Local SEO: A Complete Local SEO Guide for 2019
John Michael Jayme
1 May, 2019
Running a local business? The challenge for businesses is to stay relevant in their respective markets. But of course, it is easier said than done. There are a lot of considerations that you will have to make if you wish to become the market leader. Aside from winning the hearts of your customers by having the best products, it also matters that you are visible to people who don’t know your business even exists.
That’s where SEO comes in handy. More than ever, you can make use of SEO to help boost your reach and even your potential sales. Let’s say that you are running your own barbershop. And a random person tries to make a search for the nearest barbershops in the area. SEO has the ability to keep your business visible to people who are randomly searching relevant keywords to your niche.
By now, it has been established how important SEO is for businesses. 75% of internet users don’t make it to the second result page. That only means that if your website isn’t ranking, then you definitely not getting the eyeballs that you need for your business.
But more than ever, SEO has evolved. Now, you have what is called Local SEO. It basically means that you can optimize location-based searches.
What is Local SEO?
Local SEO is a game changer for local businesses. To give you an idea about the extent that it can help fully optimized small and medium-sized business websites, 72% of people who searched for local businesses will most likely visit a store that is within a 5-mile radius from where he or she is located.
Over the last two years, there have been a massive increase in the number of “near me tonight/today” searches. A 900% increase just in the last two years, mainly because of the popularity of mobile phones. Because of smartphones, people can now connect online and look for things that they need on the go. It means that they can look for the nearest business and know if it is even open.
Snack Pack Vs Organic Results
To understand how Local SEO has changed the way people see information on the search result, it’s a good idea to focus our attention on two things:
- Snack Pack Results
- Organic Results
Organic results are common for anyone who knows a thing or two about SEO. It’s the websites that Google thinks are relevant to the keyword that you are looking for. On the other hand, snack pack results are quite different. Snack pack results are found on the top. Logically, it can catch the attention of internet users first. Snack pack results display the top 3 local business listings.
Now, according to a study, 33% of searches head towards snack pack results while 40% of the searches go to the organic search results. What these numbers tell us is that you should be focusing on both snack pack results and organic results in order to maximize your local search presence.
Getting Started with Your Local SEO
There is no reason for you to be confused or intimidated by the work involved when it comes to optimizing your website for local SEO. Here are some guidelines that will help give you the things that you need to improve your ranking and fully optimize your website for local searches.
Mobile-Friendly Design as Top Priority
The very first thing that you have to understand is that searches will be coming both on desktop and mobile. It means that your website should be mobile-friendly. Not only should it fit small screens, it is imperative that the users will also have an easy time navigating the website and reading the text. Also, the website should also be fast to load on mobile devices most especially. As a good rule of thumb, it should be ready within 2 seconds.
But how do you know if the website needs to be redesigned to be more compatible on mobile? Google allows you to check if your website is mobile friendly or not. Google’s mobile-friendly test tool works wonders for giving you this insight.
But of course, you will also need to make sure that the design is aesthetically appealing as well. Now that we have the design out of the way, it is also important to choose photos and videos that you put in your website carefully. A lot of times, web designs have bulky images that take some time before it loads on your website. And because of this, it can be a problem as well.
To give you an idea of how important loading time is, 53% of visitors tend to abandon a website if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load. In some instances, you will have to choose a good hosting too or get a backend guy to fix the code in order to have a fast website.
Optimize Your Google My Business Profile
One of the things that make local SEO unique is the fact that it offers ready information to users. It derives information from Google My Business. To have a better idea of how it works, let’s say that you have your barbershop.
Now, expect that your audience will most likely search things like:
- “barbershop in (area)”
- “barbershop near me”
- “What time does (barbershop name) open?”
- “(barbershop name) phone number”
These are some of the most common questions by people who are looking to find a good barbershop that they can visit. Though these are not your typical queries, Google makes use of card-like results. Bing does the same thing too.
How Do You Optimize Your Google My Business?
Google My Business is a listing of reviews, information, and posts coming from your company. It also includes your website. Now, the first step is to make sure that you are going to claim your business. You can do this by visiting this link.
The next steps are quite simple wherein you will enter the address where your business is located. Next, you will have to verify that the business is yours. You will be able to receive a mail that allows you to verify your Google My Business listing. It is also possible to get verified via phone.
Now that you have verified your Google My Business, it is time that you optimize what your listing.
1. Accurate and updated information
Try to put your feet in the shoes of a customer or client. Name, address, phone number, schedule, and website are just some of the things that you will have to accurately fill out. There should be no confusion on the part of people who will be able to see your listing.
Keep in mind that this information will be indexed by Google. And from here, you have the foundation of your local SEO strategy. You also need to make sure that the information you put in your Google My Business is going to match the information found on your website.
Why? Inconsistent information can affect your search ranking negatively.
You also want to make sure that you are going to edit/update your Google My Business schedule in case there are holidays wherein your business is closed.
