Did you know that over 40% of all search requests on Google are local? At the same time, local businesses are not in a hurry to put their online credentials in order to be on the first page of search results or get into Google’s ‘Snack Pack’ (special Google search area that features three businesses with ratings below a flagged local area map). The statistics show that over half of local retailers haven’t even claimed their presence on Google My Business.
Now, how can you make sure that you did what you could for your small business to appear in the local search results? And when it is justifiable and necessary to go to professionals for additional help related to local SEO efforts? In this article, we will cover answers to these and similar types of questions to help you out.
What is local SEO?
Local SEO deals with how your business is presented online in its local search engine results. In other words, it is aimed at improving your business optics inside your local community. It is absolutely essential for local businesses that need to stand out with their propositions against national brands with seemingly unlimited resources concentrating largely on overall brand recognition.
What types of companies could benefit from local SEO?
You should definitely engage in Local SEO practices if you run a single or multi-location cafe, bar, or restaurant. Google’s word stats tells us that most of the searches people do for this kind of business is followed by “near me”. Bars and restaurants heavily rely on returning customers, that’s the reason why local SEO is becoming a critical issue for such companies, especially knowing that the majority of people trust online reviews when it comes to choosing the next place to dine out.
Other categories of businesses that also rely on their local search results standings include: medical and legal, plumbing and electrical services, car rental and repairs, pet care and real estate. In addition to having a nicely crafted website with a blog featuring all the benefits of your services, you will need to do your homework for soliciting reviews from happy customers to improve your local search rankings.
And of course, with the digital nomad economy coming into fruition, such businesses as hostels and co-working centers also become extremely sensitive to their local online presence quality.
The list of businesses that could benefit from local SEO does not end here. So, if you are involved in any type of business listed above or similar, read on to find out tips and recommendations on local SEO.
Where to start with online profiles?
First things first, you need to create your Google My Business (GMB) account. Once you verify the ownership of your business, you will need to provide accurate up-to-date information about it.
So, what is absolutely essential for your GMB profile? Your brand’s logo, hours of operation, the description of services and goods you are selling, payment methods you accept, and a photo gallery of your outlet.
Next thing you need to do, is encourage your customers to leave reviews against your product and services. Once the reviews start to come in, you will need to timely react to them and act accordingly. Read more about handling reviews in our blog on online reputation.
You can also use the GMB account for publishing your special offers and product announcements. It can be done straight from the GMB’s dashboard.
Social media accounts for local SEO
Once the GMB profile is set up, let’s proceed with the social media related accounts (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter).
Facebook is super popular among mobile prospects. Over a quarter of local business searches are done here. What you need to keep in mind is that even if you did not have a chance to set up a profile for your business here, Facebook might have already taken the liberty to do it for you. In this case, you will need to claim your business page and merge it with your active account.
In some cases, when you have multiple outlets or business locations, you will need to set up a parent page (for all general corporate information) and child pages for individual locations. This way you will be able to engage with the audience on the brand level and solicit reviews for each of the business locations at the same time.
Instagram presence. Instagram is all about the visual content to support your offering. If a customer came across your account on Facebook and peeked into your Instagram account, it means that he or she wants to have a better picture in mind about your location before the visit.
While being the most popular tool for a visual representation of any local business, Instagram is limited in terms of functionality for multi-location enterprises. You will need to carefully choose your strategy here. One option is to maintain one corporate account for all your outlets and track all map tags for images being taken, or try maintaining several accounts for each individual location. Either way, Instagram is all about regular and quality visual posts to engage with your audience. It often requires a bit more attention than you would expect but can pay off significantly in traffic once done properly.
Twitter accounts. Almost half of the online marketers believe that Twitter remains the ultimate channel for customer engagement. The reason for this is obvious, once a customer posts a brand or service related tweet, he or she expects almost a momentary reaction on behalf of the business. This turned Twitter into an effective medium to serve as a 24/7 customer support. Plus, Twitter is a primary social media for circulating hashtags and links that can help promote your local search engine standings.
Things to do about your website
What is also absolutely essential is to ensure the presence of the right keywords related to your business inside your website. Otherwise, how would the search lead to your business online?
A good tip here would be to add your location name to the keyword (for example: The Best Dentistry in Brooklyn).
