Local SEO Guide for 2021
Search is an integral part of the buyer’s journey. When a person searches for a product or a service, they would initially search for a business that provides it near them. In fact, 46% of Google searches are looking for local information and 97% of search engine users search for local businesses (Go-Gulf). These are huge numbers that represent how powerful and important local SEO is for businesses.
Most already know how powerful SEO can be for their businesses and so they dive straight right in. But many don’t know the difference between SEO and local SEO. Small to medium businesses are the ones who benefit the most from local SEO. A lot fail in local SEO not because they lack the resources but because they lack the focus. They tend to compete for highly competitive keywords against huge corporations with a national or international presence. And even if they get traffic from these keywords, they don’t convert to sales because they are far from their business’ coverage.
Local SEO is all about focusing on the area/s your business has presence, increasing your online visibility, and attracting more relevant customers who are near you. If you want to learn more, continue reading this guide!
What you Need to Know: Local SEO Basics
What is Local SEO?
Local Search Engine Optimization or Local SEO is the process of optimizing a website to rank for keywords in a specific geographical location. Businesses that have a physical location or serve a specific area will benefit greatly from local SEO.
Why is Local SEO Important?
As I mentioned earlier, search is a part of the buyer’s journey. Even in the age of e-commerce, majority of consumers are still in-store shoppers. Consumers nowadays use Google to find information online first before going to the actual store. Hubspot reports that 70% of shoppers prefer stores where they could purchase in-store.
But how about competing with companies like Amazon? 72% of searchers say that they prefer looking for local merchants first which means you don’t have to be afraid that you will not get customers from doing local SEO.
Still not convinced? Here are some more statistics about local SEO:
- “Where to buy” + “near me” mobile inquiries have grown by 200% in the past two years
- “Near me” or “close by” searches grew by more than 900% the past two years
- 86% of people look up the location of a business on Google Maps
- 72% of consumers that did a local search visited a store within five miles
- 97% of people learn more about a local company via the internet
- Local searches results in purchases 28% of the time
- 92% of searchers will pick businesses on the first page of local search results
Google My Business Listing
Google My Business is a free tool created by Google that allows searches to see a business’ information right from the search results. It allows searchers to easily find your business information and it also allows you to interact with them.
Having a Google My Business listing is an absolute must for Local SEO. It is one of the first steps you should take. The process is not complicated and as long as your business has a physical address. If not (you own a fully digital business), you may have to use your personal address or any address that can represent your business (e.g. virtual office).
Google’s Map Pack
If you search for a product or service in a specific area, Google will often recommend three local businesses near your according to Google Maps. This is called the Map Pack.
When a user selects a business on the Map Pack they are immediately shown the location on of the business on Google Maps where they can easily navigate to it.
You would need to have a Google My Business profile and your business should be visible in Google Maps. The Map Pack also has a different ranking algorithm. Other SEO efforts may affect your rankings here but it really boils down to two things: the location of the user and reviews. Google will tend to rank businesses nearest to the user higher but you may have a chance to outrank them if you have better reviews. Because of this, you may not be able to do a lot to affect your rankings here but it is important that you track where you appear in the Map Pack for searches in your area.
Local SEO Optimization Tips
Optimize Google My Business
Your Google My Business profile appears when a user searches specifically for your business but there are also times when Google may show a user your GMB profile even if they are using a keyword. Whichever the case is, you need to have a good and optimized GMB profile because this is where you make your first impression on the user. Your GMB profile will also affect how you rank in the Map Pack. You wouldn’t want to miss these crucial opportunities so here are some tips to optimize your Google My Business profile.
- Update your address – this is already an obvious one but there are some businesses who forget to update their business addresses when they move. Google will always use the address you used when you verified your business unless you change it. Users will also most likely use Google Maps to navigate to your businesses and if they don’t see your store or office there when they arrive, you could be losing a lot of money.
- Place accurate business hours and contact number – since users are most likely to visit your store/office after checking your profile, make sure that you have your updated business hours. A contact number is also important for setting appointments and other inquiries.
- Upload images – images of your business greatly helps in attracting customers. It helps in proving the authenticity of your business and in building trust.
- Respond to questions – some users would need more information about your business and that is what the Ask a Question feature is for. Keep in mind that questions and answers are available to the public and can be seen by other users.
