If you found this article on Google, we’re off to a good start, because it means you can trust my knowledge about Local SEO for Vancouver! I’m Tanja, part of a small digital team in Vancouver and I love helping businesses rise to the top of the Google Search Results!
This article will explain what local SEO is, who it’s for and how you can get started on optimizing your own website.
SEO versus Local SEO
As a business owner or entrepreneur you probably already know that it’s not enough to have a beautiful website and “just wait” until it shows up in search results. SEO can help you find more clients. For free!
SEO or search engine optimization is the process of optimizing everything on your website (as well as working on other off-site factors) to make sure your content gets picked up by search engines. And of course everyone is aiming for a coveted spot on Google’s first page!
Local SEO is the aspect of SEO that focuses on being found in a specific geographical area.
Why focus on Local SEO and who is it for
If your business has a physical location that your customers can visit, it’s crucial you’re found by local people that are searching for what you offer. For example, you have a bakery in Vancouver and someone nearby is looking for a birthday cake. You want your business to show up with places on the map like below.
But you don’t need to have a brick and mortar business to benefit from local SEO! When you offer your services to a certain area, it’s important for you too. Maybe you’re an electrician in Vancouver without a storefront. But you still want to be found in those location specific searches.
Even companies (such as our own Chunky Squirrel!) that work with worldwide businesses can benefit from local SEO. Because we are in Vancouver, we can register our local business here and work with other local companies. You can have a global AND local strategy for your company.
Local SEO in Vancouver: where to start
All SEO starts with knowing what your business goals are! Who are your customers, where are they, what do they need, what do you offer,… And what is your goal for your business? When you know the answers to these questions, you can start with your keywords research.
Local keyword research
Keywords or key phrases are the sentences you want to be found for when someone enters them in Google. I often refer to Google, but the same rules work for other search engines such as Bing, Yahoo, Baidu, DuckDuckGo etc. But while you might think you know what local clients search for, maybe you don’t! Consumers and customers occasionally phrase things differently than professionals would. That’s why doing keyword research is so important!
You want to figure out the exact wording of the keywords, how many people are searching for them each month and how competitive a keyword is to rank for.
Google Keyword Planner
A good starting point for inspiration is the free Google Keyword Planner which you can find in the Google Ads section. This tool allows you to set a location as well as to get an idea of the average monthly search volume.
Here is an example of what that looks like:
Keep in mind that the Google Keyword Planner, while a great place to start, doesn’t actually tell you how competitive a keyword is to rank for organically. It only tells you how competitive it is in paid ads. To make things a bit complicated, sometimes a keyword seems competitive in the keyword planner, but would be easy to rank for organically and the other way around. It all depends on what content other websites created.
Semrush or other paid SEO tools
For more in depth keyword research, a trusted SEO tool for marketers is Semrush. It can be worth it to sign up for their two week free trial and do some research for your main keywords! (The Semrush link I used above is an affiliate link, but of course you don’t have to use that!)
Another great benefit of using a high quality keyword research tools is that you can check what your competitors are doing for SEO (and do it better yourself!).
Of course there’s more that goes into keyword research, but that goes beyond the goal of this post.
Where to implement those keywords
Once you’ve figured out a number of keywords, it’s time to incorporate them in your website to start improving your local SEO in Vancouver! Note that your website structure also impacts you SEO, but that’s for another time.
Keep in mind that it’s good practise to optimize 1 page for 1 main keyword!
That is not to say that you can’t use related keywords and other relevant keywords on a page. But think about it from a search engine point of view: “What is this page about?” If your page indicates a whole list of diverse topics, chances are there is better content available on the internet for someone searching for information on one of those topics.
Title tags and meta descriptions
A title tag is a title you can enter in the backend of your website to tell Google what your page is about. It’s not visible to your website visitors. Each platform has its own panel to enter this information.
The meta description is a longer description, also for Google (and other search engines) to know what your page is about. A meta description is also not visible to your readers.
