Any business that wants to easily attract customers online needs to use local SEO to their advantage. Local search accounts for 35 percent of all search traffic, which easily justifies the need for an effective local SEO strategy. This is especially true for small businesses because only 30 percent have a local SEO plan in place.
With this local SEO guide, we’ll show you the major contributing factors to local business SEO in addition to a few starting tips to get your plans up and running.
Local SEO Table of Contents
What is Local SEO?
Simply put, it’s the practice of improving your online local presence through multiple methods.
When done correctly, an effective local SEO strategy equates to a higher search engine results page (SERP) ranking, which means more SERP exposure, new customers, and more revenue.
Why is Local SEO Important?
Between 2015 and 2017, Google research showed that the local searches without the “near me” phrase skyrocketed by 150 percent. With the user’s location information, Google (and local search services) improved at providing local results for user search terms.
Businesses that already had a local SEO plan in place easily benefitted from these improvements. The best practitioners of local SEO not only regularly show up on the top of the page; they also show up in the coveted “local pack,” which prominently features the top three businesses that meet the searcher’s terms.
With enough time and effort, following these local SEO tips can help get you to the top of the results page.
The Top 5 Local SEO Factors (And How to Build an Effective Strategy)
There are multiple factors that contribute to your brand’s overall SEO performance. Some elements are weighed heavier than others, but you should spend an equal amount of time optimizing each contributing factor. Doing so ensures that you’re attracting as many eyes as possible to your brand.
Keep in mind that the changes you make today won’t translate to immediate results tomorrow. You’ll need to constantly monitor and improve your local SEO strategy to the always-changing search landscape to capture as many new customers as possible.
Local SEO Factor #1: Google My Business
A Google My Business (GMB) listing should be at the top of every business’s local SEO to-do list because it’s the easiest way to increase brand awareness. Creating and optimizing your free GMB listing doesn’t just affect your visibility on Google Search; it also helps people who are looking at other Google services like Maps.
Why a Google My Business Listing is Important for Local SEO
Moz’s local search ranking factors put GMB signals as the most crucial element for any online brand that wants to show up in the local pack results. Specifically, GMB signals account for 25 percent of local search signals. Google is also the first place that 63 percent of consumers will visit for reviews before they visit the business.
If you didn’t get the hint already: it’s really important to have a GMB listing. Google is the first place that people use online when looking for local businesses. Not having a presence on Google is a major mistake because it doesn’t allow you to tap into more potential customers that you are losing to nearby competitors.
So what can you do to get on Google?
The Local SEO Strategy for Google My Business
Claiming your Google My Business listing is surprisingly easy:
- Visit the Google My Business website to sign in or create a Google My Business account.
- Find your business address in the search bar provided on the next page. You can also choose to add your business information manually if Google doesn’t have your address readily available.
- Wait for Google’s verification code, which will arrive by mail.
If you are claiming Google My Business listings for multiple locations, you can easily add them in bulk using Google’s Bulk Location Management Tool. You can either upload information about each location in a custom spreadsheet or use Google’s pre-made spreadsheet template to create a listing for each of your locations.
Once you have the basic listing set up make sure you add as many details as possible to better inform searchers. This includes writing up a basic description, adding pictures of your products or services, and include an appealing profile picture.
The right GMB profile picture can easily attract customers to your locations. After all, the top factor for 24 percent of consumers in local search results is the listing’s profile picture.
Local SEO Factor #2: Citations
Your Google My Business listing might be the most important place to show off your brand online, but it’s just one of the many citations of your business online. These citations, which are any instances on the Internet where your basic information (name, address, and/or phone number) is displayed, are yet another important factor in your local SEO strategy.
Citations are broken down into two main types: structured and unstructured. Structured citations are usually found in listings as a result of you filling out the forms to initially create your business profile page. Unstructured citations, on the other hand, are not of your own making. They usually come from other online publications in the form blog posts, news articles, or even a “Best of” guide.
Why Citations are Important for Local SEO
Citations are another way of getting the word out digitally about the brand. Each citation entry is another crucial building block in your online reputation and search visibility. Specifically, citations account for 10 percent of all local search signals.
