A website has the capacity to reach a worldwide audience, and it needs to rank on the first page of search results for it to happen. SEO is the process that primes your website so that it ranks on top of the results, even targeting places beyond your area. So, what if you want a local business to rank higher in a specific area? This is where local SEO comes in.
What is Local SEO?
Local SEO aims to target a specific location so that a business can rank in that area. An effective local SEO strategy enables a website to appear on top of local search results or when a user expects results just from a specific area. A local business website should aim to top the local search rankings. For example, an Italian Restaurant in Los Angeles should aim to be the first to pop up on the results when a potential customer looks for an Italian place on Google. So if you’re already doing SEO in L.A, the challenge is appearing on top of 486 million other results.
This is what pops up when your website is prepped for search engines:
These results can be achieved when SEO is done properly on a website. The right SEO services can help get a website to this level of performance. On the other hand, this is what pops up when a visitor is aiming for a specific location.
This time, the search involves looking for an Italian Restaurant in Pasadena California. Note that you don’t have to key in the exact location if you’re looking for a place near your work area, as Google will automatically give you results near your place– if the establishment’s website has implemented the right local SEO strategy.
As you can see, local businesses will benefit highly from local SEO. However, the process done in local SEO differs greatly from the usual SEO that’s mostly done in commercial businesses. From the example above, if you’re an Italian Restaurant in Pasadena, you’ll be competing with 20 million other pages for the spot on the first page. This means that you have to optimize your website so that it ranks better than 20 million others.
Understanding How Google Works
Google owns 92.05 percent of the global market share for all search engines. As the majority of users use Google, we’ll focus on its ranking factors in this article. Google ranks a website based on hundreds of factors which you can refer to in their Webmaster Guidelines. With millions of webpages in existence, ranking, and being found by a user takes more than just matching a word or phrase on your website to a phrase a user types in the search. Now, one of the ranking factors involves backlinks or links created when other websites link to yours. That’s not all.
When a user types in a search query, Google isn’t actually conducting a live crawl or search every time. Google already has crawled a site with its Google spiders and has already indexed a copy of it on its server.
How Local SEO works
With the various ways Google ranks websites, it also considered how many people are looking for businesses right where they are located. With this factor in user behavior, Google now takes into consideration the user’s location when conducting a search. It does it automatically and you don’t need to add in extra words like your location or the words ‘near me’ or ‘nearby’.
You can just Google ‘Italian delivery’ or even ‘dental appointment’ and Google will pull up a list of places near you.
With the growth of mobile users, and how easy it is to just pull up your phone and type in a search, more businesses are finding it necessary to be visible to these users. This is why local SEO has grown in demand as it boosts visibility and growth of local services as well as local products.
How to Optimize Your Website For Local SEO
Unpredictable cases like the pandemic are pushing people to prefer the comforts of their own homes rather than actually going out themselves. This change in behavior can also shift how local businesses operate and in order to adapt to this change, one of the major moves is to make sure that your website is performing well. Not just in terms of receiving clients, but also getting found by them.
There are a lot of areas you need to work on like content, link building, and the technical SEO aspect of the website. However, before you dive into those you should first work on making sure that your website works on those low hanging fruits first. Those bits that will ensure that your site will appear in local listings.
Here’s the list of things you have to prioritize before doing other Local SEO activities:
- Google My Business
- Local Citations: Name, Address, Phone (N.A.P)
- Local Reviews
Google My Business
Optimizing a business’ GMB page is a powerful way to attract visitors to a website or to a business, especially if it’s a physical store. According to Google and Ipsos’ joint study involving 4,500 users, four out of five people use search engines to look up local information on nearby establishments. Those who did local search visited the business within the day.
That being said, those who occupy the first page of search results always get the most clicks. That’s 80% or more of total clicks. Add to that 75 percent of users don’t scroll past the first page of search results.
So how do you get on the first page of Google? How do you get noticed? For local businesses, the first step is by claiming your Google My Business listing.
Here’s how you create or claim your GMB listing:
- Claim Your GMB Profile – To verify that you don’t have a listing yet, search for your business name on Google before you proceed. If the business has already been operating for years, there’s a huge chance a listing already has been made. You just have to click ‘claim your listing’ to claim and verify the listing. For non-existent listings, just go to the GMB page and click ‘Manage Now’. Then, go on and click ‘Add your business to Google.’.