2. Actively ask for reviews
Though there is no clear information on whether or not it can affect your local SEO, it is clear that reviews can be a deal breaker for a lot of your potential customers. According to a study, 72% of customers won’t be going to a store or take any action unless they’ve read the reviews.
Now, just how effective are reviews? It has been discovered that reviews of expensive items can increase the conversion by 380%.
What you can do is to ask your customers to leave a review on Google My Business. There are plenty of strategies that you can do in order to incentivize them. Perhaps, you can get them to make a review on the spot in exchange for a 10% discount coupon on their next visit? Or maybe, you can have a WiFi in your business wherein they can log in.Now, you should also be able to address bad reviews.
What you don’t want to do is to just forget about the bad reviews especially those that are found in your Google My Business profile. Instead, what you want is to respond to their reviews. Be sure to apologize if you have to and respond in a timely manner.
3. Post photos
There is a reason why people are into Instagram and YouTube. The reality is that people are into visuals. Another great way to attract your customers is to have photos in your Google My Business. Here, you will be able to show your business interiors or some of your past works.
4. Google My Business Posts
Google allows you to post things like announcements in your Google My Business Profile. Here, you can include up to 300 words of text and a photo as well. What it offers is an opportunity to help convert your visitors. Also, there has been a correlation between “snack pack” ranking and Google Posts activity. And also, you can even have call-to-action buttons such as “get offer”, “learn more”, etc on your post.
5. Choose the Right Category
You need to choost the right category for your business. Now, for your Google My Business profile, you are only allowed to choose one. And because of this, you will have to choose correctly. How do you choose the right category? Google has a number of tips when it comes to choosing the right category for your business here.
A good tip that you can use is to take a closer look at your successful competitors. How did they categorize their business?
6. Choosing the Right Keywords For Your Google My Business Profile
Choosing the right keywords can attract the right people. If your business is based in a small town, then you should also focus on a particular location. If you are running a barbershop, then you should optimize keywords such as “barbershop in (area)”. Or maybe, you can also use “barber nearby (area)”. In some instances, you can also make use of a much larger location or a nearby city as the location.
Aside from the location, you can also use modifiers that can make your post stand out. What are the usual terms that can get your audience’s attention? Perhaps, you can add keywords such as “Reliable barbershop in (area)”, “affordable barbershop in (area)”, and “the best barber in (area)”.
How Do You Optimize Your Bing Places?
Once you have cleared your Google My Business, you also have to check Bing Places. Though it isn’t as important considering the fact that it only has a 7.81% market share in the US, it is still a good idea that we cover all bases for your local SEO strategy.
Now, this is only simple. You will just have to go to this site and get started.
1. Check if you are already listed
First, you want to check if your business is already listed. Check Bing Maps and try searching for your business. Now, if you already found your business, all you need to do is to claim it.
2. Select the type of business
Also, you will need to select the type of business that you have. Now, there are a number of options out there for Bing.
Here are the options you can choose from:
• Small or medium business (with 1 to 10 locations)
• Chain business (businesses with more than 10 locations)
• Online business (No physical address)
• I manage business listings on my client’s behalf
Now, you can start to import data coming from Google My Business. You can only do this if you have already verified your Google My Business profile.
So what if you haven’t claimed your Google My Business Profile? Here, Bing will let you complete the name and location.
3. Choosing your segment and category
There are 11 business segments that you can choose from. And if you have a business that is quite complicated, then you can always select “I don’t know”. Here, you can choose multiple categories. You can select a primary category too. For instance, if you are running a tea and coffee shop, you can select both tea house and coffee shop as your category. Now, after choosing two categories, you can then select which category becomes your primary category.
4. Add your Social media, phone, website, and more
The good thing about Bing is that it allows you to link your social media profiles. Aside from Facebook and Twitter, you can also include your TripAdvisor link. As for the website and number, be sure that it is accurate and identical to your website’s information.
5. Add photos
You can also start to add photos on Bing. You can have up to ten photos. Be sure to choose the photos that represent your business.
How Do You Optimize Your Apple Maps
In the US alone, Apple iPhone has almost 33% market share of smartphones in the US. Now, it only means that there is a large segment of people using Apple Maps instead of Google Maps. What this means is that you should also claim your Apple Maps listing at the very least. This means that you are going to hit iOS users too.
1. Claim your business
To get your claim your business, you can do this on this site. Here, you will have to log in using an Apple ID and password.
2. Relationship with the Owner
Next, you will have to indicate your relationship to the business page. Under the “Add a New Business Page”, you will select between:
- I’m a business owner
- I’m authorized by the business owner
3. Enter all the necessary data
You will be entering the name, address, and phone number. Keep in mind that it should be the same as your Google My business information.
4. Verification Now
Apple will call the number that you have provided and will verify that the business is actually yours. This verification date can also be delayed on a later date too.
5. Choosing the category
There are a number of categories to choose from. Select the one that fits your business the most. The more accurate category that you select, the better it is for your listing.
