Local Search Optimization Map

A Hero’s Guide to Local Search Optimization

When people think of search engine optimization (SEO), they tend to think only about ranking #1 for the one keyword that will make them big bucks.

SEO is much more.

But for a business owner, what matters most is sales, leads, foot traffic, or some other conversion important to their business.

In this article, we will be working on optimizing your Google local search results using a variety of digital marketing tactics.

What are the local search results?

When people search for a local service or business in Google, the search results that appear are “local search results.”

When you search for your brand name in Google, what do you see?

Great reviews? Videos? Pictures? Is content unrelated to your brand?

Below is the search result for the company Apple.

Apple Search Results

Apple is an international corporation, but they do have a local presence with its stores. I chose Apple as an example because it allows us to see a variety of features that can appear in the Google search results.

  1. Google AdWords – Apple is protecting its brand and directing searchers to critical pages on their website by using Google AdWords.
  2. Top Position – In the first position of the organic search results, you see Apple’s home page. You also see two additional features; Site Search and Site Links.
  3. Local Map Pack – Google will display three local businesses in the Map Pack. In this case, the Google Maps pack is showing three Apple Stores in this area.
  4. News – Typically, the news feed only appears for organizations that have newsworthy content.
  5. Related Videos – If you or others publish quality video content, these videos can appear in the Related Videos snippet.
  6. Organic Search Results – Until recently, Google would display up to 10 organic search links. In the case of Apple, because of the other features on the page, there are only five organic search results (Top Position, 2, 3, 4, and 5)
  7. People Also Ask – Google will provide common related questions that might help a search quickly find an answer.
  8. Google Business Profile – Google provides relevant information about a business, including social profiles and a description.

Don’t forget about Mobile Searches.

According to SmartInsights.com, over 50% of online searches were made through a mobile device. Check what your search results look like from a mobile device. You will find some similarities, but there can be some differences.

Now that you have an understanding of the different features that make up the Google search, do you see any of these features when you search for your brand?

Local Search Ranking Factors

Searchenginejournal.com goes into the top 25 ranking factors that have an impact on Google search results in local markets. Some of the factors include:

  • Google My Business listing
  • Google My Business Categories
  • Photos on Google My Business
  • Online Directories
  • Listings on Review Sites
  • Number of Positive Reviews
  • Reviews with Responses

By understanding the different factors will give you a better understanding of what Google is looking for in your online presence.

How Much Control You Have Over Google Search Results

Before we jump in, it’s essential to know that Google controls what’s shown and not shown. So even if you follow these steps, there is no guarantee Google will show you the love and display content the way you would like.

Google is always testing new layouts and features, so much that it can be hard to keep up. But with that said, if you follow certain fundamentals, you will have a high chance of taking control of your branded search results.
No Control
Also, keep these facts in mind:

  1. As a local business, having a News Feed appear in your search results is very unlikely.
  2. People, Ask will show questions from a variety of sites, including competitors and authoritative websites.
  3. The Local Map Pack will usually only display if you have a generic word in your brand name like “Barbershop” or if you have multiple locations. If you are a single location business, the map will not appear in the search results, but it will appear on your GMB listing on the right side.

Now that we got through the bad news let’s jump into what you can control!

4 Local Optimization Tips to Enhance Your Search Results

1. Google My Business

Don’t Pass Go, Don’t Collect $200. Go straight to optimizing your Google My Business (GMB) profile. If you want to maximize your local search results, you have to start with GMB.

Step 1

Claim your profile if you have not already. Here is a straight forward article from Google on how to claim your profile.

Step 2

Ensure that you complete all the sections of Google My Business. Including:
a. Business Name: Keep your name consistent across the web. Mumford & Sons Bar is not the same thing as Mumford and Sons Bar. Pick your name and stick to it.
b. Category: Select relevant categories that best match your business.

c. Physical Location: Keep your address consistent across the web. 122 Park Lane is not the same as 122 Park Ln Ste 3. Pick your address and stick to it.

d. Service area: If you provide service to your customers at their location, include the cities you service.

e. Business Hours: Include your regular business hours and any special holiday hours.

f. Phone Number

g. Profile short name: Make it easier for customers to find and follow your business on Maps and Search by entering a short name for your business. Ex. Mumford & Sons Bar, the short name could be “mumfordsonsbar.”

h. Website address: Here is a tip, use a tracking URL for your website address. Use the URL below; remember to replace site.com with your website address.
https://site.com/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=local&utm_campaign=gmb

Why use a tracking URL?

You will be able to see how much traffic your Google My Business profile generates for your business. You can track this data in Google Analytics. You can use this tool from Google to help build campaign tracking URLs.

i. Products: You can add pictures and descriptions of your products. When you add products to your GMB profile, the products will appear like this in Google:
Google My Business Products
j. Services: List the services you provide.
k. Description: You can write a business description of up to 750 characters. Be sure to include keywords in your description.
l. Other details: You can provide payment types, amenities, among others. Make sure you complete these details as needed.
m. Questions and Answers
As part of your Google My Business profile, you can answer questions that online users ask. You will see a section in your public profile that looks like this.

