A local SEO strategy is vital because your potential clients frequently search for businesses in their area. In a Search Engine Results Page (or SERP for short) businesses showing they are local and relevant to the searcher’s query will rank more highly.
The rise of mobile devices has substantially increased the number of local searches in the past couple of years. According to Google more than 76 per cent of people who perform a local search on their mobile phone will visit a storefront within 24 hours of that search.
Helen Nicholls, who leads a team to assist Hubspot consultants and partner agencies deliver SEO for their clients, says its vital for a brand, retail outlet or service business to focus heavily on their local SEO strategy.
“Search results are now personalised based on a user’s browser history record. Location data, such as GPS in mobile or IP addresses also allow Google to understand more about your location,” Helen says.
“These factors enable Google to provide users with exceptional local information it’s now serving up what is called the three ‘local pack’ results above organic search results,” she says.
“For business owners, this means that for each ‘locally focussed’ search query for a service or product you provide; you’ll want to show up.
“If you don’t have a good local presence online then you could certainly be missing out on business.”
The “Local Pack” results highlight your Google My Business page and Map location above the organic search results. If you want to get local traffic to your site, it is essential to optimise for these results. How you can get into these results is through local optimisation, which is another subject entirely, however, once you’re in these results, how can you make the most of your prominent position?
How to show up on local search results.
Helen says there are numerous local SEO strategies to ensure you show up in the search results pages in your local area and drive more targeted visitors to your website.
However, to make it easier Helen has broken local SEO down into four components including:
1. Google My Business
2. Local online business directories.
4. Optimising your website for location.
1. What is Google My Business?
Google My Business is a free service from Google aimed at helping businesses manage their online presence, including search queries and maps.
“Google My Business is easy to set up and a great tool for boosting your local SEO – It’s a ‘must have’ for all bricks and mortar businesses,” Helen says.
Helen says when setting up your Google My Business account there are a few important points to remember:
1. Search on Google Maps for your own business first, to make sure Google hasn’t created a listing for your business already. If one exists, you can claim this listing as the business owner and optimise it with your details. If not, go ahead and create your listing.
2. It’s important to use the correct Name, Address and Phone (NAP) on your GMB page and all your Citation listings – the NAP should be uniform throughout.
3. Complete as much of the setup as possible such as images, logo, description etc. before requesting the Verification postcard. Google will post this to you in the mail. Yes, good old fashioned ‘snail mail’.
4. Be clear about your services, products and mostly your location and service area. Businesses which show their address (rather than a service area) have more opportunity in ranking in the SERP’s.
5. Keep your GMB page up-to-date and ensure that all the information is accurate and the Map PIN is in the correct position – otherwise, your customers won’t find you.
“Having a strong positioning statement about what your business will help. Optimise the description with your primary keyword, i.e. the one keyword which is most relevant to your business. A vague summary will make it difficult for customers and the search engines to determine that important relevancy,” she says.
“The distance and proximity of the user searching on the web is a well-known factor for ranking local businesses. Google will always try to show users the closest geo location options first, while the local prominence or importance of a business is also a factor.
“Prominence is all about the online activity connected to your website and listings, such as the number of other quality sites linking to your website, your online reviews, social interaction, events, local content.
“It’s important to remember your Google My Business profile works alongside your site and is not a setup and forget option. Get active – manage your reviews; update photos correct your addresses or phone numbers as they change and have relevant local content on your website.”
2. Directory Listings to boost your local profile
One of the major lifts to your local SEO can come from local business directories otherwise known in the SEO world as ‘Citations’. Depending on your location, there could be numerous places to list your business services. However, Helen warns not all business directories are rated the same.
“Some directories require reciprocal backlinks or push you for payment to enable a full advertising page and ‘front row’ positioning on their sites,” she says.
“Check out all your options with local directories; in most cases, a free listing is all that a small business needs.”
The business directories you should consider listing your business in will vary depending on your business services, your location etc. Here’s Helen’s list of the ‘must haves’ within Australia:
Your local chamber of commerce
Directories for your professional body
What to put in a business directory
While each business listing may have slightly different requirements, they are very similar in the information they need about your business. Helen recommends gathering the following information into one document to copy and paste into the listing site easily:
- Your correct Business Name, Address & Phone.
- Your submission email address – you may want to use a secondary email to setup the listing so your main business address doesn’t get bombarded with spam.
- Your business contact email address.
- Your social media links.
- Your logo and a few images – inside and out, the team etc.
- Your business ABN.
- Your Primary Keyword and a short list of other keywords.
- Your office hours and Categories of business.
- A short and a long business description – this will slightly vary for each submission. However, most sites ask for a short overview of no more than 200 words and a longer description of 500 words+.
“Keep the formatting the same across all listings and complete your submissions as much as possible,” Helen says.
“It’s likely you will get a few phone calls from directories wanting to upsell their premium listings. Many sites will send you a verification email to confirm the details too.”
3. The power of online Reviews
Recent statistics show 97 per cent of people read online reviews and 85 per cent trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
Furthermore, 73 per cent of people say positive reviews make them trust a local business more but 86 per cent of consumers will decide against buying from you if they read negative reviews about you online.
“Online Reviews are a real necessity in today’s consumer world. The percentage of users who research and read your reviews before choosing to do business with you is large,” says Helen.
Many business owners, professional service providers are particularly nervous about online reviews. According to the Power of online reviews study, a one-star rise on review site Yelp leads a to a 5-9 per cent increase in business revenue while one negative review can cost you 30 customers.
No-one likes a negative review and inevitably most businesses or professionals will at some stage receive a negative review. It’s important to know and have a strategy for how to handle a negative review. A strategy can help counteract their damage and in some cases, a negative review handled correctly can even be a positive.
“Typically, users want to see a mix of excellent and average reviews when researching a business or service. A site with all five-star reviews looks a little ‘contrived’,” she says.
“Ideally, the business owner should respond to every review – the excellent, the average and the bad ones. But as a business owner try not to expose your business to negative ‘bad’ Reviews – the recovery path is a very long one.”
According to Helen, online reviews can help your local SEO efforts by creating fresh user-generated content, social conversation and even your targeted keywords.
4. Optimising your website for local SEO
Helen’s final essential tactic for an effective local SEO strategy is optimising your website to effectively communicate your specific location for the search engine crawlers and visitors. Her tips to do this include:
1. Display your business name and phone number prominently on your website. Add your business address to your Footer section for every page.
2. Include your business location in the Title Tag of your Home page.
3. Provide quality local information about your service location on your website to provide real value to your prospective customer e.g. driving, parking or public transport directions, local facilities etc.
4. If your business has multiple locations then work to provide a separate page for each which is locally optimised.
“Remember, some businesses want customers to visit their stores, so make it easy for them to find you. Mobile users can locate the map listing of your Google My Business page and ‘click to call’ or ‘click for directions’ – it’s that simple.” Helen says.
Developing a local SEO strategy can take work but is well worth the effort to be seen by your target audience in locations you service.
If you want to learn more about local SEO, then check out the BrightLocal blog. It’s a great research-based resource focused on what influences local SEO.