- What is local SEO?
- How to optimise your website for local search
- Importance of creating a Google My Business listing
- Local SEO tools you should leverage in 2021
Local search engine optimisation (SEO) is vital for building your business’s online presence, with approximately 46% of Google searches looking for local information.
A separate study conducted by Forbes also revealed that 95% of people use their mobile devices to perform local searches, meaning that if your business isn’t optimising for local search, or optimised for mobile, you could be missing out on potential customers shopping in your area.
Here are a few more statistics to show you how important local SEO is:
- 78% of local searches performed on a mobile device result in an offline purchase
- 18% of local mobile searches end in a sale within 24 hours of a search
- 1 in 3 searches made on a smartphone was conducted just before the customer arrived at the store
- 71% of people surveyed confirmed that they confirm whether a business exists via their smartphone before visiting the store for the first time
- Nearly 50% of all Google searches seek out local information
Local search is particularly powerful for small businesses by delivering more qualified traffic and increasing your online visibility for regional searches; this will help you compete with firms operating at a national level.
In short, if you want your business to remain competitive and relevant, local SEO is critical. To help you optimise for local search, we’ve created an ultimate guide, including tips and tools to help your website rank better for local terms and reach customers in your area.
What is Local SEO?
After analysing user behaviour for trillions of searches, Google discovered that people seeking out specific businesses want to be shown results from nearby areas, paving the way for local SEO.
Local SEO is a search engine optimisation strategy that improves the online visibility of local businesses, particularly those with brick-and-mortar stores.
Any business that has a physical presence or serves a geographic area can benefit from local SEO as following best practices will boost organic traffic to your site from searches performed by customers in nearby areas.
There were relatively few websites in the early days of the internet, meaning navigating search engine result pages (SERPs) was easier due to reduced competition. However, the evolution of the web has meant that search engines have had to become more sophisticated to provide a good user experience and show only relevant results to search queries.
When offering results for local search, search engines rely on information such as:
- Social media profiles
Combining those factors helps search engines determine whether your website is the best match for a local search. However, keep in mind that if the crawling spiders perceive a website located further away to be more relevant, it will more than likely rank higher in SERPs.
What Matters For Local SEO?
If you’re new to digital marketing, one of the biggest challenges with local SEO is knowing where to start and focusing your efforts to deliver the best results.
So, now you know what local SEO is, it’s time to delve deeper into tips and hacks that you could use to boost your local search visibility.
Create a Google My Business
Leverage Google My Business (GMB), which is the cream of the crop for local search, helping business owners manage their online presence and grow their local exposure.
GMB is a free tool offered by Google, which will provide your business with a dedicated space in the sidebar for local search if perceived to be authentic.
The GMB sidebar feature provides customers and crawl bots with a lot of information about your business, including:
- Opening hours
- Contact number
- Social Media profiles
- Events/products/services you offer
Once a new listing is created, your business location also appears in Google Maps, synchronising with local search queries to generate location information for users.
To ensure you’re correctly optimised for Google My Business, make sure you:
- Verify your GMB account
- Offer detailed and accurate information
- Add photos to your Google Posts
- Encourage customers to share reviews
If customers leave reviews on your GMB listing, make sure you respond authentically, even if those reviews are negative. When responding, make sure to drop in some keywords to help boost your visibility, for example, “We appreciate your feedback on [product/service] in [city, state]. Thank you from the [full company name] team.”
According to recent data from Qualtrics, 93% of customers read reviews before purchasing a product. So if you have reviews in abundance and are actively responding to customers, you’re improving the experience for potential customers who come across your brand.
2. Engage With Followers on Social Media
Social media is vital for local search, and as such, marketers need to embrace sharing content to align social platforms and search further.
Facebook should be your top priority for local SEO as it has the largest and most active audience of any other social media platform. Facebook also allows businesses to promote their services and place bookings directly and, when adequately optimised, can be a treasure trove for organic traffic and SERP listings.
Start by ensuring all the information about your business is included on the “About” page. Also, don’t miss out on opportunities to scatter keywords throughout the page to highlight the products or services your business offers that may be of interest to a user.
3. Be Consistent
Is your company name, address and contact information consistent across all your online channels? If not, you’re going to make it difficult for search engines and people to find and trust your brand.
Create a NAP, an acronym for “Name, Address and Phone Number”, which should be included as crawlable HTML text on your website. While it may look more appealing, don’t make your NAP an image as these can’t be crawled and interpreted as relevant information by search engines.
You also want to make your NAP visible – the most common location to showcase this information is in the footer or header of your website.
4. Optimise Online Directories And Citations
Given that approximately 75% of people never scroll past the first page of SERPs, if Google can’t determine whether information about your company is correct, you risk missing out on a lot of traffic.
Besides optimising your website, you also need to ensure that you’re doing everything you can to ensure the directory and citation have a higher placement in search results.
In the UK, the primary data aggregators that provide information to search engines to help businesses be found via online resources such as Google Maps, Apple/Siri and Yellow Pages are:
Web mapping platforms such as Google Maps and Apple Maps are important places to be listed for businesses that want to be seen online, hence the importance of verifying your citations and directories to ensure they are consistent across data aggregators.
Check for spelling mistakes, abbreviations, incorrect contact information and duplicate listings, all of which might seem unimportant but could hinder your search visibility if not uniform.
Bonus points if you’ve emphasised that you’re a member of the Chambers of Commerce, as this will generate a valuable inbound link for your website.
5. Run a Local SEO Audit
SEO is an ongoing process, and while you might have the basics down, it’s no time to take your foot off the gas pedal and hit the brakes.
Perform a local SEO audit to see if your website is performing or whether any changes need to be made to help you achieve your marketing goals.
