If you're looking for a place to eat, shop, or hang out, what's the first thing you do? Google search it! In all modern search engines, your results will be dependent on your device's location. So why shouldn't you put as much time and effort into your local SEO as possible?
When you - or your customers - need to find a local business, you get on your phone and go straight to Google (or, for some people, Bing) for a local search. Local SEO services enable local businesses to promote their products and services to local customers at just the right time while they are actively searching for them.
Will they find your business in local search? If you want to improve your lead generation, they better.
Local SEO, (Local Search Engine Optimization), is optimizing your website to increase traffic, leads, and brand awareness for your business locally. In 2018 when search went local, search engines started asking to use your location services so that they could provide you with more relevant, local results. Gone were the days where you look for gyms and the one in California 2,000 miles away shows up because their website was better.
Search engines were determined to connect you with the most relevant, local results and optimizing for those has become critical for businesses who offer services locally.
The Google Map Pack, or the Google Local Pack, is a that boxed area that appears first on top of the search results page when a local online search is made through Google.
The local map pack displays only the top 3 local business listings deemed most relevant to that search. The amount of clicks and online traffic that is generated inside of the Snack Pack area is substantially higher than websites that are listed outside of it.
According to one study, 33% of clicks go to the local “snack pack” results, with 40% going to the regular organic results.
Key takeaway: it pays to rank in both, which is where local SEO comes in.
There are dozens of reasons why Local SEO is important today, not the least of which is because Google says so! They are committed to connecting local searches to local businesses, and specifically address Local Search by saying,
Local results appear for people who search for businesses and places near their location. They’re shown in a number of places across Maps and Search. For example, you’ll probably see local results if you search for “Italian restaurant” from your mobile device. Google will try to show you the kind of nearby restaurant that you’d like to visit
Beyond the practical side of wanting Google to recognize you, here are a few more reasons why it’s important to you and your business:
Did you know that Google gives you different search results than BING? Yeah? How about Google Mobile Search vs Voice Search? Yep, different results. Depending on where you are at the time…different results. On top of that, every search results page has multiple sections that you can appear in, and each requires different things in order to do so. If you want to show up in Google Ads at the top of the page, and in Google’s Local 3-Pack, (showing just 3 businesses), and of course in the organic search results below, then you have to optimize for each!
According to Google,
Local results are based primarily on relevance, distance, and prominence. These factors are combined to help find the best match for your search.
They have told us exactly what to do.
So now we know what we have to do and why, and the below tips will help you get started with both optimizing your business for local search results, while establishing some lead generation strategies that should help you grow:
If you want to get more leads and calls, you have to make sure your website is optimized for Local SEO. Your website is the one place where you control the narrative and the experience. Social media is a moving target, making it a great distribution channel and community tool, but your website continues to be the ‘engine on the train’ driving your lead generation strategies.
According to a report from Hitwise, nearly 60% of all online searches are now carried out on a mobile device, with some sectors (Food and Beverage) reaching 72 percent. As a result search engines predominantly use the mobile version of your website for indexing and local seo rankings. Your website needs to be responsive so that the pages render well on a variety of devices and screen sizes.
Ultimately, the goal is to be sure your content is helping point people to your local area.
Your website's content should be optimized for the locations you service. Make sure you optimize your services pages for the local area. If you expect to show up in a search for, “Plumbers near me”, you are going to want to localize your website content by writing custom, local content that connects with your audience and earns your business additional legitimacy with search engines. Content with a local focus is a significant factor in local SEO services.
While quality content on your pages is important, writing great blog posts is just as -if not more - important. Ultimately, your goal should be to write for humans first, then search engines. Search engines reward content written this way.
For companies that rely on local business, local SEO keyword research is even more essential to get the most from local and mobile searches. Make sure you optimize your pages and articles with the right local keywords for your business. Write first for the customer, and second for the search engines. If your site is cluttered with the same keyword repeatedly, not only is it redundant and awkward for potential customers to read, search engines won't show your content in search results.
Do you know what Google suggests as the answer to how to improve your local ranking on Google? Their answer is,
You can improve your business’s local ranking by using Google My Business.
Google My Business is a free tool for businesses to manage their online presence across Google, including Search and Maps. It’s a combination maps/online directory listing and social media tool. It’s no secret that Google is always going to prioritize itself in search where possible, but on top of that Google my Business has become an invaluable tool for small business!
Businesses with an optimized Google business listing are 2.7x more likely to be considered reputable than businesses with an un-optimized listing? A complete and accurate Google business profile averages 7x more clicks, are 70% more likely to attract location visits, and are 50% more likely to lead to a purchase!
