Terri Stevens loves to travel, especially aboard cruise ships (floating casinos!), and spends free time with family and enjoying the outdoors.
Most businesses today understand the importance of optimizing for local search. With increased mobile usage, at least 46% of all searches are considered to have local intent, meaning Google assumes the searchers want a business, product, or service nearby, even if the query does not include “near me” or a location qualifier such as “in Houston.” As a result, local results are provided for more search queries than in the past, and with a significant increase in “buy online, pick up in-store” (BOPIS) purchases amid the pandemic, preferences given to local businesses will only grow.
To be found in those results, companies conducting face-to-face business in a community should make local search a priority. For small businesses, it can really be a game-changer. By optimizing for local, a small “mom and pop” business could rank higher in search results than big brands such as Amazon and Walmart. Sounds great, right? So, how do you optimize for local search?
Local SEO: Website & Off-Site Optimization
Local SEO involves both off-site and website optimization techniques. A combination of the two puts your business in a better position to ranker higher in local search results, attract searchers looking for the products and services you provide and turn those searchers into customers.
Google My Business, the Best Way to Optimize for Local
One of the most effective ways to optimize for local search is to claim, verify, and optimize your company’s Google My Business (GMB) listing. With a verified Business Profile, you can connect with local customers through both search and Google Maps.
When prospects in your area search for the products and services you offer, your business could be one of the few appearing in a Google Local 3-Pack, a prominent map list of featured businesses ranking as the best local results for the query. A well-managed GMB listing also helps you ensure customers find accurate information about your business, including your address, phone number, and hours of operation.
Customers can ask questions about your business, which you can answer, directly through the listing. You can post updates about your business and promote upcoming events. Customers can also quickly and easily contact you directly from your listing in search, and they can leave reviews for your business, which you can respond to.
Google My Business is packed with features to help you connect with customers and provide the information they are searching for. A well-optimized and managed GMB listing will also drive relevant, converting traffic to your website.
How to Optimize Your Website for Local Search
While there are multiple other off-site optimization strategies to consider, a couple of which we discuss below, after you set up Google My Business, turn your attention to optimizing your website. This is important to not only help improve your local rankings and drive relevant traffic to your site but also ensure a good user experience when searchers arrive. If your website performs poorly, you will not get the results you want.
Optimizing a website for local search involves both technical improvements and on-page elements following basic best practices for SEO. If you are new to on-page optimization and ready to challenge your brain, check out these helpful resources for learning SEO. Among them is MOZ’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO, which will help you learn how to research keywords and apply that research to on-page optimization and content development.
MOZ’s guide also includes in-depth information about technical SEO, which helps search engines crawl, index, and better understand the content of pages faster and easier. Technical SEO helps ensure both search engine crawlers and site visitors can find your site’s content, and that your visitors can move through that content and convert.
Optimize for Mobile Now
If your site is not optimized for mobile, it is time to work on it.
Mobile users want to quickly find what they are looking for. Optimizing for mobile helps them accomplish that. It will help you rank better in local search, too.
Google started switching to mobile-first indexing last year and as of September 2020, all sites are mobile-first. What that means is the mobile version of a website is now considered the primary version of a site. It is crawled first and ranked accordingly.
Fast loading responsive sites, which render well on various devices and screen sizes, are highly recommended.
Understanding how important mobile-friendliness and page speed are to users, Google announced a new ranking algorithm that judges the perceived user experience based on Core Web Vitals. This Google Page Experience update is expected to go live in 2021.
Local Content Development for Your Website
If your business has multiple locations, include a separate location page for each one on your website. Content and optimization should be unique, specific to that location, and provide contact information with the local address, phone number, and hours of operation. Adding local schema markup (see below), plus a link for customers to leave a review for your business on Google, also helps.
What if your business serves and wants to reach prospects in multiple geographical areas? Developing useful, informative local content, including blog posts, can help you rank for areas outside of your company’s physical location. Local news and community blogs can be great sources for topic ideas.
Optimizing for Voice Search
More than half of all consumers today use voice search to find local businesses, and about 46% use it daily. As you develop new content, strongly consider how people use voice search. Think about questions your targeted audience will ask and provide answers. Speak in a conversational tone. And use schema to mark up your content. You can read more about how to optimize for voice search here.
Implementing local business, organization, product, and service schema is another important way to optimize your website for local search. Schema markup is pieces of code that help search engines better understand your content, making it easier to index. This structured data can also help your site gain Rich Results in search. Read more about what structured data is and why is it important.
According to BrightLocal’s Local Consumer Review Survey, 82% of consumers read reviews for local businesses. Good reviews build trust with consumers and can help improve your local rankings. Google recommends businesses manage and respond to reviews, and says “high-quality, positive reviews from your customers will improve your businesses visibility.” Read about how to get more customer reviews.
Build & Manage Your Citations
Local citations are online listings or mentions of a business, usually with at least the name, address, and phone (NAP). Many citations also include website address, operating hours, photos, and other information as well as reviews, and can be found in business directories, social sites such as Yelp and Facebook, industry organization sites, and more.
Through citations, consumers will find information about your business. By building and managing your citations, you help ensure the information they find is accurate. Accurate, consistent citation data builds the trust of that data, which is why citations are a local ranking factor and an important part of local optimization.
Have Questions about Local SEO? Need Help?
As you can see, local SEO involves multiple essential elements. It is an ongoing and often challenging process, but with an investment of time and the right strategy, it can give your business the visibility it needs to grow.