- Fill up the form – Answer the Google form and complete relevant information like business name, address, phone number, business category, and business website. Ensure that the information you enter is the same in every platform, from your website to all other online directories.
- Verify – Once you’ve saved your GMB profile, you need to verify your listing on Google. This authenticates that the owner of the listing is legitimate. You can verify it through text or email. Just go to your email and click ‘verify now’.
A card with the verification code will be mailed to you in a week or two. Go back and sign in to your GMB account and click ‘verify now’. The code will be written on the postcard, click submit after typing the code and you’re listing is now live.
- Set the Operating Hours – Add your operating hours. This will make sure that your customers know when to call you or drop by your shop.
- Optimize Your Description – The description section lets you present a short summary of your business. Summing up your offerings along with your credentials. Do some local SEO work and strategically include keywords as well as a call-to-action to prompt them to contact you.
If you’re partnered with an outsource SEO provider, they should automatically optimize these areas for search engines, and insert key phrases or keywords that are relevant to the target consumers.
- Attributes – Attributes let visitors know what a business has to offer. Whether they have wi-fi, restrooms, pet friendly or who owns the business. These attributes are what helps a business stand out from the crowd.
- Upload Business Photos – A business listing also has a gallery section that will also be used to represent your business. Make sure that you upload professional-looking images and also essential ones like storefront photos or a business logo.
- Update Customers and Visitors with Posts – Listings also lets you update your audience through posts. Aside from social media pages, Google automatically shows posts and updates when a user scrolls through your listing.
- Request for Reviews and Reply to Them – 63.6 percent of users read reviews before they visit the business website or purchase an offer. Make sure to request for reviews and don’t don’t forget to reply to the ones who left their feedback.
For positive reviews, always thank them. If the review is reporting an issue or not very favorable. Resolve the issue by asking them about it. Once resolved, ask them if it’s alright to change the previous rating or review.
Local Citations: Name, Address, Phone (N.A.P)
A local citation is when your business’ name, address and phone number are mentioned online. It’s important to be present in major listings and to keep the details the same on any citation. Before you go on and update other pages, make sure that you have your NAP updated on every page of your own website.
After you’ve updated every page of your website, it’s now time to move on to different business directories. May it be YELP, Foursquare, Local.com, Google+ Local, Linkedin, Citysquares or any other directory you think can help get a local business’ name out there.
Use tools to check for existing listings or to know what other online directories you need to update. One online listing tool you can use is our very own Reputation Management tool where you can find the listings section.
This section of the tool will help you keep track of all your listings in one place. Update the business information if you need to and automatically find existing ones. This SEO tool will make sure the business information is updated on any platform.
Reviews validate how good the products or services of a business are, it also authenticates a business’ claims. Google agrees with this and in turn, recommends establishments with higher ratings more.
This doesn’t just apply on Google listings or Google carousel, it extends to other local directories like Yelp.
To make sure that you don’t miss this opportunity, go out of your way and spend time acquiring these reviews from previous customers. Send them an email or encourage them through SMS. Online reviews don’t just influence Google rankings, it urges users and potential customers to choose a certain business over the other because they saw one raving review about it. There are tools you can use for this purpose. An example would be the Reputation Management from the SEOReseller Dashboard. It has a feature called ‘Customer Experience and Request’ where you can request feedback from clients right on the dashboard.
Reputation Management: Requests
This tool collects all reviews from top listings and allows you to view them all in one place. This will let you track reviews easily and quickly manage all of them. Getting the right customer reputation management tool (CRM) will save you time, money, and effort in managing a business’ online image. It will also be easier for you to communicate with customers and connect with them.
Practicing Local SEO Right
Location is everything in business and it carries over in ecommerce as well — that translates to the first page of Google when it comes to online real estate. This is just the beginning. There is so much more to Local SEO and understanding these factors will drive a business higher on the results pages.
Local search is growing more than ever before. It’s important to not only keep up with the changes but to stay ahead of it. Emphasis on ‘staying ahead’ of trends and changes because this factor is crucial in maintaining stability and establishing your position. You can get an SEO expert to help you with forecasting search engine trends or you can delve deeper into it yourself. Whatever the case may be, the bottom line is to get found by as many people in a particular area as much as possible. Improving every local aspect of your website is important to accomplish this goal and grow faster.