Here is a fictitious example of what it can look like for keyword “blue hippo toys in vancouver” in WordPress.
Usually your title tag and meta description are also what Google shows in the search results. (Not always! Google occasionally creates its own interpretation.)
Now before you start changing all the title tags ands meta descriptions on your pages, keep reading! You want to know all the information first.
Also important to note is that while Google states a meta description can be 300 words, when you look at the search results, they’re most often 156 characters or less. That’s why it’s best practice to keep it concise and keep as much control over your message as possible. For the title tag, aim for 50-60 characters.
Your page copy (text)
Other than checking out the title tag and meta description, Google also scans the copy/text on your website pages.
There’s a hierarchy in your content. The main title (called an H1 title) is most important one and is often similar to your title tag. This title is visible to your readers and tells them the topic of the page, including your keyword/key phrase.
It’s important that a website’s page only has one H1 title.
You might read contradicting information about this, as Google states they are “useful but not critical” for SEO. But structurally it makes the most sense, including for your readers. And most SEO experts keep using this convention.
Next you have the option to add subtitles (going from H2, to lower level H3 all the way to H6). I personally have never gone beyond H4 (like in this article), but it’s an option!
The reason titles are important is because a title tells google (again!) what the content is about.
Here’s an example:
Next the actual copy (text) on your pages also gets scanned. Take note that the amount of copy (text) matters. While there are no official guidelines, long form content seems to perform better.
In general for a short blog post or page, aim for a 300 word minimum. But for a longer type of page/blog go for 900+ words. (as long as it’s informative/relevant of course)
You’ll notice in search results that often the pages that rank highly (especially for competitive topics) have lots of informative content. When a search engine can choose between a high quality article of 3000 words and a similar quality article of 500 words, often the first one will rank higher. Of course this is not the only determining factor, but I have experimented with this over the years. Luckily not all niches are as competitive!
No keyword stuffing!
When you write copy and every sentence has your keyword, your readers will pick up on this and quickly leave your page. Google will also catch on and your site will get punished for this. But on the other hand, if you never mention your keyword in the copy, it’s as if you’re not really discussing that keyword. So definitely include it in the copy! A great guideline is to use your keyword about once per hundred words. More gets spammy, but a lot less might come across as it not being as important.
Keep a healthy balance between using your keyword, but also offer a good user experience.
What about using AI to create my content?
AI can be a great starting point for writing copy. It is much more daunting to start writing from scratch, than to start with copy. You can even tell the AI you’re using what your main keyword is. And to use it in your titles and copy.
The most important part is to make sure that the information you’re providing is correct. AI is known to make mistakes. And also to make sure that you’re not violating any copyright. A plagiarism check of your copy can be helpful for this. After all, AI does scrape other sites for content. So make sure you don’t have another website’s copy on your site.
Another thing to keep in mind is to make sure your copy reads like an actual person wrote it. Because regardless of SEO, if your readers catch on to “the robot voice”, you’ll lose them quickly.
A free SEO checker tool to spy on the competition
When checking your keywords and seeing who ranks high in the search results, with this handy tool you can find out how often your competitors use the keywords on their page, what their SEO settings are etc.
You can of course also use it to check out your own website!
You can download our free Google Chrome extension here. (not for mobile)
Your website speed also has a big impact on your ranking. After all, search engines want to present their searchers with content they will enjoy. And nothing is more frustrating than having to wait on slow loading pages. Reports mention between 30 and 50% of readers leave when a website doesn’t load within 3 seconds.
A great free tool to get an idea of your website’s pages speed is Experte. You get a quick overview of several pages (limited to 500). If you need more detail on how to improve an individual page, you can click on details to see the results on Google’s Page Speed Insights.
A couple of things that impact your website speed quite a bit are your domain host, your site’s images and videos and your website platform.
