A very frustrated business owner sent me this email last week:
“Unfortunately, it was $2,300 per month for 9 months retainer. And I was still stuck at position 18-20 after that.
But it is a very competitive niche in finance industry competing with high authority sites of banks. The reason why I engaged this guy was that he helped my friend who’s in the same industry rank up no.3-4 for the same niche. He explained my failure as down to Google’s algorithmic changes. From what I see, the only thing he did was link building but most were from questionable sites. He probably outsourced them at a high margin like what you described in your articles.”
In the SEO expert's defence (and he is one of the premium ones in Singapore as you can see from his charges), the algorithms really did change.
If you have paid attention to your own industry, you should have observed that the old business stay top, and new ones rarely break-in. This is because many SEO agencies in Singapore are still performing search engine optimization as if this is 2015. What worked in 2015 no longer works. It’s time to keep up. Techniques for rank boosting have changed. But the biggest opportunity now lies in the new Local Listings.
Look at the image above. See how big that map and listings are? What you need to do is dominate it.
Just like that photo of Rochor Tau Huay (which I bloody love) at the top. If you’re searching for it, will it make sense for Google to show you Tampines Tau Huay or Jurong West Tau Huay? It’s probably a waste of time. Google knows this and is trying to make results as localized as possible.
When it comes to Local SEO, it is extremely important to make sure that you optimize both your off-site and your on-site SEO strategies.
Importance of Local SEO in Singapore
Singapore is a very special market when it comes to Google search, SEO and bidding for keywords. The competition in paid search is high and Google AdWords is very expensive. Average CPC (Cost per Click) easily goes above S$ 10 in more competitive niches. We are one of the MOST EXPENSIVE ad markets in the world (around 3x to 5x more expensive than HK and Japan)!!!
So if you plan to start an online business in a high volume/highly competitive industry, Search Engine Optimization should be your top priority.
With the importance of Local SEO in Singapore on the rise, here are some tactics that are still effective as of June 2017 to help you rank better for any local search term.
Step 1: Standardized Local SEO Info
NAP will be guiding light for Local SEO. NAP stands for:
You should use it (or part of it) whenever you can on the internet. Make sure you have your NAP somewhere on your website (even footer area works).
Use exactly the same Phone and Address on your Google Business Page (we will talk more about Google Business Page below).
Step 2: Use Local and Niche Directories
Approximately 4 out of 5 consumers will use a search engine to conduct a local search according to Google. However, many smaller businesses do not have a local business listing online, which is a huge missed opportunity.
It is very important to make sure your business is at the top of online business directories and that the information is correct. Make sure to use Yelp, Singapore Yellow Pages and other top online directories as well as any respectable local directories. Check your local industries to see if there is a directory your company can be listed in.
It is also important to make sure your company’s name, phone number, and address are part of large citation aggregators such as Factual, Acxiom, Neustar, and Infogroup. Check often to make sure that the information about your business is correct because if Google is not sure about the information it may end up being listed incorrectly or not at all.
Step 3: Google My Business Page
Google My Business (GMB) is a directory and could well be listed above.
However, it is so important that I feel it deserves a section of its own. It is extremely important to claim Google My Business page. This is a free service and can get you an incredible amount of exposure if your page is optimized enough to show up in the local three-pack for Google (as seen with the 3 toy shops in the image above)
In order to claim your Google My Business page simply go to the https://business.google.com. There is a verification process to go through where a postcard with a PIN will be sent to your physical business address (you need an actual physical mailing address to receive the mail). You can be verified with a phone call but this is offered only for certain businesses. Simply log in and enter the pin once you receive it.
This verification process allows Google to confirm that your business is legitimate and that you are the business owner. Only the owner of a business can claim a GMB page.
Once you have claimed your GMB page, make sure you optimize it using a solid company description, business hours, categories, types of payments accepted, etc. Also, make sure you upload photos of your business and your logo.
Not to be outdone, Bing has a similar system, called Bing Places. The customers coming from Bing aren’t many but it doesn’t hurt to register there as well. It only takes a few minutes and we don’t want to miss any opportunity to get new customers.
