Local search is critical to businesses of all sizes, but it is especially valuable to small business. You can use local search results to connect with your customers when they’re ready to buy and local searchers are more likely to turn into potential customers. You can rank first for local searches even if broader search terms might be too competitive. Here are six ways to dominate local search in 2018.
Tailor Information for the “Near Me” Query
Google has noticed 50% year over year growth in “near me” searches as customers get in the habit of on-demand shopping. They don’t look up restaurants for dinner before they go out; they go out and then look for restaurants near them at that moment.
Search engine optimization for these situations requires the right type of local references. Your business’ address needs to be consistent and accurate in all of the business directories search engines pull from to determine your location. Conflicting information is seen as diluting your local SEO and a service provider who is a weaker match or further away will outrank you if the problem is bad enough. You can improve local SEO by giving driving directions that reference local and major streets, including references to local landmarks in your content and sprinkling the site with local key search terms instead of just “X service provider”.
However, you should not stuff your business name with keywords that are not actually in the business name. Search engines penalize your business for doing this, just as they do pages that are spammy and stuffed with unrelated keywords.
Be Certain Your Location Information Is Read by Search Engines
Local search engine optimization requires using location references search engines recognize. A common mistake that businesses make is listing mailboxes or post office boxes as a business address. Google does not recognize this as a valid address. Consistent repetition of a PO box as your address means you’ll be invisible in local searches.
A different mistake is putting your business’ address in a format that search engines can’t see. For example, businesses may put their address and phone number in an image and put it prominently on the webpage. Visitors to the website may see it, but search engines won’t.
The solution is to put your company’s name, address, and phone number clearly in text form, so it can be picked up by search engine robots and used to verify the location. You can amplify the effect by listing the same information on multiple pages, such as the company homepage and the “about us” page.
Repetition, Repetition, Repetition
Search engines use repetition as a verification of the information. Consistency is key to ranking well in local searches if you already have basic SEO for the key term. You should claim all of your company’s business listings and amend any incorrect information since the old, closed location showing up in a business directory could confuse a customer who goes there. It also confuses search engines, so they downgrade your match in location-based queries.
Another variation of this theme is being classified the same way in every business directory. The categorization of businesses in business directories like the online phone books is used to define the context. If you are a veterinarian, your business should be classified as a veterinary clinic. The fact that you sell some pet supplies shouldn’t get you classified as a pet supply store, or else no one will find your business in veterinary clinic searches.
A restaurant that is classified as the wrong type in business directories will rank lower in keyword searches, and a restaurant accidentally classified as a restaurant supplies provider will rank even lower. Mistakes in categorization in multiple business directories mean search engines aren’t certain what type of business you are, so they don’t rank your business high in local searches for that type of business. Conversely, checking the business category and then building on it with a good business description helps local SEO.
Appreciation for the Importance of Reviews
If someone is running a local search, they’re probably in the last stage of the sales funnel. Given three to five local search results, the last major decision criteria is ratings and reviews. Your business wants good reviews since the business with a 3-star rating will lose to the one with a 5-star rating, but the business with no reviews will typically be skipped for the one with 3-stars.
Remember to seek reviews across many different platforms since you don’t necessarily know which reviews your potential customers are going to see first. You could do this by making it part of your packaging and promo material, or by doing some follow up through your loyalty program’s newsletter.
And take the time to address bad reviews, especially those cases where the person could be offered compensation for their bad experience and potentially change the negative review to a positive one. Reputation management is essential.
Implement good On-Page SEO
On-page SEO remains an essential part of any SEO strategies. Without sound on-page SEO, every other SEO effort is set to fail.
Embedding local key terms in titles and meta-tags is a start. If you don’t know how to do this or don’t even know what a meta-tag is, then you might need to contact a web design firm that understands good SEO. Companies like Pixel Productions Inc. implement good SEO web design principles in all of their projects. They can make your site more mobile-friendly, too, so that your optimized site doesn’t lose potential customers because it takes too long to load on a mobile device.
Consider the Little Things
People searching for a business want information about the business. Put information like hours of operation and types of payment accepted on the website right beside the address near the top of the page. Where possible, put that information in the business directory listings themselves. Add your company logo to business directories and the website to improve brand recognition. Put a photo of your business on business directory pages and your website, so that local searchers can recognize it when they pass it.
Local search engine optimization is essential to the success of brick and mortar stores and service providers. The upside is that you can dominate local searches quite easily. The danger is that a few, little mistakes could render you essentially invisible. Invest time, effort, and planning into improving your local search engine optimization to find and convert customers.