Local SEO for SMEs in Canterbury and Kent
Local SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is the process of optimising your website and online presence to improve its visibility in the search results for local search queries. Done correctly it can significantly help SMEs attract more customers within a local radius.
Optimising your website for local search – finding a strategy
Regularly optimising your online assets for local search gradually increases your online visibility. Over time this growing, organic presence will attract more local customers to your business. It will also improve your standing within the local business community.
Being an SME in Canterbury, Kent ourselves, we've used this location pairing as an example throughout this article.
An effective local strategy for "Canterbury and Kent"
Ranking highly in local searches empowers a small business. Creating a local and ongoing SEO strategy is the process that makes it a reality. Focus, persistence and regular activity are crucial for SMEs in Canterbury and Kent that want get found and grow at the town and county level.
Local search rank improvements - where to start?
Begin by auditing your website for content quality, mobile-friendliness, and site speed. These are prequisites for ranking well in any search, including the local variety. Use geographical references in your page meta descriptions, titles and primary headings as often as is naturally possible. In our example I'm using "Canterbury and Kent SMEs" to demonstrate and emphasise our local relevance.
Working on your website pages is a dynamic art. Blending a mix of title tags, meta descriptions, and optimised images to best describe the content, meaning and value of each page. The goal is to make your site attractive to search engine crawlers and human traffic alike. Our advice is to be authentic, helpful and credible.
Incorporating localised keywords is instrumental in this process but keep things as simple as possible. If you’re a café in Canterbury it's essential to have your location and business type in your page meta tags - ie: 'Canterbury Café'. Everybody, including search bots instantly understands where you are and what you do. User search relevance increases leading to an improved click-through rate and hopefully more visitors to the café.
Understanding the importance of keyword research in local SEO
The objective of keyword research is to try and find a sweet spot. We're looking for high volume localised search phrases with relatively low competition. Generally speaking longer phrases beat shorter ones at the local level in this respect.
A long tail keyword is generally composed of three to five words. Because these keywords are more specific when combined, they allow you to target a more niched demographic. They are more specific and less competitive than short-tail keywords. And local search is niche by definition. Take advantage of this by being more specific with your localised content.
Local SEO - Content & keywords, always mobile first
Creating page content that understands and meets the intention of a local search should always be at the centre of a localised strategy.
Three musts for localised content
Always emphasise the relevance, proximity and prominence of your business brand when creating content for a local target market.
Engineer your business brand to align with local customer needs. Create messaging that shows you understand their needs and that you know how to help. These are two powerful signals that will be noticed by searchers. The stronger the correlation between these two, the higher your ranking in the results.
Essentially, how close is your business to the searcher or the area they're interested in? As you'd expect the closer together the better. So you've now said to searchers: we understand what you're looking for, we can help and we're closeby. That's three big ticks.
In the case of hdcreate.uk's proximity, it's Canterbury as the city/town and Kent as the region/county.
Prominence measures your brand's fame in the local online world. Good ratings, positive reviews, and strong local SEO all help tilt the scales in favour of businesses looking to rank for locational searches. It's the final tick. Confirmation that you are really there and doing what you say.
Ensure your business address(es) and local phone number(s) feature on every page of your site. Also, consider localising your URL structures. For example using us the url: https://hdcreate.uk/canterbury-marketing-blog rather than just /blog. Do this with care for any pages that are already indexed (on Google and Bing) however. Each search engine will need any indexed URL update explained to them using a redirection notice (it's moved to here) anlong with a canonicalisation tag (this is the prefered version of it).
You can do the same with your image alt tags (alt tags describe the image to browsers and are used in search ranking). Your images will then start appearing in the results for local image searches. If the image conveys understanding and meets intention it may well result in a click-through and site visit. Think of them as key images instead of keywords.
Conducting keyword research
Dig deep into your market's language and regional vernacular. Unearth the right keywords for your Canterbury (town) and Kent (region) SME optimised pages. These phrases are pivotal to enhancing local SEO performance. Get into your customers' heads and create a persona (target client profile). Figure out out what they're typing into their search bars and incorporate it into your content.
Specific regional language and terms often drive local searches. Unlocking the potential of a local SEO strategy starts with understanding how your potential customers are looking for the services or products you offer. It's not just about the words; it's also about how they are used contextually.
Tools and techniques for effective keyword research
By identifying the right keywords to target, you can ensure that your website is visible to the people who are most likely to be interested in your products or services.
There are a number of different tools and techniques that you can use for keyword research. Here are a few of the most popular:
- Google Keyword Planner: Google Keyword Planner is a free tool that provides data on search volume, competition, and CPC (Cost Per Click). An estimated value for each keyword. The higher the CPC amount the more valuable Google considers it to be.
