In the age of technology, search engines are one of the most effective ways for consumers to find your business. Whether they are searching for a local restaurant for dinner or information about a new product, about 81% of people search online for a product or service1. As a company, it is important to invest in local SEO (search engine optimization) to ensure that you are reaching audiences efficiently and effectively. The goal of local SEO is very similar to standard SEO in that it focuses on optimizing online content to allow your business to be found in search engines. However, local SEO adds an additional layer of geographical focus.
It may be obvious that businesses with physical locations such as stores or restaurants need to have local information available online. However, many companies that do not have a brick and mortar retail location can reap the benefits of local SEO as well. For example, a plumber may not have a retail location but instead markets to customers within a designated service area. Having business information and local content available online will help ensure that the plumbing business appears in local search results and reaches relevant customers.
Implementing a Local SEO Program
If you conduct searches online, you know how helpful localized and personalized search results are when seeking information. Understanding the value of local SEO for your business can be a relatively easy concept to grasp, but you may not understand how it works. With a strong understanding of local SEO, you are able to create a plan to help your business grow. Here are a few strategies and components of local SEO to keep in mind.
Online Citations and Google My Business
Local citations are any mention of your business information online, such as name, address and phone number, hours of operation, business description and contact information. Citations can be found on review and ratings websites such as Yelp or Google, social media pages, local business directories and community resources such as Chamber of Commerce listings and other platforms. The quantity, quality and accuracy of online citation information influence search results so it is important that information is correct, relevant and appears in the right places.
Structured Data and Markup
Structured data and markup can significantly impact your local SEO, specifically results such as Google Maps. Structured data in web pages helps search engines quickly analyze and understand the content of a page. The more accurate and helpful a search engine deems the information, the more it is able to use it in search results. Incorporating accurate structured data into your website is important when thinking of local SEO. However, incorrectly implementing or inappropriately using structured data can negatively impact search results or suggest spam.
Local content is an organic and strategic way to improve local SEO. Incorporating relevant keywords and creating content specific to a location or target market creates overall SEO value. Search engines will deem local information relevant and index it when providing search results, helping your business grow and positively impacting your overall digital marketing strategy.
However, it is important that localized content is original and strategically planned to deliver the strongest return on investment. Do not create content simply for the sake of SEO. Try to avoid overusing keywords or creating multiple duplicate pages when a centralized, well thought out page would be more appropriate. Localized content that is not carefully thought out can negatively impact local SEO, as search engines may deem the content as spam, duplicate content or unauthentic.
Online ratings and reviews sites such as Yelp and Google are essential to local SEO and business growth. Establishing a strong presence on review sites and managing your online reputation communicates that your business is legitimate and trustworthy. It also provides search engines with accurate and relevant information, which will improve search rankings. To learn more about reputation management, check out our previous OUTthink article on Why Online Reputation Management is Important.
It is also important to remember that local SEO includes all of the components of traditional SEO. There is just an additional focus on geography. In other words, local businesses need to put an additional focus on terms and methods that are relevant to the cities or geographical areas they serve. However, your local SEO efforts may fall flat if your website isn’t optimized in general. Read our article on Understanding Modern SEO Programs for more information.
Getting Started with Local SEO
Once you understand the importance of Local SEO including reputation management, you should form a strategic plan and identify appropriate tools for your business to use. Using tools to manage online citations, listings and reviews will streamline efforts and increase efficiency. Without a strong plan or the right tools, it can be difficult to know that all information is accounted for and correct, meaning your business might be missing something critical.
With millions of online searches each day2, businesses cannot afford to overlook optimizing their online presence. However, local SEO is only a smart part of an integrated digital marketing strategy. When used strategically, local SEO compliments overall SEO, website content, online reputation and more. Optimizing for local SEO must be done strategically and thoughtfully to provide the best results for your business. Are new customers finding your business? Is your online presence optimized?