Step 4: Online Reviews
A recent survey by BrightLocal showed just how much people trust online reviews. What people say online about your business in Singapore is far more important than you blowing your own horn!
There are some reputation marketing software companies that manage, track and try to get reviews. Some of these include:
- Get Five Stars
- Reputation Loop
In addition, there are social media platforms such as Google Alerts and Hootsuite that will allow you to get alerts when your brand is mentioned. Now, bear in mind that these are more for SEO purposes than driving new customers. To REALLY influence your prospects… you’d need something a lot more creative. I will probably reveal that in a future article instead.
Nonetheless, it is important to respond to reviews, both positive and negative, as this shows you care what your customers think.
Focus on Facebook and your Google My Business page for reviews as they are the two big ones. Positive reviews on your Facebook page can help draw in new customers and positive reviews on your GMB page show up on Google when someone is looking at your business, which is very important.
Some industries have other specific platforms. For example, hotels need good reviews in Booking.com or and eateries can aim for good ratings in HungryGoWhere.
Once again, these are more for organic exposure rather a major impact on sales.
Step 5: Using Local Schema Markup
Structured data markup or local schema markup can be added to the code on your website in order to provide search engines with more information about your business such as the products you sell or services you offer.
Currently, only 31% of websites use this data markup. Simply adding this structured data to your site where it is appropriate is a great way to rank higher than your competitors.
There are several ways to add Local Schema Markup. One is using HTML 5 and Microdata while creating your website. This can be difficult because most of the web design companies in Singapore aren’t familiar with it or might implement it with errors and hurt your website. ALWAYS CHECK WITH YOUR VENDOR FIRST TO MAKE SURE THEY’RE FAMILIAR WITH THIS!!!
The simpler option would be to use JSON Structured Data generator and add the generated code to your web page. But better leave that to a qualified SEO agency (read more about dangers when hiring an SEO agency in Singapore) as they will know what is the best way to do that.
Step 6: Meta Descriptions and Title Still Matter for Local SEO
When it comes to HTML elements that can be customized in order to reflect your content, meta descriptions and titles are still important. The text of the title along with meta description tags are displayed in search results and should be crafted carefully.
Generally speaking, the length of a title tag should be between 50 to 60 characters for best results. Meta descriptions should be between 150 to 180 characters. Take advantage of this space and make sure you use it wisely.
The Meta description is important ONLY for enticing people to click on your link. It does not affect your rankings!!!
It is very frustrating to see nearly every SEO vendor in Singapore repeatedly talk about optimizing the meta description for SEO purposes. If you ever hear that from your SEO agency, I recommend switching off them immediately. You’re better off paying a monkey to do SEO.
Writing proper meta descriptions and titles is extremely important in the world of competing for search results. If the text is not descriptive, compelling, and unique, your click-through rate will suffer. In addition, an extra word or character can cut off your text with ellipses, which looks unprofessional, especially if it is in the middle of a sentence.
Every character in a title and description counts so make sure you provide helpful information. If you are attempting to reach local customers, including the area that it serves (example: cake shop in ANG MO KIO).
It is also important to focus on a targeted keyword and place it as close to the beginning of a tag as possible.
Summarizing the steps for Local SEO in Singapore
The steps described in this article will be enough to help most companies compete in the local SEO space here. There will always be highly competitive spaces that require a lot more link-building work and advanced techniques. Nonetheless, here’s a quick recap.
- Create a Google My Business Page and verify it.
- AFTER the business is verified, start registering your business in every possible citation source located in Singapore.
- Try to add Structured Data Markup on your website (recommend that be done by an SEO agency who understands Local SEO in details)
- Be careful and keep track of your business reviews on various sources.
- Make sure your website has proper titles and meta descriptions which demand attention (these can be outsourced to a good digital marketing agency in Singapore).
- And last but not least make sure you CONSTANTLY use your NAP (Name, Address, Phone) in Local Sources when you publish ANYTHING related to your business.
Good luck with your search engine optimization plan! You know where to reach me if you need help.