If your SEO goal is to rank highly on Google for specific keywords in a local city, your website needs to establish Relevance, Proximity and Prominence for this area. This is not as simple as creating a page on your website about that city and calling it a day. You need to prove to Google that you should rank in that city and you are the known authority for that area.
There are endless ways to go about this, but the following checklist will give you a basic guide on how to bulk up your local authority.
- Set up an office in the designated city
You MUST have an office location in the city in which you wish to rank. Why? For two main reasons.
Google uses the searchers location to determine what results should be relevant (the proximity factor). Think about someone ordering take out. People don’t usually type in Atlanta pizza place or New York City Mexican restaurant; they are searching pizza or Mexican food and Google is using their location to bring up the closest restaurants. It works the same way for your law firm.
Businesses that are in the targeted city are always going to be priority. Meaning, when someone searches for Los Angeles divorce lawyer, Google is going to look for the best fit for that term. The best fit would be any divorce lawyer who is in Los Angeles, not neighboring cities like Long Beach or Monterey Park. Even though these cities may not be too far away (15-30 minutes), they are not Los Angeles. Therefore, they automatically become less relevant to a Los Angeles searcher.
Is it possible to rank in a city you aren’t located in? Yes, it does happen, but this is more of an exception. Those who are able to rank outside their area have normally been able to do so due to their over the top popularity and prominence (reviews/traffic/links/etc.) or the local area itself is not very competitive. They have also normally asserted dominance in their own local area first before they expanded to other places.
- Use a local phone number for each separate office
Each office location should have its own direct local phone number. This is just another way to show that you are physically located in this area and are deserving of local ranking. The phone number should then be on your website where this location is listed and included on all local listings for that office.
- Your content must be local focused
This means optimizing your website properly with targeted local keywords within the body and title tags. It is also important your site has plenty of content with localized words such as specific street names, neighboring cities, and references to local websites. This helps to build the connection that your website is relevant for these areas.
Even though optimizing for keywords is extremely important, local search requires more than just inserting city-friendly keywords across various pages. Your content should also include connections to your target market. For law firms, it may not seem obvious how to pair your legal content with the local community, but there are plenty of ways to easily incorporate local references. Below are examples on how your business can localize content towards a targeted city or community:
— Add city and state pages. This is especially important if you have multiple office locations.
— Cover local news items within blogs. This can be car accidents, crime reports, local events and laws, and additional local happenings.
— Create blogs with localized tips. For example, parents struggling to work out custody arrangements and the stress of a divorce would welcome information about community events to attend with their children. These items could be incorporated into a blog titled “Neutral Places a Co-Parenting Couple Can Spend Time with Their Children.”
— Add resource guides that relate to your practice areas. For example, a law firm that handles seriously injured patients can create a guide for local support groups, hospital outreach programs, advocacy organizations and more.
— Highlight information about any pro bono work or charity work done by the firm. This can be announced in a blog post and mentioned within attorney bio pages. Creating videos and images for these items is also a great idea and charity work can even result in a possible local backlink.
- You need to obtain backlinks to your website that are relevant to this city
Other than your location, Google is looking at the type of backlinks your website has in order to determine your authority. These backlinks are other people, businesses and organizations that are basically recommending your website by linking to it. For example, if 20 businesses in Miami are linking to your website, this is a signal to Google that your business may be connected somehow to this location. These backlinks can come from local event sponsorships, local publications like a newspaper, or another local business referencing yours in a blog post. The more high quality local links, the more you are establishing prominence in this area.
Keep in mind that ideally your local links should be pointing towards a respective local page. If you have a city page for your Miami location, then your Miami local listing on Yelp should be linking to it. If you have a guide on your site about resources for visiting Florida, then you should aim to get other Florida websites to link to it.
Local Optimization for PPC Ads – How a local office helps your PPC Campaign
Although PPC ads do not directly affect your organic rankings, they are still a valuable marketing option that can result in more leads. However, your business may not be able to take advantage of all the great PPC features without having a physical location. Certain PPC ads can only be activated for those with a local physical office. These include:
- PPC Location Extensions – A benefit of having valid office locations within Google Ads and other paid search platforms is the ability to display location extensions with your ads. Location extensions are additions to search ads that display when the searcher is nearby. These extensions show your business address and distance from the user, which is invaluable for encouraging foot traffic. Since the user can see that your business is truly local to them it helps to increase trust and relevance for your business.
- Local Service Ads (Google Screened) – One of Google’s newer advertising options, the local service ads are pay-per-lead ads that display at the top of all search results and, if properly set up, include a badge that indicates the business is “Google Screened.” These new (and effective) ads are directly tied to a physical business location. Without an actual office location, Google heavily increases the difficulty to which you can run these ads and get results, potentially not allowing them to run at all.
Keep in mind this is not an extensive list of every possible item your website should include to become relevant locally, but it addresses some of the major elements. Check out the following resources for more information about local SEO.
- Bright Local: How Does the Google Local Algorithm Work?
- 2020 Local SEO Success: How to Feed, Fight, and Flip Google
- HubSpot: A Comprehensive Guide to Local SEO in 2021