What is local search engine optimization (seo) and why it’s important?

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What is local search engine optimization (seo) and why it’s important?

Did you know that four out of five consumers now perform local searches?  If your business doesn’t have a solid Local SEO strategy in place, you’ll be losing out on 80% of your potential customers. On top of this 46% of all Google searches are now done with local intent, so it’s crucial to adopt an effective Local SEO strategy if you want to maximise the chance of your business being discovered. As 72% of all local searchers will go on to visit a business within five miles of their location, you’ll miss out on a lot of custom if users can’t find you, or don’t know you exist.

Local SEO isn’t just about making sure your address information is correctly displayed, or you have a listing on Yelp or Google My Business, although that’s important. It incorporates a combination of equally important factors, from keywords, to building inbound backlinks and optimising your website for local search, right through to your online reviews and social media content and engagement.

Local SEO is the art of optimising the online visibility and discoverability of your business, to customers in your physical location. It also helps online potential customers to find out where your business is located, in real life. Local SEO has a lot in common with normal SEO, but includes the promotion of your location information, which you will need to optimise your strategy around. When Google ranks websites for Local SEO, it examines normal SEO ranking factors AND a set of unique Local search factors.  You need to score highly in BOTH, to do well in Local search.

Google’s Local search ranking factors:

  • Where a person is searching from
  • The amount of Name Address Phone Number citations your business has
  • Whether you have a Google My Business listing
  • Your Google My Business Profile Keywords
  • How many positive or negative online reviews your business has
  • What keywords are used in your online reviews
  • How many “check-ins” your business has received (and how long people stay at your location)
  • How many times your local business has been shared on social media
  • Your brand’s Google Maps star rating
  • Other behavioural factors like purchases

There are also some other key things you will need to do if you want to be successful with Local SEO, that you wouldn’t have to bother with if you had a purely online brand. For best results, you must optimise for the Google MAP Pack, get visible on relevant local review sites, and use research tools like Yelp and Google Suggest to select the best keywords to pair with your location word. Ultimately, your goal should be to rank high in local search.

When Google users make a local search, typically a keyword followed by a location, like “plumbers London”, Google returns three different types of results:

  • Sponsored Ads
  • MAP Pack Results
  • Organic Search Results

What are Organic Local Search Results? How to rank well in Organic Local Search Results: If you want to appear higher in local organic search results within Google, there are some important factors you need to optimise.

  1. Links: Google checks your inbound anchor text, your linking Domain authority, and your linking domain quantity.
  2. On-Page: Google looks for the presence of Name, Address, Phone number data, checks the keywords in your titles, and reviews your domain authority.  To score you highly, Google needs to be able to easily find clear contact information on all your website and business social media profiles. If you have a local business, pay special attention to your contact and how to find us pages, and always make sure you include both on your website.
  3. Behavioural: Google assesses your clickthrough rate, looks at your mobile to call rate, and analyses your check ins.
  4. Google My Business: Google reviews your business’s proximity, your stated categories, and your keywords, including the keyword in your business title.
  5. Citations: Google weighs up your Internet Yellow Pages (IYP) listing and looks at the amount of Name Address Phone Number (NAP) citation mentions your business has.

Blogging for Local SEO: Blogging is a crucial way to give a big boost to your search engine rankings but there are some guidelines you should follow if you’re using it to enhance your Local SEO approach. Blog about topics that are relevant to your local audience, especially local things that have relevancy to your niche sector. To help generate content ideas, keep up with local and community news, and think of ways to spin it to relate back to your brand. These might not always be obvious, but by using a bit of creativity, you can find fresh angles from which to generate blogs. For example, if you hear that your area is coming out of or going into lockdown and you run a cleaning business, you could run an article talking about the importance of hygiene in the COVID-19 era.

You can also interview local figures to get their take on your brand or ask relevant local experts for their insight and opinion, then feature them on your website. Don’t forget to take plenty pictures and video too, as you can post short clips and images to Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or TikTok, or longer videos to YouTube.

