What is local SEO?
Over the past twenty years, the internet has grown exponentially and changed the way people find the information they need as they go about their day. From desktop computers that came in multiple boxes, to smartphones, people have come to trust the internet as their go-to knowledge base. The new forefront of that searchable knowledge base is local search. With the explosion in smartphone technology in the last ten years, the dependency on local search has grown wildly.
This means that any business that services a geographical area or has a physical brick-and-mortar location needs to always include a focus on local SEO in its marketing strategy. Pest control companies, restaurants, dry cleaners, etc will all be affected more and more by how well they follow local SEO practices.
How does this work?
Google is the king of online search and has been for nearly two decades. In that rise to prominence, Google has stayed on top of trends in the search space. Local search just recently took over the majority of searches online and Google continues to update its algorithms to reflect that.
When you are the consumer and searching for a local service or product, you will often be presented with what is called a map pack. This is typically the top three options that best match your search, all on a map to the right of that list so you can see exactly where they are in relation to you.
If the business listings are fully optimized you can usually select directly from that page the option to get directions, visit the website, or call that business. These results will be pulled based on the physical location you are in when you searched for it and based on the SEO rankings of businesses that matched your search criteria
For example, if you are at work and want to order pizza for the office lunch, you might pull out your smartphone and search for “pizza delivery.” You will then see places near your office that deliver pizza and have a strong local SEO, perhaps Domino’s and Pizza Hut.
If you went home and searched for the same thing, you would see different options because Google knows you are no longer in the same physical location. You might get a different Domino’s location or a locally owned place like Tony’s Pizza just down the street from me. That is how it works from a consumer side but what about from a business perspective?
What businesses need to focus on their local SEO?
In order for your business to be one of the three that shows up in a map pack, you need to make sure that you are following some best practices when it comes to local SEO. An easy place to start is your business listings.
Business listings are things like your Google Business Profile, your business page on Yelp, and your business listing on Apple Maps. All of these are tools that consumers will use to choose a business that best fits their needs.
Active listings, or ones that have regular updates, are always going to be trusted more by search engines, than those that have not had any recent updates.
This is why you may see a business with a 4.2 rating show up higher in the map pack than one with a 4.5 rating. The 4.5 rating may be due to a much lower review volume, so Google may not believe it is as accurate as it should be.
Your basic information, like hours of operation and phone number, is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to maintaining these listings. Updating special hours, like for a holiday or even a happy hour period, is a great and simple way to maintain regular activity.
Most business listings will also encourage you to post regular pictures of the interior and exterior of your business. Something like a local SEO social media. Google has a handy set of Guidelines for representing your business on Google you should check out when reviewing your Google Business Profile.
Another easy starting point would be to optimize your website. You can do this by creating content related to the field your business is in and the products and services you offer. This will be directly related to the keywords people use in search to find businesses like yours. You can also constantly review the user experience on your site. If it is not optimized for mobile users, or you see a decrease in the amount of time a user spends on your site, it might be time to update some things.
The above advice makes for some great starting points when it comes to improving your local SEO. From there you can begin to manage your reviews on places like Google and Yelp by requesting reviews from your customers and responding to any reviews left on these listings. Google even lets you manage your listing directly from Google Maps, so not only is it easier for the consumer to find it is easier for you to optimize and update your listings.
There is no perfect solution or formula for staying at the top of local SEO, but by following these tips you can be sure to remain competitive in the local market.