- Utilize Google My Business Updates – people tend to forget about this feature but you can actually post updates on your GMB profile for users to see. Posting sales and promotions can help bring in more customers and drive more sales.
Get Good Reviews
Reviews are a huge factor for both rankings in Google and for customers. Google may consider your business reviews on Google My Business and your business listings on other websites to evaluate your business’ trustworthiness which is an important factor for E-A-T.
On the consumer end, 82% of users will not buy from businesses that have an average rating of 3 stars and below. This alone proves how important reviews are in the decision of a buyer.
Some may think that they cannot control what a customer says but in reality, your product/service is the one that dictates how you get reviews. This is probably one factor where you do not need to do anything online. Make sure to provide customers the best experience and think of creative ways to ask for reviews. Not only will you look better in the web but these customers have more chances of becoming loyal customers.
Geotag your Target Keywords
Geotagging your keywords is one of the most important strategies in local SEO. The process is simple, you add a location to your keywords. For example:
Non-geotagged keyword – used cars for sale
Geotagged keyword – used cars for sale in paranaque city
The difference between the search results of the two is huge. For non-geotagged keywords, Google may still factor a user’s location but the search results will still be dominated by bigger websites. That is why users tend to add locations to their keywords when they search because they want more refined results.
By simply geotagging your keywords, you help Google understand where your business operates. Geotagged keywords are also less difficult than non-geotagged keywords so it will take you fewer headaches to rank for them. But still, do not underestimate their difficulty because chances are, your competitors are trying to rank for them as well.
For a full guide on keyword geotagging, I highly recommend that you check out the guide I wrote on the importance of geotagging keywords for SEO.
Build Links from Local Websites and Directories
Link building is still an important strategy for local SEO. You can aim to acquire backlinks from authoritative websites but more importantly, you would want to get links from local websites.
Your first priority is to get listed in all local business directories. Getting links from high authority websites are good but more importantly, you would want to get links from local websites. You could reach out to local bloggers, online newspapers, interact on online forums with people that live in the same area, etc. Getting links from these websites will not only strengthen your backlink profile but also help Google understand where your area of operation is. Relevancy is the key. If your business is operating in New York, you wouldn’t want to be listed in a business directory in a different state so do keep that in mind.
Apply LocalBusiness Schema
Structured data may not be a direct ranking factor but it does help Google better understand your website and pull the necessary information for the knowledge graph. There are a lot of structured data types to choose from and it will vary depending on the type of page you will place them on but there is one structured data type that is specifically recommended for local SEO: LocalBusiness schema.
By marking up your website with LocalBusiness schema, you can tell Google details about your business such as your location, business hours, price range, contact number, and more. One more important factor that can increase your click-through rate is adding the AggregateRating schema on your LocalBusiness schema.
The AggregateRating is the average rating your business have from real customers. This requires real reviews and fabricating reviews may get you penalized as it is against Google’s guidelines. When you have AggregateRating on your schema, there is a possibility that Google may show star ratings when your website appears in the search results. This makes you more appealing to users that could lead to more clicks. If you want a full guide on how to apply AggregateRating properly, check out this guide.
Optimize for Mobile
Having a mobile-friendly website is crucial for local SEO. The number of mobile searches is increasing every year and even Google considers mobile-friendliness as one of the top-ranking factors in SEO and you can be sure that it is the same for local SEO. Check out these stats:
- 30% of Google mobile searches are related to location
- 60% of smartphone users have contacted a business directly from the search results using the click to call option.
- 78% of local mobile search result in in-store purchases
These are just a few numbers to show how important having a mobile-friendly site is. So when you create a website, do not put all of your focus on the design but think of what would provide users the best and fastest experience. You can also utilize AMP or accelerated mobile pages to easily transform your existing website content to mobile-friendly pages.
Many business owners are still hesitant to invest in local SEO. Some may have failed but as long as you focus on the right things, you are sure to be successful. Always remember that in local SEO, your priority is to rank for areas where your business reach. Do not waste time and effort trying to rank for broad keywords that may take you months or years just to reach the bottom of the first page. Of course, this does not mean that local SEO is easier, but it is much more attainable and practical. If done right, local SEO will allow you to tap more customers in your area and generate more sales for your business.