Every business, small or multi-location, needs to implement a local search engine optimisation (SEO) strategy in order to grow and increase its customer reach. In our local SEO guide, we will explain what local SEO is, why you need it, and how it can improve the visibility of your website and improve business awareness.
Why is local SEO essential for businesses?
Increased visibility: Local SEO helps businesses to appear in local search results when people search for products or services related to their business. This increased visibility can lead to more website visits, foot traffic, and ultimately, more conversions.
Targeted audience: Local SEO targets people in specific geographical locations, which means businesses can connect with potential customers in their local area.
Competitive advantage: Local SEO helps businesses to compete with other businesses in their local area. By optimizing their website and Google My Business listing, businesses can improve their online presence and stand out from their competitors.
Cost-effective: Local SEO is often less expensive than traditional marketing methods, such as print advertising and direct mail. This makes it an ideal marketing strategy for small businesses with limited budgets.
Mobile search: With more people using mobile devices to search for local businesses, local SEO has become even more important. By optimizing their website and Google My Business listing for mobile search, businesses can reach potential customers on the go.
On top of all of this According to Google, 46% of all searches made include local intent, meaning you can’t not take advantage of the benefits that well-optimised local SEO can bring to your company.
What is Local Search?
Local searches are made with the intention of finding a product or service within a specific area. For example, a user may search for “McDonald’s near me” or simply “McDonald’s”. Google’s algorithm recognises these searches as having local intent, and displays the nearest McDonald’s location based on the user’s current location.
In local searches, the results are shown in a “local pack” or “3-pack”, which is displayed up to 93% of the time. The information in the local pack is taken from each business’s Google Business Profile.
How can I improve my local SEO?
In order to increase your chances of appearing in the local pack for your specific product or service, first, you need to understand the three factors that come into play when Google ranks local businesses.
Proximity: Depending on where the user is searching from, the results of their search will be different. The closer your business is to the user, the more likely it will appear in the local pack. However, this isn’t always the case as relevance and prominence also play a role.
Relevance: Google wants to provide searchers with the best results that are the most relevant to their search query, so your business will appear in the local pack if Google thinks that it is what the searcher is looking for.
Prominence: This ranking factor is where the results will show businesses that are well known. For example, Starbucks is more likely to appear in a search for ‘coffee near me’ over a smaller local business.
Google also gathers information from online sources such as live links, reviews, and directories when choosing which listings to display.
This is how a local SEO strategy can help your business appear in local packs.
What is Google Business Profile?
Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business) is a free tool that allows a business to showcase a brief overview of information such as an address, phone number, reviews, operating hours, and other features like posts. It acts as a social media platform that helps customers to find you in real life.
As part of your local SEO strategy, it is important that your Google Business Profile listing is fully optimised. The information displayed on the listing will appear not only in the local pack and Google Maps searches but also when a user searches for your brand, this is when your business knowledge panel is displayed.
You can build trust with consumers, and search engines, when your listing is up to date and correct which increases your chances of appearing in the local pack.
Google Business Profile is one main ‘citation’ that is important in local SEO and only 44% of listings have been claimed, which allows you to get ahead of your competitors.
Although Google is the most widely used business listing platform, 6 billion searches take place each month on Bing. It would be irresponsible to ignore Bing Places which is also free and has lower competition to rank. Make sure you have optimised your business listing on Bing Places as well as Google Business Profile. It is another big opportunity for your local SEO.
What are citations?
In local SEO, a citation is a reference to a business’s name, address, and phone number (NAP) on another website, directory, or online platform. Citations are an important factor in local search engine rankings because they help to establish the credibility and authority of a business in a particular geographic area.
There are two types of citations:
Structured citations: These are citations that appear in a specific format, such as a business listing on Yelp or Yellow Pages. Structured citations usually include a business’s name, address, phone number, and website URL.
Unstructured citations: These are citations that appear in a less structured format, such as a mention of a business in a blog post or news article. Unstructured citations can also include a business’s name, address, and phone number, but may not always follow a specific format.
Having accurate and consistent citations across different online platforms can help to improve a business’s local search engine rankings and increase its visibility to potential customers in their local area.
How to build and monitor citations.
In local SEO, citations play a vital role in making sure that your business can be found online as well as influencing your local rankings. If your competitors appear online in places where you aren’t, this is where you need to focus your efforts.
