Every small or multi-location company can grow their business and attract more customers using local SEO strategies. In this local SEO guide we explain what local search optimization is, and why using a local SEO company can help improve your online visibility.
Local SEO (Local Search Engine Optimization), sometimes referred to as local search engine marketing, is an incredibly effective way to market your local business online, as it helps businesses promote their products and services to local customers at the exact time they're looking for them online.
This is achieved through a variety of methods, some of which differ greatly from what's practiced in standard SEO, and some of which are far easier to manage using local SEO tools and can require specific local SEO services.
First, let's look at the differences between a standard informational search and what's known as a local search.
DID YOU KNOW? According to Google, 46% of searches have a 'local intent'.
Whereas anyone in the world with good enough SEO and authority can rank for a search query like 'how to fix a blocked drain', when the query has much more purchase intent behind it, it becomes 'plumbers near me' or 'best plumber in [location]'.
For these types of search query, which typically include a location or 'near me' (which aren't even necessary if searching using Google Maps or if Google knows your location and assumes the search has local intent), search engines understand that what the searcher wants is business suggestions or lists based on location, and so that's precisely what they offer up in the local search engine results pages (SERPs). This difference in behaviour and result is precisely why local SEO is important and worth investing in alongside standard SEO.
What local businesses need most to improve traffic to their websites or through their doors is visibility on what's known as the 'local pack' or '3-pack'. This is the block of three business listings that appear below the map in the results displayed after a Google search with local intent.
Below is the local pack that results from the search 'plumbers san francisco'.
You’ll notice plenty here that’s different from standard organic results, such as opening times, review ratings, and even photos. Although Google is getting clever enough to pull this information directly from your website, that’s not where these elements come from.
Everything that’s displayed in the local pack comes from the business’ Google My Business profile, a critical part of Local SEO marketing that’s becoming more important as Google tries to satisfy more search queries directly in the SERPs.
Previously known as Google Local, and for a time, even Google+ Local, Google My Business (GMB) is, as the name suggests, your business profile on Google. You can find out how to add or claim your Google My Business listing here.
It feeds information to a variety of places, including the local pack and Google Maps search results, but the most familiar appearance will likely be when it’s in the top right (or top on mobile) of a branded search for your business, as below.
This is what’s known as the Knowledge Panel. Your GMB profile can include a host of information submitted by yourself, such as services you offer, contact details, business description, category, and opening times but it’s important to note that features such as GMB attributes, GMB Q&As, and Google Reviews are almost entirely generated by consumers, ideally with experience of your business.
A big part of local SEO is making your GMB profile as up-to-date and accurate as possible, so that it has a higher chance of appearing in the local pack, and trustworthy, attractive and appealing enough to warrant a clickthrough. Although it’s incredibly powerful, Google My Business is just one example of what’s known as a ‘citation’.
A citation is any place your business’ NAPW (Name, Address, Phone number, Website URL) information appears together online, typically in an online directory or business listings website.
These are particularly important to get in place for local SEO, as if you don’t appear in the places people are looking for businesses like yours, you’re likely to get overtaken by the competitors that do.
There are two types of citation: unstructured and structured. Structured citations typically appear in business listings and come from form fields being filled in when the listing is claimed. Below we’ve highlighted in yellow the structured citation for a Yelp listing.
Unstructured citations are more likely to be the result of press and social media, wherein your NAPW information is visible and connected on a web page (perhaps throughout a local news piece about the business), but not in a structured format.
Getting citations for your local business isn’t just important, it’s widely known as ‘table stakes’ in local search optimization, as in ‘if you don’t get citations, you can’t play the game’. While it’s key to make this a foundational aspect of your local SEO strategy, by building citations in the most relevant websites, research shows that if they’re not regularly updated and cleaned up, there can be serious consequences.
DID YOU KNOW? 68% of consumers say they would stop using a local business if they found incorrect information in local directories.
So now you know what local business SEO’s all about, you’ll probably be wondering how to actually achieve success in it! First, we’d recommend familiarizing yourself with the three core elements of local search ranking:
Thanks to evolving nature of search engines like Google, Local SEO can be a lot to work on. It’s always changing, and can take a lot of time and effort to get right. This is why so many SEO agencies and consultants invest in learning how to do local SEO rather than broader SEO. The rules are very different as you’re aiming to achieve different goals, and in many cases clients don’t mind if the high visibility of their businesses in local search and business listings directories leads to more direct contact and foot traffic than website visits.
We’ve covered some of the key things that help to achieve success in local SEO; now here’s an overview of all the local SEO services that can make a difference:
‘Localizing’ your website means including your city, county or region name naturally throughout your site. For businesses with several locations, this could involve creating separate pages or Content Hubs for individual locations. Other tactics include getting involved with local community events and featuring articles and information about them on the site.
