As a digital marketer it pays to be ambitious, but don’t make the mistake of setting out to conquer the world while overlooking business that’s right on your doorstep. Local is the logical starting place for any search campaign, so it’s surprising how may publishers ignore what’s right under their noses and are lured by the bright lights of big rankings.
Businesses getting lost in their own backyard are missing a trick and need to put a pin in the map. There’s plenty of evidence to show that local leads are easier to convert (physical proximity can play a large part in a client’s decision-making process) and ease of communication helps to build closer business relationships.
Better still it’s comparatively easy to conquer local search and it’s highly cost effective. The rules of the game are more straightforward than in other areas of search marketing and you’ll get a much higher ROI. Once you have established yourself as a local big fish you can then think about looking for a bigger pond.
How to kick-off a local SEO campaign
Google My Business Setting-up a Google My Business account is rapid and can make a big difference to your online visibility. GMB allows businesses to create and control profiles which are displayed on Google Search and Maps and provide a shortcut to the top of the SERPS.
Google products are built to be easy-to-use and GMB is no exception. Just sign up to Google My Business, wait for your activation code to arrive (by post) and follow the prompts. Simple.
Besides the usual contact information GMB allows businesses to publish regular updates, add images and respond to online reviews. You’ll also get access to an Insights dashboard to help keep track of online performance and optimise your account.
GMB profiles aren’t just displayed in search results for brand queries, they are also displayed in map results for business queries. Optimise your local listings correctly and you can leapfrog the competition and bag a spot in the ‘3-pack’ (the three local results displayed on google maps) which account for 93% of traffic.
Not to be outdone, rival search engine Bing offers a similar service named Bing Places for Business, which is even easier to set up as you can simply import your details from your GMB account.
Local Search Signals When it comes to local rankings it makes sense that Google gives extra algorithmic weight to local signals. To put it another way, if you want to be found locally; you’ve got to act locally. Links and citations from local media will push you up the rankings and establishing as a neighbourhood expert will also help to win business. Sponsorship is another great way of getting local links, whether it’s an industry event or a charitable endeavour, and don’t forget to add your site to local directories.
On Page Elements Traditional ‘on page’ ranking elements count and you’d be amazed at how many companies bury their physical address and contact details. Customer contact is a common goal so put your details in the footer where they’re easy to find. The Title Tag and Meta Description fields are both key pieces of real estate in local search and it often pays to include your physical location, as well as your business description, in your homepage meta data.
Collect Customer Reviews Reviews can give your local rankings a real shot in the arm and help your site to stand-out in the results. There’s no doubt that reviews improve search performance, but there is a question mark over how long the secret sauce will last. Reviews are relatively easy to manipulate and Google’s mission to fight spam means that longevity isn’t guaranteed, but today they pack a significant algorithmic punch. Google collates reviews from a mixture of trusted sources and the findings are fed into Search Maps and GMB. Having a row of shining gold stars displayed beneath your listing in the search results is proven to improve CTR and statistics show that seven out of ten customers will leave a review if asked.
It hardly needs to be said that techniques used to improve local visibility will also help to improve nationwide visibility, so there’s really no excuse.