You’ve worked hard growing your business. You’ve taken extra care to pay attention to every detail of the quality of your product/service, the experience your customers have when interacting with you and the results/benefits they are getting. You’ve spent countless dollars on marketing, building your brand awareness and trying to ensure you are the first person consumers think of when they are looking for a business that does what you do. So how are your competitors generating more customer traffic and reviews than you are able to generate for your business?
The answer, as with everything in life is a bit more simple than it seems. The reality of the situation is they just rank better when it comes to local SEO.
There is a shift going on in online search and consumer behavior. According to an article in Forbes magazine, consumers are shifting their shopping preferences with a focus on engaging experiences in local brick and mortar businesses and as a result, their online search strategies have changed.
Today we’ll take a look at local SEO, what it is, and how to optimize your local SEO strategy.
What is Local SEO?
Local SEO (Local Search Engine Optimization), also known as local search engine marketing, is an incredibly effective way to market your business online. It is effective because it helps businesses promote their products and services to potential customers, near them at the exact time they’re looking for them online.
As you can see in the example above, when a user types ”Gyms” or “Gyms Near Me”, local search results are the first thing they are shown, so having your local SEO set up is very important to driving traffic to your business.
If you are thinking, “I have my SEO set up perfectly on my company’s website so this doesn’t apply to me”, you need to rethink that statement. Local SEO best practices and methods differ pretty greatly from standard SEO practices, so you need to make sure your business is set up and optimized for local SEO as well.
What is a “Local Search” And How Does That Apply To My Business?
The reality of the situation though is that according to Google, 46% of searches have a ‘local intent’ and they have optimized their algorithms for this. So if a potential customer lives in Palo Alto, CA for instance and they type in “running shoe store”, the first results they are going to receive are going to be results that are local to them. If you haven’t taken steps to set up your local SEO strategy, your competitors that have employed local SEO strategy will be on the top of the search list. Even if you are the #1 ranked standard result for that keyword, Google puts a heavier weight on local results, so their #1 local search result will be listed before your #1 standard ranking result.
So as you can see, based on local results being prioritized by Google, it is important that you employ both types of SEO strategy to ensure you are getting as much web traffic and new business as possible.
How Do I Know If My Local SEO Is Good?
The north star that every company should strive for when it comes to local search results is what is referred to as the “3 pack”, or “local pack”. This is a block of the first 3 businesses that appear when a user searches with local intent. To improve traffic to your business website, or to get more leads to actually come to your business itself, you need to be visible on the 3 pack. The rest of the results will only appear when a user clicks to view “More Places”.
To give you an idea of what the 3 pack looks like, below are the local pack search results for the search term “Seafood Restaurants In San Francisco”
How To Optimize Your Business In The Local SEO Framework
So, knowing that your potential customers want to work with someone local and are using local SERPS (search engine results pages) to find what they are looking for, most likely focusing their attention on the local 3 pack, how can you leverage your local SEO strategy with best practices to improve your placement?
For local SEO it really comes down to three main categories, online business listings, reviews, and social media.
1) Google My Business Profile
Whether you have a single brick and mortar location or multiple locations, your Google My Business (GMB) Profile is the most important part of your local SEO strategy. Google My Business is Google’s directory of local business listings and it’s where you submit your business to have it appear in local results.
Claiming and setting up your google my business page is a fairly straight forward process and it allows you to make sure all your information is 100% accurate. You cannot believe how many businesses have incorrect or missing local listing information. In fact, it’s estimated that nearly $10.3 billion worth of sales are lost every year because of incorrect online business listings.
Review your online profile regularly to make sure everything is accurate and up to date. Not only that, stay active with your listing. For instance, go into your GMB listing and upload new photos periodically. If you have special hours on the holidays, be sure to log into your listing and update the hours. When you get reviews from customers or get questions posted on your listing, log in and reply to those as well.
The more active you are with your business listing page and the more often you update it, the better rankings your business will have with local SEO.
Once you have your Google My Business profile setup, it’s important that you work on getting citations for your business that match the info you gave to Google in your business profile. Just because you say that’s your address, doesn’t mean Google is going to believe it. Citations are a way to help build confidence with Google that your business is located where you say it is. A citation is a listing on another website that lists your company name, your full street address, phone number, contact info, etc… It’s important that the info on these websites is identical to what you have listed on your Google My Business profile.
Another vital piece to your local SEO strategy for your business is effectively managing your customer reviews. Responding to reviews is one of the best things a business can do for their online presence. By responding to both negative and positive reviews, not only does it show customers you care, but it also has been proven that it will increase your search rankings.
Also of important note, it is okay to ask your customers for reviews. In fact, don’t beat around the bush when it comes to asking for reviews. Send an email directly to your customer specifically asking for a review. Not only that, do it right after you complete a transaction with them. At that point, you are fresh in their mind. Now is an opportune and perfectly acceptable time to ask for a review.
3) Social Media
Social media is a great way for your business to gain brand awareness online. Brands with great social media presence are likely to bring in more customers. Actively posting and engaging with customers on social media is one of the best ways to build up brand loyalty.
The more you interact with your followers and customers, the more likely you are to convert them into brand evangelists for your business, spurring them to recommend you online through a review or even sharing your social media posts with their family and friends. Both these activities relate to engagement, which is a part of what Google analyzes when they are ranking local businesses.
The obvious goal of your local SEO strategy is to improve your business local online business rankings. When it comes to local rankings, if your business is not in the top 3, you’re not relevant. Fighting for that top spot is not easy, which is why it’s so important to take these three factors into account when planning a best practice-driven local SEO strategy.
Get Started Today And Get Your Business In The 3 Pack
When it comes to Local SEO for your business, you need to remember that we are talking about a marathon and not a sprint. While results will not happen overnight, if you use the above tips and best practices to plan your strategy, regularly monitor your Google My Business listing, and engage with reviewers and track your growth, you will get there sooner than you think.
Helping businesses improve their local rankings is one of Amity Digital’s specialties. If you would like help getting your site ranked, check out our Local SEO service.