SEO for local businesses.
Why use local SEO?
Unless you have been living under a rock, you have seen listings for local businesses appearing at the top of search results in Google and Google Maps. Local listings—previously known as Google Place page listings, then rebranded as Google+ pages, now known as Google My Business listings—however they will be titled next, they are a powerful marketing tool for small businesses.
Let’s look at some statistics, the following facts were discovered in several recent studies on the behavior of local customers.
– 97% of search engine users have searched online to find a local business.
– 76% of consumers who conducted a local search on their smartphone visited a store within a day.
– 78% of local mobile searches lead to an in-store purchase.
12 Local SEO Stats Every Business Owner and Marketer Should Know in 2019 – Social Media Today
Holy mackerel, if you are a local business owner and those figures aren’t making your jaw drop, I don’t know what will. Now that we know if you own a local business, local search can be the Yoko Ono to your John Lennon, let’s delve deeper and find out what makes a local search result.
Local search results differ from traditional organic search results by representing a local business instead of a normal web page, and appearing at the top of the search results and on map listings.
Users can get business contact details, opening hours and reviews and find the information they need quickly and easily, instead of having to dig around a clunky business site.
The local listings can be a powerful tool to attract traffic. In many cases, local listings can lead to many more inquiries than regular SEO rankings. But does this mean you should scrap traditional SEO in favor of local SEO? Nope. You can do both and potentially double the amount of traffic you can receive.
How to rank high with local SEO.
Ranking high with local SEO takes a different approach than traditional SEO. Google’s algorithm is looking for a different set of signals to determine the popularity of a business, to then decide how to rank it in the search results.
If you think about it, if a restaurant is really popular in a city, a whole bunch of links from all over the world probably isn’t the best factor to determine how valuable the business is to the local area.
A better indicator of the importance would be mentions of the business’s name and phone number across the web, customer reviews, and details on the website that show the business is based in the area being searched.
The most important factors Google uses for local results are listed below:
1. Proximity of business to the city center.
2. Links with keyword in anchor text (don’t overdo this one).
3. Reviews (sentiment, quantity, recency, and location).
4. Quantity and quality of website backlinks.
5. Relevant Google My Business category.
6. Keyword relevance of website content.
7. Mobile friendly or responsive website.
8. Authority of links to website.
9. Geographic keyword relevance of website content.
10. Amount of photos associated with business listing.
These are the strongest factors fetched from both Local SEO Guide’s Local Search Rankings Study and Moz’s Local Search Ranking Factors Survey. If you want to rank high in the local results, all you have to do is ensure your site and Google My Business page have more of these factors than competitors.
For more detailed breakdowns of the local SEO ranking factors, you can visit the links below, where the world’s leading authorities on local SEO publish ranking factor studies every one or two years.
Local SEO Guide’s Local Ranking Factors
Moz’s Local Search Ranking Factors
Getting started with local SEO.
To get started, the first step is to create your business page on Google My Business. Visit the URL below and complete every area of your profile possible. This means creating a detailed description of your business, available payment methods, and so on. The more information you complete, the more you increase your chances of ranking your page higher.
Google My Business
When creating your business listing, make sure you choose the most accurate category for your business, e.g. if you provide plumbing as a service, you want to choose “plumbing” as your category, not “trades” or “home repairs.”
Citations are the links of local SEO. A citation occurs each time your name, address, phone number (NAP) is mentioned on the web. The more citations you have, the more likely your site will rank high. The easiest places to build citations are the many local business directories available for businesses.
While there’s many online directories for creating business listings, the following websites would be a good start for a US-based business.
Citations and reviews are the link building of local SEO. If you are only building citations, you only have half of the equation covered. To rank high, your business needs to accumulate online reviews.
Many businesses struggle with this. This is because it’s tough to get customers to fill out reviews! You have to make it easy.
Include links to your business Google My Business page on your site, email signatures, flyers, and business cards, prompting customers to leave a review. Encourage customers at the end of each sale or transaction to leave a review. By creating every opportunity possible for customers to leave a review, you can significantly increase reviews.
But whatever you do, don’t buy reviews. This is a quick way to get into Google’s naughty book. Purchased reviews can be picked up by Google’s filters and likely to be excluded from your business profile anyways.
Feeling lazy to hire a graphic designer? No problem! Google created an awesome tool that generates free posters, signs, and stickers to put in your store and encourage more reviews from customers. Check it out at the following URL.
