Recently, I was helping a local business in optimizing its online presence. In doing so, I developed a newfound respect for businesses that rank highly for local searches. This is because it illustrates the amount of effort they made by adopting the various local search ranking factors in their SEO strategy.
Ranking highly for local searches is no easy feat – there, I said it!
After all, ranking for local searches isn’t just about optimizing your website. There are so many external factors involved. And since most local searches have purchase intent, the stakes are considerably higher.
Therefore, local SEO continues to crucial, especially for local businesses.
Why do local search ranking factors matter?
Well, for starters, GoGulf reports that 46 percent of all searches on Google are seeking out local information. SEO Tribunal further states that a whopping 97 percent of people find out about local businesses via search engines.
And 78 percent of location-based searches lead to offline purchases. And such location-based searches have increased by a staggering 900 percent in the past two years!
Each of these statistics points at one glaring fact – local searches are integral for the success of a local business. Unless your online presence is optimized for local searches, you are likely to lose out on a chunk of your revenue.
However, let’s face it – not all businesses have the time, money, or resources to satisfy all local SEO factors. This is why it is crucial to identify essential factors and ensure that your business implements them.
And if you still have the resources left, you can delve into the deeper world of SEO and use technical search ranking strategies to improve your rankings.
The foundational ranking factors
To make sure your business attains a respectable position in the local rankings, here are the top basic factors you must keep in mind.
Google My Business
According to WebFx, over 56 percent of local retailers have not claimed their Google My Business page. This is one mistake you must avoid! This is because online listings and directories are among the most important local search ranking factors!
Let’s do an exercise. Type “Leather Jacket NYC” in Google. What is the first thing you see? You see a snapshot of Google My Business listings!
That means that regardless of how optimized your website is, the first thing that most local searches are going to show to your target audience are potential businesses near them. You don’t just have to ensure that your business is among them, but you must also make sure that the information reflected on the listing is right.
And for this, you need to claim your Google My Business page. Owner-verified listings are ranked highly on My Business rankings. It also allows you to include all the required information about your business. This can include adding photos and moderating reviews.
The more helpful the information on your listing is, the higher it will be placed, thereby improving your online presence.
As per 99firms, there are over 97 billion local searches made in a single month! That means, every second, over 37,000 people are using the search engine with local intent.
You need to find the right set of local keywords and optimize your content for it. When you do so, your website will show up for the said keywords.
Contrary to general SEO, for ranking highly on local searches, try to focus on long-tail-specific keywords. For instance, people looking for plumbers in Texas won’t just search for “plumbers in Texas.” They are likely to search for “plumbers near me” or “plumbers in Dallas, Texas.”
After you find the right set of local keywords, integrate them into your website content, title tag, the header tag, and meta description.
For instance, Baker Brothers Plumbing has included the word Plumber Dallas in its title tag!
When you click on the website, you will find the local keyword in its body text as well, further optimizing the website for local searches.
Many marketers consider local search ranking factors to be completely distinct from general SEO ranking factors. This is not the case. Just because you are a local business doesn’t mean you can disregard SEO factors that are not local in nature.
For instance, user experience is a general SEO factor that affects ranking. It is just as important for local SEO as well! While it may not directly boost your ranking, Google takes into account positive user experience when ranking websites.
Some of the behaviors analyzed by search engines for gauging user experience is:
- CTR: Number of people who click on your website when it is shown in their search results.
- Pages per session: Number of web pages a site visitor visits before leaving the website.
- Bounce rate: The number of people that abandon the landing page immediately after being directed to it.
Here are ways you can boost your site’s user experience to rank highly on each of the mentioned metrics:
- Have a clear and organized navigation
- Provide clear Call-to-Actions to direct consumers towards desired actions.
- Increase your page speed to reduce bounce rates.
- Create a responsive design to cater to all types of devices.
Sprout Social manages to tick each of these boxes. Take inspiration from its clean and simple navigation, a distinct call to action, and a design that is easily adapted to all screens.
Another ranking factor for local searches is link-building. The more authoritative websites link to yours, the higher your rank will be.
Link building is advantageous in two ways.
Firstly, it allows you to leverage the traffic of other websites and platforms. By driving this traffic to your website, you automatically increase your site’s click-through-rate.
Secondly, quality links are evidence of the credibility of your website in the eyes of the search engines.
So how can you conduct local link building?
You can start by targeting local papers. After all, as per Guardian, 67 percent of people rely on local papers for reading local news. Therefore, being featured on the local press is likely to put your business on the map. A great way to get a link from the local press is by writing a press release about your business and linking it to your website.
Moreover, you can seek out local causes to sponsor or partner with. You will be surprised how many people may find your business if you are listed as “Our Partners” of a local charity! You can also get quality backlinks by writing guest blogs for relevant local websites.
Reviews have always been an integral ranking factor for all businesses, included local firms. Review factors include Google ratings as well as written reviews. According to Bright Local, 87 percent of customers seek out online reviews for local businesses.
Therefore, it is imperative for businesses to collect reviews from their customers. Make sure you have at least the same amount of new reviews as your competitor, if not more.
Getting reviews is not hard. All you need to do is ask customers to leave reviews. Email marketing is an excellent way to do so. Here is how Papier asks its customers for reviews.
If you feel that people don’t tend to such requests, try to add an incentive to the activity. Here is an example of Sun of a Beach offering coupons in exchange for reviews.
Apart from asking for reviews, you must also monitor feedback on different platforms, including Yelp and TripAdvisor. This is because third-party website reviews are just as important for ranking as Google is! Also, this will ensure that you can detect negative reviews and address them promptly.
Local on-page content
Apart from optimizing your website for local searches via the addition of the right keywords, creating a page dedicated to a local audience also helps in improving your online presence.
Here are ways you can optimize your local page:
- Create a city-specific landing page
- Embed a Google map to help consumers locate your business.
- Add testimonials and reviews to legitimize your business.
By bifurcating your website into local pages and general web pages, you can easily cater to both a general audience as well as those with local intent.
I am sure that local SEO seems much more daunting to some of you. There was a time; it seemed the same to me.
While the names of the ranking factors may sound challenging, trust me when I say it, they are not that difficult to grasp.
Yes, the process of implementing the factors is not easy because they take their sweet time before showing results. But, then again, SEO doesn’t reap quick results anyway. It is known for its slow and long-lasting results.
So, if you are a local business, start your local SEO efforts from day 1. Focus on the six factors I mentioned or hire a local SEO expert. This will allow you to steadily build your ranking. And I am sure one day your business will be the first to be reflected for all the relevant keywords. Till then, keep optimizing!