However, it’s important that each citation is identical to the rest. Search engines utilize these citations as a reference when people conduct local searches. Incorrect information across multiple citations is costly to your visibility and as a result, you might have a lower rank on SERPs. In fact, the Moz local search rankings show that the top negative factor in local search is a false address, which ties directly to the accuracy of your citations.
The Local SEO Strategy for Citations
To find out where you are listed on the Web try typing in your business name, address, and phone number on any search engine. It’s also worth trying other search techniques such as misspelling the brand name or typing in an address that is somewhat different than the actual location, which helps you find inconsistent citations online.
Take the example of Oiistar below, a local ramen shop in Chicago. It’s listed as:
1385 N. Milwaukee Ave. Chicago, IL 60622
To find incorrect citations, you would go on Google and misspell the brand’s name, enter the wrong phone number, or provide an entirely different zip code just to see if other links online have that wrong entry. Business owners or brand managers should then make a note of the incorrect citations and make an effort to correct them.
If the citation is listed incorrectly on a blog post or guide, you should contact the author and provide the right details. Some of these wrong citations might be a part of unclaimed listings, and you can easily rectify the problem by claiming and managing the listing yourself.
Having control of as many of your online listings as possible allows for more consistent citations as well as the ability to monitor even more customer feedback (more on that later).
Aside from Google My Business, some sites where it’s worth claiming your listing includes the rest of the so-called “Big Four:” Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Facebook. From there, you can also take a look at the popular listing sites within your industry.
This manual process for searching and correcting citations can take up valuable resources, and most importantly, time. However, there are a plethora of digital citation tools available that can do the heavy lifting for you.
Local SEO Factor #3: Website Optimization
GMB and third-party listings aren’t the only way to show up on page one of SERPs. You can also use your personal website for additional brand awareness and traffic. Bringing your website to the top of page one can bring more benefits than a third-party listing.
By clicking on your website instead of a Yelp or Google directory, customers are already curious about your business and its offerings. From there, it’s all a matter of providing as much information as possible so that every visitor makes an informed decision.
Why Website Optimization is Important for Local SEO
Your website serves as another valuable citation piece for search engines, but the keywords you use in the right elements on your website can make your brand more visible even if people aren’t necessarily looking for your business.
Moz’s report on local search ranking factors put on-page signals – which includes the right keywords in titles, overall domain authority, and the right basic information about the business – as the second-highest factor in organic search.
An optimized site also helps brands that have multiple locations. When done correctly, your business website not attracts more traffic from local searchers because of the way you create and improve individual pages for each of your locations.
The Local SEO Strategy for Website Optimization
If you know the keywords that you want to rank for in local searches, you can implement them in the right places throughout your website. This can be in the title of various pieces of content as well as in subsequent headings throughout the site. You can also put the keywords as part of an image when you add it to one of your pages.
Another way to highlight these keywords is by using schema markup code, which you (or a web developer on your staff) can add to your site’s HTML code. This code can help search engines find multiple elements of information on your site so use it to highlight relevant information such as your business name, contact information, opening hours, and even first-party reviews (more on that later).
When creating landing pages for your other locations, you should make the URL address simple so that both search engines and customers have an easier time to find it. Instead of a complicated line of nonsensical numbers and symbols, you can try changing it to the format below:
You should also invest in the time to make your website mobile-friendly. Research shows that 57 percent of all local searches are conducted on smartphones or tablets. When someone on a mobile device goes to your website, your website and its contents should be optimized on today’s portable devices. Neglecting this improvement can be a missed opportunity to bring in more customers, many of whom might be ready to convert within 48 hours.
Local SEO Factor #4: Content
The backbone of any local SEO strategy is the content you create to bring more eyes to your business. In many ways, creating this content can bring in more leads than paid promotions and advertising.
HubSpot research showed that 69 percent of businesses say their improvement in lead generation is due to their blogging efforts. However, this doesn’t mean that you should create content for the sake of making content. It needs to be meaningful and provide valuable insight to the customer to make them more interested in what you have to offer.