- SEMrush: SEMrush is a paid tool with a limited (but powerful) free version. It offers a comprehensive suite of SEO tools, including keyword research, website analysis, and competitor research.
- Ahrefs: Ahrefs is another paid tool with a comprehensive suite of SEO tools. Backlink analysis, keyword research, and website ranking analysis are it's strongest assets.
Other techniques for keyword research:
- Analysing your competitors: Take a look at the keywords that your competitors are ranking for. This can give you some ideas of the keywords that you should be targeting.
- Using Google Search Console: Google Search Console's default setting provides you with data on the keywords that people are using in searches that matched your website content over the past 28 days. This invaluable insight can be used to identify new keyword opportunities for your site's pages.
- Using Google Trends: Google Trends shows you how the search popularity for various keywords is changing over time. This data can be used to identify trending keywords that you can possibly target and tailor for localisation.
Having identified a list of potential keywords, you can begin to evaluate them. Determine which ones provide the best fit for your business. When doing this consider the following factors:
- Search volume: How many people are searching for this keyword each month? Are enough people searching for the phrase to merit the effort?
- Competition: How difficult is it to rank for this keyword? How many of your competitors are fighting to rank first for the term?
- Relevancy: How relevant is this keyword to your business? The more it aligns with your services or products the more effort it deserves.
- Intent: What is the intent of people who are searching for this keyword? Are they just looking for information about the subject? Do they want to learn more about businesses that can meet their search intent? (commercial). Or is their intention transactional? (are they ready to buy).
Having evaluated your keyword phrases, start to incorporate them into your SEO strategy and website content.
Additional tips for keyword research
- Use long-tail keywords: Phrases made up of four or five words are more specific and less competitive than short-tail keywords (one or two words). Searchers often append or prepend their search with a location or add the ubiquitous "near me". An example would be "Xero small business accountants in Canterbury". Understanding and planning to intercept longtail search phrases is one of the most effective methods of targetting your ideal customers within a local search radius.
- Use LSI keywords (Latent Semantic Indexing): These are keywords related to your primary keyword that are judged by search engines to be semantically relevant. For example "Xero" or "Quickbooks" appearing on the same page as "accounting". Their presence reinforces and subsequently improves a web page's ranking for it's primary keywords.
- Use geographic keywords: If you are targeting a local audience, be sure to include geographic keywords in your keyword research. This should obviously include your town/regional pairing (Canterbury/Kent). But also any specific supporting words or phrases with a strong, local association. In our case the words "Cathedral, historic, city and Kentish" could all be seen as being geographically relevant.
This is the small sentence that appears in the search results page under each page title. It's your page hook and needs to provide a succinct, appealing and localised overview of the page content to tempt a click through from a local searcher. Keep it shorter than 160 characters to prevent it being cut short with three elipses '...', before you've had time to present your hook to the searcher.
Structured data, or Schema markup
Structured data is a way to markup your web page content so that search engines can better understand it and extract parts to use in other ways and in other places. It applies standardised formatting for classifying the page content and providing additional information.
These rich snippets of information are often included in the search results pages as stand alone items or increasingly in search engine suggestions. The bit that says "People also searched for". Their use is increasing as generative search engines learn to extract the most relevant references they can find related to the search intent and then compile the services, products, businesses and brands they find in their index that meet the searchers intent.
These structures give search engines precise context about your business. It all gets a bit technical and syntax heavy but is definitely worth the effort in my opinion. Used correctly they can provide a huge boost to local traffic for your website and help to grow the topical authority of a local brand. Your web host/developer or content marketing advisor should be able to provide you with more assistance regarding their implementation on your web pages.
Location-specific landing pages
Creating location-specific landing pages allows a business to concentrate on a single location. A good example would be creating a page for local towns villages and other locations of interest. They need a realistic proximity to the primary pairing to be credible however. Nay more than a five miles within Kent is stretching credibility in my opinion. In the case of Canterbury for example, Chartham and Sturry would be obvious contenders.
This tactic signals to searchers at these locations that your business is close by and ready to help. The more tailored your page is to a local audience, the more likely they are to engage and do business. Location-specific landing pages help to maximise local conversion rates.
If you are unsure how to make any of the updates listed above yourself, your web designer/developer should be able to help.
The importance of mobile optimisation for local search rankings
Over 60% of all searches are now performed on mobile devices (unverified but agreed by multiple sources). Your website needs to open quickly and meet the local intent we discussed earlier when it gets a tap from the results page. If your website is not mobile-friendly, you are probably missing out on a large number of potential customers.
