The SEO world is vast and local SEO takes up an impressive chunk of it. Both business owners and marketers have no other choice but to master the art of local SEO if their goal is increased brand visibility in local and localized organic search engine results. With 76% of consumers checking the online presence of a business before visiting the store and 46% of all Google searches being local, we dare to say local SEO can make or break a business.
What is local SEO and why does it matter?
Local SEO is the collection of strategies and methods used to optimize a website to increase the online presence and visibility of a business that has a physical location. It does wonders for businesses like restaurants, bars, grocery stores, medical clinics, and law offices. The difference between the general concept of SEO and local SEO is that this practice targets increased traffic, leads, and brand awareness in local search engine results. So, local SEO targets a defined geographic area with the sole purpose of making a local business stand out.
Local SEO brings brick-and-mortar businesses closer to their customers. When you’re using the right local SEO campaign strategies, online searchers will discover your business in search results. Almost all businesses need to find a way to be discovered online. From website optimization and content to backlinks and review management, everything should point towards increased visibility and, more importantly, online engagement.
According to Search Engine Land, Google processes 2 trillion searches per year globally. With numbers like that, we think it’s safe to say that this is the dominant search engine in the world right now, and most of your SEO tactics should focus on getting Google to like your business.
How does local SEO work?
The process behind local SEO can seem very complex to the untrained eye. And it mostly is because getting ahead of other businesses in the fight for local SEO supremacy is no easy task. The competition is fierce on all search engines, including Bing, but it seems overwhelming when your business is trying to score higher in Google’s search rankings.
Common methods marketers use to propel a business in search engine rankings include good use of local keywords, optimized Google My Business profile, and NAP (name, address, and phone) citations. These are essential components for your business to rank in local search.
At a glance, local SEO works just like a regular Google search. As soon as a keyword is typed in, Google comes up with the best results according to the inquiry. However, local search results are based on different ranking factors than your general search. Google bases its results on various local SEO ranking signals, such as:
- the location of the person who typed in the query
- NAP citations
- the Google My Business listing and associated keywords used in the profile
- online reviews and keywords associated with the reviews
- Google Maps star rating
- check-ins at the location
- social media shares
Based on these signals and more, Google determines if your business is geographically relevant to the person who performed the local search or used certain local keywords. The fight for supremacy in Google rankings will not be carried between your brand and some mammoth corporations but locally, with other local businesses just like yours. The primordial mission is for the potential customers to notice you and not them.
What is the Map Pack and why is it important?
Google’s Map Pack includes three local business results with their locations pinpointed on Google Maps. For example, if you are searching for “restaurants New York”, Google will instantly show a Map Pack above the usual search results you usually get for your search.
The Map Pack includes the name of the business, as well as features like contact information, opening times, and reviews. If you click on these business listings, you’ll get access to more details, such as photos, posts, etc.
Google has its own algorithm and rules to select the “winning” business that makes it on its Map Pack. Among them, you’ll find the usual ranking factors, like backlinks, but the focus will mostly be on specific local SEO factors, such as NAP citations and Google My Business listings. Pretty much everything that gets displayed in the Map Pack is extracted from your business Google My Business profile.
What does your business need for successful local SEO?
Local SEO is a complicated process that requires knowledge, expertise, and time. However, there are a few simple things any business owner can perform to increase their business visibility in local searches:
- Claim the Google My Business page for their business – it only takes a few moments and you can do this for free;
- Choose the correct Google My Business categories – select accurate and precise categories for your business and stick to just a few of them;
- Post photos on your Google My Business page – post photos of your location, products, staff, and any photos the customers may find relevant, trustworthy, and attractive;
- Don’t underestimate online directories/citations – claim popular online business directories, like Apple Maps, Yellowpages, and Foursquare, and trust that every citation counts;
- Claim listings on review sites – whether we’re talking about online reviews on Yelp or review sites like Glassdoor, every review counts, so make sure you claim it;
- Be thorough with your NAPs – for increased credibility and reliability, make sure your business name, address, and phone number are consistent across all listings and business pages;
- Strive for positive reviews – one bad review has never put someone out of business but a bunch of negative reviews can surely harm your reputation; engage with customers and earn positive reviews;
- Address negative reviews – one of Google’s ranking signals is an increased number of negative reviews with no response; make sure you always address negative reviews and engage with your customers;
- Build a social presence – social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram provide the perfect opportunities for increased business visibility; create business pages for every social media channel available and make sure you include your business location, business hours, and business address. Always add a description!
The key to understanding how Google’s local algorithm thinks is to understand what it’s looking for. The algorithm chooses results based on the relevance, prominence, and proximity of a business.
- Relevance – your business shows up in search results if Google considers it to be relevant for the search query. This can be achieved through targeted keywords, correct business info and categories, title tags and meta-descriptions, as well as relevant backlinks.
- Prominence – the prominence of a business has to do with the level of trust it inspires. Google trusts a business with local links, relevant content, directory listings, positive reviews, and active social media presence.
- Proximity – physical location is the most important local ranking factor. Users perform a local search using non-geo-modified, geo-modified, and “near me” strategies. Your optimization efforts should focus on all three.
Local SEO is challenging and complex, but when done properly, it is rewarding. From valuable content and a solid link profile to review site listings and positive reviews, everything matters if you want Google to include your business in its Local Pack.