Google, with its ever-changing algorithms and esoteric search policies, can be hard to please. In the broader aspect of SEO, small businesses may find it hard to compete against larger companies and conglomerates who basically have infinite marketing funds at their disposal. This is the reason why clients are often advised to focus their energies on doing Local SEO instead, which has a higher chance of success than the broad form of SEO that a lot of people are familiar with.
What is Local SEO?
From the name itself: Local SEO is search engine optimization that is specifically geared towards local searches. For the last few years, local SEO has been proven to be one of the most effective ways to promote and build your brand online. It allows business owners to market their products and/or services directly to nearby potential customers who are actively searching for them.
It’s important to note that a lot of people have Google in mind when it comes to online searches, but the stuff in this guide (especially the local-search specific ones) isn’t just exclusive to Google. They’re also applicable to sites like Bing, Apple Maps, and Yelp too. However, Google does have the majority of searches; its market share in the United States is nearly 92 percent, and it can be inferred that the figure in other countries isn’t that far off.
How is Local Search Different?
A standard informational search is one that tries to ask a generic query, usually with no purchase intent behind it and appended with no location-specific parameters. For example, “how to clear a clogged pipe” or “steps to declog a drain” are traditional search queries. The person searching just wants to know how to fix their drain and clogged pipes. Just about anyone in the world with basic understanding of SEO and marketing can rank for these queries if they spend enough time and effort on it.
But once you add a location to the mix, it’s a whole new ball game. “Plumbers near me,” “plumbing services in (my city),” “best plumber in (this particular location)”- these are examples of local searches. There is a huge chance that the person searching for these wants to purchase products or services.
This kind of search is so powerful, especially for small businesses. It has been estimated that four out of five consumers use search to find local or location-specific information. If your business is not optimized for local search, then that’s about 80% of your potential customers that you’re missing out on. This is why local SEO is important for any business who wants to remain relevant and competitive in this day and age.
Getting Into The Google Three-Pack
Try searching for a business or product near you on Google(Example: “cafes near me,” “coworking spaces in (my city),” etcetera). You’ll notice that Google will provide you with two distinct kinds of search results.
*Three local business listings contained in a boxed area at the top of the search results page, just below the map
*Regular organic search results below the boxed area listings
The first three listings are what SEO specialists and marketers call the Google “Snack Pack” (other nicknames include “local pack,” “3-pack”). You can see that the listings in the 3-pack are different from the ones in the organic results. Those in the 3-pack already has pertinent information like the business’s opening/closing times, reviews or ratings, photos, all displayed front, and center. Those in the organic results have none of these.
Google My Business and Its Importance
It always pays to aim to rank in both the organic search results and the Google Three-Pack. For local SEO, it’s especially ideal for your business to get a prime spot on the top pages of Google SERPs (search engine results pages), which is where the three-pack is located. According to a study, around a third of all clicks on search results pages go to the three listings inside the pack, with the rest distributed to the other organic listings.
The first and undoubtedly the most critical step into optimizing your business for local search involves claiming your Google My Business (GMB) profile. Google My Business has been around for ages- it was once called as Google Local or Google+ Local- but Google has been steadily pushing it to the forefront of searches as they continue tweaking their algorithms.
The data presented by the listings in the three-pack (e.g. photos, ratings, opening/closing times, etcetera) is sourced from this Google feature. No GMB profile = lesser chance of attracting local customers.
But it’s not only the local pack that gets information from your GMB profile. Google Maps also sources data from it. When people directly search for your business name on Google, info from your GMB profile will be presented to them in the form of a “Knowledge Panel”.
This panel contains all pertinent information a consumer might want to know from your business like your phone number, website URL, office hours, photos, and customer reviews. The panel also pulls in reviews from other review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor.
Most of the information in your GMB profile will be provided by yourself, the business owner. This includes contact details, business category, description, and others. However, other features like Q&As, attributes and Google reviews are sourced from your customers who have visited your business.
Ranking Well in Local Search
Aside from claiming your Google My Business Profile, there are also various other ways with which SEO professionals can ensure that your business stays competitive on the local scene.
First, there is a website localization. This usually involves using your city or region name naturally throughout the text in your site. If you have different branches in different locations, this can also mean making different websites for each of your branch offices.
Another is citation building. Your business’s info should be featured on other citation sites (other than Google) and online business directories. Your website itself should be fully optimized for the kind of local traffic that you want to attract to your business.
Local search also involves choosing the right design service who has the experience and skill to make your site stand out and distinguish itself from your competitors. Bad SEO will make your site forgettable and mundane, good local SEO will help you succeed.
If you want to learn more about how we can help you get started on local SEO, feel free to contact us for a free meeting consultation.