About 46% of searches are by people looking for local information.
People are looking for restaurants, service providers, gyms, and hair salons that are close to them. These are people who are ready to make a purchase right now.
If you want to grow your business and generate customers without much effort, you want to have your business listed at the top of these local listings.
Local SEO is the way to do that. Read on to learn the difference between organic and local SEO, and find out what you need to do to get your site listed at the top of search results.
The Difference Between Local and Organic SEO
Is local SEO really that different from organic SEO? It most certainly is. You can see for yourself right now by doing a search for “Italian food recipes”. You’ll see that you’ll get organic listings that spotlight some of the best Italian classic recipes.
Now do a search for “Italian restaurants near me.” You’ll notice a big difference in results. With the local search, you’re getting a map complete with a list of Italian restaurants near your location.
This is called the snack-pack or the 3-pack. It’s the top three listings that are bound to get the most results from this search. This is where you want your business to be listed and the reason why local citations are so important.
On-Site and Off-Site SEO
Google uses more than 200 factors to determine its search results. Even though the factors are kept under wraps by Google, there are some things that all SEO professionals agree impact search results.
These can be separated into two categories: on-site SEO and off-site SEO. They’re sometimes referred to as on-page and off-page SEO. On-site SEO are the factors that are on your website. You have complete control over them.
You can influence off-site factors, but you really can’t control them. For example, you can influence the number of backlinks you have by reaching out to other publishers to link to your posts. However, you can’t control whether they actually do it or not.
Local listings are a bit of both. Your listings are off-site, but you have control over them.
You want to get your on-site SEO under control first and then work on off-site SEO That will give you a more impactful punch. It’s like cleaning up your home before you invite guests over.
Understand User Intent and Keywords
You are likely to be aware of the importance of keywords. Keywords have been a big part of SEO since the early days of search.
Back then, all you had to do was pick a keyword and add it to your content as many times as possible. It was a simple way to game the system and get away with it.
It would also deliver horrible search results to users. People would be forced to read content that included phrases like “best realtor OK” dozens of times.
Google recognized this problem and updated the algorithm over time to resolve it. The algorithm seeks to understand the user’s intent behind the search and delivers results based on that intent.
For example, a person searching for “homes for sale in OK” would indicate that a person is ready to buy a new home.
A person that’s 6 months out or more from buying a home is likely to search for “how to save for a down payment on a house.” That’s often the first consideration when buying a home.
For you to improve your SEO, it means that you have to know the meaning behind the searches. You also don’t have to get the search term exactly right, either.
You want to choose the right keywords that naturally flow in your content and local listings. That provides a much better user experience and it helps your SEO, too.
With user intent in mind, how do you do keyword research for local SEO? You want to start out with keywords that are service in location keywords.
It’s a pretty simple formula: type the service you provide and add the location. The trick here is to know that people will have dozens of different ways to search for the same service.
A landscaper could have the main keyword be “landscaper in Allentown.” You’ll have other service in location keywords, such as “emergency landscaper Allentown,” “landscape supply in Allentown,” “landscape design in Allentown,” “weed killer in Allentown,” and “lawn care service in Allentown.”
You’ll need to do the same for your business to capture these local searches.
Once you have these main search keywords covered, you can then apply user intent to the earlier buying stages. Make a long list of keywords that people use to search for information about your product or service.
The easiest way to do that is to think about the problems that people try to DIY. For home service providers, that is a lengthy list.
You’ll want to narrow down your list by using a keyword search tool to find the search volume for these keywords. That will allow to narrow down your list and let you focus on the top keywords that people actually search for.
It’s no use targeting “weed killer in Allentown” if it gets zero searches.
Another creative way to do keyword research is to find out what your competitors rank for. There are some keyword search tools that let you plug in your competitor’s URL.
The tool then displays the top keywords that your competitors rank for. You can then target those same keywords. Using a combination of methods is best to generate the list of keywords for your business.
Faster Website Performance
Google has made it clear that the user experience is what matters most. In recent years, site speed, security, and quality content have become ranking factors in the search algorithm.
