If you’re a small business, knowing how to make yourself more visible online is probably something you wrestle with daily. If your marketing campaign doesn’t include local SEO, this could be why you struggle to be seen online. Many small businesses often rely on local customers who look to buy products or use their services in the local area. So with more people than ever using the internet to find the things they need, local SEO should be a crucial part of any successful marketing campaign. Optimising your small business for local search levels the playing field and allows you to compete against larger companies. Since better ranking isn’t something you can buy, knowing how local SEO will improve local rankings is priceless.
What is Local Search?
Like the name suggests, local search refers to how consumers use search engines like Google to find local products, services and businesses near their current location. When you list your business on Google it will appear in local search results called the Google Map pack or local pack. If you’ve ever searched for a restaurant, a mechanic or a hairdresser, you’ve probably been served with one of these types of local search results. Even if you haven’t specified a location in your search, Google can still show you the most relevant local business listing as long as it has a detailed Google My Business profile.
Why is Local Search Important for Small Businesses?
With local searches making up 46% of all searches on Google, not taking advantage of local search marketing equals missed opportunities. As well as improving local rankings and increasing your site traffic, local search optimisation can improve foot traffic to your brick-and-mortar business by helping customers to find your location. Improving local SEO will be beneficial to:
- Physical businesses that provide services locally (like a local barber shop)
- Businesses with no physical building but who serve the local area (like a plumber)
- Businesses with multiple locations
A good SEO strategy needs to include local search marketing so that you can see improvements to your rankings and your visibility in local search results like the Google map pack. Also known as the local map pack, this is that prominent section of a local search results page that shows the top-ranking listings for your current location or a location you’ve included in your search. Local SEO helps your business listing to appear more often and rank higher when searches relevant to your service or product are combined with your location. This is a great way for small businesses to stay a step ahead of the local competition.
How Do I Dominate Local Searches?
When it comes to creating a strategy to improve local SEO, there are a few things to consider. If you want to appear higher in localised searches, the first step is to create and optimise a Google Business Profile (previously known as a Google My Business listing). Creating a verified business profile on Google allows you to manage the way your small business appears in search results and Google maps. Customers also have more trust in businesses verified by Google.
How Does my Google Business Profile Affect Local Ranking?
When you list your business on Google, providing correct and up-to-the-minute information about your business is crucial to increasing your visibility online. You can maximise the frequency of your appearances in local search results by ensuring your business information is correct, informative and complete.
In the eyes of Google, local ranking is determined by three factors, relevance, distance and prominence. Keeping these factors in mind when setting up your Google Business Profile will help to optimise your profile for Google.
Relevance – this means, when your local business profile on Google matches what users search for, you’ll stand a better chance of appearing higher in local search results. Make sure your profile contains all relevant information about your business to give Google a better understanding of what you do so your profile can be matched to specific searches.
Distance – most users perform local searches to find the options closest to their location. Google will use your location to determine how close you are to the location-based keyword used in the search. Even if no location is specified in the search, adding the correct business address to your profile will help Google to calculate distance according to the information they can gather about the user’s location.
Prominence – this relates to how well-known you are as a business both online and offline. Very well-known businesses will gain prominence easily since Google tries to factor them into local searches. For smaller businesses, the more relevant articles, links and directory listings you have for your business, the better your chances are of being seen by Google as a prominent local business. Google will also base your prominence on your review count and review score so positive Google reviews and ratings will help to boost your local ranking. Your organic web rankings play a part in your prominence as a small business, so be sure to also improve your SEO efforts.
Simple Tasks That Help to Improve Local SEO
Local search engine optimisation is a type of SEO that focuses on making your website more visible, locally. When it comes to local search, Google may be in control of determining local ranking but improving the on-page SEO of your website is something you have complete control over. Here are a few simple tasks that will help to improve local search optimisation.
Focus on Consistent NAP Citations
The name, address and phone number (NAP) of your business should be consistent across the web. Make sure the details on your GMB listing are accurate and complete. When creating other business listings, make sure your business details appear the same in all local directory listings and be aware of typos like spelling errors, incorrect telephone numbers and missing address details. Your business might not appear in local search results if Google cannot gather correct information about your business. Some places for local citations include:
- Cylex UK
Improve Your Website’s Crawlability
In order to rank your website, Google needs to be able to “see” every page on your site. Google uses bots called “spiders” to visit each page and the pages they are linked to. This is called crawling and it helps Google to index your site and learn what it is about. Since Google’s spiders visit the pages of your website via links, a good linking structure is essential. If Google is unable to crawl your website properly, this can result in some of your content being missed which will affect your local ranking. Here are some things you can do that can improve the crawlability of your website in a few steps:
- Submit a sitemap of your website to Google. Sitemaps give Google information about your website and any updates made to the site. You can use Google Search Console to submit your sitemap and this tool will also help you to monitor the performance of your website and see how much of your site has been crawled.
