Local search queries make up a massive part of total searches done online. On average, 6.2 billion search queries per month have had local intent, with 18% of local searches generating a sale within a day.
Google’s local 3-packs have high visibility on the search engine results page (SERP), coming in at the top spot for 93% of local searches. These local SERPs have a major influence on consumer decisions, with 88% of users relying reviews as major factor in their consumer decision journey.
Now more than ever is it important to start paying attention to your online local visibility; because if you’re not, your competitors most likely are. Let’s take a look at specific local ranking factors, as well as some of the traditional methods of local SEO optimization as well as a few you may be overlooking.
Local Ranking Factors
While local ranking factors include all of the traditional SEO factors, there are a few that are especially unique to local which we will explore in a little more depth. The three listed below include a measure of importance expressed as a percentage.
External Location Signals (15.5%)
- Citation volume
- NAP consistency
Having correct citations across the web is still important when optimizing your business for local online visibility. This includes checking various online directories to insure that your name, address, phone number (NAP) are correct and consistent. When they are not, mixed signals are sent to search engines which can therefore harm your ability to rank.
Google My Business (14.7%)
- Put the right information about your business on Search, Maps, and Google+ so customers can get in touch.
- Makes it easier for consumers to find information about your business.
If you have not done so already, you need to claim your Google My Business (GMB) page. GMB is a master dashboard that connects your business with customers whether they’re looking for you or your product on Search or Maps. Upon creating or verifying your account, you will need to update your NAP here as this will potentially appear in search and map results. Be sure to include the following:
- A unique description of your business.
- Categories that describe your business exactly.
- Name, Address and Phone number.
- High resolution photos.
- Any other important business information such as hours of operation etc.
Review Signals (9.8%)
- Review quantity, velocity, diversity, etc.
If you’re struggling to get reviews, reach out to loyal customers and ask them to leave a review. If you are getting a large amount of negative reviews, it is important to get to the bottom of what is happening and make the appropriate changes to better your business.
Exploring Local Optimization
Three main areas that can potentially boost local SEO or increase local visibility include: onsite content, offsite efforts, and site structure. The breakdown is below:
Content is highly important to your local SEO efforts, as is categorizing your content on your website. A few of the traditional ways of assuring your website is optimized for local include:
- Have a single website that promotes your brand and all of its locations
- Create pages for each city, county, state, or region served. Ensure city, state, or regional name is in the title, headings, and body content.
- Avoid creating thin local pages – add flavor with local testimonials, unique services, or bios of staff for each location.
- Build local landing pages
With regards to content; one way to attract local traffic to your website is by creating content related to your industry that takes advantage of local or regional attractions or cultures. For example, if you own a store selling outdoor equipment, creating content that focuses on local or regional outdoor attractions can be an excellent way of enticing new people looking for outdoor thrills in the area. This may not apply to every business type, but it is important to get creative and learn where the opportunities for local content may be.
Google My Business (GMB)
- Acts as a master dashboard for Maps and Search
- Allows business owners to manage all aspects of their Google Profile in one place
- Businesses can freely edit important information and respond to reviews
If you have not done so already, you need to claim your GMB page. GMB is a master dashboard that connects your business with customers whether they’re looking for you or your product on Search or Maps. Upon creating or verifying your account, you will need to update your NAP here as this will potentially appear in search and map results. Be sure to include the following:
- Build Citations across the most important directories (Yelp, Yellow Pages, Yahoo Local).
- Make sure you have correct and consistent citations!
- Otherwise, it will confuse Google and result in decreased ranking.
Having correct citations across the web is still important when optimizing your business for local online visibility. This includes checking various online directories that your NAP is correct and consistent. When it is not, mixed signals are being sent to search engines which can harm your ability to rank.
Architecture (Markup and Local Page Structure)
- Use Schema markup on your site to markup important information such as your business’s address, phone number, and opening hours.
- Make sure there is a crawl path to all individual location pages- A structured crawl path means having a main page for each location page, with a link to each different one. By organizing and categorizing your location pages, you make pages more easily “crawlable” and “indexable” by search engines. Structured crawl paths can even enhance SERP appearance by including location page site-links for branded search.
Local SEO Checklist
Regardless of the type of business, every local business website needs to be indexable, error free, formatted for multi-devices, well-structured, and properly optimized. Everything that applies to traditional SEO applies to local, but in following criteria unique to local, be sure you’re covered in these areas:
- Local Content
- Citations – duplicate/incorrect listing cleanup
- Schema markup
- Structured crawl path
By following the above checklist, you can feel comfortable knowing you are doing your part to win local. As with traditional SEO, it’s not an overnight fix, but by staying diligent and up-to-date on new trends, you can stay ahead of the curve and ensure that when local prospects are searching for your products, your business name will be there.