A well structured local SEO strategy has become an increasingly important part of any digital marketing campaign. The increase in mobile traffic has lead to a direct increase in location becoming an integral part of the search landscape.
According to Google's, Our Mobile Planet research, 67% of people in the UK perform a local search on their smartphone at least once a month and just 13% of people have never performed a local search on their mobile.
An increasing percentage of your customers will be performing local searches. As internet users have become more search savvy, they will also continue to carry out more specific search queries. Your business SEO campaigns must start to take this into account.
Moreover, the importance of having local SEO strategies for ecommerce websites is clear, as an astonishing 81% of internet users, aged 16 to 64, searched online for a product/service to purchase something (on any device), while 67% used a shopping app for this purpose on a smartphone or tablet.
User search behaviour and search query trends
In addition to the rise of mobile search, there are two key trends that have emerged over the past year - conventional search and local search.
What's a conversational search?
Conversational search has seen a significant increase in usage over the past year. Popularised by Apple's Siri and promoted by Google's voice search options, conversational search represents a new trend in user behaviour.
Voice search isn't the only form of conversational search though. Increasingly, users are searching with much longer search queries in which they ask questions. Google launched a complete overhaul to its search algorithm called Hummingbird in 2013. Hummingbird was designed to better understand searches that placed a greater emphasis on context. Examples of typical search queries include question words such as what, how who, and when:
- 'How far away is France?'
- 'When did the Simpsons start?'
- 'What are good examples of presentations'
This is significantly different to how traditional search queries which were essentially a string of keywords together.
Google's local results
Similarly, Google has changed the way its search results look. The Search Engine Results Page (SERP) has gone through a variety of upgrades to provide a richer experience for users.
If you search for 'cinema film times' then you will get a unique set of results based on your location.
Additionally, Google will also show local listings and a map for queries it believes have local intent. The image below shows the results for 'pizza'.
Now in 2020, when you search for 'pizza' on Google, the results will show you a new feature: the 'local pack'.
The Map Pack also called 'the local pack' is a combination of three local business results, which are accompanied by a map of their locations on Google Maps.
The local pack has its own algorithm and sets its own rules. Some ranking factors such as backlinks and local citations will help out to rank higher locally and in traditional organic results. Therefore, if you want to track your local rankings, you can use a rank tracker software, such as SEMrush.
This tool will enable you to track a websites' daily rankings for a personalised set of target keywords. You can select to target any specific location and any specific device (smartphone, tablet, or desktop). You will be able to:
- Track any domain and keyword.
- Compare different geographical locations or device types on the same project.
- Look for new featured snippet opportunities.
- Export the results in a PDF to share and compare changes.
This understanding of context is fundamental to Google Hummingbird and to the future of its search offering. Increasingly we will see users use search queries based on their personal context: 'How far away is the train station from here?'
Google and other search engines have already begun to adapt accordingly - without a wider contextual understanding of the user, how will Google know what 'here' refers to?
The top 10 local SEO tips you need to know
1. Create a Google My Business account
Optimising your Google listing is the best way to rank higher on both Google Maps and Google Search local results. For that purpose, what you need to do is to create a Google My Business (GMB) account. What you need to do to make the most of your Business Profile on Google is:
- Verify the ownership of the business on GMB.
- Update your information on a regular basis.
- Add all your information here: opening hours, the logo of the brand, respond to your customer's reviews.
2. Build local links back to your site
Building high-quality links that come from good local websites is key to improving the visibility of your local pack. Look for sites such as local news, community, and local industry sites for the best results. Focusing on producing relevant local content will help you start attracting local media and sites, which can help spread the word about your brand.
3. Optimise your site for mobile-friendliness and fast-loading
As above mentioned, most of the searches are performed now on mobile devices, so it is vital for your business to focus on those visitors that come to your website through a smartphone. This is traduced as having a proper and faster mobile-friendly design. In September 2020, Google enabled mobile-first indexing for all sites in Search.
