If you own a business that serves people in one or more geographical locations or has your office(s) there, you will have to get your hands into local search. This post breaks it down for you and lets you in on a few local SEO tips and tricks.
What is Local SEO?
Local search engine optimization is the practice of optimizing your website in such a way that increases the visibility of your business when your local customers or users look or search for it online. This can be achieved via a variety of methods which involves content, technical and on-page optimization, link building and webpage creation with an intent to target a specific area, location, etc.
What is Local Search?
Local Search is simply a search done on a search engine to look for a product or service that is available in your locality. Let’s say, you forget the birthday of your dearest ones and now you want someone to quickly deliver a cake to you or you know someone who is in urgent need of blood from a blood bank. In both these cases, you will search for “cake shop near me” and “blood bank near me”. These type of queries, where you are looking for something in your vicinity, is known as Local Search.
What is Local SERP?
A local SERP is a SERP (search engine results page) result that appears when a local search query is made. For e.g.: If you search for “restaurants in andheri” then the search results that appear in the form of GMB (Google My Business) or organic results are known as Local SERP.
Why is Local SEO Important?
A lot of people look out for products or services that are available nearby. This could be a cake shop, tours and travels company, restaurant, hospitals or a photo-copy (xerox) shop. Hence, for local businesses, it is important to have an optimized site which lets people know about their product or service offering, the areas they serve, and other relevant information.
According to recent research, 71% of people who are seeking information about local businesses look online, while 46% of all searches done are for local results. 50% of people who looked online for a local store visited one within a day of having conducted the Google search. 34% of those who had done a local search on their tablet or PC did the same. Furthermore, 18% of the local searches from mobile devices lead to sales within a day. These are the reasons why Local SEO is important because you don’t want to be missed for local search queries which are relevant for you.
The Rise of Google My Business (GMB) in Local Search
The need to provide local search results emerged in 2003-05 when Google first began rolling them out. With the passing of time, local search improved a great deal and is far more superior today than when it all began.
In the year 2014, Google introduced Google My Business (GMB), a move that was well-received by site owners and local SEO experts alike. The tool allows businesses to create business listings on Google, thereby helping local users/consumers to find and contact them. GMB provides essential information about businesses, like directions to reach their shop/outlet, their contact number, website address, pictures which help users understand if they are choosing right and much more.
Additionally, ratings and reviews on the site and on GMB, help users understand the quality of a company’s products/service before they can make a purchasing decision. Local-search optimized businesses that are legit and provide a quality product/service have the highest chances of getting customer attention when they search online.
Which Algorithms Impact Local SEO?
Although Google releases hundreds of algorithm updates every day, some of them have had the most impact on how local search results are populated. The following are the most important to the local SEO of a site:
There was big change to Google’s local search ranking algorithm in 2014. It shook up the Local Pack and Local Finder results. Though the update was named Possum, Google did not confirm it. It affected SERPs in such a way that before it was introduced if you searched for a business that was slightly outside your city limits, it would not appear in your SERPs. However, after the Possum update, this became possible. Now, you can search for any business even if it falls slightly outside your city limits.
Before the Possum update, multiple businesses in a similar category were able to appear in the local pack even if they were in the same building. However, after the Possum update, Google started showing one or a maximum of two such businesses in its search results instead of all of them. Although this prompted local business owners to panic, they soon realized that they were visible if the user zoomed in on the map; the listings too popped back into view within the local finder results.
Launched in July 2014, the Pigeon update focused on providing users with relevant and accurate local listings while considering parameters like the distance from and location of the user. While earlier the local pack showed as many as seven listings, it was trimmed down to three post Pigeon. The changes were visible in Google Maps and Google web SERPs.
What is Local Pack/Finder in Local SEO?
Before we proceed any further, we help you understand a few important local SEO terms:
The Local Pack is simply the box that appears on the SERP of local search terms; it contains three local search results.
Local Finder is an extended version of the Local Pack. In a Local Pack, you will see three search results and an option for ‘More Places’, which is what is known as the Local Finder.
Local ABC Pack
A Local ABC Pack is a box that appears for branded search terms. Let’s say you search for a McDonald’s near you from your mobile device or desktop. You will notice ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ subsequently appearing to the left of each result and the absence of review stars or ratings. This type of Local Pack is called a Local ABC Pack.
Local Snack Pack
A Local Snack Pack usually appears for queries related to restaurants or hotels and entertainment. Such results will have only pictures present and no phone numbers or links to the website.
What are the Ranking Factors For Local SEO?
