If you’re in a business that relies upon local traffic, you know how important it is to reach the people in your community with your advertising dollars. Online sellers may be able to advertise to anyone and everyone, but brick and mortar businesses need to focus on the potential customers in their immediate vicinity. Improving local rankings is crucial to making this happen.
Understanding the concepts and learning how to optimize for local SEO is step one. Proactively engaging in an SEO strategy that improves your local rankings is step two. Let’s look at some local SEO tips for how to improve local rankings, no matter what industry you’re in.
What is Local SEO?
With all this talk of targeting local audiences with your SEO strategy, we should begin by covering the basics. What is local SEO?
SEO, or search engine optimization, is the practice of setting up your website to provide search engines with the information they need to recommend your business on search engine results pages (SERPS).
Search engines measure a variety of factors, including your relevance, authority, and user experience. By embedding the right information online and optimizing your site, you increase the chances that Google or Bing will pick up on your business when someone searches.
In a departure from traditional SEO, which aims to reach the broadest audience possible, local SEO targets the region where you operate. Each city and town in the world will produce a unique set of local results when people search for goods and services near them. That’s because each city and town has a unique set of offerings.
All electronic devices utilize IP addresses and location tracking to tell the search engine where the user is searching from. That way, when someone searches for goods or services “near me,” the algorithm can tailor the results to deliver the most relevant content. By learning how to optimize your website for local searches to align with best practices, you’re well on your way to improving local rankings.
Why Does Local SEO Matter?
When it comes to operating a small business, local SEO is incredibly important. That’s because if you operate a coffee shop in Seattle, reaching someone in their New York City living room won’t produce a great return. You want to reach individuals who are primed to actually pop through the door.
Improving local rankings will ensure your ads reach those in your immediate area. Better yet, they’ll reach people actively searching for the goods or services you provide. That’s why local SEO can benefit and can drive new customers who may never have seen your storefront otherwise. To reach this level, there are several factors you need to consider in your approach. Let’s start with some of Google’s top ranking factors.
Google Ranking Factors
Google is far and away the most popular search engine out there, so staying on their good side is always good for business. They won’t chide you for ineffective local SEO tactics but focus on what they like, and you can expect good things from Google. They use many factors to influence search results, but there are some key factors that the algorithm prioritizes when producing search engine result pages.
Google goes to great lengths to ensure that the search results we see are relevant to our searches. There are likely thousands of pizza joints called “Hometown Pizza” around the world, but how does Google know which one you are looking for? Producing relevant information is what they do, and they gauge relevance based on search terms and location. Providing them the information to do that for your business is a huge part of improving local rankings.
Google also wants to know that your business has some authority in your field. By providing proof of authority, the search algorithm is much more likely to recommend your business. Backlinks are an essential part of proving that authority.
Finding ways to link your site to other local businesses and organizations allows search engines to see that you aren’t a fly-by-night operation. By finding ways to generate backlinks, you can piggyback off the authority of others, dramatically increasing your own.
User Experience and Site Speed
Another SEO for local business factor is user experience. Google doesn’t want to point people to sites and businesses that deliver poor experiences, so make sure your user experience and site speeds are up to par.
A secure site is another way to improve user experiences. Most people today realize that HTTPS sites are much more likely secure platforms to conduct business transactions on. They also show that you care about the security of your customers, which can go a long way when the time comes to make a decision.
Google also wants to make sure it isn’t pointing people to abandoned sites or out of date information. By prioritizing posting new content and updating pages often, search engines can see that the information is likely to be up to date. Post new content often, and you’ve taken an important SEO step toward improving local rankings.
How to Rank Locally on Google
Ranking for local searches works a little differently. While these factors are important in ranking for any Google search, you’ll have to focus on local SEO strategy to get the results you’re after. The first thing you’ll want to focus your local business SEO on is ranking in the local pack.
The Local Pack
You may not be familiar with the term, but you are likely already acquainted with Google’s Local Pack. If you’ve ever searched for a local business, your results probably returned a map with a number of locations marked, as well as a sidebar that shows you the top three or more results in your search area. This is known as the local pack.
The local pack uses SEO information to return the most relevant results to searches. If you rank high, the local pack could put your business name in front of hundreds more potential customers per month. You can’t just sign up, though. You’ll have to optimize your SEO to get there. The first step is to set up a Google Business profile.
Google Business Profiles
An important part of driving traffic and improving local rankings is making sure the information on your business that’s floating around the internet is correct. Google Business Profile, formerly Google My Business, is an incredibly valuable business directory operated by the most popular search engine in the world. Creating an account for your business and verifying that all information is correct gives Google the tools it needs to refer potential customers to your establishment. It’s also a key step in ranking in the local pack.
Another way to improve local SEO rankings is with Google Maps. This is a fantastic focus point when you want to drive local business specifically. It’s an incredibly popular option for planning driving routes, but it’s also regularly used to locate local businesses. Make your business seen and you may see a marked increase in foot traffic.
One of the great advantages of Google Maps is that it uses GPS to determine the searcher’s location and matches them with results nearby. That means that if someone searches for a candle shop near your business and you happen to sell candles, they can get connected, learn a little about your hours and contact info, and even pull up directions to your front door. Don’t sleep on Google Maps.
Local SEO techniques for improving local rankings:
Once you’ve familiarized yourself with what goes into improving local rankings, you’ll want to take action. Even if you’re new to the world of SEO, there are some local SEO ranking factors that you can directly influence to improve your local rankings.
