What is local SEO?
When people wanted to find a specific product, service, or business in their area, they used to look in the phonebook. Most people have long since abandoned those cumbersome books (as evident in their size) in favor of online searches, such as Yelp, Bing, Angie's List, and, more often, Google and Google Maps.
Consumers want to be able to find what they need quickly and easily, whether it's a restaurant, a roofer, a plumber, or a tattoo. Google has reinvented search so that users are increasingly able to find what they're looking for right from the search engine results pages (SERPs) without even having to click through to a website.
However, ranking on Google SERPs is a must if you want to boost your online visibility and credibility. Therefore you have to ensure that your website and local listings follow along with what Google is looking for.
This is referred to as local search engine optimization or local SEO.
Local SEO refers to the numerous strategies and various tactics that will get your small business website, general listings, and Google Business Profile to appear for the location-based searches as well as in local results for broader searches. These are often referred to as Google Map Pack, three-pack, or local pack.
Why Is "Local" in Local SEO so Important?
Jump back into your Delorean and go back several years ago to when Google discovered that users were looking for specific sorts of businesses in proximity to them. In other words, people were searching for phrases such as "oil change near me" or "coffee shop [location]."
Since the people at Google are smart cookies, they have access to billions of searches and the ability to search the web from our phones. They realized they needed to provide better results focused on these types of searches. Enter local search results and the birth of local SEO.
More than likely, you have heard about SEO in which your website is being optimized both in the "backend" or the code and the more technical nature of a website. It will also include your content, such as landing pages and blogs, for specific topics and keywords your clientele will be looking for you with. It will also focus on your website's load time, structure, and mobile-friendliness.
Local SEO takes all the above into account but adds another layer by adding geographic landing pages, optimizing your content for local searches, and looking into and optimizing local listings. Hence, your small business shows up for your local clientele searches.
How Can Local SEO Help My Business?
Now that you understand what local SEO is, you're undoubtedly curious about how it may benefit your business.
Here are five ways local SEO can help your business:
1. Improve Your Visibility With Local SEO
People use search engines to get answers to their questions, learn more about products and services, and locate and compare businesses. This isn't just for new and prospective clients.
Even your existing clients are more likely to use a search engine to find your business than to type your URL into the address bar. Need further proof? According to statistics compiled by Ahrefs, "google" is the top searched term on Bing worldwide. "youtube," "facebook," "gmail," and "amazon" round out the top five.
The bottom line is that you want to make sure your clients and prospects can find you when they're looking.
2. Increase Your Website Traffic With Local SEO
The higher your small business ranks on the SERPs for local searches, your site will get more visitors. And organic traffic or traffic derived from search engines can be extremely lucrative. In reality, organic search can account for more than half of all site traffic.
3. Generates Qualified Local Leads with Local SEO
When your local SEO campaigns are successful, your website will appear in the SERPs for local clients actively searching for your services.
This means that visitors who find your website through the search engines are already interested in your services and are more likely to convert from a lead to a new client.
4. Local SEO Is Basically Free Advertising
Local SEO helps raise your company's visibility among your local clients. You are not losing anything even if a searcher does not immediately click on your website from local search results. Since you aren't paying for an impression, nor are you paying for a click when they don't click to go your site. It's free advertising on Google and other platforms!
5. Local SEO Ultimately Leads to More Clients
Improving your local SEO allows potential clients in your area to find your business online, thus increasing qualified traffic to your website and shop. The more qualified traffic you receive, the more leads you get, which allows you to convert them into paying clients.
Furthermore, Google search results now allow consumers to interact with businesses right from the results pages, making engagement and conversion even easier.
Your Local Marketing and Local SEO: How They Work Together
Did you know that people need to see a brand 7-10 times before choosing to do business with them? Therefore, Local SEO is one of the most visible places for local clients to see your small business and brand’s information.
If you search for something locally, the page may flow something like this:
First, you will see the paid search results or PPC ads at the top.
Next will come the Google Map Pack, three-pack, or local pack. These results are coming from the Google Business Profiles, and if you click on the results, it will bring up Google Maps.
Then depending on your query, you might get the “People also ask” box, or you might be taken to the top 10 results. These sites are the ones that Google has determined to have the best results for what you are looking for.
At the bottom, you will see more ads and Related Searches.
To get in the three-pack, you need to make sure your Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business Profile) is optimized, and you are collecting reviews on it.
