Local search is more popular than ever, with 82 percent of smartphone users regularly conducting “near me” searches, and more than a third of all searches have local intent, with 53% of them visiting a business found using local search within 48 hours.
In order to make sure that your business is showing up for those local queries, you need to optimize your site and your Google profile for local queries. Here are 10 steps you should take right now to do just that.
1. Google My Business Page
Priority number one for SEO is setting up a Google My Business (GMB) account to tell Google and Google Maps where your business is located, provide other basic business information, and to populate the Google Knowledge Graph panels that appear when users search for your business. Setting up and populating your GMB profile helps your business show up in Google’s local search results, Google Maps, and in the general search results.
Start by going to https://www.google.com/business, and then claim your local business. Don’t make the mistake many businesses make of claiming your profile and ending the process there. After claiming your GMB account, be sure to populate every field so that the search engine has as much information as possible to work with.
Be sure to check your GMB notifications to see if any users have suggested any edits to your profile and to verify that they are accurate if so.
Include a large number of photos and videos, business hours, and verify your contact and location information. GMB also incorporates Q&A, so be sure to answer any questions that your customers may have posted.
Encourage your customers to leave reviews on your GMB account, making sure to abide by Google’s guidelines on how to do so.
Remember to take advantage of every field that is relevant to your business, so that your Google Knowledge Panel is fully populated and users can find as much information as possible through your GMB listing.
2. Google Post
A relatively new feature available within your GMB account is the ability to create posts to publicize events, products, and services so that they are visible right from Google search results and through Google Maps.
To create a post, log into GMB, open the associated location, click “create post,” and select the type of post you want to create. If possible, incorporate a video, image, text, and the associated event, offer, and button as relevant. You may need to test your image size to make sure that it displays correctly in the Google Knowledge Graph panel.
Bear in mind that each new Google My Business Post will bury the older ones. While they are still accessible, it is unlikely that most users will encounter them. Posts “go dark” after seven days, or when the event has passed. Google sends reminders to create new posts when the old ones fall off, so be sure to create a new post when you receive these reminders. The added visibility is worth it.
To track users who respond to CTAs from your GMB posts, be sure to use a link with a campaign tracking code so that it is tracked in Google Analytics.
3. Consistent NAP Across All Channels
Your NAP is your name, address, and phone number. Aside from the NAP listed in your GMB account, Google local search results and Google Maps use information from the NAP listed on various other sites throughout the web. When the NAP is not consistent across all of these sites, it can reduce trust with the search engine, meaning that your result is less likely to turn up near the top of Maps and local pack results.
For this reason, it’s important to verify that your NAP is consistent not only in GMB but also in the various directories and other authoritative listings where it can be found, as well as on your own site.
Perform a search for your business name within the area it is located and verify that any listings that turn up in the search results use the same NAP, as well as the correct website URL. Be sure to contact these listings and let them know if the listing is inaccurate.
4. Use Schema Markup
Using schema.org markup, you can tell the search engines more about your local business to support what you have added to your GMB account.
For the technical details, see the Google Developer guide on markup for local businesses. This markup should be added to your website so that it can be crawled and associated with your GMB account when it is indexed.
You can use schema.org markup to tell Google about your business hours, multiple departments at your location, to create restaurant lists, and to allow users to set up orders or reservations. Be sure to take advantage of as many schema.org properties as relevant to your business, so that the search engines can use this information to better understand your business and to take advantage of any future features and rich results that could be associated with these properties.
5. On-Page Optimization
Local information about your business location or locations should be readily listed on your website. This information is then used to rank your GMB listings in local search results and Maps results, and to populate the Knowledge Graph. But properly optimized pages on your site also allow your own site pages to turn up in Google search results so that you can take up even more real estate in the search listings.
A properly optimized local business page will address the following:
- Title Tag: The title tag should incorporate keywords associated with your brand, your products and services, and your location. It should also act as a call to action that will entice users to click through from the search results.
- Meta Description: Your meta description populates the snippet listed below your title in the search results. The information in the meta description isn’t used to rank search engine results, but if it includes keywords that the user searched for they will be bolded and stand out to the user. Be sure to include an enticing meta description that will encourage users to click through.
- URL: Your URL should include your brand name, location, and keywords associated with your products or services. If your business has multiple locations, use a consistent folder architecture organizing locations by state or province and city. Use the appropriate country code top-level domain if you have locations in multiple countries.
