Ronak Kothari is the founder of RONKOT, a full-service digital marketing agency.
Research shows that 97% of people go online to find a local business. But that’s not all. About three-quarters of them visit a physical store within five miles. With people increasingly searching for “near me” services, it is time for local businesses to develop a plan to rank on the SERPs.
However, it is only business websites on the first page of the search engine rankings that benefit the most from local SEO. A study by Backlinko reveals that a meager 0.78% of people care to visit Google’s second result page.
In other words, the CTR drastically drops on the second page of the SERPs.
Image Source: Backlinko
Hence, you need to create a solid local SEO strategy to compete in the online market. Since this task can prove to be a challenge, we have compiled a list of five tips that can help you to rank and drive business growth.
1. Optimize Your GMB Profile
Image Source: Google
Setting up a GMB profile is the first step towards taking your business online. But the real power lies in optimizing it. An optimized GMB profile puts you right in front of the customers and increases your reach.
Pay attention to the following aspects:
- Images: Multimedia content like images helps people to determine whether they would like to give your services a try. In fact, research proves that GMB profiles with photos receive more clicks, calls, and direction requests. Thus, upload high-quality images that accurately represent your business, product, or service.
However, remember to compress them for faster loading and describe them using alt-text. The same goes for visual content such as videos.
Alt-text is an attribute added to the image tag in HTML code. This will ensure that Google bots can understand your graphics, in case they fail to load.
- Location: A GMB comes equipped with features needed to “be found” on the internet. In addition to the regular NAPW info (more on this later), it permits you to add geolocation. Mark yourself on the Google Map and use the ‘Directions’ feature on your business profile.
- Reviews: A study by BrightLocal reveals that 87% of people check out online reviews for local businesses. Reviews add credibility to your business listing and are a must in the local SEO arsenal. Reach out to your customers and ask them to rate your services based on their experience.
If a user gives negative feedback, that’s okay. Be receptive and maintain a professional tone at all times. Learn what went wrong and make changes to improve customer experience.
- GMB Message: To state the obvious, no two customers are the same. While some may prefer to call or directly visit you on-site, others may prefer something more private like texting. Be inclusive and enable the ‘Message’ feature to engage with them.
Image Source: HootSuite
- GMB Insights: Your work doesn’t stop with creating a GMB profile. To continue to rank in the SERPs, you need to monitor the changes in customer behavior and tailor your marketing campaigns accordingly.
With GMB Insights, you can discover how people are engaging with your business profile. Leverage it to get a bird’s eye view of the sections (images, FAQs, reviews) users visited and their actions (making a call, requesting directions, etc.).
Use the insights derived to optimize your GMB page and attract more leads.
2. Optimize Your Local 3-Pack
Google cut down the Local 7-pack to feature only three business listings in 2015. As a result, establishing an online presence for local businesses is harder than ever. But, optimizing both your GMB and the local pack is the key to ace SERP rankings. Focus on these three aspects:
- NAPW: NAPW or name, address, phone number, and website are the basic (yet critical!) details to help people find you on the web. In fact, a Moz study reveals that it is a top local SERP ranking signal.
Ensure your NAPW is updated and consistent with what is available on your business site. However, updating your details on the GMB can create a duplicate listing. In such a case, it may be confusing for both search engine bots and users to figure out which one is accurate.
Thus, take care that your business shows up for one correct result on the local pack.
- Category: It serves the same function as a business description. But, a category makes it ultra-specific for local customers. This is the section where you tell them and search bots about the exact services you deal in. Instead of stuffing it with keywords, assist Google in matching your business to local queries.
For example, if you run a Sushi place in Texas, use “Sushi Restaurant in Texas” and “Texas Sushi Delivery,” instead of “Food Restaurant” and “Food Delivery.”
- Attribute: In 2016, Google added this feature to enable businesses to post about a specific facility they do or don’t offer on-site. Like all Google updates, it meant to improve user experience by allowing people to pick a service that met their needs.
In the below image, notice how these bakeries in Texas leverage the ‘Attribute’ feature to stand out amongst their competitors. Their attributes like “In-store shopping” and “In-store pick-up” help people to make an informed choice.
Depending on the industry you are in, pick attributes to make your listing relevant to local users’ queries.
Image Source: Google
3. Establish Online Presence
While directory profiles like Google are one way to create brand awareness, there are others. Gone are the days when marketing was limited to on-page SEO. With the rise of social media and guest blogging platforms, local businesses can leverage new mediums to win leads. Here’s how:
- Social Media: There is no definite study on how social media metrics (likes, shares, and followers, etc.) impact SERP rankings. Yet, 58% of marketers considered social media to be “very important” for their SEO efforts.
By allowing businesses to interact with their audience directly, platforms like Facebook and Instagram make marketing targeted. Especially for businesses that are starting out and strapped for resources, social media is the best promotional avenue.
