Have you realised how we no longer talk about the smartphone revolution? Mobile devices are so integrated in our day to day that most of us have forgotten they have transformed the way in which we relate to one another, the way in which we consume digital content and, of course, the way in which we perform online searches.
Browsers have become a sort of personal assistant to us: they have all the answers to our curious questions and all the solutions to our problems. And, in their quest to offer the best results as quickly as possible, their algorithms have had to adapt to the geographical component of our searches. Naturally, if a user searches for “supermarket” or “pharmacy”, proximity is a fundamental factor. In other words, users’ real-time location has become a key element in the process of classifying and filtering content in search engines.
In fact, recent related research states that approximately 45% of searches are local, 88% of which typically result in a phone call or a visit to the selected business. However, besides these encouraging insights, the potential of local SEO is still untapped for many businesses. At Good Rebels, we know a solid local SEO strategy can help you improve the positioning and visibility of your business. Want to learn more? Then keep reading!
What exactly is local SEO?
Local Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a form of SEO aimed at improving the visibility of businesses who are located in a physical location.
By developing a tailored local SEO strategy that takes into account the particularities of both your industry and your business, you will be able to increase the relevance of your business and offer solutions for users that are seeking your services.
The fundamentals of a local SEO strategy
In order to develop a winning SEO strategy, we must take into consideration not only the advantages it offers, but also the limitations it entails. Local positioning is only able to respond to searches that have a geographical component, in which the algorithm modifies the way results are displayed in the SERP (search engine results page).
Let’s say, for example, that we have a Mexican restaurant in London and we want to improve its visibility. A keyword research will allow us to determine that there are several underlying interests behind each keyword —there is “mexican restaurant”, but also “mexican restaurant in London”, “takeaway mexican restaurant” or “best mexican restaurants in London”— and each of them can activate different functionalities of Google’s SERP, such as reviews, highlighted results or the local pack.
That’s why, if you want to improve the visibility of our business, local SEO alone isn’t enough: you’ll also need to implement on-page and off-page SEO actions, as well as position on third-party platforms such as Tripadvisor or The Fork. In short: integrating your local SEO strategy into the overall positioning and visibility strategy of your website is the way to go.
Main ranking factors in local SEO
For our local SEO strategy to be successful and comprehensive, we must take into account that there are certain factors algorithms prioritise when presenting local search results:
- Proximity: search algorithms consider a business to be potentially interesting the closer it is to the user’s location. However, although proximity is an important factor, it is not determining, as the closest business is not always the best option for users.
- Popularity: The amount of positive and valuable reviews a business has also has an impact on search results.
- Relevance: Among all positioning factors, this is the most relevant one. Regardless of whether a business is popular, or close to our users, if the search engine does not consider it to be related to the search term, it will not appear in the SERPs.
How to optimise your local SEO strategy
To increase your chances of appearing in geolocalised searches, it’s crucial that search engines consider that your business is relevant to users in a certain region or area. For this purpose, Local SEO actions should be integrated across different channels, such as your website, local business platforms and business directories (third party sites that point to our website).
Local SEO actions for your website
The first thing we have to check is if the website has a responsive design and is adapted to mobile devices. This SEO and UX factor is a standard for search engines, and if we don’t have it, all SEO actions will be negatively affected.
Additionally, brick-and-mortar businesses are required to include structured data for local businesses on their contact pages. This simple code will help search engines find useful information and thus determine which establishment is most relevant to a user in a local search. Some of the data usually labeled is, for example, the type of business, the name of the establishment, its postal and geolocated address, its contact number, the opening and closing hours, or the price range.
Sometimes search engines display this information using rich snippets, which leads to a significant increase in clicks and, by extension, increased traffic. If you want to implement this type of information, we recommend a very intuitive Merkle tool for page markup.
Once we meet these two basic requirements, we will be ready to implement other measures that further improve the positioning of our domain in the SERPs:
- Optimizing content (headers, texts and images) to the local terms in which we want to rank, including the name, postal address and contact telephone number of the establishment (NAP).
- Geolocating images, which will allow search engines to verify that a photo has been taken in a certain location, and belongs to a specific local business.
- Embedding your business location map also helps search engines associate it with a physical location. If you are in doubt about which map to use, we always recommend Google Maps.
- Including a reviews widget helps search engines assess the popularity of a local business. Therefore, if the ratings and reviews of your establishment are good, you will have more opportunities to rank better in the SERPs.
- Upload a .kml file and its corresponding geo-sitemap in .xml format with the geolocated information of our business to the root domain, to then include it in our robots.txt file. This technical implementation may seem complex, but is actually very simple if we have the right tools, and it will help browsers associate your digital presence with your physical establishment.
