Local search is essential for small businesses. According to research, 4 out of 5 consumers use Google to search for local information.
So if your business is neglecting local consumers, you could be losing 80% of your ideal customers.
Today, Local SEO can be your advantage. It’s time to optimise for local search because these consumers are most willing, very targeted, and are ready to purchase products and services near them.
In this practical guide, you’ll discover how to properly optimise your business for local SEO, local SEO best practices, and some tricks you can implement right now to get results.
What is Local SEO Optimisation?
Local SEO optimisation enables businesses to optimise and promote their products and services to prospects and customers in their geographic location.
Search engines need to analyse, gauge and understand a local business enough using essential information such as location-based keywords, local content, links, citations, reviews, social profile pages, and so on.
With these nuggets of information, Google, in particular, can serve the most relevant and useful information to consumers when they’re looking for local businesses.
With that sorted, here are Local SEO tips and best practices to help you increase your search visibility: rankings, clicks, and traffic.
1. Create a Google My Business Account
Google wants you to create a business account so that local prospects and customers can easily find you. Hence, you need to optimise your Google listing or Business Profile.
In local SEO, this is arguably the most essential step you must take. It’s the foundation!
When you create a Business Profile, your chances of ranking higher on Google Maps are increased. This gives you ample opportunity to attract more location-based clicks and traffic from the search engines.
Simply head to the Google My Business platform and click on the “Manage now” button, then provide all of the requested information in your dashboard, and your Business Profile will be updated.
When optimising your Business Profile, keep these tips in mind:
- Claim your Business account and verify ownership of the business
- Provide accurate, well-formatted, and up-to-date information
- Encourage your customers to share testimonials and write reviews about your business
- Include the products or services you sell, add images, include your logo, payment methods, hours of operations, etc.
- Respond to customers’ reviews on time
- Keep your Business Profile updated by publishing posts about special offers, events, or when just announce new product(s).
This updated information about your business, should appear in Google Search local results, Google Maps, as well as the Google Search Knowledge Graph.
2. Use a consistent name, address, and phone number everywhere
One aspect of Local SEO that Google takes seriously is NAP.
This stands for Name, Address, and Phone number. Google assumes that a legit business usually has a consistent NAP. “This is arguably one of the most significant factors driving local SEO, according to Moz.”
Of course, you might move your office to another location or change your business name, but that doesn’t happen often. Or does it? And when your NAP changes, you need to fix it.
There are handy tools you can use, such as Moz Local, Whitespark, and BrightLocal. Either of these tools should work.
A UK flooring company that had 200 stores and 40 locations faced this NAP consistency issue.
Unfortunately, the web marketing team didn’t realise this early enough and their search visibility was nonexistent, to say the least.
So ensure that your business name, business address, and phone numbers are consistent — not only on your Google My Business profile but everywhere online.
On your website, local directories, social media pages, everywhere!
When you’re consistent, you’re making it a lot easier for local consumers to find and trust you.
They don’t want you to change your name and location all the time. Who does that?
In addition to your NAP, your area code is equally important. This should be appended to your phone number and should be consistent across the web — wherever you mention or list your business.
Make sure your NAP is included in a crawlable HTML text that search engines can crawl and indexed. Don’t include it within an image as this will not be crawled.
To make your NAP accessible on your website, place it within the header or footer. This way it’ll appear on every page.
You’ll make it easier for search engines to find, and, in turn, increase your chances of gaining more visibility in the local search results pages.
3. Get local citations and optimise online directories
Online directories aren’t dead. They’re significant for local businesses. Google is aware of that.
Consumers usually search local directories when they’re looking for products and services from brands near them.
If your business is located in the United States, four map data aggregators provide vital information for Google, Apple, Yelp, Bing, Trip Advisor, and more. They are:
Ensure that your citations are consistent, accurate, and complete on these four giant aggregators.
Remember that when there are discrepancies like abbreviations, wrong phone number, and misspellings can pose a problem and prevent your local website from showing up high in the search results.
If Google ever struggles to determine which information about your business is accurate, it may not trust your products, services, and content. Your business may not appear at all in search results.
Make sure you remove any duplicate listings you find.
As long as you’re careful about your Business listings across directories and data aggregator platforms, you’re good to go.
4. Encourage customers to write honest reviews
It’s important to ask for reviews. Although Yelp disapproves of it, Google says you should do this.
How do you inspire customers to write reviews? It can be challenging, but if they’re happy, it should be much of a hassle. Follow these simple tips:
- Kindly ask for a review after the customer buys a product.
- Send a post-purchase email to satisfied customers and ask for their feedback.
- Respond to existing reviews, appreciate reviewers, address complaints, and product feedback.
Online reviews drive local search performance. “82% of consumers read online reviews before choosing a local business.”
To a large extent, Google holds what customers say about your business higher than what you say about ‘you’.
This also explains why links from trusted and relevant websites are a major ranking factor.
