Mobile web searches and voice search are now responsible for a massive amount of online queries, and search engines may interpret those types of queries with a focus on local services. In other words, it’s increasingly important for companies to think about how to rank higher in local search results. Understanding the importance of local SEO can help a business rank higher in mobile searches, voice searches, and desktop search results alike.
For some context, here are just a few statistics from Google about why they would give preference to pages with better local SEO:
The above is only a tiny sample from many stats that show why local SEO is important. There’s no denying that it’s time to learn how to rank higher in local search results. Here are several easy, actionable tips to rank higher on Google.
There’s one online listing that could be the single most important way to enable successful local SEO (see point #3). Even beyond that, though, it’s important to take advantage of online directories wherever you can. Google cross-references a company’s website with multiple other sources to find and confirm information.
Options vary slightly from industry to industry, and there are several online directories where any type of company can list a business online to rank higher in local search results. Try the following, for starters:
This is an easy way to improve your ranking in local search results. If you’re already optimizing your site, keep doing what you’re doing! Now, just add geo-specific words and phrases to the title tags, body content, and meta descriptions you’re already working so hard on. Businesses with more than one location should create a location page for each, or at least write geo-specific content for each location.
Strong content about a given location can help a business win backlinks with geo-specific terms in the anchor text, which Google will take into account when returning local search results. Adding blog posts is an excellent way to get local content on a site without making the other pages geo-specific or excluding a broader audience.
Brace yourself, because this might sound crazy: Google’s very favorite online listing directory is Google My Business. Call it nepotism if you want, but of course the search giant is going to start gathering local search results by looking internally first. It’s relatively easy to claim your listing on Google My Business, and not much more difficult to optimize it.
Start with the basics– add a phone number, website, address, and other relevant information. Describe the business accurately with keyword-rich writing. Businesses with verified listings can upload photos and videos to engage people with media-rich content. Adding photos to Google My Business has been demonstrated to increase traffic, and can also help a brand get featured on the Google My Business Local Knowledge Panel.
Google My Business isn’t a “set and forget” strategy for local SEO. Staying active is an important way to help optimize a listing even further. Roughly the first 100 characters of Google My Business Posts descriptions show up in the Local Knowledge Panel, which is a great place to showcase a company’s products and services. Since these posts can contain both text and images, they allow businesses to share information like announcements, updates, and blog posts.
Google normally only features posts for a week or so, but may make exceptions if a post is related to an upcoming event. Since the posts disappear, keep adding more if you want to have a featured post. Businesses have the option to add CTA buttons to Google My Business Posts– this is a great opportunity to get readers to take action.
Google’s algorithm doesn’t look as intensely at social media as it does at content and backlinks, but the effects of social media on local search rankings are still there. High levels of social engagement within a community yield more traffic and backlinks, which help a site rank higher in Google results. At times, Google and Bing have both said that their algorithms consider social signals like engagements and shares when ranking a page.
The search engine companies don’t give a lot of details about their algorithms, but social media URLs get much better Google rankings than they were five years ago. When a business interacts with other individuals and brands from a certain area, Google will factor it into their local rankings. To improve local SEO with social media, post geo-specific content and engage with other local businesses. Connect with local businesses that share the same values, but aren’t competitors.
Most people trust online reviews, and so does Google. The search engine company wants to connect users with positive experiences, and a five-star rating is much more promising than a one-star rating. Businesses with excellent reviews from their customers not only rank higher in Google results– they’re also likely to get a better click-through rate than competitors with lower ratings.
The best way to get positive reviews is to offer superior products and services that make people happy. Beyond that, businesses can get more reviews by prompting customers in ways like these:
Once a business starts getting reviews, it’s important to respond to them. Thanking someone for a good review is nice, and responding to negative reviews is even more vital. The Harvard Business Review found that replying to customer reviews leads to better ratings. Try to rectify the situation, and the reviewer may even increase their rating. If nothing else, it shows that the business is engaged, which will inspire the happier customers to chime in, too.
Whether a business is concerned with local SEO or not, it’s important to use responsive design and have mobile-friendly pages. It becomes especially important for “near me” searches, though, since so many of those queries come from mobile devices. Google’s mobile-first indexing goes to show exactly how committed the search engine company is to providing a consistent experience across all devices.
No one knows for sure how much voice search from Siri, Alexa, and Google will change local SEO, but it will almost certainly have some impact. People often phrase their queries in complete questions through these devices (at least for now), and a list of searchable queries can help websites capture a good share of voice search volume. Outside of blog posts, an FAQ page could serve as a strong local SEO solution for geo-specific businesses.
For local businesses, “near me” searches are a huge opportunity. By the time a user starts making these kinds of queries, they’re normally out of the information gathering stage and ready to take action. Capitalizing on the searcher’s intent to buy now is a fast way to win sales with minimal courtship, especially considering the astronomical rise in “near me” searches that contain some variation of “where to buy.”
These users are looking for a place to spend their money right at this moment, and businesses with good local SEO will get their business. Rank higher in local Google results, and watch new customers come through the door.