Street-Smart SEO: Set Yourself Up for Success in Local Search
Local search can boost your access to a key niche market: people in your area. This just makes good business sense–while you may not be able to dominate the national market, you might easily corner the local one.
And local search has been growing exponentially, as this graph from Statista shows:
Imagine this: You run a consulting business, and a potential customer who lives across town is on her mobile phone Googling consultants in your area. Sure, you can serve people across the continent and beyond, but she wants to sit down with someone and talk face-to-face. Will your business pop up in the top results, or be hidden away on page three?
Of course, this might not apply to all companies–if you sell software, you might never get to meet most of your clients face-to-face. But even then, expanding your local presence couldn’t hurt–what if one of them would prefer to sit down to discuss options before buying?
When someone Googles businesses in your area, Google ranks the results by relevance, distance, and prominence. By showing your relevance and boosting your prominence, you can boost your position in the rankings.
By dominating the local search engine results pages, you could attract a wealth of new leads. Here’s how to leave the competition in your dust.
Conduct a Local Search Audit of your website
Neil Patel gives easy-to-follow instructions for conducting your audit. Go to SEMrush.com to learn which keywords you’re ranking for, he advises. It will show you which organic searches are driving traffic to your page, and which competitors are getting the most traction for local search terms.
See if you’re not performing well for any highly used local keyword phrases. If you’re a tech agency in Kansas City, Missouri, you’ll want to know how you perform for “Kansas City Missouri tech agency,” as well as any subfields you work in. You’ll also want to find out whether competitors are paying for ads that use particular keyword phrases you might be neglecting, as Patel notes.
Also, review your meta description. Make it as attention-grabbing, user-friendly, and informative as possible, with a strong nod to your location.
Does your landing page include your location, too? While it may not need to focus on location, you should certainly refer to it. “Based in Atlanta, and serving people throughout Georgia and beyond,” would do the trick. Close with, “If you’re in Atlanta, drop by our office for a chat. If not, let’s talk by phone or videoconference.”
Complete–meaning fully complete–a listing on Google My Business(GMB), an increasingly popular directory, along with Bing Places for Business. Make sure to fill out the tags, adding location keywords, and being as specific as possible about your business category. Add your hours, along with photos of your business and its product. Add more photos than your competitors, says Steven Willi on Forbes.
And make sure your info is accurate–violation reports for incorrect info will put you on the fast track to lowering your rankings, according to Moz’s report “2017 Local Search Ranking Factors.”
According to Patel, your GMB listing is the 20% effort that will give you 80% of your results. A full one-third of the factors influencing local search rankings are elements of GMB, he says.
Google Maps uses info from GMB to generate a profile of a company. For many companies, not having Google Maps info completed would be foolhardy. If you want customers to visit your location in person, it will help bring them there.
Also make sure to get listed on other locally oriented sites, like Yelp and MerchantCircle. Make sure your name, address, and phone number look exactly the same on every site–if you abbreviate something, abbreviate it the same way everywhere, Inc. adds.
Be careful here–don’t just stuff local keywords into your articles. Instead, look for relevant local topics to write on. Write about an important local milestone, issue, or event. If you make charitable contributions to a local cause, be sure to feature that group and issue in a post.
For example, if you’re one of the sponsors of a local Race for the Cure event, blog about it to encourage readers to join in. (Hint: If you’re not already participating in community events and causes, it’s time to start! One of the best ways to rank well in the local results is to really focus on the local level in the real world.)
Here’s another idea: Share a case study of how you helped a local customer. Profile a client from your area and snap some photos to go with the story, if possible. Mention location multiple times in a way that feels natural: “While in downtown Orlando, he decided to reach out to several publishers. That afternoon, we sat down to a meeting.”
Content like this will increase the time visitors spend on your website, which will also increase your ranking in the search results, as Inc. points out.
Your number of online citations affects where you appear in a local search. Wherever your name, address, and phone number appear online, it counts as a citation. Get mentioned in as many places as possible, so the search engines see you as a prominent company.
Writing an article or op-ed for a local publication with an online presence is a great way of getting cited. Getting name-dropped by non-competing businesses, like companies that contract you (and returning the favor, of course) will also help build your online presence.
You want your links to come from credible sites–respected businesses, organizations, or blogs–as linking domain authority is a key influencer of ratings. You’ll especially want links from local sites, LinkedIn says.
And remember those charitable causes? They just might thank you on Facebook, Twitter, or their websites.
As Jason DeMers says on Forbes, Google highlights three top results for local search. These are often called the “local pack.” Google chooses which three to highlight based on several factors such as their number of reviews and positive ratings. That means getting reviews from satisfied customers will play a pivotal role in your local search campaign. Plus, everyone who looks you up on Google Maps is seeing them.
Respond to their reviews, too, says Google–that will boost your visibility further.
When a customer gives you a compliment, ask for a review on a particular platform. Email the link to the person to make it as easy as possible (you can create the link here). Ask customers to get specific about what they liked, as in-depth reviews are more likely to convince others to try your product.
Create a Page Targeting Location
Starting with a keyword phrase that states geographical info and what your business does, you could create a page on your site focused on location, says Steven Willi on Forbes. “Include the phrase in your page title, headings, page copy, meta description and image file names,” he advises, as well as in the permalink.
The page could focus on inviting local residents to set up a meeting with you, and aggregate local content you’ve written.
Optimize for voice search as well, since that’s how many people are searching on their smartphones these days. Check out our post on how to do that.
Even if you’re focused far beyond the local, tapping into the local market will give you an abundant source of new leads. Make a habit of asking for those reviews and posting those articles with a local angle, and you’re sure to drive local search traffic to your site.