It’s taking that one step further with the introduction of Web Vitals. This is a set of metrics that can get you an overall measurement of your site’s user experience.
You should expect to see Web Vitals become a part of Google’s algorithm sometime in 2021.
In the meantime, take the steps to improve performance. Make sure that you compress image file sizes and work with developers that can make your site secure and fast.
Is Your Site Ready for Mobile?
Before we get into depth with local listings, there’s one basic thing to handle. Your site needs to be mobile-friendly.
A mobile-friendly site is important for two reasons. The first is that Google made it a ranking factor a few years ago. The second is that 81% of near me searches happen on mobile devices.
If your site isn’t ready for mobile, take care of that first, and then update your local listings.
Complete Your Google MyBusiness Listing
Do you know how those businesses that are listed at the top of Google’s search results get in the 3-pack? They fill out a Google MyBusiness listing.
This is the core of your local listings. Having this completely filled out will give you an opportunity to be featured in the 3-pack and on Google Maps.
Google’s listing service isn’t the only one you want to focus on. There are other search engines and maps that you want to list your local business.
Bing Places, Waze, and Apple Maps all have a wide base of users. You want to have your local business listed in these places as well.
NAP refers to name, address, and phone number in local SEO. This is important because each business listing that you have is called a citation. These can be listed in other online directories, such as Yelp.
Each citation sends a signal to search engines that your business is credible and legitimate. You must have accurate information for each citation. Any inconsistencies can be seen as misleading, which could hurt your rankings down the road.
You need to go through all of your local citations to make sure that your information is accurate and matches what’s on your website. You may need to work with a company to do a citation audit before you begin doing local SEO work, especially if you changed locations or phone numbers since you opened your doors.
Get More Local Citations
There are always more places to get local listings. There are a couple of ways to get them, depending on the type of citation.
A structured citation is a local listing that has your NAP and website address. These are usually found in local directories.
Look at the directories that are relevant to your business. You could start with your local chamber of commerce directory if you’re a member there.
Other directory sites are Angie’s List, the Better Business Bureau, and HomeAdvisor. These sites are relevant for home service providers like plumbers, roofers, and landscapers.
Attorneys can be listed on sites such as FindLaw and Avvo. Healthcare providers can be listed on the websites of insurance providers they work with and HealthGrades.
An unstructured citation is just a reference to your business, which can be found anywhere. Think of an unstructured citation as a local backlink to your site. Local magazines and newspapers are common places for unstructured citations.
One off-site method to improve your local listings is to get reviews. Most of the structured listings offer an opportunity for your customers to leave reviews about your business.
Reviews are necessary to lure potential customers. About 85% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.
You can get more reviews by asking your customers on a regular basis to leave reviews on Google and other directory sites. Business owners tend to be shy when it comes to asking customers for help. You’ll find that people want to help your business, you just need to ask them and tell them what to do.
Outsource or Handle Local SEO In House?
Another common question is whether it makes sense to handle local SEO in-house or outsource it. There are a couple of things to consider. The cost of doing SEO yourself and the cost of handing it off to someone else.
There is a learning curve to getting SEO right. Not only that, but Google also updates its algorithm constantly. Unless you’re ready to invest the time and energy to learn the ranking factors and keep up with changes, you may be better off outsourcing it.
Another consideration is that SEO isn’t a one-time thing. It takes consistent effort over a long period of time. Are you ready to commit hours each week for at least a couple of years to improve local SEO?
That’s what it takes, and if you can’t make the commitment, then you’ll need to outsource. When you hire a company, you need to make sure that they’re well-versed in local SEO, like Web Merchants Direct. As you learned earlier, there are big differences between local SEO and organic SEO.
Make the Most Out Of Local Listings
People search for local products and services online. You have to have your local listings in order if you want to stand a chance at getting listed in the top few search results.
That starts with understanding how search engines work. You need to get your own site in order first, update your listings, and then work on off-site SEO.
A concerted effort will pay off. You’ll be rewarded with more leads and more customers.
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