Starting a business is a dream come true for many entrepreneurs, but making it successful is no small feat. In the wake of a global job crisis in a world struggling to contain a pandemic, visibility on search engines and Google Maps has become more critical than ever; it can make or break your business.
Until 2014, competing with national brands and finding a place on top of search engine result pages was almost impossible for small businesses. However, Google provided them a golden window when it rolled out the first Pigeon algorithm update in July 2014.
The update allowed Google to suggest local businesses and stores when users search location-specific keywords such as “Spa near me” and “Dentist in Downtown Miami.” As Google opened its gates for local businesses, proactive entrepreneurs leveraged the opportunity, making local SEO and directory listings a key determiner in ensuring a business’s online visibility.
What makes local SEO so crucial for brick-and-mortar stores is that 72% of users who perform a local search end up visiting a physical storefront within the 5-mile radius of their existing location. According to another report published in Search Engine Land, 78% of location-based mobile searches end up in successful offline sales.
Local SEO is a pack of SEO tactics that marketers perform in a sequence to improve your business’s visibility on search engines for people nearby. It’s ideal for businesses, stores, and service providers that operate in the physical space, such as flower shops, grocery stores, hospitals, physicians, roofers, and plumbers.
It includes everything from creating a business listing to ensuring that the company’s regional office appears on Google local search and voice search. It’s also known as citation management. Google combines it with reviews and ratings, making it easier for potential customers to trust your business.
SEO professionals create a powerful local-centric social media presence to boost your business’s engagement with regional audiences. Adding local keywords is an integral part of local SEO. Therefore, marketers deploy the keywords people use to find businesses in their location. For example, “Spa in Marina Bay area Singapore” is an intent-based local keyword mainly used by tourists.
Marketers can perform local SEO by adding the location, city name, or zip code. You can also build links from local directories and popular sites and add reviews to the listing. If done right, local SEO can:
A. Improve your business’s sales and awareness through online visibility
B. Boost footfall to your store or local office
C. Promote your business within a service area
Here are five significant benefits of using local directory listings:
You’ll often encounter the term ‘online business citation’ when researching about local SEO or talking to an SEO consultant. It includes your contact information, business name, and address, known as NAP (Name, Address, and Phone number). It increases your business’s online visibility.
Though popular with directory listings, online citations are widely used elsewhere too. A good example is the details you fill in when creating your social media or Google My Business profiles. You can also use them in online directories such as Yelp, MapQuest, HubSpot, TripAdvisor, Super Pages, Yellow Book, Foursquare, and Yahoo Local.
Citations are a powerful way to help the right people find your business. They act in the same way posters and banner ads do in the brick-and-mortar world. Most online directories categorize businesses according to their services and location. For instance, if you own a homestay, an AirBnB NAP will help you attract tourists visiting your city or town.
Citations are a vital part of your local SEO. According to the Moz Local Ranking Factors study, citations are the fourth most powerful way to influence a business’s regional rankings. The top five factors are:
A. Google My Business
B. Inbound links to your website
C. On-page SEO
E. Reviews and ratings
SEO involves a series of well-planned actions over time, including on-page and off-page SEO. Much like regular SEO, local SEO also requires a list of on-page optimization tactics, but not all of them are equal in terms of their overall impact on visibility. For example, submitting pages to social bookmarking sites, directories, craigslist, or creating blogger dot com subdomains aren’t as effective as including local keywords, using Google My Business, generating Q&A schema, and doing SERP analysis. Therefore, you need to prioritize the strategies that have more weight than others.
Tip: The on-page optimization you do towards your business’s local SEO is not a one-time activity. To continue to attract local traffic, you will have to consistently devote time to your on-site optimization and tweak it when needed.
As a business, you must keep your content the same across all devices. The game of local SEO changed when Google rolled out the Google mobile-first index in July 2019. Marketers should also change their tactics to stay on top. You can start by doing the following:
These practices will boost your local search rankings and help you create relevant content that will improve your overall SEO and site traffic. Actions such as increasing your page load speed will enhance your site’s user experience and build trust and brand loyalty, positively impacting sales and revenues.
Though Google ranking algorithms are mysterious, they depend heavily on your address’s proximity to the search user’s location. You can’t control your ranking on Google, but you can tweak your Google My Business (GMB) profile to influence it positively.
GMB is Google’s local business tool that helps you manage your online presence on organic search and Maps. It is among the most exhaustive online directories supported by Google Search and Google Maps. It is also a ranking factor that Google never hides from its users. Therefore, improving and verifying your GMB information is a surefire way to fix poor visibility and rankings and ensure better engagement and click-through rate.
GMB has many powerful features such as images, reviews, contact information, opening and closing hours, posts, and Q&A, which you can leverage for maximum advantage. A rich GMB profile makes your business stand out in front of search users, enhancing visibility and conversions. According to Google, with verified GMB information, you are twice as likely to be considered a reputable business.
Your business’s local ranking depends on the following two variable factors:
A. Its prominence—awareness about your business or store
B. Whether your business listing is optimized to match search user’s requirements
Search engines need web content that talks about your business and relevant websites that point to your website to control and influence these two factors. So, you need to leverage content marketing and try link building.
Link building will boost your brand awareness and prominence. Through local content marketing, you can target regional audiences and discuss the things and issues relevant to them. Apart from building a reputation, these measures will boost customer engagement and brand loyalty. You may also get some relevant backlinks in the process.
When you invest in local content marketing to create valuable content for regional audiences, you build an ecosystem prompting other local businesses to link back to you. Both types of inbound links—the ones from local sources in your area or town and the ones coming from newspapers, periodicals, or high-authority industry-specific sites—are made this way. It will boost your authority and trustworthiness among search engines.
According to the Moz Ranking Factors study, the two most important local ranking factors are your GMB listing and the inbound links you receive from regional and industry-specific sources. Apart from boosting your search rankings, these links will also act as a sustainable source of relevant traffic, generating revenue for your website.
With reviews after each local listing, online reputation management (ORM) has become an integral part of local SEO listings on Google.
It is a critical deciding factor because even a single negative review can send a potential customer to another listing and ruin your chances of making a sale. According to the annual BrightLocal Consumer Survey 2020, the number of consumers looking for positive reviews before making a buying decision is increasing exponentially every year.
The survey also claims that 50% of online shoppers say they expect to see at least a 4-star rating before deciding to make a purchase. A whopping 85% of consumers say they trust online reviews and consider them equal to personal recommendations. They also expect sellers to respond to negative reviews as early as possible for effective damage control.
Recent and diversified reviews can help you gain prominence on local search results and win customer trust. The most crucial review factors, according to this survey, are:
According to the BrightLocal Consumer Survey 2020, more than 90% of consumers used the internet to find a local business last year. More than 34% of people search online almost every day. It shows how important local SEO and directory listings are. If you want to establish your business in your region and make consistent sales, you need to get your local directory listings right.