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The most detailed Local SEO Cape Town guide in Cape Town
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In this local SEO Cape Town Guide, we look at how to ensure featuring in the local 3 pack. This guide will generate new leads for your business and ultimately teaches how to set up GMB correctly and in such a way as to rank against highly even in competitive industries or when you share locations with same category businesses. We spill all the beans, from an SEO company perspective, so make sure to read the whole local SEO Cape Town Guide!
Humans seem to tend to click on a map result more than an organic search result from our primary data research, at least in South Africa. We believe that part of this trend is relative to having a brick and mortar store in order to offer more accountability, although just theory. Thus, we believe it Is very important to get your local search engine optimisation up to scratch. We’ll discuss sure-fire factors that influence SEO below.
The idea is to get GMB correctly formatted from the start. Simple elements of the interface such as category selection can have major influences on your local SEO Cape Town rankings. Let’s look at the several major factors that any business owner can do to ensure that they feature prominently.
Yes, this may seem like the simplest factor, but it is certainly a major factor as Google cannot risk sending its clientele to fake businesses. Don’t’ expect to rank if you are not verified.
Correct category(Super Important)
The correct category is crucial for how Google places you, semantically, in its index. Also, you should just have one category. Adding too many categories means that you are not specialised in the service or product and therefore Google would rather serve another result that they know specialises in something as it would be a better result to serve to a searcher.
Some companies add as more categories thinking this will give them the opportunity for more search traffic as you are casting a wider net. The issue is Google historically prefers singular, topically relevant websites with expert status relative to search queries. Choose one category, unless you are a large site with deep content silos to add authority to those categories.
Google officially recommends a single category.
Also, say you had many locations, you should not categorise some of 600 locations as an example as one category and then the rest another or different category. All locations should share the same category to ensure the best potential for local SEO to be positive. A single topical category should govern all locations as the ideal setup.
The proximity of the location to the searcher
This factor is undeniably the strongest ranking in the 3-pack factor. Google will literally show different 3-pack results as you walk down a street in a city for an example. Google knows that it makes more sense to serve results that are conveniently located. The caveat is that some specialty services such as legal services are less relevant to a geographic location than to the standard or reputation of their service. Nonetheless, this factor will allow you to rank purely on relative distance to a searcher.
We can, therefore, conclude, that you should consider geographic locations of future storefronts or offices as a real-world SEO strategy. By having a Google verified location in the local vicinity of B2B clients as an example, would mean that you would rank in the 3 pack as a certainty, as long as all basic local SEO was in place.
This is the one ranking signal that allows everyone to be in position one as long as the searcher is close enough.
Also, if you search for a geographic specific search query like “restaurant cape town” and you are not located in the area yourself at the time for the search, Google will take a central pinpoint of the whole city as the point of location. This may benefit businesses if their offices are located in the city centre as an example.
Organic geographic themed content on site
Yes so, for instance, we used the title for this guide as the Local SEO Cape Town Guide in order to localise the theme of the content to Cape Town. You must have sufficient content that carries a local theme. The next question on your mind is how then do you set up multiple locations in one city for example or how to set up content for multiple cities. We will get to that later in this guide. For now, it suffices to know that you need to create the content relative to the geographic region you are targeting.
Another crucial factor is citations or high-quality local directory listings. You need have links from directories pointing to your site. For instance, local business directories that are respected locally for value to searchers.
Another sub-factor, relative to citations, is to ensure that the business details match each other. The “pigeon update” was created to check multiple listings for congruency in order to ensure that companies weren’t gaming Google. If Google sees different variations of your company address details that do match on-page equivalents, although only slight, it will affect your rankings negatively.
In this instance, you should have content specific pages for each street address in the city. Schema markup goes a long way to signal strongly to Google each address. Split the addresses across various business directory listings.
Local organic content with backlinks
Citations usually refer to industry or directory listings. In organic SEO, backlinks still factor as one of Google’s important ranking algorithm, but they play an important role in local SEO too. A great idea is to sponsor local football leagues or charities, these organisations have strong local associations of their foundation, especially if they carry geographic keywords in their company or foundation name.
The idea would be by sponsoring charitable, local themed events, even local newspapers would then jump on creating more backlinks that are localised. This is a strong factor to allow for the inclusion of the 3-pack with all other factors also being introduced.
Local high schools may have a sponsor page. This would be a great opportunity for creating backlink that is localized. Google always pays close attention to official education institutions no matter how small. When the school has a local sports team of notoriety, even better.
Name, Address, Phone number. We mentioned earlier that consistency in business details is important. The address, phone numbers and names of each location should be clearly listed on eh contact us page. When I say clearly I mean clear to search engines. These addresses should correlate exactly with how they are listed on local and directory pages.
Using Schema markup or structured data, a language used by search engines developed jointly by Google, Yahoo and Bing can do wonders to ensure that Google reads your NAP and separate addresses, phone numbers for separate locations.
