It won’t be wrong to say that Internet is one of the most amazing inventions of human civilization. Internet has placed the world of information at your fingertips and it has also changed the way business is done. It is estimated that more than 3.6 billion people are online and in the next few years, almost everyone in the world will be connected to and using Internet in some form.
One of the most widely used applications on Internet is a search engine. Since there are more than 300 million websites online, normal users use search engines such as Google to find the information they need about a business. The big search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo usually show less than 10 results for each keyword query on the first page of the results and most people do not go beyond the first page as they usually find what they need on the first page itself.
Due to the limited space on the first page of search results, businesses need to make sure that they rank in the search results for keywords relevant to their business to get organic traffic from search engines. While it’s true that businesses can invest in pay per click advertising on Google and other search engines to get traffic but the cost advertising can quickly add up. Therefore, businesses need to think of other ways to get traffic from search engines for local searches at a lower cost.
What Is Search Engine Optimization?
Google uses over 200 factors to rank web pages. Many of these factors can be tweaked in order to rank a website high in the search engine result pages which means businesses can get free traffic from major search engines by optimizing their websites to make it more attractive for search engines.
Search engine optimization may be defined as the art of managing these factors to rank a website higher in the search engine result pages.
Keep in mind that search engines closely guard the algorithms they use for calculating the rankings and therefore, search engine optimizers do their own tests and data scraping to find out the factors that may have the most impact on search engine rankings.
The Importance of SEO for Local Businesses
Almost everyone carries a smart phone these days. Research studies suggest that almost 60% adults in America posses a smart phone and this number is growing fast. It also means they are online 24 hours a day.
It is estimated that more than 95% consumers search online before they decide to spend money on a product or service. Many studies have shown that most people search for local information when they use their smart phones to find information.
Google has also said that more than 90% of mobile users use the search engine to find the telephone number or address of local businesses. Also, local searches usually result in a purchase 3 out of 5 times. In other words, local businesses need to maintain a strong online presence to rank higher for local searches in order to get more business.
There was a time when local businesses could afford to not pay special attention to local search engine optimization as part of their overall marketing strategy but these days, they can do that only at their own peril. Consumers expect businesses to be present online. Consumers trust search engines to deliver the right information and if a local business does not exist online, it may not exist at all in the eyes of most of the consumers today.
If you still aren’t convinced about the importance of local SEO for your business, here are a few stats that you would help you realize why you need to invest in local search engine optimization right now.
46% of all the searches on Google are local. In other words, close to half the searches on Google which is the biggest search engine in the world and has an overwhelming market-share are for local businesses. If your business is not present in local search results, you are leaving a lot of money on the table.
Almost one third of mobile searches are made right before consumers visits a store. In other words, consumers search online to find a local business and then visit the business on the same day.
While many people prefer to buy online for sheer convenience, local searches also result in offline purchases. In fact, as per the results of a survey, close to 78% of local services on a smart phone result in off-line purchases.
More than 85% people check the location of a business on Google Maps and more than 75% of local searches result in a phone call to a local business.
Another important factor businesses need to consider is that the market for mobile and wearable devices is growing at a rapid pace which means even more consumers will start using various devices to search for local businesses. Since most local searches result in a purchase, businesses need to invest in local search engine optimization to remain ahead.
Factors Affecting Local Search Engine Optimization
When it comes to local rankings, the ranking factors can be categorized into the localized ranking factors and the local pack ranking factors. Google has reduced the number of businesses listed in the local pack to 3 from 7 and this number may go down further as it is expected that one of the three listings in the local pack may be left for advertisers.
Here is a list of some of the most important factors that affect local SEO.
Google My Business Page
Google has been aggressively promoting it is Google My business page listings to local businesses. In fact, Google has also partnered with various local city offices as well as local city chamber of commerce offices to show businesses ways to update their Google My business page.
It is important to provide as much information as you can on this page including picture of the business, images of the products, uploading the logo, type of payments accepted, business hours and other things relevant to business. All the information on this page is important in terms of local rankings. In fact, by providing as much information as possible on the Google My Business page may also increase the chances of showing up in the local pack.
