Local SEO is far more powerful and more important than most people realize. If your business has local offices or storefronts, local SEO should be a top priority.
Geographic indicators are in practically every online-enabled device, and almost every user search becomes a local search by default. That means without even realizing it, users are becoming dependent on local searches for their needs.
Let us explain the basics of SEO in general as well as how Local SEO practices take it a step further.
The goal of SEO is to boost web presence and make it easier for customers to find your business online. SEO works by using targeted keywords, site design, link building, reputation management and social signals to help your website rank for keywords that your audience is searching for. Search engines use a series of ranking factors to evaluate the content, purpose, and value of your website. Ranking is determined based on how your site stacks up against the competition and how relevant the search engine deems it to be to a particular search query.
Local SEO takes these concepts a step further by targeting industry-specific keywords as well as location-based terms, such as city names, neighborhoods and regions. Local SEO also encompasses factors that may not play a major role in conventional SEO, such as Google My Business, local directories and proximity to the searcher.
Some of the most important local search ranking factors include:
- Optimized Google My Business listing.
- Number and quality of citations on local directories.
- NAP (name, address and phone number) that is consistent throughout all directory listings.
- Real customer reviews and ratings on Google and how your business interacts with them.
- Strong social signals on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
- Backlinks from authoritative sites.
The most important listing for a local business is Google My Business (GMB). This powerful listing is a must, and lets you share posts, photos, and events. It also provides a way for you to communicate with potential customers through Q&A, Google Messaging and gives your customers a platform to leave reviews. The importance of relevant content that answers a searcher’s question is going to continue to grow in importance. Optimizing content to be relevant for voice search like Q&A pages provides a great opportunity to surpass the competition.
In addition to GMB, other directories are also important. Each allows for your business’ NAP (name, address and phone number). Many will also include a link to your website, which helps to build trust among search engines and consumers. It is vital that the NAP matches exactly with the GMB page.
Additional advantages of having well-optimized listings on GMB and other directories is that they allow voice-enabled devices to spotlight the business in voice searches. Search engines also use citations (directory listings) to keep tabs on how often a business is mentioned online. Businesses with more citations are regarded as more important and can therefore be ranked higher in Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs). A better ranking means increased visibility in local search results, so even citations that don’t include backlinks can drive traffic and improve local presence.
Some important directories include (this is not an exhaustive list):
- Apple – An optimized listing on Apple will make it easier to Apple device users to find the company online and on map apps.
- Chamber of Commerce
- Bing Places for Business – important for Google Assistant, Siri, Contana.
- Waze – the choice for real-time location data with an index of over 5,000,000 pages.
- Here – (and Foursquare) are important for Samsung’s app searches.
- Localeze – Important for Alexa searches.
Build consumer trust with reputation management.
Local SEO offers another exceptional advantage when it comes to building your brand and company. It provides a way for you to build trust through reputation management within your community by asking for reviews from loyal customers. Every small business can benefit from positive reviews. In addition to the local search signal, multiple positive reviews help convince prospective customers to do business with you. According to recent statistics from a variety of credible sources, over 90 percent of local consumers use reviews to determine if a local business is good or bad.
As with citations and backlinks, customer reviews send signals to search engines that help them decide how a website should rank. Comments on local review sites are given more weight than those on less influential blogs or social media profiles. This means reviews are most powerful on authoritative sites such as Google, Yelp, and some of the other directories. As you might expect, reviews that include written comments rather than simply a numerical score are considered more valuable by search engines.
Quality is more important than quantity when it comes to customer ratings and reviews. It’s better to receive a small number of extremely positive reviews than a large number of mediocre customer comments. Of course, the best-case scenario is a wide range of glowing reviews across high-authority sites. While this is easier said than done, steps can be taken to actively encourage customers to write positive reviews.
You should also be posting on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Getting strong social signals for local SEO is about getting people to interact with your posts. There are many ways you can do this, but one of the most important things is to be authentic. Post about local things that your followers can relate to and comment on. Positive and funny things, as well as helpful things about your particular industry that establish you as an expert in your community. Don’t be selling all the time, but you can pepper your posts with some soft sell.
Backlinks from authoritative sites come from posting your website link on all the directory sites that allow it, and also from your blog posts and properties that you share on social media. These should all have links back to the appropriate pages on your website. Any posts you make on your Google My Business page should also link back to a helpful page on your website. If you can, getting your blog posts picked up by a local news service or local authoritative site can be an excellent way to get some real search engine credibility. This takes some extra work and diligence, but can surely be worth your time.
You should also perform a Google search on your business to find directory listings you didn’t even know existed.
When you find them, you should claim your business on that platform and then build out your business profile with as much information as the platform allows. Be sure to make your NAP consistent with your GMB page.
These are some ideas of things you can work on over time to improve your Local SEO and build your online influence. Setting up and optimizing your Google My Business page and your profiles on multiple directory sites is not rocket science. Knowing the keywords you are targeting, and the messages you want to convey about your company is a good start.