Now, where can you place the keywords inside your website? Clearly, in the text of service description, but also in your URL, page title, page description, H1-H4 tags, images’ filenames, and in anchor texts (leading to pages inside your domain).
Another essential item for your site’s Contacts page would be a map of your business location. You can place the map conveniently next to your contact data. Please avoid having an extra tab or page for the map. It should be right at users’ fingertips, especially if we are talking about mobile users who tend to be more impatient.
Mobile version of your website
What you have to keep in mind is that over half of all Google searches are done on mobile devices nowadays. What does it tell you? It means that web designers and SEO specialists need to work harder now to optimize your website for mobile browsing. Otherwise, your site fine-tuned for desktop viewing may absolutely fail on mobile platforms leading to high bounce rates and eventually even lower SERP positions for desktop searches as well.
If that sounds like a familiar problem, you need to spend extra time and effort to make sure that your mobile user experience is also taken care of. You might want to run some tests or even invite testers to do this job for you.
Local SEO directories
Once the above-mentioned efforts on your site are complete, it’s time to move on to securing profiles on local business directories and listings.
Here, we talk about citations (mentions of your business name, address, phone number, and, preferably, a URL link) that can be found online. The more trustworthy is the resource that points to your site, the better for your reputation and traffic. Google essentially works the same way: it evaluates the “value” of every reference link to your website from all over the local and global directories (with local referrals and reviews playing a major role in case of local SEO).
So, what are the most trusted names in the industry for showcasing citations? One name that particularly stands out is Yelp.com. This directory became so popular that more searches for local restaurants start from here, rather than in Google. If you own a restaurant or are in charge of SEO for a local cafe, make sure you take care of its profile on Yelp.
Another popular resource is Foursquare.com. A few years ago a digital frenzy broke out with becoming online “mayors” of popular locations in town. That could have become a cool marketing tool if the app creator did not decide to split the audience and introduce a rival Swarm with similar functionality. And, although that put an end to a range of “political” careers of Foursquare users, the site is still quite popular for keeping your bar or restaurant profile with stars, reviews, and all that.
Other directories that are worth mentioning in our article include the good old yellowpages.com, bbb.org (Better Business Bureau), and Citysearch.com. All of them will require some time to create and maintain your account. Needless to say that all information here has to be up-to-date and accurate. So, it is a good idea to revisit your profiles every now and then, even if you do not recall any changes done to your business’s info or operating parameters.
Another tool worth mentioning with regards to collecting info on keywords, mentions and reviews related to your business is Scrapebox. Although, Scrapebox is considered by some as a specific tool for SEO pros for automatic scraping and blog spamming, it can be a real effective SEO solution if handled properly.
We have compiled a comprehensive how-to guide on Scrapebox functions useful for SEO experts that you are welcome to download here.
How to get positive reviews?
Feedback about your business or service from your customers is absolutely essential for your prospective clients. As we have mentioned before, a majority of people carefully study online reviews before committing their cash.
The best and the most obvious way to solicit positive reviews is to work closely with your happy customers. It may sound a bit surprising, but most people will be willing to give you a good review if your service or product deserves it. The more reviews you get, the better. Once you have stars showing up against your URL in search results, customers will have more trust in considering your brand.
If you feel like you are facing a problem with fake reviews, please consider this article that we wrote specifically for handling this delicate subject.
Encourage expertise in your subject area
If you believe you have something absolutely special about your business that could make it stand out from the competition, you can absolutely use this feature as a local SEO technique.
For instance, if your bar specializes in rums from various locations and continents, you could invite sommeliers and opinion leaders to write blog posts and reviews for your bar. Once you collect a fair amount of solid content, the local search will not take too long for people to notice a special place like yours.
By the way, working with influencers alone can bring you some great marketing insights across all channels.
Where the SaaS platforms can give you an edge
Above we have covered some of the significant aspects of ‘homework’ type of activities related to local SEO that you can perform in-house. Now, before you engage in all this tedious work, let’s consider what companies involved in providing SaaS-based solutions in local SEO can offer, and why you should go for their services in the first place. We asked some of the most common questions from local businesses to such companies. Here is what they have to say on the subject.
The first question that we posed was: “How does your local SEO solution help your customers and why they cannot do the same on their own?”
