Local SEO: A Beginner’s Guide 2019

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Local search is crucial for small and medium businesses with brick-and-mortar stores. Local SEO can be the difference between staying relevant or falling behind the competition. This is where local SEO can be important in attracting customers at the right time and in the right place.

What is Local SEO?

Local SEO is a strategic process that helps optimize businesses’ online presence to promote products and services to local customers. This strategy is made to promote your business’ visibility on location-based searches. It also makes sure that your business can be found by people searching in a specific geographical area.

Why is Local SEO Important?

Local SEO is important if you own a business with a brick-and-mortar store or one that services an area. Today, many people are using their mobile devices to search for places and businesses around them. As a result, the need for immediate results has never been higher. Local SEO provides people with the information they want about businesses around them when they want it.

Local search is an important avenue for potential customers and qualified leads. More people are using local search to find businesses around their area. In the past two years, mobile searches including the phrases “where to buy” and “near me” have grown by over 200%. You probably make these kinds of searches every day. They probably look something like “where to buy flowers near me” or “where to buy stamps near me”.

Since people are searching for specific products or services, you can understand the commercial intent of these potential customers. They could be looking to compare different products, so you might see an increase in phone calls to your business. Or, they could be ready to make a purchase and are looking to visit your store in-person.

How to Optimize for Local Search

There are a few ways you can improve your local search and the ability to found on Google’s local 3-pack. The Local 3-pack is Google’s way of showcasing the top 3 search results for local businesses related to a query. Whenever someone searches with local intent, Google will use the location to display results based on the surrounding area. With only 3 results shown, by improving your local ranking you can appear in the Local 3-pack. This can help create more visibility for your business while increasing leads.

Create a Google My Business Account

To get noticed on Google’s local search results, you should create a Google My Business account. Google My Business is a free tool that helps to manage how your business appears across Google Search. Google My Business is especially helpful in allowing people to find your business within a specific area.

Creating a Google My Business (GMB) account is easy and starts with signing into your Google Account. The first step to adding your business to Google is  filling out the name of your business.

Entering your business name in Google My Buisness

Then, Google will ask you to define a category for your business. The categories range from general, like “Retailer”, to the more specific, like “Vegan restaurant”.

Choosing the category of your business.

Next, you’ll have the opportunity to enter the address of your business location. This information includes the country, city and postal code of your physical store location.

Business information including country, street address, city, province and postal code.

Based on your postal code, Google will locate you their map. You can adjust the exact location of your business. The more accurate you are, the better customers will be able to find you.

Finally, you can enter a phone number and/or a website URL for your business. If you have more than one location, you’ll be able to add additional stores once you add your first business.

Contact information of your business including phone number and website URL.

Consistent Information

Once you have your Google My Business account started, it’s important to be consistent in managing it. You want to make sure the business information you give to Google is consistent. Your business information provides the foundation for your local SEO. Your name, address, phone number, and more should be the same as on your website. You don’t want Google and your customers to be confused with any inconsistencies. Having any inconsistent business information will harm your ability to rank for local.

Managing Reviews

Reviews are one of the most important aspects of local SEO. That’s why 82% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses. People use reviews to compare businesses before they make a purchase.

That’s why it’s important to encourage your customers to share reviews and take the time to respond authentically to each one, good or bad. When you interact with customers by responding to their reviews, it shows that you value them and their voice.

If you’re looking for past or current customers to review your business and don’t know where to start. You can simply just ask them. By using Google Maps, you can send your customers a link to your business profile.

First, you need to open Google Maps and search for your business. Once you see your business show up, click the menu option in the top left corner beside your business name.

Google Maps location of MRCK marketing

In the drop-down menu, click on “Share or embed map”.

Google My Business menu with "Share or embed map" highlighted.

This will open the shareable link for your Google My Business page.

A link to your Google My Business page which you can share to others.

All you have to do now is to copy the link and share it with all your previous customers through email or text. You can embed this link on your social media homepage or even share it with your followers.

NAP Citations and Business Directories

Keeping your business listings consistent and correct across the internet is the basis of local SEO. Google isn’t the only place where people search for businesses. Business directories like Yelp and Yellow Pages are some of the many places people use to find information about a business.

Putting your info on your website is not enough, because Google uses multiple directories to cross-check and validate the name, address, phone number (NAP). It’s important that your NAP citations are consistent across all online directories.

According to Moz, citation signals are one of the top local ranking factors. Consistent NAP information across the web helps to further verify the data Google has on your GMB. If there are any differences with the information, customers may be confused and Google may avoid listing your business in the local 3-pack. Not only will getting your business name, address, and phone number into these directories help visibility, but it’ll also boost your local SEO.

Website Updates

Mobile-friendly

Some of the most common ways people shop and search is with their mobile devices. They use it to look up reviews, find directions to a store, and search for contact information. With over 100 billion mobile local search queries, the need for mobile-friendly websites has never been greater.

And with Google moving to mobile-first indexing, you need to make sure you make your website mobile-friendly. This will make it easy for potential customers to browse your site while on-the-go. If your website isn’t set up for mobile, most likely your customers will become frustrated and won’t use your site on their devices.

Landing pages

If your business has more than one location or services certain areas, you will want to create and optimize new pages for each location. Each location page should be optimized to show customers the specific NAP citations and store hours unique to each location.

In each location page, you can include a description of the service area and how long your business has been there. You can display this information in a simple list that includes cities or towns along with the address or you can use an interactive map that shows the exact location.

If you only have a single service area or location page, you can still optimize the page by applying similar information. It’s best to use area-specific keywords like the city or town along with any surrounding areas.

Local SEO Tools

After covering the best ways to optimize your business for local SEO, let’s have a look at some useful tools that can help you improve your organic local ranking.

Moz Local

Moz Local allows for simplicity and ease as it only uses the business information you give them to push on their entire partner network. This helps to boost the local visibility of your business and ensures that your business listings are correct, consistent, and visible across the web.

BrightLocal

BrightLocal is a complete tool that combines all your local SEO efforts into one platform. Built specifically for local business marketing needs, BrightLocal helps gather all local SEO data, like organic traffic and maps, and monitors reviews on local sites. BrightLocal also integrates with Google Analytics, Facebook, and Twitter to provide the social media landscape of your business.

SEMrush Listing Management

SEMrush’s Listing Management tool is a centralized dashboard where you can update your business information. SEMrush will then publish your information across the most popular directories like Google, Yelp, and TripAdvisor. You can also check your listings to see how your business appears on dozens of maps, apps, search engines, and directories. SEMrush will also make sure to keep your business information updated.

Whitespark

Whitespark offers a few different tools, but their Local Citation Finder tool is effective in finding citations and improving your local ranking. This tool reviews your business information and checks for any wrong citations and will make any changes to correct them. The tool also looks at your competitor’s citations and how to improve your own, where to list your business online, and monitor your growth for better local search rankings.

Final Thoughts

Local SEO helps potential customers discover your business by providing your business information that they want and when they want it. This information provides potential customers the power to take immediate action and provides your business with a qualified lead. 

This helps your business stand out in local searches and helps drive more traffic through in-store or online leads. But, it is necessary to continually keep your information consistent and engage with your customers. In the end, potential customers will be more trusting and willing to purchase from you.

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