Local SEO, like all SEO, is a constantly moving target. Many local businesses had their search rankings reshuffled when Google rolled out the Pigeon update to their search algorithm in July of 2014.
There are always things you can control search results and some that you can’t. Today, I’d like to focus on one detail that you can control, which is submitting a Geo Sitemap to Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools.
Why Do I Need A Geo Sitemap?
Search engines are increasingly relying on microdata to get structured information about many things, including businesses and their locations. Two formats that search engines like are RDFa, used by Schema.org and Microformats.
If you are a business owner, rest assured. It is not necessary for you to understand everything about microdata. Simply know that having it in key areas helps search engines get more relevant information about your business, which will help your rankings in local search.
Generate Your Sitemaps
There is a handy Geo Sitemap Generator located at http://www.geositemapgenerator.com. Go there and start the process.
You’ll be prompted to fill out your business location information. This will be used to generate a KML file in the next step. You can add more than one location, or upload these details via a CSV file (Excel) if you wish.
To move forward, you must hit the Add Location button. It’s a little confusing why the page was set up this way, but it makes the Step 2 button appear.
On the next screen, you’ll be prompted to enter your website URL, followed by a filename for your KML (the default is locations.kml). You may also add a description and file author. These will be part of the KML file as well. Fill these in and hit the Generate! button.
A small modal window will open, asking you if you want to Download Now or Get An Email When File Is Ready. The only time you might opt to get an email when your download is ready is if you have fifty or more locations in your file.
Download both the KML file and Geo Sitemap. Upload both of these to the root of your website. You can usually do this through FTP or by accessing your File Manager through your hosting admin panel.
Make a note of what URLs point towards these files. You will need this information in a second.
Log into your respective Webmaster Tools accounts, and submit your Geo Sitemap to Google and Bing. You will find the Sitemap link for Google under Crawl > Sitemaps.
You will find the sitemaps link in Bing under Configure My Site > Sitemaps. If you uploaded the Geo Sitemap to your website root, the URL should be yourdomain.com/geositemap.xml.
What’s going on is we are submitting a XML sitemap to the search engines, but instead of listing web pages, we are pointing the search engines towards the physical location of our business. This will help search engines verify that we are a local business.
Finishing With Some On-Page SEO
The last thing we can do is add some microdata to the HTML of our business website. You’ll notice in the sidebar, there is a widget where you can choose either Schema.org or Microformats microdata, and Copy-Paste that into your website. This could go anywhere you are currently listing locations information, like your footer, sidebar, or contact page.
Each step you take to improve your local SEO won’t rocket you to the top all by itself. But all the little actions put together as a whole, will certainly improve your chances of being found by local customers.