Since 97% of people learn about a local business online, local SEO is something small business owners can’t overlook. The business landscape continues to become more competitive, and businesses need to put in extra effort to acquire and retain customers.
Relevance is the key to marketing success. By narrowing down your target audience to a particular location, you can be more specific, authoritative, and trustworthy. But if you want to drive local traffic to your website, implementing a robust local SEO strategy is necessary.
Here’s how small businesses can leverage local SEO to drive business growth.
Local SEO: An Overview
Local search engine optimization is a type of SEO that includes optimizing a website to appear in local search results. It’s the practice of increasing a business’s online visibility in a specific location, such as city, state, or country.
Now, why’s local SEO important? Why would you want to target an audience in a specific area if you can rank globally? The answer to this question is specificity. If you’re a salon in New York, there’s no point ranking in Los Angeles’s local search results. Improving your local SEO allows you to focus all your efforts on the area you want to target.
Local vs. Organic SEO: The Difference
The main difference between organic and local SEO is that the latter has an added geographical element. A local search happens when search engines assume that a search has local intent. On the other hand, a search is considered an organic search when it has no local intent.
Let’s say you live in Granville, Ohio, and want to order pizza. You’ll probably search for “pizza delivery granville ohio.” Here, “Granville Ohio” is the name of an area, which adds a local intent to your search. Here’s how the search results will look like if you search for that phrase on Google.
As you can see, Google shows a list of local businesses (Google My Business listings) in the area that is related to your search term – “pizza delivery Greenville Ohio.” Three names are displayed on the front page, and you can see more by clicking on “More paces.” These three names are called the “3-pack,” and the target of your local SEO strategy will be to rank your business among these three.
Below the listings, the top result is of Domino’s restaurants near Granville. Domino’s has done a great job in optimizing its website for local search, and thus, it has managed to acquire the top ranking when someone searches for pizza delivery in Granville.
Now, let’s say you’re hungry, but you’re feeling like making pizza yourself. So, you end up searching for “pizza recipe.” The search phrase doesn’t have a local intent, so Google won’t display any local business listings and will show regular search results.
The focus of a local SEO strategy is to optimize your website and Google My Business listing to show up in location-based search queries.
Local SEO Ranking Factors
Moz’s The State of Local Industry Report 2020 identified the top local ranking factors Google considers when listing location-based search results. Here are the top-ranking factors:
- Google My Business elements, like keywords and categories
- Google reviews
- Proximity of the searcher to the business
- Physical address
- Consistency of citations
- On-page SEO components
- Local listing engagement
- Organic consumer behaviour
- Authority and quality of inbound links to the site
As you can see, Google My Business listing and Google reviews are the top factors that affect a business’s local search rankings, followed by on-page SEO and inbound links. Therefore, by optimizing these elements, you can rank higher on local searches and drive more traffic and sales to your website.
How to Leverage Local SEO to Drive Website Traffic and Sales?
If you’re new to local SEO, setting and optimizing a GMB listing and creating local content can all sound daunting. Here’s a step-by-step guide to optimizing your business for local SEO to increase website traffic and reach.
Optimize for Google My Business
Google My Business (GMB) has become the holy grail of local SEO. Since Google feels more comfortable in showing businesses it can verify, it uses GMB to meet the requirements. That’s why GMB optimization is the top local ranking factor, as discussed before. In fact, GMB has a very high search volume, and 33% of GMB listings receive more than 1,000 views on maps.
Here’s how you can optimize your business for GMB.
- Create and verify a GMB page.
- Write an informative description and use the right keywords.
- Use Google posts in your account.
- Encourage your customers to share reviews.
- Respond to reviews to increase engagement.
As 46% of all Google searches are local, getting your GMB listing verified can help you get sidebar space on Google local search results page.
Ensure Consistency of Information
The purpose of local SEO is to make it easy for potential customers to find you. Be sure to include the right name, address, and phone number (NAP) of your business so that potential customers can contact you. As many as 72% of consumers who perform a local search end up visiting a store within five miles. But to increase footfall, you’ll need to provide accurate information.
In addition to mentioning NAP in your GMB description, include it as crawlable HTML text on your website. Avoid including NAP with only an image, as search engines don’t readily crawl images. The footer or header of your site is the best location for your business’ NAP.
You can also share your business information with customers using QR codes. Create a customized QR code using a QR Code Generator and put it up on your product packaging or offline marketing materials like business cards. Link the code to your GMB listing or About Us page on your website. Customers who want to learn more about your business can scan the code using their smartphone and interact with you online.