Create and optimize your Google Business Profile
As mentioned before, creating and optimizing a Google Business Profile is an important first step. You won’t need any help to do this. It’s a fairly simple process that will provide your business legitimacy in the eyes of Google. Go to Google.com/business and start setting up your profile ASAP.
Fill out your entire profile
Some first time users have tendencies to fill out a few pieces of information and call it good. This is a mistake. By utilizing all that’s offered with Google’s business profiles, you can increase the likelihood that your listing gets shown, and gets shown to quality candidates. The more copy the algorithm has to pull from, the more likely it is to match your business to local searches.
Fill out your business description
Your business description is a highly valuable part of your profile. It gives you the ability to contribute the descriptors you want associated with your business on Google. There are few places where you can influence the information presented when someone searches your business, so take advantage.
You’re allowed up to 750 characters. Use them up the best you can. By taking the time to maximize the space allotted, you’ll have an opportunity to decide how to best describe your business.
Make sure to choose the correct business categories
It’s not terribly helpful if the people who land on your page are searching for something you don’t offer. By categorizing your business profile properly, you can reduce this type of traffic. You can choose up to ten of them, so look to your business description to identify the best ones for your particular product or service.
Update your other online directories
While Google is the most popular search engine, there are many other valuable online directories out there that can drive some serious business. Make sure you aren’t passing them over when creating your online footprint.
Start by locating directories that are tailored to your location or industry. Including your business in multiple directories legitimizes your business to search engines. Whichever ones you choose to use, make sure all information is correct and up to date.
If your business information doesn’t line up from one directory to the next, Google may actually rank you lower in local searches. Creating consistency online improves the customer experience by allowing them to find relevant information on their first search.
Include high quality photos on directories
Another important factor in improving local rankings is adding high quality images to your website and directories. Most businesses remember to include an image of their logo, but don’t forget pictures of the actual business to let potential customers know what they can expect. Including images of your product or service, your team, and interior and exterior shots of your business will drive clicks and provide customers with a sense of familiarity before they ever set foot on your property.
Create content that’s local centric
In order to prove to Google and other search engines that your business is local, try creating local content. You likely know what’s going on in your area, and including things like local events and local businesses you love in your online content can help search engines push your business. It can also show locals that you’re invested in your community. One big reason people like to patronize local establishments is that their dollars support their communities. Showing them that you care about the same things creates a bond that can tip the scales when potential customers prepare to make their next big purchases.
Identify quality local keywords
Since keywords are what search engines use to match local providers with searches, identifying quality local keywords through local SEO analysis should be an important part of your local SEO strategy. Some of the more obvious ones probably come to mind quickly, but you’d be well advised to spend some time thinking outside the box to identify your best options.
You can perform some basic local SEO keyword research for free on many sites. This is a good starting point, but consider it more as a simple local SEO guide. You’ll be limited to a handful of searches per day and you won’t gain all the functionality the site offers. Aside from that, the learning curve can be a bit steep. If you don’t have previous experience using SEO sites, you’ll get more out of hiring a legit local SEO firm to help you out.
Optimize your website for mobile
If you’ve found yourself in a waiting room over the past decade, you know that the vast majority of us live on our phones when we have downtime. Since that’s how we search locations for our upcoming errands and entertainment venues, optimizing your website for mobile is essential in today’s constantly connected world.
By optimizing for mobile, you can catch those customers who are searching for lunch after their doctor’s appointment or reach tourists who are looking for local art to bring back to their families. Optimizing your website for mobile allows you to reach people in the place you’re most likely to find them.
People like to read about positive experiences when considering whether or not to give a company their business or not. You can’t just hope they talk to one of your loyal customers. You’ve got to provide an easy way for them to connect with testimonials from happy customers.
When you receive positive feedback from your current clients or customers, ask if they’d be okay with you posting that testimonial online. By sharing these stories with potential clients, you’ve got a much better chance of turning them into loyal customers themselves.
Focus on generating customer reviews
A huge percentage of the population reads reviews before making online purchases or visiting local establishments. Many estimates put it at 80% or higher, meaning monitoring your online presence is an essential part of SEO for local businesses. The more reviews you have, the more you can develop visibility into the value you offer. They’re also great for improving local rankings on search engines. Here’s how to do it.
Create a profile on popular review sites and invite your customers to leave a review. Requesting reviews from patrons is a wonderful way to build a base of customer reviews on those sites, and help you generate additional trust points.
Your regulars will usually be happy to leave a review, meaning potential customers will understand all the great things that drive people to return time and again. Offering a small incentive may be the motivation others need to follow suit.
Not all reviews will be positive. How you handle them will speak volumes. Address any unflattering reviews courteously and in a timely manner, and you show potential clients or customers that you are driven by customer service. Ignore them, and those negative reviews could cost you customers.
Creating your First Local SEO Campaign
Tackling your first SEO campaign yourself can be daunting, especially if you don’t have previous experience. There are a lot of things to learn, and the learning curve could cost you valuable time, considering many businesses don’t make it past their first year.
When it comes to improving local rankings, hiring a local SEO firm can give you a huge leg up. They know the market and are familiar with what local keywords produce results, and which are just filler. Plus, outsourcing your SEO gives you the extra manpower to handle the potential of increased foot traffic driven by that campaign.
If you’re ready to stop staring at your local rank tracker and hire someone to monitor local rankings for you, we’ve got the experience to get you back to doing what you do best.