Ksenia Khirvonina, PR Manager at SE Ranking believes that: “It’s all about data accuracy and convenience. Surely, we can do most of the SEO tasks manually, but tools help us save time and get better results. For example, we have a Keyword Rank Tracker tool that local businesses use to monitor their website’s performance in organic search. If they tracked all their keywords manually, that would be really time-consuming.”
Another concern that a few companies mentioned was related to data accuracy caused by the “personalized SERP”. Martin Petrov, Head of Marketing at morningscore.io adds: “Why is that important? Because you want to see a SERP that is as neutral as possible. This way you’re getting an unbiased view of what potential customers are going to see. Contrary, looking at a “biased” SERP can give you the wrong data of your and your competitors’ rankings. And this can, of course, lead to bad business decisions.”
And Ksenia from SE Ranking agrees: “You SERP is affected by multiple factors including your physical location, your search history and browsing history, your language preferences, and even your activity on social media. So if you often interact with your own website — which is quite natural — whenever you google something related to your website, the search engine will normally put your website at the top of your personalized SERP.”
Another huge advantage of working with SaaS tools is the automation of functional limitations of commonly available services that de facto shape the search results such as Google My Business (GMB).
Yan Gilbert, Chief Product Officer at dbaPlatform points out that their tools alleviate this very concern: “The basic GMB dashboard does not allow for automation of any kind which is a huge deterrent for companies to work efficiently when they have multiple locations… With dbaPlatform, you can automatically schedule thousands of photos and posts to publish with one click. Track all metrics in visually stunning detail from a single dashboard and demonstrate the value of local SEO to clients.”
The second question that we asked the SaaS providers let us get a better picture about what types of solutions are popular among their customers: “Which of your SaaS services is the most demanded by your local SEO customers at the moment and why do you think it is so?”
Ksenia from SE Ranking gave us some interesting ideas: “Since most SEO specialists prefer to track their rankings daily, the Rank Tracker tool is in great demand. All SE Ranking customers including those doing local SEO value it for accuracy and local SEO specialists particularly love the opportunity to track Google Maps search results along with the rankings in the TOP 100.”
Apart from all range of ranking tools SE Ranking also provides yet another useful feature: “Website Audit runs a deep website crawl and identifies all kinds of technical issues that may keep a website away from the top. Every error comes with a tip on how it can be fixed which is really handy.”
Martin from MorningScore also mentions a similar tool: “The one feature that always sticks with all of our customers is our “Website Health Tool”. It’s very visual and helps customers fix website errors. Combined with the engineered “gamification” and concrete guides, this tool consistently surprises our trial users.”
Yan from dbaPlatform speaks about automated posting as of a highly demanded feature: “Not only can you schedule posts, but there is no limit to the amount listings that you can syndicate to, which is a feature that is not available through the Google API, nor is it available through most GMB tool providers.”
But, of course, the popularity of particular tools largely depends on markets and use cases.
Martin from morningscore continues: “Marketers who report to Management or the Board on Business Intelligence metrics rely largely on the “Competitor Rank Comparison Tool”. Meanwhile, we can point to “Local Rank Tracker” and “Link Building Tool” as the core both our SMB & SEO Agency customers rely on. This is because Google positions can vary wildly between locations. And as we’ve established, it is often critical to get a clear and accurate picture of that.”
So, the local SEO customers clearly need a whole arsenal of tools. As Aleh Barysevich, Founder and Chief Marketing Officer of SEO PowerSuite, puts it: “Similar to SEO in general, local SEO requires a well-rounded approach, which includes rank checks as if from a different location, technical aspects, content strategy based on solid keyword research, and link building.”
Search Engine Optimization for local businesses is not a one-day project, it is a continuous effort in order to communicate all your values to the customers in your neighborhood and beyond.
We at privateproxy.me believe in choosing the optimal strategy in securing your local web presence. This includes DIY activities across social media and services like Google my Business accompanied by prudent use of SEO SaaS solutions that give you an impartial picture on your standings among the competition.
And we will be proud in helping you achieve your business goals by powering all sorts of review and ranking tools with the most efficient proxy solutions to ensure objectiveness in search results.
Also, we would like to extend our thanks to all companies and experts from the local SEO industry who shared their views and comments on this exciting subject for publication.
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