With Google making local results more and more prevalent these days, especially with the incoming “buy now” button, Local SEO is more then a convenience, it is quickly becoming another necessity for businesses to succeed.
The internet has opened the doors to countless opportunities. For artists and writers, it has allowed them to showcase and promote their work online and reach out to new audiences they might not have otherwise reached. For businesses, this allows you to expand your presence while not having to worry about investing in more brick-and-mortar stores. If you run a business that has an online store in addition to its brick-and-mortar locations, you should seriously consider investing in your online presence. Not only is it cost-effective, but when done right, can help you attract the right customers faster. The solution: Local SEO.
Why Local SEO?
As most of you know, operating in the online space has become paramount for success. Everyone is online and competing for those coveted top rankings on the first page of Google searches. SEO is vital to online promotion on a large scale; but, what about on a smaller more local scale? This is where Local SEO comes into play. But, before we get knee deep into talking about Local SEO, here’s some quick statistics about why it should be included in your marketing efforts.
- Studies show that over 72% of consumers use online reviews when making shopping decisions
- 90% of smartphone users use their phone before shopping, and 84% use them while they’re shopping
- 50% of consumers use their smartphones to find local information and have “local intent” or searching for something and including location identifiers (i.e. antique furniture Saratoga Springs NY)
- Over 4 billion desktop searches in the US have “local intent” as well
- Prospects that search and find localized results are more likely to convert into sales, because when they look for a service or product and find it locally, they will want to take advantage of this option
- Local SEO has the highest ROI when compared to other online marketing strategies
Alright, now that I’ve shown you the data, let’s get started in how to get your local SEO off the ground.
Getting Started with Local SEO
In today’s online landscape, there are literally, tens of thousands of places to list your business online, and at the fundamental level, creating local listings is a key component of any local SEO campaign. But, let’s understand why this is important before we go into how to build it.
To help explain the importance of listings and citations, let’s look at the motivations and experiences of two of the most important variables in local SEO: search engines and the consumer.
Consumers today are buried under the number of options available to them. It doesn’t matter if they’re looking for restaurants, shopping outlets, or the closest and cheapest gas station. Search engines help ease this pain by allowing consumers to input a few keywords, which in turn return a plethora of options that make it easier for them to choose one and be happy at the end of the transaction. If the results are satisfactory to the consumer, they’ll come back to the search engine and use it again, allowing that search engine to monetize via advertising.
To make sure this happens, search engines review Exabytes (1 Exabyte = 1 Million Terabytes of Data) of data to be able to serve up the most relevant and best-reviewed options sorted by geography. Additionally, the quality of this data that’s used to process the information can make or break a service. So how is the high quality benchmark for data ensured? Through cross-referencing the data points across the internet. However, there are three major information brokers whose data powers Google, Bing, Yahoo, and many others, and they are:
The information these data stars provide is then cross-checked with more popular business listing services like; Google+ Local, Yelp, Bing Places, Yahoo Local, Foursquare, and others. If your data is consistent across many of these data providers, the more trust is invested in your site and in turn more likely to be served up by Google or the other search engines when someone types in a keyword associated with your business. Quality and relevance above all else is the key.
Now that we’ve explained the “why,” let’s get into the “how.” To begin with, in order for your business to qualify for a local listing in any index, it needs to meet the following four criteria:
- Your business must have a name or a DBA
- Have a local phone number that matches the city you’re located in
- Have a dedicated physical street address
- Make face-to-face contact with customers
Next, we’ll look at two factors that have a heavy influence in how search engines and other web services find out about your business:
- The quantity and quality of links that point to your website and tracking the sites where those links appear
- Tracking the number of citations of your business and on which sites these citations appear
Now you’re probably thinking, “I get links, I’ve done link-building in the past…but what the heck is a citation?!?” In the simplest terms, a citation is a mention of your business name on web pages other than your own and it usually includes either your business address, phone number, or both, regardless of whether there is a link to your website or not.
For example, let’s take a look at Yellow Pages, where your business is listed, but not necessarily linked to.
When it comes to creating your business listings and getting citations, you have a couple of options available to you. You can take the DIY approach and list with all the major players (Yelp, TripAdvisor, Yellow Pages, Google+Local, Bing Places, Yahoo Local, and Foursquare), hire a marketing agency, or you can turn to a location-based CMS (Content Management System) like Yext, or Moz Local, where you upload your address once and then use the software to push your listing to everywhere you want to be. Each CMS has its own pros and cons, outside of the cost associated with it. So, if you’re going to look at the CMS route, make sure to do your due diligence and invest in the best one for your business.
Business Reviews and Online Reputation
In 2012, Search Engine Land released a study, and according to the study, 72% of consumers say that they trust online reviews on the same level as personal recommendations. Let that sink in for a moment, people are trusting the reviews of strangers who’ve interacted with your business on the same level of trust as a friend or family member. That’s not all though, in the same study, 52% say that positive online reviews make consumers more likely to use a local business.
Reviews not only help drive a higher CTR (click-through rate) but are listed on search results where your business is shown. So it should go without saying that businesses cannot afford to ignore their reputation on the internet.
When dealing with online reviews the two main activities are inviting people to leave a review, and managing your online reputation. Getting people to leave a review can be as simple as having a call-to-action at check-out, or bringing it up while you’re conversing with your customers. Managing your online reputation is the other end of the spectrum. Rep management deals with alleviating customers who’ve left negative reviews and self promotion of your reputation as social proof of your goods or services.
On-Site Optimization for Local SEO
Lastly, let’s take a look at what you can do to get your website optimized for local SEO. To start, it’s recommended that you have your company’s NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) information listed on every page. If you have multiple locations, you can either use multiple landing pages for each location, or have it all listed on a single “contact us” page. One thing that you’re going to want to test when setting this up, is to make sure that your NAP is crawlable by Google, because Google can sometimes include it as an image instead of HTML coding.
Additionally, you’ll want to make sure that you’re optimizing for local based keywords, over larger, broadly based keywords. For example, if one of your keywords is “fish market” you’ll want to do, “fish market Seattle, WA” over the broad keyword, “fish market.” Also, you’re going to want to make sure your website is optimized for mobile. As I mentioned in the beginning of the post, 50% of searchers are using a mobile device to help them with a purchasing decision and/or purchase via mobile device. This number is only going to grow, and it’s predicted that mobile use will be 80% of e-commerce traffic by 2018.
Bridging the gap between offline and online experiences needs to be one of the top priorities of businesses today if they wish to survive in today’s digital world. By concentrating your efforts on what I explained here today for optimizing your local search marketing efforts, and you’ll be on your way to better rankings, increased traffic and conversions.
Have any questions for us? Leave them in the comment section below. Want to talk with us about how we can help your business succeed? Email us or give us a call!