Local SEO: Everything You Need to Know
Welcome to your complete guide to local SEO.
Tis no secret in the digital age that the key to a successful business relies on a powerful online presence. The World Wide Web is dominated by excessive information from various sources and research plagued by ever-changing algorithms. This can be challenging for business owners trying to stand out on SERPs (search engine results pages). This is where local SEO comes into play.
Local SEO does what it says on the tin; it optimises your website and online presence to become more visible to customers within a specific region or city. It encompasses the value of targeting the right audience via the right local, organic search terms and making sure that your business can be found by people who are actively searching for what you offer, local to them. According to research, 46% of all Google searches are searching for local information, and 97% of people learn about local companies online than anywhere else.
This blog will explore the importance of local SEO and how it can significantly increase website traffic, the crucial steps within keyword research for local SEO and our professional insights into helping your business perform better on search engines.
We will provide you with step-by-step instructions for optimising your Google My Business listing and building local citations to ensure you are maximising the online opportunities for your business.
What is Local SEO?
Local SEO, or local search engine optimisation, is a digital marketing strategy used to improve online visibility and search engine rankings in local search. It involves on-page optimisation, directory listings, reviews, and other digital strategy factors to target specific geographic locations and attract customers or clients. Its ultimate goal is to increase website traffic and hopefully lead to higher conversions and sales in the specific geographical area.
What is Local SEO VS SEO?
It wouldn’t be criminal if you admitted that you regularly blur the lines between these two distinct optimisation tactics. Although they strongly link, SEO focuses wholly on improving a website’s online visibility in organic (non-paid) search results on a national or even global scale. Local SEO is more specific to targeting local, geographical areas aiming to optimise a website’s online visibility in local results. It requires a local SEO strategy that optimises a website’s content. Meta tags, backlinks, directories and citations.
Similarly, SEO and local SEO are not instantaneous. It takes time, evaluation and patience. This is because search engines are ever-changing and developing. As explained by Jill Whallen, “Good SEO work only gets better over time. It’s only search engine tricks that need to keep changing when the ranking algorithms change.”
If you’re looking to outsource your SEO Management to a trustworthy, data-driven SEO agency, download our free resource today. It details everything you need to know about working with an SEO agency, or alternatively, visit our SEO Management Services page.
What are Local SEO Benefits?
- Increase in website traffic
Online businesses rely on traffic, and if you have successfully registered your business online in the digital space, you are more likely to receive that traffic. Research has shown that searches with the words ‘where to buy’ and ‘near me’ had risen by 200%. When you commit to a local SEO strategy, you encourage those around you to visit your website and, at times, your brick-and-mortar store. A general SEO strategy can sometimes feel like you’re trying to get blood from a stone, as it is quite a lengthy, time-consuming process. Optimising your online storefront using local tactics will redirect those searching locally to your website in the search results – which is a win if you ask us.
- Better Conversion Rates
Did you know that 28% of local searches result in a purchase? So, any burning doubt you have about the potential local SEO could have on your business should be extinguished around about now. Being there, ready and available on local search results showcases your business as a go-to in the local market within your niche. This can improve your chances of being clicked on and, in many cases, see a sale or conversion.
- Save money on ad spend
Local SEO is perfect for businesses looking to target those customers who are right on your doorstep. Instead of dedicating a large portion of your marketing budget to your online advertising channels (PPC Management alone in the UK can set you back a minimum of £900 a month without even considering the ad spend), putting your efforts into a strong local SEO presence can target those around you for little to no spend.
- Business Growth
It may surprise you that many businesses, even in this day and age, rely solely on more traditional forms of marketing – two-thirds of small businesses still use it. This can include TV, print, billboards and flyer distribution. Implementing a local SEO strategy should always focus on driving website traffic by increasing your position on local rankings. By doing so and focussing time and effort into a growth-driven local SEO strategy, marketing and sale prospects will increase – remember, local intent covers navigational, transactional and informational, leaving a large opportunity to secure business from each stage of the marketing funnel.
- Compete Online
Local SEO helps businesses compete online in a few specific ways, including standing out from the crowd. Through the rise of mobile search, and subsequently, searches for businesses ‘near me’ or ‘in specific location’ appearing and standing out on search engines for these searches is critical to compete and secure valuable traffic above other businesses. Research has shown that searches for local places without the qualifier “near me” have grown 150% over the last two years. It also allows your business to provide a better user experience online; optimising for local search, which includes providing relevant and specific information to your business like phone number, address, email, location, opening hours and reviews, enhances the experience for the search user.
The Impact of Online Reviews on Local Search
Online reviews provide a space where customers and clients can leave feedback for a business on their experience using their products or services. There are a lot of platforms available for online users to submit reviews (TripAdvisor, Social Media, etc.), but the one with any ranking ability is Google.
Online reviews have a significant impact on future customers and clients. According to research, 76% of consumers ‘regularly’ read reviews when they are browsing for local businesses, and nine in ten (91%) say they trust ratings and reviews when making purchase decisions.
