Local SEO is nothing new. But getting and maintaining a good position on local SERPs is becoming harder. With the increasing use of smartphones for local organic searching, the increasing number of small businesses optimising their sites for local searches, and the big search engines drive to provide greater accuracy to search engine requests, things are set to get more difficult.
For instance, in a recent survey, Google maintained that 50% of consumers who searched for a local business via their mobile, visited the same bricks and mortar or online business within 24 hours. Of those who searched from their desktop, 34% visited during the same period. Local searches are becoming big business. So what are best practises to ensure a high ranking in local SERPs?
Yes, it’s that old chestnut again, but facts are facts, if your building is built on weak foundations it will fall down. The same applies to your website, it has to be strong. It needs to load quickly, be visually attractive and easy to use. All links need to work properly, and most importantly, it needs to be optimised for mobiles.
Any of these failing could mean a reduction in your SERP rankings. If you don’t get the basics right in the first place, all that additional work could come to nothing.
Search Engine Business Listings:
Most small businesses, bricks and mortar or online, are born to serve the local community. Concentrating your efforts locally, especially in the early days when trying to get your presence noticed, is the logical step to take. Make sure you are correctly listed on Google and Bing’s local business listings.
Content and Long-tail Keywords:
Good content and effective keywords are a part of the foundations of an effective website. Long-tail keywords are favoured these days, and your keyword should include its local element.
There are a number of excellent free keyword finders available, but don’t forget the local element. For instance; ‘Your Local Aquatic Shop’ is not going to figure very well. ‘Your Local Aquatic Shop in Luton’ is better. Google’s intention is localised local marketing. If your business is on an estate outside of town, ‘Urban Estate,’ then ‘Your Local Aquatic Shop in Urban Estate Luton’ will be more successful. Make sure your business is registered in the directories correctly, and that means business name, full address and contact telephone numbers.
A Local Business needs Local Content:
This doesn’t mean content written locally, It means content relevant to your locality. You have an aquatic business. Are there any pet shows on the horizon? Is the Round-Table organising any charity function? Are the shows being advertised on the town’s website or local paper? Offering to donate a few tins of cat food or sack of dog biscuits will often get you mentioned. Add a content piece to your website about the show and your support of it. Do you purchase stock or materials from a large local supplier, or are there online community news-sheets in your area? Have a chat. Ask if you can get a mention in their pages, and offer the same to them. Link building is always a good idea, and the higher the authority, the more notice is taken by Google’s crawlers. Think local and be local.
Inbound Marketing with Social Media:
While search engine optimisation may be the Holy Grail of organic online marketing, it is not the be-all and end-all. Maximum traffic is what we need, and while organic searches can produce a significant portion of that, social media can also increase site traffic if correctly optimised for inbound marketing. When marketing managers are asked what strategy they employ, over 60% maintain generating traffic is their top priority, while over 40% maintain achieving a good return on investment their prime concern.
While concentrating on local marketing, social media pages relevant to either the local area or your niche business, or both, are what’s needed. If you have a very niche business, being the only one in your area offering your services, it’s not so much of a problem. All you have to do is generate the right content with the right keywords to draw consumers to your site. If you operate in a competitive field, there are numerous tools available which allow you to input a variety of keywords and track which competitor’s site is getting most hits from them, allowing you to adjust your strategy accordingly.
Reviews are Good for Increased Ranking:
Whether you run an aquatic business, or offer a drain unblocking and cleaning service, you will be judged on the quality of customer service, products, and advice. While word of mouth is the best form of advertising, allowing customers the opportunity to leave a review of your business using the five star rating system, will pay dividends. Google will take notice, but more importantly, so will new customers, by visiting your site.
Ads in Local Finder Results:
When Google brought in local searching it appeared utopia had arrived for small businesses. As long as your business was registered correctly, with the location in the keywords, you would appear in Google’s seven-pack local finder results. Nothing stays the same in SEO for long. Google not only reduced the seven-pack to a three-pack, they have also started experimenting with ads in the local finder listings. However, clicking through for other results may well give your business another chance to end up top of the pile.
One of the major concerns of marketing managers is Google may well continue down the advertising road, by offering paid-for adverts. The fear here is that those choosing to take on (Google) ads will rank higher in the results pages. Time will tell.
Overall, little has changed from 2016 to today in local SEO best practises. Less text and greater use of images and videos has become popular and consequently the likes of YouTube are benefiting on the social media circuit.
A few new tools are available to aid in tracking competitors, while others give an insight to where your traffic originates. Website design, good content and operation, along with effective (local) long tail keywords are still the prime movers both in local SEO, and for generating sales. Remember, the vast majority of ordinary everyday consumers prefer to search local and buy local. With correct site optimisation, it could be your local business they arrive at.