When you visit a new place, what’s the first thing you do?
You'd probably whip out your smartphone, to see which restaurant to eat at, or which cafe to hang out in, etc. Let's face it; it's normal nowadays. In fact, 46% of Google searches are of local intent. Don’t believe us? This data on the most searched “near me” keywords in the Philippines proves just that. While general search engine optimization (SEO) aims to boost visibility on a global scale, local SEO has a geographical component to help users connect to local businesses.
What is local SEO?
Local SEO is the process of increasing a local business or a website’s search visibility within or close to its geographical area. It’s used to boost the foot traffic or the brand awareness of a brick-and-mortar business or a business service operating within a certain geographical area.
So how do you do local SEO in your business? Below is an outline of the local SEO factors your business needs to implement in 2020:
- What influences Local SEO, SEO Pack, and Map Ranking Factors?
- Two types of Local SEO results
- List of Local Search Ranking Factors
- Claim and verify Google My Business
- The NAP should be consistent
- Categorize correctly
- Fill out all sections
- Verify, verify, verify
- See other verification options
- Sign up on local citations
- Get citations from local listing sites
- Your local citation listing should use consistent NAP
- Inconsistent citations can cause ranking issues
- Optimize local on-page content
- City-specific landing pages
- Structured Data/ Schema
- Embed a Google map in your website
- Include reviews and testimonials
- Do local link-building
- Online directories
- Sponsorship and community events
- Blogger and influencer outreach
- Press releases
- Local Customer Reviews
I. What Influences Local SEO, SEO Pack, and Map Ranking Factors?
Before you begin thinking of doing local SEO, know what influences search engines like Google. Take for example the Google’s BERT algorithm, which allows Google to understand words in relation to other words around it.
A. Two types of local SEO results
Whenever users make a query, search engines will show two types of results. Both of these are important to know because it will help you focus on the details that you need to produce for your key performance indicators (KPIs), along with the actual SEO.
Three-pack local map- This refers to the search engine results page (SERP) feature that displays a map with pinned locations related to your query. It will also show three businesses with their name, address, and phone number (NAP data).
Local organic listings - This type of result shows trusted organic search listings tied to the inquiry’s or user’s geographical location. This means Google’s algorithm has checked the results on the listings for authenticity, compliance, etc.
B. List of Local Search Ranking Factors
Many factors can affect how high or low your business or website shows up on local SEO. Keep in mind this list of factors if you want to use organic listing on Google for your business:
- Link signals - This measures the number of inbound links, the domain authority of the links, and the domain quantity. The more links pointing to and leaving your page, the more authoritative it is, and the better your ranking will be. Link building is an important technique in increasing your domain authority and the number of inbound links to your website.
- On-page signals - Here, content is used to boost your local SEO ranking. Think about your content’s length, Google My Business (GMB) page, metadata, as well as having a NAP footer. Avoid keyword stuffing. Make sure that your content is relevant locally.
- Behavioral signals - How do people interact with your website? This factor takes into account click-through-rates (CTR), check-ins, bounce rate, and mobile click-to-call. The more activity your user does on your website, the better.
- GMB signals - This is perhaps the most important factor of local SEO. Updating your GMB page will allow people searching for your business or, at the very least, the same service to see you on the SERPs. Maximize this and post as much useful information there is about your business.
- Citation signals - How many people (or websites) can vouch for your business? Local citation signals may come from other people (via vlogs, blogs, reviews) or other businesses. The more citations of your business or websites Google can find, the more credible it will appear, and the better it is for your local SEO. Build local citations by offering rewards for reviews and other good content about your business.
- Personalization signals - Browsing history, cookies, and location play a role in the SERP and local SEO. Tweak your strategy to accommodate your audience and the ever-evolving algorithm of Google.
- Review signals - Do you know that 84% of consumers trust online reviews? Add a “write a review” function to your website or encourage your customers to do so on your social media pages.
- Social signals - Although it’s unclear exactly how social media affects local SEO, they are still considered a factor and are used in local SEO strategies. The more your audience engages with your social media pages, the better your online engagement and reputation will be.
II. Claim and verify your Google My Business
By now, you should have an idea of how important Google My Business is to your local SEO hopes. Here's how to claim and verify your GMB page, to boost your business's foot traffic, exposure, and reach:
- Consistent Name, Address, Phone Number (NAP) - The name, address, and phone number of your business should be consistent throughout your social media channels, website, and marketing materials. Make sure that the data your audience will see is updated.
- Categorize correctly - Most people overlook the category they put on their GMB page. An incorrect category means your business will not show up when someone is looking for something similar or related to your business.
- Fill out each section as much as possible - When you fill out the GMB application form, it would be wise to fill out each section as much as possible. Tedious as it may seem, but the more Google My Business optimization you do and the more information you can feed to your audience, the better it will be for your local SEO.
- Verify, verify, verify - After submitting your application, Google will confirm if your business is real or not, and if the address is correct. There are three methods you can choose from to verify your account: by postal mail, by phone, or by e-mail.
- See other verification options - You also have the option to instantly verify your account or do it in bulk (good for businesses with a lot of branches). However, this option will depend on certain factors, such as business type and location.
