The term “local SEO” should be familiar to most digital marketers by now, but what it means and why it matters is less understood by business owners and individuals who are looking to get their website to rank better on Google and other search engines.
Typically, local SEO implies a certain level of precision and implied targeting of a geographical area. That’s an impression that’s basically accurate.
However, a business or individual exploring search engine optimization solutions needs more details.
So what exactly is local SEO, and how do you craft an effective local SEO strategy?
I’ll aim to provide some answers to these questions in this article.
What local SEO is not
Sometimes, defining something is easier when you first explain what it isn’t. Particularly in the case of local SEO, there are a lot of myths and misconceptions out there, with marketing companies carelessly throwing around the term and mislabeling their services, which causes further confusion.
Let’s take a look at 2 hypothetical scenarios to clarify what local SEO isn’t:
- Let’s say a content publisher based in Washington, D.C. covers national and international news. Their goal is for politicians and decision-makers in the city to read their articles. Even though the desired audience is local, these types of marketing efforts are not considered local SEO since the content itself is still geared toward a national and global audience.
- Let’s say that the same publisher creates a website for local news strictly about the city of Washington, D.C. Technically speaking, you might be able to say the marketing efforts on behalf of this website are considered local SEO. Yet, that’s still not what industry professionals are referring to.
So what is local SEO?
Local SEO is a website optimization strategy that primarily focuses on helping your website rank in a specific geographic area, such as a city, metropolitan area, state or region. The goal of local SEO is to help a local audience find your website online so that they can visit your store, restaurant or businesses online and in person.
Several of the methods and techniques most commonly applied in local SEO strategies include:
- Optimizing local directory listings (like Google My Business profile)
- Adding NAP (Name, Address, Phone number) citations across your website
- Local link building
- Acquiring online reviews from local customers
- Targeting local keywords
For example, say that a website belongs to a store selling flowers. They don’t do e-commerce, so they are strictly relying on local walk-in traffic for their business. In this case, they focus their SEO strategy on targeting local searches for flowers like “flower store near me” and “florist near me.”
This is local SEO.
Though there are many tactics for optimizing your local search performance, in this article we’ll primarily focus on one of the most important local SEO strategies: directory listings.
What is Google’s Local Map Pack?
The most common and obvious way folks encounter local SEO is when they search for something like “restaurant near me” or “grocery stores near me” on Google.
Those top 3 or 4 listings right below the Google map—which are commonly referred to as the Local Pack (or Map Pack)—are extremely valuable SEO real estate for local businesses.
For example, when you search for “florist in Tampa” (or “florist near me” if your location is Tampa), then this is what you’ll probably see at the top just below the Google Ads:
The listings shown in the red box are the Local Map Pack.
Below, this section, the standard top 10 search results appear—possibly along with the “People also ask” section and more ads at the bottom:
As you might guess, competition to get listed in the Map Pack is steep, so that means there’s little room for error in your local SEO strategy.
The vital role of directories in local SEO strategy
Google My Business (GMB) is the crown jewel of local directories. GMB is directly integrated with Google Maps, meaning the search engine crawlers will scour GMB listings to decide what businesses to list in its Map Pack as well as what information to provide searchers who submit local search queries.
What’s more, your GMB listing is automatically picked up by other small business directories—most notably Bing.
Why is local SEO important?
Here are some statistics to show why local SEO matters to businesses:
- 30% of all mobile searches are related to location.
- 76% of people who search on their smartphones for something nearby visit a business within a day.
- 28% of searches for something nearby result in a purchase.
- 4 in 5 consumers use search engines to find local information.
- “Where to buy” + “near me” mobile queries have grown by over 200% from 2017–2019.
- Mobile searches for “store open near me” (e.g., “grocery store open near me”) have grown by over 250% from 2017–2019.
- Mobile searches for “on sale” + “near me” (e.g., “tires on sale near me”) have grown by over 250% YOY from 2017–2019.
- 97% of people learn more about a local company online than anywhere else.
- By 2021, mobile devices will influence more than $1.4 trillion in local sales.
- Nearly 2 in 3 smartphone users are more likely to purchase from companies whose mobile sites or apps customize information to their location.
How to submit your business listing to GMB
Above all, GMB values accuracy—so much so that the tech giant resorts to a pretty “old school” method to confirm that listings in its directory are legitimate: postal mail.
When you create your business listing, Google sends a postcard to the physical address you provide (typically your store or business address). When you receive this postcard, you’ll need to confirm receipt of the card before your GMB listing goes live.
Yes, it’s a slight pain to wait on your card to arrive by snail mail and make sure everyone on your staff knows to look for the card. (If your postcard is misplaced or never arrives, you will have to start from scratch.) But the advantage is that creating a GMB listing can save you having to create multiple listings in other directories.
How to optimize your local listing
Ensure your local listing is accurate…always
Be sure that the information on your local listings is as accurate as possible. When you’re going through a tedious process it often becomes easy to click defaults and allow incorrect information to get on your listing.
For example, most default business hours are 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday thru Friday. If your business is open on Saturdays, from 8 a.m. to noon, for example, then you should make sure your listing reflects that.
You might be surprised and dismayed to learn how much your search engine performance can be negatively impacted if your listing information isn’t accurate—for example, if someone writes a review saying they went by your store at 2 p.m. on a Saturday and you were closed, despite the listing saying that you were open.
This is why it’s important to have accurate hours listed and remember to update it if you change your business hours for holidays or special events.
Use the same business description
Most directories will let you write a brief description of your business. As with your business hours, precision and accuracy matters here, too, but in a slightly different way.
You’ll generally get the best results for your local SEO campaign if the description is the same across all directories. So whenever you create your GMB, Apple and Yelp listings, be sure to use the same description on all platforms.
Upload good photos of your business
Pictures play an important part in your local SEO listing. Think about the last time you ran an “XYZ near me” search and looked at the top listings with their photos all there on the right-hand side of the search. People like to see what they can expect, so take some professional pictures of your business (both inside and out) for this purpose.
Keep track of your local listing
Lastly, don’t forget to make sure you monitor your listing on a regular basis. Anyone can upload images and reviews to your listing and they might not all be flattering. Google will usually respond to a request to remove a picture that doesn’t accurately portray the business; however, removing a negative comment or review is much more difficult.
Need professional help with your local SEO strategy?
While you can accomplish some basic local SEO strategies easily enough on your own, many businesses have found that working with an experienced and professional digital marketing company gives their local SEO strategy a major boost. Even basic action items like creating directory listings can be a major time suck for your staff, and once those listings are established you’ll still need to take further steps.
Though these steps are essential to winning a highly competitive battle for local SEO traffic, perhaps you don’t have the time or desire to devote energy and resources to optimizing your site for local search. If you’re ready to get help creating and implementing a strong local SEO strategy, then reach out to SEO Advantage to learn how our sustainable solutions deliver real results for our clients.
What are your local SEO strategies and tactics?
Share your thoughts below or on Facebook.