Google My Business Marketing Kit – Think With Google
Supercharging local SEO with photos and videos.
For better or worse, for many people, taking selfies and photos of what they’re eating for dinner has become a daily habit—and it comes with no surprise Google is capitalizing on this ubiquitous trend. Late August 2017, Google enabled video uploads from the general public to Google Business listings on Google Maps. An underused marketing opportunity flying under the radar—for now—and a savvy local business owner can use this to their advantage.
Why are photos and videos important for a local business?
Whether or not the number of photos and videos uploaded to a Google Business listing is a ranking factor is unknown—it wouldn’t be surprising if it is, it would be a solid indicator of the popularity and activity of a local business. But you can be sure Google will stay tight-lipped on the matter. Either way, the more photos and videos uploaded to your Google Business page will lead to higher user-engagement with your profile, which will likely lead to higher rankings.
But the real advantage lies in enticing more customers to your business through imagery. Ever heard the phrase, “a picture is worth a thousand words?” Customers researching a local restaurant, cafe or hotel are heavily focused on photos when deciding where to go. Just look at your own experience—ever taken a peek at the photos and videos of a restaurant or hotel, and a particular photo put you over the edge? If you haven’t included photos and videos in your local SEO efforts, you’re missing out on a piece of the pie. Here’s two simple approaches to get amongst the action.
1. Encourage customers to share their experience at your business.
Encouraging customers to share their experience at your business with a photo or video is an effective way to build up authentic photos associated with your page. It’ll build up the perceived popularity of your business too. Why not take it to the next level, and entice customers with a free drink or discount off their meal by sharing their experience?
For the general public to upload photos or videos, all they need to do is tap on your listing on Google Maps, scroll down and click “add a photo”, and done! Official guide by Google listed below.
Add, Remove, or Share Photos and Videos – Google Maps Help
2. Add photos and videos to your business profile yourself.
If you’re running a restaurant, hotel, cafe, or any other local-type business for that matter, you should have a handful of professional-looking photos uploaded to your profile at a bare minimum—so customers know what to look forward to when visiting your business, or what they’re missing out on…
Fortunately, adding photos and videos to your Google Business profile is easy as pie. Simply log in to Google My Business, click photos on the left menu and upload away. For additional documentation, check out the official guide from Google HQ below.
Add Local Business Photos – Google My Business Help
Local SEO ranking checklist & essential resources.
While looking at your local competitors and working to beat them is probably the best overall strategy, progressing through the following checklist will put you well on your way to ranking high at the top of the local search results.
1. Verify your business profile on Google My Business.
2. Fill out as much information as possible on your Google My Business profile, including description, category associations, images and videos.
3. Include your business name and location somewhere on your website, this could be your contact page or home page.
4. Include your full business name, address and phone number somewhere on your site, these should be grouped together so Google will register it as a citation.
5. Include the appropriate schema.org tags in your website markup, following the specification for local businesses at the following URL.
Schema.org Local Business Specifications.
6. Encourage customers to review your business.
7. Submit your website to the major business directories like Yelp, Yellow Pages, CitySearch and so on. You can use tools like Moz Local to submit your business to all of the major directories in one go.
8. Cross-check your business listings for correct NAP data. These details need to be consistent across your Google My Business listing, website contact page, and external business listings.
A downloadable copy of the above steps is also available in the SEO checklist at the end of the book.
Essential local SEO resources for keeping up to date.
Just like traditional SEO, local SEO constantly changes and becomes more complex over time. To keep your skills sharp you need to stay up to date with the latest knowledge in the industry. The resources below should be considered essential reading for anyone looking to hone their local SEO skill set.
Local SEO Guide
Andrew Shotland’s Local SEO Guide is an enduring commentary of local SEO techniques and updates in the industry. His useful blog has been around for as long as local SEO has been a thing and popular among the SEO community for good reason—the blog’s regular contributions and willingness to give away valuable and actionable advice.
Moz Local Learning Center
The pre-eminent pundits at Moz have compiled a very useful and detailed guide for managing all aspects of local marketing. The guide is both extensive and easy to read, making it a great resource for both beginners and advanced practitioners.
9. How to Dominate Search with Rich Results. Structured Data, JSON-LD, Facebook Open Graph & More.