Small businesses need to be use local search to connect with potential customers in their area.
Almost half of all Google searches feature local search terms — all these are users looking for businesses near them — and sales are often immediate. Around half of consumers visit a local store on the same day they perform a local search on their smartphone and 78 percent of searches lead to purchases, a much higher conversion rate than for generic searches.
What Is Local Search?
Any online search term that includes a location is a local search. Users rely on local searches to find out about businesses near them; to gain information about prices, products, services, and offers; and to read reviews.
To reach a top ranking on a SERP, you need to have a strategy in place that focuses on local SEO. By utilizing the right tactics, you can gain a better local search ranking than a large corporation that is mainly looking to build a national presence. On the flip side, if you neglect local SEO, you will find it difficult to compete and will likely fail to appear on SERPs at all.
Local SEO Defined
Google–and even Bing and Yahoo–are constantly changing their algorithms to improve the results users see when they conduct a local search. To stay up to date with these changes, businesses need to adapt their SEO strategies. Although there is a significant amount of overlap between local and general SEO, there are a few differences that have a big impact. This means you will need to utilize the tactics you use for general SEO along with a few others.
The most important aspect of local SEO is location-specific keywords. In some ways, being location-specific makes terms easier to rank for, as there is lower competition. However, there are extra considerations for both onsite and offsite content, especially if your business has more than one location.
A few other factors also contribute to local SEO. These include:
- Citations — These encompass all mentions of your business online, not just links to your website. As business owner, you have some control over citations in directory listings.
- Reviews — Important for all businesses, reviews are particularly relevant for local companies.
- Link building — Unlike general SEO, you can improve local SEO even with links from non-authoritative websites.
By utilizing local SEO, you will appear on SERPs for content on your website as well as local packs, maps, and business directories.
Google My Business
The most important business directory is Google My Business (GMB). Without a GMB listing, your business will not appear in Google Maps, which will have a severe impact on your visibility.
On the other hand, if you have a GMB listing, when a user conducts a search using your business name, extra information about your business will appear. This may include your phone number, address, open hours, photos, social media profiles, links to directories, popular times to visit, and reviews.
You may have a GMB listing already, even if you never created one yourself. In the case someone unrelated to your company created the GMB, it may have incorrect information, which will lead to negative SEO. For this reason, it is critical that you search for your business. You will be able to delete the current listing, establish yourself as the business owner, and then create an accurate listing. Just as important for SEO is to ensure multiple locations for your business are all part of the same account.
Other Business Directories
It can also be beneficial to list your business in a few other directories. At the very least, you should check if your business already exists in other places, once again to avoid negative SEO due to inconsistencies. Some additional business directories include:
- Bing Places — This is much like GMB, just less popular.
- Apple Maps — Many users on Apple devices use Apple Maps rather than Google Maps. By adding a listing, you will also appear to these users.
- Yelp and TripAdvisor — Both of these are major sources of reviews. TripAdvisor is particularly useful for tourism-related businesses.
- Foursquare — Adding a listing will help you increase your social media presence.
Being in other business directories will improve your rankings in SERPs and may even allow you to take several results for the same search term. However, managing additional directories does require extra work, as whenever you make a change at your business, such as in opening hours, address, or phone number, you will need to ensure you update all the directories.
Local SEO for Your Website
Of course, local SEO also takes place on your website.
One of the biggest mistakes local businesses make is creating a separate website for each of their locations in an attempt to increase the number of times they appear on the same SERP. In fact, this is more likely to have a negative impact on your SEO, as Google favors large, active websites and penalizes duplicate content.
A better option is to create different pages for each location on the same website, shifting your focus to uniqueness and quality. This way, every page and mention contributes to a single site.
Your website also needs:
- Landing pages. Each landing page can function as a home page for a different location, product, or service.
- Maps. By embedding a Google Map into your website, you strengthen the connection between your GMB listing and website.
- Name, address, and phone number (NAP). This information should appear on every page in the same form. A good place is the footer.
- Frequent updates. The easiest way to ensure your website is constantly updating is to add new photos, videos, and text content. One way to achieve this is to use an onsite blog.
- Mobile-friendly design. All websites should be responsive, and this is particularly crucial for local business websites, as they have such a large amount of traffic coming from smartphones.
If you are using business directories, you are already on track to linking reviews to your business. This plays a role in local SEO by showing both users and search engines the value of your company. In the case of positive reviews, people will see that you are a business they can trust and search engines will rank your business higher. Star ratings also appear frequently in Google Adwords results and can enhance the impact of an ad campaign.
Instead of waiting for customers to leave a review on your business directory, you should take action yourself. The most effective way is to ask customers for reviews — by including a link on your website, sending a request in an email, or adding a note to receipts or packaging, for example. To avoid an influx of reviews followed by a period of no reviews, this needs to be a consistent strategy.
Asking real customers for feedback is a good way to go about increasing the reviews you receive. A bad strategy is to purchase reviews, as this can lead to being blacklisted on directories.
The likelihood is that, at times, you will receive negative reviews. You also need a strategy to handle these. First, always respond. Rather than justifying the experience, try to improve the situation for the reviewer. Second, keep seeking more reviews from satisfied customers to increase your positive-to-negative ratio.
The above information is just an outline about how local search works and how you can improve local SEO. To learn more about implementing a strategy that drives qualified traffic to your website and increase foot traffic to your business, click here to read our book.