5 SEO Rules For Location-Specific Services + Apps: How to Stand Out from your Competitors
Location information has been part of the smartphone experience since it first broke into the mainstream with the release of the first iPhone in 2007. Back then it was calculated using cell tower signals, but the upgrade to the iPhone 3G in 2008 saw the addition of a GPS chip. Since then, we’ve all become accustomed to our phones knowing where we are. It’s core to UX.
Folding in this mobile GPS information (through shared accounts) and using other contextual clues, even devices lacking GPS chips (which is to say desktops and laptops) have reasonable locational awareness. This has profound implications for marketers and service providers because they can rely on that data being available for use.
Consequently, plenty of companies now provide location-specific services and apps. It’s great for standing out and for generally making systems more useful and enjoyable to use. But what’s the best way to approach locational SEO? In this post, we’re going to set out 5 key rules that can help you get your area-specific apps and/or services performing better. Let’s begin:
Include the regions in the titles
It’s a very simple point, but one that always needs to be made: if you’re building a page or an app around a specific location, that location needs to be in the title. In regular search engines, titles factor into rankings, and app store visitors will often be served lengthy lists (or large grids) of apps with only abbreviated titles and descriptions shown — if someone is searching for a location, it needs to be in the first few words of an app’s title to be clearly visible.
Weight keywords by competition
Despite falling somewhat in significance over the years (following the early removal of keyword metadata), keywords are still enormously important, and you need to spread them throughout your content to make the most of them. But how heavily should you scatter them? There are two things that factor into this: readability, and practical SEO value.
I’ll give you an example of how these factors should be balanced. Canadian mortgage broker Burrowly attacks two fronts: general business in Canada and searches concerning particular provinces (linked in the footer). How many times do you think the keyword “Canada” is used on the homepage? Just twice, actually: in the subheading “New To Canada”, and the following sentence “Immigrated or relocated to Canada within the last few years?”.
Should it be used more? The difficulty here is that the practical SEO value of mentioning it time and time again is minimal, as there are so many huge websites using that keyword that the likelihood of ranking for it is slim. It’s also less likely that someone in Canada would search for “mortgage broker in Canada” — they’d probably just search for “mortgage broker”.
The province pages, though, are formatted very differently. The page on Alberta, for instance, features the title of “Alberta Mortgage Brokers – Alberta Mortgage Agents – Mortgage Brokers in Alberta” (which is a bit much, admittedly), while the page itself features some form of “Alberta” in no fewer than 9 places.
Why the stark difference? Because the chance of ranking for “mortgage broker in Alberta” is surely better than the national equivalent, and because specific searches (often using long-tail keywords) tend to be more actionable, so readability is less vital when you’re confident that a searcher is just looking for a page that fits their search and doesn’t plan on comparing and contrasting various options.
Pick up more local links
Building links is vital for SEO, but what are local links? Well, as you’d expect from the name, they’re links from other sites in the area in which you’re trying to rank — and they’re more important than you might think. I’ll give you a scenario to consider. If you were attempting to point someone towards the most useful result for their Minnesota-related query, which site would you pick (all other things being equal): the one with a backlink from a national site, or the one with a backlink from a Minnesota-based site?
You’d surely go for the latter because a local endorsement is more meaningful than a national one. It stems from local knowledge and meaningful community enthusiasm. And that’s not the only reason why a brand should want local links: they’re also great for driving actual traffic. Again, if someone searched for “Things to do in Minnesota”, they’d probably want to pick a result written by a Minnesota native, and would probably follow the linked suggestions.
Complete your map listings
Getting your business listed on regional maps is important for websites and apps alike, yet plenty of companies forget to do it. Even if you don’t have any apps, you should still get listed on both Google My Business and Apple Maps Connect. Detail your official location (if you have one) and the area in which you’re trying to operate. When someone places a local search, having the chance to appear near the top of the results in a Maps Pack is very useful.
Add detailed structured data
Structured data (usually drawn from Google’s guidelines which are ultimately implemented based on Schema.org specifications) allows you to provide much broader metadata about the nature of a website. It can encompass the business represented, the content on offer, the value of offered products, the audience targeted, and — most notably here — the location.
Within your structured data, you can specify the area (or areas) you’re targeting with as much precision as you need. Assuming you have map listings, you must ensure that the information matches (it can cause problems if you have contradictory claims), but that shouldn’t be too hard — and the more places in which you have your location data listed, the easier it will be to use.
Local SEO can be challenging, but it’s hugely valuable, so it’s worth your time and effort. If you’re trying to get your regional website and/or app ranking better, follow these 5 SEO rules to achieve superior results.