As Google shifts to a more semantic-heavy strategy in 2015, it's becoming progressively more important for small businesses to focus on local SEO to drive both targeted website traffic and foot traffic. In particular, there are a few tips and tricks you'll want to spend your time perfecting.

Pay Attention to Pigeon

While all signs have pointed towards the importance of local search for quite some time, the official 'stamp of approval' came when Google released its newest algorithm on July 24, 2014. Dubbed "Pigeon," Moz's algorithm change report says, "Google shook the local SEO world with an update that dramatically altered some local results and modified how they handle and interpret location cues." Furthermore, Google has claimed the Pigeon update creates closer ties between core and local algorithms for increased consistency and accuracy.   

Start with an Audit

Most businesses fail to have successful local SEO campaigns and strategies because they go about it all wrong. They assume everything they read applies to them and take a very basic approach to an extremely specific and individualized issue. The reality is that no two businesses are the same and you have to find a way to hone in on the tips, tricks, and strategies that apply to your situation. The best way to do this is by starting with an SEO audit.

Does the word audit make you cringe - like you're being exposed or caught red-handed? Instead of looking at the word audit in a negative light, begin to see it as a learning opportunity that will eventually help you succeed. According to Josh Hamit of, "In the SEO world, you can't be afraid to admit you don't know something. Everyone needs help from time to time, and an audit or third-party analysis can be really eye-opening."  

In terms of auditing, there are two routes you can go. You can either perform a self-audit using helpful internet resources and guides, or you can go with a third-party or independent audit. The major benefit of a self-audit is obviously saving money, but it should also be viewed as a learning experience - allowing you to confront your issues head-on. A third-party audit is valuable because it gives you access to a fresh set of eyes. 

If you do choose to take a DIY approach, SEO expert Casey Meraz has put together a very detailed and easy-to-understand local SEO audit guide. Otherwise, you can find a number of reputable independent professionals to help you.

Local SEO Tips for 2015

After performing an SEO audit, you should have a pretty clear idea of where your weaknesses lie and what you need to do in order to improve your overall search presence. In most cases, the following tips will apply for 2015 and the foreseeable future:

1. Mobile-friendly is a must. Starting April 21 of this year, Google will now consider mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal for mobile search results worldwide. This new development, combined with the fact that smartphones and tablets make up 35 percent of organic search traffic, means mobile optimization should be a priority for all business websites and pages. The best long-term solution is to invest in responsive design. 

2. Fix Google My Business issues. It looks like Google My Business is finally taking off (despite two name changes in the past few years) and you'll want to ensure your page is completely optimized and accurate. Priorities include making sure your location is correctly placed on the map, checking the accuracy of information (hours of operation, contact information, payment types, etc.), and ensuring your official business website is on your local Google+ page. You'll also want to encourage reviews from customers and clients in order to give your page a social boost. 

3. Craft strategic location pages. Internally, you can set your website up for success by crafting very detailed and strategic location pages with relevant content and descriptive keywords. For optimal results, include both your target city and state in the title tag, URL, and H1 headings. 

4. Meta descriptions matter. While the relevancy of meta descriptions in search ranking results is questionable, there's an obvious and concrete relationship between the quality of meta descriptions and CTR. You can increase the value of each visitor by using this valuable real estate to explain what makes you different, how your products or services satisfy their pain points, and why they should believe and click. 

5. Get listed on business directories. In addition to verifying the veracity of your Google My Business page, you'll also want to include your business information on other reputable online directories. While there are hundreds of different ones - including industry-specific directories that may apply to your business - the top listing sites include Yelp, Foursquare, CitySearch,, and Whitepages. When creating or editing these listings, remember to include accurate NAP information (name, address, phone number).

6. Accrue local links. One of the best ways to increase organic relevancy is to target local blogs and websites. You can do this by conducting a simple search for terms like "[target city] blogs" or "[target state] [target industry] blogs." By building relationships with these site owners or bloggers, you can hopefully get mentioned or gain access to guest blogging opportunities. If you've found these sites via an organic search, the chances are pretty good that they're well-indexed by the search engines.

7. Go after long tail keywords. In addition to creating strategic location pages, it's important to optimize your content and all pages by targeting geo-specific long tail keywords. While you may not appear in as many search results, those you do appear in front of will be very valuable and highly-targeted. Examples of geo-specific long tail keywords include: "San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer" or "Orlando Florida search marketing expert."

8. Utilize social media. You can't forget about social media in 2015. When it comes to optimizing for local results, you can use some of these geo-location tools to help you track, listen to, and capitalize on local traffic and conversations.

Google Says 'Go Local'

Regardless of whether you like or disdain the new Google changes, you have no choice but to comply if you want to have SEO and search marketing success in 2015, and beyond. While the changes may be big significant for some, many businesses will only need to slightly shift their focus and realign their goals. In the end, it all comes down to a better user experience for searchers and more accurate and consistent results. 

March 24, 2015

Jayson DeMers is the founder & CEO of AudienceBloom, a Seattle-based content marketing & social media agency. You can contact him on LinkedIn, Google+, or Twitter.

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Search Engine Guide > Jayson DeMers > 8 Local SEO Tips For Small Business Owners in 2015