If you have a local business, or one that targets audiences in a specific geo-location, and want nearby customers to find your brand through search, you need a local search marketing strategy to optimize your website for local search. Optimizing helps you connect with highly motivated customers looking for the products or services you offer at exactly the right time.
46% of all Google searches are for local information and 97% of people use search engines to find local businesses. 88% of consumers searching on their mobile devices for local business information contact or visit the business within 24 hours.
If you want to get more people through the door, it’s time to start thinking about a local search marketing strategy. With services like Google My Business, Just Dial and Sulekha, your business can show up in search results even if you don’t have a website. That being said, it’s still incredibly valuable to create a website for your business. More visibility means more clientele!
What Is Local Search?
Local SEO differs from traditional SEO in that it aims to promote your physical business in local searches. In other words, it lets potential customers find information about your brick and mortar shop in search results so they can visit in person.
When a person uses certain geo qualifiers in their searches, such as city, state, pin code, or terms like “nearby” or “near me,” Google recognizes the search as a local one and provides search results from that area.
You’ve probably had an experience where you’re looking for a hairdresser in the area, need a new restaurant or a dentist. What’s the first thing you do? Probably grab your smartphone or laptop and search for providers in your area.
This is exactly where local search engine optimization comes in! The goal is for customers to see your website on the first page of Google when they’re looking for offers in the area.
When local intent is determined, Google delivers local search results in several ways. If it’s sure that one result is better than all others, it will display it in the one box at the top of the organic results.
If Google is fairly sure the searcher is looking for a local business but isn’t positive which business is most relevant, it will display a few local results at the top of the listings with phone numbers and links to additional information at Google Maps. This three pack may sometimes appear in the middle of the page.
The last, but most apparent way that local search results are displayed are in the naturally ranked organic results. Businesses that are most well-optimized for a search query will rank above the others here in the universal SERPs.
Local search is important for a whole host of reasons. Here are some of the most compelling:
- Rank Higher: Focusing on local search optimization will help your local business rank higher in search results and boost your business’ visibility. This results in increased brand recognition, more walk-ins, and ultimately more revenue.
- Make a Good First Impression: We all know the more relevant your site is the higher it will rank in Google. After all, Google rewards those that provide stellar user experiences to site visitors. By optimizing your site for local search, not only will you rank higher, you’ll set the tone for those that plan to visit your business. Making it easy for people to learn about your company, find your physical shop, and contact you is the key to boosting sales and beating the nearby competition.
- Free Advertising: Whether you take part in pay-per-click (PPC) advertising or not, the truth is local search results are a free form of advertising for your business. Think about it: The information you include on your site about your local business uses keywords, enticing copy, compelling imagery, and reviews and ratings. This information is seen by people while they conduct local searches and is used during the decision-making process.
- Boost in Sales: 78% of location-based searches produce an offline purchase. Those looking for local businesses actually want to spend their money in those physical shops. If you do it right, that means more money in your pocket both on and offline.
A good local search marketing strategy includes on-site and off-site techniques. It also requires careful reputation management as reviews are now very much a ranking factor on Google for 2019.
Here are ten, actionable ways to optimize your website for local search:
- Make sure your website is mobile-friendly
A mobile-friendly website is responsive and can adapt to any screen size. This is not only a SEO ranking factor but also customer expectation. Mobile friendliness is especially essential for local search, as many people use their mobile device to search for local businesses. To see if your site is mobile-friendly, run a SEO audit, or use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test. The Google test scans your site and offers directions for improvement if the site doesn’t meet their mobile standards.
- Add your business address to your website
To help Google understand where your business is located, feature your physical address on your site.
- If you have one location, add your address to your site footer and contact page.
- If you have multiple locations, create a locations page that lists the addresses of each location, and create a unique page for each location.
- On your contact and location pages, embed a Google map showing the business location.
- Add location-based structured data to your website.
- Create and Optimize Your Google My Business page
Get started by adding or claiming your business on Google My Business. When you create your profile, be sure to fill out as much information as possible and add up to ten supplementary photos. You can even link five videos from YouTube about your business.
Once you have completed your profile and hit “submit”, you will need to choose a way to verify your business.
