Why Is Local SEO Important?
Local Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is becoming increasingly important as the use of mobile devices steadily grows. Users on mobile devices are more likely to be searching for nearby businesses while they are on the go. It is important to be able to provide things like directions and opening hours to these searchers so you are not passing hot leads to your competition.
Local SEO signals are also becoming increasingly important in the search results page as Google increases the prominence of Local Packs and Google My Business (GMB) sidebar profiles.
Considering the amount you are probably forking out to run AdWords text ads, it is crazy to be missing out on the free real estate currently offered by Google.
What Type Of Businesses Benefit From Local SEO?
Brick & Mortar Stores
Business that operate a ‘brick and mortar’ model benefit from local search engine optimisation as they often have a fixed location to direct searchers towards. Examples could be restaurants, shops, and your local warrant of fitness provider.
Service Area Businesses
A service area business is a business without a fixed location. A common example of a service area business would be a tradesperson such as a plumber or electrician who will travel to perform a service at your home. Due to the mobile nature of such businesses one could argue that it is even more important to have a local presence for loyal customers to find you. Instead of optimising for a single street location, the focus needs to be on the wider region in which your business operates.
Online only retailers have limited options when it comes to setting up Google My Business profiles because there is no location to verify.
However, the same core principles of local SEO can still be applied to lift performance. Creating quality local links and making sure delivery areas and shipping charges are clearly communicated are just a couple of examples of how to improve results.
How Can I Optimise For Local Search?
So now you are probably thinking what can I do to give myself the best chance of performing well on local searches? Without further adieu, these practices are the best place to start when it comes to improving your local SEO performance.
Despite recent changes in the weighting Google applies to each factor linking is still the biggest influencer when it comes to separating your ranking against your competitors. Try and source quality backlinks from other trusted and established local business to cement your local credentials.
Unsure of how to achieve this?
Ask some of your partners, suppliers, distributors or retailers to link to the same location page that is referenced in your GMB profile.
Another approach is to talk to other organisations with authority in your industry, like governing bodies, unions, professional lobbys or training institutes.
As well as links from industry relevant partners, it helps to gain links from organisations with a strong local presence, this could be from the likes of a chamber of commerce directory or from a local event that you sponsor.
Stands for Name, Address and Phone. These details are crucial to the success of your business at a local level. Google is looking to see consistency here across multiple sources to be certain that these details are correct. Make sure that there are no pages on your site with old contact information that may confuse Google when your site is next crawled.
Google My Business is the single largest ranking indicator accounting for 19.01% of your overall ranking on local search terms. The key to ranking well here is to make sure that your profile is nice and tidy. Make sure that all of the information and categories that Google asks for are correct. Spend time looking at all the options for product category and select the most relevant one for you. Another tip is to include the industry and location in the GMB title (e.g., “ACME Accountants Auckland”).
The recently released 2017 Local Ranking Factors highlights the value now placed on good reviews by the Google algorithm. The weighting of reviews has increased from 10.8% to 13.3% (A 21.5% increase YoY was the largest out of any category).
If people are able to leave reviews directly on your location page then make sure to apply the correct JSON schema markup so that these can be taken into consideration by Google.
Opening hours can sometimes be overlooked on a website but it is crucial information that Google needs.
Alongside your normal Monday to Friday hours you can also set store hours for special holidays when your hours may differ.
If you have multiple locations it can be tempting to showcase these in an interactive map on one page. If this is the case, make sure you have readable text on the page and an independent URL (for each location) so that you can link directly there from your profile.
Citations saw the biggest decrease in impact year-on-year, but are still a major signal for Google. Citations refer to backlinks that come from usually free websites (in which anyone is able to create a profile). Due to these factors, these links don’t carry the same weight as one from a business partner. The upside is that they are fast to create and you do not have to wait on another webmaster to get around to uploading your desired content.
When selecting Directories to create links on ensure that they don’t create nofollow links.
What Is Google My Business?
