“Find your target market.” This is one of the most enduring principles in business, and also one of the most elusive. Thanks to new technologies and the ubiquity of mobile devices, the search for your target market has become much more sophisticated today.
For many companies it has become a “find your geographic target market”. Why? Because people are often very “local” in their search behavior. For example, if you live in Chicago and you want a slice of pizza, you wouldn’t want search results for pizza parlors in New York.
What is Local SEO?
There are many strategies businesses can use to leverage this local search behavior to direct traffic to their physical (and virtual) locations. This is commonly known as local SEO.
Essentially, local search engine optimization is any number of strategies and tactics designed to optimize a company’s digital footprint in order to attract local audiences to a physical or virtual location through online search traffic. Typically, it’s all about a company’s “map pack,” a collection of business data that can be tweaked to rank high on certain search terms.
For example, if you want pizza-hungry Chicagoers to search for a slice to help them find your shop, tweaking your Google listings, ads, and website content to improve your chances of showing up in search results.
Why your local SEO strategy is so important
Pick up your phone, open Google Maps and search for “pizza near me”. Instantly you have a list of nearby places, including pictures and reviews. If you’re a local pizza place, you’ll want to show up on such searches and make sure your listing is optimized.
Local search engine optimization can lead to significant volumes of leads, pedestrian traffic, conversions, and revenue. People rely on things like Google Maps to check details like address, contact information, and business hours – often right before they show up in that location. According to Social Media Today, “72% of consumers searching for local businesses visit stores within five miles.” And nearly 80% of local mobile searches result in an in-store purchase. If your business’s survival depends on lead and revenue generation, you can’t afford to miss out on local SEO traffic.
Six core local SEO strategies
Perhaps your company has basic local search engine optimization in place and wants to take it to the next level. Maybe you’re starting from scratch. Here are six local SEO strategies we are using to help our clients get the most impact.
1. Save your location pages
The location pages include your company’s name, address, phone number, photos, hours of operation, and links. How you write and optimize your location page can help make your business appear in specific areas. Usually, setting up and optimizing your Google My Business page is a good place to start. This includes providing precise information about your company such as telephone number, address and opening times. You can add pictures of your venue or of products, services, and other items that you sell. Finally, you can optimize your business description, as well as other metadata, for search terms that your ideal customer might use to find you.
2. Make the most of multiple locations
Use location pages to optimize for different locations. Using the Chicago example above, searches the South Loop produce different results than searches in Lincoln Park. If you have locations in these two parts of Chicago, you’ll want to optimize separate location pages to target those specific locations.
What specific details can you provide for each location on each location page? This goes beyond simply specifying the location (“South Loop Pizza Restaurant” opposite “Lincoln Park Pizza Restaurant”). Are the menus and contact information the same? What about photos? All of this should be unique to each site page.
3. Create a local backlink portfolio
The more credible and authoritative websites that link to your own websites, the better for your SEO. When it comes to local SEO, the key is generating links from other local websites and businesses. These can be associations, chambers of commerce and local media. A strong local backlink portfolio signals to Google that your business is worth improving in search results.
4. Don’t underestimate the power of reviews
Reading reviews is now an integral part of local search behavior. In fact, 86% of consumers read reviews for local businesses, at least occasionally, according to the Search Engine Journal.
Reviews are important to Google too. They help determine a company’s credibility, based in part on preoccupation with its location pages. So try to get more location-specific reviews.
5. Optimize the website content for local keywords
The keyword research will reveal the volume and competition for local keywords. Think of “Pizza Restaurant in the Südschleife” rather than “Chicago Pizza Restaurant”. When you have a list of local keywords that you want to target, edit them into title tags, meta descriptions and other SEO elements on your website for increased visibility.
6. Don’t forget about voice search
More and more people are using voice search to find things locally. Research from one company shows that 75% of smart speaker owners use them to search for local businesses on a weekly basis. This makes sense when you think about it: you are home talking to your spouse. You need information about where to have dinner tomorrow night. It’s much more convenient to ask your Google Home or Amazon Echo smart speaker for the answer than it is to grab your phone or open the laptop.
This surge in voice searches underscores the need to optimize your local content and local listings so that they appear on these types of searches too. Think of the natural language a person could use to do a voice search for a local business like yours. Then, try out some local voice searches for yourself to get a feel for how voice assistants deliver results.
Local SEO is only part of a broader SEO strategy, but it is an essential part for certain types of businesses.