With a big enough marketing & advertising budget, many businesses could simply “buy their way” to the first page of Google search results, but sustainability may be difficult without a constant increase in investment. When it comes to local search, the work you do to improve your organic rankings will have a long lasting and positive impact on website traffic. The time you spend implementing sound SEO practices can ultimately save you money on advertising in the long run.
Boosting your visibility on Google is more than a matter of finding the right keywords and hoping for the best. Many strategies that used to work to drive organic traffic are no longer effective, and some tactics can even hurt your rankings. Instead, read on to learn how you can dominate local search results with legitimate Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices.
Why You Need to Master Local SEO
You can reach new prospects and customers all over the world with your website, but unless your business is an e-commerce store or a multi-national company, focusing on local search results should be the hallmark of your SEO strategy. After all, 85% of consumers use the internet to find local businesses, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon.
While there are many search engines for consumers to choose from, Google continues to be the first choice for the majority of internet searches. The most recent user data confirms that more than 90% of Canadians use Google for online search. These two statistics combine to give some pretty compelling reasons to focus your attention on Google properties when developing a local SEO strategy.
Local citations are web pages that exist on other domains, that list information about businesses, including a name, address and phone number (NAP). Citations that are published on “trusted” domains, whether or not they contain backlinks to your website, can greatly improve your local search visibility.
Major search engines utilize local resources, which can include your local Chamber of Commerce or City Hall, to ‘cross reference’ information, as a means to verify the validity of your connection within the local community. Citations have long since been a major ranking factor in local search, and are still considered to be one of the most significant elements in SEO today. It stands to reason that businesses with a larger number of local citations will likely rank higher than those with fewer, assuming all other factors are equal.
Exploring where your business can take advantage of local citations is a sound SEO strategy, here are several examples:
- Your Local Chamber of Commerce – A dedicated page with your business’ NAP is well worth the price of your yearly membership
- Classified Ads – This can include job postings and classified ads that contain your business information
- Business Directories – Aggregated local directories, such as those with a primary focus on your local community, can positively impact your rankings
- Professional Associations – If your business is affiliated with any groups, particularly if you pay a yearly membership to maintain your profile
- Strategic Alliances – Which can include supplier relations, or any active sponsorship your organization is involved with
Publishing citations can sometimes take hard work, as reputable directories, particularly those with high trust scores, may require a verification step before your profile will be accepted.
Create and Maintain a Google “My Business” Profile
When you search for local businesses in Google, the search results may include the “Local Pack,” depending on the search terms you used. The “Local Pack” includes the primary 3 business listings, along with a map that displays the locations of local results. Search for your location and your company’s primary product or service (not your business name), to see an example. The results that appear under the interactive map are prime examples of companies who have mastered the art of local search.
To apply the best practices of local SEO, ensure your Google “My Business” profile is filled out with accurate information about your business. This is not the time to scrimp on information! Be sure to add the correct location, choose the right business categories, and add eye-catching images that show off what your business does best.
Last but not least, keep an eye on your reviews! A recent survey found that 82% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses, with 52% of 18 to 54 year-old’s saying they “always read reviews”. It goes without saying that your average star rating can impact search visibility, but quantity and velocity are also well-known search ranking factors. Reviews that include your targeted keywords can also have a positive impact on rankings as well.
With all that we’ve said about making sure you’re catering to the search results in Google, you could be forgiven for thinking that’s all there is to dominating the local search results. But no! There’s more work to be done to improve your online presence by completing a robust presence on your social media platforms.
Incorporate Social Media Profiles in Local SEO Strategy
Google has always been very cagey about explaining how social media signals factor into the search results. However, there are a few methods used in getting the most out of your social media presence.
The first thing to do is to ensure your profiles are complete. Pay attention to the subtle differences between platforms. For example, on Facebook, the “short description” has a 255 character limit, but only the first 155 will appear on your timeline. Be sure to look at where it cuts off when you publish the “about us” section of your page.
Remember, people will also use the search functions on social media to find product information and services, so make sure to pepper your social media profiles and status updates with relevant keywords.
No matter where content about your brand appears online, it’s important to focus on its usefulness to your customers and prospects, rather than what the search engines will find. Keep in mind that while SEO may drive visitors to your website, meaningful content about your products or services, along with a fantastic user experience, will turn website visitors into customers every time.
The Final Word on Local SEO
No matter where you are, or what you do, your business will benefit when you find your way to the top of the local search rankings. By focusing your efforts on the areas that have the most impact on the dominant search engine, you can improve your results across all search platforms. Implementing these sound SEO strategies will boost your visibility in your local area while still shining a light on your operations from anywhere in the world.
Purple Pig is a Web Design & SEO Company with headquarters in Kelowna, BC. We serve businesses all over British Columbia and the globe with personalized service for companies of all sizes. Contact us today to start working on effective content marketing strategies to increase the presence of your business online.