Google My Business is a free service offered by Google that gives business and organisations the ability to create online profiles to better control their online presence across Google Search and Google Maps results.
Benefits of Google My Business
- Accuracy of information – Organisations who use Google My Business benefit from being able to change their business information in real time. For instance in you move location or change phone number these details can be updated instantly.
- Increased real estate for brand terms – Google My Business profiles feed information into sidebar panels in Google Search results which dramatically increases your presence in SERPs. On brand terms and especially on mobile devices this pushes competitors well down the page and out of consideration by potential customers.
- Map listing for generic search terms – On generic search terms like “where to buy ice cream”, business with a GMB profile will be eligible to show in a map feature with other nearby businesses. Rankings depend on proximity to the users location and the quality of reviews for each location.
- Location Extensions – Google My Business profiles are mandatory for businesses wanting to import their locations in AdWords in order to utilise location extensions.
- It is free!
How To Measure The Impact of Local SEO On Your Business
As local search engine optimisation falls under the organic channel, it can be difficult to measure the impacts of any changes you make.
Using custom UTM tags allows you to split this traffic within Analytics. By differentiating it from regular organic traffic, webmasters are able to keep a closer eye on the performance of their profiles.
Simply add the source as Google, the medium as organic, the campaign as GMB, and the content as the location of the office. From here, you will be able to see the results alongside all your other campaigns in Analytics.
Where To Get Help For Google My Business
Google My Business can be harder to find information on compared to the level of support that you may be used to through platforms like AdWords.
For common issues try the Google GMB Go To Guides which offer step by step instructions on how to resolve issues such as:
- Dealing with duplicate locations
- Marking a Business as closed
- Ways to verify your business
If your issue is more technical, you can follow these steps to contact the Google My Business Help Team.
There is never such a thing as a free lunch when it comes to Google, however Google posts may be about the closest that you can get.
Google Posts are a relatively new feature that can appear in your main GMB sidebar profile or as a scrollable post snippet within the search results.
Google Posts enables users to write between 100-300 and include a hero-image to be displayed with the content.
Once published, the Posts are live for seven days before fading from SERPs. They do remain in your Google My Business account, where you can view previous posts and metrics like impressions and clicks.
For improved tracking of Google Posts you can follow the same UTM tracking process as for the GMB profiles with the following change:
- Campaign Name = Google_Posts
AdWords Location Extensions
Optimising for local search intents does not just have to stay within the realm of organic search. Location extensions are a great way to improve the experience for users in close proximity to one of your stores or retailers.
Having a Google my Business profile is a requirement before you are able to set up location extensions in AdWords, but once they are set up it is a straightforward process to import them into AdWords.
Make sure to check that the Google My Business profiles are attached to the same email address as your AdWords account. Once this is in place then you can follow these steps to link your data.
Use labels or a ‘Business Name’ naming convention in GMB to easily differentiate between different stores (e.g., say for instance you have two different brands on the same account).
There is always the option to manually select which stores to sync to different campaigns.
AdWords Affiliate Location Extensions
If your business has no physical stores but you are stocked by a major retailer then Affiliate Location Extensions are a great way to tap into the benefits of local search information.
Currently Affiliate Location Extensions for General Retailers are only available in the following countries:
Affiliate Location Extensions for Auto-Dealers are also available in:
Once the Affiliate Location Extension is approved, their store details are eligible to show up like a regular location extension on ads that run for your specific product line.
Make sure you are not competing with in-house ads that the retailer is running. If they have Dynamic Search Ads enabled then they may not be aware that they are bidding on your product range.
Local SEO is quickly becoming a key competitive component for many businesses today. Although making sure that your existing and potential customers are able to find you may seem simple, many businesses today are failing to optimise this channel to its full extent.
With potential hot leads and increasing real estate in the SERPs, why wouldn’t you? Be sure to get in touch with the team here at Uprise if you need help in leveraging your Local SEO.
Monday, 26 February 2018