You may have found yourself asking, “What is local SEO and why is local SEO important to my business?” First things first, let’s talk about how local SEO is different from traditional, organic SEO. Broken down, organic search results are based on the relevance of content to the user’s search terms. So what is local SEO and how is it different from organic SEO is local search takes into account the searchers proximity to a business, while organic search is strictly based on relevance of search terms. Businesses with a brick and mortar presence (a physical location) should strive to optimize for both organic and local SEO. Knowing the answer to what is local seo can help your business stand out from the competition.
How is local SEO ranking determined?
The details of how Google calculates local search ranking are kept fairly quiet, but according to Google there are three major factors businesses should focus on when optimizing for local search. What is local SEO and how can it be impacted? Here are some key facts:
Relevance: The goal of Google’s local search algorithm is to connect searchers with the right business. When implementing a local SEO strategy, it is important to include keywords on your site and in the descriptions of your business listings. This will help Google have a better understanding of what your business does and connect you with customers who are searching for similar businesses. What is local SEO? It’s optimizing your business listing for relevance.
Distance: Proximity of the searcher to your business is another major factor Google takes into account when determining local search ranking. Because of this it is important to include your address and other relevant contact information on all of your business directories and on the footer of all of your web pages. What is local SEO? It’s making sure your address and business details are optimized for your local area so anyone within your area finds you.
Prominence: Finally Google takes into account the prominence of the business. What Google means by prominence is how well is this business known in the offline world. For example, well-known store brands will likely maintain that prominence in local search rankings. What is local SEO? It’s making sure you’re a real business and that your customers love you. Making a difference in your area matters for local SEO as much as it does for local brand awareness.
A businesses prominence also factors in things like backlinks, directory listings, and online reviews. Google takes into account both a business’ overall star rating and the number of reviews when determining local search ranking.
How can I optimize my business for local search?
There are a number of factors that businesses should emphasize when developing a local SEO strategy. In other words, the answer to what is local seo is also tied to keeping in mind that you have a web presence, whether or not you take online orders. To help you focus your efforts we’ve compiled a list of simple activities that when taken together will help boost your business’ local search ranking.
1. Claim and Optimize Directory Listings
One of the most important elements of any local SEO strategy should be claiming your business on all relevant online directories and then optimizing the content for local search. The process is fairly straightforward. Since Google is the most influential business directory, we’ll walk you through the steps of claiming your business.
Navigate to Google My Business (business.google.com).
Login to Google Account (Gmail, Google Drive, Google+).
Search for your business using the name and address.
Confirm the name and address are correct and fill out information about your business.
Verification by Google – This is typically done via post card sent to your listed address.
Once the verification process is complete, you can begin optimizing your listing. You should start by uploading high-quality photos. Pictures tell a visual story about your business and will give online searchers an idea of what it’s like to do business with you. Google allows you to upload a number of different types of photos, including a preferred photo, profile pic, logo, cover photo and additional photos. Posting quality pictures will also help attract more clicks as profiles with pictures see 35% more click-throughs than profiles that don’t.It’s also important to include accurate, up-to-date hours of operation in your listing. Make sure that you include special holiday hours, to avoid frustrating customers who make their way to your business only to find out you are closed.
As mentioned previously, Google isn’t the only directory your business should claim and optimize. You should conduct research and determine which sites your customers frequent most and focus on them. To help you get started, here are the top-25 business directories.
2. Maintain Consistent Contact Information
What is local SEO? It’s making sure that all of your online information is consistent. This helps customers and also helps search engines know that all of the listings are for one business. Contact information is probably the most important information customers are looking for when they are researching your business online. If your customer gets the wrong phone number or address from an online search, it could lead to frustration. Additionally if Google sees inconsistent contact information on your website and across local online business directories your local search ranking could be dinged.
Inconsistent name, address, and phone (NAP) information is the leading cause of a poor local search ranking. To combat this, businesses should frequently review the information contained on their directory listings for not only accuracy but consistency. Your business’ NAP information should be in the same format on all of your directory listings and on your website. For example if your address has the word avenue in it, the word should either always be abbreviated or always be spelled out. Inconsistent NAP information can confuse search engines and result in a lower local search ranking.
3. Have a Link Building Strategy
Link building is the process of acquiring external links back to your site. It is one of the most commonly used SEO tactics for both organic and local search. The links act as votes to search engines and help them determine the popularity of the site. What is local SEO? It’s knowing about link building and remembering that links do matter. Here are three types of links businesses can collect:
1.Natural Editorial Links: These are links back to your site that don’t require any effort on your part to collect. You just need to create quality content and syndicate it.
2.Manual Outreach Links: To acquire these links you will need to reach out to bloggers, submit your site to directories, or in some cases pay for a link back.
3.Self-Created, Non-Editorial: Many websites will allow you to create links in places like blog comments or user profiles. These links have the lowest value and are considered ‘spammy’ and your local search ranking could be dinged if you collect a large volume of them.
4. Collect and Manage Online Reviews
Lastly, businesses that want to improve their local SEO ranking should collect and manage online reviews on the online business directories mentioned previously like Google, Facebook, Edmunds, HealthGrades etc. Online reviews will not only bolster your local SEO, but will help build trust with customers and potential customers. What is local SEO? It’s remembering that when your customers are happy, they help influence others. Make it easy for customers to leave a review and it will have a direct impact on your search optimization efforts.
Sometimes it can be difficult for businesses to collect online reviews organically, so they need to take a more proactive approach. Below are some tips that will increase the odds of getting a customer to leave a review.
Tips to increase customer reviews
Tip 1 – Determine the right timing of the invitation
Tip 2 – Set expectations for the review
Tip 3 – Eliminate barriers
Tip 4 – Deliver high-quality customer service
Tip 5 – Invite via text message
Tip 6 – Implement online review management software
Determine the right timing of the invitation: When a customer receives an online review invitation is a major factor in whether or not an online review will be left. The right time is going to be different for every business, but our customers have seen the most success are sending invitations while the customer is still on site and the interaction is top-of-mind.
Set expectations for the review: Inviting customers to leave a review should be a repeatable process that is built into everyday operations. You should let your customers know when they will receive the invitation, how they will be receiving the invitation (email or text), and why online reviews are important to your business.
Eliminate barriers: In the past, the process for leaving an online review was a time-consuming, cumbersome experience for the customer. Businesses should look for ways to make leaving a review as frictionless as possible. To accomplish this, direct customers to online review sites and apps that they already use. This will eliminate for your customers to sign up for a service they probably don’t want or need.
Deliver high-quality customer service: This probably goes without saying, but businesses that want customers to leave positive reviews need to emphasize customer experience. Doing so will create an army of advocates willing to shout about your business from the rooftops.
Invite via text message: According to Pew Research, 72% of Americans have a smartphone, and it doesn’t just sit in their pocket. It is being used constantly. Because of this, today’s consumer is much more comfortable interacting via text message than by phone or email. Businesses that want to see a higher response rate to their online review invitations should be sending them by text message.
Implement an online review management platform: An online review management platform helps businesses the streamline collection and management reviews. A good platform will consolidate all of your online reviews into a single dashboard, reducing the time and effort it took previously to manage the process.
Hopefully by now you know the answer to the question, “What is local SEO?” and understand why it should be an integral part of your digital marketing plan. Being optimized for local search will help your business set itself apart from the competition, while also increasing visibility in online search. Failure to do so could be very detrimental to your business. If customers can’t find you when they have the intent to purchase and are actively searching online, you will most likely lose out on their business.