What is Local SEO and Why is it Important?
You know when you Google something like “pizza”, “restaurant”, or “clothing store” and Google automatically shows you the results close to you?
That’s local SEO at work.
According to Lisa Gelveber, VP in Marketing at Google, people are no longer searching with “location qualifiers like zip codes, neighborhoods, and ‘near me’ phrasing in local searches” because they simply don’t need to. Their smartphones automatically show results relevant to their locations.
What does this mean for your business? If you have a brick-and-mortar shop or an office location, you need to be taking advantage of local SEO to help people find you. The good news is, it’s easy to get started with local SEO.
How does Local SEO work?
Google determines a business’s local search ranking based on its “relevance, distance, and prominence” in the eyes of the searcher.
Google actually uses a different set of ranking signals for local search results than they do for non-location-based search. A few of these ranking signals are the location of the person searching, whether a business has a Google My Business listing with accurate information, and the quality of business reviews, among other factors.
For instance, think about the recent COVID-19-related business closures. If you’ve Google-searched a restaurant during this time, you’ve noticed that businesses have been updating their information to indicate whether they’re offering dine-in, takeout, or delivery options. This information is available to you because those businesses used the power of local SEO to give people the most up-to-date information.
Here’s an example:
You can start using local SEO right now to improve your business’s relevance and prominence in the eyes of Google so that your business rises in the ranks.
Google My Business
The first step to optimize for local SEO is to create a Google My Business account. It’s free and easy to set up. Your Google My Business account is critical for local SEO since it allows your business to be shown in local search and map results.
There are a few main aspects of your Google My Business account that you need to keep in mind: NAPS, Map Pack rankings, reviews, and updated info. Let’s cover each one now.
Let’s talk about NAPs and why they’re so important.
What’s a NAP? It’s an acronym for Name, Address, and Phone Number. This basic contact info is how your potential customers are going to get in touch with you, so the accuracy of this info is absolutely critical. A wrong name, address, or phone number will leave your customer stuck with no way to contact you or visit your location. This is a lose-lose situation for both of you.
Not only does your NAP let your potential customers contact you, but NAPs are also critical for local SEO purposes. And your NAPs need to be consistent across the web. As Google bots crawl the internet, they’re picking up on — and keeping tabs on — business data. If Google notices various names, addresses, or phone numbers attached to your business, that could be a flag that something isn’t right.
So, the more directories your NAP is listed correctly, the more chances Google has to cross-check that information and associate it as correct. Therefore, you’ll want to list your NAP in Google My Business and make sure your NAP is listed that same way across all other channels.
Does the below search result look familiar?
This is known as a Map Pack. A Map Pack contains the following: business NAP info, hours and star ratings, along with a map of their location and links to easily get directions or visit their websites. You might think of this as the prime real estate of local search.
While the Map Pack results have their own algorithm, they pull information from NAPs. Accurate NAPs are critical in making sure your business’s correct information shows up in the Map Pack and leads your customers in the right direction.
Check Your MAP Pack Rankings
As one of the main steps in local SEO, you’ll need to check your Map Pack rankings and monitor them over time. Keep in mind that the physical location of the person searching is extremely important here. If someone searches for “pizza San Francisco” but they’re searching from New York, they might see entirely different results than someone searching “pizza” from Golden Gate Park.
Google My Business Reviews
Once you have your NAPs verified, you can move on to assessing your reviews. Google My Business reviews are another critical element of local SEO. Why? Because people believe other people more than they believe what a business entity tells them.
Any business can market themselves as “the best” this or that, but real reviews prove much more and are seen as “truths” to the modern-day consumer. In fact, online review stats show that 93% of consumers are influenced by online reviews.
So, what happens if you don’t have any reviews? Or what if you have negative reviews?
It’s time to fix that. Here are two ways to do so:
- Get reviews. Reach out to satisfied past customers and ask them to leave a positive review and testimonial. If you have an email list, consider putting a call-to-action in your next newsletter asking people to leave positive reviews on Google. And think about how you’ll garner new reviews moving forward. Make it part of your process to gather positive reviews.
- Address negative reviews. Negative reviews happen, and they should always be addressed. It’s best if the business owner addresses the comment directly, but any response acknowledging the negative review is better than silence. Future customers will appreciate this and it helps build trust, which is great for local SEO and your reputation.
As we touched on, you need an accurate profile in your Google My Business account. Google is going to pull your information and compare it to other business listings you may have on other websites. Therefore, It’s critical that your info is accurate and up-to-date. If it isn’t, and Google finds discrepancies between listings, it can penalize you in search.
Keeping your business info up-to-date also ensures that Google has the most accurate information to share with your prospective customers. Any time your business hours, location, website, or other info changes, make sure you update it as soon as possible. When a business doesn’t update their info, they look outdated, and their business suffers.
Local SEO Strategy
Now, you should have a better understanding of local SEO and why it’s so important for your business. The next thing to consider after you’ve addressed all the points above is a local SEO strategy.
For more information on getting started with a comprehensive local SEO strategy that will make your business visible in local search and maps, book a free consultation call.
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