Mobile optimisation for local SEO
- Make sure your website is responsive: A responsive website will automatically adjust to fit the screen size of the device it is being viewed on. This ensures that your website looks good and functions well on all devices. From large dekstop screens through to tablets and slim mobile devices.
- Use a large enough font: Make sure that the body font size on your website is large enough to be easily read on a mobile device.
- Use simple navigation: Avoid using complex navigation menus on your website. Instead, use simple navigation buttons and links that are spaced apart enough for easy and accurate tapping.
- Use high-quality images: Make sure that the original images are good quality and that they are optimised, formatted and correctly resized for mobile devices.
- Test your website on multiple devices: Having optimised your website for mobiles, be sure to test it on a variety of models. Make sure that it looks good and functions well on all of them.
- Track your mobile traffic: Track mobile traffic seperately from desktop and monitor mobile performance in isolation. This data can help make sure your website is optimised for mobile devices. Also ensure your site is using Google Analytics GA4. This newer version makes it easier to seperate and analyse traffic by device type.
The benefits of a mobile first, local strategy
- Improved local search rankings: Google takes mobile optimisation into account when ranking websites in local search results. If your website is not mobile-friendly, you are likely to rank lower in local search results than your competitors whose sites are mobile-friendly.
- Increased website traffic: More and more people are using their mobile devices to access the internet each year. Ensuring your website is mobile-friendly opens your brand's reach to a wider local audience.
- Improved conversion rates: Mobile-friendly websites are more likely to convert local visitors into local customers. Mobile users are more likely to complete a purchase or visit a location if the website is easy to use and navigate. Very many still aren't so this is a good way to steal the lead in local searches.
- Better customer experience: A mobile-friendly website give users confidence in your brand. Searchers landing on your pages find the information they need and complete tasks quickly and easily. Trust and credibility are boosted by this positive user experience. Local prominence grows as a result.
Your "Google Business Profile" and local directory listings
Improving local relevance and visibility is the key to local growth. Nothing can help you unlock it faster than a high ranking in Google's local listings.
Google – The number one local search directory
- Claim and then optimise your Google Business Profile listing: Start by claiming your business location on Google (link opposite)(link above). Make sure you provide accurate and detailed information about your business. Include your full address, phone number, opening hours, and website URL. Choose the category closest to your business model and upload at least six high-quality and relevant images that your local target market can relate to. Update your profile monthly with any changes. Keep your Google profile fresh and relevant.
- Get listed in local directories: Your business needs to be listed in as many local business directories as possible. Add it to the obvious contenders, depending on the service you provide. Yelp, Yellow Pages, TripAdvisor etc. Make sure your NAP (Name, Address, Phone number) is consistent across all directories. These directories provide valuable backlinks to your website. They also help search engines understand the relevance and location of your business.
- Create localised content: Publish, regular high-quality and informative content on your website that is relevant, helpful and locally focussed.
Optimising NAP Citations
Keep your NAP (Name, Address, Phone number) citations consistent and accurate across all platforms. Without NAP citation optimisation, even the best-executed local SEO strategies can fall short. It's pivotal in allowing customers to find your business easily and increasing your visibility for local search.
Think of NAP citations as your online business card. Each citation is a chance for a potential customer in Canterbury or Kent to find you. It's all in the details; any difference, even the slightest one, could confuse search engines and hurt your ranking.
This detail-oriented approach might feel nitpicking at first, but it’s a must if you want to compete with other SMEs in the Canterbury and Kent marketplace. Remember, consumers trust online information. Maintaining your NAP citation accuracy is one of the keys to local SEO success.
Local citations and backlinks
Local citations and backlinks are two of the most important factors in local SEO. Local citations are mentions of your business name, address, and/or phone number (NAP) on other websites. Backlinks are links from other websites to your website.
Both local citations and backlinks can help to improve your website's visibility and ranking in local search results. Not all local citations and backlinks are created equal however. High-quality local citations and backlinks from relevant websites will have a positive impact on your local SEO. Low-quality local citations and backlinks from irrelevant websites are a waste at best and damaging at worst.
Check and review who's mentioning you on a regular basis. It's in the interest of unscrupulous competitors to see you downgraded in the local SERPS (search engine results pages).
If you spot a link that you never asked for and don't want try contacting the source requesting it's removal. If that doesn't work you can disavow the link in Google and/or Bing (links opposite)(links above)
Seek out high quality, local backlinks. Make sure they are from a reputable and genuinely local source. Reciprocal links can be a powerful ally in the process of local optimisation. Be sure to build them naturally over time and always prioritise quality over quantity.