Ensure you make no mistakes here. The Schema markup must be perfect. This is a powerful way of signaling to Google for local business.
Using Google’s insert map feature API for WordPress sites is also a clever way of ensuring the location adat of each location is clear to Google.
Other significant factors
Keyword in the in the title seems to be a major factor. You can quite easily test this for your self by searching “attorney” or “plumber”. Most of the local 3-stack results will have the operative keyword in the title. Be aware though, you may find that if you push this signal too far that you get penalised. In fact, a local SEO Cape Town strategy may include reporting any competitors who are overtly using the keyword phrase in their GMB listing title to the point of being “spammy”.
This is quite obvious when the title is stretched to include the operative descriptive keyword and the geographic location keyword. An example would be Jerry’s Plumbers Cape Town.
The idea is not to be too overt.
RankBrain obviously measures your impressions, when your website is shown in the local results, and how many times its clicked on. If the keyword is featured in the title, we generally see a higher CTR or click-through form our primary data.
Google takes into account the ratings and volume of reviews into its local SEO algorithm. This makes sense as Google would be seen as faulty or inefficient if it directed its searchers to poor quality local service providers. A local guide review is also speculated to have more weight than a normal user’s review. This will also depend on the level of the local guide. It appears Google takes into consideration the trust factor of how local guides earn their levels by reviewing local businesses.
Now, before you go running off and creating fake reviews, Google has ways of detecting fraudulent reviews but your competitors could just as easily report you. You wouldn’t want to be in Google’s black book. An easy way for Google to detect whether the review is valid is quite simply by detecting the age of the account that created the review. In fact, many fraudulent reviews may offer a negative user experience and thus negatively rank your listing.
Reviews can be the deal breaker with all other local SEO factors taken into account, ceterus paribus.
Google also seems to prize reviews on GMB with actual text descriptions more than only star ratings.
Authority within industry
Respected websites that represent industries such as dominant trade websites that are local in nature are also over-looked for citations. These type of websites are usually government or industry association managed.
An example would be a local chamber of commerce website.
Another crucial local SEO factor, is the mobile-friendliness of your websites. This makes sense when you consider that most mobile searches are related to local search. It is well known that there is a correlation between bounce rate (someone hitting the back button) and the loading speed of a website. Google would not want to send a user to a website that would be slow loading or mobile optimized.
Now you probably aren’t even aware that you can post now on GMB. You may even add videos directly to your GMB listing. Google posts do seem to have an impact on the listing ranking or local SEO. We know for a fact that the frequency of posting is certainly an organic factor in SEO, so it does not surprise us as all that Google uses this as a factor.
The social interaction of these posts seems to be a factor too. Now, some people believe that social interactions such as Facebook are factors. We find this hard to believe as Google would never factor in a third-party signal into its core algorithm, they would be in uncertain waters if the third-party decided to change their own algorithm or system.
On GMB however, Google owns this real estate and has complete control of it. Therefore, we believe and have found that the social media interactions are counted strongly in term of ranking the listing. You can even like Google posts on GMB listings. What an obvious signal for Google to make use of.
Google posts also allow you to own more of the GMB real estate when searchers use branded searches relating to your brand. They come on Google maps, the enlarge your Google knowledge panel by displaying extra content.
What’s most important, is that Google posts offer a competitive advantage at the moment most companies are simply not aware that Google posts even exist.
Optimise Google posts with keywords as you would posts or articles on your website. The semantic relevance between Google posts and your website must be congruent.
What are the negative ranking factors in the local SEO Cape Town Guide?
There are certain factors that will negatively affect your local SEO rankings. Using fake addresses, virtual addresses and PO Box addresses will result in being penalised by Google.
Also, using friend’s houses or apartments or any address that is not owned or leased officially by the business entity may get you into serious trouble with Google. This would be seen as poor user experience as your business may be visited by the searcher in the vicinity. If they were to arrive and there was not a bonafide business that would certainly be a negative user experience.
Local SEO Cape Town Duplicate GMB Listings
Sometimes, especially with the turnover of marketing staff, multiple Google My Business listings may be registered for a company. Also, ensure your remove the outdated versions, Only your Gsuite account should be registered with the GMB, not extra Gmail accounts. You should only have one set of locations for your business with no outdated duplicates.
Cannibalisation of a single physical address.
Sometimes, in a few older buildings in Cape Town, you may share a floor with other companies, where there are no separated offices. In these situations, the same address is often used. This results in address cannibalisation, and seems spammy to Google. It would be a poor user experience even two shops shared the same address in Google’s eyes. Although sometimes it may be argued that this is not the case, it seems almost built into Google’s algorithm to penalise both listings, if two very different companies listed on GMB with the same address. Even worse, if two companies share the same business category and physical location.
To recover from such a penalty Google may ask you to video record the walk-in area of your storefront or office block to check if there is adequate signage and differentiation between you and the other businesses.
The danger of Virtual office space.