Once your Google Places profile is live, encourage your customers to review your business. Monitor your business reviews and respond to good and bad reviews as the owner. This is a great way to demonstrate your customer service skills publicly! You can even use your responses as a way to advertise your friendliness to potential customers.
Creating a GMB page is just the first step. To boost the visibility of your GMB page, optimize and interact with it. Regularly update and engage with your page by adding photos, creating posts, engaging with reviews, and adding FAQs.
- Build Business Citations
A business citation is an online mention of your business that includes your name, phone number, and address.
Create profiles for your business on all well-known national citation sites as well as regional or local business directories. Google My Business is the most important business citation for local SEO. But it’s not the only one that matters. Citations are important because they tell Google that your business is authentic and trustworthy. They appear on Local and national directory sites such as:
- Yellow Pages
- Just Dial
- Apple Maps
- Maintain NAP consistency
Each time you build a citation for your business, it shows search engines that your business is trustworthy and established. But all of that work can be undone if your citations aren’t consistent.
NAP consistency refers to the consistent use of your business name, address, and phone number. A consistent version of your NAP makes it easier for search engines to recognize and rank your site. An inconsistent NAP can confuse the search engines and lead to a dip in search visibility.
- Get Local Reviews
Once you’ve claimed your business profiles on local search directories, the most important thing you can do to boost your visibility is get reviews. Having a positive rating can help you elevate your business in search results, especially on sites that allow visitors to sort businesses by the number of positive ratings.
No matter how great your business is, you still might encounter a bad review. As mentioned previously, many sites like GMB allow business owners to respond to their reviews individually. Be sure to monitor your reviews regularly and respond to them as necessary. Leaving bad reviews unanswered does not make them go away. It just makes visitors to your profile wonder what, if any, resolution your unsatisfied customers received. By responding to your bad reviews, you show potential new customers that your goal is to make sure everyone is happy, no matter what.
Here are some tips for getting great local search reviews.
- Add Buttons/Badges to Your Website – Let your website visitors know they can rate your business on directories like Yellow Pages by adding links to your business listing on your website.
- Encourage Reviews in Your Store – If you have a store or restaurant, encourage local reviews by simply putting a mention or link to your GMB or other business listing on receipts.
- Encourage Reviews via Emails – Does your business have an online ordering system? Do you encourage people who buy from your website to sign up for your mailing list? If so, email people after they have received their purchases and ask them to rate their experience with your business on the business listing of your choice.
- Simply Ask – If you interact with people on a daily basis in your business, simply ask people to add a review on your business listing. Most people will be happy to oblige.
- Optimize Title Tags and Meta Descriptions for your Location and Category
In the search results, the first thing people see is your page’s SEO title tag, meta description, an other related snippets. To improve local SEO, optimize title tags and meta descriptions for your location and business category.
- In homepage meta information, include your area, region, or city, plus your business category, in both the meta title and description.
- On location pages, include the city and category in both the title and description.
- Limit title tags to 60 characters.
- Limit the meta description to 320 characters.
- Target and optimize your site for local keywords
In addition to optimizing your primary pages for category and location, also optimize other pages across your site for popular, locally focused keywords. Perform keyword research to find popular, low-competition local search terms most likely to drive traffic to your site.
- Use Local Business, Product and Service Schemas.
Apply local business schema, or structured data markup to every web page to optimize your website for local SEO. It’s almost impossible to get into the Google Local Pack without this.
Adding product and service schema to your website focuses more on the details of each of those products or services. Again, the entire mindset behind schema is speaking to the search bots in their own language. Simplify things for them. Yes, they do understand English, but it’s their second language. So speak to them in their language for optimal local search results.
Test your page URLs on Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool and note the break down of various schemas on your website.
- Setup Social Media Signals
Having social media signals pointing to your location is another bonus when it comes to ranking for local SEO. You don’t necessarily have to do a lot with it, but the sheer existence of your Facebook page, Twitter and LinkedIn Company Profile is better than nothing. Ideally, though, you should have a social media strategy that will help you to manage content for multiple locations, if that’s relevant to your business.
Local SEO helps small and multi-location businesses get the most out of search marketing by connecting them with the people who matter most – local customers and shoppers who are looking for nearby businesses.
Perform a local SEO audit on your site and follow the local SEO tips in this post to launch a local search marketing strategy that helps your brick-and-mortar business rank in your area.
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