The last time you searched Google for a florist or coffee shop you probably ended up visiting somewhere nearby. You are not alone. In fact, 72% of people who perform a local search will visit a business that is within five miles of their current location. (1)
At a time when almost everyone has a smartphone, it is no surprise that having a strong online presence is essential. Research has shown that 97% of people learn predominately about local businesses online. If you have a business that provides products or services to customers in a specific geographical area, then optimizing for local search is critical.
What is Local SEO?
Local Search Engine Optimization (SEO) are the methods employed to increase a website’s visibility for local search results. Local search results appear for certain types of search queries. These include queries where the user enters terms like “near me” or a specific geographical location like “Chicago mechanic”. Searches for brick and mortar businesses will also produce local search results. Local search results come in the form of the Local 3 Pack and Google Maps. There are also specific organic local search result pages (SERPS).
The importance of optimizing for local search
In 2020 most businesses realize the importance of local search and are actively seeking to improve their visibility. Those businesses are competing heavily for a limited number of spots. As the name suggests the Google Local 3 Pack, only provides three spots for local businesses to appear. In order to get your business featured in this highly valuable online real estate, you need to be properly optimized for local SEO. Google Maps and organic local search results are no less competitive. In order to beat out your competition, you need a solid local SEO strategy in place.
How to optimize for local search
While there are many factors that go into local SEO, there are some relatively simple things that any business can do in order to improve their local visibility. These include:
Google My Business
Google My Business (GMB) is a local listing service for businesses provided by the search engine. GMB is a powerful tool for optimizing for local search and best of all it is completely free. If your business has been operating for some time, then there is a good chance a GMB listing will already exist. Start by performing a Google search for your business, if there is a listing you will then have an option to claim it.
You can then fill out all of the correct business details and select an appropriate category. Google wants to ensure that the details regarding your business are correct, so you will need to verify your address. Generally, the easiest way to do this is via mail. Google will mail you a verification code that you can then enter on your GMB account to confirm your address.
Google My Business has a number of features that you can use to further enhance your listing. One of these is photos. In order to showcase your business use a selection of photos that includes; the exterior and interior of your business, team members, and the product or service that you provide. It is important to use a high-quality image that provides a positive reflection of your brand.
Having in place an active system to collect Google Reviews can have a big impact on your local visibility. Google reviews are used as a ranking factor for local search. Google reviews will also appear in the Local Pack and Google Maps. A business that has a large number of good reviews will receive a higher click-through rate (CTR). In addition, Google Reviews provide powerful social proof about your products and services. This means not only are prospective customers more likely to visit your website if you have good Google Reviews but they are also more likely to buy.
Name, Address, Phone (NAP) is a key concept in local search optimization. It encapsulates the idea that these details should be consistent both on your website and across the internet. Search engines want to provide their users with the best possible experience. If an address is listed in one way in a business directory and a different way on their business’s own website, then the search engines can’t be certain which is correct. Inconsistent NAP details are actually fairly common. Over time details about a business such as the address or phone number will often change. While the business may update their own website, these changes are not reflected on other websites. Tidying up these inconsistencies is important for improving your search engine rankings.
Having a strong online presence in local search is critical for all local businesses. Searching online is the predominant way that consumers discover new businesses and decide who they will purchase from. Getting the basics right by employing the methods detailed above is the first step to improving that local online presence.