Why Content is Important to Local SEO
The right content can bring larger volumes of traffic. However, the HubSpot research above shows that content can also turn those use visitors from interested parties to actual leads. This puts the onus on you to keep the overall content tone and quality consistent in other parts of the site as well so that they easily convert into an actual customer.
Meaningful content also stands out in SEO, which helps you build authority online. Even just a few pieces of high-quality content can easily set you apart from the competition, but finding the key topics for your industry requires some research on your end.
The Local SEO Strategy for Content
When creating content, think of a topic that represents your industry as a whole instead of looking for ways to promote your products and services. Creating these overarching topics shows your knowledge of the industry as a whole, which can put you in place to be a thought leader for the local scene.
However, you shouldn’t just constantly churn out small bits of content in order to build up that authoritative voice. Each piece of content must be well thought out, include valuable stats and figures, and provide actionable insights for the reader.
The top marketing challenge for businesses in 2018 was to generate traffic and leads. By focusing on blogging to create high-quality and authoritative content, you are 13x more likely to see a positive return on your investment.
Local SEO Factor #5: Reviews
Customers need social proof when choosing a business. They want to know that other people tried it and had a genuine experience, and these all come in the form of customer reviews. Actively gathering, monitoring, and responding to reviews will tell future customers that your brand utilizes feedback to engage with past customers and improve the overall experience.
Why Reviews are Important for Local SEO
To get into the local pack, you’ll need reviews, which are one of the top three factors for higher rankings. This is because reviews are so powerful when it comes to convincing the customer. In fact, 94 percent of consumers said a review convinced them to avoid a business.
When it comes to local search, the reviews on your GMB listing will also play a role. Research shows that 63 percent of consumers will check Google for reviews before they even visit a business.
Simply put, the quality and quantity of reviews on your local listings can easily bring people in just as easily as it can deter them away from you and towards the local competition. Here are some local SEO tips to make sure that you get more of the former and not the latter.
The Local SEO Strategy for Reviews
If you already have customer reviews, you should take some time to respond to customer feedback because it shows that you care about the experience of every customer and want to use reviews to improve it for future patrons.
Responding to reviews is an opportunity to build a trusting relationship with each customer, but only 36 percent of customers actually get a response from a business. With the right responses, you can make a one-time customer a loyal patron or even convince a critic to come back for a better experience. Data shows that responding to negative reviews specifically makes it 44 percent more likely for someone to visit the business in question.
Before responding, make sure that you have a plan in place so that each review carries the same professional tone and manner whether it’s responding to praise or criticism.
Once you respond to reviews you should also make an effort to actively ask for more feedback from customers. There isn’t one correct way to ask for reviews so you’ll need to employ multiple tactics to get the feedback you want. This includes:
- Post-visit emails
- SMS notifications
- Feedback kiosk at checkout
- Website review landing pages
- Asking directly
Employing different strategies for review generation ensures that you’re providing multiple ways of making the review request process as convenient as possible. Forcing people to go through one method of leaving a review might leave you wanting more feedback, but using digital and analog options together ensures that you get as many reviews as possible.
With enough reviews and a steady stream of fresh feedback coming on a regular basis, it’s time to promote your best feedback. This is free marketing material that you can use to convince new customers to give your business a shot.
If you have social media channels, you can easily retweet or share some of your best (or worst) feedback. If people are leaving reviews on your website, you can show those off with custom widgets like ReviewTrackers’ Amplify tool. Showing off reviews on your website alone can increase your overall conversion by 270 percent.
A Multi-Point Local SEO Strategy
There’s no better time to execute your local SEO efforts than right now. Even if your nearby competitors are ranking higher than you in online SERPs, you can use these tips and best practices to improve your online position.
By optimizing your GMB listing and your website, creating consistent citations, publishing high-quality content, and garnering better reviews, your business will eventually catch up and even surpass the local competition in SERPs. Over time, this results in more exposure, more loyal customers, and ultimately larger revenues.