Become #1 in Your City: The Complete Guide to Local SEO.
What do you do when you’re looking for a local business to fix your home gadgets or deliver your next order?
You pull up your device and perform a quick search online, right?
It's no different with your customers!
When they’re looking for a product or service in their locale, they turn to search engines to find it. Location-based search is getting bigger, and by extension, local SEO is becoming more important. A study has found that 46 percent of all searches on Google have local intent. If your business is set up to target local customers and you're not taking local SEO serious, you're losing lots of opportunities and leaving money on the table when people search for your type of product or service.
And did I tell you there are a LOT of people searching? HubSpot published a report which shows that 89 percent of consumers search for a local business on their smartphone at least once a week, with 58 percent searching every day.
And out of that number, 72 percent will visit a store within five miles, and 50 percent will visit within a day…same with 34 percent who search on a computer or tablet. These searchers are unlikely to find you if your business is not optimized for local search. A strong local SEO strategy is key to driving more people to your business locally. In this comprehensive guide, you'll learn everything you need to know to optimize your business to dominate the local search for your city and industry.
But first, what exactly is local SEO?
What is Local SEO?
Local SEO involves the optimization of your online properties (website, online profiles, social media pages, etc.) to show up on localized searches. It is SEO with an added geographical element. When optimizing for local searches, you're targeting a location-specific audience and the search results usually show up in a place called the “Local 3-Pack.”
Google Local 3-Pack
What is the “3-Pack?”
The Google “Local 3-Pack” is a triad of search results containing three listings of local businesses, based on the search query. To understand this better, let's examine a typical Google local search result page. Normally, the area above the fold in a typical search result page would contain just ads. After the ads, comes the part that is referred to as the “Local 3-Pack” or “Map Pack.”
As you can see in the screenshot above, that section of a result page has a map pack with 3 listings, hence the name “Local 3-Pack.” After the pack, what follows is the usual organic-type results you're used to. Local pack used to be 7-pack (made up of seven local listings), but it was syncopated by Google engineers to favor mobile searches.
Unlike what many people think, the pack is not the only place that local SEO affects search. In fact, there are three other places where local SEO also influences search — Google Maps, Knowledge Graph, and mobile results. Well, for an effective local SEO strategy, you'd want your business to sit on top of all these places, including the 3-Pack.
How do you do that?
It starts with understanding Google’s ranking signals FOR local search (yes it's different from the ranking signals for standard SEO), and then optimizing accordingly.
Let's discuss those next: Google Ranking Signals for Local SEO
In examining local search ranking factors, we often look at it from two angles:
Factors that influence the maps and local pack rankings
Factors that influence localized organic rankings
A 2017 Moz study on local search ranking factors gives a clear idea of what factors matter in local SEO for each of these two angles.
“My Business Signals” is considered #1 ranking factor for local pack rankings.
Have a look at the below screenshot for the full list:
Apparently, you'd have to optimize your Google My Business listing for maximize your chances (see below for more on Google My Business).
On the other hand, link signals is the most influential factor for localized organic results (the organic results refers to the section below the maps). This means local link building is an important factor in local SEO and we'll also look at that later.
Have a look at the complete list:
Now that you have an idea of what the ranking factors for local SEO are, it's time to optimize your business for the local traffic.
How to Optimize for Local Search
1. Start by optimizing your website
The best place to start is always your website because if your website is well-optimized, it will be easy for you to feature in the SERPs.
As you can see in the Moz study, On-Page Signals (Presence of NAP, keywords in titles, domain authority, etc.) make up a whopping 24 percent of local ranking signals.
Since this concerns your website, you would first have to ensure that you follow standard SEO best practices. And then, do the following:
Add a map
Local search is location-specific. And given that about 86 percent of people look up the location of a business on Google Maps, it's imperative to not only add a map to your website, but also ensure that your information on Google Maps is correct.
