You most certainly have heard about SEO? That’s right, Search Engine Optimization! It means making on the page and off page effort to reach the apex of SERPs.
If you’ve been following digital marketing lately, you would know gaining #1 rank on the search engine result page isn’t a cakewalk. You can’t just accidentally land there – there has to be a deliberate effort. Many businesses are out there vying for that coveted spot.
If you want to get more people to know about your products or services, you need to get on the first page of search results. The people out there (who can be conveniently termed as your target audience) are looking for you at this very moment.
Coming to the point – being a local business, you might have been advised on optimizing your website for local searches.
If you ask me, I think local SEO is no more restricted to the traditional brick and mortar business. Practically, any local business can take advantage of it.
Since the rolling out of the Pigeon update, the importance of local SEO increased manifold. Marketers started expanding their strategies beyond creating awesome content and acquiring fantastic backlinks (I know this sounds more like SEO). But, local SEO is also an extension of SEO.
While SEO is practiced by almost every marketer that has an online presence, local SEO is a practice that only a few business are getting right.
Let’s dive in to understand Local SEO as a concept!
What is Local SEO?
As mentioned above, local SEO is an extension – it is slightly different but at the same time a lot similar to SEO.
Local SEO is all about being present everywhere your customers might look for you.
Since Google is always looking to improve user experience, it wants to deliver the best results for all types of queries. Hence, it began extracting the user intent behind every query and came up with the concept of geo-targeted results.
For example, if a user wants to find a hairdresser in Texas, he might want to know about businesses that offer these services in his/her locality. In such cases, Google comes up with results showing businesses in that specific niche in the particular location.
If you would have optimized your website for local search engine optimization, your listings might appear too in the results.
Let’s get to the point. What is Local SEO?
Local SEO is a practice which involves optimizing your business or website to show up in local search results (where your potential customers might look for you). These local search results focus on displaying businesses which are relevant to the user based on their respective location, ie. City or State.
Who needs local SEO? Well, every business which has a physical location and gets some, mostly or all customers/clients locally.
Why Local SEO at all?
Local SEO is one of the best ways to reach your target customers. But the sad part is that it doesn’t sit high on the To-do list of most local business owners.
If you want to get that prestigious slice of the Search Engine Results Page (SERPs), you definitely need to concentrate more on this highly targeted niche strategy.
Here are a few factors that spell the importance of Local SEO in the digital marketing space:
- Increased number of smartphone users
All hail Mobile technology! People are now making more “near me” searches on the go. Here are some statistics:
- 80% people use smartphones to search for a business.
- Out of entire volume of local searches, 40% of these are made from the mobile.
- 2 in every 3 people complete their purchasing cycle after searching for a local business through mobile.
- Your customers are out there, looking for you
Around 64% of users look for local businesses on search engines and online directories (generic as well as niche-specific). Also, 28% of your audience uses old paper directories to find local businesses.
These statistics suggest that your prospective customers are looking for a business that offers the same services as yours online. The question remains, are you there?
- Local search is deeply targeted
Local SEO is one of the best ways to advertise your business to your target customers. Being present on every important and relevant online directory promotes your business to your audience exactly at the time when they are looking for you.
- High chances of conversions
This is basically an extension of the previous point. Statistics say that marketing via online local directory gets a conversion rate of up to 50%.
- Most of it is free
Almost all online local directories offer free listings. Also, Google My Business allows businesses to set up their profile for free.
So, what factors do you need to consider to get ranked locally?
Before we go on to discuss the various strategies that you should be incorporating into your marketing plan in order to get ranked, it’s important to understand what factors determine your local search engine rankings. Though this isn’t the complete list (as Google uses a large number of parameters to determine local ranks), but certainly includes the most important factor:
- On-page signals (20.3%): Whether your NAP is mentioned on your landing page, does the title tag include City/State name, whether the anchor texts have your most important keywords, domain authority etc. Check long tail pro review here to find low competition keywords.
- Link Signals (20.0%): Quality and quantity of local links, domain authority of the website where the link is coming from, anchor texts etc.
- My Business Signals (14.7%): Categories under which your business is listed in Google My Business profile, City/State name in Title tags and heading tags, proximity of the business’s address to the place of search etc.
- External Local Signals (13.6%): Consistency in NAP across the web, number of citations, number and quality of websites where your website has been cited, consistency of your business information with major data aggregators etc
- Personalization (8.5%)
- Review Signals (8.4%): Number of Google reviews, quality of reviews, frequency at which your business is getting reviewed, which websites are talking about your website etc.
- Behavioral/ Mobile Signals (5.0%): The click-through-rate of your business over desktop and mobile etc
- Social Signals (5.0%): The authority of your Google+ circle, twitter followers, engagement over twitter, facebook likes and engagement etc.
Getting started with Local SEO strategies
● First things first, Google My Business Page
Irrespective of the type of business, Google My Business should be the starting point of your local SEO campaign. Not only are you required to build your business listings here but also you should verify it before you start
Here are the steps you need to take:
- Locate your My Business Page, record the URL, check for duplicate pages and destroy them (they are a big threat to Local SEO).
