There are three main ways to learn about SEO (and these are the same for local SEO):
1) Listen to what the search engines and specialists have to say – Matt Cutts of Google and Duane Forrester of Bing are the two most notable figures sharing insights about SEO from the horse’s mouth;
2) Test and analyze the tests;
3) Observe what others are doing and learn from their mistakes/triumphs.
In the case of local search there aren’t many that get both better high organic search rankings and more organic search traffic across a vast number of verticals than Yelp, so who else could be better to learn about local SEO from? While Yelp functions mainly as a social network for sharing opinions about local businesses, in this article I would rather place more attention on the way they have structured their business listing pages and what everyone could take away from that.
I will use the below screenshot for illustrative purposes (Disclaimer: the business is randomly chosen and I have no affiliation neither with them, nor with any of their direct or indirect competitors).
1) City name in page URL – according to the Local Search Ranking Factors this is the 28th most important factor. I do not think it has tremendous effect on the local search rankings, but it helps differentiate same name businesses (potentially different branches of the same company) that are located in different areas.
2) Branding signals – branding is one of the crucial factors in contemporary SEO. Having the business name in the page URL, the page title, and the content title, makes the business listing page relevant to branded searches. The page ranks second/third when you search for [flor del monte] only behind the Google+ Local listing and the site’s homepage (sometimes it even outranks it).
3) Categorization of the page – this is an obvious relevancy factor, but one that is not very doable in the case of SMB websites.
4) Citation (business contact information) – the address is marked up with schema.org for postal address.
5) Link to the website – Yelp is one of the few business directories that change the link to the business’s website from “nofollow” to “follow” for advertisers.
6) Directions – special attention should be given to the map, which uses Google’s Static Maps API.
7) Enhanced content – additional content for the business that summarizes who they are and what services they offer, as well as feedback from customers that used their products/services. The latter makes the content dynamic and not static. Additionally, in the organic search results the rating score rich snippet is displayed, which is a result of the schema.org AggregateRating mark up that is used.
As a conclusion, why I chose this particular business as a showcase is because they do not do anything special that anyone else couldn’t do. They simply claimed and filled in their Yelp listing. They also seem to do their job well, because their reviews are very positive. My point is that in local search the competition in many cases is beatable even if you just follow the simple basic rules.