6. Choose the business hours
The same as Bing and Google My Business, you will also have to specify the hours of operation of your business. This way, your market knows when to visit your business.
7. Add social media accounts and website
Lastly, you should be putting your social media accounts as well as the website URL. Once you have reviewed everything, click OK and wait for the listing to appear after around a week.
NAP Citations (Name, Address, and Phone)
Name, Address, and Phone citation otherwise known as NAP citations are online mentions that include your website, and company name, address, and your phone number. There are two kinds of citations that you can see online:
First, let’s take a closer look at what a structured citation looks like. A structured citation is typically seen on a social media page. On the other hand, you have the unstructured citation which is typically found in blogs and websites.
Why do NAP citations matter? First, according to Moz, NAP citation is a factor that can affect your ranking. It is true for both snack pack results and regular organic results. It is maybe because NAP information matches everything including the one seen in your Google My Business profile. What it means is that it verifies the information found in Google My Business.
Now, it is imperative for any business to perform an audit of their NAP information online. Try to take a closer look if your Facebook page still has the old number or the old address. Also, try to see if the site has this problem as well.
Once you have corrected your NAP citations, you can then try to take a closer look at places where you can also have more NAP citations. These are some examples of websites where you can add more citations for your NAP.
Local SEO Strategies
Now, a huge part of your local SEO strategy should be your traditional SEO approach. And that means that you should also take into consideration your traditional SEO strategies. To name a few, here are some things that you can do:
- Keyword optimized h1, title tag, URL, and descriptions
- Short URL
- Long and highly informative content
But aside from the usual SEO strategies that you will have to consider, there are specific things that are unique to local SEO. For instance, you have businesses that are located in different locations.
Dealing with multiple locations? If you have a business that is found in multiple areas, you want to ensure that you rank in each of these locations. That’s where local landing pages enter the picture.
What you want is to have separate pages that are specific to each area where your business operates. Here something that worked for a lot of businesses with this kind of situation:
Next, you have to be sure that you are going to include helpful content specific to these areas. You also need to include the right keywords to optimize each page specific to each area. You also want to include the NAP info in these pages.
Optimizing Your Homepage
One common misconception is that you want to optimize your homepage using your primary location. Though it can make your website rank, is this necessary? In reality, it isn’t really the best practice. What you have to understand is that Google showcases localized results.
Instead of throwing the location as part of the modifier for your keywords, what you can do is to show NAP information instead on your landing page’s footer. You can also embed a Google map that confirms your location.
Link Building and Content Strategy
If you are going to read about modern SEO practices today, you will commonly see link building’s role being diminished over the last years. In fact, the site’s content has been considered king for the last years. But for local SEO, things are quite different.
In a 2017 Moz survey, link signals have become the most important factor when it comes to ranking local organic results. In addition to this, in terms of local “snack pack” results, link signal has been considered as the second most important factor.
Given this reality, it is important to attract links to your website. Now, the most effective strategy that can get you links is to carefully plan your content strategy. As a rule of thumb, if you want to get other websites to link on your website, you will need to consider writing highly informative content. And also, be sure to do it on a regular basis.
Here are some ideas on the type of content that you can produce:
Local Guide Content:
Maybe, you can write something about your location? Write the best places that people can visit and the activities that they can do in these areas.
Calendar of Activities:
It is also a good idea to write a calendar of activities. You can feature some of the most notable events in your location.
Once you have your content ready, then you can now start to share it via social media. You can make use of your Twitter account, Facebook page or even share it via Facebook groups.
Another strategy is to go after guest blogging. Guest blogging works two ways. You can get someone to write for your website. Perhaps, someone who is considered a local celebrity or known within the community? Or, you can write for other websites. In exchange, you can have it linked to your website.
Why would someone have you write on their blog? A lot of websites are in need of content. What you want is to pitch a solid idea that will interest the web owner. Now, choosing the right website to write for can be tricky. You want to make sure that you are only going after a website that is well known in the niche.
Also, it is imperative that their audience is also your target market. But of course, you have to remember that link building should be done in an organic manner. It means that you shouldn’t just have a bunch of links in one week and forget about it for the coming months. In fact, the last thing that you want is for Google to expect that you are doing something fishy when it comes to your link building practice.
Also, you should never blog for the sake of blogging. Always remember that Google is after the quality of your content and not just the quantity. Getting a blog or two published every month is already enough to get the results that you need especially for a small business.
Let’s admit that content strategy can be considered one of the most challenging things out there. For those who still want to improve their content, check this site and see the tricks that you can implement in your strategy.
Annnnd that’s it!
Yes, that’s a bit long. But don’t get too overwhelmed. Follow the advice that we just mentioned and you will see a huge difference. You will be able to rank better than competitors. Plus, you will also be able to dominate the local searches.
But of course, if at first, you can’t get the results that you want, you always want to make the necessary adjustment. Try to take a closer look at your analytics.
Here, you will be able to figure out what works and what doesn’t work on your part. Do you think that we missed something in this guide? Let us know in the comments below!
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