- Improve the internal linking structure of your website. This will help users to find their way around your website as well as Google’s crawl bots.
- Add new content to your website regularly and update content when necessary. Your content is how you attract new customers, let them know who you are as a business and turn them into customers or clients. Fresh content is the “meat and potatoes of your website” that also draws web crawlers to your site to crawl it more often to see what’s new. This will help your site to be crawled quicker and indexed more frequently, so Google will always have a record of the most recent version of your website.
- Avoid creating duplicate content as this can prevent crawlers coming back to your site. All duplicated content or content that shares many similarities with other pages on your site can help to reduce rankings. Be sure to delete all instances of duplicate content.
- Improve your page speed. A web page that loads quickly will allow the crawler to fully inspect the content. Since web crawlers only have a certain amount of time to inspect the page, the faster your page can load, the better chance it has of being crawled properly. Google has a tool for testing your page speed. Google PageSpeed Insights is the tool you need to check your page speed and find recommendations on how to improve the loading speed of pages on your site.
Create a Solid Site Structure
The way pages and posts connect together and their organisation on your website is known as the site structure. A well structured site not only provides a better experience for the user, but it’s also essential for helping search engines to understand the content and context of your website. This is done by organising pages according to their hierarchy, so Google can understand which pages are most important.
In relation to improving local SEO, you’ll need to make useful business information easy to find for both customers and Google. Pages like “Contact Us” or “About Us” will usually have information like your name, address and phone number, an embedded map, contact forms and email forms for capturing customer enquiries, and sometimes reviews and testimonials. Linking this kind of information in the header and footer of your website means users can find out more about your business quickly. When it comes to local search, placing those pages with information about your business in the header menu of your website, for example, will be great for local SEO. This is because Google knows links to all of the most important pages on the website should be contained within the header menu
Make Your Website Mobile Friendly
Many local searches take place on a mobile phone so your website also needs to be mobile friendly so you don’t miss out on this traffic source. If you’ve ever used your phone to visit a website that isn’t mobile friendly, you’ll know that it is a nightmare to navigate when the page does not adjust to fit the screen. This can be a huge turn for the user. When it comes to mobile SEO, make sure the mobile version of your website is easy to navigate, easy to read and quick to load all types of content including videos and images. Your mobile site needs to be responsive so regardless of the device and size of the screen being used, visitors to your site will always have a good experience. Consistency is important when trying to improve local search rankings so make sure all NAP information is the same on your mobile site as it is everywhere else on the web.
Use Geo-targeting to Optimise Web Content.
SEO geo-targeting is a way of providing localised content to an audience based on their location. Optimising your content with high-volume geo-targeted keywords and phrases gives you another chance to appear in local search results. Make sure elements of your webpages like URLs, headers, meta titles and meta descriptions, images and written content are all optimised for Google as well as the geo-targeted audience. This means creating high quality localised landing pages that highlight your products and services in a specific area. If your business operates in more than one location, make sure you have pages that target those other locations.
Utilise Local Link Building Strategies
Local link building is a useful element of your local SEO strategy that will help to improve local ranking. Building a profile of relevant local backlinks helps to drive traffic to your website and to your physical business which can result in an increase in conversions and sales. Local link building will also help to improve the domain authority of your website. This makes your site more trustworthy in the eyes of Google.
Improve Your Social Media Presence
Use your social media business profile as a tool for building a local following for your brand. Social media is not only great for building brand awareness, trust and authority but it is also the perfect way to connect with your community and create solid customer relationships. You can use your business’s social media account to share relevant local web content so it can reach a wider audience and drive traffic to your site. This also a great opportunity to create some extra backlinks. Make sure your social media posts are optimised with local keywords and search terms as well as a call-to-action in the captions and hashtags.
Gather Reviews and Respond to Them
Google loves reviews almost as much as consumers do so it’s essential to handle them correctly since they can affect local ranking. Managing and responding to reviews is great for customer service and local rankings. Reviews from sources like Trustpilot and Facebook are taken into consideration by Google so use these platforms for gathering reviews in addition to your website and Google Business Profile. When you respond to a review it is visible for anyone else checking out your review section and it can help to demonstrate good customer service. Google’s local search algorithm pays attention to good reviews and the more you get, the more Google will trust your business and so will local customers.
Why Not Leave Your Local SEO to the Experts?
As you can see, there can be quite a lot involved in creating an effective local search strategy. If you need some help optimising your business for local searches, SEM Consultants can help. Our team of local SEO experts can help to improve your local search optimisation so you can sit back and focus on running your business. Contact us today to find out how we can improve local search ranking for your business.