Whether you’re an authentic local business or a franchise looking to appeal to visitors in your area, people always seem to be scared of local SEO. And I must admit, at times, it has baffled me too.
However, there are three key things that Google seems to favor when it comes to local business rankings. Find out what they are to win the war on local SEO.
Google My Business
Google has its own article on local SEO, which largely focuses on Google My Business (GMB), which is your very own business listing. Google strongly advises consistently updating your profile to include accurate information, such as your location, contact details and opening hours.
Why should you do this? GMB listings can feature prominently in Google’s search results, meaning your business will be in front of more eyes on the web. It’s especially a key part of users’ mobile searches, as search terms that indicate a local intent include business snippets. This localized phone version of Google’s search results is soon to take over as the dominant results page. Known as mobile-first indexing, this prioritizes a responsive user experience, which means more visibility for local SEO-optimised businesses — good news for local brands across the globe.
Pro tip: For national businesses trying to gain a local presence, you can use a virtual call management system, which allows you to obtain an area coded number. This allows you to appear to be present in the city, town or district that you want to target — to both Google and customers in that area.
I always see SEO as a specialist subject, but part of Google’s algorithm goes off pretty old-school stuff and common sense. We all know what a star rating means: the higher the score, the better the reviewer’s opinion of the product or service. However, on Google, the star rating of your business is proven to affect your position on the results page.
The star rating system can vary, depending on how the user is viewing the results and where your business is based. For example, in the UK, the Trip Advisor bubble rating is a known metric of customer satisfaction and quality, but it wouldn’t hold much relevance overseas. In fact, to improve your local SEO, you can employ some simple strategies, such as directly asking for customer feedback.
A word of warning: I should mention the star display isn’t as simple as I just made it out to be; there are all sorts of variations. Sometimes you won’t see star ratings in Google Maps if the business doesn’t have enough ratings yet, or if a business has had a surge of recent reviews that may not be automatically counted for in the ranking system.
It’s essential to play the long game — offer a quality service and ask your customers to leave a review, and you’ll soon start to see the results (just make sure you keep on top of any negative reviews).
Native Blog Content
Just as with any other SEO strategy, a website needs relevant and quality blog content that targets your priority keywords — the phrases you want to rank for in Google. Regarding local SEO, keywords often include specific places. Such keywords can be incredibly competitive — as you can imagine, “New York Pizza” might be pretty difficult to rank for.
But don’t let the competitive market put you off. Above all, your content needs to be genuinely helpful for the reader. Writing native content is all about choosing the topics that resonate with your customer and perhaps even includes snippets of their dialect — just don’t go overboard. Keep up to date with nearby events and report on things that local users will be searching for. Google News is a great tool for this, as it lets you view “Local Stories,” allowing you to see what is trending on your doorstep.
Expert action: Depending on your budget, it might be worth hiring a local writer. Arguably only an expert content marketer who has lived and breathed the local culture can write authentic stories that provide value to the community. If you can squeeze a daily rate into your marketing budget, you absolutely should. It can take a lifetime to learn the intricacies of a local language.
Despite its scary exterior and cut-throat nature, local SEO doesn’t have to feel like a war. Simplifying your strategy and focusing on providing accurate information, giving excellent customer experiences, and talking about topics that matter will push your business to the top.
Local SEO is not a stand-alone project. If your business is committed to delivering value and service while communicating effectively, your localized image will naturally benefit. Besides, once you learn Google’s algorithm, it always ends up changing!