Did you know that every single second that ticks by, Google is processing more than 40,000 search queries? That translates to roughly 3.5 billion searches each and every day and 1.2 trillion per year. Furthermore, according to Hubspot, 46% of all Google searches are local. How can you increase the odds that your business will be found by those potential customers? Easy. By investing in local SEO.
But what, exactly, does the term local SEO mean? More importantly, how can you put it to work for your own small business? Let’s take a look.
What is Local SEO?
Local SEO is a type of search engine optimization that focuses on getting your online presence listed as high as possible in the local search results.
So, rather than ranking for a broad keyword that might show up in the search results of someone who is located halfway across the world, local SEO drills down to target those customers who are geographically close to your business.
The better your site performs in these local searches, the more traffic you’ll get and the more qualified leads you’ll be able to focus on converting.
Local SEO can be separated into two categories:
- Local 3-Pack
- Organic Local Results
Google’s 3-pack, also sometimes called a snack-pack or map-pack, is a collection of the top-three results for the local search in question. For instance, if you did a search for dry cleaners in the Dallas area, the 3-pack results would look like this:
Just below the 3-pack are the organic results. Obviously, if your goal is to rank as high as possible in the local search results, getting into this top-three position is what you should be striving for. At the very least, you should be taking the necessary steps to rank on the first page of results (even if it’s outside of the top three).
So, how can you accomplish this? The following steps should help point you in the right direction.
Optimize Your Local Website.
First of all, if your website isn’t adequately optimized, you might as well not bother trying to rank locally, because the uphill battle you’ll face will make it next to impossible. The good news is, it’s never too late to turn things around. The first step is to check the status of your website’s SEO as it stands today.
There are actually a ton of tools available right online that you can use to analyze how your site stacks up, but one of the easier ones is HubSpot’s website grader. It’s completely free. All you have to do is enter your email address and URL and you’ll get a customized report with results on things like your site’s overall performance, mobile readiness, security and, of course, SEO.
To optimize your site for local, here are a few tried and true best practices we recommend:
- Create a separate, dedicated “Contact Us” page that includes detailed information – specifically your “NAP” (name, address and phone number). An email address is also recommended.
Make phone numbers clickable for mobile visitors. 88% of all local searches result in a phone call, so make it as easy as possible for your mobile web visitors to get in touch.
(If you’re not sure how to do this, here’s a handy guide from Google.)
- Add a map of your locations. The whole purpose of local SEO is to make it easy for prospects to find you, so adding a map is a must.
- Add testimonials (preferably on a dedicated page). Google considers testimonials to be a signal of trust, which can help boost your local ranking.
- Add schema markup. Schema makes it easier for search engines to understand what your site is all about. (Here’s a tool to make this step a little bit easier. Just fill in your info, copy the code and paste it into the section of your website builder or HTML document. Then test it here.)
Once your site has been properly optimized for local SEO, you’ll be in a much better position to start improving your rankings and increasing local organic traffic.
Claim Your Local Business Listings.
You website isn’t the only factor that influences local SEO. To strengthen your online presence, you’ll also want to ensure that your business is properly listed on other third-party sites. A good place to start is with review platforms, like Google My Business and Yelp, as well as any popular review sites that are local to your area.
Why is this important? Because Google’s 3-pack is often followed by these review sites. Just look at the example we used above. This is what shows up directly below the top three results for Dallas dry cleaners:
To find local review sites that might be worth pursuing, do a Google search with keywords like “[location] reviews” or [industry][location] reviews.”
You’ll also want to set up profiles on any and all social media platforms that are relevant to your target audience. When doing so, make sure that all of your information is complete, accurate and consistent across all channels. This will provide more information about your business to search engines, which can help improve your ranking.
Create and Publish Local Content.
Blogging is a critical component of SEO, and if you’re not doing so already, we can promise you that you’re missing out on opportunity. Not only is blogging good for attracting local searchers, but if you’re producing kick-ass content, you’ll also increase the odds of getting valuable backlinks, which also plays a significant role in localized organic ranking.
When writing content, be sure to include local keywords whenever possible. For instance, if you’re writing a guide about the best local things to do on school vacation, incorporate the name of the state, city, town or neighborhood of the people you’re trying to target. Including nearby locations and other unofficial terms that locals use can also help generate better results.
There are tons of different ways you can incorporate local information into your blog posts. For instance, you could write about a popular upcoming community event or share some exciting local news. Or, you could write about a local sports team or organization you’re sponsoring. Interviewing local experts is another idea.
Whatever you write about, don’t make it about your business. Google ranks content based on the value it provides to the reader. If your posts are all about you, they won’t be worthwhile for your audience. Remember – people don’t care about products or services. They care about themselves. Find a way to help your readers and add value to their lives and not only will you win them over, but your local search rankings with benefit as well.
Get Lots of Positive Online Reviews
Thanks to the internet, consumers now have the power to learn everything they need to know about a local business at the click of a button. And boy, are they wielding that power. Research indicates that 89% of people take the time to read online reviews or check a company’s ratings before doing business with them. And 76% say they trust those reviews (even from strangers) as much as they would a recommendation from a friend or family member.
Poor ratings can turn your customers away. The good news is, bumping up your score, even by just one star, can help boost revenue by 5 to 9%. And since reviews are included as a local pack-ranking factor, they’re also a critical component of local SEO. In fact, according to Moz, Google reviews are believed to have the biggest impact on local search rankings.
To get more reviews, focus first on providing exceptional service all the time. It’s ok to encourage your happy customers to share their positive experience on one of the major review sites (just don’t do anything shady in the process.) Include links to review sites on your website, in your order related emails and anywhere else you’re interacting with paying customers.
And if you get a negative review, don’t sweat it. It’s impossible to please everybody all the time. Just make sure you respond with the three P’s in mind: promptly, professionally and positively. Resist the urge to lash out or get defensive. Acknowledge and apologize for the situation and offer an appropriate solution. At the very least, you’ll show prospective customers that you’re listening, you care and you’re willing to do whatever it takes to right a wrong for your clientele.
Citations are mentions of your business NAP+W (name, address, phone number and/or website) anywhere on the internet. Citations also play a role in local pack-ranking. The most important thing to remember with citations is accuracy because inconsistency is the number one issue affecting local ranking.
Some ways to build citations for your business include:
- Local Search Engines – Make sure your business is listed on all relevant, high quality local search engines.
- Local Blogs – The more links you acquire from high quality local blogs, the more Google will view your website as a trusted local resource. To find relevant blogs, search for terms like “[location][industry] blog.”
- Top Local Directories – Search for relevant local directories using terms like “[city] directory”, “[state] directory” or “[region] directory.”
Depending on your industry, you may also be able to find some local directories or blogs that are related to your niche. For instance, if you own a plumbing business, getting listed on a directory of local home repair companies could provide you with a nice boost in ranking (not to mention extra leads.)
Trying to climb the search rankings can be a challenging feat, particularly for small businesses with limited resources. But local SEO is absolutely critical to the success of your company. By improving your local SEO, you’ll increase the amount of traffic your website receives, find more qualified leads and ultimately boost your bottom line.
Of course, if you’re still struggling or simply cannot find the time to put the above tips into action, enlisting the help of a local SEO expert can ease that burden. Get in touch today and let’s discuss how we can help your business rank higher in local search results.