It is also important to choose the correct category. Categories not only a positive ranking factor but choosing the wrong category may also negatively affect the ranking of your business. Therefore make sure that you are choosing the right category for your business. Also, do not forget to use the correct name of your business, address, web address as well as phone number.
The quality of the landing page for Google My Business page is also important.
While Google has made a a lot of changes to its algorithms to weed out spam and provide more useful information to its users, the most important ranking factor when it comes organic rankings is links from other domains. There was a time when links from any domain had an effect on the rankings but these days, authority and relevance are more important as compared to the sheer number of links from other domains.
While location plays an important role in local search engine optimization, links still play an important part in competitive niches. For local businesses, it is important to get location specific links. Another way to build links for local businesses is to get industry specific links such as industry specific directories or directory with an industry specific section.
Links from authority sites also help a lot in rankings.
On page factors play a very important role in local search engine optimization. It is important for local businesses to ensure that they clearly indicate the services offered as well as locations. However, it is important to not over-complicate this. Businesses should think from the point of view of potential customers to ensure that they are able to get everything from the information provided on the website.
Some of the important factors include content of the page, title tags, header tags, meta descriptions, images, map as well as name, address and phone number on every page of the website with schema markup.
Off Page Factors
Google verifies the information provided by a business on their Google My Business Page by crosschecking it with the information for a business all around the web. Therefore, it is important for a business to ensure name, address and phone number consistency across the web. In other words, your business name, phone number and address as well as the web address needs to be same all over the Internet.
Citations also play an important role in local search engine optimization. Citations are listings of a business around the web ranging from business directories to social media platforms. It is important to have consistent citations to rank high in local search.
If a business has out of date information online, it is important to locate that information and clean it up to make sure that Google doesn’t confuse your business with other businesses. There are a number of tools available online that can help a business in finding this information and cleaning it up.
Reviews also play an important role in local search engine optimization. Reviews are not only useful from the point of view of conversion rate optimization but these also help with search engine optimization. Businesses should try to get as many reviews as they can to get ranking benefits as well as improvements in conversion.
It is important to keep in mind that reviews on platforms such as Google reviews, Trip Advisor, Yelp and other such platforms have an effect on local rankings. Therefore, you should try to get as many reviews as you can from your customers.
First and foremost, every business should go through the guidelines given by Google for reviews. Businesses should make it easy for clients to review their business. For instance, every business should try to give a link to their Google My Business Page so that consumers can leave a review in an easy manner and with as few clicks as possible. There are instructions available online for generating a direct link that can be given to consumers to leave a review on the Google My Business page.
Location of the Searcher
Google also takes into account location of the user into their results. While a business cannot really manage this factor but there are still ways to take advantage of this feature. For instance, you should try to include relevant keywords in the content to attract visitors from search engines for such localized searches.
Choosing the Right Local SEO Agency
As is clear from the factors mentioned above, there is a lot to local search rankings and many businesses find it difficult to keep up with the latest Google updates and make necessary changes to rank high and maintain their existing rankings when it comes to local searches. Therefore, it is recommended to hire the services of a local search engine optimization agency to gain high rankings for relevant local searches.
Here is a list of some of the factors you should consider to choose the right local SEO agency for your business.
The most important thing when it comes to local search engine optimization is results. A business should never focus on short-term results but the focus should be on long-term results achieved by the agency for their clients. Therefore, when you are looking for a local SEO expert, ask them to show you the long-term results they have achieved for their past clients.
The local SEO agency should also give you an idea of the return on investment you can expect by investing in their services.
Make sure that you are dealing with a company that has worked with a number of clients and has many SEO experts on its rolls to cater to the needs of their clients. While there are quite a few experts who prefer to work solo but your businesses may suffer if they decide to close their shop suddenly. Therefore, it is better to work with a company that has a number of people on its rolls and has a lot of experience with local search engine optimization.
Overall, local businesses cannot afford to ignore the importance of local search engine optimization. If you own a local business, you need to invest in local search engine optimization now to remain relevant and grow your business. If you don’t, your competitors will and they may leave you behind.