There’s no denying the power of Local SEO.
As consumers, we have all searched Google asking for broad suggestions of places to eat near us, hoping to discover our new favorite restaurant. After submitting the search, Google delivered a list of local restaurants, providing basic business information, pictures, and ratings and reviews to assist us in any way it can to help us make our final decision.
Knowingly or unknowingly, we are engaging in local search.
It is clear that we often do not search locally just to discover new businesses, but with the intent of interacting with one, or several, of the local businesses that appear on the SERPs in some way.
In December of 2018, SocialMediaToday revealed that 88% of people who search for local businesses on their phones, visit the business within a day and that 46% of all Google searches are searched with local intent.
Understanding the unique potential of local SEO can affect your business in ways you might never have considered. The opportunities available in local SEO are immense and difficult to ignore.
Here, we’ll discuss some of the fundamental elements of local search to understand why it is a dynamic part of marketing your business online, as well as look at how local SEO can benefit your business.
What is Local SEO?
Local SEO (Search Engine Optimization), for the most part, is concerned with optimizing business visibility in local SERPs.
In other words, it exists so businesses can be found online by people in a specific range of location.
When a search is executed with local intent, the top of the SERP provides a list of businesses relevant to the search’s criteria. This list is commonly referred to as the 3-Pack or the Local Pack.
The 3-Pack displays the three businesses with the highest ranking power, which Google considers to be the most useful for the user who committed the search.
Immediately, you will notice that the results are not formatted as they typically are in standard organic listings.
You might notice the map first, which is almost impossible to ignore– and for good reason, too. The map displays the locations of the three businesses listed below in relation to your current location.
Beneath the map, are the listings of businesses displayed on the map. Each listing has its own panel, otherwise referred to as the “knowledge panel”.
The knowledge panel contains a short amount of basic information about the business(i.e., store hours, ratings, description).
Then, beneath the third listing, there is the “more places” link, or “local finder”, which gives the user a more extensive list of local businesses relevant to their search.
The information you see in each business’s panel is derived from Google My Business.
Google My Business
Google My Business (GMB) is a free tool for businesses containing features that help manage information and photos, create and share content, interact with customers, and see how people are finding your business, all of which you can access and customize from your laptop, tablet, and phone.
Google My Business is becoming increasingly more important as Google continues to evolve an account for more extensive queries in the SERPs and is essential for any business owner looking to improve their local search rank. It provides your local business an opportunity to increase its visibility in a relative local radius and to distinguish your business among the other listings in the local finder.
As far as local search rank is concerned, Google determines its value in three ways.
How well a local listing matches a person’s search.
The more information you provide in your Business Profile, the more likely you are to appear relevant in a person’s local search.
The range of a potential search result from the location of the search.
If a location is unspecified in a search, Google will calculate the distance based on what is already known about the person’s location.
Basically, how well known a business is.
This is a tricky subject matter, simply because there are places that people are more familiar with and have more prominence than local businesses offline than they do in local SERPs. (i.e., museums, popular store brands)
Google tries to account for this familiarity in local SERPs.
Prominence also accounts for information found on the web about your business like links and articles.
Google also considers rating and reviews when evaluating prominence. Generally, better ratings will likely have a positive affect on your local search rank.
It is worth noting that you cannot alter or change reviews of their business in any way, nor is it possible to request a better ranking on local SERPs.
Additionally, Google My Business is one of many online directories where you can create citations for your business on the web.
In short, a citation is any place online where your business’s name, address, phone number, and website URL (NAPW) is listed.
Citations can be found in an online directories or a business listing websites, both of which are beneficial to improving your local search rank.
Submitting to Local Directories
Another way of optimizing your visibility on the web is by submitting to local directories, which is basically an online index of businesses belonging to a specific category within the proximity of a user’s search.
Ideally, the more listings your business is on, the more you improve your business’s chances of being found in local search. Three of the most popular directories have consistently been:
- Apple Maps
- Google My Business.
For a more extensive list of local directories you can submit your business, click here.
To submit to local listings, there is, however, a relatively standard criteria that businesses must meet to qualify in any index:
- Must have a business name, title, or DBA (Doing Business As).
- Must have a physical address.
Shared addresses, virtual offices, and PO Boxes do not qualify as physical locations.
- Must have a phone number matching you location’s city.
Shared numbers, call tracking numbers, and toll free numbers do not satisfy this demand.
- Must have face-to-face interaction with customers.
Interactions solely online or over the phone do not satisfy the demands of this criteria.
To list your business, you can submit to each directory manually, use listing managing sites, or use tools like Whitespark Local Citation Finder or MozLocal.
If you have concerns about submitting your business to local directories yourself, you can hire freelancers or SEO Consultants to submit to local directories for you.
Freelancers, given the correct contact information and a list of directories, will submit to those directories for you. After submitting to local directories, it will be up to you how decide to manage those listings.
SEO consultants, provide services to help you register for local directories. Consultants at LSEO provide local SEO services to ensure your business’s contact information remains consistent to help local users find your business.
The importance of community engagement is cherished by local users globally eager to discover your local business and optimizing your local SEO strategy is the catalyst for improving your business’s performance and improving your rank on the SERPs.