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A guide to local SEO for Melbourne businesses
How does Local SEO work?
These days, customers want the best products and services near them, and they want answers fast. What are the odds of your business being visible at the exact moment local customers are searching? Is your business going to stand out from all the local businesses that offer the same products and services?
Local search engine optimisation is a type of SEO that focuses on enhancing a website’s online visibility to attract more potential customers based on local searches. Local search results are derived from signals such as local content, links, profile listings, and social media pages.
Google has a market share of 94.7% in Australian Internet searches, which indicates that most people are using it to find local businesses. The term ‘local searches’ refers to searches associated with a specific location, such as:
Kitchen Renovations Melbourne
Cafe near me
Doctor near me
What Makes Local SEO Different from SEO?
The main difference between SEO and local SEO is that local SEO targets a specific geographical location. Local SEO aims to expose your products and services to potential customers within your geographic area. The elements of local SEO are similar to those found in a typical SEO strategy – quality content and link building, but with a region-specific focus.
The importance of local SEO
For instance, let’s say in the case of a shop that sells bikes in Melbourne. As you may know, there are tons of bike shops out there, and you can search for this phrase on Google to find numerous results.
The top results in these searches are usually occupied by large chains. A few household-name bike retailers may occupy positions in the top 5 search results for this phrase. In spite of this, a local independent bike shop in Melbourne outranks them all and is the first result you’ll see when you search for a bike shop.
What’s the reason behind that?
This is a smart move for the local bike shop owner who recognized that search engines pay a lot of attention to a user’s geography and took steps to ensure maximum visibility for his store in Melbourne.
How can you make use of local SEO?
Let’s take a look at some simple techniques that can help businesses in Melbourne gain a greater level of visibility.
Add your business to Google My Business
It only takes a few minutes to create a Google My Business profile, and this is one of the very easiest things you can do to rank in local search results. You provide Google with your business address when you set up your profile. To verify the address, Google sends you a card that contains a PIN. You need to enter the PIN to activate your account.
As soon as that’s done, you should see your business appear on the map displayed when customers in your area search for your services. You may even end up on the top spot, depending on how many similar businesses have registered with Google My Business in your area.
In case you run a business with several locations, you should register those in Google My Business too and if many locations exist, you can just bulk upload them.
Include your location in key areas of your website
When it comes to your home page and any other page containing information about your products and services, be sure to refer to your location in five key places:
- its title tag
- body copy
- its meta description
- the footer
Moreover, it is worth including the location in the URL where applicable. Suppose you ran a chain of ramen houses, with locations in three parts of Australia. You may need three separate pages, each with a separate URL, for example:
Each page should have a very distinct copy on it however, as duplicate content can be penalized by Google.
In reference to your location, you might have to take into account how wide you cast the net. For some businesses, perhaps those that cater to a very specific area, it would be advantageous to use a ‘hyper-local’ search strategy, which uses the town or suburb in which they are located as a focus keyword. For other businesses, where there is less competition for the services they offer, or where there is a desire to expand geographically, it may be more appropriate to refer to a county or state on their website.
Use the right keywords for your products and services
Be sure your website describes your products or services in a way that reflects what your target audience is looking for, based on what they are searching for. As an example, it makes no sense to talk about ‘automobiles’ throughout your website, when people are actually looking for ‘cars.’
You can avoid making mistakes like these by using a keyword research tool like Semrush or Ahrefs. These offer you detailed information about the most popular search phrases for businesses like yours, as well as how difficult it is to rank for them locally.
Using a keyword research tool, for instance, you might discover that “Melbourne Plumber” is Googled considerably more often than “Plumber Melbourne”. Also, you may find it much harder to rank for ‘Melbourne Plumbers’ than for ‘Plumbers in Melbourne VIC.
This data can allow you to identify your ‘sweet spot,’ i.e. a phrase that describes your business and converts well in search results. Once you’ve identified the phrase, you can optimise your content accordingly.
Check for online reviews, particularly on Google
Here is a phrase about reviews on Google My Business you can find in the Help section:
“High-quality, positive reviews from your customers will improve your business’s visibility and increase the likelihood that a potential customer will visit your location.“
This is a huge sign that Google considers My Business reviews in its ranking algorithm. So, it’s essential that you encourage happy customers to write a review of your product or service. Using ‘Google Place IDs’ you can give your satisfied customers a direct link to a form where they can leave a review. Google My Business Help provides some information on how to do this.
These reviews can help your business to rank more highly on Google, and the little stars to the right of your business name after a customer has written a review will help your business to stand out throughout the results on the map.
List your website in high-quality local directories
You can significantly improve your search engine rankings by submitting your sites to quality local directories.
When Google indexes directory entries, if the listing has a good reputation, your entry may appear among the top five results. It means that even if you are having difficulty ranking your site, you may still have visibility in search results for your business.
In addition, it might result in a backlink, which can boost general search engine performance. Furthermore, you will make your business visible to anyone searching through these directories.
Nonetheless, it is very important to submit your site only to reputable directories – not all are reputable, and submitting to the wrong ones can negatively affect ranking.
Implement Schema’s geocoding
This collaborative project between Bing, Google, Yandex, and Yahoo! lets you contribute the information search engines need to understand your content better – and deliver more relevant search results.
Additionally, Schema code enables these search engines to display ‘extra’ information about your website in search results – for instance, star ratings, price information, or reviewer information.
Adding ‘geographic markup’ to your schema allows search engines and users to know more about your business location, and this has positive implications when it comes to local search so be sure to do it too.
