In the past, before the internet, we literally had the Yellow Pages directories to help us find anything from hairdressers to plumbers, doctors or restaurants. With Google stepping up to the plate and dominating most of the world’s internet searches, these “Yellow Pages” have become somewhat obsolete. Only to be replaced by “local packs” on Google. So, what are local packs? These are the three top local results for searches conducted on Google regarding an actual brick-and-mortar business, its name, location, address, telephone numbers and so much more. All this ties in with local search engine optimisation (SEO). But what exactly does it mean and how can you utilise it for your business? We take a closer look below.
What is local SEO?
Local SEO can be explained as a marketing approach or strategy to get businesses visible and ranked on Google’s search engine results page. However, this visibility appears above adverts and the so-called “blue links” results. They are listings of businesses in a local area that contain pretty much all the information a customer or visitor is looking for in order to make an informed decision about a business and whether they should frequent it or not. Local SEO is the back-end of getting this visibility. It involves several processes that work in tandem with each other to get ranked in the local or map pack of Google searches.
When a user enters, for example, “hairdresser near me” or “hairdresser in Manchester”, they’re likely to get the top three results with an associated map to help them find exactly what they’re looking for in a location near them. To help users optimise their searches and get the best results, Google utilises its algorithm and crawls spiders using a three-pillar approach. The main factors for these pillars are relevance, distance and prominence. Here’s a brief breakdown of how they work in conjunction with each other.
- Relevance: relevance is the connection, bearing and usefulness of a search that’s entered on Google to a local business. There essentially needs to be a solid “match” between what the user is searching for and what results Google shows them. This match is achieved when a business targets keywords that are relevant or which align with a user’s search query.
- Distance: distance refers to the physical distance between a business and a user’s location. If a user does not specify a location in their search, such as mentioning “Notting Hill” or “Sussex”, Google will calculate the distance “based on what is known about their location.”
- Prominence: finally, there’s prominence, which refers to the recognisability of the business in the real and not digital world. Prominence is calculated based on several criteria. This includes a collection of information that Google has about a business from the entire internet. This information includes links, articles and directories. Others include online customer reviews, questions answered and more. Examples of businesses or attractions that may receive higher prominence and, therefore, more visibility in a user’s search include well-known museums, landmarks, hotels or even shop brands.
Benefits and importance of local SEO
Local SEO is critical for SMEs which have a physical location or service-based businesses and also for franchises and franchisees. By having that visibility on the local pack, you can immediately reach more people, drive more conversions, drive more foot traffic to your store, boost traffic to your website, increase calls, bookings and leads, as well as build trust, loyalty and engagement with searches, all this in addition to enhancing your business reputation.
Why is this important? In essence, it all boils down to what businesses are after: more leads, customers, conversions and sales. In our digital world, the higher your web traffic, the higher the chances of online visibility and then conversions and product or service sales. Also, depending on the nature of your business, local SEO becomes important because you can further boost signups for accounts and newsletters, get more phone calls, offer free trials to more people and get more form submissions.
Some data to back this up includes that:
- 78% of users who search for a product or service in their locale on their phone visit that business within a day;
- 70% of customers are more likely to visit businesses with a complete business profile;
- Around 50% of the latter are more likely to purchase from them;
- 28% of local searches actually result in a purchase;
- 30% of searches conducted on mobile phones are linked to locations;
- 61% of consumers conduct local searches on a daily basis;
- 82% of consumers check out online business reviews prior to making a decision; and
- 86% of consumers depend on Google Maps to find the location of a business.
Top tips to excel with local SEO
Now that you understand why local SEO is so important, you might feel out of your depth in terms of approaching this broad subject. But there are some tips we’d like to offer you to ensure you make the most out of your business profile on Google. Here’s what you should consider:
- Choose accurate categories for your business on directories and on Google Business Profile
- Use keywords in the description and content
- Create content that’s relevant to the expertise of your business
- Add keywords in your title tags and meta descriptions
- Acquire links from local and industry websites
- Be sure the proximity of the business is relevant to the user’s location
- Add your business’ name, physical address and telephone number to your listing and be consistent with this information across your entire online presence
- Make the phone numbers clickable on mobile
- Ask your users for reviews – the higher the reviews and your response rate to them, the higher the chances of ranking and converting leads
- Be sure to have a contact page and map on your website, including testimonials
- Claim your business’ social profiles
- Create content that’s locally targeted (e.g. a list of local events)
- Be sure to build citations on local search engines, blogs and local directories
- Develop your business’ reputation through digital PR
- Monitor your competitors and changes in Google
- Engage in local SEO reporting (where necessary)
- Ensure your website is mobile-friendly.
Local SEO is a must for any business these days – whether you offer products at a physical store or services at people’s homes. It’s an often overlooked marketing strategy but if used in a holistic way and optimised as well as your organic SEO efforts, it can yield significant results for your business’ success. These days, everyone’s online – both businesses and customers. Catering to their search needs means more visibility for your business and therefore more leads, bookings and sales.
If you need some assistance with your overall social media and digital presence, let us know and get in touch with us. We’d be happy to help.