Local SEO Optimise your business for local “near me” searches
As searchers become increasingly mobile, local SEO or hyper-local searches are on the rise. Proximity to the searcher is the new No.1 ranking factor in local search results today.
When a “near me” search is conducted, Google’s algorithm increases the importance of distance from the searcher’s location. Whether it's possible to influence “near me” search results is open for debate, but these are some best practice steps to follow:
Ensure that business name, address and phone number (NAP) are frequently and prominently displayed on your website in an easily indexed format.
Markup your NAP information with structured data relevant to the business.
Google My Business should be optimised properly, ensuring that the business name, address and phone number match what you have on your website.
Get as many positive reviews as possible. Native Google reviews correlate highly with “near me” search success.
Google My Business, the new home page
SEO guru Mike Blumenthal wrote a recent blog about the changing nature of consumers search result interaction, how increasingly they are getting in touch with businesses directly from Google without clicking any links at all. Approximately 34% of all searches result in no click at all.
A study conducted by Moz earlier this year discovered that organic search click through rates were 20% lower on mobile devices than desktops and, that organic SEO offered 20X more traffic opportunity than paid advertising on both mobile and desktops.
Online searchers are visiting your website less. Yet more consumers with purchase intent are reaching out to your business directly on Google than ever before.
In a recent case study of local SEO key performance indicators, 70% of calls and driving directions came directly from Google while 25% came from the business website. Many of the website conversions also originated at Google as well but the majority were stopping at Google and making the call or requesting the driving directions right there.
A Google My Business listing records inbound phone calls, walk-in customers and number of website visitors. (See reports below).
Optimising your business for Local SEO
Citations (online mentions of a business with consistent business Name, Address and Phone number - NAP) as a ranking factor diminished slightly in 2017, however the key ones are more important than ever.
Search engines need citations to locate a business and give it authority (ranking). The most important citations and digital assets for local SEO are:
- Google My Business & Google Maps
- Bing Places for Business & Bing Maps
- Apple Maps
- Yellow Pages & Where Is
- Linked In
It is easy to add another 20 directories to the list above including trade and industry specific ones. It will take a few months for Google & Bing to locate the listings and connect them with the business website to gain local search result prominence.
One of the biggest changes to local SEO occurred at the turn of the year when Google adopted a mobile first approach to presenting search results. More than 60% of searches are now performed on mobile devices.
Google recently released a new feature that allows SMB’s to publish events, products and services directly to Google Search and Maps (in the right hand Knowledge Panel). It’s a free service - a perfect way to gain more exposure in search results. Up to 10 posts can be published at any time and they will last for 1 week (longer for event posts) before they disappear.
You can monitor the click through activity using UTM tracking codes on the call-to-action links. The first 100 characters display in the Knowledge Panel, so make sure your intro copy counts, and doesn’t get cut off mid sentence. Google Posts are not currently available to Hotels and Motels.
Reviews are magic! (Reputation Management)
Your reputation is not what people tell you they think of you; it’s what they say about you when you’re not around. Customers are leaving reviews about local businesses every day, through numerous review outlets - often without the business knowing.
Reviews are now a fundamental part of the buying decision. Whichever way you look at it, the numbers are significant. One study shows 91 percent of consumers rely on reviews regularly or at least occasionally to inform their purchase decisions.
Many small businesses are bitter about negative reviews. Whilst this is understandable, the above numbers show that ignoring review sites is a battle you won’t win. Instead, reviews must be faced head-on. If you ask happy customers to leave a review - many will! 2-3 5-star reviews per month will make a huge difference to your ranking and inbound enquiries.
Casey Meraz at Moz went so far as to call reviews “magical” and stated that “if you don’t have review stars — and don’t plan on putting in processes to get legitimate reviews — you’re making a bad business decision.”
A Google My Business listing that has 5 review stars (when competitors have less or none) can attract almost 50% of all clicks on a search results page.
Website On-Page SEO
Optimisation of the company website is equally important if you wish to gain prominence with Google. The aim is to create a home page that is perfectly optimised from a Local SEO perspective and one that also generates leads.
These are some of the factors relevant for good local SEO home page optimisation:
- Product / service keyword and city, state in page title
- Relevant focus keyword (service / product offered) - includes keyword research
- Quality / authority of in-bound links
- Service / City & State in main heading title
- Business name, address & phone number (NAP)
- Load time of home page (GTMetrix Report)
- Name images correctly with meaningful alternative tags
- Text content (ideally 300 words plus with a keyword density of 2.5)
- Embed Google location map
- Multiple strong ‘calls to action’
- Reviews / Testimonials
- Sitemap.xml file (a list of website pages for search engines to read)
- Schema & Structured Data Markup
- Search Engine Snippet Title & Description
Home page optimisation
Landing page diagram courtesy of Bowler Hat in the UK
When will I see results?
This depends upon many factors; the competitiveness of the industry sector and more importantly the major players who currently dominate the search results for specific keywords and phrases. How well established the competitors are, how far a business is located from the main population areas, how well the company website has been optimised, the condition of existing citations (business listings), has a Google My Business account been set up, verified and optimised, the size of the area you are trying to cover etc.
Typically, results will start to show after a few months, however a Google My Business account will often begin delivering customers sooner than that. In a video released by Google they say 4 months to a year.