Strategies for obtaining quality local citations and backlinks
- Create high-quality content: Create high-quality content that other websites will want to link to. This could include blog posts, articles, infographics, or videos.
- Guest blogging: Guest blogging is another useful way to grow backlinks from other sites. Reach out to other websites in your industry and see if you can write a guest post for them. Be sure to include or ask for a link to your website in your guest post author bio.
- Partner with other local businesses: Partnering with other local businesses in a symbiotic relationship is another excellent way to gain local citations and backlinks. You could for example cross-promote each other's businesses and events on both websites and social media pages. Done correctly it's a mutual back scratching win.
Local SEO – Social Media and performance analysis
Social media is a powerful tool that can be used to considerably improve your local SEO.
By correctly leveraging social media, you can connect with potential customers in your local area, promote your business, and build backlinks to your website.
If you'd like to learn how we could help your business with localised search or discuss anything covered by this article, please contact me.
Tips for leveraging social media in a local growth strategy
- Claim your business listings on social media: Make sure that your business is listed on all of the major social media platforms you would expect within your sector. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn are still the most popular but research others that might provide a more niche and local benefit as well.
Within the larger portals search for focus groups, webinars and discussions related to your location. Be sure to complete your business listings with accurate information, including your business name, address, phone number, website URL, and hours of operation.
- Promote your business on social media: Social Networks can be powerful at the local level. Be sure to share links (where possible) to your website within your social posts and messages. If it doesn't let you link still mention your site with a recomendation to search locally for the keywords you dominate. In our case "find us on Google - Creative Agency Canterbury".
Encourage your customers to comment on your posts and always reply to any questions they might have regarding location related information.
- Encourage customers to leave reviews: Actively encourage reviews of your business. They help to improve EEAT (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness), reputation and credibility. Thank positive reviewers. Acknowledge justifiable criticism and reply with any related service or product improvements that are planned or in place.
Using social media platforms to improve local visibility
- Share relevant and engaging content: Share content that is relevant to your target audience that is likely to interest them. This could include blog posts, articles, infographics, or videos. Be sure to include images and videos in your posts. They always increase engagement. Add local details naturally and only where relevant.
- Run social media contests and giveaways: Contests and giveaways are another possible way to attract attention to your business and to generate leads. Promote them heavily on your website and on social media if you do this. They can be beneficial but are usually time and resource hungry. Be sure your business can manage it all successfuly before committing.
Local hashtags – Use them at every opportunity
Local hashtags can help your social media posts to be seen by more people in your local area. For example this article has been posted on LikedIn, Twitter and Facebook with accompanying hashtags to help boost engagement using #LocalSEO #Canterbury #Kent. Hashtags can be optimised and tested using generators such as Hashtagify.
Setting up and monitoring Google Analytics
Turning numbers into narratives: Google Analytics helps SMEs pinpoint which strategies work and what needs improvement. Demographics and engagement in GA4 can both be targeted to give feedback related to locally optimised content and metrics. Tweak, update and repeat to discover the who, where when and how related to your local site traffic.
Navigating through Google Analytics can be daunting but is worthy of your perseverance. Key performance metrics including impressions, clicks, conversions and local pack visibility give insightful data that helps you to hone and refine your local strategy over time.
Google updates – an opportunity for those who are prepared: Google's algorithm changes aren't meant to throw off businesses. They're designed to provide searchers with the best results and ensure that businesses in the listings meet standards of quality expected by searchers. Swift adaptation to the ever-changing trends can give your business a competitive edge here.
Businesses that have prepared can take advantage of these updates to move up the ranks following each rollout. Learn as much as you can about how, why and when the next Google and Bing updates are scheduled so you can preempt and then be ready and waiting to take full advantages post update. Blogs such as Search Engine Land, Moz, and SEO by the Sea are great sources of information for the latest SEO knowledge and search engine news.
If you need help implementing a local SEO strategy for your business, consider partnering with a local SEO agency. A good agency can help you with all aspects of local SEO, from keyword research to website optimisation, link building, reporting and refining your strategy for the coming year.
Organic local growth - the long term benefits
- Improved search visibility among local customers
- Heightened reach and interaction with your target demographic
- Elevated online competitive presence
- Increased local online traffic
- Boosted customer engagement and loyalty
- Enhanced chances of higher local SERP ranking
Local SEO is an essential part of any online marketing strategy for small businesses in Canterbury and Kent. I hope the tips and advice in this article help you to improve your local visibility and attract more customers.