The Importance of Local SEO

Local SEO (Local Search Engine Optimization), is a way to market your l local business online and ensure you reach local customers at the exact time they’re looking for you online.

Everybody knows about the “always online” world we live in today, and the biggest driver of this is the mainstream adoption of smartphones. You can’t go outside without seeing a person on the sidewalk hunched over, staring at their phone.

When people think of an online world they normally think of huge global companies like Amazon and Airbnb. What people often overlook is how this change has affected the landscape for local businesses. The truth is that the customer journey for local businesses has had a major shakeup in the last few years.

The old approach for local businesses would be to invest in traditional advertising like print and telemarketing, but these mediums no longer work for them. People looking for a local business today will simply Google what they’re looking for when they want it – when it’s most convenient for them, not anyone else.

Personal recommendations are no longer required. Today’s customer can now get the opinions of hundreds of people in seconds through online reviews, rather than getting just one person’s opinion.

The truth is customers today have access to more information than ever before. All of this is good for the customer as it makes their life far easier: most people these days don’t want a pushy salesperson, right? They want to do their own research online to learn as much as they can, then they’ll buy when they’re ready and fully educated.

Today, once a customer has reached out to you, they’re far further down the sales funnel then they would have been 15 years ago. Not only that, but if a business has a great online reputation then customers will be far easier to sell to and they’ll happily spend more with you.

What’s interesting now is how online is actually driving offline sales. Even if a local business is recommended by a friend, today’s customer will still check out the business online before they contact them. One stat I find fascinating is that 78% of mobile local searches result in offline purchases. So not investing in your online visibility is no longer an option for any businesses looking to grow their revenue.

High-performing local businesses have figured out just how important investing in local search marketing actually is: a recent study by Google found that SMBs that are making the most use of online are 2.8 times more likely to enjoy revenue growth than those who do not.

On the other hand, over half a million businesses in the US close every year. One of the biggest reasons companies struggle is because they simply fail to adapt their businesses to succeed in this new online-first landscape.

So what we do is we help companies make that transition. Out ultimate goal is to help you generate more leads online, whether that’s by getting more phone calls, emails or walk-ins.

We help our clients through a practice called local search optimization or “local SEO”. This helps their businesses rank higher on Google when people are searching for their services. These are the kinds of leads that everybody wants because they’re self-qualified and have a genuine need for your services.

Any business that serves customers in a specific location needs local SEO. Google makes up 90% of all search engine traffic so we focus on Google’s algorithm.

Google has a different algorithm to rank local searches vs non local searches. An example of a local search is “lawyers in Manhattan” An example of a non-local search might be “Sony 43 inch TV” because this a product that’s not tied to a physical location.

So when we look to improve rankings on Google we first need to understand what Google wants. Quite simply, all Google wants to do is give the searcher the best possible result for their query.

If we dig a little deeper into this, Google uses a local algorithm to work out which results they think are best, and it’s broken up into three simple elements: Proximity, relevance, and prominence.

Proximity

This is how far away the business’ location is from the person making the search. As an example, if you’re a lawyer based in Chicago and somebody searches for “lawyers in Manhattan,” you’re never going to appear in the results. Proximity is a metric that you can’t control or influence; you can’t decide where somebody searches from or what city they search for.

Relevance

Now this is obviously an extreme example but it’s layered: as another example, if you’re an employment lawyer and a person searches for an immigration lawyer, it’s unlikely that your business will be returned ahead of businesses that purely specialize in immigration law.

Prominence

And the final element Google uses is Prominence. This is how Google determines which business has the most trust through a variety of elements such as reviews, links, content, etc.

Google uses different algorithms for the two types of results you see when you make a local search.

The first is for the local pack results, which is this section here. This is the three Google listings that sit at the top of the SERP, below the paid ads.

Google has a separate algorithm for the organic results, which are the blue links you see below the local pack. These organic results are still based on the location of the searcher or query, so we call them localized organic results. We focus on both algorithms to help our clients drive more leads from Google. Google My Business makes up 25% of the signals. This is a free listing that Google gives you to control. If somebody searches for your business on Google, this is what will appear on the right hand side of the page so it’s normally the first thing prospects will see when they look for you online. If your Google My Business profile hasn’t been properly optimized then you’ll never succeed in local search, period.

There’s a lot of room for error when setting up and managing a Google My Business listing, especially for business owners who are too busy actually running their business to read through the research on best practices. This is why when we start working with a client this is one of the first things we review.