It is essential that your citations/listings online are all consistent as well as correct and up to-date with their information. 80% of people online lose trust in a business if their information is incorrect or inconsistent, and this also applies to search engines. Inconsistent data can impact your level of local visibility. If a search engine doesn’t trust your data it will not present your business as a result.
There is a specialist tool called BrightLocal that will help you do this. BrightLocal is an integrated SEO and Local SEO platform that allows you to monitor your citations, reviews, and local rankings. It suggests which directories you should be signing up for as they have a high trust score by Google and it also points out any inconsistencies in the listings. The platform also lets you monitor and reply to your reviews across the web.
BrightLocal is a great way to monitor and correct current listings as well as look for new opportunities to increase your visibility and reliability with Google. There are many guides available to help you use the platform to its full potential.
How reviews can improve your local SEO
The internet has made the world our oyster. Customers can search for businesses close by or places to eat within seconds. Reviews are very important for local SEO as they add credibility to your business from customers who have tried and bought. Here are some mind-blowing facts about reviews you need to know:
- Positive reviews make 73% of consumers trust a local business more.
- 86% of consumers read reviews for local businesses.
- Only 48% of consumers would consider using a business with fewer than 4 stars.
It is important to encourage your customers to leave reviews on your Google Business Profile or your social media pages. In fact, you can make a short link to your account to make it easier for your customers.
There are many ways to ask for reviews, you could add your review link to your emails or receipts, generate automated emails or responses, offer incentives like a coupon or run competitions for your loyal customers where reviews are used as competition entries. Reviews also tell Google that you are a genuine and reliable business, which will help your rankings in the local pack. It is important to make sure you engage with your reviews and thank them for leaving their feedback. This will show you care about your customers.
What if I get a bad review?
Unfortunately, not all customers will be impressed by your work and sometimes it’s out of your control, but you can use this to your advantage. By replying to the review in a customised and speedy fashion you can demonstrate you are a customer-centric business that cares about feedback. Using automated replies may make the customer feel unheard and unappreciated, so it is important to take time to reply. You could even reach out to them directly and offer them some compensation to help resolve the problem. Although the review may still be visible, it is important to show that you are proactive and compassionate with your customers.
How to optimise your website for local SEO
One of the biggest local SEO strategies to implement is to optimise your website to include local information.
If you are a multi-location business, this might involve creating individual pages for each branch of your business where you display the address and information about that particular site. It is important that the address is displayed naturally throughout the website and that there is minimal duplication of content when having separate location pages.
By networking and going to events with other local businesses and sharing it on your news page, you can further include information about your location on your website.
As with any SEO, don’t forget to optimise your site for mobile users. This is vital as an ever-increasing number of searchers are using mobile devices – plus 78% of local searches made on mobiles result in an offline purchase. You also need to ensure that your website speeds are good as this will influence your rankings, improve the user experience and increase conversion rates.
Local Schema Markup
Schema markup, also known as structured data, is code used to clearly provide information to search engines in order to understand the content on your site better. In turn, this helps provide users with better more accurate information in the rich snippets that are displayed beneath the page title
There are many types of schema markup including person, organisational, products, and local. Schema is commonly shown in the search results and is displayed in different ways depending on the nature of the site. The example shown below, a hotel review on TripAdvisor, shows ratings, reviews, and price range.
Local schema is really important to implement on your homepage and contact us page as it sends ranking signals to search engines and can help increase your position in the local pack. There are several key elements that are important to include in your local schema, these are:
- Your full business name
- Your full address
- Your business services
- A description with your location and keywords
Local schema is an extra bonus to help Google verify your location and what services or products you offer and therefore it will rank you higher for relevant search queries.
The prospect of implementing schema markup onto your site may seem daunting. However, there are tools, such as Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper, that make it easier to highlight elements of the page that you’d like to flag up to Google and its users.
You can read more about schema markup, and how to implement it, in our beginner’s guide.
Make sure to win local backlinks that are relevant
When you invest in an SEO strategy, the pressure is on to win high-quality, high domain and trustworthy links from well-known sites.
However, in local SEO, Google understands that local businesses may not be capable of gaining natural links from the likes of The Huffington Post and the New York Times. So with this being said, as part of your local SEO strategy, it is important to build trustworthy links from local sites, even if they have a lower level of authority.
There are a variety of ways you can win these links, for example, you could launch a local networking event like Curry Business. This will not only bring the local community together and make room for opportunity, but it will also provide all involved with great link-building opportunities.