So, we’ve established that online reviews can play a part in the purchase decision behaviour of users online. But how can they affect your business’s position on SERPs (search engine ranking pages)?
Online reviews can make a significant difference and even help you leapfrog the local competition. The more positive reviews your business receives via Google reviews, the more likely you are to outrank a competitor with a less positive reputation.
Similarly to consumers, Google associates positive reviews with a certain level of trust. Therefore, it is a critical ranking factor for this and other search engines.
I’ve talked to many local SEO experts
Listened to numerus podcasts
& the one big tip they all have to improve your local search ranking
is you guessed it… GET GOOD GOOGLE REVIEWS
— julius (@jmventurelog) September 2, 2023
How to Utilise Local Directories and Citation Management to Increase Visibility
Local citations are the online mentions of your website, which normally include relevant business information such as your phone number and address. It also tends to provide online reviews and your business houses.
Online citations can come from a variety of different sources, which include, but are not limited to, directories, social media platforms, sites specifically for reviews and blogs/news articles.
Search engine giants like Google and Bing actively take into account local citations when it comes to ranking websites on SERPs. They do this by analysing the available information via local citations to verify its accuracy and relevance and authority to local searches in your area.
Why are local citations important?
- Build trust and become an authoritative voice.
- Helps with SEO.
- Increase visibility on search engines.
Structured vs. Unstructured local citations
Structured citations follow a particular format and are typically found on websites such as local directories and websites for reviews. Often, they are called NAP citations as they include your name, address and phone number. They are consistent, help you to improve your search engine rankings, and even provide valuable backlinks to your website, which is a commonly known Google ranking factor.
Examples: Google Business Profile (Formerly Google My Business), Yelp and the Yellow Pages.
Unstructured citations don’t follow a typical format and can appear on various websites, including blogs, news articles and social media platforms. Think of a tag or mention on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. These citations are much more flexible, but they can still positively affect your search engine rankings.
Unstructured citations often risk publishing your information incorrectly, making it hard for your potential customers to find you and get in touch.
Here’s how you can find locations for your local citations
- First, you want to determine where you want your business’s citations to appear – i.e. what directory sites. It’s important to consider the website authority, industry relevance and local relevance to ensure the right people see your information.
- You should assess the NAP profiles of your competitors to find the best locations for your business information to appear. It also allows you to sneakily see the information they have chosen to include on their NAP profiles, which you can then…take inspiration from.
- Google can provide you with access to many citation locations you may still need to discover. Simply type in your business type and industry and see whether any local/business directories you have yet to see pop up.
And here’s how you can actually build them
Manual submissions are the easiest, most common way to build local citations. Work your way through your list of sites and enter your business information. Make sure to check first that your business isn’t already listed here, and if it is, revisit the listing to ensure it holds the correct information. On each site, you often see a button labelled ‘add business’.
The Role of Schema Markup
Local business schema is a type of data added to websites to make it easier for search engines to determine the ins and outs of your business/organisation and what exactly you do.
The easier search engine bots can crawl and understand your website, the better your rankings for the search terms it is optimised for. Schema contributes to this by completely breaking down information on your website and describing exactly what for search engines.
Schema includes a long list of properties you can fill out to complete your local business schema; below are the main ones.
- @type (be as specific as you can be or local Business works if your specific line of business is not represented)
- image (banner type of image)
- name (of company)
- logo (company logo)
- description (of your company and your offerings)
- openingHours (hours of operations)
- sameAs (list out the other social properties that support your business)
- geo (your longitude and latitude coordinates)
- contactPoint (contact information for your point of contact)
- address (physical address of your location)
Google offer a more in-depth, code-based breakdown of the above over here.
Writing code isn’t for everyone due to knowledge, time and resources, but excellent tools are available online, including BrightLocal, or the DIY SEO Platform.
How to Optimise Your Website for Local Search?
- Google My Business
Can you believe that 56% of local retailers still need to claim their Google My Business listing? This is your first critical step to optimising your website for local search. Once you have claimed yours, you must ensure it is fully optimised, including as much correct, relevant information as possible.
- Add Schema
Earlier in this blog we taught you how to add Schema to your website appropriately and explained that is helps Google organise your data and better understand your website. This helps it rank it accordingly on search engines.
- Add Reviews to Your Website
Reviews have been debunked as some of the most powerful marketing tools ever due to their ability to persuade and convince people to purchase or enquire. In 2017 a study was conducted that found that GMB reviews were one of the most influential search engine ranking factors, which means that the more positive, 5-star reviews you receive via Google the better position your business is in to rank online. Adding many positive reviews to your website is also a great idea. Consider implementing an aggregate rating Schema that shows your rating out of 5 on search engines under the clickable link to your site. Doing this requires some research in order to follow best practices.
- Perform Local Keyword Research and Implement
The circle of life, or the circle of content, that is. Everything within marketing comes back to content, so a great way to ensure your website is locally optimised is to research and create! Look into local search terms and language that you can implement into blog content, videos and infographics to really hone in and target local people. Think about what a user is going to type (Matt Cutts, Former Head of Webspam at Google) and create content that fits it; this accounts for general content and localised content.
