If you’ve been paying attention to search engine news, you know that internet searchers are using local qualifiers in more of their searches than ever. More importantly, they’re searching locally on their smartphones.
In the last two years, there has been a 500%+ increase in “near me” mobile searches that contain a variant of “can I buy” or “to buy,” according to Google. There’s also been a 900%+ increase in mobile searches for “near me today/tonight” queries.
Businesses that sell to customers in their immediate area can’t afford to miss out on local search results. If a customer can’t find you on Google, you basically don’t exist.
This, of course, has led to some less than favorable strategies. If you’ve ever seen a web page that has a title like, “Such and Such Store Near Me,” they’re doing it wrong.
Gearing your strategy toward local SEO takes a lot of work, much of which you can’t do on your website. Instead of optimizing their strategies for local search on their own, many businesses are turning to local SEO companies.
Local SEO companies do the heavy lifting for you while you sit back and reap the rewards.
So, if you’re tired of waiting for customers to respond to the flyers you put up around town, keep reading. We’ll do a deep dive into local SEO and explain how a local SEO service can benefit your business.
What Is Local SEO?
First, the basics.
Local SEO stands for local search engine optimization. It’s a process of optimizing everything you put online so your business can be found in localized searches. To learn more about local SEO, you can read the guide here.
A localized search is exactly what you’d think. It’s a search that includes a local qualifier. For example, “hairdressers in Calgary” would be a localized search because it includes the proper name of a city.
Of course, one of the most common localized searches includes the qualifier “near me.” These searches are often made on mobile devices, which then use the device’s GPS system and the searcher’s history to display results nearby.
Search engines like Google are now smart enough to separate the contextual meaning of the term “near me” from the words “near me,” themselves. That’s why titling your web page with “near me” won’t work.
These days, you’ll see a lot of ads in local search, and for good reason. Businesses that depend on local clientele always have competitors. Ads are a way to get to the top of search results without a lot of work.
Why Focus on Local Search?
If part of your business involves a physical storefront, you need to show up in a local search. Not only are you competing against e-commerce stores, but you’re also competing against every similar business in your area.
Today, four out of five consumers find local information through a search engine. This includes information like business hours, business locations, reviews, phone numbers, email addresses, and even what the business looks like from the street.
People used to look up businesses in the phone book and call them to find out their hours. Now, everybody does that on Google.
If you search for your business right now, what comes up? If you don’t see your store name, location, phone number, hours, or any other information, search engines don’t know you exist yet.
There are three factors that determine whether your business shows up in search:
Relevance relates to the search itself. If someone searches, “pizza restaurants in Chicago,” they aren’t likely to get listings for sushi restaurants in Los Angeles! If you operate a pizza joint in The Windy City, you’d be a relevant hit for that search if you’re optimized for local SEO.
Distance relates to the searcher’s location. Even if they don’t type in a city name, search engines will know their location because of their phone’s GPS or their computer’s IP address. The closer the business, the more relevant it is to the searcher.
Lastly, authority relates to how much search engines like your website and how recognizable your brand is. This isn’t a factor you can influence overnight. The best way to enhance it is to produce relevant content, obtain backlinks, and stay active on social media.
So, where to start? To dominate local search, start by building local citations.
What Are Local Citations?
A local citation is any instance in which your company is mentioned on another website. For example, if your business is listed in an online directory among other businesses, that would be considered a local citation.
You want to generate as many local citations as possible, but only on authoritative websites. This means submitting your business information to several directories. It’s a time-consuming process, but local SEO companies can help you do much of the manual work.
Create a Google My Business Page
If you want your business to rank in Google, tell Google about your business.
Google My Business (GMB) is a local SEO tool provided by the search engine giant that’s free to use. It lets you manage how your business appears on Google Maps and in Google search results.
If you’re just getting started with directories and local SEO, start with Google My Business. It’s a simple process:
- Log into the Google account you want to be associated with your business.
