May 12, 2020 – Written by Shannon Kurban
Let’s pretend for a second you are looking to try a new Mexican restaurant in your area. You are likely to conduct a little research to see what your options are. To begin your search, you turn to Google and type in “Mexican restaurants near me.” Or perhaps you prefer to search on Google Maps to see what’s around. Are you going to try the highly-rated restaurant in the next town over? Or the one down the street that is praised through reviews from other locals? Whatever you choose, Google and Google Maps are a great way to see what is around you and both have reviews built-in.
It is likely that your customers have the exact same thought process as you when it comes to making decisions on where they want to spend their money. In fact, 46% of Google searches are looking for local results, and of those local searches, 50% of the searchers visit a location that same day.
Now, how do you make sure your business pops up for local searches that are relevant for your business? First, let’s discuss what exactly local SEO is…
What is Local SEO?
Local SEO is the marketing strategy where you use search engine optimization (SEO) tactics at a local level, to reach a more targeted audience within your community. The biggest difference between local SEO and traditional SEO is that, for local-intent searches, Google favors small local businesses over large national or international businesses. In traditional SEO, companies are competing more broadly for a larger, national, or global audience. Local SEO is used to meet consumers much closer to home. Local businesses are more likely to rank higher when people are searching within their immediate surroundings.
Local SEO’s most familiar look is Google’s “Map Pack”, which refers to the top 3 local listings that show up beside the map when searching for a keyword that Google considers to have local intent. This is the best place to have your business show up when people in your area are searching for what you sell. It is important to rank within the Map Pack, as one study shows, 44-61% of all search clicks go to the Map Pack, when it appears in the organic results.
The Map Pack results show a snapshot of information such as the address, phone number, business hours, and ratings for local businesses that have earned the top-rankings for that search term. These snapshots link back to that business’s Google My Business listing.
Similar to local SEO, but slightly different, Hyperlocal Marketing describes tactics used to increase foot traffic to a business with people in the surrounding area. Hyperlocal marketing and local SEO overlap when those people start searching for businesses “near me” using a search engine. Hyperlocal uses many of the same practices we will talk about today for local SEO, but with the intention of getting people physically to the business as opposed to website traffic, or e-commerce sales. One of the major takeaways of hyperlocal marketing is telling the consumers where you are. This is why it is critical your business is optimized correctly on Google My Business, which we will discuss later. Hubspot wrote a crash course about the basics of hyperlocal marketing, and added some examples of companies that are doing it right.
Important Local SEO Visibility Factors
The term “keyword” basically describes anything you type into Google when you’re searching for something. While keywords are the primary focus of any SEO strategy, they tend to be somewhat overlooked when it comes to local SEO. However, make no mistake, keywords are very important to local SEO as well. In order to know what types of keywords people are using while searching, you need to conduct a little keyword research. The research will help you understand how people search so that you can use those keywords to connect with searchers.
To start, pick a few keywords that are relevant to your business to serve as “seed keywords”. We’ll use these keywords to discover some other keyword opportunities. Type your seed keywords into Google one at a time. Before you hit enter, or search, look at the suggestions Google provides in the drop-down area. The keywords that show up are what other people have searched for, that Google thinks is relevant to your original search. These may be good keywords for you, so write them down. Now hit enter to search, then scroll down to the bottom. As you scroll, look at the listings and see if there are any interesting keywords. Then, at the bottom of the page, you’ll see more keyword suggestions there as well. Write any of those down that you think are strong keywords for your business. Repeat this process with all of your seed keywords as well as some of the other new keywords you’ve found.
Now you have a keyword list to work with. These keywords can be used in many places to help let Google know which keywords are relevant to your business. These keywords should be used in your Google My Business listing, which we will discuss shortly, as well as on your website, your blog articles, and in your company description that you use in directories and citations. To learn more about keyword research, check out this keyword research guide from the pros at Moz.
-Google My Business
Google My Business (GMB) is one of (if not, the most) important ranking factor regarding local SEO. According to HubSpot, “one in two people who conduct a local search visit a store that day.” GMB was created with the searcher in mind. It is a way for searchers to find a business’ location and contact information, in addition to reviews left by other customers. The best part? It’s free for business owners and searchers to use. Moz has a great article here that shows you how to claim, verify, and optimize your Google My Business listing. This is something that every business should do.
Once you are finished optimizing your GMB listing, move over to Bing Places, and Apple Maps to do the same thing on those platforms. This will ensure you’re accessing all potential customers in your market, regardless of their search engine or map app preference.
To learn more about creating, claiming, verifying, and optimizing your Google My Business listing, check out our guide: https://www.altummarketing.com/blog/google-my-business/.
-Searcher Proximity to Your Business
Unlike non-local SEO, Google gives heavy weighting in the Map Pack rankings to businesses that are physically located close to where the searcher is searching from. This is particularly true for searches that include “near me” or do not specify a location.
-NAP Citations & Directories
Name, address, and phone number information is important to Google for obvious reasons. You want accurate business and contact information for your company out there on the web, so it’s important to get consistent company information listed on as many authoritative websites as possible. In this context, we call these directory or citation websites. Some of the most influential companies that have directory listings (other than Google) include Apple Maps,Yellowpages, Foursquare, Yelp, Bing Places, Facebook, BBB, Angie’s List, Manta and Yahoo Localworks.