It’s important. You need to claim your Google my Business listing, (it’s free), and set it up for your business.
Once you have your Google my Business listing claimed and properly optimized, you want to use the Google Maps Embed API, to place an interactive map on your website.
Did you know that 84% of consumers trust online reviews as much as they do a friend? In 2019, 82% of consumers read online reviews when searching for local businesses, with 52% of 18-54-year-olds saying they ‘always’ read reviews. The average consumer reads 10 reviews and spends nearly 15 minutes reading them before making a decision.
According to Moz, Google reviews are believed to have the greatest impact on Google local rankings!
It’s clear that what people say about you online can impact decisions on how potential customers interact with your business. Just as importantly as helping potential customers gain confidence in you, reviews are very important to Google and an important factor in how they determine who to show in local search results.
The number and quality of those reviews are both equally important. There are a number of URL’s and several online tools you can use to generate sharable links for customers to leave reviews for your business. Here is one straight from Google: “Create a link for customers to write reviews.”
Local citations are local business listings and any online mention of your name, address, and phone number, referred to using the acronym “NAP“. These local citations occur throughout the Internet, from local business directories, to other websites and mobile apps, and across social media channels.These citations replace the days of the Yellow Pages and help Internet users discover local businesses and can also impact local search engine rankings. Whether you want these listings out there or not, for many of them you don’t have a choice. Many directories will seek out businesses and list them on their own.
These local citations impact local search engine results either positively, or negatively, so it’s important that local businesses actively manage these citations to ensure their accuracy. The number of citations local businesses show up in, the accuracy of those listings, and the channels or directories where they show up on all influence local search engine rankings.
You want to get as many, accurate citations for your business as you can. 100 accurate citations counts more than 10. There are many, relevant directories that you may have no idea about, but search engines do. There are hundreds of third-party listing providers including Google, YELP, BING, Yahoo!, YellowPages, Manta, and more. You can also find local citations with directories in your area, such as your chamber of commerce, local newspaper, etc.
It is important that your business is listed, accurately, on as many directory sites as possible. If your customers find you on these directories, great! All the better. If not, these local citations still serve the purpose of creating authenticity and trust with search engines like Google.
Any successful SEO strategy includes generating link building services. Link building is a big part of local SEO. Referred to as ‘backlinks’, these are links from other local businesses that drive traffic back to your business’s website. Similar to local citations, backlinks are off-site signals that search engines use to assess the credibility of your website. Local businesses hoping to improve their local search engine optimization, want to try and earn locally-relevant links.
These backlinks can be from an industry-related blog, or an online directory, or a newspaper, etc. These help more people find your business, and maybe more importantly improve your credibility with Google and other search engines. Each link is considered a positive ‘vote’ for your website, which can help you get into their Local SEO 3-pack. Even if you don’t get a lot of potential customers through these backlinks, the authority you get from search engines will help to improve your local seo ranking so it’s worth it.
When you start your link building services, it’s best to have a balanced strategy built around earning links naturally through content marketing and social media. Link diversity is important, as is the referring domain so be smart in how you choose.
Social media has billions of active users, and social content ranks very well on search engines. It’s pretty easy to understand why social media marketing needs to be merged into your local seo strategy. Once you have optimized your website for local search, claimed your Google my Business profile and started getting positive reviews, and grabbed quality citations and backlinks to your website, you need to interact with potential and existing customers. The best place to do this is through social media. There are hundreds of social media channels with which your business can engage with customers and prospects.
Social media marketing serves small businesses in many ways important to local seo. It’s essentially free branding. Social media gives you a platform to create awareness about your business, letting people who you are and what you do. It also helps you to engage with potential and existing customers, be it through posts about local events, or customer service inquires. Social media is a great tool to grow fans who can serve as brand advocates and spread the news about your products/services, creating even more opportunities to earn local citations and backlinks.
Social Media interactions can increase the prominence of a business, which is a local ranking factor for Google. The more people talk about your business online, the greater the chances that your social media content is shared and you get more clicks to your website.
Running a local business is hard enough as it is, and we are fighting an uphill battle from day one, but even with limited resources we can use Local Search Engine Optimization to create awareness about our business, engage with existing and potential customers, and drive leads and calls through multiple channels. Customers are already out there looking, and we can gain relevant search engine visibility to be there when they do.
Ultimately, every small business can grow their business and attract more customers using Local SEO. Whether you decide to bring in a local seo expert, or try and do it yourself, starting with the above tips will get you well on your way to generating leads with Local SEO services. Just don’t stop once you start. This is never a, “one and done” exercise. Monitor your results closely, make regular adjustments, and watch your website turn into a 24/7 lead generation machine!