I) What is local search
Local SEO is the process of optimizing a business to be found when a search query includes terms referring to specific geographical areas or locations. Local SEO requires giving attention to actions like maintaining consistent business information in search engines database and local directories, obtaining local citations, gathering positive customer reviews etc.
II) Why is local SEO indispensable
A huge percentage of searches have local intent especially searchers are constantly looking for businesses in their vicinity when they are searching through mobiles and smartphones.
Search engines give local listings a lion’s share of space on page 1 of search results when they detect local intent in the search query.
III) Nature of local SEO
It is very important to understand that certain businesses by their very nature are local for e.g. dry cleaners, plumbing services, brick & mortar distributors etc. These businesses need a physical presence and a local address.
In other cases, online suppliers who provide their products & services in different areas also need to rank high in local searches because though their headquarters are in one place they cater to a wide variety of local neighborhoods.
Search engines tend to consider these search queries as local
a) When users search through their mobiles for a variety of specific businesses like restaurants, electricians, they are counted as local because searchers living in London will not search for an electrician in Wales.
b) If search queries include names of cities, zip codes, like ‘restaurant in Detroit’, ‘beach resorts in 40030’ that means though the searcher may not be present in these areas at the time of the search but he/she wishes to find out local information about that particular area.
c) Searches done directly using a map are considered local.
IV) How local listings appear on SERPs
Google may show local results on a map
Google may also display local listings at the top of the page in a carousel formation.
Google mostly shows local results in an extended three pack.
In order to be included in these local pack listings, you need to complete a business listing form with Google. Search engines pull local listings format from search engines local database and not from its web index, hence it is essential to register your business with local directories for all the major search engines.
Google My Business is the place where your local profile works wonders. For this, you need to have a local address wherein customers can contact you. (for more information and guidelines click here)
If your business is online without a physical location, it will not appear in local pack listings, however, your webpages will still show up in organic results for local and geotargeted queries which are generally displayed below the local pack results.
V) How to optimize for local SEO
a) Register with Google My Business
The first step to optimize in local search is to register your Name, Address and Phone no (commonly known as NAP) with Google My Business.
When you do so you should be meticulous that your NAP information is consistent across the web, for e. g. if you have a website called ABC gifts do not register as ABC gifts company, this creates confusion for spiders as well as searchers.
Display your NAP information on your homepage and your content pages and link it with the sitemap so that it can be easily found.
b) Create unique localized content
It is essential to create original and unique content-rich webpages having a local flavor to rank well in local search listings.
Mention the name of the city or areas which the page deals with, in the title tag, heading tag and meta description.
Astutely incorporate conversational local modifiers such as nearby, neighborhoods, downtown in the main text, these serve as local search signals.
Not only include the name of cities or areas but create webpages filled with local references to strengthen the local theme of the page.
Include local images, history of that area, mentions important events, outstanding features of that particular geographic location.
Ask yourself the common questions the searchers might have in their mind when they conduct a local search for that particular area.
Creating content that answers these questions make your webpages highly relevant to the intent of the search query and this is what searchers and spiders are looking for.
c) Go local
These steps firmly confirm your local presence.
You need to list with the available local directories your NAP information. In addition, citation pages play a pivotal role in local SEO. A lot of customers look at your business on a citation page and being assured directly navigate to your page. You will come across a variety of citation sites like yelp, houzz, HomeAdvisor wherein you need to optimize your NAP.
Sponsor local events, scholarships, try to get testimonials from local institutes to solidify the local nature of your website.
Get local writers to write as guests on your website and also encourage them to mention your site in their blogs. Coalesce with local dailies, magazines, periodicals to mention your site giving a backlink.
Customer reviews play an incredible role in authenticating your business. Try to collect as many positive reviews from happy and satisfied customers as possible. Even if you get a few negative reviews, do not neglect them. Identify their problems and provide timely solutions. A single positive word of mouth acts as a great stimulant for attracting numerous customers.
d) The age of mobile
As mentioned earlier searches using mobiles and smartphones are on an unprecedented rise. Research shows that 52.2% of all website traffic came from mobile devices in 2018, the number is on the rise, approximately the number of mobile users has reached 4.68 billion in 2019. Voice searches have also increased tremendously.
Keeping all these factors in mind, you need to create a highly mobile-friendly website. You can check Google Mobile-Friendly Test to find out how mobile savvy is your website. Remember that your webpages do not take long to load. Your images, videos and other interactive elements must also load seamlessly so that mobile users get a rich experience once on your website.
e) Engaging social media
Social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter command a dominant position. You need to optimize your local webpages, your NAP, your Google My Business page on these sites. You need to provide social share buttons on webpages having a local content so that they can be shared and enjoyed among a wider community. This kind of sharing and community building are sure steps to rank high in local search listings.
It is very important that you should optimize your site for local search because local search listings are given great importance by the search engines.
You should keep your NAP (Name, Address, Phone no) updated with all the major search engines, local directories and citation sites.
Spruce up your webpages with content having a local flavor. Use customer reviews to build confidence and trust.
Since most of the local searches are through smartphones, optimize your site for an engaging mobile experience.
Connecting through social media platforms is very helpful for gaining greater visibility in local search listings.
Follow these steps and take your business to new levels.