Local SEO in 2018: A comprehensive guide

It’s Friday night and you have no idea where to go to dinner.

Your window latch has broken, and you need to find a repairman to come and fix it.

You have to prepare for a bake sale, and you want to know where you can get the freshest organic products.

What’s the one thing you’ll do in all these scenarios? We’re sure most of you said ‘Search on Google’. If you’re a business owner, this is an incredibly significant impulse, one that should heavily determine your marketing and SEO strategy. After all, it’s been proven that local SEO optimization is shaping out to be one of the biggest determinants when it comes to business success. After all- 4 in 5 consumers use search engines in order to find the local information they need.

Moreover, a lot of people are focused on looking up local information- 46% of all the searches done on Google are local.

If you’re not optimizing your marketing strategy to meet this large localized market, you’re definitely losing out. So, let’s get down to tackling the important questions: What is Local SEO, and how can you do it?

What is local SEO and why you need to add this to your strategy

 

First of all, we need to know ‘What is local SEO’?

Simply put, Local search engine optimization tells you how you can optimize your website and marketing strategy to address the needs of a local audience. It follows similar objectives and principles as organic SEO, but it has a geographical component, which makes it personalized and localized to a pre-determined spot.

Why does this matter?

Think about it this way: you’re planning a dinner party, and you need to pick up some ingredients to make guacamole. You look up ‘grocery store’ on the search engine to get a few options that are close by.

Google-search-result

 

(source)

 

This information would be completely useless to you if all the grocery stores listed here were from Houston, Texas. If your business is based out of Melbourne, what you want to find out would be about Local SEO Melbourne. Local SEO is what yields results to the users- which is why it will continue to dominate the scene. The question you need to ask yourself is- as a grocery store owner in Tampa, does your store turn up on this search list?

Geographical proximity to the searcher was the top factor in local search ranking factors.

 

local-search-ranking-factors

(source)

 

If you’re a business and you’re looking to increase your local traffic, it is imperative for you to develop, implement and evolve your local SEO optimization strategy constantly- because this is what will translate into organic business for your organization as well!

What will this help you achieve? A much-coveted spot in the Google ‘3 pack’: the top three results that Google turns up when you do a local search.

 

Google-local-search

 

This is a competitive task now- especially since Google reduced the old 7 pack to a compact 3-pack in order to make searches more mobile responsive. Does this mean more work for you? Sadly, yes. If you’re a Local SEO Melbourne company, and you’re looking to expand your local organic reach, you’d want to boost your business by getting clients from Melbourne, a localized area. This means you’ll have to invest in local SEO services along with organic SEO. However, the benefits you reap will be significantly high. 50% of consumers who search for a local business on their smartphone visit the store within a day, the number for users using tablets/computers is lower, but still at a significant 34%. That’s quite a lot of turnover, and we’re sure you cannot turn a blind eye to that!

What you need to strategize

 

So now you know what local search engine optimization is, and why you need some local SEO optimization in order to achieve the business goals you have planned for your organization. Now that you have found your vision for the future, it’s time to get to the nitty gritties. How do you create your local SEO strategy? What are the steps you should take? Are there any tools you should be using for the same?

 

Optimizing your website for local SEO

 

The first step, definitely, is to have your website optimized for local SEO- after all, it will be difficult to increase your SERPs without the same! Here are some specific additions that have proven to have an effect on Google local SEO page rankings.


1. Have a dedicated page for practical information

According to this report, over 50% users search for information like business hours, directions to the local store, addresses, etc. Clearly, having this information directly listed on your website will not only benefit the user, it will lend some legitimacy to the information you’re sharing.

We highly recommend having a dedicated page for information like:

  • Name: It makes a lot of different whether your establishment is called Starbucks, or Star Bucks. Clearly stating the name of the establishment will definitely help prevent a lot of confusion (and prevent mistaken tours to a money exchange company, when all they’re looking for is coffee).
  • Address: If you have more than one physical location, mention all the addresses. It will also be useful for you to tag it as ‘mailing address’, ‘corporate office’, etc. so that the user knows which is the right place for them to be visiting.
  • Contact Details: There are pros and cons to including your phone number on your site, but it is generally advisable to include it on your website, as a local business, as it increases the trustworthiness, and if people have a channel to reach you and clear their doubts, they are more likely to be customers in the future.
    Include your phone number, text number, email, and social media handles as well.
  • Business hours: 54% of smartphone users look for business hours when searching for local businesses, so you can definitely see the value in adding that information here as well.

A well done contact page would look something like this:

 

website-contact-pagesource

 

Expert tip: 50.8% of all web activity happens on phones, so you have to make sure your contact page is mobile responsive as well. This would include designing the page in a mobile user friendly way, and also adding small features like making the phone number clickable.