Find out about the social media platforms your audience prefers and create content best suited to these. Tools like Google Analytics can offer intel on social networks of your traffic. Let this data guide your social media marketing strategy.
As you scale over time, you can also explore tactics like influencer marketing. By giving your brand a shout-out, influencers can help you to win social media users with ease.
Though it might be tempting to partner with big names, nano influencers and micro influencers are better suited for businesses that are only getting started.
However, make sure to collaborate with influencers who share your brand values. It is a must to maintain consistency in brand image across all your digital channels.
Building a name for your brand on social media can be a challenging process. Given the lax rules around copyright, anybody can imitate or post duplicate content.
Thus, get your social channels verified. This will not only set you apart from others but also allow people to recognize your brand easily.
Lastly, don’t forget to add NAPW info to your social profiles. People may first hear about your business on social media. When they do land on your account, it is your task to guide them to your website.
Otherwise, they will miss out on the complete range of services you offer. As you show them the digital path to track you, include all the relevant details to make this journey effortless.
Take a cue from Houndstooth Coffee’s Instagram page below. Notice how they have integrated their website within the bio section.
Image Source: Instagram
- Backlinks: Guest blogging remains a highly effective off-page SEO technique to build quality inbound links. Publishing guest posts on reputed publications wins qualified leads and establish the credibility of your site. Hence, find opportunities for guest blogging in your niche and regularly contribute to these platforms.
Getting citations from authoritative sources will signal to search engines that your site is trustworthy and deserving of a higher rank in the SERPs!
Getting backlinks becomes easy when you connect with the right people. Leverage the power of social media to build relationships. Use it to interact with industry experts and see what they are posting about.
Follow their ideas to check if they can be given a spin to create a new blog piece! If yes, pitch your article and see if they would be interested in publishing it.
4. Invest in Content Marketing
The key difference between a ‘regular SEO’ strategy and local SEO strategy is geo-specific content. To be able to optimize your web pages for local queries, knowing your audience and competition is extremely important.
Use keyword research tools like SEMrush and Ahrefs for this. They let you find popular search phrases for your business and also offer intel on how difficult it is to rank for them locally. Deploy these insights to include your business’s location in relevant copies.
Another area to maximize your local SEO efforts is the blog. Publishing stellar content on your blog won’t help if your blog is not optimized for local queries. Research for long-tail keywords and embed them as anchor texts in your blogs.
Contrary to the regular ones, long-tail keywords are specific to one’s geo-location and less competitive. To ensure that these flow in your articles naturally, use topic clusters in your pillar pages.
Topic clusters are sub-topics that can be developed to create a new post. For instance, if you have a Sushi place, styles of Sushi around the globe can be great topic clusters for a post on the traditional Sushi recipe!
5. Optimize Your Site for Technical Aspects
You will not be able to capitalize on the success of off-page SEO if your site does not prioritize technical elements. Studies show that factors like loading time and site design have a direct impact on a site’s user experience.
Another aspect that we need to consider here is, mobile-friendliness. HubSpot marketing statistics reveal that mobiles generate close to half of all website traffic. This number is only expected to grow exponentially in the future. Hence, it is time that local businesses start optimizing their sites for mobile browsers.
In fact, the same statistics shared above mentions that nearly 61% of people contact a local business if it has a mobile-friendly website. As you prepare to optimize your site for loading speed and mobiles, do not overlook these technical pointers.:
- Metadata: It gives an overview of your webpage content in the SERPs. It includes a title tag and a short meta description to persuade readers to click through a link.
The image below shows Taco Bell’s title tag and meta description.
Image Source: Themeisle
Since metadata is the first thing that appears for a user query, it is crucial that you follow best practices to increase its impact. While optimized tags can be anywhere between 50-60 characters, a well-crafted meta description should not exceed 160 words.
- Schema: A schema markup enables search engines to index your pages and reflect them in a way that you want. It guides them to find the connection between your keywords and show your site for relevant user queries. Take the image below as an example.
Image Source: Moz
The first entry carries both a rating and publication date. On the other hand, the second result only displays a meta description picked by Google. This difference stems from the use of schema markup.
Details like ratings and publication date improve your page’s appearance in the SERPs and its click-through rate (CTR). To implement a schema markup, go to Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper and follow the process.
- Internal Linking: Be wary of broken internal links. They hamper site navigation and reduce its accessibility, thus causing it to slip down in the search engine rankings.
Often, developers use a 404 HTTP code or a 302 to fix this. But they don’t help much. While a 404 is bad for user experience, the latter is for search engine bots.
When changing the URL of an old page, use a 301 redirect to pass on its link authority. A 301 will automatically take people to the new URL and keep them on your site.
At its core, local SEO is about making your site relevant to local users’ queries. It involves strategic tactics that help businesses to build brand reputation and acquire new customers. Out of these, optimizing a website for GMB, the Local 3-pack, and technical aspects are arguably the most important.
Use the tips shared above to design a solid local SEO strategy and generate handsome revenue!