What Is Local SEO? Doing It The Right Way14 min read

Lachlan Perry

Lachlan Perry

From a digital marketing and web hosting background, Lachlan is keen to provide all of his insight and knowledge learnt over the years working in the industry to those who want to see their business succeed. On weekends, you can find him enjoying good music and even better food.
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As the internet takes centre stage in the consumers buying process, you must adopt an effective digital marketing strategy for your brick and mortar business. This strategy typically comprises a plan of action that will help you to achieve all your set digital marketing goals.

Local search engine optimisation (SEO) is an integral part of any online marketing initiative. Local SEO refers to the process of optimising your website for higher visibility and better rankings on local organic results. 

Local SEO plays a vital role in increasing the visibility of your website on local organic search result listings, which equates to more traffic and walk-in visits to your physical store. 

In other words, it is all about understanding what people are searching for locally, the terms they use to perform these searches, and the answers that satisfy their inquiry.

The Importance of Local SEO

Local search engine optimisation (SEO) is of critical importance if you have a physical storefront or several offices across a wide range of areas.

In this case, the focus of your search engine optimisation efforts is to increase your online visibility to consumers within your service area and prompt a walk-in visit. 

Local SEO uses a different set of ranking signals in comparison to general SEO.

If you want to appear in the local pack (which we’ll discuss what that is soon), then you need to create and optimise your Google My Business listing and ensure consistency across citations is met.

For local organic search results, Google relies on your on-page SEO (content and SEO metrics) as well as your link signals to help determine where you should be placed in local search results.

Greg Gifford of SearchLab (or as we like to call him, the local SEO king), broke down the ranking factors for both local search results and the local map pack which we’ve broken down into a graph.

Here are the ranking signals for the local pack:

A pie graph that details the ranking signals to rank in Google's local map pack.

As you can see, GMB holds the biggest weight with ranking in the local pack. But what about local, organic search results? Here’s the ranking signals for local search results.

A pie graph that details the ranking signals to rank in Google's local. organic search results.

Here are some vital statistics and data that show why local search engine optimisation is so paramount to your business. 

Local SEO Statistics 2020

1. 4 in 5 consumers use search engines such as Google to carry out a local search. (Think with Google, 2014)

2. 46% of all search inquiries on Google are to find local information. (GoGulf)

3. 88% of consumers who search for a local business on their mobile device either call or visit the business within 24 hours. (Nectafy)

4. In just two years, the growth in mobile searches for “___ near me“ today/tonight rose by more than 900%. (Think with Google)

5. Information from search results will direct a whopping 70% of consumers to a physical store that’s relevant to their local search query. (JH Search Media)

6. 78% of location-based searches via a mobile device result in an offline purchase. (SEO Tribunal)

One of the key take-away from these stats is that leads from location-based searches are a major source of potential customers that your business needs to survive and thrive. 

What is Google My Business?

Google My Business is a free tool that allows you to manage how your business appears online across the Google platform including the map feature and search functions. 

In other words, it is a listing that details your foremost business information, where you can create a unique profile for your business, verify your enterprise, and enhance your visibility.

It looks a little like this:

A photo of a Google My Business listing, being Ferguson Landscape & Design.
Source: Ferguson Landscape & Design

Having a business listing is not only powerful for search engine optimisation, but it also helps customers find out your contact details easily

Why Do You Need Google My Business?

Phone books are fast becoming a thing of the past. Business is now moving its local marketing efforts online, which allows them to take advantage of services such as Google My Business. 

Here are some of the reasons why you need Google My Business:

To Appear In Google’s Local Map Pack

First off, what is Google’s Local Pack?

Google’s local Map Pack a list of three local businesses that appear on Google’s local search engine result pages for search queries involving keywords like “near me” or “near [location]”.  

In other words, when people conduct a Google search for a local business, Google generates a list of three potential businesses that match their search query. 