 

2. Create localized content

Gone are the days where you had to just stuff your website with keywords to get higher SERPs. Google’s algorithm is getting smarter, and now, there’s a lot more benefit to adding user-friendly content to the site, instead of writing for the search engines themselves.

What does this mean for you? It means that there is a lot of benefit in creating localized content.

The first step is for you to determine who it is that you’re targeting is. Create your user personas, and the areas that you’re targeting (figuring out the exact demographics of the area you’re targeting, including age, consumer activity styles, etc. can go a long way).

Sure, you can add some generic articles to your site, but you can carve your niche by speaking about localized content- this includes information about your specific industry, the city/town you’re located in, etc. Having a blog can have a great impact on your local SEO company strategy.

  • It’s a good way to establish your legitimacy in the industry, but also in the area that you’re operating out of.
  • It’s a great way to place relevant keywords on your site. You can include your local city/town, and also some neighbourhood names to expand your reach, as not all people might include the city’s name while searching for local businesses. You can do this by engaging with other local business blogs, as it will create valuable local backlinks to your site.
  • It’s a great way to build links to your site (you should note that in the pie chart above, link building is the second most significant factor when it comes to local rankings, at 17%).
  • You can also build local relationships by writing about events, community activities, etc.

Expert Tip: Don’t talk about your company in the blog. You can add an ‘About Us’ section, and include facts about your organization, your values, etc. but the blog is a platform for the user. As David Meerman Scott quotes ‘Stop talking about our products and services. People don’t care about product and services; they care about themselves’

Expert Tip #2: Try to keep your website unique, when compared to other local businesses, as there is direct competition, and you don’t want to inspire any comparisons. This means, especially don’t take an content from other websites- unless you’re using it as a quote or a case study.

 

3. Using the right keywords on your site

An extremely relevant part of website optimization would be conducting and implementing keyword research. User-driven content has taken the stage- so this means that it is more necessary now, than ever, for you to understand your user, and understand the kind of keywords they might use.

Let’s go back to the grocery store example. What are the possible combinations they might use? Grocery store near me, grocery store organic, order grocery now, etc. all seem like plausible options. Your intent should be to rank in Google’s 3 pack for any of these keywords.

How do you do this?

  • Set a keyword plan in place: what do you want the keywords to achieve on your website?
  • Use a tool, like Google Keyword Planner to understand the best keywords for you and to identify potential keywords that would work well for your business. You can also analyze your competitors’ keywords to know why they rank better, as well! We also recommend using Google Trends to see what keywords are gaining and losing popularity.
  • Focus on developing some local keywords as well. You just have to add the name of the local area to the existing keyword (For example ‘grocery store Tampa’, or ‘Grocery Shop Walter’s Avenue’, Tampa grocery store, etc.) These keywords will have limited volume of search results, but since the intent of those using these keywords would be higher, there will be a greater chance that this turns into a sale for you.
  • Develop some long-tail keywords for your business (for example: grocery store avocados near Walters Avenue would be a long tail keyword). These express a lot more intent to engage: so not only could it drive more traffic, it would offer higher conversion as well.


4. Get the right inbound links

As we’ve already mentioned, link building plays a significant role in determining your local SEO rankings. How do you build these links to your site? You can do it through partnerships or sponsorships, or through guest post blogging. Start with local businesses you already have dealings with, and build up from there. See if there’s a possibility of you being featured in their partner’s directory, etc.

Being a guest blogger for other people and companies in the local area and your industry will help in creating some buzz about our business, and also help you build great backlinks to your site.

 

5. Adding testimonials

According to the Local SEO Guide, testimonials give out a ‘trust signal’ to Google and other search engines. Collecting and adding some user testimonials will really set your website apart, and give you an added SEO boost! You don’t have to make it very fancy either. Something basic and simple will deliver the message just fine.

adding-testimonials-to-website(source)

6. Adding Schema to your site

Schema markup is an underappreciated, overperforming tool. It gives you an edge over your competition by searching for and displaying vital information about your site, including online reviews, testimonials, prices, etc. This can really make your listing stand-out, and attract a lot more clicks. Moreover, using the Schema Markup for local business is a way of telling Google that you’re a local business and not a big brand or a chain.

Here’s a guide on how you can use Schema to boost your local SEO marketing.


Run a local SEO audit of your site


Already have a website?

An audit of how locally optimized your website already is will give you the opportunity to find out what are the gaps in your strategy, and determine what you have to add to the existing site. When you run a local SEO audit of our website, you’ll be analyzing:

  • The keywords and their efficacy
  • Your organic search results and current ranking
  • Your social signals and more.

