What is Local SEO?
Local SEO is the practice of ranking well for local searches. Local SEO helps businesses to be found with "near me" and "around me" search requests. It's estimated that half of all Google searches are done with local intent.
According to numerous authorities, such as HubSpot, 50% of consumers who conduct a local search, end up purchasing the same day. If a business isn't visible for these searches, or ranking high in Local Search, they're losing out to competitors.
Location drives nearly all consumer engagement, even for well-known national brands. It's estimated that over 80% of customer engagement happens through local assets such as local listings, directories, and local pages (as reported in Search Engine Land).
What Factors Affect Local SEO?
When focusing on improving a business’s Local SEO, it’s important to note, review, and optimize the following factors for Local SEO best practices:
1. Optimizing URL, Title Tags, Meta Descriptions, & Content
Optimizing URL title tags, meta descriptions, and content is not only important for overall SEO, but for Local SEO as well. For the best Local SEO practices, the URL, title tags, headers, meta descriptions, and content should include the locality (city, region) in addition to the target keyword of the page described.
Adding localities helps search engines, like Google, to correctly index with geographical location. Links with city, state, or area included in the anchor text (the words actually hyperlinked) help with near me searches and thus help improve Local SEO.
2. Local Keyword Research
Keyword research represents the foundation of SEO campaigns when done properly. Focus on using target keywords for titles, tags, and content relevant to the locality that one is optimizing for. Keep relevant keywords near the beginning of any title or content, and use related keywords and phrases throughout as appropriate.
3. Claim & Optimize Google My Business Profile
As Google is the most well-known, recognized, and used search engine, it’s imperative to utilize all the features Google provides when it comes to Local SEO, and identifying one’s business online.
Google places heavy emphasis and authority on its Google My Business card (formerly Google Places). It’s important to setup and optimize Google My Business to include all relevant data points including: business hours, phone number, directions, logo, photos, staff, product & service offerings, etc.
4. Schema Implementation
Schema markup, also known as structured data, provides search engines with detailed information about the business, address, industry type, events, products, services, pricing, as well as location-based offers, and more.
Since Schema is only used on about a third of all business websites, using Schema can make websites standout in search results and placement, which can boost CTR (click through rate).
5. Consistent Channel Information
One measure Google uses in deriving ranking and placement for businesses in local search results is consistency of data. Therefore controlling a brand’s consistency and assets figures heavily in this equation. It’s imperative to have consistent NAP data (name, address, phone number) across all websites, directories, and channels.
Use high-authority online directories, profiles, and citations to improve trust and authority of information for local searches. Create local business profiles and channels as relevant to industry and target markets, and ensure accurate, consistent data across each.
6. Google Posts
Using Google Posts in Google My Business accounts to update consumers about deals, local offerings, upcoming events can help gain more traffic and relevance. These posts often appear directly in SERP providing the ability for a business to directly communicate with consumers before they've even arrived at a site.
7. Local Link Building
Just as appropriate link building can help boost regular SEO; participating in relevant & natural, local link building can improve Local SEO. Having a strong profile not only helps one to perform well in local search results, but also improves overall consumer confidence with relevant links and data.
As with any link building strategy, make sure to follow proper link building practices, and avoid link-farms and irrelevant links.
8. Reviews & Reputation
Google has been placing heavy emphasis on first party reviews when it comes to Local SEO. Relevant reviews are considered important as they help influence buyers while improving local relativity.
To improve reviews and reputation, it’s important to actively reach out to consumers to request reviews. Consumers often go out of their way to leave negative reviews, so some follow-up and reminders to leave a positive review is often warranted and required.
There are numerous review softwares one can use to help facilitate the request of reviews from customers and easily manage the results.
9. Tracking & Analytics
Tracking and analysis is important to review and see what’s working, and what needs improvement with local search results and placements. Whether using Google Analytics or other marketing and analytic technologies, these services often allow the tracking of search volume, ranking, results placement, and geographic location. These data points help to improve overall efficiency with regards to local search placement, and what can be improved upon.
Awhile back, Google made changes to their search algorithms that place heavier emphasis on security. Using SSL Certificates to make sure a site is secure will help improve overall SEO, and boost Google ranking in local "near me" and "around me" searches.
11. Responsive, Mobile-Friendly
Google has been pushing mobile-friendly websites for years now. As of 2018, Google began pushing mobile content first in search results. Due to the Mobile-First requirements, Google’s recommending that mobile-content be equivalent and consistent across all platforms, and suggests responsive website development to accommodate consistent data across all user platforms whether viewed on mobile devices or desktops.
12. Local Market Dependent Content
For brands with numerous localities to market, it's important to build hyper localized content for each locality. Make each location page unique and avoid using the same content with "city name" changed for each. Use relevant information to each locality to engage local audiences and show differentiation.
The above Local SEO factors play heavily into businesses successfully reaching their local target audiences for “near me” and “around me” searches. As search continues to evolve, Local SEO has become a major factor in emerging search technologies like Voice Search.
As the sales of home smart speakers and phone assistants grow, Local SEO continues to play an integral part of Voice Search’s accuracy and success in providing users with pertinent results. Local SEO is something many businesses must continue to review regularly for optimal success and target market reach.