Local SEO: The Marketing Manager’s Guide

Alex Minchin
Alex Minchin

Many businesses have already made a start when it comes to local SEO – though it may not have been your intention. A well-designed business website and its copy can often naturally incorporate local SEO basics, but for many businesses, this foundation level will need to be expanded in order to deliver the best possible results in future.

We have put together the guide below to try and help you add extra layers and dimensions to your business’ local SEO strategy. We’re going to assume you’re already familiar with the core basic principles of local SEO, and focus instead on providing the information you need to improve your existing focus in this area and – hopefully – push your campaigns to the next level. Our guide is simple, understandable, and actionable – we’re going to provide you with pointers on what you can implement to try and produce the best results for your business.

So, without further ado, let’s dive right in and examine the next steps to an improved local SEO campaign. First and foremost, let’s explain the answers to a few of the most common local SEO-related questions…

What is the difference between local SEO and general SEO?

  • General SEO involves methods you use to increase traffic to your website from anywhere.
  • Local SEO involves methods you use to increase traffic to your website from a particular geographical location. As a result, local SEO is generally seen to be far more targeted and specific to your business.

What type of business benefits most from local SEO strategies?

Local SEO is beneficial for businesses that have a local, in-person, bricks and mortar element to their business operations. This kind of SEO is useful for medical practices, lawyers, spas, and businesses in the hospitality industry – businesses where customers are going to wish to attend an office or establishment in person.

What are the goals of local SEO?

The overarching goal of local SEO is improved business visibility to prospective clients. In order to do this, your technical goal for local SEO is to appear in the Google “3-pack”. If you’re not sure what this is, let’s run an example with a search for “Health Spa Oxfordshire”:

Here’s the page this search returns:

Health Spa in Oxfordshire Google Local search resultsThe three main listings as above are known as the “Google 3-pack”:

Health Spa in Oxfordshire Google Local 3 pack resultsThe 3-pack is so important for local SEO as it appears at the top of the results page in 93% of Google searches with local intent. This is the ‘holy grail’ of local SEO, and should be the focus of your localised efforts.

Moving on…

With the answers to these questions established, we can move our thoughts on to the improvement of local SEO results. We’ve put together a list of ideas you may want to try. It is important to note that local SEO efforts tend to take a lot of just that: effort.  If you find yourself struggling to find the time for all the tasks that good local (and general) SEO requires, you may want to consider outsourcing your requirements to an expert company.

With that in mind, let’s consider some of the most effective tactics and tools you can use to improve your local rankings and – hopefully – drive more prospective customers or clients towards your business.

Develop local listings and citations

Local listings are a key component to any SEO strategy. Listings are, essentially, an online resource that is similar to what would have appeared in the Yellow Pages of old. A local listing will usually comprise of:

  • Your business’ name
  • Your business’ address
  • Your business’ phone number
  • Totally, the three details about are known as your business’ NAP – name, address, phone number.
  • Local listings may also include an email address or website address.

There are countless sites online that act as repositories for business listings and, if you’re serious about your local SEO, you’re going to want to be included in as many as possible. Here’s a  few ideas to get you started…

  • Search engines such as Google and Bing; you can check your existing listing status with the Moz listing search tool
  • Yelp
  • Apple Maps For Business
  • Facebook
  • FourSquare
  • Cylex…
  • … and many more besides.

Realistically, the more local listings your business’ NAP is listed on, the better – this is a core component of local SEO that cannot be replicated with other techniques. Adding a business to all the different listings is time consuming but, ultimately, rewarding in terms of SEO returns.

It is also worth noting that listings and citations are not just beneficial strictly for SEO either; they are also genuinely beneficial to customers. In fact, studies have shown that 50% of local searches performed on a mobile are searching for business information such as your NAP.

Speaking of mobile searches…

Ensure your site is mobile-friendly

Mobile search is an incredibly important component of local SEO, with 50% of customers who conduct a local search then visiting the store/premises the same day as their search. As a result, your business’ website must be optimised for mobile viewing, as Google is known to rank mobile-friendly sites higher than non-mobile friendly sites.

Ensure your site is mobile friendly by…

  • Using a responsive design
  • Use the accelerated mobile pages (AMP) plugin to ensure faster loading times. The AMP Project is open-source plugin that cuts web page loading times down by as much as 85%. You can find out more about the AMP project here.
  • Enlarge the size of fonts and buttons on your site so they are still easily-accessed on a smaller screen for improved usability.

Add a local dimension to your business blog

If you have a blog on your business site, then introducing a local element to your posts is a fantastic, simple, and inherently authentic way of boosting your local performance. You can write about national stories through a local lens, or talk about your services and why they are particularly useful to residents of the surrounding area. For example, if you run a health clinic, you could write a post along the following lines:

  • Discuss national changes to healthcare funding and how they will impact your local area
  • This then allows you to naturally segue into discussion of how your clinic is able to provide services to residents that may otherwise be difficult to obtain

The above approach ensures that your business blog has a local flavour, is beneficial in terms of natural local SEO, and gently promotes your business – win/win/win!