Make it mobile-friendly
In 2016, mobile became the primary device for accessing the Internet. And in 2017, the combo of traffic from mobile and tablet devices reached 56.74 percent while that of desktop stood at 43.26 percent in the same year. By now, over 30 percent of mobile searches are location-related. In short, 88 percent of “near me” searches are performed on mobile.
You’ll want to use our mobile-friendly test tool to be sure your website displays correctly on mobile devices.
Also, create click-to-call buttons (that is, your phone number or Skype ID should be clickable) 76 percent of local searches result in a phone call.
Add your NAP
Local searchers always look for contact information because their intent is to visit or get in touch with the business. So on your contact page, ensure you clearly show your NAP (more on this later).
Add Schema markup
Schema markup by Schema.org gives search engines information about the data on your website for proper indexing.
By adding the appropriate Schema markup to your website, you'll be able to point Google to your correct NAP and also let it identify you as a small business and not some big brand.
Add testimonials and reviews
Testimonials and reviews displayed on a website has some added advantages. Not only do they build trust with customers, they also boost local SEO. Specifically, when locals perform searches, Google does show testimonials and reviews alongside you NAP details.
2. Claim your online profiles
When it comes to local SEO, your website isn't the only property to optimize. Online profiles play major roles in how well you do on local SERPs. Below are the most important profiles to optimize:
Google My Business
A while ago, you saw the Moz study we cited. It states My Business Signals as the top ranking signal for the pack. This means your Google My Business listing is ground zero for how your business data is displayed on Google.
So whether or not your Google My Business profile is correctly and completely filled out can be the difference between sitting on top of local results and staying in oblivion. But it isn't just Google local search that is affected by your Google My Business profile, Google Maps and Knowledge Graph will also show searchers your Google My Business if it is optimized. This is huge, especially when you remember that 86% of people look up the location of a business on Google Maps.
If you haven't already, you need to claim your Google My Business page. And then, you'll have to optimize it by doing the following:
Fill it out with CORRECT and COMPLETE information about your business.
Add your NAP.
Choose the appropriate categories
Add images, including images of your products or even team members.
When signing up, use your professional email, instead of @gmail, @yahoo or the like.
Enter a detailed description of your business and do use some keywords your target searchers are likely to use when searching for you.
And do remember to verify.
When you this, your Google My Business profile will be optimized for local searches.
Beyond claiming your Google My Business profile, you'd also want to take your place on review platforms.
Why review sites?
Because when it comes to local searches, Google 3-Pack is often followed by review sites. Put differently, review sites make up the majority of localized organic rankings.
You can target both local review sites and the heavyweights like TripAdvisor and Yelp. Hubspot published a list of 22 consumer review sites, which includes Google My Business reviews, TripAdvisor, Yelp, Better Business Bureau, Amazon, and more. But before you get on with these guys, prioritize which sites will actually bring you the most return on your time investment.
To start with, find out the review sites that are best for your industry. If you’re in real estate for instance, Zillow makes the perfect sense for you. If you’re in the restaurant business, TripAdvisor would be an appropriate place to start.
Yelp, with its more than 100 million users, would also do well for almost all locally targeted businesses who want to show up on the map.
You’ll also want to set up profiles on the social media channels relevant to your target demographic as Google bots do pick up those profil, too.
Whatever you do, be sure that your information is identical and consistent on each platform. This is very important as the opposite can mar your rankings.
3. Provide localized content
Needless to say that content is the bedrock of SEO. If you want to show up on local searches, you should definitely create locally-focused content. This will be displayed on organic search after the map pack. And the best way to provide regular, relevant content is through blogging.
If you haven't already, create a blog on your website. Then localize your content for maximum local search benefits.
How can you localize your content?
Here are some helpful ideas:
First things first, know who you’re targeting. If you don’t know who you’re writing for, it’ll be extremely difficult to create valuable content for that market.
Incorporate the name of your local city into your content wherever possible.
Not everyone will use your city name when searching, so also try to include neighboring towns and cities, neighborhoods, and unofficial terms that locals may use.
