As a local business owner, it can be challenging to rank for the top positions on the Search Engine Result Page (SERP) especially if you are in a competitive industry. Now you might be thinking, what’s the point in investing in SEO if your business is just going to be stuck at the bottom of the search results. This might be true if you are trying to rank for the top positions in the global search results, but how about the local search results?
As a local business, you can enhance your visibility and gain traffic that matters by narrowing down your SEO focus to the local search results. This is known as local SEO.
What is local SEO?
Local SEO is a search engine optimization strategy that helps businesses to increase their visibility in the local search results. This means if your business only serves a specific geographical area, by optimizing for local SEO, your business will be more likely to appear on searches for that area.
What is the difference between SEO and local SEO?
Both traditional SEO and local SEO focuses on enhancing the visibility of your business in the search results.
But what sets them apart?
The difference is its focus. Traditional SEO has a much broader focus on enhancing the visibility of businesses on a global scale. This means you will be competing for the top rankings with businesses from across the globe that are in the same niche as you. This can be quite challenging especially if you are a small business.
With local SEO however, you’ll stand a better chance of ranking for the top positions as you’re mainly competing against businesses that are local to your geographic area.
For example, if you run a coffee shop in Toronto. Local searches such as ‘Best coffee shop in Toronto’ or ‘Coffee shop near me’ would only show coffee shops within ‘Toronto’ as opposed to showing the best coffee shops located around the world.
This makes a huge difference.
When optimizing for local SEO, there are 3 key factors that Google considers to be the most important for local searches:
Relevance: Are your business offerings relevant to the search queries of users?
Prominence: How well known is your brand compared to the rest of the local competition? Is your brand well trusted?
Proximity: How close is the physical location of your business to the searcher?
By successfully optimizing for these 3 factors, you will increase the likelihood of your business appearing in the local SERP.
Why you need local SEO for your business
Now that you have an understanding of what local SEO is, let’s take a look at the benefits that local SEO can bring to your business:
Enhance localized web presence by ranking higher on local search results.
Improve Google Maps visibility with Google My Business optimization.
Greater visibility means more foot traffic to your store.
Targeting more relevant searchers who are more likely to convert.
Being included in Google’s 3 pack which are the top 3 results for local SERP results.
Builds trust with your audience with a strong Google My Business Listing.
As you can see, local SEO brings many benefits to your business with the main one being increasing the bottom line of your business.
Let’s take a look at some strategies you can start implementing to improve your local search rankings.
Local SEO Strategies
1) Building Citations
Citation building is one of the foundations for any local SEO strategy. Citations can be seen as simply mentions of your business on the internet. This could be your company’s name, the address, or your phone number. According to a study by Moz, Citations ranked 8th out of 188 ranking factors when it comes to local SEO.
So how can you build citations for your business?
One of the most common methods of building citations is to claim directories that your target audience frequently visits to look for information about your product or service. These directories could be your Google My Business listing, Yelp, Zomato, TripAdvisor, and many others.
By building citations, not only does it help improve your website’s rankings in the local search results, but it will also help your business be more discoverable by your audience (especially those located near the areas which you serve). If you are a restaurant, food directories such as Yelp can provide users with more information about your business such as reviews, menu, price, and times of operation to help them to make an informed decision to see if your business can meet their needs.
2) On-Page Optimization
Similar to traditional SEO, on-page optimization plays an important role in increasing your website’s rankings. On-page optimization refers to the process of optimizing on-page elements of your website to improve its positioning in the SERP.
Here are some on-page elements on your website you can optimize for:
Mobile-friendliness: The number of mobile users continues to grow each day, as more and more users are searching for information on the go. This is why it’s important to make your website accessible and user-friendly for all device types.
Load speed: The attention span of users who are looking for quick information is limited. Most users expect instant access to information. So if your website cannot deliver information quickly, then you run the risk of high bounce rates which can negatively impact your rankings.
Metadata: You want to provide descriptive information about your page to help both users and search engines understand what your page is about before they click on it.
Content: By providing unique and valuable content for your visitors, they are more likely to trust your website and convert into recurring visitors which helps significantly in boosting your search result rankings.
