/20171107/location-keywords-urls” is much easier to read, isn’t it? Google and other search engines think so too. If you’ve created separate landing pages for different locations in your area, seeing “/my-shop-marple” or “/my-restaurant-stockport” adds a lot more credibility to your site, letting customers know they’re looking in the right place.
There are a few other things you can do too, for example creating robots.txt files, XML sitemaps, optimising your site structure and so on, but these are some of the easiest and most effective ways to influence your local rankings.
Here at Merlins Mule we love keeping things local – local businesses are an essential part of the community that helps it thrive and grow, and we’re all for that. If you’re a local business and need a website, or even if you already have one and are looking to improve your visibility online, please don’t hesitate to contact us on 01625 359025 or click here to send us a confidential email.