Include relevant local news and happenings that can boost your SEO and provide useful information to your audience.
Capitalize on the popularity of an upcoming community event, election, fair, etc. For example, you can write a blog post teaching locals the best way to take advantage of an upcoming festival in your city, either by participating or how to make money off of it.
Partner with charities, non-profit organizations, or schools. Offer services, sponsorships, scholarships, or even an office space to host their events and then, write about it.
Participate in or spearhead community events. Or, sponsor local events, teams, or organizations, and write about them,too.
You can also interview local experts within or outside your company.
Optimize your content for “Near Me” searches.
In addition to creating local content, you'd want to build links to augment the content authority.
To do this:
Network with local bloggers and other small businesses in your area. Choose which ones are the most relevant connections, and open up a link or promotion exchange.
Get featured by local publications and organizations. Getting featured by any of these local resources may yield you some very authoritative .edu, .org, and .gov links.
4. Generate online reviews
While reviews may seem like a small part of the bigger picture that forms your online presence, a growing number of shoppers are depending on online reviews when deciding from which company to buy.
The 2017 State of Online Reviews survey by Podium states that 93 percent of customers say that their buying decisions are largely influenced by online reviews.
And according to a recent local consumer reviews survey, around 84 percent of buyers trust online reviews as much as friends. What's more, a Harvard Business School study found that even bumping up your score by one star can boost revenue by almost 10 percent.
And per local SEO, the Moz study reveals that review signals constitute about 13 percent of local pack ranking factors. If you're not getting the hang of it yet, these numbers mean that when you improve your online reputation, you hit not one, but three birds with one stone — increased customer trust, better conversion + more revenue, and yes, higher local rankings.
So if your business’ review is zero or negative, make efforts to improve it. It's not as hard as you may think.
The Podium survey found that 77 percent of buyers would be willing to leave a review if asked.
5. Get more citations
Along with link signals and reviews, citations are a primary factor that Google uses for local search rankings.
What exactly are citations?
Citations are any online mention of your business NAP, even if there is no link to your website.
NAP stands for Name, Address, Phone number.
Recently, a few terms have been emerging online like NAPW (Name, Address, Phone Number, Website) and NAPU (Name, Address, Phone Number URL). How do citations work for local rankings? To Google, it is logical that a business which is mentioned more on the Internet, gets ranked higher than one which is not mentioned as much.
That's why you would want to get more citations. But how?
Citations can occur on local business directories, websites, apps, and on social platforms. Here are the places to target:
Local blogs. These blogs are well-indexed by search engines and are highly associated with a particular city, region, or neighborhood.
Locally-focused directories. Go for directories admin’d by humans. This is because they’re less susceptible to spam, so they tend to be more trusted by the search engines.
Industry-focused directories or blogs. These websites are focused on the topics and keywords related to your products and services. And are thus, well-indexed by search engines.
Local search engines. Think about sites like Google My Business,Yelp, Hotfrog, and Foursquare.
Now, beyond citation signals accounting for 13 percent of pack ranking factors, many people use directories to search for businesses (not just on Google), which means the more citations you have, the better your chances of getting found by apposite customers.
But do remember that having inaccurate and inconsistent NAP can negatively affect your local SEO. Ensure your business name, address, phone number, and website URL are correct and consistent on each citation you build. Mismatched NAP citations account for 41 percent of the total local ranking issues, making it the number one issue affecting local SEO ranking.
Local SEO is essential, not just to the success of your overall marketing strategy, but also to your overall bottom line. Even more, local SEO can greatly augment your standard SEO practices as the benefits are compounded, which means it is not just local businesses that should implement local SEO but everyone else, too. With the stratagems laid out in this guide, you should be able to optimize your online properties to climb the local SERPs. Just remember to keep them consistent as that constitute the biggest SEO issue.
And if you need help with any SEO tools for local search optimization, check out our gang of hyper-useful freemium SEO tools.
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