- Go to google.com/business and select “Manage Now.”
- Type in the name of your business.
- Type in the address of your business.
- Select your delivery area (if applicable).
- Choose your business category.
- Add your business phone number or website.
- Choose an option for verifying your business.
Once you’ve set up the basics, you need to optimize your listing with photos, videos, reviews, and other information. This a long-term process.
Some businesses try to do it themselves. But with the help of an SEO service, you don’t have to worry about the legwork or missing any opportunities.
Get Listed in Directories
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of business directories on the Internet. Some of them won’t be worth your while, but it pays to get listed in many of them. Start with the obvious ones like Yelp and Yellowpages.com.
Directories are also locations where customers can leave reviews. If you’ve never had to deal with online reviews, this can sometimes be a scary prospect. But it’s necessary for your local SEO strategy.
In one survey, 90% of consumers said reading positive online reviews influenced their buying decisions. However, 86% said negative reviews also had an impact.
Think of reviews as an opportunity to see what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong. If you stay proactive, you can improve your reviews and jumpstart your business!
It goes without saying, but you should be consistent with every listing you have online. Document your name, address, phone number (NAP), and any other relevant information you plan to post online. Refer to your master document any time you need to input this information.
Most marketers believe search engines use the multitude of NAP information online as a system of references for verifying your business. The more consistent NAP information you have online, the more likely search engines are to deem you trustworthy and legit.
Do a NAP Audit
If your business has moved or you think your information is incorrect online, you may need to do a NAP audit. If you know where your business is listed online, you can do this on your own. Start by doing a technical SEO audit of your website.
But if you’re business information is posted in several locations, you may need the help of a local SEO company. Some paid programs can also check this information with automation.
How Do You Optimize Your Website for Local Search?
Once you’ve taken care of your Google My Business page and your NAP information, you can start thinking about your website. If you don’t have a lot of content and you’re lacking a keyword strategy, your pages won’t show up in local search results.
Before doing anything, identify local keywords that are relevant to your business.
Use Local Keywords
Local keywords are those with local qualifiers.
For example, if you run a dry-cleaning service in Brighton, Massachusetts, a good local keyword might be “Brighton dry cleaner” or even “Boston dry cleaner.” If you typically serve college students, you could even pick a keyword like “college dry cleaning in Brighton.”
Local keywords may not get many monthly searches, but that’s okay. It’s not the volume of traffic your targeting, but the niche.
Add Location Pages
If you serve customers in multiple locations, you should build landing pages for each location. Optimize those landing pages with local keywords and add a call-to-action (CTA) to entice visitors to click.
For example, if you’re based in Edmonton but you serve communities throughout the city, you can create a location page for each of those neighborhoods. If you’re based online and you can serve anyone in the U.S., you can create location pages for states, cities, and even counties.
Location pages are a great tool for businesses who are trying to target customers overseas. While it can be hard to rank if you’re business address isn’t in the same country, creating an optimized location page can at least get your foot in the door.
Create Local Content
Finally, take your long list of local keywords and create content optimized for each one. Blog posts are often the best medium for this.
You can have fun with it, too! For example, if you sell hiking shoes to customers in Maine, a post like, “12 of the Best Hiking Trails in Maine” might pique the right people’s interest.
Some of your topics might seem silly, but if you get a hit with one of your posts, it can do wonders for your business. HubSpot refers to these as “compounding blog posts.” They make up 10% of all your blog posts, but 38% of your overall web traffic.
What’s So Special About Local SEO Companies?
If this all seems like a lot of work, that’s because it is. That’s also the reason so many businesses are working with local SEO companies.
A local SEO company not only has the people-power to take care of all the manual tasks associated with local SEO, but they also have the talent. There are a lot of details that go into a local SEO strategy. But local SEO companies have the experience to make your strategy easy and seamless.
If you want more information about digital marketing or to get a free website audit, contact SEOheights today!
Happy local marketing!