Local SEO has always been something of a moving target, and this year is no different. While that may seem discouraging on the surface, the truth is that many of the changes that have been instituted by Google as regards local search are very good, and make a lot of sense.

Following last year’s Pigeon update and the more recent MobileGeddon, practitioners of local SEO are perhaps a bit gun shy as to how to proceed with optimizing for local search.

Let’s take a few moments to dispel these fears and tell you not only what’s changed recently, but also what some of the best practices are today.

Recent Local SEO Changes

Google My Business – While many rolled their eyes at ten announcement of yet another incarnation of Google’s local initiative, Google My Business has been worth the wait. This all-in-one suite of tools (as with Google Drive) makes running your local business a snap, and what’s more, making your local business information as accessible to Google as possible. This suite includes access to Analytics, Adwords Express, manage your customer reviews, Google+ pages and much more.

No more Carousel – The short-lived Carousel is no more, replaced instead with the trusty3 or 7 pack, depending on your query and availability of local results.

Mobile emphasis – “MobileGeddon” continues with Google’s recent mobile update. With more than half of all searches now originating from a mobile device of some sort, it’s time to make sure your site is mobile ready.

Pigeon update – The Pigeon update of late 2014 was significant in that it essentially now favors local results over global results for geo-targeted searches.

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7 Best Practices for Local SEO

Here are 7 things you can do now to pump up your local SEO!

Continue getting links – Shoot for the highest quality links you can get, and this is best done through the creation of sharable content.

GEO-target pages – Make sure you include locale in title tags, Meta and descriptions wherever possible. Also have your NAP data (Company name, address, phone) in your footer or otherwise visible.

Get authoritative citations – Fix incorrect citations and remove any duplicates. Continue to collect these, as still matter.

Encourage reviews – Reviews are not dead, and now you can utilize your Google My Business account to manage them far better.

Optimize Google My Business – Completely fill out your Google My Business profile, and utilize all its features.

Optimize and upload your local images – Geo-tag your local images, and upload them into Google My Business, where they can be available to pull into the 7 pack. They also appear prominently in your GMB page.

Enable and encourage social sharing – Make sure your site is socially linked, and that your social media channels are geo-targeted.