We recommend using local SEO services like Ahrefs, or SEMRush to understand your current keywords and how they rank. The Google Search Console Audit can also give you plenty of information about your website, search results, content, critical errors and more.

Optimizing your online presence


If you want to improve your local SEO ranking, it is going to be necessary for you to optimize your online presence as well. This includes:

1. Claim your online profiles

Your business is probably active in a lot of other places besides your website. This includesGoogle My Business, Facebook, Tripadvisor, Yelp, and more. If there are any review sites specific to your geographical location, you will have to consider those as well.

Why? That’s the first thing your users will see. After the Google 3 pack search results, there is usually a string of review websites that will be the first search results about your business.search-result-for-businessSource

 

Claiming these profiles will help you track what is being said about your business, and also ensure that there is nobody else misrepresenting you out there. Our recommendation? Claim your profile in any review aggregator sites, and local listings. Fill out our profile on Google Business, and set up the relevant social media channels for your geographical location and demographics. That’s definitely a good place to start.


2. Get reviews

Reviews always help drive more traffic to a website-72% consumers trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations! Reviews also contribute towards inclusion in the 3 pack, so it is imperative for you to engage with customers in order to get these reviews. Follow- up with customers on email, encourage people to leave feedback on any review site. This is a good way of ensuring long term local SEO company success.


3. Build Citations

Before you build citations, you’ll need to know what citations are. Citations are mentions of your business, especially the NAP (name, address, phone number) and website details on the web. Even if it is not directly linked to our site, it is considered a citation- and it makes up for 13% of the local ranking factors.

The first step towards building citations is to ensure consistency of the NAP- so that it is identical in every citation you produce. If there are frequent discrepancies (like misspelling your company’s full name, using wrong abbreviations), Google might not even list your business’ information. It’s recommended that you make separate citations for each location you have, so you can track the popularity and performance of each location separately.

How can you build these citations?

  • Through local search engines. Google, Bing, etc. regularly crawl the web for citations. You can add to this process by listing your business on Google Business, Yelp, Tripadvisor, Foursquare, Facebook, and any other relevant local directory.
  • You can also build citations by listing your business in geographically specific directories, or industry-focused directories, partner and industry blogs, etc.


Using search engine tools for optimization

 

There are several local SEO services that you can use. The first you need to optimize for is Google My Business. It has become so important, it is the first step towards a successful local SEO campaign. Formerly known as Google Places, this tool is pretty easy to set up, and can have a huge impact on your SERPs and your sales.

Creating a My Business account is a simple way of claiming the listing as your own, and tracking the conversation that surrounds it. Creating this account will ensure that when somebody searches for your business on Google Maps, they will get a detailed profile.

google-detailed-search
(source)

Why does this matter? 86% users look up locations of businesses using Google Maps. Having a listing that is claimed and detailed would definitely have an impact on potential customers.

  • You can set up your Google My Business account by identifying the location of your business, the details (including the business name, address, phone number: but remember, this has to be the official business information that gets replicated everywhere, after all, consistency is key).
  • Once you’ve set up your basic page, you can add some more information, in order to stand out. This includes pictures, business hours, and more (adding images will definitely have an impact).
  • Make sure that you categorize and tag your business properly, for it is critical to SEO success. But make sure that you only choose the most relevant categories, and keep it to a minimal number.

Another search engine tool you can optimize for is Bing Places. Bing holds about 7.72% of the search engine market– while it is not a lot compared to Google, it could still be a significant number. You can list your business on Bing Places, similar to the process followed for My Business. These two together will cover a significant chunk of your online presence.


Tracking the progress of your local SEO campaign


An SEO campaign is not a one-time activity, it is a strategy that you’ll have to implement over a long period of time. You’re putting all this effort into it- how do you know for sure that it is working? The only way to know for sure is by tracking the progress at regular intervals.

You can track this information by considering a few important metrics that signal the success of a local SEO company campaign.

  • Organic website traffic should be consistent or increasing
  • Conversion rates should be consistently growing
  • Mobile traffic should be increasing
  • Backlinks profile should be increasing periodically
  • Search engine page rankings should be increasing, or consistently on the top

Have you done something unique and different with your local SEO strategy? Share it with us at contact@contentninja.in – we’d love to hear your story!

Mayank Gulati

Unhappy with the concept of 5 working days a week, Mayank Gulati started his own Marketing Communications firm. He now works 7 days a week, where he wears many, many hats (and a neck brace). An unfortunate engineer, he founded a med-tech startup that was inducted into Nasscom 10k. He’s now decided to stop asking people to invest in his company, and get them to invest in their own.

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