4. Voice search optimisation
Voice searches are becoming extremely popular in 2020. Therefore, it is important for your business to optimise your business according to this feature. Keep in mind the search intent when doing this, as customers are looking for useful responses.
Golden tip: Update your info for voice search by using natural phrases and long-tail keywords.
5. Own your NAP
NAP stands for name, address, and phone number and you should ensure that this is consistent across the internet and present on your website.
Putting this on your main contact page should suffice, although many websites also include it in their footer. Make sure that this is consistent whenever your business's address or name is used online. Inconsistencies can lead to search engines not fully understanding your company's online presence and creates confusion.
You may need to conduct advanced Google searches to try and find mistakes (your company may be listed on websites without you even knowing).
6. Set up your location pages
If your business owns multiple locations then we recommend developing a suite of location landing pages.
Hierarchy in website architecture is a fundamental taxonomical building block in SEO.Dawn Anderson, SEO and digital marketing guru and director of Move It Marketing
These should be unique and specific for each location. If your company has multiple locations within multiple regions then make sure the pages sit together correctly and follow the correct hierarchy and are linked together. Correctly structured pages are extremely important to aid Google in understanding your website and its relevancy.
Hierarchy in website architecture is a fundamental taxonomical building block in SEO. Cascading and cross modular internal linking in this way builds a fire of relevance in a site. Few things are more powerful than a strong hierarchy.Dawn Anderson, SEO and digital marketing guru and director of Move It Marketing
Elements that you'll want to include in your location pages include:
- Address and phone number (this should be unique and it's best to avoid multiple addresses on the same page)
- Opening hours
- A Google map can help your users find your location
- List the specific locations facilities
- Specific information and descriptions about the location
- Directions can help your customers find you
7. Implement location markup
You may wish to consider using location structured data. This may help search engines understanding very specific elements of your content.
You can find the structured data you need at schema.org. In particular, you may wish to consider:
- Street address
- Address/ country
- Fax number
You will need to add additional code to the content covering your address but it should be quick and easy to implement.
8. Connect with your community (local content, local links, and PR)
By building real, local relationships you can develop a local backlink profile that will help your local rankings.
Often online businesses or companies neglect their real-world surroundings. Creating connections with your local community can have a fantastic impact on helping with your local SEO.
By building real relationships with other local businesses, events, or news sources, you can start to develop a local backlink profile which will help with your local search rankings. Specifically, you might want to consider:
- Attending local networking events
- Joining your local chamber of commerce
- Forging a relationship with local newspapers or journals
- Hosting your own events
This can all result in links to your websites, increased social engagement, and even PR coverage.
9. Set up Google+ and/or Bing Local
Setting up your Google+ Local listing and Bing Local for Businesses can significantly help your local listings. Google local results favour websites which have a well developed Google+ Local listing and in niche areas, this can really help you leapfrog your competition.
These platforms also allow you to control your profile and can be used as part of a wider marketing message.
10. Have a customer review strategy
Following on from setting up your profiles on Google+ or Bing, you should also develop a strategy to build reviews on your profiles. These will help your listing stand out further, are helpful in the ranking algorithm, and can help build trust with cold leads.
It is important to also consider your reviews on other websites such as Yelp or consider signing up to a review website such as Trust Pilot to give your customers a platform to review your company, but also these are used by search engines to display a star rating next to your listing.
These can help increase click-through rates of your listing.
MintTwist's ultimate list of local citations
One of the most important ways of developing your local SEO authority is through citations in local directories and Internet Yellow Pages (IYP). These are often highly trusted business directories that can help you control the search engines' understanding of your business and NAP information.
We've compiled a list below of the leading IYP and online business directories that you can use as part of your local SEO strategy. Many of these allow your customers to post reviews and leave feedback, whilst others also allow you to manage your own company profile.
UK citation sources
|Website||Ahrefs Domain Ranking||Google Page Rank|
|Business Directory UK||32||5|
|The Business Network||51||2|
|Cylex Business Directory UK||61||6|
US citation sources
|Website||Ahrefs Domain Ranking||Google Page Rank|