Did you know that eight of every ten customers use Google search to find local information, it’s no longer enough to simply place a local newspaper advert and expect your business to thrive. If your business doesn’t have an online presence and is difficult to find you could be losing out on 80% of your potential customers. With this in mind, search engine optimisation (SEO) at a local level is vital if you want to stand out from the competition.
The purpose of this blog post is to give you the most important information and best practice for local SEO in 2019. If you want to skip what local SEO is and how it works then click here to jump to your local SEO task list.
So what is local SEO?
Local search engine optimisation (Local SEO) is the practice of improving your businesses capability of being found in Google by potential customers in your local geographic service area. At a general level, this involves making it clear where your business is and proving in Google’s eyes that you’re the best provider of your product or service. Ultimately local SEO results in more customers for local businesses even those who don’t aspire to operate at a national level.
What is the difference between local and ‘normal’ SEO?
When people are looking for physical stores and services that require them to go to the provider then Google understands they will be looking for a business near them. Google is all about the users, if people find a relevant business that suits their needs then they’ve done their job. This is relatively easy to measure for Google as if they get it wrong people tend to return to Google and search again to try and find something more relevant.
So how does Google tell the difference between local and other search terms?
Well, Google works to understand search intent, simply put this means they try to understand the search query. There are several flags that help Google spot local search terms if you search for ‘Web design Chesterfield’ then it’s clear you’re looking for a web designer in Chesterfield. If you search for ‘hairdressers near me’ then it’s clear you’re looking for a hairdresser that’s as close as possible to your physical address.
At the end of the day it’s a little bit more complicated than this alone Google is reviewing trends based on the data they have, but for most people you’ll find that you’ll be right 90% of the time if you guess whether Google should show you a map of local businesses or not for a search query.
But how does Google know what is near me?
When you type into Google they don’t just pay attention to what you put in the search box. Every search query has both ‘implicit’ and ‘explicit’ factors. The explicit factors are what you type in the box, the implicit factors are things like Google guessing your location based upon your IP address as well as things like the personalisation of your search results based on websites you’ve previously visited.
When it comes to getting your address right IP addresses are pretty accurate and if anyone can get it right Google can. At the end of the day, a lot of us are using Google maps so Google has a lot of information comparing IP and location we’ve been training them to get better at it for years.
Your Local SEO Task List
Ok here goes, the juicy bit, what do you need to do to appear in Google locally and what can you do to improve your rankings compared to your local competitors.
- Sign up to Google My Business – This is vital if you haven’t done it get it done now, even if you don’t have a website. Read this guide to learn more about how to register on Google My Business.
- Verify your Google My Business – Just as important as getting setup is verifying your business on Google My Business, the most common way this is done is by sending you a postcard with a code that you enter to confirm your address. A simple process that can take 1-2 weeks depending on how long it takes Google to deliver your postcard. If you want a guide on verification I recommend Google’s guide here.
- Optimise your Google My Business Listing – It’s important that your business listing accurately represents your business and what you do in order to be discovered via Google search. Make sure you have selected your businesses category correctly and have created a description for your business. Your description should describe what your business does whilst also appealing to potential customers by highlighting what makes you unique. The first 250 characters of this description may be displayed in Google search results so make the best use of this space and sell your company to encourage people to click you in search results. It’s also important that you check your business service area in Google My Business to ensure you’re not cutting out potential customers. To recap:
a. Check your business category.
b. Create an appealing description for your business.
c. Check your business address and service area details.
- Ask your customers for reviews – You can leave reviews for local businesses using Google and frequently we see businesses with a large number of positive reviews at the top of search results. Don’t post fake reviews! Encourage your customers to post real reviews and don’t worry about any negative feedback. If there is negative feedback take this as an opportunity to improve your product or service. Respond publically. Apologise. Improve. It might be scary to see the occasional negative review but many potential customers respond positively to negative reviews if they are resolved well. It shows great customer service.
- Get some local links and citations – Building links is an important step in improving your ranking in search engines, but did you know just having your business name mentioned online can also help you improve your rankings. Online directories have got a lot of bad press in the SEO world but perhaps the one place they are still relevant is local SEO. Here’s what you need to do:a. Sign your business up to a directory or two – Simply listing your business online helps Google to know you’re a real legitimate business. Look at sites such as Yell.com and Yelp.co.uk – even better if there’s a local alternative that’s popular use that.
b. Try and get links from local websites – A site such as https://www.chesterfield.co.uk/ would be a great example for Chesterfield based businesses.
c. Set up public social profiles for your business – Make sure your business has Facebook and LinkedIn at a minimum and list all of your business details there too.
- Check NAP consistency – The length of this article and mentions of NAPS might have you tired by now but this is one point you should really listen to. NAP stands for name, address, phone number. Google is all about consistency so check and double check that your business name, phone number and address are the same everywhere. If there are inconsistencies you risk confusing Google and not ranking as well. This might sound really basic but if for example, I listed my business as ‘ChesterfieldDigital’ on LinkedIn and Chesterfield Digital everywhere else it gets a bit confusing what the business name actually is. This gets worse and worse the older your business is, with address or contact detail changes. Keep a list of everywhere you are mentioned online and update them all if anything changes.
- Use structured data on your website – If you aren’t running a website yet then don’t worry about this step. If you are running a website I recommend getting someone onboard to help with this to ensure you get it right. Structured data is code on your website that tells search engines like Google information about your website. For example, it makes it really clear what your business name is and your address, it can also be used to help Google know about other sources of customer reviews to boost your rankings.
- Make it clear on your website what area you serve – If you are a Chesterfield based business then your website should make that clear. When someone searches for butchers in Chesterfield what would be more appealing ‘R.B. Elliot and Sons Butchers and Farm Shop’ or ‘Elliot and Sons | Award Winning Chesterfield Butchers’. Which makes it clearer what market you serve? I’m pretty sure we’d all agree on the second option.
Follow these simple 8 points and you should see your local rankings improve dramatically. If you want help or you’re still struggling after a few weeks to improve your rankings locally then why not get in touch with our team to see if we can help?