Keywords research: You need to be constantly researching new keywords that your target audience is using to find your business. Additionally, your targeted keywords should be used naturally throughout your website to help increase its ranking on the SERP.
Alt-text: Provide information-rich descriptions about the images on your pages to make your content more accessible.
On-page optimization is an ongoing process as the requirements by Google are constantly changing. By consistently improving your website over time, you will be able to see not only increased rankings but also higher conversions and brand loyalty.
3) Google My Business
We mentioned Google My Business briefly in the previous sections, but now we will be taking a closer look at how your Google My Business profile can help increase your visibility through Google’s Local Pack. Google Local Pack is a feature that shows the top three most relevant businesses for a user’s local search intent. The businesses which are included in the Local Pack are displayed on the top of the SERP alongside a map of the business locations.
To be included in the local Pack, the location of your business plays an important role. Although the physical location of your business is difficult to change, there are other factors that you can control to increase your chances of appearing in the Local Pack. One of these factors is your Google My Business Profile.
Here are some ways a Google My Business profile can help your business:
Manage your information: Have all the key information about your business (name, address, phone number, hours of operations, etc) in one place to provide easy access for users searching for your business.
Get customer feedback: You can receive and respond to customers’ reviews about your business. This is a great way to understand what’s working and what needs improvement.
Improve your local ranking: Having a Google My Business profile can significantly boost your visibility in the local search results and Google Maps.
The first step to increasing your business’s local ranking is to claim and update your business information on Google My Business while making sure that the information is accurate, complete, and engaging.
If this is not done properly, then your business may not show up even if it’s a search relevant to your business.
Here are some tips to creating an effective Google My Business profile:
Complete information: Businesses with a profile that is complete with accurate information have a higher likelihood of being matched for the right searches. The must-have information is your address, phone number, business category, and attributes. It is also important to keep this information up-to-date and consistent with the information in other directories.
Verify locations: Verify the locations where your business operates to increase visibility in local search results.
Accurate hours of operation: By keeping your regular hours of operations (including holiday hours) accurate and up-to-date helps provide confidence to customers that your business is open when they get there.
Customer reviews: Google My Business is a great way for you to interact with your customers. Customers can leave reviews about their experience, and you can also reply to them. The number of reviews, as well as the rating given, can influence the visibility of your business as well increasing legitimacy for your business.
Photos: Add photos of your product or services to your GMB profile to capture the interest of your customers. By showing an accurate and appealing representation of your business offerings can help give the extra push your customer needs to choose your business.
Q&A: By including a Q&A section, it provides your potential customers with easy access to answers to common questions and concerns about your business that other people have had before.
Business posts: You can inform potential customers of news and offers regarding your business, by creating scheduled business posts that are similar to the posts you would see on popular social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.
The items just mentioned is a great starting point to creating an effective Google My Business profile. This not only helps increase your business’s visibility through Local Pack and Google Maps but also provides your potential customers with the information they need to make an informed decision.
Local Link Building
So far we have discussed how relevance and distance are important factors to consider when trying to improve your local ranking. The last factor that we have yet to discuss is ‘prominence’. Prominence refers to how well-known your business is in your local area. And to improve your business’s prominence you will need to start building high-quality links to your website. According to Google, “Prominence is based on information that Google has about a business, from across the web, links, articles, and directories. To achieve this, it will require links from reputable sources in your local area to link back to your website.
Here are some tips to get high-quality local links back to your site:
Create a local SEO landing page: The goal of a localized landing page to generate quality traffic from local search results. These pages often specify the targeted location in their content, title tag, keywords, meta information, and URLs. This will help Google to understand that your business serves that specific area.
Local sources: You can get quality local backlinks from your local press, directories, as well as work with related businesses in your local area.
Business relationships: You can leverage your existing business relationships by creating valuable content that they are happy to link to and you can do the same for them. You can also contact related businesses and show why their customers can benefit from the content on your website.
Creating an effective local link building requires time and effort, but once you have it all set up you should see great results.
Now that you’ve made it to the end, you should have a pretty good understanding of how local SEO works. You are now one step closer to your goal of appearing at the top of the local SERP. Start your local SEO journey today by applying some of the tips discussed in this article.
If you have any questions about Local SEO, feel free to contact us and we’ll be happy to help!