Here are some quick facts about Google Ads on the SERPs:
- Online ads increase brand awareness by 80% (Source: Google Ads)
- 90% of internet users see Google ads (Source: Websitebuilder)
- 65% of buyer-intent keywords are paid clicks (MARKINBLOG, 2019)
- 53% of Paid Clicks are From a Mobile Device (Souce: Wordlead)
Obviously, local SEO is a fantastic choice, and there is now no doubt in your mind that you need it. Here are ten tips to make it a success.
10 Tips for Local SEO
One of the best ways to get more visibility on Google is to employ the proper use of local SEO strategies. Here are ten ways local SEO can help:
Focus on your Google Business Profile (formerly known as Google My Business)
A website is essential for local SEO, but a Google Business Profile is equally and possibly not more important.
The Google Map Pack appears beneath sponsored search results for the majority of local searches. To get in the three-pack, you need to make sure your Google Business Profile is optimized and you are collecting reviews on it.
Invest in a Mobile-Friendly Website
You may or may not find this shocking, but mobile internet usage has surpassed desktop internet usage because most local searches are now made from mobile devices (for example, "hair salon near me"). Google currently indexes the mobile version of a business's website rather than the desktop version.
Make sure the experience of finding, learning about, and contacting your small business is as seamless on mobile as it is on desktop. Ideally, your website should display and function consistently across any device, often referred to as responsive.
Furthermore, user experience is a major factor in ranking. If users have to pinch and zoom, experience slow load times, or can’t find the information they’re looking for quickly, Google may exclude your site from local search results.
Pay Attention to Directory Listings
As previously mentioned, directory listings such as Google Business Profile are a vital part of local SEO and enhance your search visibility. Listings are virtual profiles of your company that include details such as your NAP (name, address, and phone number), website, and any other relevant information.
In addition to Google Business Profile, you should get listed on other major directories such as Yelp, The Yellow Pages, CitySearch, etc.
Listings in smaller niche directories will help your small business have more online visibility.
Optimize Around Location-Based Keywords
You should include relevant keywords to your business on your website and your particular location. This is referred to as geographic or localized pages.
You will also want to include location-based modifiers to the keywords in your listings and social media profiles.
Examples of both for a hair salon would be “wedding hair updos” but also for local searches like “Asheville, NC” or “wedding hair in downtown Asheville.”
Throughout your website, you should include geographically related keywords. They need to be included in the titles, meta descriptions, headers, image alt text, image names, the body copy of your website pages to increase your local visibility.
Look Into Location Tags
While social media has no direct impact on local SEO, following the proper steps can assist in sending location-based signals to Google and other search engines, which can help increase your visibility.
Here are a few ways to take advantage of location tags for your local SEO:
Include Your Address in Social Media Profiles
Some of your social media profiles may appear in Google searches, and you may also appear in local searches directly within social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. Armed with this information, you will want to ensure that all of the location-based areas in your social media profiles are filled out.
Create a Location on Facebook
If you have a brick-and-mortar, you will want to create a location for your small business. This allows you and your followers to tag your business in Facebook and Instagram posts. This can increase your visibility through your followers’ networks.
Use Location-Based Hashtags
Hashtags are another option for users to do location-based searches online. A person looking for a good late-morning breakfast on Instagram can quickly find a nearby place by searching #brunchasheville. Again, social media has no direct impact on local SEO, but it does provide local signals to Google, which may improve your local presence.
Don’t Forget Schema Markup
You may be asking yourself what schema is and why I need it? Schema markup was created by the major search engines at the time (Google, Bing, and Yahoo).
Search Engine Journal says, “The goal of schema was to create and provide support for a common group of tags that could be used by the search engines to better understand and display data.”
The bottom line is that schema should be used by local brick-and-mortar shops as part of their local SEO. It will help them to show up on the SERPs in carousels, answer boxes, and other rich snippets.
Consistency Is Key With Local SEO
It is not enough to register and show up in online directories and create social media profiles. Taking the time to establish uniformity across all of your web properties might mean the difference between appearing first or last in the SERPs.
Consistency has been around for ages (in internet years), as evident from this article by Adam Audette in 2010.
“In SEO, the small stuff truly matters, and consistency is especially powerful. At the enterprise level, things like page titles, internal links, and duplicate content may seem almost trivial compared to the overall complexity of the site. But they are hugely important, and when well-optimized in sum can literally make or break a site’s SEO potential.”
(Source: Search Engine Land)
This is why it is critical to manage your local listings.