Google loves to see consistency across business listings, so it’s important to claim, verify, and update your business listing on as many directory sites as possible. If your business isn’t listed, you can create a new listing. In 2018, Moz completed a study finding that consistent citations are one of the most important ranking factors for Google. Today, you won’t find too many businesses whose citations are not consistent. Inconsistency with citations can have a negative impact on your ranking. Correct citations across the board will prove to Google you run a reputable business and that you know what you’re doing.
- How to Perform a Citation Audit
The most important rule in business is to make sure your customers can find you! If you have a business directory with an incorrect phone number or address, you can potentially be missing out on sales or giving the wrong impression to prospective customers. Potential issues with citations can include; having multiple citations within the same directory and info that doesn’t match, a changed phone number that wasn’t updated in some listings, or a citation that is missing important information. Instead of finding all of your citations yourself, Moz offers a citation audit that will do all the dirty work for you.
Overall, both positive and negative customer reviews will help your search rankings. You want mostly positive reviews, for obvious reasons, but it’s natural for a business to have a few reviews that are less-than-perfect, so don’t sweat it. Positive reviews tend to speak for themselves, but it’s important to address negative reviews promptly with a reply, and with a positive, constructive tone. You can also reply to positive reviews if you’d like, it only helps. Additionally, respond to any questions within reviews quickly to ensure the customers are receiving accurate information. Moz completed a study that determined the number of reviews, how often your customers give reviews, and how many third-party review sites are used all impact your local SEO ranking on Google. Important third party sites include Yelp, Glassdoor, Angie’s List, and Better Business Bureau.
The best way to get more reviews is by asking for them! According to one study, businesses that ask their customers to leave reviews are more likely to have a higher average (4.34 stars) than those that wait for them to come in (3.89). While positive reviews are ideal, negative reviews can be used to help develop your business. They can help you understand an issue you didn’t even know was there. It’s important to respond to all reviews, both positive and negative. This can help clarify any miscommunications between your business and its customers.
If your business has multiple physical locations, or if it services different regions, it’s important to have location pages for each region you’re conducting business in to help with local SEO. Your website’s homepage should be optimized for your main target location or the overall region that you do business in. Each location page should include location-specific name, address, phone number (NAP) citations, useful local content, and reviews for that physical store if you’re a multi-location business. Photos and videos will help optimize each location page and improve the user experience. Product or service descriptions specific to that location or region should be included but written uniquely so Google sees them as separate pages and not duplicate content. Internally linking your local content to show how they are related is also a good practice for ranking highly. It’s important to keep in mind that all local content produced needs to be high quality and unique. You cannot just change the city name on a page, with all other content being the exact same, this can end up hurting your local SEO efforts. The local content should be relevant, helpful, and high quality. You should also set up separate GMB listings for each store location and link them to your website by using specific location page URLs. Make sure your business name and info is consistent for each GMB listing, but the NAP is different for each location.
Internal links connect different web pages that are all within the same website or domain. Google uses these links to see the SEO relationships between pages, so it is important to have a strong internal linking strategy in place to connect relevant content together to add value for the visitor. When creating internal links, be sure to link to important pages together that are relevant to what your page is talking about. Use relevant keywords that you want to rank for in your anchor text for each internal link, to help Google understand which keywords are part of your SEO strategy. Here’s an example of a page with a lot of strong internal links from our client at VOSS – Unified Communications Guide.
Image credit: https://neilpatel.com/blog/anchor-text/
Backlinks, like internal links, are important to your local SEO strategy. Backlinks are when other websites or domains link in to your website. They are important, because they show Google that the information on your website or webpage is credible. Google views a backlink as a vote of confidence for your business from another business. The more backlinks you have, the more likely you are to rank higher in Google.
The best way to build more backlinks is by having high-quality content that others will want to link to. Quality content is essentially anything that other people find interesting or useful and can include things like, solutions to problems, how-to guides, compelling imagery, or even just having your web pages updated to fit changing times. Posting links to your content on social media is helpful because it’s a way to promote your content to people who may link to it. Content that is relatable to your market will result in shares, and thus, backlinks.
- How to build strong links
Neil Patel has a great article here that goes further in-depth on the importance of backlinks. He explains how to build strong backlinks when you are just starting out with your company.
-Additional Local SEO Factors
It is important to have a mobile-friendly site when ranking on Google. Google will look at your website through a mobile lens before the desktop version because most Google searches are done on a mobile device. There is a test you can use to see if your website is mobile-friendly here. When optimizing your page for mobile use, it’s important to check page loading speed, have optimized titles and meta descriptions, and have a responsive web design.
Social media marketing can substantially help your business by increasing awareness and exposure for backlinks and reviews. According to Statistia, Facebook has over 2.5 billion monthly users, and that number continues to grow every quarter. Social media accounts that most businesses should consider using are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
Now that we have gone over some of the best tips and practices for local SEO, it is time to put them to use. Be sure to track all of your KPI’s to see how your new skills are working. If you’re looking to jump-start your local SEO results, get in touch and we’ll help you get found by people in your local community.