Did you know that 80% of local searches result in conversions?
In short, this means that if your digital marketing has not considered or at least evaluated a local SEO strategy, something needs to change.
However, if you’re not familiar with local search, or even with general SEO, you might not know exactly how to do it -- and that’s what we’re going to help you with today.
Local SEO refers to the process of optimizing your online presence with the primary goal of making it more visible in local searches, i.e. location-specific search queries.
This type of optimization has become more and more important over time and, today, it is a top concern for any business trying to carve out success in SEO.
The reason is simple: users want fast answers and recommendations that they easily get to, and Google is giving them what they want, by continually hedging its algorithm in order to suggest services and products that are located in close proximity to where the search was made.
There’s no doubt that local SEO is a strong way for many businesses to gain leads and customers in their area.
However, it’s important to remember that local SEO isn’t the absolute same as traditional SEO.
There are differences between them, which begs the question: what do you need to consider when drafting your local SEO strategy?
Keep reading and discover three areas of local SEO you simply can’t ignore!
1. Google My Business
Whether it was to find a new restaurant to try, attractions to see during a trip overseas, or an ATM to go get some cash: we’ve all used Google Maps before.
But have you ever asked yourself what exactly feeds the Google Maps results?
You guessed it: it’s Google My Business!
When you do a Google search, you usually see a box with three to four Google Maps results, which is often referred to as a Google Map Pack, a Google Local Pack, or a Google 3-Pack.
Regardless of the name, there’s no doubt that this box has become an essential part of Google Search, and getting there should be a priority target for most companies, since, as you probably know, users are more inclined to interact with businesses that show up at the top of the SERPs.
And, when you factor in all the people who use their phones to do their Google searches, this becomes even more important.
So, how can you make sure that your Google My Business is optimized to appear in the Google Map Pack?
Well, conducting this type of optimization will be different from any other type of SEO you’ve worked on before, as the ranking factors you’ll need to consider are not the same.
The truth is that we could write a whole other article about the factors that influence the Google Map Pack rankings, but in today’s article, we’ll keep things simple by providing you with an oversimplified summary of what should focus on:
- Google My Business profile optimization: namely by verifying your page, adding subcategories, adding a local phone number, and description
- Local listing and citations: by claiming local listings on high-quality websites (which is a task you can easily automate with the right tools) and making sure all the information in your listings and citations is accurate and updated.
- Google My Business reviews: by encouraging happy customers to leave a positive review on your profile, so that you can get as close to five stars as possible.
- On-site optimization: by conducting your usual on-site SEO tasks, making sure that your content is optimized with the relevant keywords, including your address and other location-based information where it makes sense and adding schema markup to your website.
- Proximity to the searcher (which is considered to be the number one local search ranking factor): by making sure your address is updated and correct everywhere.
2. Organic Search Results
The organic search results are the part of SEO that most people are familiar with.
Mastering this area of (local) SEO entails ranking in the traditional search results positions, meaning, in the results that have a blue heading text and a blurb below, explaining a bit about the result.
Now, as you can imagine, organic search results are important for local SEO, since users will look through them in order to find the best answer to their search query and fulfill their local intent.
However, the goal here is different than when you try to optimize your Google My Business profile or any other profile on social media platforms because you want to drive visitors to your website, which means that you’re in control of what they find when they enter your property and how you present your business to them.
If we compare that with having (and optimizing) a Yelp profile, for example, the difference becomes clear.
Yes, users can find your brand and yes, you can add all the relevant and updated information on the platform. Nonetheless, Yelp is its own company, which means that you don’t own the traffic you get through there and you’re not 100% in control.
Why does that matter for local SEO, you ask?
Well, reaching a good position on Google’s SERPs will take a bit more than creating profiles on third platforms, as you’ll want to engage with users in a deeper, more meaningful way.
Whether you have video content you want potential customers to watch, amazing newsletters you want them to subscribe to, or a blog full of useful news and posts you want them to read: all of this will contribute to local SEO and to SEO in general, yet all of this is only possible to master if you have your own website you can direct users to.
3. Review & Reputation Management Sites
Did you know that an astonishing 97% of consumers check online reviews for local businesses? Or that 91% of people aged 18 to 34 trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations?
These statistics show just how powerful online reviews have become and, as a business owner or marketing manager, this isn’t something you can’t afford to ignore.
Now, what you might be wondering is… how can you get any control over what your customers post online?!
It’s all about keeping an eye on different reputation management websites, as well as review websites, such as Yelp, Trip Advisor, or any other industry-specific platform, as these are typically very strong players when it comes to local SEO.
The interesting thing about this type of website is that although they can rank for the same keywords as your website, they shouldn’t be seen as direct competition in terms of SEO.
After all, these platforms aren’t trying to sell the same type of products or services as you. On the contrary, their main goal is to supply users with information about different businesses they can work with, and provide people with reviews from previous customers, in order to help them decide which brand they should ultimately go for.
So, instead of looking at review and reputation management websites as competitors, you should look at them as strategic allies.
In this case, the best way of doing the optimization will vary from platform to platform, but our top three tips are that you:
- Identify the big players when it comes to reputation management websites in your industry and learn about what it takes to rank well on them;
- Ask happy customers for reviews, mentioning your review platforms of choice;
- Make sure to provide a high-quality service, so that you don’t have to worry about possible negative reviews.
In the end, your profiles on these review websites might just take a position on the first page of results, which isn’t only beneficial in terms of visibility in general but will also help you optimize your Google My Business and improve your organic ranking on the SERPs.
Winning All 3 Battlegrounds
In the game of SEO, you’re always fighting for the top 10 search results. If you’re extra competitive and want to take things to the next level, you might even be fighting for the top three spots.
Either way, your main goal is to increase your business’s visibility online and that will only happen if you learn about all components of SEO - including local SEO - and which strategies are the most suitable for your brand.
Given that users feel more comfortable using a product or a service when they repeatedly see a business in their search results, it’s easy to understand how winning at the Google Map Pack, organic search results, and first-page reputation management sites can do wonders for your company.
Your exposure and visibility will skyrocket and, in time, that will translate into your sales, so what are you waiting for? Let’s get working on your local SEO strategy!
Jason started freelancing in SEO back in college, sold his first agency, and now is the founder of Zupo, which is an SEO consulting agency helping construct powerful long term SEO strategies for our clients. Jason also enjoys multiple cups of tea a day, hiding away on weekends, catching up on reading, and rewatching The Simpsons for the 20th time.