Optimise for voice search

Local SEO searches tend to be conducted by people who are looking for a service or a place to visit, which means that voice search becomes a factor for local searches. For example, imagine a scenario where a couple are discussing the need for one of them to visit a medical facility. If they have a smart speaker – such as Amazon Echo or Google Home – then it is far more natural for them to ask the smart speaker for nearby locations than to run this search on a device.

Furthermore, it’s not just searching by smart speakers that is important for local voice search: analysis has shown that voice searches are three times more likely to have local rather than general intent.

A few pointers for optimising for voice search…

  • Optimise for keywords and phrases that use natural language. For example, rather than “health spa Oxfordshire”, consider how someone would ask a smart speaker for this information. For example: “which health spas offer Reiki massage?” or “what are the opening times for health spas near me?”.
  • Add an FAQ to your site; this is a great, natural way of incorporating long-tail keywords in the form of a question.
  • Keep the style of content writing across your site natural and more akin to how people would speak rather than polished, professional language.

Boost Google reviews to boost your chances of appearing in the 3-pack

As well as review sites, you will also want to encourage your customers to leave reviews for your business directly on Google itself. There are two main reasons for this: first and foremost, your business’ Google rating will be displayed in the 3-pack should your business reach this level. For example:

Google Local 3 Pack results - BannatynesSecondly, there is evidence to suggest that the number of reviews you have on Google will directly influence your overall likelihood of appearing in the 3-pack. Interestingly, when it comes to reviews on Google, quantity appears to be more important than quality.

Studies have concluded that the number of reviews your business has on Google can influence your ranking. For example, this study found that the 3-pack listings have, on average, 472% more reviews than listings four to six.

Furthermore, 63% of the time, the 3-pack listings will be the listings with the highest number of reviews. So the number of reviews you have on Google seems to have a direct impact on your ability to find a place in the coveted 3-pack; this, in turn, means you’ll need to encourage customers to leave reviews.

There are various methods available to help encourage customers to leave reviews. Sometimes, just asking customers to leave a review is sufficient, as many people are more than happy to share their opinion on a business and its service. It’s therefore worth sending an email to your customers with a link to leave a review at various sites you have registered with. If this does not produce the results you need, then consider providing an incentive for leaving a review of your business – for example, coupons can be offered to customers who choose to complete a review.

Speaking of reviews; it’s not just Google you need to focus on…

Ensure you are listed on external review sites

We have discussed the importance of reviews in terms of local SEO ranking factors in regards to Google reviews, but there is another important consideration in a similar vein: external review sites.

To understand the importance of review sites to a local SEO strategy, we need to cover the fundamentals of what search engines are actually for. Search engines are dedicated to trying to ensure that, when a person performs a search, they are provided with the information they have been hoping to find.

The need for search engines to fulfil this basic need has led to online review sites ranking incredibly well, as statistics and surveys show that customers love reviews and want to read them.

For example, 84% of people trust online business reviews as much as a direct recommendation from a friend or family member, while 93% of people say that reviews influence their purchasing decisions.

Statistics like these have led search engines, and particularly Google, to prioritise review sites in their algorithms – after all, if reviews are what people want, then search engines want to ensure searchers have easy, first-page access to them.

You can see this in action with our example search from before – “health spa Oxfordshire”:

Health Spa in Oxfordshire 3 pack and SERPs resultsA review site – in this case, TripAdvisor – is listed right below the 3-pack. This is a great example of just how important Google sees review sites as being to the customer experience.

As a result of this, your efforts must involve registering with online review sites. As a starter, you will want to ensure your business is registered on:

  • Yelp
  • Yellow Pages
  • TripAdvisor
  • Google + Local
  • Foursquare

However, registration, in and of itself, is not sufficient: you also need to encourage your existing customers to leave reviews. As we’ve discussed, customers like reviews, so it’s up to you to ensure that they have options to read when considering visiting your business.

For the most part, you can use the same techniques are described in the Google reviews section to garner reviews on external sites. However, in terms of priority, it is more important – in terms of local SEO – to ensure that you garner more reviews on Google than on external sites.

Your first request to customers should be to leave reviews on Google, and then request (or incentivise) reviews for others platforms.

In conclusion

Having read through the above, hopefully your mind is now bursting with ideas to help boost performance across local search.

The key is to think like someone looking for a local product or service. What would you do? You would want to find out who exists (discovery), and then whether or not they are favoured by other people who have used their services (evaluation).

Many businesses do not realise that the ranking factors are different for local search as opposed to general organic search listings. By making just a few tweaks to your local SEO strategy, you can achieve amazing results for your business.

And if you see this as a strategy you’d like to discuss, but don’t necessarily have the time or skill to do it yourself, you can book in a free Strategy Call to discuss your project.

Or you can head over to our Growth Calculator to calculate your revenue growth potential and to discover the two key objectives that you need to achieve to send your revenue skywards.

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