Local search plays an incredibly important part in how customers discover local businesses. An incredibly 82 percent of smartphone shoppers conduct “near me” searches, and 18 percent of local searches lead to a sale the very same day. If you want new customers to find you, doing well in local search results and Google Maps is very important.
The good news is that most local businesses aren’t putting in a lot of effort when it comes to local search engine optimization, and you can boost your chances of showing up ahead of competitors, even ones located closer to the user, if you invest in the areas where your competitors aren’t.
Here are 15 local SEO steps you can take right now to improve your local search performance.
1. Use A Mobile Theme: In 2016, Google started punishing sites that weren’t optimized for mobile devices. Your site should be responsive so that it is easy to use on all devices. Use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to see if your site appears mobile friendly to the search engine. If not, switch to a new theme in your CMS, or hire a developer to rework your existing theme if necessary. If switching themes, test a theme demo with the Mobile-Friendly Test to make sure the theme is as mobile-friendly as it claims to be.
Additionally, you should:
- Avoid big pop-ups, and make sure any pop-ups you do use are mobile-friendly and responsive
- Test your site on multiple devices
- Think like a user who is in a hurry and their phone and prioritize your design with that in mind
2. Optimize Your Google My Business (GMB) Profile: Make sure to claim all of your listings at GMB, since this is the hub for your listings in local search results, Google Maps listings, and in the Google Knowledge Graph. Verify that the addresses are current, upload enticing photos of the location and your products or services, and make sure every field is filled out and completed for every location.
You want to make sure Google has as much information as possible about every location in order to maximize your chances of performing well in local search and Google maps results, as well as to entice customers browsing your profile.
3. Optimize Your GMB Tags: While this is obviously a part of optimizing your GMB profile, it’s worth calling this out more specifically. Your GMB tags in the About me section should include all keywords relevant to your business at that location so that anybody searching for the appropriate product or service will know that it is available at that location. Do not spam this section with keywords, however. Everything listed as a tag should be directly relevant.
4. Link To Your Inner Pages From GMB: Don’t make the mistake of only linking to your homepage from GMB. In the About Me section, be sure to include deep links to your inner pages where relevant, so that people can find the appropriate pages on your site and so that Google can better understand which pages take priority and cover which topics.
5. Choose A Descriptive GMB Category: Select the most specific GMB category available that matches your business as perfectly as it can. Avoid categories that are too generic, since selecting them will make it less likely you will show up in the most relevant search results.
6. Use Location-Specific URLs: Each specific location owned by your business should have its own URL if possible, with the NAP listed, and a unique description suited specifically for that location. The amount of text dedicated to each location need not be extensive if there is little difference between locations, so long as the text is unique and relevant.
7. Ask For Google Reviews: Asking for Google reviews should be a standardized part of your business processes. Ask for reviews when a customer completes a purchase, provide instructions on receipts and other literature, ask for reviews in any emails or mail that you send as part of your loyalty programs, and so on. You are free to ask for reviews as often as you want as long as you do not solicit reviews with payment or special deals since these are considered a violation of Google’s guidelines.
8. Get Trustpilot (or similar): Trustpilot and similar platforms automatically ask for reviews as a part of your checkout process, with a simple form for them to fill out. The reviews are then published on the platform and syndicated to your social profiles. As with other products, you should always check the genuine customer reviews before making the final decision. Any platform that helps automate the review collection process will work wonders for your local SEO.
The biggest benefit with platforms like this is the impact on reputation management, since customers searching for reviews of your company will most likely see your listing on the review platform, as well as the ability to enable rich snippets on your site with schema markup, so that you get star ratings next to your listing that make you stand out in the search results.
9. Incorporate Local Content Marketing: Publish content on your site that is relevant to your area, local events, local news, trending topics in the area, local culture and relevant subcultures, and so on. You want your business to be a part of the community, and incorporating content that is relevant to the area is part and parcel of that.
10. Use Local Schema Markup: Schema markup for star ratings is great, but you should also be taking advantage of local schema markup to help Google understand more about your business location. Use the following:
- Use Local Business markup
- Specify a phone number and address
- Specify multiple departments if you have them
- Specify order or reservation actions if they are available
- Include a URL for the specific business location
- Specify prices
Always work with a qualified developer to ensure that your schema markup meets Google’s standards and is compatible with their rich snippets, allowing users to call your business or place orders directly from search listings, and enabling other powerful options.
11. Chamber Of Commerce: Get listed in your local Chamber of Commerce and you will open up local networking opportunities and earn an authoritative, important citation and link from a trusted source that Google takes seriously.
12. Get Listed In The Relevant Directories: Google uses citations to determine how trustworthy your location is. A citation lists your businesses NAP (name, address, and phone number) and should ideally also mention a URL for that particular store location.
Make sure that your business name is consistent across all listings and that it matches your Google My Business profile. It need not be your business legal name, but should match your signage, logo, and other similar business materials.
Address and phone number should be current and consistent across all listings, and the phone number should be a local phone number. A toll free number can be included as well, of course, but a local number should be included.
Get listed in all of the relevant, official, trusted, and used directories. Avoid listing your location in spam directories designed only for SEO that aren’t used by actual users.
13. List Your NAP Consistently On Your Site: In addition to listing your business name, address, and phone number in directories and at Google My Business, it should also be listed on your site, on every page if you only have one location, or on the relevant URL if you have multiple locations. Use schema.org markup to highlight the information for the search engines.
14. Exchange Links With Local Business Partners: If you have any local business clients, are a client of a local business, work with any wholesalers, or otherwise partner with any local businesses, create a page on your site to list business partners that you work with and link out to them. Ask your business partners to do the same. Links from local businesses will boost your credibility with Google and help you turn up in more local search results.
Be sure to avoid abusing this tactic by exchanging links with businesses that aren’t true partners, since spammy, irrelevant link exchanges were once a popular link scheme tactic in violation of Google’s guidelines, likely to earn you a penalty or algorithmic demotion.
15. Earn Local Press: Local press coverage will earn you links from local media, which in turn affords your site with authority in the search engines, especially for local searches. Get involved in local events, community actions, charities, and identify opportunities for publicity stunts that will make your business newsworthy.
You can also build relationships with journalists and use your position as an expert on topics relevant to your business to act as a source they refer to in order to earn press. These all have an important and lasting impact on your SEO authority and will help you turn up in local search results, the local pack, and Google Maps results.
Local SEO is a smart investment for any business with physical locations, and the opportunities available to you are numerous even with just a few relatively small investments. While we do recommend embarking on a full-fledged local SEO strategy, taking these 15 steps alone will put you ahead of most local businesses in the area.Digital & Social Articles on Business 2 Community