What Is Local SEO, and Why Is It Relevant?
The majority of initial online product or service queries start with a local search, as local customers traditionally prefer to deal with companies closer in the hope of minimising logistical issues.
However, as the perception of Google’s local search intelligence increases, search terms related to a district or including phrases such as ‘near me’, are showing a gradual decline.
Local SEO strategies need to be ever more diligent in ensuring local businesses are doing everything they can to optimise their online presence.
SEO companies should always begin with optimising the quicker wins such as local citations, Google maps (and others), local SEO reviews and NAP (Name, Address, Phone number) inclusions, before moving on to the more involved work required.
What Local SEO Factors are Important?
We’ve focused on the organic side of SEO but if the budget allows, pay per click has its place though is normally regarded as a short term solution or it will prove expensive to maintain.
Local SEO is substantially important for the smaller local business in order to highlight their presence and attract more traffic through search queries and therefore increase the chance of a trade.
Website design, citations, NAPS, reviews, link building and inclusion into area mapping all contribute to this goal.
What is a Local SEO Citation- And What It Means to You
Local business ranking positions depend on many important factors, and local citation is just one.
Any mention of your business online, whether your name, address or the services you provide, add to the ranking authority of your search engine results.
A full citation usually includes your local business name and address, and your contact details.
Partial local citations mention any combination of these.
Your ranking position is helped by adding your local business details to online directories, and local directories which specifically target local audiences, (for example through Brightlocal.com )
Local citations need not link to your site to help improve your online presence- it’s more about how often your company details are mentioned.
Though if a citation has a link, this has more value than one without.
There are generally two types of local search ranking citations- unstructured, and structured.
As previously explained, any mention of your business details through third party websites, are unstructured citations.
Whereas a structured citation is one specifically designed as an advertisement for your business.
Some interesting research statistics from Moz.com who supply SEO software tools indicate the importance of certain citation factors and how search engines find your details.
NAP – Name Address Phone Number
According to Brightlocal.com, leading SEO specialists who provide a platform for local citations, 86% of consumers rely on the internet to find local businesses, and almost a third of consumers search locally at least once a week.
The developing world has come to rely heavily on the world wide web for local trading.
NAP (or Name, Address, Phone Number) inclusion in as many areas as possible, increase the chances of traffic, contact and therefore, sales.
With Brightlocal’s logical platform, both structured and organic traffic can be measured to give an indication of how online presence is working for an online business.
As an example of how Google is beginning to operate, we performed a search using the term ‘SEO Services’.
Almost all of the first page is taken up by paid advertising, followed by prompts for other search terms, and next Google displays its map showing local SEO services.
Only after all of this information, will organic traffic begin to show on the first page.
Note that we didn’t include the search term ‘near me’: When we did this, there was little change in the outcome.
We tried ‘local SEO companies near me’, ‘local SEO services near me’ and ‘local SEO consultant services’, and all came up with very similar results.
This to us is evidence that Google is aware of consumers’ tendencies to want local results over all else, and strengthens the need for NAP strategies and campaigns.
Search engines (and not only Google) use NAP when deciding to display a business or service listing.
Without NAP, search engines will be unaware of your online presence and you lose potential customers.
It’s widely believed by SEO experts that search engines cross reference NAP for evaluating the legitimacy of a site, making consistent NAP entry input a vital task.
The format of your company name, address, and phone number should stay exactly the same on all areas of the internet (for example, if your address contains a street name, don’t switch from ‘St’ to ‘Street’ on different sites).
If you have already made that mistake, decide on a format and make changes whenever possible, or hire a digital marketing company to help with this.
Local SEO Reviews
Google’s business guidelines advise you to encourage your customers to leave reviews and reply to those already written.
Further still, Google recommends how to verify your business information on Google Maps, Google Search, Google My Business and other platforms owned by them.
Positive reviews help local listings build authority and trust and in turn your website’s ranking, helping you grow your business.
As authority increases so does the conversion rates of sales, and any digital marketing strategy ought to include local SEO reviews as part of the project.
No online business should be tempted to falsify their reviews. Google warns the offending site will be penalised and in any event, the action is illegal and can carry heavy fines.
