Brick-and-mortar businesses need to have an online presence if they want to remain relevant and competitive in today’s business world. It’s estimated that four out of five customers find the information they need online first before making a purchase. If you don’t appear in their online search, you are missing out on potential sale opportunities. To build an online presence, especially in the local community, you need to master local SEO.
What Is Local SEO
Local SEO is the act of optimizing your business listing so as to improve its rankings when a user enters a location-specific query related to your business. For example, if you have a beauty spa in Houston and a user enters the phrase “top Houston spas”, yours should appear in the top positions if your local SEO is done right. Many times, the user doesn’t even need to enter the location name to get local results. Google automatically track their IP address so it will display local results matching the user’s location.
Local Map Pack
A typical local search result page consists of two parts: a local map pack and the usual organic results. It’s the local map pack that local businesses want to target. In this part, Google will display a list of local businesses matching the query, together with pinpoints on the map showing where those businesses are located. This will improve user experience since the user can find what they are looking for right at the top without having to look through the rest of the results. Your problem as a local business is: How to appear in this local pack.
Google My Business
Google My Business has become the creme de la creme when it comes to local search optimization. It’s your way of proving to Google that your business is legit and really based in the location you claim it to be. It’s completely free to set up a Google My Business profile and you can do it in less than 15 minutes. Make sure to fill out as much relevant information as possible about your establishment since it will be your storefront.
Once your business listing has been verified, Google will display your listing whenever a user enters queries related to your business. What’s more, you will also appear on Google Maps and other popular map applications that use Google Maps’ API. Ever noticed all the nearby businesses that popped up whenever you zoomed in on a specific location on a map? You will be among them.
Having your business listed on Google Maps also means that when a user searches for location-based queries such as “Italian restaurants near me”, you’ll be listed if you are an Italian restaurant that happens to be located near the user’s location. Given that “near me” and “close by” search terms rose a whopping 900% over the last two years and 18% of local smartphone searches ended in a sale, compared to only 7% of non-local searches, it pays to appear in front of these searchers.
Optimize Your Website
To make sure Google and other search engines correctly display your listing for every related query, don’t misspell your business address. If your business has multiple locations, list them all on your website. Make sure your address is consistently written across all platforms and sites.
Since 76% of local searchers end up calling the business, make sure all your phone numbers are clickable on a mobile device. This way, a user doesn’t have to copy and paste your number in order to make a call. They can just click on the number and get transferred to their native calling app right away.
What about keywords?
Keywords should be at the core of your SEO strategy. A search for “hairdressers” will probably result in a list of hairdressers all over the world. However, a search for “Fairfax hairdressers” will narrow it down to only hairdressers located in Fairfax. If you are a hairdresser, which keyword do you think is easier to rank for? The latter obviously. If you haven’t done it already, revise your current target keyword list and make sure to include as many relevant local search phrases as possible.
Getting Listed in Local Directories
Besides Google My Business, don’t forget that there are many other directories where you can submit your business profile and make it easier for customers to come to you. Bing Places for Business, Yelp, and TripAdvisor are some other local directories that you can use to boost your business’s visibility and organic rankings.
Reviews, Reviews, and More Reviews
Did you know that 97% of people surveyed said that reviews are the number one factor that affects their purchase decision? Another research conducted by Harvard Business School found out that adding another star to your review score can boost sales by 10%. Since potential customers know nothing about you, except what they see or read online, they count on the reviews from current and past customers to evaluate you. Glowing reviews are like stamps of approval from customers who know you and endorse you. Potential customers love that.
If your business currently has less than four and five-star ratings on major review sites, especially Google My Business, it’s time to work on that. The best way to deal with negative reviews is to respond attentively and try to resolve the issue. This way, you may end up turning an angry customer into a brand endorser. Potential customers also see how much you care about your customers.
As you can see, local SEO is the key to success if you want to dominate the local market. By being found on Google Maps and getting listed at the top for local queries, you can see your sales shooting through the roof. Not many business owners are versatile marketers at the same time. That’s why it’s a good idea to work with a professional marketing agency that knows the local market well. They can help you achieve your marketing goals while you focus on what you do best: working on expanding the business.