SEO is without a doubt the name of the game when it comes to ranking high in returned search results. While having the most popular SEO terms for industry-specific searches can be advantageous, it is essential that you also maximize your local SEO search results as well.
Why should you boost the local connection? According to Hubspot, nearly half of all internet searches are conducted by individuals seeking local information. What is more, more than 80% of those who search for local contact that business within 24 hours. This means that you have a wealth of local prospective clientele that are only a click away, so it is really important that you make sure that your SEO is capturing this potential neighborhood new business.
In this article, I walk through the basics of local SEO and why it can be valuable. Then, I lay out some of the best ways to boost the local SEO for your online presence. These tips might not apply in all cases depending on the nature of your business, so you can pick and choose as desired. Perhaps a strong starting point for you is to review Moz’s local search ranking factors to see which might be most helpful. Implementing any of these strategies, however, is sure to bring you positive local SEO results.
What is Local SEO?
Local SEO works very much like organic SEO: it involves a carefully curated set of search terms that lead clientele to your site. Local SEO refers to search terms and keywords that help to connect your brand to any potential clients within your specific region or geographic area.
As one example, let’s imagine a client who has a celebratory event on the horizon and wants to order a custom cake. That client could search online for the best bakery, but he or she is most likely not interested in ordering a cake baked on the opposite side of the country. Rather, he or she is probably seeking a bakery nearby that can have a cake ready as early as tomorrow. This is where the local component comes into play: when this client searches for a “bakery near me” online, you can tailor your bakery’s local SEO such that your site pops up high in the list of returned options.
Why Should I Think Local?
Such local connections can be an essential driver for the success and growth of your business. Building that local connection, though begins with local SEO. As mentioned earlier in the beginning of this article, a substantial percentage of online “shoppers” are doing so in search of local recommendations. Added to that fact is the significant number of individuals who use map listings, like those found in Google Maps, that are returned for searches to select a product or services. To rank in such maps, you need to make sure your local SEO is in force; without it, you won’t become the go-to business for that local client.
Why do people want these nearby listings? Most times it is thanks to a combination of efficiency and convenience. For some services, like A/C installation or electrical repair, clients will often need quick attention and immediate service that is only possible with a local provider. For other items, like furniture or car sales, consumers want to experience what they are buying before they invest, which again can only be accomplished in person. For still others, it is just a matter of time: they are searching, for example, for “plumber near me” because they want or need it at this very moment.
How do I Implement Local SEO?
There are several really straightforward ways you can ensure your local SEO is superb. Let’s take a look at some of these now:
Take a NAP
NAP (name, address, phone number) citations are a crucial way to connect your business to your local clientele. As reported in Search Engine Journal, 50% of local internet queries are from people who are looking up a business address or phone number. With this in mind, if your site has out of date information or mismatched data across pages in relation to your basic NAP info, you run the risk of losing a lot of business. This is why it is best to review all aspects of your company’s online presence to ensure that your details are universally consistent.
Dive into Local Directories
In addition to checking your NAP citations across your web presence, you should similarly review how your business is reflected in local directories like Yelp, NextDoor, or YellowPages. While these might seem like secondary search sources, they are a massive source for information. Yelp alone has roughly 70 million unique users per month, with the vast majority of those users seeking ideas and recommendations for products and services within their local community. This means that, for some, these directory sites are the only place they visit, which means the information that appears there in relation to your brand thus need to be scrutinized with the same consistency as the contact information on your webpage. As part of this directory content clean up, you should also double-check to ensure that your listings are not duplicated.
This can easily happen accidentally if you have multiple facets of your business or offer a new service – for example, if you own a sporting goods store but establish an equipment rental arm out of the same storefront. You might think that having multiple listings would be beneficial for your SEO results, however, the opposite is most often the case: the inconsistencies between these duplicate listings can cause your ranking in local search results to plummet. More generally, these double listings might confuse potential customers – one might ask: “if I visit this store, will I be able to shop for smaller sports items or can I only rent larger equipment?” – and might drive them away to your competition.
Google My Business and Google Maps
Also important is optimizing your business profile on leading sites such as Google My Business. Not only is this site an important space for showcasing your brand, but it is also a means to link your business to Google Maps, which boasts more than one billion users each month. In short, refining your online presence within Google My Business is not just popular; it is critical for success.
