It is essential for businesses who want to attract local customers by marketing their products and services online to engage in local SEO. This means you need to strive to gain visibility on SERPs whenever an online user within your area searches for the kind of products and services you provide. Note that many businesses are now doing their best to succeed at local SEO and unless you do the same, your competitors are likely to win many of the customers that could so easily have been yours.
The importance of local SEO is highlighted even more by the launch of the Pigeon in July of 2014 (U.S. English results). This is Google’s very first local algorithm and it gave the search engine the capability to understand the local intent behind a search query a lot more clearly than it used to. And the change became very obvious in Google’s search results! When you search for “flower shop”, for example, Google search results will now display a list of flower shops close to your location before the general organic results.
If this doesn’t convince you to start working on your local SEO RIGHT NOW, then maybe the following data will:
- In the last year, 92% of consumers searched for local businesses via an online search.
- Some regions have put an end to door-to-door delivery of yellow pages, following a serious decline in distribution.
- Following the launch of the Pigeon, many websites found their SERP rankings lowered in favor of local directories like TripAdvisor and Yelp.
- Google Maps’ guidelines for local pages now reflect the algorithm changes.
- For some categories, you will no longer see the local carousel of images in SERPs, as it has been replaced with more relevant information and such advanced options as the ability to book a hotel room right from the results page.
Besides these facts, the benefits offered by local SEO should definitely convince you to launch your own local SEO campaign as soon as possible. Among other things, a successful local SEO campaign can:
- Help generate traffic to both your website and the business itself
- Help you gain brand recognition and establish authority
- Help increase your conversions as a result of more targeted traffic
- Provide you with higher ROI, as a locally optimized site typically offers more value to the business
By now perhaps you’re convinced that it is indeed important to incorporate local SEO into your overall online marketing strategy. But you need to keep in mind that local SEO can be a bit tricky. There are some factors beyond your control, such as the location of your business and the location of the people searching online for the kind of products and services you offer. Fortunately, there are things you can do to keep local SEO success well within reach.
Google My Business
Many people say Google+ is dead, but these people say that about SEO as well and we know SEO is far from dead, right? The truth about Google+ is that some features, like Google My Business, still make it into search results when local searches are done. It therefore pays to optimize your Google My Business page. The best way to do this is to make sure the page is completed according to the guidelines set by Google.
Make sure all the information provided there is updated, choose the right categories for your products and services, customize your descriptions, add pictures, and claim a unique URL. Remember that the information you provide will be displayed as the Meta description on SERPs, so make sure the information is an accurate representation of your business.
It is also helpful to verify business information such as your official email address and website to establish authority. You may also want to add the name of your neighborhood as a descriptor after your business name. For example, if your business name is Rainbow Flower Shop and your business is located in the Upper East Side (Manhattan), you could put in “Rainbow Flower Shop Upper East Side” as your business name in Google My Business.
One of the most important aspects of local SEO is getting your business name, address, and phone number listed on external sites like online directories and websites that have to do with your locale. Each time your business is mentioned online, you earn what is known as a citation, and the more citations you get, the better your local SEO results are likely to be. It is also often helpful to include your website address along with your NAP when you get your business listed on external sites.
Bear in mind that it is not enough to get your NAP and your website address listed on external sites. Even more important than getting listed is making sure that the information you provide those external sites are all accurate and consistent across the web. This means you have to keep your information on all external websites up-to-date. If you change locations, for example, make sure the address indicated on your listings is updated and that it is the same as the address indicated on your official website.
Word-of-mouth has always been the best form of marketing and that has remained true even in this digital age. The difference is that word-of-mouth advertising has also gone digital. These days, you can’t just rely on people having face-to-face conversations about your brand; you also need to leverage online word-of-mouth strategies. This is where you can use social media to your advantage.
Social media sites are basically sites where people converge and “talk” online. When you get people to share positive comments about your brand on social sites, therefore, your chance of gaining more customers increases in the same way it does with traditional word-of-mouth advertising. Among the best things you can do is to be active on all of the major social platforms and be proactive in engaging with your followers.
Address both positive and negative reviews calmly and respectfully. This shows that you truly care about your customers’ experience with your brand and are sensitive to what they think and how they feel. In using this approach, you will soon find the positive reviews far outweighing the negative ones because even those who may face some issues about your products will generally feel good about your brand because of the high level of customer service you show.
Note that where local SEO is concerned, these social platforms are deemed to offer more value than a business website. Your website may contain all the information about your products and services, but it is on sites like Facebook, Yelp, and TripAdvisor where your customers will likely share their positive experience with your brand and/or vent their frustrations. For purposes of local SEO, therefore, you’d do well to focus more on locally-optimizing your social accounts and encouraging comments and reviews on your social pages.
Schema is defined as a markup that you include in the coding of your website to give search engines more information about what your web pages are all about. Where local SEO is concerned, you can use schema to make sure search engines have accurate information and appropriate representation of your business location and contact information. One of the best ways to take advantage of this markup is to confirm the type of business you run and your contact information on the MicroData Generator. The code will then be generated and displayed as “div” tags for your site. You may then ask your web developer to add the schema into your website code.
The increase in the importance of local SEO is directly and closely tied to the increasing importance of mobile search. More and more online searches are now being done on mobile devices and 78% of the local searches performed on those devices lead to purchases. This is why Google has been urging business to make their websites mobile-friendly. Very recently (April 21st of this year to be exact), Google launched another algorithm update to add mobile ranking factors. If your website still isn’t mobile-friendly, it’s high time for you to do something about it.
If you’re not so sure whether your website is mobile-friendly or not, you may test it on a site like MobileTest.me and if it doesn’t look so great on a mobile device or if loading a page takes too long, then you definitely need to do a web design overhaul. Other than completely changing your web design to make it mobile-friendly, you also have the option to create a separate site for mobile. It may be best to discuss things with your web developer to determine which approach is best for you.
Conventional SEO techniques are still very useful where your content is concerned, even if you’re focusing on local SEO; you just need to give your SEO campaign a makeover so as to incorporate local optimization techniques. The good news is that the techniques and tips discussed herein are easy enough for you to accomplish. So, what are you waiting for? Start working on your local search visibility NOW!