Local search engine optimization (SEO) is a strategy employed by businesses who wish to appear on the search results of potential customers who are geographically close to their physical location or are local to the area the business serves.
This has become increasingly important as more and more consumers make use of their mobile devices when searching for a product or service they wish to purchase.
According to Google, 30% of all mobile searches relate specifically to the location where they are performed, with significantly more searches taking place on mobile devices as opposed to a traditional desktop-based search.
The same report also revealed that 76% of people performing a search for a product or service that is nearby will visit their chosen vendor within 1 business day. A further 28% of these customers will purchase because of a local search.
With this in mind, we can see that Local SEO is a powerful strategy that is vital to the success of both new and established businesses. If implemented correctly, it can be of immense value when attracting more customers.
Before we continue, it’s important to understand the differences between organic and local SEO.
Traditional, organic SEO focuses on relevant and authoritative content to boost the page ranking of the website and make it appear as high up on the search results as possible.
Local SEO is based on organic SEO but has a strict location-based focus and ranks pages on their content and their location.
Essentially, a business that has optimized its local SEO will rank higher than one that has not when somebody searches for a product or service that is close to their current location.
The Top 5 Necessities Needed to Get Started with Local SEO
It is important to remember that without a solid foundation, local SEO will be of limited benefit as many of the factors that influence a webpage’s ranking will hold when optimizing for local search results.
Local SEO differs from more traditional approaches like Google or Facebook ads in terms of the time it takes to see a return on investment.
Patience is vital here as there is no shortcut to getting around the Google algorithm. The only way to consistently rank higher up on local search is to have patience and to begin with a solidly optimized website that conforms to SEO best practices.
Here are specific tactics that businesses can employ to boost their local search ranking and harness the power of local SEO, in as little time as possible:
1. Keyword Research
Keyword research refers to the process of learning what terms customers use when searching for a specific product or service on a search engine.
When attempting to optimize a webpage, having a good understanding of the different phrases and terms customers are using when searching is vital. Using these keywords in the content of a page tells the algorithm that the page is relevant to the search query and helps to boost its ranking.
Identifying which keywords are best depends on 2 factors – volume and Intent.
- Volume is simply how often the keywords are used by customers when searching.
- Intent refers to how often a customer will follow through on their search and purchase a product or service.
It can be a mistake to rely on keywords purely due to their volume as the algorithm relies heavily on the relevance of the content when deciding which pages to rank higher than others. Using high-volume keywords as part of the content without paying attention to how relevant they are can cause significant problems and lead to poor results when implementing local SEO.
If the content of your website is not relevant to the search query, this can lead to customers spending a short amount of time there, without interacting. They will then navigate away to a result that is better suited to their needs.
This is called the bounce rate.
A high bounce rate indicates to Google that the page is not useful or related to a particular keyword, leading to it being ranked lower in the search results.
A good place to start is by thinking about the industry-specific keywords that relate to the business in question and optimizing for local SEO.
After that, using keyword modifiers such as “best” or “highly rated” to describe the product or service in more detail allows the algorithm to have more information when deciding where to rank the page.
Finally, making use of location-specific phrases in the keywords tell the search engine more about where the business is located and the areas it services, allowing for vastly improved rankings and better results.
Fortunately, there are several tools available when researching the best keywords to use.
Ubersuggest and Google Keyword Planner are both excellent resources that can take much of the difficulty out of local SEO by providing keywords that are both relevant and have a high volume.
These are by no means the only options that can be used, there are several others and it’s best to try them out before deciding which service is the best option.
2. On-Site SEO
This practice refers to how a webpage’s content is optimized to be as relevant as possible and increase its ranking when being searched for. It is the tactics and strategies employed by the business when creating the content for their website to increase the site’s ranking when customers search for its product or service.
It differs from off-site SEO tactics as these don’t require updating or publishing content to the website.
When determining how to implement on-site SEO well, the basic strategies of traditional SEO are still the most relevant. Paying close attention to location pages, title tags, schema markup, and correctly utilized keywords will ensure that the on-site SEO strategy is as effective as possible.
This type of page is created to target a specific keyword in a defined area. They are of enormous benefit if the content they refer to is well written and optimized. They give customers the ability to see if the service or product they require is available in an area that is local to them.