Optimising Google My Business
So you’ve claimed your GMB (Google My Business) page, here’s how to optimise it for local SEO:
- Head to GMB and click the ‘manage now’ button to begin the optimisation process.
- Use your real, full business name.
- List a local phone number, including the area code.
- Update your working hours.
- Write a description that fully describes your business and its UVP (unique value proposition) and include some local search terms.
- Provide high-quality, relevant photos of the business.
- Include any videos if you have them.
- Add your website URL.
Local Link Building
Local link building is the process of locally sourcing backlink opportunities from websites and businesses based locally to you. It aims to increase search engine rankings, and website traffic and to help websites appear in more relevant map / local packs.
Here’s how to do it:
- Secure Links from Sites That Rank
This tactic is sometimes referred to as ‘Barnance SEO’, and it’s pretty straightforward, actually. Search relevant terms in Google and try to secure backlinks from aggregator or directory-type sites. Don’t bother asking any competitors that show up, as it would probably be a waste of time. When trying to determine whether a backlink is from a good site, consider the following; domain authority, domain relevancy, indexation score, trust flow, citation flow and how the backlink is formatted (anchor text, branded keywords etc).
- Perform Competitor Link Research
Using a local SEO tool, you can see any backlinks that are linking to your competitors’ websites and not to yours. This can include directories or industry focussed websites that you can reach out to and ask for a backlink.
Tip: When reaching out to a website for a backlink, have a suggested area for this ready, maybe in a blog post, to make the backlink addition process as easy as possible. After all, if someone gives you a backlink they’re doing your website a favour.
A competitor backlink analysis is simple, identify your competitors, find their common links, and identify their backlink strategy.
- Pursue Some Out of the Box Link Opportunities
Don’t underestimate the power of networking and talking to people in your local area. This can open your eyes to a whole new world of local backlink opportunities. Think of sponsoring college or school sports clubs, local awards, city-specific websites etc.
- Reclaim Lost Links
Older websites are likely to have evolved and changed over a significant amount of time. This means your website may have some backlinks that are linking to old, expired or deleted content. By redirecting these backlinks, you can record lost links and reinstate their SEO value.
It’s incredibly simple to do this,
- Paste your website domain into Site Explorer
- Locate the best by links report
- Add a “404 not found” HTTP response filter
Social Media Boost
At ROAR, we regularly hear the phrase ‘Does social media contribute to SEO rankings?’ and the short answer is, no, not really.
Google and other search engines do not use your social media presence as a ranking factor, but in ways, it can contribute, although not directly.
You see, social media platforms provide businesses with an unprecedented opportunity to engage with their local audience. By building and consistently updating your business’s social media presence, you can encourage users to visit your online website, which will, somewhere down the line, infuse your local SEO and consistently support your rankings in local search. An increase in website traffic is a particularly key factor in SEO, and social media activity can directly affect this through sharing links to blog posts, promotions or other valuable insights that the online user needs to visit the website for.
It also creates an opportunity to improve brand awareness and increase local non-manual citations. This is through businesses actively sharing their content and interacting on social media platforms, circulating the brand, business and ethos. Securing these local citations and backlinks can significantly boost your SEO rankings through increased authority and credibility.
The impact, although not instant nor guaranteed, is very much there, and it is sustainable through creating a strong, valuable social media presence.
Tracking and Measuring Your Local SEO Efforts
Tracking and measuring the metrics that matter is key to digital marketing, no matter what campaign or digital channel. If you aren’t tracking your campaign or digital efforts, you will be at a complete loss of whether anything is working or developing.
Use the insights you find to optimise your local SEO strategy better moving forward to ensure your efforts are improving, not plateauing.
Here’s what you should be tracking:
- Google My Business Insights in order to track the clicks occurring on your GBP (Google Business Profile).
- Analysing reviews, including an increase, if any, and your business’s average ratings on review sites.
- Website analytics via Google Analytics to evaluate current traffic and conversion rates.
- SEO ranking.
- Conversions in the form of calls, sales, booking, etc during your analysation period and compared to the previous.
- Click through rates on your website from search engines.
- Total search impressions, from GBP.
- Traffic from search engine features like Google maps.
Key Takeaways to Improve Your Local SEO
- If you’re not using a Local Schema on your website, you’re making Google’s life 10 times harder when it comes to understanding your website and its relevance to online users. Implement it!
- Google My Business is one of the first points of call for a local search user; make sure it is kitted out with every relevant detail you can fit in.
- Link building is very much alive, and kicking and securing backlinks within a local SEO strategy is easier than you may think. Often you can secure local backlinks yourself through manual citations.
Are you ready to dominate the search engine results page? Are you looking for a talented team of SEO specialists to get you there?
ROAR Digital Marketing offers a tailored SEO strategy that is result-driven and designed to help your business attract more local customers, increase your online visibility and ultimately increase your ROI. Check out our SEO Management Services page for more, and click talk to us to set up your free exploratory call!