To make sure you aren’t doing anything inappropriate with Schema markup, you should take a look at Google’s guidelines on how to use it – just so you don’t end up making any mistakes. You can find more detailed information on geographic markup and local SEO in Search Engine Journal’s article on using Schema markup for local SEO as well as in Schema.org’s Local Business section.
Having backlinks, or simply those links leading to your site from other sites, is absolutely essential for your search engine rankings. These links are seen by Google as votes, and a website with a larger number of links pointing to it will rank higher in search results.
In addition to local SEO, they are also extremely important. When you ask someone for a backlink, you should occasionally ask them to include the location of your business in the backlink, so that your business will perform better in local search results. Your business will be easier to find if the search engines know where it is located.
Taking our bike shop example again, this simply means building links to ‘bike shops in Melbourne’ rather than ‘bike shops. This should only be done ‘occasionally’ because you don’t want to overdo it. When location keywords are used in excess, search engines may perceive them as spam and raise a warning flag.
Furthermore, for local SEO, it is a good idea to source links from local businesses (i.e., businesses that are located close by). Trying to make your website relevant to a certain region is a great way to command the attention of search engines.
Consider getting local online coverage
If you have a business or content you would like to see covered on a local news site, it is definitely worth contacting them. Given their local focus, many of these news websites are more than willing to offer you a backlink – and they may pass a significant amount of ‘link juice’ to you.
The authority of news sites, even the local ones, can be boosted by linking from other sites that link to them – and a link from any of these sites will boost your search engine ranking.
Additionally, it is very likely that Google’s algorithms will take note of the context in which the links appear – that is, on sites related to your local area – and attribute the site’s ranking to that location.
Ensure your content is high-quality and relates to your local area
Generally, sites that offer comprehensive, informative articles on subjects that people are genuinely interested in are successful in search engine rankings. There are two main reasons for this: first, they tend to be keyword-rich, increasing the odds of your content matching several kinds of search queries. Second, if the resources are particularly good, other websites will create ‘backlinks’ to them, something which, as discussed earlier, generates higher positions in search results.
Local SEO operates under the same rules, and if you write quality blog posts about your business niche that contain geographical information about the area you operate in, you may do very well in local search engine results.
Again, if we are using our bike shop as an example, a way to appear in local search results for bike-related services might be to blog about good cycling routes in the area. By doing so, you increase the chances of your blog post being discovered by cyclists in your area, who not only learn about a brand new cycle route, but learn about the fact that your company does bicycle service.
Optimise your website for mobile devices
In today’s world, mobile devices account for the majority of searches. According to Hubspot, 61% of mobile users are more likely to contact a local business if the business has a mobile-friendly site.
Sites that perform well on mobile devices are also prioritised by Google. Therefore, if your website is not performing well on a smartphone, you may lose out on local SEO. Consequently, you should ensure that your website is responsive (i.e., adapts automatically to display correctly on a smartphone) and loads quickly on mobile devices.
You can use Google’s mobile-friendly testing tool to find out how your site currently performs on mobile devices. It is also a good idea to run your mobile website through Google’s Pagespeed Insights tool, which will show how fast your site is loading and whether or not it meets Google’s new Core Web Vitals standards.
Tracking local success: Insights & Reporting
Google does offer a publicly available Google My Business API, but they have not released any connectors when it comes to integrating GMB insights into a dashboarding and reporting tool like DataStudio. In case you’re not interested in building one yourself, third-party connectors such as Jepto offer a breakdown of any important statistics from your Google My Business profile, including, but not limited to:
- Views (Search views + map views)
- Customer actions (website visits, direction requests, phone calls)
- Reviews (Monthly trends, comments etc.)
Optimising your local SEO in the face of a 2021 worldwide epidemic
Local businesses have been impacted to an unprecedented degree by the global pandemic and COVID-19. The market is changing rapidly, consumer behaviour is evolving, laws and regulations are changing, and companies must adapt fast. The Google My Business listing could include updating business hours, temporarily closing locations during lockdowns, introducing “takeaway” options, and linking to virtual appointments, among other features. Through good local SEO, customers receive consistent and accurate information, reduce customer frustration, and have another purchase option by using other digital channels such as websites, social media, and online booking.
Local marketing in the future
Google is constantly seeking out ways to improve the customer-business connection. Recently, they announced the coming of Local SEO messaging, through which verified businesses can instantly message customers directly from Google Maps. When you turn on messaging from your business profile, you’ll be able to start replying to customers with Google Maps from the business message section.
With Google’s continued push towards fostering positive business-to-consumer relationships, customer experience is going to be a focal point of their business moving forward, and should be kept in mind when performing local and general SEO.
Best Practices for Local SEO
Below is some actionable information you can use right away to ensure your local businesses are performing to their fullest potential:
- Encourage reviews, and reviewers should receive responses regardless of whether they are positive or negative.
- Make sure you include accurate and up-to-date information regarding the location, address, contact information, and hours of operation of your business in your local listing. When you travel across town only to find the store you wanted to visit is closed, it makes for an extremely frustrating experience, which is why customers are likely to post negative reviews.
- Be sure that the category you choose accurately describes the products and/or services your company offers. You can look at your competitors’ listings to see what categories they are ranking well for to identify what might be missed by your listing.
If you’d like to learn more about local SEO, or how it can be incorporated into your business plan in the future, please contact our Local SEO team at Digital Bond Marketing.