Because a link is a vote from other websites. In other words, when another site links back to you, they’re approving you!
That said, you need to encourage customers to write honest reviews. Aside from optimising your Google My Business presence, it’ll cause local customers to trust in your brand and buy from you.
According to BrightLocal’s Local Business Consumer Review Survey, “85% of customers regard online reviews as being equivalent to personal recommendations from friends or family.”
5. Optimise for Voice Search
Voice search is set to grow rapidly in years. Here are some statistics for you:
- 55% of households in the US are projected to own a smarter speaker in 2022.
- 72% of online consumers who use voice search devices say it’s become part of their daily routines.
In Local SEO, you can no longer ignore the importance of local consumers who use voice searches daily.
You need to start optimising for how local buyers ask questions when they use voice-powered devices, as opposed to how they type keywords in the search box.
The truth is that online users prefer to ‘speak’ with long-tail keywords. It’s a lot easier than having to type out all of the words in a regular search.
More than ever before, you need to adjust your local SEO: start creating content that fits that answers more conversational questions.
“It’s about adding the personal touch to make your content impactful,” says Henneke Duistermaat, a Business Writing Coach.
Your content should fundamentally address the common question starters (which are who, what, when, why, where, and how).
What’s the user intent when they’re using voice searches? Well, it’s obvious they want a specific piece of information. So consider that when optimising for voice search.
For example, if they’re learning how to play the guitar and ask Alexa what’s the best guitar chord app, they’re expecting a specific and quick answer.
If a local consumer uses voice search to ask what’s your business’ address, Google should be able to find this information quickly.
6. Improve your internal linking structure
The concept of linking has impacted every aspect of SEO. Both inbound linking (getting links from other websites) and internal linking (links pointing to your pages from the same domain) are important.
A good internal linking pattern is essential today, as Google is becoming more mindful of EAT.
EAT stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. Ahrefs sheds more light on it.
When you interlink relevant posts and pages on your website, you’re proving your expertise on the subject matter.
Your target audience will also trust your content — because you’re referring and citing other related content that answers their questions.
Local businesses can increase online visibility by improving their internal linking structure.
It’ll boost your search rankings.
Here’s why internal linking matters:
- It enhances site navigation
- It simplifies site architecture and page hierarchy
- It helps to distribute link juice and other ranking power among pages
Before you spend time and money on link building, make sure that your internal linking structure is on point.
If you’re not doing this, you might end up wasting resources — since it’d be difficult to get the most traction from your inbound marketing endeavours.
7. Optimise your metadata, URL, and content
Typically, we know a site’s metadata to be the title tag, the headers, and the meta description.
Two of these important elements (title and description) are used in the search results.
To ensure you get more clicks from your organic results, you should start optimising your pages.
Yes, every new post is important. Mainly when it targets a geographic keyword. It offers a new way to get found in the local search engine results pages.
A few things to do before you publish a new post or page:
- Include your main keyword in the title tag
- Write a clean meta description with your keyword included
- Use a short URL but remember to include your keyword
- Use your main keyword and LSI keywords naturally throughout your post
If you’re having a difficult time creating content that will be relevant to your local consumers, you might want to get some feedback from happy customers.
Sharing case studies, testimonials, and success stories of your customers can inspire a new content idea that will appeal to prospects and customers near you.
The caveat to optimising your title tag, meta description, URL, content, and so on is not to overdo or over-optimise these sections. Google is evolving and getting better with every algorithm update.
So if you spend adequate time to create the best content, while addressing the user intent, there’s a chance that Google can pinpoint what your content is about.
8. Add location pages to your website
Most successful local businesses have more than one location.
If you want prospects and customers in locations near your business to find you in the local search results and Google maps, you need to create location pages.
Location pages are essential as they provide your target audience with your business name, address, phone number, store descriptions, promotions, testimonials from satisfied customers, opening and closing hours, and more.
But don’t try to automate this process or take shortcuts. Some lazy Brick and Mortar business owners will use the same duplicate content across multiple location pages — they only have to tweak the location a bit.
Don’t do that. It’ll slow down your local SEO performance in the long run.
Here’s what to do instead:
Create a unique and locally-descriptive content if you’re a single location business.
You can add a Google Map to your website to make your respective location pages stand out.
In all of these, don’t forget to optimise your local business website for mobile.
Mobile users are always on the go, and when they’re searching for a local restaurant, car rental service, beauty salon, or your specific business, they’ll either use voice search on their phone or do a quick Google search.
If your web pages aren’t mobile responsive, mobile users will not see your website. But instead, they’ll go to your competitor.
It’s time to enhance your SEO strategy for your local business.
If you have a storefront or service area, you have to take steps to appear on Google Maps, Google Knowledge Graph, and other search-based local results.
Make it easy and fulfilling for your audience to find you when they search online. This is how to attract more leads, gain more loyal customers, and grow your revenue.