- Landing Pages: Make sure that your landing pages address any possible user objections, make it easy for users to find the information they are most likely looking for, and incorporate user reviews, testimonials, and any other social proof if they are available.
- Schema.org: Use schema.org markup on your user reviews for a chance to get star ratings in the search results.
6. Local Link Building
Local link building is the process of earning links from businesses and organizations that are associated with your business location. This helps your business turn up in search results that have local intent and may positively influence your listings in the 7 pack and Maps results as well.
To earn local links, you can start by searching for directories and business listings associated with your location. Bear in mind that these directories should exist for users and function as actual directories, rather than merely existing as a place for businesses to place links for SEO.
From here you can search for relevant sponsorships, scholarships, business associations, any existing business relationships, job listing sites, and events that you can associate yourself with in order to earn links.
Next, identify your top five local competitors and take a look at where they are earning their links using a tool such as Ahrefs. In many cases, you will discover sites that would be likely to link to you for the same reasons they linked to your competitors.
When you reach out to any organization with the goal of earning a link, always keep in mind that your primary initial goal should always be to receive a response from the contact at all. That means placing the focus on giving context for why you are reaching out to them, including information in the subject line that makes it clear the email isn’t automated, keeping things short, and offering something of value to the recipient and a reason for them to respond to you.
7. Reviews on Google My Business and Other Relevant Sites
We already mentioned that you should ask your customers to review your business on GMB, making sure to abide by Google’s guidelines. Local reviews impact your rankings in local search results, and users interested in your business are likely to search for reviews before deciding to visit your establishment.
While GMB reviews should be incorporated into any local business SEO strategy, GMB is not the only site you should be earning reviews on, nor is it the only one thought to impact your local SEO.
To find out which review sites are most relevant for your business, do a search for industry-relevant terms and include your location and “reviews.” See which sites come up in order to determine which sites to prioritize earning reviews from.
Each review site has different policies regarding how much you are allowed to encourage users to leave reviews, but in general, you should train your staff to encourage users to leave reviews on the appropriate sites when they seem satisfied and provide your staff with handouts to make this process easy.
If your business has an online checkout process, you should also incorporate a thank you page or follow up email encouraging users to leave a review at the appropriate site.
8. Mobile Friendly Website
Since a very large portion of the searches being conducted with local intent is taking place on mobile phones, often by users in their cars looking for a nearby location, it is absolutely vital that your site be friendly to mobile devices.
Responsive design is an absolute must, meaning that all images, text, and navigation reformat to fit the screen in a way that is aesthetic and easy to use, with an interface appropriate for “fat fingers” rather than a mouse cursor.
Use Google’s mobile-friendly test tool to determine if there are any changes you need to make in order for your site to function properly on mobile devices.
9. Local Blog
To capture additional local search traffic, it is helpful to have a wider variety of content to work with. A local blog associated with a local business helps build out a very large collection of long tail search terms, earn a wider variety of links from editorial sources, and build additional authority with the search engines.
Your local blog should typically serve as more than just a series of announcements about events and promotions at your local business, although these types of posts should, of course, be included as well. The reason for this is that covering a wider variety of topics related to your business and the local scene will allow you to attract more traffic from audiences that weren’t already searching for your brand.
Be sure to include links between your blog posts whenever they reference one another in order to strengthen your site’s internal semantic architecture and to support user navigation. Link to the appropriate landing pages with a call to action at the appropriate moment, where doing so acts as a natural way to link a solution to a problem that came up within your post.
10. Track Your Rank
Track your rankings in the search results using a tool like SEMrush to measure the impact of your local SEO efforts. While tracing improvements in rankings to any individual SEO efforts is difficult, rank tracking ensures that your efforts are paying off, and rankings for specific keywords can sometimes give you insights into whether changes made on individual pages had a direct impact on rankings.
Make sure to set location data for your rank tracker. You want to know how well your pages are ranking for local searches within the appropriate area, rather than how well you are ranking globally.
Set your rank tracker to notify you with weekly or monthly updates so that you are regularly reminded to check how your rankings are being impacted by your efforts.
Nearly all modern consumers are searching for local businesses as one of the primary methods of locating places to shop and serve their other needs. To put your business in front of these customers, you need to optimize your business for local search results. Use the 10 tips above to make sure your results are surfaced for the appropriate queries.