If you’re wondering how your business can win more business, the answer is probably local search. Whether you’re a professional service provider or run a brick-and-mortar store, local SEO is the fastest way to get more of the right traffic to your business.
You may be wondering what difference there is between your overall SEO efforts and your local search rankings.
SEO and Your Local Search Rankings
Simply stated, SEO is a long play for online visibility that combines keywords and content to help your business become more visible online. Realistically, it takes some time for that to happen, especially in competitive industries. But you need to maintain a traditional SEO plan to educate your audience into becoming customers and clients.
Local search can take off much more quickly and drive traffic to your business often within days or weeks of taking specific action on optimizing for it. More and more searches are happening on mobile devices and those searches demonstrate high buying intent.
When people search for a [whatever you do] + ”near me,” you want your listing to be the one Google shows them.
Strategy #1 Claim and Optimize Your Google My Business Listing
Over a third of small businesses and professional service providers haven’t claimed their Google My Business (GMB) listing. When your listing goes unclaimed, you’re essentially signaling Google – arguably the largest driver of potential traffic to your business – that you’re not open for business.
And if you think you don’t have a GMB listing? Chances are you probably do, and depending on what you do, you may also have listings on other websites as well. Every day that your listings go unclaimed and unoptimized is costing you business.
Unclaimed listings are also quite often inaccurate listings.
To get more business, people have to know where you are, how to reach you, and what your operating hours are.
Go incognito and search for your business name online. See where you pop up and then, if you find listings for your business that aren’t featuring your name, address, and phone number (NAP), take some time to get those listings corrected and consistent across the internet.
Local search drives a lot of phone calls and requests for directions. If these two vital pieces of information aren’t available or if they are confusing to search engine crawlers, you won’t get all the traffic you deserve from your online listings.
Listings should be audited at least quarterly to make sure they reflect your current business activities and hours of operation.
Other creative ways you can optimize your GMB listing:
- Photos and videos
- Encouraging user generated content
By providing Google bots with plenty of fresh, rich content you’ll quickly compound the ranking and results from your GMB listing leading to increased foot and website traffic to grow your business.
Pro tip: Never Google your business from your desktop or mobile browser without hiding your identity online. The local algorithm is quite a bit different than the traditional Google search function and it may return inaccurate results based on what it knows about you as an individual or you may be outside the geographic boundaries to be returned as a “near me” search. You need to use your analytics tools rather than your mobile browser to measure your local SEO results.
Strategy #2 Focus on Ranking in the Google Map Pack (the “Local 3-Pack”)
Ranking positively in the Google Map Pack significantly increases business opportunities by making your business more relevant in the eyes of searching customers.
The three keys to ranking for the local 3-pack are:
- Relevance – Does your business match the searcher’s intent? You’re more likely to achieve this by having a very complete profile.
- Distance – Have you established a clear service area?
- Prominence – Does your GMB have plenty of quality information and content?
When you rank in the local 3-pack, this positioning gives searchers who have demonstrated buying intent a very easy way to reach your business and you consistently show up on page 1 of Google.
Almost 80% of people who search for a local business online end up purchasing or transacting business within the day.
The 3-pack has features that reduce friction in these final moments of the sales cycle by providing users with a click to call feature. Even in a world where it feels like the last thing a phone is used for is to make phone calls, local search tends to drive a large volume of calls.
The more information you provide to optimize your GMB page, the more likely you are to be selected to appear in the 3-pack.
Google likes to see that you post consistently on your GMB page, that all the tabs are filled out completely, and that you have a clear geographical area that you serve.
Strategy #3 Reviews to Generate More Business and Optimize Your Local SEO
The foundation of local search is tapping into Google’s desire to return the best results to the queries its customers are searching for. Google wants to support local small businesses whenever possible.
While reviews are not a ranking signal for traditional SEO, they play a major role in how favorably your GMB listing is returned in local search results.
There are a few ways you can optimize your reviews so that they increase your local ranking and attract more new customers.
- Give exceptional service. Customers have more choices than ever and great customer experiences earn loyalty. Creating “brand ambassadors” is one of the most powerful ways to attract new customers.
- Ask. It seems so obvious, but when asked to provide a review, most satisfied customers will leave one.
- Make it easy. You might not want to have to compete with reviews of the local brunch hot spots, but people read reviews where they leave reviews. Expecting people to make new accounts or go to platforms they aren’t familiar with puts too much friction into the review process. Plus, having reviews all over the place dilutes their effectiveness.
If you’ve been avoiding asking for reviews because it feels awkward, there are ways to build a “review ask” into your customer experience or via automation that doesn’t involve directly asking.
If you’re worried about the effect of a negative review or two on your business, you’re right to be concerned. That said, there are ways to mitigate the fallout from a bad review by responding appropriately to address the customer service failure.
Certain industries should be especially cautious about how negative reviews are handled due to privacy concerns and professional regulations, but the way future customers see you handle a bad review can actually help you win their business when handled correctly.
Your business is more that your star rating and encouraging a strong review and feedback culture in your business can help you improve not only your customer experiences but your local search ranking as well.
Strategy #4 Create Hyper-local Content to Enhance Your Local Search Ranking
Used properly, hyper-local content can raise your online visibility even more quickly with potential customers. If you serve a very specific part of town, this micro approach to local SEO can drive tremendous amounts of business your way.
By having very specific keywords in your GMB content and your website content, you can rank any time someone searches for a “med spa in Hillcrest historic district.”
Since so many of these searches happen when people might be just steps from your door, paying attention to hyper-local SEO can reliably deliver you the warmest prospects
Before you optimize further, Google will pull a lot of location information from your GMB listing. Make sure everything associated with your location and service area is clear, consistent, and filled out everywhere on your listing.
Once you have location data in your GMB page, it’s time to start pulling up some effective keywords for your hyper-local market. Admittedly, it can be challenging, but there are a few tricks you can use in the standard Google search bar to get started.
You’ve probably used the autocomplete function during a Google search and it can be very handy for keyword research purposes. As you type, similar search terms will appear and give you some ideas about things other people are searching for. Start a list of what you uncover. Then scroll to the bottom of the SERP and see what may be displayed in the related searches area.
Once you’re got your list of relevant, hyper-local search terms, it’s time to put them everywhere: from your GMB listing to your website. When you include these hyper-local terms in your GMB posts, titles, and headings, you’ll start to see new prospects to your business based on this micro-level effort.
Local SEO doesn’t replace your long-term, traditional SEO strategy, but it does return major benefits to small businesses.
Businesses that focus on improving their local search rankings can expect to see a nearly 50% increase in requests for directions to their location, 67% more website visits, and more phone calls from interested consumers.
If you put these four local SEO strategies together for your business and you’re still not seeing the traffic and results you want, it might be time to talk to a Google My Business specialist who is an expert in creating compelling listing content that attracts new customers.