Local SEO is often ignored by small businesses, but it is probably the most important strategy to help the business grow. Investing in Local SEO will increase awareness and drive physical store visits.
72% of google local searches resulted in a visit to a store, around 56% of local businesses do not have a Google My Business listing. Local SEO is very important, and its importance has been made even more prevalent during the global pandemic as traveling has been limited and people are forced to buy around their neighbourhood. In 2021, the way people consume will shift again. For a further look at the most important SEO trends for 2021, check our latest article here: Is SEO dead in 2021?
Having a listing on search engine platforms should be every business’ first concern, and it is the easiest thing to do. If you have not claimed your business on Google, Bing, or any other search engine platform, you should do that now.
If you have doubts about this topic, keep reading this article. Here, we will explain in the best, and simple, way possible how local SEO works, in Google specifically. Then we will talk about how to boost your business’ presence online to drive visits to your brick-and-mortar store.
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Local SEO is one of those terms that most people might have not heard of but has, for sure, interacted with it. If you are an avid user of the internet to search for things around you, you might have come across results that were fuelled by local SEO.
To put it in simpler words, we will give you an example:
John is headed downtown to meet his friends for dinner. However, they could not decide where to eat, but they all agree it should be Italian food. When John meets his friends, he pulls out his phone from his pockets and starts typing on google “Italian food” or “Italian restaurants nearby”. As soon as he presses “search” he comes across a number of Italian restaurants around the area he is in.
This is local SEO. Local SEO is a group of several different strategies that aim to drive awareness, traffic, leads, and sales to a local business. With local SEO, businesses can increase visits to their physical stores.
On a final note, should we not forget that local SEO is not only about having Google My Business (GMB) account. Local SEO is just SEO. It is one branch of the general strategy that is search engine optimization and, in this case, with a local focus. Therefore, depending on the company, a complete SEO strategy must include its local strategies.
How local SEO works and how you can do it.
Just like the general SEO, local SEO works on unique factors that affect your business’ rank on the search engine results page (SERP). Among other factors, you can appear on local search rankings by noting the relevant keywords, location, links, content, on-page and technical SEO, and website authority. What is important to retain is that everything – keywords, links, and content – must have a local focus.
As Google puts it, your local ranking is determined by:
- Relevance – Does your business match what the person is searching for? This is where all the work in your SEO pays-off.
- Distance – How far is the person from your shop’s location? This is why you must have a listing with your location, your website must have local keywords and your location.
- Prominence – How much is your business being talked about? Here the magnitude of your online presence counts, and link building becomes important.
1. Claim your business on Google My Business
Even though claiming your business on Google is a big step, it is not enough. The page must be verified, complete with all the information about your business and utilizing the relevant local keywords on the description.
The business name, physical address, phone number, business hours, categories, and attributes must be up-to-date and match your website so that Google knows it is legit.
Take this guesthouse in Cascais, Legasea, for example. Their listing is a good example of a GMB profile, with complete business information, categories, and attributes. Business categories help Google classify your business so that when someone searches, let’s say, “Hotels near me” your hotel can be seen on the results page.
One promising tip is to be specific with your category. For example: if you own an Italian restaurant instead of using just “Restaurant” as a category, use “Italian restaurant” or “Pizza restaurant” (if you sell mostly pizza).
Alternatively, attributes provide detailed information about your service, for example, service options, amenities, and accessibility options. Attributes are in constant update by Google as consumer behaviour changes. For instance, during this past pandemic, Google added specific attributes to tackle the situation, such as “No-contact delivery”.
Example of service options:
- In-store shopping
- In-Store pick-up
- No-contact delivery
Example of amenities:
- Good for kids
Example of accessibility options:
- Wheelchair-accessible car park
- Wheelchair-accessible entrance
- Wheelchair-accessible lift
- Wheelchair-accessible toilet
2. Invite customer reviews and answer questions
As mentioned before, Google’s algorithm rewards prominence points. A part of prominence points come from the recognition the business got, and customer reviews and ratings represent that.
To improve your ranking on search engines you must have a good number of reviews, preferably positive, and very good ratings. The usage of keywords in those reviews will also help in boosting your ranking.
Tip: Do not forget to remind your customers before they leave the shop, to provide a review and a rating on Google. Other ways would be to include this request in a newsletter or on social media.
This strategy is not exclusive to GMB reviews. Reviews on your website and on other review sites are equally important to help your business rank on result pages. Moreover, you can link your reviews from those sites to your GMB listing.
3. Focus on Link Building
Just like general SEO, link building is very important for local SEO. So, link building is essentially the strategy to get other websites to link your website. Why is this important? One of the main local search ranking factors on Google is the quality of the content.
Google measures this by looking for sites that are cited by other prominent websites. If your website is worthy of citation on many sites, that means that the content you provide is good and trustworthy. Therefore, building links is another way to improve your points in prominence for local SEO rankings.
Have in mind that this is true as long as your links were naturally gained, or you add them to websites with purpose and not by spamming your links everywhere. Also, do not purchase or exchange links, because they decrease link quality and prominence ranking signals. The most relevant links are from websites within your industry or articles to which topics relate to your main business.
Here are some ways you can build your links:
Adding your business to a web directory is a great way to start building links and getting your business out there. However, it cannot be just any directory. Building links on low-quality directories will only hurt your ranking.
Find trustworthy directories that revolve around your business segment and industry. For example, if you own a restaurant or a coffee shop, it is good to start with review websites like Yelp, Zomato, and Trip Advisor. In the hospitality industry, there is Booking.com, Trip Advisor, Expedia, Hostels.com, among others. For businesses in general, building an account on GMB, Yellow Pages, and the Chamber of Commerce directory is also a good start.
- Social media
Having a page on social media is a must for any business. Create accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media platforms that resonate with your business, for example, Pinterest for interior design, LinkedIn for consultants, or Reddit for gaming related businesses.
It is extremely important that you add complete business information to increase your page’s relevancy.
- News and articles
By gaining links from relevant articles and top local news media is the best way for Google to know that your page is important to an individual’s query on their platform.
So, you must get people to talk about your business. You can do this by displaying amazing works, showing expertise in your area, hosting events, get involved with your community, having sponsorships, etc.
4. Add rich media such as photos, videos, and audio files.
Add photos and videos about your business, the products you sell, your service, and your store.
Google is pushing its platform to deliver zero-click searches. What this essentially means is that when someone types something on Google, the search engine tries to show all the information on the first page. These could be featured snippets, images, videos, or your GMB page.
Pictures and videos are also ranked in Google, and by adding them to your website and your GMB account, your rank will improve significantly.
Moreover, adding media to your GMB account will give your clients a good look into what you sell, and therefore increase the chances of having them visit your physical location.
While this is only an introductory guide, all this information might be overwhelming for a first timer. It is a lot of work to plan and execute a good local SEO strategy that covers everything.
This is what we do best at Link37, we help our clients draw a thorough digital marketing plan to boost their online presence. Book a meeting with us and let’s start planning yours!