Local SEO Tips - 2019
A helpful step by step guide to rank higher in online search results and get more customer traffic to grow your business
By Clay Dellos - Owner of Dellos Marketing
The first part of this article covers the background and “what” behind Local SEO. The second part of the article covers the tips and “how”.
What is Local SEO?
Local Search Engine Optimization (SEO) refers to the process of optimizing your online presence for customers searching for products or services in your area.
Example: Let’s just say that you own a plumbing business in McKinney, TX. When potential customers search online for “plumber in McKinney”, you want your business to appear at the top of the local search results. Local SEO is what can get you there.
The vast majority of customers will select a business near the top of the first page of search results. This means the business that appears in position #1 of the search results will likely receive 90% more customer interactions from an online search than the business in position #11.
Let’s take a closer look at what local SEO is to have a better understanding of what your potential customers are seeing and how you can make that better.
SERPs - Ads, the Three Pack, and Organic Results on a PC
“According to Google, 46% of online searches have a local intent”
There are some components of search results that are helpful to know and understand. Search engine results pages (SERPs), are broken into three main categories:
- Local Results – also referred to as the:
- Three Pack
- Local Pack
- Maps Pack
- Snack Pack
- Organic Results
The example image shows what a potential customer will see when searching for “plumber in Mckinney, TX”.
The Local Results section is an important boxed in section at the very top of the search results (or directly below the advertisements when present).
Reasons why this section is critical for your business:
- Many customers won’t click on ads so they actually will scan quickly over the ads to get to the local three pack.
- There are typically only three businesses displayed without the potential customer manually selecting the ‘More Places’ button.
- This makes it critical to use Local SEO to work your way up to one of the highly coveted top three spots.
- It shows critical business information not typically shown in the organic search results including the review count and rating, address, phone number along with one click buttons for the website and directions.
- This section is located above the organic search results in a prime spot on the SERPs.
Local Search on Google Maps and Apple Map for Mobile
Local searches are also conducted within various map applications (Apple maps, Google Maps, etc.). The goal of Local SEO is to put your business front and center at the top of the search results regardless of the device and search platform your potential customers are using.
Bing, Yahoo and Other Search Platforms
It’s important to note that local intent searches take place on other search platforms as well. People conduct searches on sites like Bing, Yahoo, Yelp, Home Advisor, and many other sites. Local SEO isn’t just about optimizing for Google, rather it is about optimizing your total online presence to attract more business from all local searches.
With that being said Google has an estimated 87% market share. Which means that most people are using Google to search for local businesses. That’s why is is so important to make sure you claim and optimize your Google My Business page.
If you want to improve your local SEO, start by optimizing your Google My Business Page
Google My Business (GMB)
Google describes GMB as “a free and easy-to-use tool for businesses and organizations to manage their online presence across Google, including Search and Maps. By verifying and editing your business information, you can both help customers find you and tell them the story of your business.
Manage how your business information appears across Google, including Search and Maps, using Google My Business—for free.
Interact with customers new and old and tell them the story of your business.” You can find out how to add or claim your Google My Business listing here. It is an easy and effective step to improve your Local SEO, but only 56% of local retailers haven’t claimed their GMB Listing.
Google My Business feeds information to a variety of places, like the local pack and Google Maps search results like we discussed up above.
Why is Local SEO Important?
It’s highly targeted and timely for customers with a strong “buying intent”. For example, a customer searching for A/C repair near me or plumbing repair near me is very likely to contact a business within 24 hours of their search. Having your business appear at the top of the search results when these potential customers are searching for the services you offer
“ According to the US Census, 87.2% of Americans own a PC and a whopping 96% of those PC owners conduct local searches.”
When people search locally the top reason is to find a business. The second reason is to find a product or a service. Some searchers are looking for a specific name, but many don’t have a name in mind when they start searching.
High Conversion Rate
“An impressive 78% of local mobile searches result in an offline purchase for the businesses the customer finds in their search results.”
Local online business directories and listings like (Yelp, Foursquare, Yellow Pages, etc.) display a businesses information including the name, address, phone number and website (referred to as NAPW) along with other helpful information like the hours of operation.
Adding your business to these directories and optimizing your business profile has a number of benefits including:
Increased traffic and conversions directly from the directories
Example: A customer searches for a service you offer on Yelp, sees your business profile and calls you to schedule an appointment.
When you accurately add your business information to high quality directories, search engines like Google and Bing will begin to rank your business above your competitors who haven’t added their business information to the directories.
