By Paul Smith
If you have a business that serves locally – i.e. within the specific town, city or region – then you should seriously consider putting some time into enhancing your local visibility. Even if you operate on a national scale, the additional business you can generate from a well-optimised local profile should not be dismissed.
Due to the constant evolution of user behaviour (the rise in mobile being a key factor), a huge number of searches made in Google are appended with local information in 2017. If you’re searching for ‘buy video games’, for example, or even as broad a term as ‘antiques’, search engines will use your location data to provide you with a localised SERP. This means that your business has the opportunity to be visible for high-traffic terms that you couldn’t hope to target on a national level.
With the right strategy, you can give your business the best chance of appearing in the local 3-pack listing and capturing a huge amount of the available local traffic.
This is one of the first steps you’ll want to take on your quest to local domination; creating and maintaining a quality off-site presence for your business will open up a range of additional optimisations that you can make. You might find that there are already listings for your business when you investigate various sites – this will likely be automatically generated and could contain some information about your business, including address, social links, or services provided.
You’ll want to claim these listings for your own and get to work straightening things up. Ensure all information is as accurate as possible across all listings – this is key to build a cohesive local profile, as users and crawl agents need to be sure your business information is legitimate. Name, address and phone numbers should all be the same, as these are the primary methods of engagement with your business from local search.
Google My Business is the prime directory you’ll want to focus on, though there are a number of additional directories that are often checked and referenced. Consider creating listings on the following sites and ensure that your information is 100% cohesive across sites. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but will give you plenty to get working on.
This can be a challenge for any business. People are usually more vocal about a negative experience than a positive experience, and every online review about your business counts massively. You need to make sure that your service is of a consistent level of quality and that users are given the right opportunities to express their thoughts on your business.
The location of the review is of some importance, but any of the major platforms will suffice; Google Reviews, Facebook or TrustPilot among the most common. You’ll want to think of some creative ways to generate honest reviews from customers to get the ball rolling; discount of a customer’s next bill, a follow-up email after completion of a service (this requires a data capture strategy to action!) or a simple and unobtrusive in-store prompt.
Reviews give your business credibility and show consumers that you are a reputable merchant, ultimately increasing your conversion rate.
This is where we start getting a little more abstract in our approach. The easiest way to get yourself visible is through the local 3-pack listing that is added into many SERPs. It shows a map, along with 3 businesses near you that pertain to your search. Unfortunately, there are a couple of underhanded tactics to try and play the search engines, including keyword stuffing in the business names – you can police these yourself, suggesting edits for search engines to review.
Of course, ensure you’re only targeting listings that breach the Google Best Practices guidelines with this approach. Additionally, always monitor your competitor’s listings to see how you’re performing – note changes and see if you can discern trends; uptick in reviews led to a jump in position? Have they suddenly gained social links to their business listing?
Don’t sleep on your local SEO efforts – the consumer is waiting to find you nearby. Unfortunately, one of the largest ranking factors is distance to the search itself, which means that some might find it easier to rank than others with the above tactics. Still, a business that ignores their off-site presence runs the risk of spreading mis-information to potential customers, losing traffic and – ultimately – conversions.