The map pack most commonly appears for searches that may be best delivered by local results. Searching for ‘pizza delivery’ will bring up the best local restaurants near you, as it wouldn’t necessarily make sense to show you pizzerias in an entirely different city.

Appearing in the local pack is desired given its prominence at the top of the search results, which may influence the likelihood of a visitor navigating to your website over a competitor.

A local map pack result from a local Google search.

Gain Customer’s Trust

Research on marketing and conversion reveals trust as an important factor in influencing consumer purchase decisions. Trust is a major hurdle many people must overcome during the stages of the consumer buying process. 

As a business owner and marketer, you need to help your potential customers make that jump. One of the easiest ways to do this is to show that you are an authentic business with an actual location, enter Google My Business. 

A lot of people consider Google as a reliable search engine they rely on to provide them with authentic, credible, and factual information. 

Therefore, consumers are most likely to naturally trust your business if it appears on the top of local SERP, as they are considered reputable.  

In part, this is mainly due to the thorough registration, screening, and verification process Google has put in place for every business to complete before being listed on Google My Business.

Increase Web Traffic, In-Store Visits & Sales

As a local business, it is of crucial importance to ensure consistency in your web traffic and the flow of customers coming through your doors. No doubt, this is not an easy endeavour and at some point, you are going to experience a decline in these areas. 

However, setting up a Google My Business profile for your business with correct optimisation increases your chances of showing up in more local searches.

Having a top spot in the local pack increases your local visibility, web traffic, phone calls, and the likelihood of attracting in-store visits which corresponds to sales. 

Enhance Your Market Appeal With Ratings And Reviews

The focus of many consumers is not only on the price tag but also on having a pleasant shopping experience from start to finish.

2017 Podium survey on the state of online reviews reveals that 93% of consumers say online reviews influence their buying decisions. 

Online reviews and ratings are both vital components of the consumer shopping experience. In short, people are most likely to purchase from a business that has authentic customer reviews than a business that does not. 

The platform that consumers use to read feedback about your business also matters. 

Prospective customers want reassurance that the ratings and reviews they see are genuine and from real people about their shopping experience in your enterprise.  

Enter Google, which according to a 2018 online review survey is the review site of choice for many consumers.

By setting up a Google My Business profile, customers will be able to review your services and leave feedback on their shopping experience in your establishment. 

Subsequently, your focus will be on maintaining positive reviews over time for a higher rating. Positive reviews are a vital ranking signal for businesses and will help to boost your local search ranking and also give you a competitive advantage over other businesses in your location.

To Make Your Business Stand Out In A Crowd Of Competitors

Another challenge many local businesses face is how to stand out from the competition especially when everyone seems to be doing the same thing. For you to succeed, you need a different approach to advertise your business and tell your story. 

With a Google My Business profile, you can do accomplish both tasks. In this case, you will be able to display to potential customers essential information about your business, and a brief description of what you do to help them decide if you can satisfy their needs. 

A perfect Google My Business description is one that adheres to the business description guidelines, provide an overview of your business, comprises of relevant keywords, uses powerful elements that help show your value. 

With this in mind, you must make the best use of the golden opportunity a Google My Business description offers to propel your enterprise in a manner that is appealing, compelling, and distinctive.

How To Properly Use Google My Business.  

A key focus area of your early endeavours with local search engine optimisation should be your Google my Business listing. 

After all, 1 in 2 people who conduct a local search ( as such “bakery near me”) visit a store within 24hours. This goes to show that local searches like “bakery near me” in many cases signifies purchase intent. 

Therefore, it is important that all your core business information that shows up when people find your business online is accurate, comprehensive, and up to date.

Here is how to set up your Google My Business listing properly for the first time, and leverage it for more sales.

Step One: Check If You Already Have a Listing

Go to the Google Search Console to check if your business already has a Google My Business listing. If you have been in business for a long time, you most likely have an unclaimed GMB listing put together with user-generated information. If you have an existing listing, it should appear by the side corner of the local search engine result page (SERP), with a link to claim the listing. If you do not, that means a Google My Business listing for your business does not exist. 