So in terms of what work we complete for our clients’ GMB listings, it all starts by uncovering which search terms people are actually searching for. We use Google’s tools to pull back the total number of local searches on Google every month for each of your services. This helps us identify which search terms we need to optimize for.

As an example, if there are 300 people a month searching for “Nissan dealerships” but there’s 700 people a month searching for “Nissan car dealers”, we want to make sure we’re optimizing the client’s GMB profile for the search term with the higher volume.

From there we’ll run research on your top-performing competitor’s profile and build on this for your profile.

We’ll also audit the data in your profile and make sure we add compelling descriptions and images to drive conversion for anyone looking at your business.

Another key area we’ll work on is the Q&A section on your Google Mys Business listing. These questions and answers are prominent on your profile and are like community-sourced FAQs that live on your listing. We can post brand-friendly FAQs for you to help convert users that see them on your profile. We’ll also monitor these to make sure they give the best impression of your business.

Links are a crucial ranking factor for Google. Links are like votes or endorsements of your business’ competence, quality, and character. For example, if a respected university or industry publication links to your website, they are endorsing your business and putting their own reputation at risk should you prove unworthy of their recommendation. It’s the same with peers and partners.

Vouching for you in the form of a link puts their own at reputation risk. Links are costly because they are not a commodity to be bought and sold. They have to be earned. You have to give people a reason to link to you. You have to consistently provide clearly differentiated, high-quality goods and services including, in many instances, blog content that is sought-after, unique, and valuable.

Acquiring links is the first stage of our link strategy for our clients is completing a link audit to understand what your current link profile is like and to identify and remove any potentially harmful links. We also need to assess how your link profile compares to your competition in order to fully understand exactly what is required from a link building campaign.

Link building is similar to relationship building in many ways and needs to be earned. Other websites don’t like linking out to websites for the fun of it. So we’ll look to leverage any existing relationships you have. This could be with any local organizations you already have relationships with. This helps your site get some quick wins through relationships you’ve already built.

We’ll also seek out new sponsorship opportunities with local schools and charities that can link back to you, as well as target business directories which can provide links to your site to grow your authority.

Lastly, we’ll approach bloggers and relevant sites to write content for them in exchange for a link. All of these approaches help grow your link profile and authority within Google.

We’ve seen a huge change over the past 5 years in the power that the customer voice has on every business. Online reviews have been growing in importance since smartphone adoption.

Online reviews don’t just affect your rankings; they impact every stage of the customer’s buying journey.We can break the journey down into three sections: discover, evaluate, and trust.

Discovery

The first stage is discovery. Having more positive online reviews, you have a better chance of ranking higher in local searches on Google and other sites. This means new potential customers are more likely to find your business when they’re searching.

The next stage in the journey is evaluation. Your customers might be evaluating you on Google. As a potential customer evaluates your listing and star ratings, they’re also evaluating your competitors as well.

More often than not, they will reach out to the business with the best reputation. The benefit of having great online reviews are that they make you rank higher, then they’re getting you more clicks and calls than your competitors.

Finally, online reviews build trust in abundance. A business with a great online reputation will establish great trust with a prospect before they’ve even spoken to them.

So not only will you rank higher and get more clicks and calls, but customers will be easier to sell to and more likely to buy more from you because of your online reviews.

So the first thing we complete for our clients is an audit of their reviews and benchmark them against their top-performing competitors. We’ll always look to introduce a review generation strategy as well.

The big challenge with online reviews is that an unhappy customer is far more likely to leave a review than a happy customer.

We use sophisticated software for our clients that works by asking your customers to leave reviews on the most important sites, helping to drive your online reputation.

Through the reporting we do, we’ll also make sure that customers get quick responses to reviews to improve trust signals.

The next factor is on-page signals, which is basically everything that lives on your website; everything that Google sees when they crawl it.

There’s a vast range of metrics to consider when optimizing on-page signals. When we engage with a client we’ll always run a full site audit in the first month to make sure their site is sending all the right signals to Google. Here are some of the areas we assess:

  • Title tag + Header tag review
  • Is there enough content, and is it locally relevant?
  • Are there call to actions on your site to drive conversions?
  • Is it easy for a user to navigate and get in contact?

A local citation (also known as a business listing or online directory listing) is any place online that displays your business’ name, address and phone number. Google goes to sites like Yelp and Yellow Pages to validate the data they have for your business. If Google finds data that doesn’t match or is missing altogether this can really hurt your ability to appear in search results.

We’ll run a full audit of the citations for your business, making sure that we build out and clean up citations on the most powerful directories to ensure your business data is listed and 100% correct.This ensures optimal visibility in Google for your business.

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