Host your blog on your website: To get the biggest benefits from SEO, you should host your blog on your own website or domain, not on a third-party hosting service. As well as the obvious benefit of having your own web address, which looks much more professional than having a free URL, hosting your own blog boosts your Google rankings, as the keywords and links in your content factor into Google’s analysis of your site. When Google assesses your site to see how relevant your brand is to local searchers, it looks at factors like your link authority, content relevance, and keyword relevancy when it decides how to position you in search. By having your own blog, you’ll up your website’s chances of appearing higher.  This is because when you post backlinks, and include keywords in your blog content, these will be factored into your site’s overall SEO score.

Include your location in your posts: You should include your local city and neighbourhood in your content as much as you can, as well as any unofficial names or nicknames for your area. Not everyone uses the same name to search for your location, so cover all bases by incorporating all versions into your content. You can also include nearby towns or cities, as some people will travel to you, if your brand appeals, or you offer a unique service.

Create fresh content: When you’re running a local business, often you’ll have different pages that basically say the same thing, just so you can rank for several locations. If you are doing this, you must make sure every page is unique, otherwise you’ll end up with a poor Google score for having duplicate content. Take the time to revise versions of your articles and website landing page copy, so that each one differs. Using this technique, you can even reach out to places you aren’t physically based in and rank for them in organic search results. This could be useful if you also have an online business, where customers can order products from you. It could also help you reach out to more customers, who will make the trip to your location.

Remember, you won’t be able to rank in the MAP pack for places where your business isn’t located, as you need a Google My Business profile for that. If you’re struggling for local content ideas, consider showcasing customer testimonials, happy experiences, or success stories. Feature special events or profile a typical day or night at your location. Always include relevant images with every blog you post, preferably multiple images, as this will help break up text blocks and add interest. Every new blog you post is opportunity to get discovered in local search, so make the most out of every single article. Just like with the rest of your website copy, you need to optimise your blog header, URL, title tags, and meta tags for local search, as well as your sub-headers and body copy.

Although most of your Local SEO approach will be conducted on the web, you shouldn’t forget to reach out in real life too, as this can help boost your online score. Ask your customers or visitors for reviews, build relationships with nearby brands, suppliers, and distributors, and get for their contact and website details, so you can link up online.

Let all your customers know that you’re online by including your website and social media details on your offline promotional material and encourage people to interact with your brand on the web. To encourage offline customers and visitors to interact with you online, you could run special online competitions and events, which you promote at your physical location. You can also promote your website and other online contact details on your printed Point Of Sale (POS) material, like invoices and receipts. Don’t forget to hand out business cards to all your offline customers and clients that feature your online information too.

Click Through Rate: Your Clickthrough rate (or CTR), refers to the number of times people have clicked on your listing or link to be taken to your website or page. Google hasn’t given away any specifics about this ranking factor, and there has been a lot of debate about how much it affects your Local Search Score. Evidence from respected search engine experts such as Rand Fisher from Moz.com demonstrates it does have impact though. When it comes to Local Search, Google sees clickthrough rate as an indication that searchers in a specific location see your business as relevant. 

To boost your organic clickthrough rate for local search, you need to make sure you have area specific title and tags, and appealing, relevant meta description on your webpages. Getting a significant number of positive Google My Business reviews will also help, as more people will click through to visit your business page if they see other people rate your brand highly.

Thanks to Google services, many of us are always signed into our accounts on every device we own and the behavioural data we generate is being collected and analysed by Google. Google tracking collects a whole lot of information, including the websites we’ve visited and interacted with, our locations, and invoices sent from brands to our Gmail accounts. Whenever we make a local search, Google takes this information into account, before it returns the results. Brands we’ve previously interacted with online, nearby businesses, and businesses we’ve purchased from, all get priority in the tailored search results we see. Every searcher sees a different result, so you need to concentrate on getting as many people as possible to look up your brand.

Focus on engaging with your customers, so they regularly visit your page, and encourage them to spread the word to friends and family, so you attract more area specific visits, and generate data that Google will use to inform future search results.