Your domain host
There are big differences in quality between domain hosts. When your host shares resources among a large number of websites, this can cause times where your site might load slower. Of course the type of plan you’ve purchased also impacts the speed.
I won’t go into technical details, but a host we’ve worked with for years and that offers amazing customer service is MDDhosting. You have a lot of access in the backend too (also very important!). Don’t take my word for it, though, you can see their ratings on TrustPilot etc. And yes, that was another affiliate link, but I wouldn’t promote a company I didn’t believe in! All of our websites from the past 10 years are with MDDhosting.
Images and videos
Loading images and videos can slow down your website a lot!
For images, reduce the file size before uploading and make use of caching where possible. For videos it’s better to embed a video than to have it posted directly on your website in terms of loading time.
Your website platform
Some platforms use more code and load slower than others. But while changing platforms might not be an option, you can potentially optimize things in the code anyways!
Try the free Google Page Speed insights to take a look at what Google says slows down your website! Don’t be discouraged by the always lower scores for mobile.
Google Business Profile
We can’t talk about Local SEO in Vancouver without mentioning your Google Business Profile!
Having a Google Business Profile is what will make your business show up on the map! These search results are called the Google Map Pack, like in our first photo example with the birthday cake results.
You can choose to not display your address and change this into a service area as well. While this puts your competitor that does show their address ahead, you will still be added to those local search results!
As always with Google, there can be some quirks when initially setting up your profile. In our case Google decided to add the “vancouver business” in front of our profile. In all transparency, this is probably because you’re only supposed to add your business name. But we opted to add what we do, so we don’t attract clicks from people that search for husky squirrels.
The most tedious part about starting this process is that you require a verification code from Google. It gets sent to your physical address and can take weeks. It’s often a slow process. But it’s worth the wait.
Google Business reviews
Once you do have the verification code and claimed your profile, another important aspect of your business profile is to start collecting reviews. It used to be more strict, where before you received 5 reviews, Google didn’t even show your reviews. Luckily that improved. But 5 should be a minimum to strive for! (You can see I’ve been lazy with our reviews here too. My previous business had 61, which made a huge difference for Local SEO!)
Other than that, you can go over all the options Google offers you for the profile. Google LOVES Google, so if you use all of their features: great!
If you’re selling physical products online, you also want to look at the Google Merchant Centre, where you can list your products for free.
Free local business listings for backlinks
When talking about SEO, you might have heard about people collecting backlinks. A backlink exists when another website links back to yours. The quality of this backlink is determined by a number of factors, such as the authority of the website’s domain as well as the relevancy of the content linking to you.
While Google clearly states it’s quality over quantity when it comes to backlinks, there is evidence that even “low hanging fruit backlinks” help. As long as they don’t come from spammy and fake websites. Be careful not to just buy a bunch of backlinks. Because that might cause your website damage in the long run!
An easy place to get started for backlinks to improve your local SEO in Vancouver is list your business at every free local business directory.
Here are a couple of examples to get your started, but there are many, many more options:
What to look for when hiring someone else to do your local seo in Vancouver
If after reading all of this you’re tired before even getting started, maybe you prefer outsourcing your SEO. When it comes to hiring someone, the most important thing is transparency! Know what to expect when they start working on your website. When you hire someone that “does magic” every month, run away! 😉
Because SEO isn’t an exact science and because most people not knowing how it works, there are plenty of companies that just charge money and barely do anything. You should receive detailed information about what they work on. (even if you’re not interested in the details, you should still get them for your records!)
Another thing to keep in mind is to be weary of unsolicited emails for SEO services. While cold emails might occasionally come from a legitimate company, ask yourself why they resort to these kinds of business tactics? Why bully you with scare tactics? What kind of business has time for that? I personally prefer either finding a company online and learning more about them. Or of course use a referral from a friend that had a good experience.
A personal preference of mine is also to know who the people behind the company are. When you are a proud company owner, you share your name and photo, versus hiding behind an anonymous “we” with no photos.