Does Local SEO need to be a geographical dilemma?

Local search is rapidly growing in importance for businesses of all kinds. By simply including a place name in your search query on Google, and it becomes hard to reach any e-commerce site without triggering a Google Maps snippet or a Google My Business page listing. However, there’s always been a conflict withing local search optimisation between good editorial copy and geographically focused SEO. This stems from the way users prefer to search for, say, ‘Patisserie Bakery Cardiff’ rather than using more natural language. There’s no good grammatical way to include that in any sentence, let alone your headline and opening paragraph. But does it even matter anymore?

Emergence of natural language

Search engines are certainly evolving. Advancements in speech recognition and machine learning has dawned a new focus on voice search. This leads queries to slowly become much more conversational but how do you write good content for your local website “conversationally”?

  • Stop query matching in copy

First ask yourself, do you even need the exact phrase to appear on the page? Google is getting better at recognising the pattern of a sentence. A search for ‘Patisserie Bakery Cardiff’ returns plenty of results that don’t feature that exact search query in their text. In fact, as Dr Pete pointed out in his Searchlove 2016 talk, “tactical keyword research in a RankBrain world”, many SERPs are now using this notion of concepts. Over 57% of all SERP results did not include the keyword variant being queried.

That’s great news for marketers as it allows us to focus on producing copy that people will actually give a crap about. It’s effective to weave in prose that legitimately ties your product to your place.

  • Local reference points

Using region specific research or local statistics, for example – and mentioning the place names and landmarks prominently gives search engines more insight into what concept you are trying to craft.

  • Structured data

Going one step further and including relevant markup or JSON-LD to your page to give search engines further hints towards the locality of your business.

This is a whistle-stop tour of a few points on getting some quality into your content. I’m certainly in no position to lecture anyone on how to write the world’s greatest editorial, but this article doesn’t intend to be anything more than a warning and a challenge to old school SEO thinking.

Many “best practice gurus” take the view that you should simply keyword whatever phrases people are searching for, regardless of how grammatically correct they are (or even whether they’re spelt correctly).  Please, if you take nothing else from this post, remember this:

Respect your readers

Google’s major algorithm updates continually stress the need for well written web copy that’s aimed at a human audience, not simply there to attract the search crawler’s interest. Treat your website, its content and your readers with respect, and remember why your content is there in the first place. It’s not for the bots…


[This post is a work in progress – I’ve previously written about my iterative approach to content if you like that sort of thing]

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