Local search engine optimisation (or local SEO), are the techniques involved in helping your website to be found by customers in your local area. Or customers who use a location (eg ‘Bristol’) in their search query on Google and other search engines. If you want to attract local customers, then you need to optimise your local search strategy with local SEO techniques. In this guide, I’ll talk you through local search engine results, how important local SEO is for your business, how it differs from (and is similar to) organic (‘normal’) SEO, and some of the main steps you can take to improve your local search engine ranking.
Here’s an example of what comes up when I search for: ‘café bristol’ in Google:
The top three results underneath the map with the green box around them are what is known as ‘snack pack’ (or ‘map pack’) results. The results that appear underneath those with the red box around them are called the organic results and these are the ‘standard’ SEO results. The higher snack pack results come up for local searches, so if you want to aim for those sought-after top three slots, then you need to optimise your local SEO.
You may have noticed that sometimes the top results are adverts (denoted by ‘Ad’ next to the URL). These are the paid search adverts (or PPC) that are chargeable every time a user clicks on them. PPC activity is very valuable (depending on your business aims and marketing budget), but many of the local SEO activities that help you get in the snack pack results can be done for free, they just take a bit of time and effort.
How important is local SEO for your business?
Local SEO covers both single-location and multiple-location businesses, small, medium and large. Businesses that interact with customers directly. This can be through a physical shopfront (such as a hairdresser or a garden centre), or by providing a service (such as financial advice or plumbing), from home or an office. There are many reasons why you must factor local SEO into your marketing strategy if you want more business from customers who are near to you (or searching in your area). Here are just three reasons:
- 46% of all searches on Google are seeking local information (Source: Go Gulf)
- 72% of consumers that did a local search visited a shop within 5 miles (Source: HubSpot)
- 61% of mobile searchers are more likely to contact a local business if they have a mobile-friendly website (Source: HubSpot)
The growth in the number of localised searches has been highlighted by Google. Even back in 2018, they reported a 200%+ growth in the number of searches for: ‘open’, ‘now’ and ‘near me’ (July – December 2015 vs July – December 2017). Whilst these stats are going to vary depending on where your business is based, they highlight that searches for local information, products and services are on the rise.
How different is local SEO to ‘normal’ (organic) SEO?
The foundations are the same as organic SEO: technical SEO (ensure there are no website errors), high-quality content and quality backlinks (other websites that link to yours). Local SEO has a, well, local focus to these elements. Your high-quality content needs to be local (and relevant) and your backlinks need to be from local sources (eg local media outlets, local bloggers, local event pages, other local businesses etc). The additional elements of local SEO are your Google My Business profile and citations (or NAP). More about Google My Business profiles is covered below. I also have a 10-step guide on how to set up your Google My Business profile and some tips on how to optimise your Google My Business listing.
Consistent NAP ensures you don’t confuse customers (or Google)
Citations (or NAP) are online mentions of the name, address and phone number (hence ‘NAP’) for a local business. These citations can be found on websites, directories, social platforms etc. Part of your local SEO strategy needs to include managing your online citations and building new relevant citations. It’s worth mentioning here that your NAP (name, address and phone number) MUST be consistent across all channels. If not, you may confuse your customers (and Google, which will impact on your local SEO efforts). When I say consistent, I mean exactly the same. So, for example, if you use two or more phone numbers for your business but they all go through to the main switchboard, just use one of the phone numbers for your citations.
There are tools available (such as Moz Local), to help you audit your online citations, and in terms of building new relevant citations, here are a few online directories to get you started:
Make sure your website looks good on mobile
The prominence of mobile for local searches is an important point (see stat number 3 above). When you think about it, if you’re looking for a local business, say a café, you’re more likely to do a quick search on your mobile (unless you’re already sat in front of your computer when you feel the need for a coffee and some cake). So, if you have a business that would like more local customers, then your website needs to be optimised for mobile devices.
You may have already noticed that when you do a local search on your mobile (such as ‘plumbers near me’), you need to scroll down quite far to get to the organic (or ‘standard’) results. This is not something you’re necessarily going to do when you’ve got a leaking tap that you need sorting ASAP. Also, as the top ‘snack pack’ results immediately show you the location on Google Maps, whether it’s open now and star ratings etc, you’ve probably already got most of the information you need to decide on where to go, without scrolling down any further.
In terms of ensuring that your website looks good on mobile, Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool can help you with that. It’s free to use and will let you know if there are any issues that need fixing.
Claim and optimise your free Google My Business listing
So, once you’re happy with how your website looks on mobile, the best place to start improving your local SEO is to claim and optimise your free Google My Business listing. Doing this will immediately put you ahead of 56% of businesses who are yet to claim their Google My Business listing (Source: SEO Expert). If you want help on how to claim and set-up your Google My Business listing, please have a look at my guide on this. I also have a guide containing some top tips on how to optimise your Google My Business profile.
Search marketing techniques that help to optimise your business in local searches are invaluable in helping you to attract more customers in your local area. Ensure that you start from a solid SEO foundation: have no critical SEO errors that might prevent your website from ranking, and that your website looks good on mobile. Then if you haven’t done so already, claim and optimise your free Google My Business listing, make sure your NAP is completely consistent across the web, and you’re well on the way to showing up in localised search results for your area.
If you’re looking for some advice on local SEO and how to attract more customers in your local area, I can help. Get in touch with me for a chat.
- Posted by victoriathomasmarketing
- On 5th October 2020