You wouldn't want to use the term "Sweet Shop" on Yelp and "The Sweet Shop" on your Google Business Profile listing, for example. Your NAP has to be consistent across all sources online.
Optimize your local visibility
Now that you’ve established some best practices for local search marketing, it’s time to build on that foundation to optimize your local visibility.
Geographically Modify Your Business Name Online
Your business's name will be distinct enough to set it apart from the competition in most circumstances. If, on the other hand, your restaurant is called "Number 1 China Buffet," you may find yourself competing with a slew of other "Number 1 China Buffets" out there.
You could choose to list your establishment as "Number 1 China Buffet Asheville" in databases and on your website. Not only will this distinguish your company, but it will also make you more prominent in searches such as "Chinese Buffets in Asheville." Whatever you choose to use, make sure you use it across all platforms.
Publish Locally Relevant Content
Authentic material linked to your industry is essential for any type of SEO. On the other hand, locally relevant content should be part of your content marketing strategy for local small businesses. For example, if you’re a locksmith in Hendersonville, you could write a blog post entitled “10 Ways to Keep Your Home Safe in Hendersonville.”
Also, you should include information about area partnerships and local events, as this helps draw in the locals and enhance your local visibility.
Want to Boost Local Search Rankings? Get Reviews!
Google knows that in order to be most beneficial to its users, it has to provide accurate information which searchers can rely on when deciding which businesses to connect with. The more reviews you have (ideally, positive reviews), the more visible you will be on the SERPs.
A good reputation can also help you appear in local searches that involve the word "best." If you have a star rating of 4.5 or higher, Google will show your local small businesses in the local pack for “best of” searches. Therefore it is worth the effort to increase your review count and review ratings to maximize your chances of appearing for those local searches.
If you want to take it a step further and automate your review collection and response, we at Cube Creative Design offer online review & reputation management that takes all the work out of the process!
How Do You Measure Local SEO Success
Now that you have implemented most if not all of the above strategies and techniques, how do you know if what you did is really working?
There is a running joke in the SEO community that the answer to that question is “it depends.” Measuring the effectiveness of SEO can be tricky. However, here are five key performance indicators (KPIs) to watch for with your local SEO.
Local SEO KPI #1: Organic Traffic
Organic traffic is the number of people who are visiting your site by clicking on your listing in the SERPs. You want to see this figure rise over time as it indicates that your site is appearing in search results for relevant searches, many of which are likely to be local searches.You can dig into this through your Google Analytics or the reports provided by your digital marketing agency or potentially by your website host.
Local SEO KPI #2: Bounce Rate
You may be asking yourself, what is a bounce rate? Google defines a bounce as:
“A bounce is a single-page session on your site. In Analytics, a bounce is calculated specifically as a session that triggers only a single request to the Analytics server, such as when a user opens a single page on your site and then exits without triggering any other requests to the Analytics server during that session.”
They go on to define bounce rate as “single-page sessions divided by all sessions, or the percentage of all sessions on your site in which users viewed only a single page and triggered only a single request to the Analytics server.”
(Source: Google Analytics Help)
Your bounce rate isn’t directly tied to local SEO, but it is still important to know what your is and keep a watchful eye because it lets you know if the content on your site is valuable for prospects.
Local SEO KPI #3: Google Business Profile Metrics
Your Google Business Profile is one of the most, if not the most important local SEO tools. It can give you some fantastic insights into how you’re showing up for local searches.
Within your Google Business Profile dashboard, you get access to tons of reports and information on when and how your listing is being seen. It will include information such as:
- How are people finding you or the most popular searches for your business
- Where clients are seeing your listing, either on Maps or Search
- Photo views
- Phone calls
- Popular times
Local SEO KPI #4: Leads
If you can track your leads in your CRM if it's connected to your website. This will help you figure out which ones came from organic search results. If you are using another method or offline method, it will be much harder. Regardless of the way you choose, as your local SEO evolves, you will want to keep a check to see if the number of leads you get from organic search results increases. This will help you validate whether or not your local SEO strategy is working.
If you observe that your local SEO approach isn't producing more leads, you should examine your website layout and ensure you have an effective way to collect leads on your website.
Local SEO KPI #5: Location-based Keyword Performance
Keywords aren't the most crucial local SEO KPI, but they can help you understand how searchers find you and whether or not your site is aligned with search terms that are best for prospects to find your local small business.
It is critical for your strategy to understand how your local SEO performs. Using these local SEO KPIs as a starting point, you can continue to invest in a local SEO strategy and see your results develop.