Last week I talked about the imminent explosion of mobile local search within the next 5 years, but how it is still important to be optimized for it now as the number of smartphone users is growing rapidly every day. In this blog post, I will explain why being optimized for local search is important and how it can be done with a few simple steps.
First of all, being optimized for local search and having a local business listing that is ranking in the top 3 for your city is much more crucial for mobile search than it is for desktop search because of how both browser variations display the content differently. For example, a local search on a smartphone will only show the top 3 local results and oftentimes, the 3rd result will even be hidden below the fold. When the user arrives on this screen, they can then click “Local” to see only local results, but if “Web” is chosen (like it is in the example below), only 3 will be visible.
Of course, as many of you know, this same search on a desktop would look much different as 10 local results would be visible, not just 3. This is why being ranked 4th-10th is fine for desktop local searches, but not for mobile local searches.
Also note how the local results in the screenshot above each have a phone number listed. This is a button that, when pressed, immediately dials the number and essentially turns the Google Search into a phone call with just one simple action. There is also the option to “Get Directions” with just 1 click, as Google Maps subsequently launches with directions to the listing from your current location.
Basically, it is easy to find and get a hold of local businesses when using a smartphone; it was designed this way. However, this is assuming that all local businesses are visible and optimized for this kind of search. Here are some steps to follow to ensure that yours is one of them:
1. Claim your listing in Google Maps and make sure your business information is accurate. This step is very important! If your business is not claimed, someone else could potentially “hijack” your listing and change the content to be false. Claiming a listing is fairly simple, but does require having a local address or PO Box and a local phone number. Once your listing is claimed, you can move on to step 2 to optimize the listing. A helpful site with more information on claiming your listing is www.getlisted.org.
2. Optimize your listing. Google loves content, so including as much relevant content to your listing as possible is important. There are many factors that determine how Google ranks local results, but one thing that is certain is the more web citations, the better. For more information on local optimization techniques, read David Mihm’s Local Search Ranking Factors project.
There is much more information available on Google’s local listings, but I’m going to move on to focus on mobile websites. Not only should your local listing in Google be optimized for mobile, but your website should also be given the same treatment. However, this can be difficult, as there are many different smartphones and mobile browsers. To help with being optimized for all variations, stick to the following guidelines:
• Stay consistent with what you know about SEO. Most SEO recommendations for mobile sites are the same SEO recommendations you’d use for non-mobile sites.
• Think about why users are arriving to your site via mobile and provide relevant content. Maybe these users are on the go?
• Simplify your content. Mobile screen sizes cannot display the same amount of information as a normal computer screen so mobile sites need to be accommodating to this.
• Mobile sites need to be submitted to mobile search engines and mobile directories.
• Make sure your address is listed on every page.
There is also content that may be present on your normal site that you should probably remove from your mobile site. These include embedded images, flash objects, frames, scripts, pop-ups, and mouse-over events. Also, for coding, external CSS is what should be used.
As far as domains go, some sites recommend using .mobi as this ensures that Google will crawl your mobile site and reference it as a mobile site. However, this isn’t always best because domains with .mobi lose SEO that could be carried over from the non-mobile version of a site. To counter this, using a sub-domain, such as mobile.domain.com or domain.com/mobile is preferable. You will also need a link from your desktop site to your mobile site for this to work.
In conclusion, stick to what you already know about SEO and carry those practices over to your mobile platform. The world of mobile is constantly changing, so new updates will continue to be released. Being ahead of the curve is what is most important. Remember, too, that a lower CTR for your mobile site isn’t necessarily a bad thing if users are finding the local content they’re looking for directly from the search results.