Keywords have always been one of the most important aspects of search engine optimisation, to doubt that would be madness. But with recent updates to Google’s Pigeon algorithm, a few things have changed and caused a little confusion with regards to how local terms are used. However, for all the changes that the algorithm has brought to how location affects SEO (which will be discussed later on), there seems to have developed a myth among some campaign managers that localised keywords have lost their importance, well I’m here to tell you that this is simply not true. Localised keywords are in fact, as important now as they have ever been, in fact they may have become even more important. But in what way, and how? Well to answer those questions, one needs to discuss the Pigeon algorithm for a better understanding of how it works with your SEO efforts.
A very brief rundown of the Pigeon algorithm
The Google Pigeon algorithm was devised to make search results more relevant to a user’s queries, and one of the main ways that it does this is by taking a website or business’s location into account. Without you having to optimise it otherwise with keywords, your site will now have its ranking affected by its relevance to the location that users are searching from.
So if I run a fish and chips shop in Brisbane, this algorithm will likely present my website as a result on a SERP in accordance to the location the user is at when they search. So, my site will only show up if they are searching for seafood restaurants in the area. In fact the algorithm even deals with locations in a much more specific sense, where I might find that Brisbane doesn’t drive traffic to my site, because what I need are search terms that relay my exact location, and might only compete with other sea food restaurants in Logan City, if that’s where my shop is. Meaning that Brisbane is no longer a specific enough term.
Now all of this might lead you to think that localised keywords have then lost their importance, since the Pigeon algorithm does most of the work in this regard. But it may not be enough for anyone who is looking to attract an audience with anyone who is even vaguely outside of their locale.
And that is where your keywords come in…
So let’s say for instance that my little Brisbane fish and chips shop has gained popularity from word of mouth, as far south as Sydney, so an interested party over there (knowing that they will travel to Brisbane) decides to look me up with the term ‘Fish and Chips Brisbane.’ Well now… this might be a game changer, but it’s a full service agency that knows how to deal with.
Unfortunately, the work done by the Pigeon algorithm will not be enough to fetch my sight onto the SERP using this term. And this is where your keywords become very important.
Localised searches for my business, coming from users who are outside of my area now depend heavily on the kind of keywords I have implemented into my website’s content. So if I haven’t set any up, people who are searching for terms related to my business will likely not come across my website at all. Whereas if I have managed my local keywords properly (both in content and meta-data), and my SEO is up to par, they will likely see my site in their results.
Using localised keywords to get ahead of local competition
But what if there are quite a few fish and chips shops in my little corner of Brisbane who also have successful websites and a decent team of SEOs? The fact that we are all ranking locally in the same area will likely pit our rankings up against each other, even if their optimisation efforts are shady. So how do we get around this? Simple, by investing in even more specific, relevant and localised keywords than they have. This way you won’t be relying on the Pigeon algorithm for all of your ranking power, as far your location is concerned.
Having said this, the rules for SEO rankings have not changed, especially as far as keyword usage has gone. While it is a good idea to capitalise on as many of the possible search queries as you can (such as ‘fish and chips Brisbane; fish and chips Logan City’, etc.) one does need to be careful not to spam their content with these localised keywords. Being tempted by black hat SEO techniques such as this will just result in poorer rankings, even if they seem to be doing well initially.
A local optimisation checklist
If all of this seems a little bit overwhelming, don’t worry, once you get into it you’ll realise that it’s not as complicated as it looks. But just in case, here is a checklist that you can use to determine how well your site is optimised for locations:
- Optimise title tags and meta-descriptions with localised keywords.
- Remember that Google’s crawlers use this information to describe your website and rank it accordingly. So to get the most of your local keywords, be sure to use them here as well.
- Get your site’s ‘contact page’ up to scratch
- Set up your contact us page to be accessible from every page on your website. Be sure that it contains your company’s name, address and phone number. Another great idea is to have a Google map displayed that can give directions to your possible customers (and assist Pigeon with your ranking), and why not, a street view as well… just for good measure.
- Make your fixed content work locally
- It is a good idea to include local keywords in your fixed content. That would be the text you find on the about us page, your service page, product descriptions or any other text that is a permanent feature on your blog.
- Work local keywords into all of your content
- Content writers for blogs about local businesses should take care to write under the theme of the business’s locale. In doing this, you almost can’t help including localised keywords.
- Mobile optimisation is key
- Since Google Pigeon uses the location of the user in its search queries, you’ll need to make sure that your site can take advantage of this by being optimised for mobile browsing. The algorithm is most effective on mobile devices that share their location with Google, so if phones and tablets can’t browse your site adequately, you’re probably missing out on what Pigeon has to offer.
- Dominate local social media
- Social media platforms such as Facebook and Google+ will allow you to interact with your audience at a local level, and show your involvement in the community, further entrenching details about your location. It is therefore important to set up profiles on a number of local social media platforms, and then link them to your website.
So as you can see, far from falling by the wayside, localised keywords still hold an incredible amount of importance when it comes to local SEO. So if you haven’t already done it, make Pigeon work for you and not your competition, start putting more emphasis and energy into your website’s local keywords.