Absolutely because the potential to reach more prospects online is huge.
Search simply cannot be ignored especially if your business caters to a local audience. Data from Google shows that 4 out of 5 consumers use to search for local business information. But a more competitive digital landscape combined with constant algorithm updates means that just having a site isn’t enough.
Also, online users want immediate answers and simply don’t have the patience to click through multiple pages of search results. Not surprisingly, the top results attract a majority of all search engine clicks:
Bottom line: If your site is not at least on the first page, you’ll barely see any traffic.
Local SEO is crucial then to achieve higher rankings. The process involves optimising your site to better position your brand in front of local prospects searching for your products or services. Those efforts directly translate to more targeted traffic and sales.
So how can you compete in a crowded landscape and implement a strategy that actually works? Here we look at how ways you can boost your search engine rankings for local queries.
- Verify a Google My Business Listing
Google My Business is a tool that lets businesses manage their profiles online across Search and Maps. A verified listing displays a prominent feature to the right side of the desktop search results:
The panel provides instant visibility when prospects search for your brand. They’re able to easily view important details about your business including your address, office hours, phone number, and even reviews.
Follow these steps to make the most out of your profile:
- Fill out all details about your business (e.g. address, phone number, hours, etc.)
- Verify your business to prove that you’re the owner
- Edit your description to include your target keywords
- Add quality images that reflect your business
- Respond to customer reviews
Note that verifications are typically done by mail which can take a few days to arrive. Meanwhile, take the time to really flesh out your profile and regularly revisit it to make any updates about your business.
- Optimise On-Page Factors For Local Keywords
The key to higher rankings is to make it accessible to search engines. Google’s algorithms weigh hundreds of different factors to determine rankings. But on-page factors are perhaps the most important both from a search engine and user standpoint.
Optimise each of the following for your pages:
- Page titles: Page titles are the first thing that users see in the search results and Google looks at them to determine the relevance of your page. Include your target keywords as well as the city name to target local customers.
- Meta descriptions: These are short snippets of text that appear in the search results below the page title. Include your target keywords and a call to action to increase your click-through rates. Keep your descriptions under 160 characters as Google automatically truncates text that is too long.
- NAP: NAP refers to Name, Address, and Phone Number. When users search for local businesses, they’re often searching for these details. Google also looks for them to assess the credibility of your business. So you’ll want to prominently display your contact information across all pages.
- Images: Quality images are key to making a great impression. Use images that reflect your business both on your Google My Business profile and also on your website. Be sure to also optimise the ALT text of your images to include your keywords as well.
- Content: Finally, optimise the content on your actual landing pages to include your primary keywords and other related phrases. Provide a detailed description of what your business offers and highlight benefits to entice prospects. But be careful not to stuff your content with keywords to avoid a ranking penalty.
Here’s an example of a well-optimised page:
For existing content already on your site, it’s worth going back and optimising the on-page factors to help them rank better. Take the time to run a detailed content audit or get local SEO help for your site.
- Build Local Citations
Local citations are mentions of your business name, address, and phone number on the web. These can occur on local business directories and social platforms like Facebook. All other factors being equal, a site with more citations will outrank a similar site without any.
Google uses local citations to evaluate the authority of your business. Another added bonus is that directories provide more ways for people to find you online. For example, if your business is on Yelp or Facebook it will be visible to those searching within those sites. Those pages also tend to rank well in Google so it’s entirely possible to take up multiple spots on the front page.
Here are some of the most popular citation sources in the US:
Keep the following in mind when creating new profiles:
- Register to those that are relevant to your business
- Completely fill out all details of your profile
- Verify your business listing as soon as possible
- Keep your NAP details consistent across all profiles
- Respond to customer reviews in a timely manner
- Revisit your profile regularly
Even if a citation doesn’t include a link back to your site, it still counts as a mention of your business on the web which helps to build credibility and authority.
- Build Relevant Links
Data compiled from industry experts place link signals as one of the most important factors for local organic rankings:
Generally, the more links you have the better as each is a vote of confidence for your site. But simply spamming your site with links is no longer an effective strategy and is more likely to result in an algorithm penalty. What Google is looking for then are links from relevant sources.
Here are ways to build quality links back to your site:
- Create local resources: Content creation continues to remain effective. Creating valuable resources not only helps improve the visibility of your site but it’s also more likely to attract natural links in the process.
- Local directories: This was already covered in the previous step but you’ll still want to make creating profiles a priority as each has the potential to build links back to your site. Be sure to create profiles to those that are relevant to your business.
- Sponsor local events: Are there any events going on in your area? Find out how you can become a sponsor with a small donation. Event pages offer an excellent way to earn a quality link back to your page and even be featured in local news.
- Social media: Facebook is the most popular social media network but other platforms that may be worthwhile include Twitter and Google+. Sharing quality content helps with building a strong following for your brand.
- Outreach: Outreach involves reaching out to key influencers in your industry and building relationships. Those contacts can then be leveraged to submit a guest post in exchange for a link back to your site.
Link building is an ongoing process that requires consistent effort. Aim for quality over quantity as using automated tools to spam your pages with links is more than likely to result in an algorithm penalty.
- Manage Customer Reviews
The Internet makes it easy for consumers to research their options. Data from BrightLocal has found that 91% of consumers regularly read reviews to evaluate the trustworthiness of a local business.
Reviews are important then as they influence purchasing decisions. They also help your business stand out more in the search results as positive ratings are a form of social proof.
Consider the following example of a local query:
The first result is much more likely to gain attention over the other two listings as it has well over a hundred reviews with positive ratings.
Encourage your customers to post reviews about your business but don’t buy or offer incentives for them as doing so is against Yelp’s policies. Keep a close eye on your reputation and respond to customer reviews in a timely manner.
Any business can leverage local SEO to rank for their target keywords. But with a more competitive landscape and constant algorithm updates from Google, ranking isn’t as simple as throwing up a site. You need a consistent ongoing strategy to stay ahead of the competition. Implement these tips as outlined here to boost your local rankings.