Google My Business Questions and Answers
You can seed commonly asked questions by asking friends to post the questions. You cannot post them yourself or answering them directly through the Google My Business platform.

Once someone has left a question on your profile, search your brand in Google. Look for your Google My Business listing on the right side of the Google search results. Then click on questions and then click answer. You will see something like this.
Google My Business Answers and Questions

2. Optimize 3rd Party Sites

When you search for your brand, what websites besides your own do you see in the search results? Do social profiles like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, or Instagram appear in the results? What about industry-related websites?

By optimizing third party sites you control, it becomes more likely that these relevant sites will appear in the search results.

Why do you want to do this?

Since you control these sites, you can control the content people see, such as pictures, promotions, products, etc.
Also, you can push customers to leave reviews on third party sites like BBB or other review sites.

Reviews on Google My Business

We will talk more reviews on point number 3.
What 3rd party sites should I optimize?

  1. Social Media Profiles – Relevant social sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.
  2. Industry Sites – Depending on your industry, the websites will vary—common examples: Angie’s List, Home Advisor, Thumbtack, etc. Look for relevant industry sites, claim your profile, and optimize the profile.
  3. Review Websites – Some industries have websites dedicated to reviews. Try to claim/create and optimize your profile.

Angie's List Home Page
Optimizing these 3rd party sites also has some importance as it relates to SEO. Most profiles will allow you to include a link to your website.

This link building strategy is not the most powerful in SEO, but they do help build trust factors between your site and these third party sites.

3. Get More Reviews and Spread the Love

Online reviews are a critical component not only to Local SEO but for helping convert potential customers.

Tons of research tells us consumers will search for a company or product review before purchasing.

Here are a couple of tips to help you get started with reviews:

  1. Deliver a great product or service. Without this, you will always be fighting to get positive reviews.
  2. Before asking for a review, ask yourself, did I do a great job? Do I think this person was super happy with the service or product?
    Ask these questions before sending a review request. Taking this step will increase your chances of getting a positive response.
    If something did not go right, see if you can work with the customer to create a positive outcome.
  3. Google reviews are critical, but don’t forget to get reviews on 3rd party sites. By getting reviews on 3rd party sites, you have the potential to improve the appearance of your Google search results with “Review Rich Snippets.”

Online Customer Reviews
An essential step in review management is replying to customer reviews. Good or bad, make sure customers know you are listening- especially if it is a negative review.

IMPORTANT REVIEW TIP: DON’T ARGUE WITH CUSTOMERS ONLINE. I put that line in all caps because if you decide to argue with a client, it will end poorly. Instead, it’s better to take the conversation online and see how you can make amends. Try to convert a negative review into a positive one.

3. Optimize Your Website

Website Optimization Meme
In this article, we will not dive deep into website optimization, but I will provide a quick list of things you should look for:

  1. Make it Mobile-Friendly.
  2. Your website should load fast
  3. Business information on site
  4. Optimize with relevant local keywords
  5. Include Schema Markup
  6. Service and Product Pages
  7. Add Images and Videos
  8. Have a clear Call to Action
  9. Create Blog Posts
  10. Reviews and Testimonials
  11. Contact Information

Website optimization can be overwhelming, and we recommend you get help if you feel you do not have the technical ability to diagnose or implement the items on this list successfully.

4. Google AdWords

Placing ads using Google AdWords for your brand terms is typically used by big brands that are trying to protect themselves from the competition.

As a small business, you can benefit from having ads run for your brand terms, too, even if a competitor is not bidding on your brand terms.

Why?

You control the content of your ads. If we look at Apple’s Ad:

Google AdWords Results
You will see they have site links below their ad, directing online customers to specific products and offers.
It is possible to do something similar using Schema Markup on your website. If we take Apple.com, below is their home page in the organic section of Google Search results. Look identical to their Adwords Ads?
Apple First Position in Google
The difference is, you have more control over your ads than the organic results.
You are probably asking, why would I spend money on my brand?

A couple of reasons:

  1. Direct customers to a specific service/product page to increase conversion rates.
  2. Protect your online brand

For local businesses with low competition, you could pay under $0.20 per click. So it can be a good investment. Test it yourself, and be sure to track conversions.

Still, need help?

Understanding the ins-and-outs of local search can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. With the right local SEO tools and the right partner, you maximize your reach on the world’s most popular search engine.

Don’t hesitate to reach out, we love to speak with local businesses whether you use our services or not, and we’ll be happy to get you pointed in the right direction. If we’re the right fit, maybe we can even help you become a Local Hero.