This enhanced profile begins by claiming your business on their platform, which only requires the click of a button but is a step overlooked by business owners at a surprising frequency. According to a 2016 study shared by the Local Marketing Institute, more than half of local organizations had yet to claim their businesses. This percentage has assuredly dropped since then, but in case you are one of those few remaining stragglers now is the time to claim company, as it is an immediate way to boost your local reach.
You’ll also want to make sure that you tailor your Google My Business listing to showcase the best that your company has to offer in accordance with Google’s guidelines. You can upload photos or add quick links to your phone number or website so that potential clients can access you with incredible speed. You can also access key analytics that reveal how your customers are interacting with your listing so that you can adjust accordingly.
More Mapping with Apple Maps and Bing Places
With a more-than-30% market share in the United States alone, Apple Maps holds a notable chunk of market share and is still the default mapping feature for IPhone users. Bing Places trails with only a 7.8% market share, but nevertheless this is an adequately significant share of the market to take notice. This means that, similar to Google My Business, you should take the same steps to claim your company and curate your content again in accordance with the guidelines of both platforms.
Rev Up your Reviews
Reviews from local consumers are like gold and can go far in encouraging new customers to try out your products or services. According to 99Signals, 88% of consumers will rely upon the reviews they read online as much as they consider personal recommendations from friends or family. Moreover, more reviews can result in an improved local ranking on search returns. Given the value that these online reviews hold, try to identify ways to add to your review repertoire.
You can extend the impact of your reviews by responding to each one. This is a must-do for reviews that are less-than-stellar, as it positions you as a professional who is open to critique and customer suggestions for improvement (it can also be a space to clarify reviews that might exaggerate or misinterpret exchanges). At the same time, showing your gratitude for positive reviews can make you an attractive option for those locals seeking an expert in your area. Moreover, your responses to past reviews might be just the encouragement needed for another client to review, and soon the reviews can snowball to your benefit.
Don’t Forget Facebook
When we think of social media like Facebook, we might not think of them as the go-to resource for local business searches. It might be surprising, but sites like Facebook are increasingly becoming sources for such information. They even have implemented a “Local” button, making it clear that finding local resources is a key driver for their users.
With this in mind, it is important that you lavish the same attention to the details of your Facebook profile as you do your website. Make sure your page provides the most accurate and consistent contact details for your brand. At the same time, you should really emphasize local reviews and “check-ins” when applicable for your business. Similar to Google rankings, Facebook pays close attention check-ins as a signal of your business’s popularity, so asking your clients to check in can bring additional attention to your brand accordingly.
Insist on Instagram
Instagram is also a fantastic means to build local connections, and it can also be a space to showcase the creativity of your approach or brand. Known for its seemingly endless stream of imagery, Instagram offers users a space to engage with one another that, as a local business owner, you can use to your advantage.
Post images, for instance, of your clients using your services or products and encourage them to comment (another means of reviewing your business that only takes seconds!). You can also repost content from other local businesses – maybe as a shout-out to your corner coffee shop or neighborhood auto shop – as a means of building your local community within the Instagram space.
Ramp Up Relevancy
Another surefire way to build up your local SEO pull is to make sure your site is as customized for your local consumers as is possible. This can take the form of specific content on your website that links your services to your specific region. For example, if you have a physical storefront, you could include maps on your page that target your location. You can also specify a certain area you service and use keywords that target cities or neighborhoods. Need some help identifying those keywords? You can do some research within the helpful (paid) Keyword Explorer, or you can try other free tools.
You can further amplify your local SEO connections by implementing schema. Schema are, in essence, tags of code that you add to your HTML fabric to strengthen your appeal on a search engine results page. Popular schema, like a star rating derived from your reviews or a publication date, can easily be added to your results list and can be a further draw for customers.
Seek Out Local SEO
Regardless of your business, no matter your industry, when it comes to SEO it is always best to think local. Building the bridges to your local community can be a remarkably valuable stage in growing your reputation and your business. The only way to begin that growth, however, is to make sure that your local SEO is at the top of its game. Whether it is realigning your NAP citations or boosting your local connections on your website or social media accounts, taking these local SEO steps can put you steps ahead of your competition and can make you a local favorite.