Local SEO is incredibly important if you want to be found on Google, especially on mobile; however, local SEO will be more relevant to some businesses than others. Businesses such as cafes, bakeries, restaurants, clothing boutiques, salons, coffee shops, law offices, tax offices, florists, candy shops, and the like will want to be found in real-time when a person is local to that physical location; other businesses like digital marketers, SEO specialists, online retailers, and the like do need to have their local SEO established, but it might be less important to their overall traffic. That doesn’t mean, though, that local SEO isn’t important to all companies.
In the 1990s, there was no difference between ‘normal’ SEO and local SEO, but as SEO has become more complex, businesses need to understand local SEO and how to make a difference. Here’s a very quick, mini-guide to local SEO.
What is local SEO?
Local SEO helps businesses optimize their websites for people searching from a nearby location. For example, if you’re in Philadelphia for the first time and you want a cheesesteak, then you might Google ‘Philadelphia + cheesesteak.’ The results you get will likely be the three ‘most popular’ places to get a cheesesteak. But, keep in mind that Google’s ranking of ‘most popular’ is weighted in their favor in that it’s often the place with the most Google reviews and the highest star rating–we’ll touch on that again later.
What is Google My Business?
Google My Business used to be called ‘Google Places’ and is the starting point to getting you on the local SEO map. All you do to get started on activating your Google business page is by following the link and the steps (www.google.com/business), which includes going to Google maps and finding the exact location of your business.
One key factor in Google My Business is ensuring that your business address matches in every place you have it listed. On your Google Business page, your website, your social media, everywhere. Write down the exact way you have written your business name, address, and phone number. For example, if you use ‘st.’ or ‘street’ or if you have an ampersand in your business name or you use ‘and’ instead. The details have to match identically, case for case, across all online platforms.
Another key point is to fill out your business page as fully and completely as you can and encourage your customers to leave a review. But think further than Google. Even though most searches come through Google, it’s important also to list your business on Bing Places and Apple Maps listings.
The top-three local SEO results on Google
You may or may not have noticed that when you Google anything that may be construed as a business such as for clothing, food, goods, and so on, Google comes up with their top-three results on page one of the SERP. Given that 53% of users who search on mobile have ‘local intent,’ which means they are searching for businesses in the local area, then if you aren’t on the first page of Google, you may be missing out on valuable business opportunities.
What influences the three-pack?
Many factors influence whether you’ll show up in the top three. These can include
- user’s proximity to your business, categories, having a keyword in your business name
- Inbound links, anchor text, lining domain authority
- IYP (Internet Yellow Pages), aggregator NAP consistency, citation volume
- review quantity, review velocity, review diversity
- Click-through rate, mobile clicks to call, check-ins
- Google engagement, Facebook engagement, Twitter engagement, Instagram engagement
One of the biggest (and maybe easiest) ways you can increase your chances of getting in the top-three is by asking your engaged customers to leave reviews. You can encourage customers to leave Google reviews by offering discounts (such as 10% off their next product or service) for those who leave reviews. Of course, it may be better to ask those customers who you are certain have had a good experience.
A little side note on customer service in general: if you do get a customer complaint, there are often 26 unhappy customers who did not complain so it’s important to learn from those negative reviews. Many an unhappy customer simply goes to your competitor never to return–91% of unhappy customers don’t return, in fact. Customers who have their experience turned around, meaning that they had a negative experience with your business but you were able to resolve it and turn it into a positive customer experience, those happy customers often tell 4-6 friends–and word of mouth is powerful.
Use Google Keyword Planner (or similar)
Google Keyword Planner is a useful (free) tool to help you get your website SEO strategy in place. You want to optimize your website for as many ‘local keywords’ as you can. For example, if you are a florist, you’ll want to optimize for any relevant keywords such as ‘florist,’ ‘flower shop,’ ‘buy flowers,’ ‘Valentine’s day floral arrangement,’ ‘flower shop in Oak Lane, Philadelphia’ and ‘best local florist.’ You want to capture as many keywords as you can think of from long-tail keywords to short-tail keywords and everything in between.
If you’re unsure how to get started with optimize your website for local SEO keywords, discuss this with your SEO agency. Although, a quality SEO agency will optimize for local SEO as a matter of course.
Conduct a competitor analysis
Google Keyword Planner can present you with the keywords your competitors use. It’s perfectly ethical in the world of SEO to ‘steal’ your competitor’s keywords. If you are a business with a budget, you can get more sophisticated with your keyword planning and competitor analysis by using tools such as Ahrefs, Moz, SEMRush, or SpyFu, which are more advanced, but definitely not free.
Optimize keywords for voice search
Remember we wrote the recent piece on the importance of voice search? It’s important that when optimizing your website for voice search you don’t ignore the local SEO keywords, too. Don’t forget that voice search is all about long-tail keywords, natural speech patterns, and sentence-like optimization.
Ensure your website is mobile-friendly
As always, SEO and local SEO both come down to mobile friendly websites. Your website has to be mobile friendly. When designing your website, ensure that the design works the way you want it to both for mobile and on desktop. Another big factor in any business is user experience, so when someone searches for your business using local SEO, they come across your website, they want to read it, if the site isn’t working on mobile, you may just have lost a potential customer.
Quick ways to optimize for local SEO
- Rank your landing pages–create landing pages to make the most of keywords. Create landing pages for all areas where you can serve. Example: websiteaddress.com/area-1, websiteaddress.com/area-2, and so forth.
- Optimize title tags, meta descriptions, headers, and content–as usual, on page SEO optimization applies, but for local SEO you want to include your location city as well as keywords on the page.
- Display your name, address, and phone number in Schema on your website–again, make sure those elements are consistent and ensure you list your business hours.
- Embed a Google map–embed your location so that you can be found easily.
- Ensure your phone number is easy to find–people might want to ring up to see if you’re open or ask if you have something in stock so ensure your phone number is prominent.
- Make yourself mobile friendly–we hate to beat the figurative dead horse, but this element is a must. Google has a mobile friendly test to check.
- Include reviews, case studies, and testimonials–people are more likely to become customers if they see other people raving about your products or services, so ensure that you get reviews, case studies, testimonials, and whatever else so that everyone can see how awesome your business is.
- Get local links–join business organisations, get talked about in your local paper and online, network with bloggers and influencers, get involved in the community, find ways to get your business noticed and get some quality backlinks in the process.
All of these quick-tips will help get you noticed in local SEO, but as with any SEO strategy, realize that ranking takes time and it’s not a one-and-done process. And, if you get stuck or need a helping hand, we’re here.
Need help optimizing your website for local SEO?
Key Medium creates fully optimized websites and offers SEO consulting for businesses who need additional help. Get in touch today.
Elaine Frieman is a UK-based professional editor, freelance writer, and former marketing agency content writer where she wrote articles for disparate clients using SEO best practice. She enjoys reading, writing, walking in the countryside, checking images for alt text, spending time with other people’s cats, and going for afternoon tea.