Shared workspaces are notoriously frowned upon as these office space often offer virtual office too. Google actively seeks out such listings and may suspend your GMB account if caught or reported.
If Google detects your site showing signs of being hacked, it will not rank your site and may also remove the link to your website from the GMB. Again user experience is the reason. Google assumes that if a site is hacked in any capacity then it will offer a bad user experience.
Google uses certain signals to check whether the site is hacked, and not the degree to which the site is hacked. My point is if your site shows any signs of being hacked according to the chosen signal, Google will unlink the GMB and certainly will not rank your site.
Understanding the significance of Behaviour signals in local search
Google can tell when businesses are most busy by tracking their phones while using Google. The busiest time for the day has been available for some time. Google is trying to factor human behavior signals into its algorithm more and more This was evident with the advent of RankBrain. It is important to realise that Google actually prefers these metrics as they directly related to the searcher’s interaction and are human in nature. These factors cannot be gamed by SEOs and truly reflective of human behavior.
Other examples may include, likes on Google posts as mentioned, dwell time on knowledge panel, reviews, star ratings, click-to-calls or bookings for restaurants. It would be foolish of Google not to factor in these signals as they are already available to Google and readily displayed in most cases to us.
How paid local search ads may influence local SEO
Traditionally Google has always firmly declared that its Google ads algorithm is not linked in any way to its organic ranking algorithm. With local search we believe this may be different, as when users click on a local search ad within the maps are visa GMB, they could like or interact with one of your Google posts, influencing the engagement metrics, stimulating RankBrain, and ultimately contributing to the positive ranking of your site.
Optimising GMB for humans and Google
GMB now offers section where you can add all of your services. This information will help users detect whether you are offering exactly what they are looking for. Google also uses these services in results relative to longer more descriptive queries. Again, try and keep them semantically relevant. Google would give less trust to a company selling shoes and computer services simultaneously as an example.
The future in terms of the local SEO Cape Town Guide
Google is sending less traffic to websites and is trying to answer, share information and content within zero ranked positions that refer to answer cards, snippets and q/a and answers without the user having to click through to the website. We see this more and more, just ask: “What is local SEO?”
GMB is almost becoming your site above your site, almost like a very important first layer, where Google encourages users to take action and convert without actually having to click through to your website.
Understanding The famous Pigeon Algorithm Update behind Local Results
This historic update to Google was initially released on the 20th of August, 2013, with sub-updates for several weeks, with fluctuating effects on rankings. Google’s official note was that they had released this update to align the local search to be more in line with the organic search rankings, to take advantage of the hundreds of ranking signals that go into organic search rankings.
The most notable change was the 7-pack of results became the 3-pack local search results of today. Suddenly, more than half the business dropped from immediate visibility. More organic results were visible as a result.
Summarised: General Local SEO Strategy for Pigeon
1. Emphasis on traditional organic signals such link building and on-page signals
2. Focus on hyper-local content, sponsor charities, local schools and use local directories of high quality.
3. Follow the main factors discussed above, local SEO is about getting many things right.
4. Spam reporting. Report competitors if they re seen being spammy, like including too many keywords in their GMB business title.
Google will penalise companies or even in some cases suspend their listing. This seems harsh but there is a vulnerability for the algorithm to keyword insertion the title.
Along came the Possum Update
On September 1st 2016, many SEOs noticed a change in the local SEO stack, where if one location had two similar businesses, operating under the same category, although bonafide separate entities, Google would only show one – almost like the children’s game possum.
This update was not officially acknowledged by Google but was quite obvious to many business owners whose GMB listing seemed to disappear off the map overnight.
Another effect of the Possum update seemed to allow higher rankings for businesses who had a postal address within the city, as depicted by Google on its map, but whose businesses were physically located outside the city bounds as depicted by Google’s city inclusion zone.
How to win with the Possum update, the local SEO strategy
Organic rankings strength has always been believed to have a significant impact on the local stack ranking. There are instances where this is not so, but in most cases, there is a strong correlation with organic rankings and local stack rankings.
To win with the Possum update you should continue to build domain authority and strong organic ranking signals to the point where Google sees your site as the expert, or authority site for your category. This should allow for Google to show your business over competitors in the same category if sharing the same category.
The bonus local SEO strategy, Coupon Strategy
You could punt a coupon even on social media, linked in and other channels, and mention that it is only on your local GMB Google posts. This will benefit engagement metrics in a few ways
First, you are creating a post, and therefore similar to organic SEO and frequency of content published, you will positively affect your local ranking.
Secondly, new IP addresses or users detected interacting with your posts, especially liking them, will signal positively to Google that your GMB listing is of a high quality. This happens as the user will most certainly conduct a branded search to see your GMB listing in the first place. Branded searches are also of the organic SEO ranking factors
Thirdly, Google is detecting the CTR from your listing to your call or order button or the CTR to your website. These metrics are definitely being monitored though RankBrain.