What’s included in a local SEO audit?
We recommend starting with your Google My Business account due to how much weight it holds in search. Check whether the information you’ve provided is accurate and whether your posts need to be updated.
Next, perform a Google Search Console (GSC) audit to determine the crawlability of your website and whether there are any issues with specific pages which are impacting indexing.
Now, look at the pages on your website and run an on-page SEO audit to ensure that you adhere to best practice on-page SEO strategies that will increase your rankings.
You should also check whether your citations are correct in business directories and perform a competitor analysis to identify any content gaps you need to address. Ask yourself: How does my website compare to competitions? Take all aspects into account, including inbound links, design, content and mobile experience.
Finally, run a complete website audit to assess your site’s overall architecture and usability to help you identify areas of improvement.
6. Develop a Top-Notch Internal Linking Strategy
Some marketers make the mistake of only focusing on inbound link strategies, but internal links hold just as much weight.
Why does internal linking matter? An effective internal linking strategy does the following:
- Helps users navigate through your website
- Allow search engines to understand and index your website
- Distributes page authority and ranking power among web pages
- Make the most important pages in your site stand out
Internal linking is an essential part of any SEO strategy as it helps establish site architecture and spread link juice to help even the deepest pages of your website rank higher on search.
7. Optimise Metadata, H-Tags, URLs and Content
Every new piece of content presents a fresh opportunity to be found in SERPs, which is why important to correctly optimise your blogs by including your primary keywords in the following:
- The main body of content
Although Google is encouraging online businesses to move away from fixating over keywords, providing you’re not keyword stuffing and adhering to Natural Language Processing (NLP) structures in your content, there’s no harm done for your SEO.
In fact, it’s crucial to include keywords in your meta descriptions and URLs, as this will help search engines understand the context of your content. Furthermore, metadata is the first slice of information that users see in SERPs, so including keywords relative to their search query could be the difference between them clicking through to your website or a competitor.
If you struggle to write geo-targeted content, apply this strategy to customer success stories and case studies.
8. Add a Location Page to Your Site
If you have multiple brick-and-mortar stores, you’ll benefit from creating a location page and adding a Google Map feature to help consumers find their nearest store.
Having one location page will also allow you to avoid duplicating content across multiple pages and target long-tail, location-specific search terms to boost your online visibility.
Location pages, also known as local landing pages, should include:
- Business name
- Phone Number
- Store hours
- Interactive maps
- Unique location-specific descriptions
- Parking and directions
- Strong customer reviews
Location landing pages are essential digital signposts for your business and are often accessed more than some of your corporate pages. You also want to make sure you link these pages to your social profiles to help build authority.
9. Create Local Content
The advancement of search engines means that content creators can write content tailored to users and not robots.
While you want some evergreen content on your website, it’s also important to hone your focus and create content specific to the interest of your local audience.
Being the local authority for your industry by embracing the community beyond what your company sells will help you rise above the competition. Promote local industry news, employees and other educational, relative content on your website that people within your region will care about.
Showing that you are aware and involved in the happenings of your local community is a great way to drive organic traffic to your site and add value to your brand persona. Having local guest bloggers contribute to your site is also a great way to add content to your website and expand your audience by reaching out to their followers.
10. Improve the Mobile Experience of Your Site
Local search and mobile search are two sides of the same coin, with more than 60% of all Google searches performed on smartphones.
Creating a good online user experience means optimising to offer a consistent experience on any device, especially mobile, given that Google is now operating a mobile-first indexing process.
People often interact with your business via mobile to search for contact information, find directions or read up on reviews of your brand. Given that Google’s Consumer Insights reported a 900%+ increase in “near me tonight/today” searches over the past two years, ensuring your site is mobile-friendly will help to strengthen your local online presence.
Five Powerful Local SEO Tools
With local competition heating up, dominating local search results is becoming a challenge. We’re going to explore some tools you could leverage to boost your visibility in local searches.
Whitespark provides tools and services to help boost local businesses in an online search. It’s an excellent service for optimising your local SEO, from building citations to tracking rankings and building high-quality backlinks.
Its most popular tool, the Citation Finder, is used by businesses worldwide and helps ensure data accuracy and trust for online listings by sourcing citation opportunities you might have missed.
You can also use their Local Rank Tracker tool to monitor your local search performance and the Reputation Builder tool to review how your company performs on popular platforms so that you can devise new strategies to maximise exposure.
Screaming Frog is probably one of our favourite tools at Soar Online.
The desktop programme is a comprehensive crawling tool that analyses links, images, CSS, scripts and even apps from an SEO standpoint. You can crawl up to 500 URLs for free or take advantage of the paid version, which offers unlimited crawlings for $200 a year.
Bright Local is a comprehensive reporting platform for local SEO and is currently used by nearly 50,000 businesses and freelancers worldwide.
With Bright Local, you can gain access to several local SEO tools such as:
- Audit citation and NAP
- Audit Google My Business
- White label reporting
- Online review monitor
- SEO reporting
While the service isn’t free, Bright Local offers a 14-day free trial where you can test out some of their key features before paying for a subscription.
Ahrefs is a great tool to use when it comes to local SEO, offering marketers and web administrators help with competitors analysis, keyword research and backlink performance, including how other websites have used anchor text to link back to your site.
Georanker facilitates finding local citations and tracking local and organic search performance to help you grow your business.
Their collection of SEO tools include:
- Local Citation Finder
- Local Rank Checker
- Local Rank Tracker
- Keyword Density Tool
All these tools are available for free but with limited usage. If you have several brick-and-mortar locations or track a lot of keywords, you might want to consider upgrading to their paid plan.
If you want to read about the latest Google update on Local Seo, that came out in the latest quarter of 2021, please click here.