It's important to prepare the foundation that these efforts will rest on. The first step in this process is to evaluate the overall structure of your website. The structure includes things like how a user navigates the site, the way your URLs are written, and how many clicks it takes to arrive at some of your most important content.
- At this point, we've looked at keywords, identifying your competition, and ways to build an overall strategy, but before rolling out that new plan, it's important to prepare the foundation that these efforts will rest on. The first step in this process is to evaluate the overall structure of your website. The structure includes things like how a user navigates the site, the way your URLs are written, and how many clicks it takes to arrive at some of your most important content. The structure is important because it's the roadmap Google will use when it crawls your website and ranks your pages.
Google needs to understand what content is most important to your users, how you organize that information, and what additional signals you've provided. Let's take a closer look at site structures and URL conventions. So, a site structure can be flat or deep. Now, every website that has more than one page uses some structure for organizing all of that content. Typically sites organize content into groups or categories. Now how you decide to group your site will dramatically impact how it works both for users and for search engines.
The less clicks a user has to make to get to the important content, the better. The closer your content is to your homepage, the more value it's going to receive, and also on that note, the better the category that the page is in, the more contextual value that the sub-page will receive as well. So to help understand this, let's take a look at a flat hierarchy. So here at the very top we would have our homepage, and the links below that represented by the second line would be our sub-navigation, and here these pages might be things like About Us, Services, Locations, and our contact info.
If we had for example multiple locations, we would then place those in the third row under the locations heading, or the locations page. A deep structure looks more like this. As you can see, some content is buried deep within the site. This means a user has to click more times to arrive at the content. This also means that Google has to travel further through your sitemap to index the content, and the further Google goes, the less value it's applying to each page. Right, so it simply sees the pages at the bottom further away from your homepage as less important.
One other thing that's really important to pay attention to is the idea of siloed content. In this sitemap, you'll see I have a page over here on the right, and it's not receiving a link from the homepage or any page for that matter. This suggests to Google, if it can even find it, that it's really not important to you. So if you're building content around a particular service and you want to have a landing page for that, it's really important that it's linked to from some section of your site as opposed to being in its own silo. Now, there are exceptions to every rule.
In some situations there are simply too many categories to show them all at one level, and in other cases, showing some topics too soon might confuse your audience. It might be better to have some intermediate category pages to help provide context. So the next thing I want to look at is URL naming conventions. Just as our site structure is important, so too is how we name our URLs. The best strategy is to design your URLs for your users, easy to understand, and easy to remember URLs are key.
So what I'm gonna do now is pull up an example from a site called Explore California. Explore California provides adventure tours and overnight trips in California. They have a local office in Ventura, so they're gonna benefit from some local SEO. Here on their site, we have the primary navigation on the left-hand side, and I'm gonna click into Tours to give you a good example of what's pretty common, but can be made better. At the top of the screen in the browser address bar, we can look at the URL that they've provided, and here we have explorecalifornia.org/tours.htm.
It's not terrible, but it's not fantastic either, and here's two things that I would focus on here. First if you can, I would remove the need for extensions such as .htm, and .php. These really impact the usability for your users. It's not only going to allow for better navigation of your categories, which I'll show you more about in a minute, but it's also easy to remember and return to later. Second, the category is a great opportunity for localization, so I would include a local modifier from our research that is most relevant and use it here.
So this URL might be better as explorecalifornia.org/california-tours. Let's look at a specific tour which will be sort of a sub-page of this category, and I'll do that by scrolling down and choosing Learn more on this Backpack Cal tour. So if we look up in the top address bar, we can see that our URL is now explorecalifornia.org/tours, and that /tours part is nice because that puts us in a category, gives some context to this page, and then we have the actual link to the page which is tour_detail_backpack.htm.
So first in this case, best practices suggest not using underscores in URLs. An underscore doesn't explicitly indicate to Google that these are separate words. A hyphen is really the way to go. A hyphen will indicate that these are each unique terms. We can also make this a little better by adding some additional location context. We don't need to overdo it. It's always a good idea to not force keywords where they don't belong, because Google's wise to that, so you want to keep it natural and relevant. In this case, I might put backpack-california, because that's the name of this tour, and it also includes some localized information in the form of the state California.
Now remember earlier I was talking about tours.htm? That's because it would be great if I could delete backpack-california, and just hit Enter in my browser and go back to the tours page. In this case, I'm getting an index of this folder. I really would love to appear here, back at the top of this category. I encourage you to focus on building a clear site structure, as flat as makes sense for your brand, and then build simple but descriptive URLs that feature really nice folder structures, and include the keywords that you identified in your research.
First, get an overview of the local SEO landscape, tips for evaluating and optimizing your site, and advice on conducting keyword research. Author Brad Batesole also shows how to optimize your site structure and on-page content, acquire local citations, and make sure your name, address, and phone (NAP) information is consistent across the web.
Want to appear in Google Maps and local search results? Find out how to make sure your listing shows up by setting up your Google My Business page, and learn how to incorporate links and reviews. Finally, discover how to secure backlinks from reputable sources and handle SEO for a business that has multiple locations. If you want to boost your ranking, understand the competition, or just understand how search engines like Google operate at a local level, this is the course for you.
- What is local SEO?
- Understanding local ranking factors
- Identifying your top keywords
- Researching the competition
- Optimizing your site structure
- Using and testing structured data
- Creating localized content
- Optimizing on-page elements
- Tracking results
- Acquiring local citations
- Creating a Google My Business page
- Securing backlinks
- Collecting reviews
- Handling multiple locations
Skill Level Intermediate
Q: This course was updated on 08/30/2017. What changed?
A: The following topics were updated: identifying your top keywords, researching local keyword modifiers, optimizing page speed, setting up Google Search Console, creating a Google My Business page, outfitting your local listing with content, using the Google My Business interface, and securing reviews on Google and other sites.