5 Local SEO Hacks All Businesses Need To Know
We live in a digital age where every local and enthusiastic tourist is armed with mobile internet and local search capabilities. So, generating footfall is no longer just about having the flashiest sign, an attractive shop front, and effective local advertising.
Brick-and-mortar businesses need to rank well in local search engine results.
With the biggest market share, by far, Google should be a business’s first port of call when building a local SEO strategy.
Google’s localised search results are made up of a few different elements:
⦁ The map, which includes most of the Google My Business registered businesses that are relevant to the search query
⦁ The Local Pack, where the top three ranking businesses are highlighted
⦁ The organic search, which is much the same as a non-localised google search with a list of the best-ranking websites
For maximum impact, local businesses need to appear in Google’s ‘Local Pack’ (aka Snack Pack, 3-pack). Even if you haven’t heard the term before, you’ll definitely have seen it …
When you conduct a local search, Google makes the Local Pack the most prominent feature and it has been specifically streamlined (cut down from 7 to 3 search results) to suit mobile screens.
With 68% of searchers saying they give preference to businesses in the Local Pack, it really is the holy grail of local SEO.
So, how do you get there?
In this blog, I’ll discuss five of the most effective ways to boost your local SEO. These tips will help you out-rank your competitors, make it into the Local Pack and boost your local footfall.
Optimise your website for mobiles
Local search is all about mobile. Yes, people search locally from their computers, but a lot of localised search traffic comes from people on the move and on their phones. So your website needs to work for them.
Let’s look at the facts:
⦁ 86% of people find out where a business is ⦁ by searching on Google
⦁ 61% of mobile searchers are more likely to get in touch with a local business if they have a mobile friendly site
⦁ 53% of all mobile users will abandon a website if it doesn’t load in under 3 seconds
What these facts tell us is that you have three major priorities as a local business owner:
⦁ Register for a Google My Business account so your business is included in Google Maps
⦁ Have a mobile-responsive site that works well (i.e. works on a mobile-sized screen)
⦁ Make sure it loads in under 3 seconds
The most effective ways to ensure your mobile site is up to scratch are to:
⦁ Use a mobile-friendly design that isn’t too data-heavy (because this will slow down page loading)
⦁ Use the ⦁ best web host you can afford, whether free or paid (because your web host makes or breaks your page loading speed)
When people can find your site and access it in under 3 seconds on their mobile phone, 1 in 5 will visit your store and make a purchase within one day. Hurray for that!
Create authoritative content
Good, generalised SEO is one of the most important local ranking factors. That’s the SEO we all know and…. ahem… love?
Content didn’t use to be important for local SEO, so most brick-and-mortar businesses don’t have a blog or invest in other content. But, this changed back in 2016 and now blogging is essential for everyone.
There are so many reasons why content is important:
⦁ It keeps your website updated, which sends a message to search engines that you’re open for business
⦁ It encourages people to interact with your site, increasing your hits, click-through and traffic (basic website metrics of Google Analytics fame), all of which are ranking factors
⦁ It encourages content sharing, which can lead to backlinks and we all know they’re are a major ranking factor
⦁ It gives you more chances to rank for your keywords, especially longtails, which are important to local SEO
The key message here is simple… have a blog! Make useful videos about your products and services, write FAQs, release instructionals, etc… all of that usual stuff applies to local SEO.
Build on your Google My Business account
Having a Google My Business account tells the search engine that you exist. But it accounts for 14.7% of your local ranking. So, you need to go beyond simply existing and really optimise your account.
To get the most out of Google My Business, you need to fill it out with the same level of care and moderate fear as when you’re completing your tax return. Cross the i’s and dot the t’s.
Make sure every piece of information it asks for is included (if you have it). Google gives more weight to businesses with more information because it thinks they’re more reliable and useful to the searcher.
⦁ Make sure you verify your account
⦁ Include correct opening times
⦁ Use the right categories for your business
⦁ Optimise your description for important keywords
Ensure your NAP (name, address and phone number) is exactly the same as what’s given on your website
Build your reviews
One of the first things you notice in a business’s summary is their reviews. We all check them. In fact, most people trust them as much as personal recommendations. And people use them to decide whether or not they want to visit your store.
But, they also matter for your local SEO because they account for 9.8% of your business’s ranking.
The best way to encourage your customers to leave reviews is to provide a product or service that they want to rave about. But, asking for them is also pretty effective, as this research by BrightLocal shows.
Remember, there’s more than one way to ask:
⦁ Ask your staff to mention reviews post-purchase
⦁ Have physical prompts in your premises like ‘5-stars on TripAdvisor, add your opinion today’
⦁ Stick a note on your receipts
⦁ Reach out to your social media following
Be aware that some review platforms, like Yelp, specifically forbid giving incentives to encourage reviews.
Google considers the quantity, quality and diversity of your reviews when determining where to rank your business.
Build your business citations
Reviews let both people and bots know that you are who you say you are and you do what you say you do. Your business citations do the same.
Citations are off-page mentions of your business. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s pretty much the same concept as generating backlinks for generalised SEO. But, citations don’t have to be hyperlinked, they can just be your business name or whole NAP.
Most experts agree that having accurate citations is pretty essential to local SEO.
There are two types of citations:
⦁ Structured – business mentions that you place yourself by claiming accounts in directories and social media (e.g. Google My Business or anywhere that involves filling in a form with your NAP)
⦁ Unstructured – ‘organic’ mentions of your business on other websites (e.g. other local businesses that link to you in their blogs)
You can build structured citations by using a tool like WhiteSpark to find all of those relevant to your country and working through the ones that fit your business niche.
Building unstructured citations works in much the same way as generating regular backlinks… guest-posting, building networks, reaching out to influencers, etc. are all still relevant strategies.
As people increasingly turn to technology to find local businesses, it’s becoming more and more important to understand local SEO. With these tips, you’ll build a robust strategy that will get your business noticed, bring more people through your door and, ultimately, boost your bottom line.