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Local SEO is a Google favorite.
Over the years, the search engine giant has shown increasing favor toward smaller, newer local businesses, giving them the tools they need to perform well in the local search (e.g. Analytics and Search Console) landscape. The latest algorithm updates focus on giving searchers relevant results, as well; and a huge part of what they consider relevant is location.
The importance of local search engine optimization cannot be overemphasized. And its importance has grown significantly over the last few years, given the rise of mobile devices and wearable gadgets, as well as better Internet connection while out and about.
Before we delve deeper into the importance of local SEO and how it helps businesses beat the competition, let’s understand how local SEO is different from just general SEO or organic SEO.
Local SEO has a lot of similarities with organic SEO, but the two disciplines are very different.
Local SEO is optimizing a page or website so that it appears for organic queries in the search engines, in which the goal of the user is to find local information. Some examples include terms with “geo qualifiers”: the name of the city or town, or zip code. The first difference between the two types of SEO is literally out there, and it’s “location, location, location.”
Essentially, local SEO promotes your products and services at the exact moment customers look for it.
Another variance would be the primary objective of each kind of optimization strategy. The goal of organic SEO is to rank high for a specific set of keywords, but for local SEO, the main goal is to get into the listing packs, such as the Google snack packs. It’s also about being listed at every other place where potential clients might search, including online directories.
We’re told that local SEO is important for rankings, followed by a sentence full of jargon, like “brand,” “consistency,” and “authority.” But the reason behind its importance is rarely recognized, and anyone trying to understand how it affects rankings may be lost in the mix.
Let’s look at the numbers.
The figures are pretty telling. And there’s really no way around it—optimizing for local SEO is the only way to be seen by a majority of users near your business. If you’re not using local SEO to your advantage, that’s like shutting out customers as they keep knocking on your door.
In addition, local SEO is important because the Yellow Pages has evolved from paper to digital space.
Years ago, businesses had to be listed in the Yellow Pages if they wanted people to find them. While you can still find the local plumber in the big yellow book, today, modern consumers usually don’t bother flipping through the pages of giant listings when they have a phone tucked away in their pocket.
These days, consumers can simply pull up a search engine to find a local business—even if they just type in “restaurant,” search engines can deliver results based on the user’s GPS coordinates. Not only do users get a list of nearby restaurants, but they can also access the exact address (with a map), contact number, and reviews of the restaurant.
If your Denver business doesn’t implement local SEO, people will not be able to find you, and quite possibly, will not even know you exist.
Local SEO is also important because individualized results are becoming the norm. Google, for instance, generates specific results based on the person doing the search. As long as the user is logged into a Google account, their geographic location and search history influence the type of results they see.
If you search for “best steakhouse in Denver” on your desktop or mobile phone, for instance, Google will provide results that are nearest to you.
Of course, local SEO is important to any type of business, big or small. But it’s even more important if your business is a startup, because you’re starting from scratch. You have no online presence yet, and you can’t leverage previous reputation.
Plus, startups often have a more meager budget for an SEO campaign, but they can, and should, use local SEO to their advantage, as much of it is free of charge.
Google Places doesn’t charge to be listed in their service, and inserting local keywords will not cost you more than the time it takes to research them.
If the numbers, the evolution of the Yellow Pages, and Google’s growing favor toward local businesses have finally convinced you of local SEO’s importance, read on to know how to leverage local SEO.
Search engines, including Google, have the right to decide which websites earn the precious first slice of the local search engine results pages (SERPs).
So, what can you do to earn that slice?
Claim your Google Places for Business page.
Once you’ve set it up, include a long, unique description about your business. Choose the correct categories as well, and upload as many photos as possible. Likewise, pay specific attention to your profile photo. According to Local U, a provider of search marketing seminars, no other image of a business gets seen more by potential customers and searchers than the Google My Business profile photo.
In addition, Google shows the profile image almost everywhere, from the less visible profile circle on your Google+ page to the Local Pack results.
You have to go further than just serving customers from the area. You need a physical store. According to a survey, 50% of local searchers are looking for local business information, such as a physical address.
So edit your Google My Business listing to ensure your information is complete. Provide a phone number and address, as well as an e-mail address and your business hours.
Insufficient details will result in users tossing aside your brand, and in Google shrugging you off within the local listings — and you do not want either scenario to happen.
Other than Google My Business, use Yahoo! Local, Bing Places, Foursquare, and Yelp—online directories that are ranking very well. Yelp, in particular, is becoming second to Google in terms of local importance after the former partnered with Apple, according to Greg Sterling of Search Engine Land.
Utilizing the online directories listed above is one way to dominate local organic results. And if you’re using Google AdWords, too, then you’re doubling your chances at having four listings on the first page.
With local search, almost everything is within your control. You create your own listings, optimize your page, and tweak your social media accounts to bump your business to the top of local search results.
What you can’t completely control, however, are the reviews; and these are arguably the biggest local SEO ranking factor, and are comparable to links in organic SEO.
You can’t force users to leave reviews or give you a five-star rating. The good news? You can encourage them to do so by giving them incentives for their time. Think: discounts, freebies, and other promotions. This will increase your chances of success, provided the review is positive, of course.
Local SEO can’t help you if you get bad reviews because your product or service isn’t good.
But don’t limit your business to just Google reviews, mind you. You’ll want to focus on getting Yelp reviews as well, and other online directories. Your number one priority, however, should be Google.
When all your important information is listed in local directories, this is like an upvote for your business. But while you already know that building citations is important for rankings, you likely overlook duplicate and incorrect listings.
Some online directories populate their own websites with other listings, so these inconsistencies will be spread around the web, if not caught and fixed. Therefore, to “collect all your upvotes,” clean up your local listings.
By cleaning, we mean making sure your listings have the correct NAP (Business Name, Address, Phone Number) format the way you want it displayed across the web.
Don’t just update your local page or you will encounter ranking problems down the road, as erroneous data will continuously feed into Google from all of its sources. You miss out on getting credit for that citation, which will in turn hurt your local rankings.
The ride isn’t over yet. In the next few decades or so, local SEO will become even more important and more impactful for businesses.
Numerous companies don’t think about local SEO until late in the game; when customers go flocking to their competitors. Get a jump on the competition by hiring RefractROI-Partners, right away!
Call RefractROI-Partners today to schedule an initial consultation. We have a team of seasoned local SEO specialists in Denver who will help you on your journey.