Local SEO platforms
Platforms such as Google My Business, Bing Places and Apple Maps —which browsers offer to businesses for free— will also be a fundamental pillar of our local SEO strategy, so we must make sure that the information displayed on them is always updated.
Although Google is currently established as the star search engine, with a 90% market share on computers and laptops and a 70% on mobile, we must not forget that Bing accounts for almost 14% on mobile.. Moreover, Apple is focusing its efforts on bringing new functionalities and providing valuable information in its Apple Maps app. This trend, added to the increase in voice searches through personal assistants (Siri) and new functionalities for cars such as CarPlay offer great positioning opportunities that we should not underestimate.
Here are some opportunities we recommend you keep in mind in order to improve your positioning on the various local SEO platforms
- The consistency of your business’s NAP is essential, and it never hurts to check that the marker of your business on the map (latitude-longitude) exactly matches its postal address.
- Don’t underestimate the importance that business attributes have for users. The attributes are specific characteristics of the business that search engines value when displaying search results, and that help users get an idea of what they are going to find.
- Describing your business using relevant keywords aimed at promoting certain types of products or services will also position your business in users’ geolocalized searches. Descriptions should be detailed and well-thought out.
- Do include categories in your business file. They are one of the most relevant factors for positioning in both the SERPs and the Google Maps results pages, so it never hurts to complete all the fields that the tool offers.
- Don’t forget to include the product and service cards of your business, to position them among associated local search terms. This will not only attract a higher volume of qualified traffic, but will also offer valuable information to the user, who could potentially become a visitor to your website.
- Upload geolocated images to the platform on a recurring basis, and comply with the standards recommended by the platform.
- Review management must become one of your main priorities. These ratings and reviews are not only one of the main positioning factors, but also provide authority and relevance to a business, and are considered one of the elements that best incentivise conversion among users.
Local off-page SEO
As in any SEO strategy worth its salt, we must not forget the off-page dimension. Off-page SEO includes actions implemented outside our website that focus on obtaining authority backlinks and will be crucial for the success of our SEO positioning.
Local, national and international directories are a good starting point. Although these types of backlinks are generally “nofollow”, robots consider them as positioning signals, so it can help improve the authority of your website.
There is a wide variety of useful directories, depending on the sector, type of business or location. However, it never hurts to rank in the Yellow Pages, as well as in Empresite, Axesor, Yelp and FourSquare. It is also advisable to use geolocation signals on your business’ social media profiles.
In addition, we cannot forget that, if we want our local SEO strategy to bear fruit, it is essential to be constant. This implies that both the name, the address and the contact telephone number of your business (NAP) must always be the same, regardless of the directory or social network in which it appears.
Besides implementing actions purely focused on local SEO, there are other options that should be considered in order to attract users interested in local businesses:
Organic Google Shopping
In the last two years, the Google Shopping Ads service has grown by approximately 25%. The CTR of its campaigns has boomed, multiplying by 6 the number of clicks compared to search campaigns in text format, which has led Google to change its strategy on its Google Merchant Center platform.
Thus, since April 2020, the platform has been available for free. This does not imply that paid campaigns can be set up without investment, but rather that we can use the Google Shopping tab of the browser to present products organically. For local businesses, this is an unbeatable opportunity to position and give visibility to their products, attracting qualified organic traffic with a very high purchase interest.
Google Ads for local businesses
Another opportunity that you can use to attract qualified traffic if you are a local establishment is the Google advertising platform. Through specific paid campaigns with local search terms you will be able to position within the top 4 results. This will not only increase the number of calls and reservations, but it will also generate traffic to your website pages with local interest, which translates into longer sessions and a lower bounce rate. Browsers use these metrics to determine the quality of a domain, subdomain or page, so it can definitely improve your SEO positioning.
But that’s not all: Google Ads will also help us gain powerful insights about the quality of each keyword, so that we can later use them on local SEO actions (with successful results) or even set up campaign pilots in Google Ads to obtain real traffic data on specific searches.
In short, if you are still not taking advantage of the positioning opportunities that local SEO offers for your website, we encourage you to gain visibility for your business. However, there are some considerations you should keep in mind:
- A successful local SEO plan must be embedded into a 360º positioning strategy, and take advantage of opportunities to gain local visibility only when it is truly relevant.
- Working on local SEO actions goes beyond creating an account on Google My Business. Remember that both your website and the platforms you decide to use have a series of technical requirements, which are key to obtaining tangible results.
- Local SEO requires a lot of dedication and quality time, it is not the goose that lays the golden eggs. Once your actions have been implemented, you will have to analyse and evaluate their performance, to gradually optimise your positioning and local visibility objectives.