- Verify your page: If you do not see a Verified stamp next to your business name, your first instinct should be to claim your business. The verification process is done via telephone call at your registered business phone number or through a postcard.
- Fill in the accurate business details: Remember, consistency is always the key in Local SEO. You would want to list your exact Business Name, Business Address, Business Phone number, website URL, categories of your business, hours of operation and so on.
- Introduction to your Business: Describe your business! Use no more than 150-300 words. Make it catchy, informative, readable, engaging and unique. Also, add proper links.
- Upload pictures: Cover photo, display picture, and a logo are a must. Make sure all of these are high-resolution photos. Also, you can post pictures of the inside of your office, your staff, one of your special products and so on.
- Upload Videos: You can put a virtual tour of your business.
- Ensure that your profile is 100% complete: If it’s not, get onto it.
● Build Citations
Yes, this is the obvious step. You might also say that citations are the foundation of local SEO.
Citations are your business information. They mark the first interaction of your business with your target audience.
Before starting a citation building spree, I would suggest you do a quick audit of your existing citations profile. You would want to make sure that the existing citations list accurate information about your business; check for inaccuracies in NAP, duplicate listings, listings of locations which have been closed now.
Now, that your audit is complete, it’s time to head towards building new citations. But, where do you start?
- 1. Top National (generic) directories: Start with the major data aggregators (Infogroup , Acxiom, LocalEze, & Factual), then go to Yahoo Local, Bing Places, Yelp, Yellowpages, Angie’s list, Foursquare, Merchant Circle and so on.
- Industry specific directories: These depend on your type of business. Just do a quick Google search of “city + keywords”, the directories popping up in the search results is your thing. (For example TripAdvisor for hotels, wellness.com for health sector and so on.)
- Locally relevant directories: These are local city’s/state’s business directories like Chamber of Commerce.
It would be too much of a task if you were to manually search for every place where you should get listed. I would instead recommend you to use automated tools. These tools pull out important web properties where you should have your business details mentioned. After analyzing your niche and competitors Local RankWatch handpicks certain websites where you should be present. Thus, saving you a lot of effort and time.
● Be consistent with your NAP
NAP is short for Business Name, Address, and Phone Number. Make sure you post the same NAP across all directories as the one on your Google My Business Page. Other things remaining constant, the greater number of consistent citations across the web, the better will your rankings be.
Different or inaccurate citations might make the search engine think of them as different businesses and hence, it would index them separately.
● Get Reviewed
If we talk about the local search ranking factors, reviews account for around 10%. They are not only important for Google (to determine the relevance and authority of businesses), but are equally important for the customers.
A survey suggested that 90% of customers feel that their buying decisions are influenced by positive reviews while 86% of them feel that they don’t buy the product/service after reading negative reviews.
Therefore, you could be on #1 position in the search results, but if you do not have good reviews, your conversions are less likely to happen.
Encourage your customers to write about their experience with your business.
Getting Google reviews should be your first priority here (as they directly influence your local search rankings). Try to aim for more than 30.
But that does not mean that you have to ignore getting reviewed on major review platforms including Yelp, Facebook, Trip Advisor, Yahoo local etc .
How do you do it?
- Give handouts to customers: Explain the step by step process to your customers. This is especially useful for non-tech-savvy customers.
- Ask for reviews via Email: Draft a follow-up email for reviews. Ask the customers how did they feel about your service. Also, don’t forget to include simple instructions.
- Put notices in your store or office: Put signs, flyers, notices around your store. Also, include your review URL.
- Social media: If you have a good fan following, tweet or post occasionally asking for reviews.
● Local Link building
Links are important here too! Local businesses can get a great deal of attention and traffic through links along with higher rankings and relations with authoritative local sources.
Where do you start?
- Local Directories: These directories are specific to your niche and location. Being present here improves your chances of being found online. Here a few important directories you can start with:
- Google Places
- Yahoo Local
- Bing local
- Angie’s List
- Local Resources: Getting your business listed in these local resources signals Google of your authority. Here are a few websites you can start with:
- Local Chamber of Commerce
- Local Newspapers
- Local Magazines
- City-specific directory
- Local Review sites: Reviews sites are a must in link building campaigns.
- Local Partnerships and Local Sponsorships: For partnerships, contact local companies which offer services complementary to your business. Each of you can keep linking to the other. Also, you can acquire links by sponsoring local events like trade shows, conferences, award functions etc.
- Contests/Giveaways: Reach out to local association groups or communities and let them know that you are holding a contest. In the case of giveaways, invite the participants to link to you.
- Local Resources: Create locally relevant resources. A local map listing all tourist attractions, pet-friendly places; a local guide mentioning to-do things in city, best food joints, hotels to stay in; local event calendar including local festivals, sports activities and so on.
I hope this guide gave you a better understanding of local SEO.
Over to you now! What is your favorite local strategy? What do you think is the best way to get reviews from customers?
Let us know in the comments below!
Sahil Kakkar is the CEO and Founder of RankWatch – a platform, which helps companies and brands stay ahead with their SEO efforts in the ever growing internet landscape.
Sahil likes making creative products that can help in automation of mundane tasks and he can spend endless nights implementing new technologies and ideas. You can connect with him and the Rankwatch team on Facebook or Twitter