III. Sign up on local citations
As mentioned above, a local business citation is any online mention of the NAP of a business through a website, an app, social media platforms, and online directories. Local SEO citation helps Internet users see your business through different means apart from the usual social media marketing and SEO strategies. Here’s how you can maximize local citations for SEO:
- Get local citations from local listing sites - One way to increase your reach and influence in an area is to get your business listed on local listing sites. This way, the people searching for a similar service or business as yours will be able to see you. It’s also a great way to increase your local SEO on search engines.
- Your local citation listing should use a consistent NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) - Once again, keep your NAP consistent throughout your social media channels, websites, and websites that cite your business. You may contact the website administrator of a website that mentions your business details incorrectly.
- Inconsistent citations can cause ranking issues - It’s also important to keep all your information updated across your channels because inconsistent citations can cause issues in your SEO rankings.
Why are local citations important?
Local citations for SEO are very important because these can play a huge part in how people see your business. If you monitor your local citations and keep your NAP updated, chances are you will be very visible on search engines. If left unchecked or overlooked, your local SEO rankings could get so low that people may not hear about or see your business.
Moreover, local citations can either positively or negatively impact consumers. Accurate data builds trust among Internet users and in Google’s algorithm. Inaccurate information, on the other hand, could lead to a loss of reputation and revenue.
Tools you can use to audit local citations
The good news is you can monitor who says what about your business, with the help of these local SEO tools:
This local citations checker is a powerful tool that can help both small and large businesses. Moz Local Overview offers location data management, real-time profile management, automatic duplication deletion, review management, and other features to help you keep tabs on how people talk about or mention your business online.
This tool allows your business to manage tools such as a Local Citation Finder, a reputation builder, and a local rank tracker. Whitespark can even help you with your Google My Business page.
This all-in-one marketing tool can help you keep tabs on citations for local SEO. It includes local SEO tools, a local search rank checker, a reputation manager, a citation builder, and an agency lead generator. The folks behind Bright Local can also help you audit your GMB page.
IV. Optimize local on-page content
The quality of your content and how you display it can help your local SEO. Local on-page content can help Google and consumers know more about your business, helping it build a trustworthy online reputation. Below are some tips to help you boost your local on-page content:
- City-specific landing pages - Local relevance is very important for local on-page content. One way you can do this, especially if you have many branches, is to create city-specific landing pages with content tailored for each area.
- Metadata - Keep your website’s metadata such as title tags, meta descriptions, and other information updated and consistent. Moreover, make sure that you use proper formatting and include location keywords for your page content.
- Structured Data/ Schema - Makes it easy for the readers to digest your content. Headlines should be in H1 format, if possible.
- Embed a Google map on your website - Save time and resources by trying to inform your audience where your physical store or business is located. Embed a Google map on your website—it’s easy, and it’s free.
- Include customer reviews and testimonials - Aside from keeping your NAP updated and consistent, another way to build trust is to include customer reviews and testimonials. Word-of-mouth is still one of the strongest ways to convince other people to purchase your product. In the case of negative reviews, respond as quickly as possible and offer a way customers can contact you; so you can discuss how to rectify things in private.
V. Do local link-building
Local link-building means other websites in your area link to yours. The more websites that link back to you, the more Google and consumers will trust your website. In addition, the more backlinks you get, the higher you will rank in SERPs, which will help the online traffic of your website. Sounds good, right?
However, you have to be careful of who links back to your website. There are online entities that can destroy your online reputation simply by backlinking to your website. That's why your business needs to use online tools to monitor this.
There are several ways you can get other websites to link back to you. Here’s a quick list of those methods:
- Online directories - Aside from giving people information about your business, online directories can provide links pointing to your website. Just make sure you have your business listed on trusted online directories such as Yelp or GMB.
- Sponsorship and community events - You can get people to write and post about your business when you sponsor events or people. This way, people who had a good experience during the event can post links to your website or business.
- Blogger and influencer outreach - A new trend for outreach ideas happening is the partnership between bloggers and influencers and your business. You can have them review and endorse your product, in exchange for cash or goodies.
- Press releases - A lot of websites rely on press releases for content. You can use this outreach strategy to build up your business and have other websites link back to you. Sometimes, you’ll have to pay them or give them a mention, in return.
VI. Local customer reviews
Aside from link-building and citations, local reviews from customers can help build your online reputation, and rise up the SERP ranks. List your business on websites such as BBB, Yelp, GMB Reviews, etc. Even certain social media platforms allow users to provide reviews about your business.
While getting positive reviews is a great thing for your website, it’s inevitable to receive negative reviews. After all, you can’t please everybody. If you do receive a negative review, make sure you respond to it as quickly as possible in a professional manner. Offer disgruntled customers a way to contact your business so that things can be sorted out offline. This will also provide your audience with a human element for them to see. Resolving negative reviews and issues with empathy will show that your business cares about its customers.
Local SEO is a powerful way for businesses to put their name out in the area they’re in and bring in foot traffic in their stores. It’s something that’s a bit tedious yet shouldn’t be overlooked because of the potential profit generation.
- GMB is your friend - Apply your correct business information on GMB, to rank higher in SERPs.
- Keep your information updated and consistent across channels - Having correct and consistent information will help Google and consumers trust your business more. Keep your business details correct and updated.
- Monitor what’s being said about your business - The Internet is a vast place where people can say anything they want. Keep tabs on your online reputation and use the necessary tools mentioned above. It will help you manage those who are citing your business negatively.