Building local SEO authority is a natural process and takes time. The size of a business and regularity of sales all have a bearing on how long it takes.
This chart from Moz.com indicates the relative importance of review signals.
(For further graphical information, Shopify.com highlights even more useful nuggets of information.
Just as it is as important to include your business details into Google Maps, so should you include a map of directions within your site if practical and possible.
Things to note when listing on Google Maps
– If you are targeting a specific area for your sales, your primary address must be located within that area for the chances of being seen.
– Google My Business must be completed properly. Ensure that owner verification and the target address is included in the landing page title, and search terms match the product or service.
– As already established, NAP must be consistent and exactly match website details.
– It is best practice to include a personalised site map indicating clearly where a business positioned within the target area. This coding link from Google will help with that.
– One priority to include that Google uses in its map is store opening hours.
– It’s helpful to add useful landmarks for vehicle directions, especially when a business is a little difficult to find.
– Add links to social media platforms.
– If products or services vary in nature, dedicate an individual web page for each that is linked via a hierarchical parent page.
How to Measure Local SEO?
There are many tools and software out in the ether that is the internet and Google Search Console is one of the most useful- that, and it’s free.
Simply verify the ownership of the business within the software and the search console begins to analyse the site for traffic, performance, and site issues.
For a more in-depth explanation, take a look at this guide from Moz.com which is especially suited for those just starting out.
This free rank tracking tool from Authoritylabs.com tracks domains in every country, city, or postcode, as well as providing keywords, and competition.
A particularly useful SEO tool is from Cognitiveseo.com which promises to increase site traffic and improve ranking through its use.
An excellent visual aid to help track ranking has been created by Localfalcon.com which is designed specifically for Google Maps.
Use Google Analytics to track link referrals, organic traffic, and reviews.
How Long Does Local SEO Take?
The answer invariably frustrates a client, but there’s no accurate reply to how long it takes for local SEO to show improvement as there are so many underlying factors to consider.
Generally, local SEO service companies will appease the client by offering a term of around four to six months though some improvements may be apparent much more quickly.
Brightlocal.com completed a study based upon eighteen local search experts.
This link gives five scenarios from a brand new business to a longstanding company that has ceased SEO investment.
The only sure-fire way to boost your SEO is to be proactive, and this involves a lot of hard work in the background of any business.
Typical tasks that refine and enhance local search results (and often global) are:
– Actively getting regular mentions in local news articles and blog posts highlighting company news and interesting, useful information.
– Building locally and industry relevant domains which highlight business in a positive manner.
– Designing easy to use websites with the end user in mind, for tablets, mobile phones and desktop use.
– Offering expertise in a field for free, to build a reputation of authority and trust with the consumer, and other businesses.
– Proactively requesting links from other websites, or establishing a rapport whereby other online businesses will want to link with you.
– Getting out and about and discovering how you may help the community with events such as charities or corporate networking, or sponsoring webinars or making donations.
– Building a relationship with prominent and respected influencers.
– This link to a Wikipedia page helps readers to understand how local searches work.
Why Use a Local SEO Agency?
SEO as a strategy is critical for your online business but what are the advantages of a local SEO agency?
Often, local SEO campaigns can be strategised in a more detailed manner by a company who has its roots in the area.
Understandably, they’ll know the demographics of the region, the local markets, and its strengths and weaknesses.
Knowing the ‘lay of the land’ assists with targeting the right consumers, through social media, local advertising, awareness of local competition, and highlighting local sponsorship schemes.
That’s not to say an SEO agency in a different region can’t operate as efficiently as its local counterpart, merely that the latter has an advantage geographically.
Indeed it’s possible for a business to do their own search engine optimisation if they have the confidence, time and expertise.
An SEO agency whether local or otherwise has the experience and expertise to plan a campaign from start to beginning in logical timesaving steps: From fundamental specific keyword research to content and website analytics, to links, backlinks and user experience.
What is local SEO?
SEO (or Search Engine Optimisation) is the process in which websites endeavour to increase their online visibility by tapping into key areas of common public interest using among other things, tools, common phrases and user experience.
How to do a local SEO audit?
For a concise explanation of how to typically perform a local SEO audit, this blog from Neilpatel.com has clear guidelines on how to achieve it.
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