Add Posts to Google My Business
Google rewards consistency and engagement. Setting up a GMB page is only the first step. Make sure that you add photos to your GMB page to maintain high engagement levels. Adding images also allows you to share more information with potential customers, which increases engagement and inspires action. Businesses with more than 100 GMB images get 520% more calls, 2,717% more direction requests, and 1,065% more website clicks.
Over the years, Google has also developed an affinity towards social media. While the exact relationship between social media engagement and search rankings is unclear, it’s seen that brands popular on social media perform better in search engine results. Therefore, sharing your GMB page on social media can give your local SEO efforts a significant boost.
Optimize Citations and Online Directories
As mentioned in the local ranking factors list, consistency of citations is a prominent local ranking factor. Therefore, it’s critical to verify that your citations are accurate, complete, and consistent across all data aggregators.
The data aggregators can vary from country to country. In the United States, Factual, Foursquare, Express Update, and Neustar Localeze are the aggregators that provide the majority of map data to Google, Apple, Bing, and other companies.
Inconsistencies or discrepancies in names, abbreviations, and spellings across aggregators can confuse the search engines. If Google isn’t able to figure out which information about your business is accurate, it might not show your business in the local search results. Similarly, remove any duplicate listings of your business.
Conduct a Local SEO Audit
Once you have the basics covered, it’s time to delve deeper into the realm of local SEO. Performing a local SEO audit is a great way to find the areas you need to work on. A local SEO audit can include the following:
- GMB Audit: Is the GMB listing accurate and optimized?
- Google Search Console Audit: Is your site crawlable?
- Citation Audit: Are your citations correct and consistent across directories?
- On-Page SEO Audit: Does your site have all the essential on-page SEO elements?
- Competitor Analysis: Who are your competitors, and what SEO strategies are they following?
- Website Audit: Is your website in line with the SEO standards?
After performing an audit, you can devise and implement a local SEO strategy and set up your business for success.
Enhance Your Internal Linking
While external links pointing to your website are crucial (and we’ll come to it in a second), internal linking also plays a vital role in boosting your SEO rankings. Here’s why internal linking is so important.
- Helps with website navigation
- Distributes ranking power and authority among pages
- Enhances information structure and website hierarchy
You’ll find several guides on internal linking out there, but this one by Ahrefs can help you get started.
On-Page Optimization: URL, Title Tags, Content, and More
Your website is the most powerful SEO tool you have. By optimizing it properly, you can ace the SEO race and rank higher for highly competitive search terms. Every blog post you publish is a new indexed page, and hence, a new opportunity to be found on search results. When creating content, pick a geographical search phrase associated with your business. Similarly, optimize your URL, title, meta description, header, and body text.
Here are a few on-page SEO tips to help you get started.
- Choose the right keywords.
- Target LSI keywords.
- Ensure proper content structure and flow.
- Use keywords in content, H1, subheads, meta title, and meta description.
- Stick to content best practices for length, bullets, etc.
- Use proper internal and external links.
Add Location Pages to Your Site
If you have multiple physical locations, create a location page for each of the locations. On each page, add your store’s name, address, phone number, open hours, and other helpful information. You can also add a map to your store to make it easier for website users to find you.
Also, ensure that you don’t duplicate content across location pages. As mentioned, each indexed page is an opportunity to rank on search engine result pages (SERPs). Be sure to leverage this opportunity by including high-volume location-based keywords on each page.
Create Local Content
Regularly creating and sharing content on your website can boost your SEO efforts. And since Google continues to get smarter, content creators have the opportunity to create content only for the users and not search engines.
When it comes to creating content, most businesses are tempted to publish generic content to attract a wide crowd. While targeting a broader audience can help you get more eyeballs, it’s crucial to sometimes narrow down your focus to a local audience and discuss location-based topics.
For example, you can host a local event in your area and create content that informs readers about the event. Or, if you’re a consultancy firm, you can share location-specific tips and tricks. Suppose you’re a law firm based in Texas. You can talk about “driving mistakes to avoid in Texas” or “what to do if police catch you without insurance papers in Texas.”
If you’re a local business with a brick-and-mortar presence, local SEO should be an integral part of your SEO strategy. Implementing local SEO strategies can help you rank higher and get discovered by local audiences, which can result in higher store visits and revenue.
Akshay Deogiri is an SEO Outreach Specialist at Beaconstac, enabling businesses to bridge their gap between the digital and offline worlds through custom QR codes