WordPress largely owes its undisputed reign in the CMS realm to its versatility, so it’s no wonder that it’s an ideal choice for small and local business websites.
You don’t need to cash out on an experienced webmaster to get the website you want, not to mention the CMS itself is free – these are all crucial points for a small business with limited resources.
Another great thing about using WordPress is that you don’t need extensive technical knowledge to optimize your site. SEO is often an issue for local businesses, precisely because of the technicalities and effort involved.
We still see a large number of local enterprises with at least a few pieces missing in their SEO puzzle – whether it’s a faulty Google My Business listing, a site that’s not optimized for mobile, or a number of other instances. In this day and age, a high search ranking is essential for a local business to thrive – and the flexibility of WordPress puts you at an advantage in this regard.
Let’s have a look at the best SEO practices you need to implement to improve the local search ranking of your WordPress website.
1. Go a step further from choosing a responsive theme
Without question, responsiveness is a crucial factor for search rankings. All your SEO efforts will be in vain if you don’t have a website that doesn’t work equally well on all devices.
You might know already that Google now uses the mobile-first index, which means that the mobile version of your site is regarded as the primary version, as opposed to desktop, for ranking and indexing. Even if this wasn’t the case, local businesses are in a special position regarding mobile optimization.
That’s because most local searches are conducted on mobile, as people most often search for restaurants, stores, and such while on the go, looking for the businesses closest to their current location.
That’s why you not only need to use a responsive theme, but it’s best to actually design your website for the mobile-first experience. You’ll need to use the built-in wp_is_mobile() function, which will detect the devices used and help customize your website for mobile users.
2. Use plugins to improve loading speed
Fast loading is another absolute must for better rankings, and local search is no exception. Consumers don’t tolerate slow websites, especially not when they’re standing on the sidewalk and researching on their phones which business they’ll go to right now.
Understanding these so-called micro-moments is vital for local business marketing, and site speed is just a part of it.
With a WordPress website, you’ll have a number of plugins at your disposal to help you speed things up:
- Use WP Smush for image compression and optimization.
- Use any legitimate caching plugin to reduce server response time. You can opt for a premium plugin such as WP Rocket, but free ones like WP Super Cache will do the job too.
- Use the default AMP plugin to create an Accelerated Mobile Page – a page designed for mobile, with impressive loading speed.
There are also various WordPress SEO plugins to make things simple, but you certainly don’t need all of them. The most prominent one is Yoast SEO, which we’ll get to in a moment.
3. Maintain the plugins and themes
With the previous said, make sure you’re not going overboard with the plugins. Each needs to have a distinct purpose and be obviously beneficial to your website’s functionality.
You’ll find a plugin for pretty much any function out there, but having a lot more than the necessary essentials will certainly hamper loading speed.
You’ll need to pay attention to your theme as well. WordPress website maintenance also involves cleaning up the theme by disposing of outdated page elements.
4. Add location terms in URLs
When it comes to local search, customized URLs can really improve the user experience, and consequently, search engine rankings. By including location keywords in URLs, you’ll help visitors find your website and its specific pages more easily through organic search.
This is especially important if you feature more than one landing page, where each targets a different location, and you want to avoid confusion in navigation.
Customizing your URLs is easily done on your WordPress Admin Panel. Click Settings > Permalinks > Custom Structure, where you’ll be able to adjust your URL settings and add a location.
5. Optimize content
Many local businesses don’t feature a blog section on their sites, but creating a blog with relevant content will give you a competitive edge. If you don’t have a blog yet, consider making one – you don’t have to write exclusively industry-related posts, but you could also feature relevant community news and updates.
That way, your website has the potential of becoming a popular destination for members of the community. This would not only boost your ranking, but also positively affect your business beyond the online landscape.
The most important thing is to create content that is actually valuable to your audience, and search engines have ways of identifying how your content resonates with viewers.
With your content in place, use the Yoast SEO plugin for on-page optimization. This plugin will simplify the process for you, using a system of color-coded scores to direct you to the various factors that need improvement.
6. Practice organic link building
Regardless of whether it’s local or global SEO, a WordPress website or not, building quality backlinks remains a foundational strategy for improving rankings. In fact, research has shown that links are the most important factor for localized organic rankings. Which is why, once again, having a properly optimized blog will help extend your SEO strategy.
Link building for a WordPress site is no different from any other type of website when it comes to link building. Be prepared for it to take time, and always prioritize quality over quantity by looking for reputable, industry-relevant blogs to guest post on.
The WordPress-specific part comes with how you maintain your link profile – make sure to use a plugin like the Broken Link Checker to find and fix broken links.
7. Integrate Google My Business into the site
Obviously, you’ll want to make sure your website is added to your Google My Business profile, along with a description and hours of operation.
GMB factors such as user reviews, physical proximity, and business descriptions are all signals that Google uses to position a business in search results.
Use widgets and plugins that will allow you to transfer crucial ranking signals from your GMB page to your website. This includes photos, customer reviews, and a business map.
For example, the Google Places Reviews plugin lets you add GMB reviews to your site, thus helping you build your online reputation and credibility.
SEO is a continuous effort, not something you set up and then watch as it does its magic. Having good foundations is crucial, and once you have that, you can take it from there with website maintenance, SEO tweaks, and link building. Follow these practices to lay the groundwork for a successful local SEO strategy.