By: Nikia Sayre, Organic Optimization Director, TruStar Marketing, LLC
As SEO algorithms continue to evolve, optimization experts agree that maximizing websites for Local SEO is still very important to an overall Digital Marketing Strategy. Recently, this could be accomplished mostly by claiming and filling out a company’s Google My Business page. While this is still a formidable first step, it no longer holds the power to keep you in what’s called “Position Zero” in terms of Voice Search, or Google’s “Local Pack,” which is the top 3 listings and map that appear in Google when you do a local search.
Nearly 1/3 of all mobile searches are related to location,
and 50% of local searches are done using Voice, and those numbers are growing daily.
Local searches also tend to be customers who are further down in the sales funnel, meaning they are looking for an immediate place to go, do or buy what they need, so it is worth the resources to get it right. Also, maximizing Local SEO helps you attain Position Zero for Voice Search, so let’s discuss what you can do to get listed on the Local Pack.
Before you start, do a search for your business category on Google, using the term ‘near me’ if you are in fact, near the business. (Don’t search for your business by name, just search for category, ie: urgent care, hair salon, etc). If you come up in the top three listings (the Local Pack), great! But there are still some strategies you’ll want to employ to strengthen your position on the list and make sure you stay there. If one of your competitors starts maximizing for Local Search, you can easily fall off the list.
Here are the steps you can take to get your business optimized for Local SEO:
#1 Register or Claim a Google My Business (GMB) page for your company.
Still the best first step, go to Google My Business and type your company in the “Business Name” field. If your business already has a listing that you can claim, you’ll need to claim it and verify your ownership. If there aren’t any matches, begin by registering your company.
#2 Verify your company’s address.
Be prepared, this step can take a few days, and will require that the verification code be physically delivered to your address by the post office, in 3-5 days. However, if you already have a Google Analytics account, you can sign in with the same Gmail account, and then your business location will be verified automatically.
#3 Optimize your business listings, including your NAP data, and begin building your company’s brand online.
When completing this sections, be thoughtful, accurate, and consistent. GMB will give you guidelines on how to fill these fields out, but you’ll need to ensure that all of your NAP (Name, Address, Phone) data is the same across all other directories. Choose pictures carefully, as this is the most seen image that represents your business online. Many people use a high-quality photo of their services, products, or outside storefront.
The importance of online reviews: A Bright Local survey showed that 97% of consumers read online reviews, 68% of customers are influenced by positive reviews to use your business, and 91% of Millennials trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. Since reviews contribute to your overall online reputation, it’s crucial to monitor and respond to them promptly, especially if they are negative.
How to use Google’s Q&A Feature: There is a posts, messages, questions and answers feature that can be added to your GMB account. Don’t skip this! When used properly, they will contribute to your local ranking, and dramatically facilitate Voice Search queries. This section is your business’s best way to provide more detailed answers to common questions, and add additional information to attract customers. Do you allow pets? Take credit cards? Offer benefits to Veterans? Add those to the Q&A section, making sure to frame the questions and answers like they are actually asked and answered, in conversational content rich with the long tail keywords that perform well for your business. Potential customers can also ask questions, so monitor this frequently, should you need to provide an answer. When answering, make sure you use concise answers, in natural language, with one main thought per answer, just like you would on an FAQ page.
#4 Get your Website Optimized for Local Search
Remember when we said that a Google My Business Site can’t be the only tool in your Local SEO toolbox? This is where website optimization comes in. Though a bit more complicated, a properly optimized site works to keep you in the Local 3 Pack for the long haul, and gives you the best chance of obtaining Position Zero for Voice Search. Here are a few of the basics:
According to Google, there are three factors used in the Local Search algorithms: relevance, prominence, and proximity. Optimizing your site to include all three factors will help your page rank higher.
Relevance: Does your business provide the products or services that the searcher is looking for? Google will use reviews, the content on your website, and the GMB listing to pull this together. This is why it’s so important to make sure your listing is complete, your reviews are generally positive, and that the content you have on your site is carefully crafted with location modifiers, long-tail keywords that best describe your business, and includes quality inbound links from locally authoritative sources.
Prominence: Is the business known and regarded well in the industry? Google uses reviews and authority to determine this. Authority comes from the content on your pages, if you are well known to customers and have high authority both online and offline. For example, do other ‘high authority’ sites link to you, like news outlets or industry journals? Are your Social Media pages active, with high reviews as well? See #5 for some offline ways to help build prominence.
Proximity: Is the business close enough to the searcher to be considered a good answer? How close is close? That depends on the query, the businesses relevance to the query, how many other businesses nearby are relevant, the prominence of the business and competition. This is very fluid, and determined by multiple factors. Your business needs to be located in close vicinity to the user. If they are a block away in a different direction, you might not come up at all.
Additional ways to get your website optimized for Local Search include making sure that the technical condition of your site is up to date. Factors such as site crawl-ability, speed, page load, mobile responsiveness, etc., also have an impact on your website’s rankings.
#5 Be a Local Business Champion
Online tactics aside, it is important to stay involved in your local business community, and incorporate some of the ‘old school’ tools that businesses used before the World Wide Web. This includes submitting press releases (make sure you link coverage to your site and social media pages, as it helps your relevance and prominence scores), participating in community events, joining the Chamber of Commerce or becoming a board member at a local non-profit. Many of these offline activities will contribute positively over time to your online brand and Local SEO ranking, and also help your community stay strong and vibrant.
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