Ensure your site features on citation sites and online business directories. Not only will this help customers find your business, but featuring your company’s name, address, phone number and website URL (NAPW) on citation sites and adding extra information to business directories will help improve your search rankings.
Claiming your Google My Business page is a a key step towards helping your business display on important Google services, such as local search results and Google Maps. GMB (and its Microsoft equivalent, Bing Places for Business) should always be the first online directory you take ownership of.
Genuine, honest reviews are critical both for showcasing the quality of your service and for sending signals to search engines that your site and service are trusted and useful. The amount of reviews you receive, the overall quality of the reviews and the authority of the review sites themselves are all important factors for local search rankings.
Naturally obtained backlinks from well-regarded websites help search engines recognize your site as a trusted source of information and boosts the ‘prominence’ aspect of the local search algorithm. Links from local newspapers, bloggers and business associations, as well as citations, can all help improve your search visibility.
You can find out more on optimizing your website in our local business SEO best practice guide.
Local customers are turning to the internet to find local businesses – on desktop AND mobile The age of the printed phone book is over as more and more people are turning to the internet to find information about local businesses.
Here are some statistics:
(Sources:Searchengineland.com and Business2community.com)
The top reason people perform local searches is to find a local business. The second most common reason is to find a product or service. Many local searchers are looking for a specific business’ name, but many who search don’t have a specific business in mind when they begin their hunt.
By using learning how to do local SEO marketing you can better position your business and promote what you have to offer to local customers when they’re looking for your type of business. There’s no better time to connect with a potential customer than when they really need you.
If you want a quick reason why local SEO is important, this is it. Online directories (like Yelp, Citysearch, Foursquare, etc.) display a business’ name, address, phone number and sometimes additional information (like a menu or business description). Local directories dominate the first page of many local search results. Local directory marketing (just one of many local SEO strategies) has a higher conversion rate than other more traditional advertising options – up to 50% conversion on some directories. That means that by getting your business accurately listed on as many quality online directory sites as you can, you’ll convert 1 in 2 leads into an actual customer.
More and more customers use mobile phones or tablets to find the best local businesses while they’re on the go. In fact, mobile digital media time in the US is now higher at 51% compared to desktop use at 42%. Local SEO covers both PC and mobile internet access, meaning you never miss out on a potential customer.
Unlike traditional advertising (e.g. local newspapers, leaflets, direct mail, etc.), with local SEO there is little wasted exposure. You reach potential customers when they need you — not when they don’t. This makes local business SEO both efficient and cost-effective.
Google My Business is a free listing that Google makes available for almost any business. Getting listed on Google My Business can help increase your chances of showing up high in local search results on Google. Additionally, many local businesses still haven’t figured out the importance of online marketing yet. That leaves the door open for you to get a head-start before your competitors wise up and it gets more competitive. Strike while the iron’s hot!(Source: Local Marketing Institute)
It’s free to claim your listing on Google My Business, Bing Places for Business and on hundreds of other online business directories. That means free promotion for your business!
Traditional advertising media is declining. In fact, fewer and fewer people are reading local newspapers. Recent figures show some local newspapers have lost 80% of their readership in the last 20 years. Why? Because more and more people are turning to the internet for their local news and information about local businesses.
Word of mouth is a major factor in the success of many local businesses. So increase your company’s online reputation, ask trusted customers to leave a positive review about your business online — and attract hundreds of new customers.
(Source: Local Consumer Review Survey)
These days, people depend on the internet to find information about all types of products and services, whether they’re using traditional search or, as is more and more the case, voice search to find local businesses. If your business isn’t found on local search results, you’ll miss out on new customers. Implementing a variety of Local SEO strategies for your business can help you show up on the internet map for future customers to see!
MarketLnk has been helping local businesses, multi-location businesses and SEO professionals understand and improve their positions in the local search market since 1999.
Track hundreds of keywords across Google, Bing and Yahoo. See a detailed breakdown of organic, mobile and Maps rankings. Compare rankings against your competitors and create ‘roll-up reports’ to view ranking trends for multiple locations.
Monitor and grow your business’ reputation by tracking and analyzing your online reviews across 35+ sites, including Google My Business, Yelp, Facebook, Foursquare, Tripadvisor and more. Guide customers to leave reviews on the sites that matter most to you, and reply directly to Google and Facebook reviews within a single tool.
Whether you use our manual citations team or aggregator submissions, our citation-building services can push your data to thousands of online business directories, mobile apps and mapping services worldwide, ensuring NAPW consistency and higher visibility in local search.