Local SEO Photography Checklist For Improving Local Search Ranking
The way Google’s algorithms work with local search results means that it is now common for small businesses to sit above large corporations at the top of the first page listing for searches with local intent (“family photographers near me”). The way these local searches are presented is often known as a “local pack”, and it is different from the normal organic listings in that users can immediately see the location, reviews and opening times.
So Local SEO is an important way to market your photography business online – and can potentially yield large benefits. But what do photographers need to do to get prominently listed in this way. The good news for your business is that less than half of all local businesses have attempted to do this, so the competition is not unduly high.
What will influence Google in the right way? Well, like all SEO, no one knows for sure. Although you can be sure that there are many factors that will be outside your control – such as the proximity of the search user. In terms of what you are in control of, we have drawn on the MOZ Practitioners Opinion Surveys to help order these activities in terms of importance and likely impact.
Register and Optimise Your Google My Business Listing
This is almost certainly the single most important activity for getting a prominent position in the local searches (in fact, looking at the broad Survey trends, it seems to be increasing in importance). Go to google.com/business, sign up and just follow the instructions (Google does not charge for this). This will involve verifying the physical address of your premises, but Google make this very easy. (Although many photographers do not own a studio, you do have the option of using your residential address). Whilst you are waiting for your address to be checked by Google, make sure your listing information is completed and as accurate as possible. This includes the website, opening hours and the correct business category (do not be tempted to spam the listing with keywords).
Also, try to upload as many good quality images as Google will allow – and of course, don’t forget your logo (720 x 720 pixels). Google claim that businesses which add photos to their listings receive 42% more requests for driving directions on Google Maps and 35% more clicks through to their websites compared to businesses that haven’t made the effort. For photographers, there is no excuse!
If you are familiar with Google My Business Posts (a more recent innovation) you should also utilise these on a regular basis (in fact anything that helps Google fulfil its strategy of interaction and communication at the local business level will help).
Grow and Manage Your Online Reviews
Google are very clear that they like high quality, positive reviews – and having lots of them will help your business’s visibility. Remember though, that even the most pleased of customers won’t typically make the effort to post a review. In fact, many customers find Google Reviews hard work: you should not only explicitly ask for reviews consistently from every customer, but also make it as easy as possible for them to write. For example, a polite email request with a link and nice clear instructions won’t do any harm.
Although Google state that they like positive reviews, you shouldn’t be worried about the odd indifferent or negative one. In fact, in the light of Google’s continual hunt for fake reviews, a good range of diverse (including negative) opinions will just confirm that your review profile looks more genuine. What is more important is that they are continuous, fairly frequent and interactive (Google like you to respond to your reviews, not just admire them). When you reply to negative reviews, do not get into a war of words with the dissatisfied customer, however unjust you regard the comments. Be professional, factual and if necessary, contrite.
Bear in mind, that is it not just Google Reviews that will help you rank well in local searches (though they should be your priority). There is plenty of evidence that reviews from local directories such as Yelp.com and Yell.com will help significantly.
Increase Business Listings in Local Directories
More generally this is often referred to as local citations. Google will look out for how frequently your business name is mentioned within a local context (and note that the name on another local website doesn’t necessarily need to also contain a hyper-link to your website.). This is the main reason why your business Name, Address Phone number (frequently referred to as NAP in this context) is consistent across different pages of your website, Google My Business and local directory listings.
It is worth getting your business listed for at least 10 well-known directories (such as Yelp.com, Yell.com, Thompsons Local, Foursquare are better than specialist photography directories); but after that diminishing returns set in fairly quickly. The listing process is straightforward, but unfortunately time consuming. There are plenty of online providers that will do this for you including Fat Joe and Moz Local (this is more expensive but has the advantage of monitoring which directories are most important, and ensuring your details are kept up-to-date with them).
On-Page SEO Factors
It is clear from the Moz Surveys that general strength in SEO (both on-page and link authority) benefit local listings (though they do NOT seem to be the most important factors). But there are specific on-page SEO elements that you can implement for local searches. The key one is adding your city or region to the title tag (for example, Event Photography in Glasgow | ABC Photographers Ltd). And if possible, try to include your geo-specific details in the page URL, H1 tag, Image ALT attributes and meta description tags. You are very likely to use your region in your general content – which will also help – but don’t go beyond the natural level of repetition (otherwise Google may ignore it, or worse, deliberately weaken your rank if it deems that you are trying to “game” it).
If you are technically inclined you could also add geo-specific Schema (structured data format) to your website, which is another (gold-plated) way of telling Google’s bots what your business does. Google uses this data as the basis for rich snippets and knowledge graphs – though it is less common for local searches.
There is some evidence that social signals will help your local search rankings. In fact, anything that your business would do naturally to drive traffic from social media (for example local events shared on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) will count as a local citation and help in this regard.