Note: There are many other local ranking factors but having accurate NAPW across high quality directories and listings is one of the most important.
Increased ranking in the organic search results
The majority of business directories allow you to enter your website as part of your business information. Adding your website creates a naturally occuring external backlink from the directories to your site. Building high quality backlinks is an important factor in the organic search results for your business.
You can also link out to important sites from your website (for example, a Yelp icon on your website that links to your Yelp profile).
How do I Improve Local SEO?
There are numerous steps you can take to improve your Local SEO. Like many things in life, there are a small number of these steps that provide the biggest results. We picked 6 key steps you can focus on to take your local SEO to the next level.
1. Website localization
One of the main processes of localizing your website is to include your city, county, or region name naturally throughout your website content, title tags and meta descriptions.
For example, if your main website service page, title tag and meta description all currently show “A/C Repair”, you should update them to “A/C Repair in Your City” (e.g. A/C Repair in McKinney, TX).
You can also improve localization by:
- Embedding the map from your Google My Business Page (example screenshot below)
- Using local geo-tagged photos instead of stock photos
- Including your city in the name of your images and alt text (when appropriate)
- Including outbound links to businesses and organizations in your city (e.g. your local Chamber of Commerce)
2. Schema Markup
Schema markup is code that you add to your website to give search engines additional details about who you are, what you do and what your website is about.
- One type of schema markup is specific to local businesses. Entering your address, phone number and business details in the schema markup helps search engines like Google understand important information about your business.
- Another great addition is the FAQ schema markup. Adding this markup along with FAQ information on your website pages allows you to receive “featured snippets” in the search results that will lead to more customers for your business (example FAQ featured snippet below).
3. Citation Building
A citation is any place your business’s name, address, phone number, and website url (referred to as NAPW) is included in an online directory, business listing or other websites.
Some common directories and websites to create citations on for your business include:
Getting Citations for your business isn’t just important, it’s a vital piece to improving your Local SEO. Citations are often considered “table stakes” in local SEO, as in ‘if you don’t have enough citations with accurate NAPW, you can’t play the game”.
If you have incorrect information on these citations, it can have a negative effect on the online presence of your business and customer experience (e.g. you don’t want customers calling the wrong phone number or driving to the wrong address when trying to do business with you).
“68% of consumers say they would stop using a local business if they found incorrect information in local directories.”
4. Claim and Optimize your Google My Business
Claiming your Google My Business Page is a key step towards helping broaden your online presence in areas like the local pack and Google Maps. While lower in search volume, your Bing Places for Business and Yahoo Local business pages are also important to claim and optimize. These three listings should be the first you acquire and maintain. As we discussed above, it’s fast and easy to claim but it is also important to take some time with optimizing by adding key services, photos, videos, posts, and other important elements of your business.
5. Manage Your Online Reviews
The statement that reviews are critical for your business is not an exaggeration. You only need to look at the hard data that’s floating out there to find out why that’s the case;
90% of people first check out a business online before visiting or contacting
The average human in the 21st century is firmly anchored in the virtual world that exists over the internet. It’s not surprising that 90% of people first check out what their peers are saying about a business online before making the decision to further the interaction.
88% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations
A Study that was carried out by BrightLocal found that 88% of the respondents trust online reviews as much as they do personal recommendations. This is a truly amazing piece of data and should be motivation enough for every business to make sure that they maximize their online reputation.
The best way to improve your reputation online is to put a system in place to do three things:
- Consistently ask for reviews from all of your customers. Utilizing email templates and text templates that you create once will save you time and energy when requesting reviews.
- Make it extremely easy for customers to leave you a review. Create customized links for your templates that take customers directly to the place to leave a review in one click.
- Respond to all your reviews within 24-48 hours. Customers look at owner responses as closely as they do the actual customer reviews.
Online Reviews lead to Increased Sales
Your online reviews are often the “X Factor” that separates you from your competition online. You’ll see your sales increase as the quantity and quality of your online reviews go up. Focus on improving your Google reviews first as that channel accounts for the majority of search volume.
6. Natural Backlinks
Search engines essentially view each link to your website as a vote of confidence in the quality of your content.
After all, if another site is willing to cite you as a source or direct their users away from their own site in favor of one of your pages, you must be offering something of value.
So the more links you have pointing to your site, the more trustworthy your site will appear and the higher it will rank in the search results.
The best way to build backlinks is to create extremely valuable content (like we are attempting to do with this blog article). You can also look for natural linking opportunities with partnering businesses in your local area.