We might be in the age of the global economy, but for many consumers, buying local still reigns supreme. According to the 2018 Shop, Buy, Give Survey by First National Bank of Omaha, 69% of Americans prefer to support local retailers. Research from Think with Google has also found that four out of five customers use search engines to find information about local stores and services.
Knowing how to improve local search rankings can be a big boost to your business. Whether it’s an area resident looking for a car repair shop or a vacationer trying to find the nearest pizza parlor, local and regional search optimization helps customers find you when they need you.
This is far easier said than done, of course. Google already has more than 200 ranking factors for its search engine results page (SERP) algorithm, and these factors change constantly. Luckily, there are a few things every business can do to help its local SEO campaign. Check out our eight tips for boosting local SEO.
1. Set up Online Company Profiles
There are a lot of online directories for local businesses, and adding your company is a big part of how to improve local SEO.
Start by claiming your page on Google My Business (GMB). Setting up a GMB page and getting authenticated is big for local SEO. It establishes your brand on the world’s largest search engine as well as on Google Maps—and it does so for free!
Even if you’re already on GMB, there are many other prominent local business platforms out there. Adding profiles to websites like Yelp, MapQuest, Yellowbook, Trustpilot, and Foursquare greatly increases third-party visibility.
For each local SEO profile, optimize it with your information, including:
- business category
- contact information
You should also use the Moz Local tool to get any duplicate listings removed. Having duplicates will hurt your ranking ability.
2. Use Local Keywords and Content
Since you’re trying to attract local customers, you should use keywords that apply to them. This may be as simple as adding your city to a general keyword—for example, “lawn care in Springfield.”
Insert these local SEO keywords into meta tags, body copy, and URLs so they’ll be tied to related SERPs. Google’s Keyword Planner is one of several tools available for location-filtered keyword searches. Use it to find targetable words and phrases.
Optimization isn’t just about keywords, though—it’s also about content. People looking for local goods and services usually aren’t interested in national, generic subject matter. Creating content that relates to local issues is more likely to catch customers’ eyes. There are a few ways to do this:
- Set up different location pages for each brick-and-mortar store or office. Each page should have unique content that relates to the area — don’t just change the contact info!
- Maintain a blog where you write about local news stories/events that resonate with your business and customer base
- Add pages about local organizations, events, and causes your company is involved with
3. Improve Content Quality
Getting results is about more than just keywords. Google’s algorithm is designed to send people the most relevant results.
Webpages that have more comprehensive content are more likely to fit a search query. Informative and well-written content is also more likely to hook potential customers. Another advantage is that high-quality content makes others more willing to link to your website (more on this later).
Review each of your pages to make sure they have useful information and can engage audiences. Remember to write and optimize for humans! After all, 97% of people learn more about local businesses on the internet than from any other source. Simply loading up a page stuffed with keywords can be a real turn-off. Focus on providing accurate information and capturing your brand voice while showing authority on the subject.
Furthermore, be sure contact information is accurate and consistent. List your NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) as well as email and hours in text form, and also check that the contact info matches on all your online business profiles. Conflicting information can harm search rankings and confuse customers, potentially leading them elsewhere.
4. Create Separate Pages for Each Product or Service
The easy way to build a website is to load everything on one or two large pages. Doing so, though, can hurt ranking possibilities. Hosting these generalized pages causes SERPs to not see your business as an authority on any particular thing. In turn, they may interpret your page as being less relevant to consumers.
You should create a dedicated page for every product and service your business offers. For example, a plumbing and heating company website might have one page each about water heaters, plumbing repairs, fixture installations, bathroom remodeling, and so on.
Be sure you optimize each page for the product or service and your location. Businesses that don’t have a wide range of products or services can still enhance local SEO by using location-based copy for the various cities and states they serve.
5. Optimize Your Site for Mobile Devices
More people than ever are searching on the go. In the third quarter of 2019, the mobile share of organic U.S. search engine visits broke 60% for the first time — and these people are searching for things nearby.
According to Google Consumer Insights, “near me today/tonight”-type searches grew more than 900% between 2016 and 2018. “Near me” searches that included some form of “to buy” or “can I buy” also grew by more than 500% in the same time frame.
In other words, a mobile-optimized website is a must to remain competitive among locals. The mobile version of your site should have fast-loading pages, use larger fonts, and focus on important information with less filler.
This type of optimization has proven results; studies have found that up to 88% of people who find a local business via mobile search will call or visit the business within 24 hours!
6. Ask Customers for Reviews
Getting reviews of your business helps build both your online presence and your credibility among customers. In fact, according to the 2019 BrightLocal Local Consumer Review Survey, 82% of customers read online reviews of local businesses. Additionally, the average consumer only feels they can trust a business after reading at least 10 reviews.
This certainly indicates that more reviews lead to more customers—but getting people to write them can be a challenge. Here are a few effective ways to encourage customer feedback:
- Ask them in-person to leave a review after completing a sale
- Send a follow-up request by email or text
- Offer an incentive for submitting reviews, e.g. a free product or a coupon for a future purchase
- Respond to all reviews—both positive and negative—in a polite and professional manner
Please note that while many platforms like Google and Facebook Business encourage soliciting customer reviews, doing so on other services (such as Yelp) can damage your rating. Make sure you know each platform’s policy before sending any requests.
7. Get Local Backlinks and Coverage
For those who don’t know, a backlink is a link to your website that is posted on another organization’s website. Getting others to link to your pages will add referral traffic from followers of that organization and also improve your local search engine rank.
Some of the steps we’ve already talked about, such as adding online profiles and enhancing webpage quality, will also lead to backlinks. More organizations will want to link to your site if there’s something good to link to.
However, there are ways to earn SEO backlinks at the hyper-local level, too. The biggest is to build relationships with journalists and bloggers at major publications in the area. These media outlets are highly indexed on Google, so getting them to cover your company on an ongoing basis can substantially boost local SEO ranks. Other options include:
- Giving presentations to local college students
- Leading discussions for business organizations and professional associations
- Writing guest articles for local publications or blogs
- Looking for interview series on area businesses and ask to participate
- Partnering with other local businesses in a “link exchange”
- Researching your competitor to see which websites are linking to them and reach out to these domains
8. Take Advantage of Social Media
Having a prominent presence on social media benefits local search results two-fold. Follower interactions such as likes, follows, shares, and comments send signals to search engines. While there is debate over whether Google uses social media activity in its rankings, research has shown a strong correlation between the two.
Regardless of their role in SEO, being active on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram is a great opportunity for exposure. Posting regularly and interacting with followers helps build credibility. Social media is a place where you can advertise, offer discounts and promotions, promote existing content, engage with regional influencers, and do other things to generate buzz.
Grow Local SEO with Actionable Steps
Search engine optimization is always evolving, but what hasn’t changed is how important it is for long-term success. Admittedly, improving your local search rankings won’t happen overnight, and some experimentation may be needed. Our steps for boosting local SEO will help you build a good foundation to get results now while preparing for future changes.
This article was written by Compose.ly writer Michael Stridsberg.