Step Two: Create A Listing If You Don’t Have One Already

To start visit Google My Business. This step requires a Google account. 

Step Three: Fill In Your Business Details

The first information you need to input is your business name. Afterwards, click “Next” which takes you to the next page that requires you to fill in your address information. The checkbox requires you to specify whether you deliver goods and services to your customers. Check the box only if customers can’t come to your location, this way Google won’t publish your address. For instance, if you are an electrician, plumber, etc, and leave to meet customers in their own home. If you have a storefront, leave the box unchecked and click on “Next”.

Service area businesses (SAB) are still eligible to create a Google My Business listing, by choosing areas they service. 

Google has also made it clear that PO boxes are not an acceptable business address and cannot be used.

Step Four: Select Your Business Category

The next step is to select your business category, by typing into the empty field which automatically generates a list of suggestions for you to choose from. Be sure to find the relevant category for your business, if you do not, select a category that closely matches what you do. 

Step Five: Add Your Phone Number & Website Address

Fill in your phone number and website address. Click “Next”.

Step Six: Verify Your GMB Listing

At this point, you need to verify your GMB listing. This can be done using one of several verification options including Bulk verification, By email, Instant verification, By phone, or postcard. While you can select any of the above verification methods, your business must be eligible for their use before you can proceed. 

Most of the time businesses are always eligible for Postcard verification, which requires you to receive a postcard in the mail with a verification code and a simple set of instructions to follow and verify your business. 

Step Seven: Once Verified Start Personalising Your Listing

After your business information is verified and added to Google My Business, you unlock all of the features and can access your dashboard to start personalising your listing. 

Setting up your Google My Business listing is just one piece of the puzzle; you need to optimise it. 

Optimising Your Google My Business (GMB) Listing. 

Here are some expert tips on optimising your Google My Business listing to get the best out of the tool for your business.

Ensure All Your Business Information Is Accurate, Comprehensive, & Relevant. 

Businesses that provide accurate and consistent information about who they are (Name), where they are located (Address), and how they can be reached (Phone Number) will perform better on search engine result pages. 

Inconsistency with any of your core business information (Name, Address, and Phone Number) will negatively impact your search ranking which is bad for business. 

With this in mind, make sure that any mention about your business concerning the Name, Address, and Phone Number should be the same throughout. 

After providing and ensuring that all your core business is accurate, your next focus will be on two key portions of the listing– your business category and attribute. 

For the business category, you need to be specific by using the correct classification of your enterprise. The attributes section allows you to offer a snapshot of your business, its capabilities, and offerings.

Personalize the Visual Aspect of your GMB Listing 

According to Google, businesses that add photos in their listing “get 42% more requests for directions than those that don’t”. This shows that eye-catching, high-quality photos that highlight the best features of your business can help you to attract consumers and stand out from your competitors. To that end, bee sure to include relevant images of your business’ interior, exterior, product, staff members, etc that give consumers a peek at your business operations and experience you can provide. 

Ask for Reviews and Respond to Them

According to a 2019 survey by BrightLocal, “82% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses”. Of course, this makes sense given the fact that consumers are always on the lookout for genuine feedback on the experience of others before making a purchase. But how do you get these golden reviews? Well, simply ask your customers for it. It does not matter if it is good, bad, or neutral, what matters most is that you receive and actively respond to them. Why? Well, “45% of consumers say that they are more likely to visit a business if the owner responds to negative reviews”. So, take the time to write a message to each reviewer. By so doing, you create an impression of trust, depict your business as genuine, and influence customers.

Summary

Getting the most out of your local SEO campaign boils down to making use of your Google My Business listing correctly and following proven tactics to show up for important local searches. 

If you’re in the market for a killer local SEO campaign, feel free to get in touch with us and we’ll help you start reaching those important to your business.