The following is a list of major ranking factors for local SEO:
The quality and authority of the domain that is linking to your site is an important factor alongside how relevant the domain is for your category.
For Local SEO, it is important that your name, address and phone number are listed wherever necessary. Optimized meta information and high domain authority are also important for your site.
Once all your optimizations are in place, CTR (click-through rate) plays an important role. Your CTR can be influenced by multiple factors like rich results. When CTR increases (it means users are preferring your search results over others), the chances of your pages ranking well also increase. A user calling on the phone number mentioned as part of your NAP on various important sites also helps.
Google My Business
The distance from the geo-location of search is an important factor for your page to appear in a local SERP. Mentioning your business categories and various relevant keywords in your page titles is also essential.
The presence of the correct NAP across multiple local directories is vital.
The number, content, frequency, and diversity of reviews posted both on your site and other important review sites is critical.
Google bots are present everywhere and keep track of everything. The links that you share on your Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest or Instagram pages send signals to Google of your social presence/impact.
How to Optimize Your Site for Local Search
Optimizing for Local SEO simply means, driving more people to your website, living in the vicinity of your business which then will ultimately lead to the growth of your business. Following are the steps that you need to perform while doing Local SEO:
As there has been a steep increase in the number of mobile users in recent years, optimizing your site for it is a must. Your site must be mobile-responsive; adjusts its sizing, layout, and proportions to display.
Giving out consistent NAP (Name, Address and Phone Number) information on all local business directories, citation sites, partner sites, and even Google My Business is the key to local SEO success. Expand your reach by targeting both generic as well as niche-specific sites such as Justdial, Yellow Pages India, TripAdvisor, Zomato depending on the business or service category.
Google My Business (GMB)
Google My Business is a tool to help businesses & organizations manage their online presence on Google Search & Maps. It helps businesses to attract local customers and help them with products and services that they offer.
- You can manage your business information on Google. This includes Name of a Business, Address, Phone number & Pictures.
- You can also interact with customers & respond to their queries or reviews.
- You can also understand and expand your presence through GMB Insights. You can also know how customers searched for your business, and where those customers are coming from.
Reviews On GMB
It always helps to go through customer feedback on GMB and other sites to know what you are doing right and where you need improvement. Engaging with them will also help earn their trust and show that you care about what they have to say. The more interaction, the better your chances of ranking higher in the local three-pack and organic rankings in general. You can simply log in to your GMB account and respond to a user’s comment – all Google search and Google Maps users will see your response under the tag ‘Response from the owner’ below the user’s review.
Local Online Directories / Citations
Look to your competitors to see where they are listed online. Local business directories like Indiabizlist, India Mart, Trade India, Yellow Pages, and others are valuable to anyone who wants to capture the local market. It is best to also do some research to find any domain-specific directories and further your local SEO strategy. This is also known as Citations. An online reference to your business name with exact NAP.
Create Content Specific to Location
Use the Google Keyword Planner and Google Trends to conduct an in-depth analysis of keywords that are relevant to your niche and location. Go local and explore different ways of answering local search queries in an informative, engaging and useful manner. Avoid writing fluff pieces that do nothing for the customer – the more they can trust you as a reliable source of information, the more they will keep coming back to you!
Social Media Marketing
Having a social media page/profile is the top priority for your business – no matter what channel you choose, be it Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, you must engage with your customers on a regular basis. Addressing their queries and concerns, announcing new product/service offerings, sales, events, posting informative and entertaining content, etc. are some of the things you can do to send positive social media signals to Google.
Structured data mark-up or schema is add-on code that relays important information about your business on Google SERPS, right from your physical address to what you do and who you serve. Use local business, organization, product and service schema to help you reach out to the right local audience. The Google Structured Data Testing Tool will help you analyze your pages’ code and give your local SEO marketing a boost.
Create a Page For Every Product, Service, and Location
If you want your every product or service offering to do well in local search, create a separate page for each of them. This will also help you use the appropriate product/service schema on each page while helping Google bots understand them better and pointing them in the right direction on SERPs.
Optimize Meta Data Based on Location
Meta titles and descriptions are critical when it comes to telling users what your site is all about. Include the name of the location and the specific services or products you offer in your meta title and description. This will help both, Google and users about your area of operation, and business domain.
Local SEO involves a host of technical, on-page, and off-page activities that need some getting used to. If you are just starting out, it is best to seek the help of skilled professionals whom you can hire as part of an in-house team or reach out to reputable agencies that offer local SEO services.
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