There is no doubt that at one point or another, you have searched for “so-and-so industry near me.” How do search engines, predominantly Google, know just what you’re looking for? This is what’s known as Local SEO. For many years, the internet was expanding the global community, bringing together people from across the world that otherwise wouldn’t have been able to contact one another.
Now that Google and other search engines have a pretty good index of the web, they are determined to build stronger local communities based around quality information and giving you just what you’re looking for. Let’s take a look inside this local SEO guide to see just how you can rank your local business:
Elements of Local SEO
To start, Google breaks down any search into three elements: distance, relevance, and prominence.
Google is eager to give you just what you’re looking for and they do a great job of filling in the blanks. Let’s say you’re type “pizzeria” into the search engine, the top listings will be ones that are in your immediate area.
This is because Google places a higher value on a relevant, local listing than one that is further away. As the end user, providing you with the best experience and results is the ultimate goal of any search engine to ensure repeat use.
In an effort to really understand your intent, Google has gotten much better at understanding your interests. Based on previous searches, Google can get a good idea of what you’re actually looking in the event that your inquiry is too vague.
This element is perhaps the most prominent (pun!) of the three. Google gathers all the information regarding a business that it can — both off and on-site factors — to put the best choices on the SERPs. These include: reviews, inbound/outbound links, titles, keywords, and many more.
One of the biggest draws to this is the fact that now Google can get a good understand of a business even if they haven’t had much of an online presence. By taking into consideration historical mentions, articles, publications, and other public forums, a business can establish solid a foundation on the web without even realizing.
In addition to this, search engines are striving to give you quality results. They can determine the quality of a business through reviews and mentions throughout the web, as well as link building.
What can you do to build your brand on Google Local Search?
Google My Business
Google My Business should be one of the first steps on your Local SEO checklist. Establishing a GMB listing is very simple to do, just start here and follow the steps. There are three critical areas that explain why GMB is so important:
- Branding – The ability to catch the attention of a person searching for your brand through a search engine is a powerful technique. A quality cover photo can attract the right kind of attention to your brand and bring people to your site at a much higher rate.
- Business Information – People want to quickly and clearly see where your business is located, how to get in contact with you directly, and your hours of operation.
- Reputation – Previous customers sharing their experiences with your business can really make or break your reputation. Many people rely heavily on reviews so encouraging your customers to write them is paramount for a good reputation.
To put it simply, it is imperative to put localized keywords on your site, especially the title tag. Showing up in the local carousel or the 3-pack can drastically improve your results. For brick-and-mortar stores this is a crucial step to getting customers into your storefront. People and search engines need to know where you are located so having a city and state in your title, h1, alt, and meta descriptions are a must.
Write local-focused content on your site as well. If your site features a blog, do not let it sit unused! This point can not be stressed enough! Odds are, your competitors have one as well and will overcome you in the rankings with frequent and relevant blog posts.
When writing a blog post, be sure to keep your target market in mind. Use tools such as Google Trends, Google Adwords Keyword Planner, and Uber Suggest to monitor trends in your area. If there is an annual local event happening that draws hundreds of people, write about it! People enjoy reading from real people’s point of views, not some unknown blogger with whom they have no connection.
Keep Mobile Users in Mind
With a staggering number of people making the transition to searching on mobile devices, having a user-friendly mobile site can bring you the clicks you’re looking for. Since Google’s release of Mobilegeddon, they consider a mobile-ready site as a prominent ranking signal in the SERPs.
As stated before, showing up in the 3-pack can drastically improve your results. Looking at the screenshot below, by simply typing “coffee” into the search bar, I was able to quickly find 3 suitable candidates to satisfy my craving for coffee. For any search relevant to your business, you want to be in that 3-pack because they all reflect a short distance between you and the customer, accurate relevancy, a prominent web presence, and they show up before the organic results.
Manage your Reputation
To build upon what was previously said about the importance of establishing a positive reputation, we will look at the other side of the coin. If your business has poor reviews, make an effort to correct them! Offer incentives to the unsatisfied customers or at the very least apologize. Potential customers will surely take notice of your efforts.
All that being said, don’t dedicate all your time to putting out fires. Be sure to appreciate the time and effort the positive reviewers spent writing their reviews. Encourage them to bring their friends next time and spread the word! It is an easy thing to do but it is often overlooked by even the best reputation managers. Lucky for you, we offer a comprehensive guide on enhancing your brand’s presence on social media!
Expand Your Radius When It’s Time
Being located in the suburbs of Philadelphia, I have had a number of clients tell me that they want to jump right into the Philly market. One particular instance was a pest control company that has been in existence for over two decades but never had a website or much of an online presence.
Like myself, they too were located in the suburbs of Philadelphia but were not getting any hits from the city. After explaining to them that in order to live in the penthouse (i.e. the Philadelphia market), we have to pour the foundation (i.e. the Bucks County market), they understood the necessity of establishing a name locally then spreading outward.
After a month or two of keyword research, editing the content on the website, link building, and a whole lot of phone calls and cups of coffee, they were finally reaching the top of the local SERPs. Soon after, they were appearing in the Northeast Philadelphia SERPs and the trend is still continuing.
Patience Truly is a Virtue and Honesty is the Best Policy
One simple thing that is often overlooked in this industry is the importance of having patience. The desired results do not happen overnight, nor over the span of a few weeks, and sometimes not even for a few months. But if done correctly, you will reap the rewards for years and years.
It is a long process no doubt, but an open and honest dialogue between you and your client can be the end of an agonizing professional relationship or the beginning of a flourishing one. Having 4 phone calls showcasing how your hard work has improved conversions by 20% over the course of a few months makes that 5th disappointing phone call a little easier for the client swallow and they will no doubt appreciate your honesty.
As each and every community around the world is growing, so is the amount of information being shared over the internet. Time, elbow grease, and patience are a necessity when trying to build your brand locally; that’s not to mention the fact that a professional bucks county web design firm is right in your neighborhood! Another thing important to keep in mind is that this is a learning process; no two clients are exactly alike but there certainly are common processes that can be used for multiple. As long as you follow the steps stated above you should be off to a good start.