Each website has an HTML title tag that does not appear in its content. It’s the first contact point a potential customer has, appearing in the headline snippet of the search result.
It is also how the page will appear if a customer decides to share it with another person.
A great title tag is short and impactful, accurately reflecting the content of the page. It encourages the customer to follow the link and is where a business makes its first impression. It should be no more than 60 characters as anything longer will be truncated automatically by the algorithm.
Title tags need to have close attention paid to them as one that is poorly written will lead to reduced traffic and poor results.
Also referred to as a rich snippet, schema markup is a shared data vocabulary that helps the search algorithm to know more about the information included in a specific website.
While it isn’t a direct factor the algorithm uses when deciding how high the page should be ranked, it does allow for random keywords to be converted into meaningful phrases that assist customers in finding the website they are searching for.
In essence, schema markup ensures that the algorithm has the correct interpretation of a website leading to an increase in its ranking.
These are the words or phrases that people use when searching the internet. Following the industry best practices for keyword SEO in the content of a webpage is vital if that page is to appear as high as possible in the search results related to it.
3. Google Business Profile
A Google Business Profile allows businesses to manage how their websites will appear on products such as Google Maps and Google Search.
A clearly defined and well-written Google Business Profile allows a business to interact with its clients, attract new customers, and ensure that the information on the website is accurate and current.
Making sure that the profile is as professional and optimized as possible is one of the best ways to get the most out of local SEO.
The local Google algorithm will rank pages according to 3 factors – relevancy, proximity, and prominence.
- Relevancy refers to how closely a listing relates to a specific search query.
- Proximity is simply the geographic distance that exists between the person making the search and the business offering the product or service.
- Prominence considers reviews, links, and citations to determine how reputable and popular a business is and then ranks it accordingly.
Recently, Google has updated its policies and procedures with the “Vicinity Update”. This update places increased relevance on the physical proximity of the business to the search being performed and then ranks the page according to that.
This means that businesses can no longer merely include locally relevant keywords in their content when trying to practice local SEO.
It reduces the efficacy of keyword stuffing.
Businesses using inappropriate keywords on their websites will no longer be able to artificially improve their search ranking results.
Best practices for taking advantage of this update include adding photos, making sure all data is complete, location verification, accurate opening and closing times, and responding to reviews.
This update has added significantly to the already powerful Google Business Profile and is vitally important to effective local SEO.
4. Review Management
This is the process a business uses to monitor and respond to online reviews of its products and services.
Reviews are available for all to see. Ensuring that the business is aware of both positive and negative reviews is critical to its continued success and viability.
To take advantage of the power of online reviews, a business needs to have a completed Google Business Profile as without one it is almost impossible to increase its ranking with positive reviews.
Customers should also be encouraged to leave reviews and those reviews should then be monitored and responded to when appropriate.
If reviews are handled well, it leads to increased click-through rates and a higher ranking when the business is searched for. Positive reviews can form part of the page content so making sure they are dealt with is necessary when practicing local SEO.
5. Business Directory Citations
A citation is a key piece of information about the business that is available elsewhere on the web. It often includes contact information about the business or describes the goods and services the business provides.
A NAP citation refers to the name, address, and phone number of the business.
It is critical that the information in the NAP citation is accurate, up to date, and consistently referenced in every place that it is visible.
Inconsistencies in NAP citations will lead to the algorithm lowering the ranking of the page it links back to and decreasing traffic.
These citations tell the algorithm if the business information is current and the local search results are the best answer for the customer’s query.
Having an accurate, current Google Business Profile allows the algorithm to harvest this information from a single, reliable source. This avoids those inconsistencies, leading to much more effective local SEO.
Mobile search queries have become the most important factor to consider when optimizing for search and driving traffic to a business’s website.
It follows that local SEO and the best practices associated with it need to be considered by new and established businesses alike wanting to compete in marketplaces that are becoming increasingly crowded and competitive.
Taking the time to understand the basic principles of the search algorithm and how to harness the power of local SEO ensures that their customers searching locally are shown search results that are the most relevant to their query.
Ignoring these factors will lead to a decrease in ranking and result in poorer performance than if the time was taken to optimize local SEO correctly and employ the principles to make it work effectively.