Local SEO

It’s a lovely Saturday. Well, for many out there(including me) that means dine-out night! Pizza or Chinese? It’s tougher than that math problem which made your brain go round and round. 

Alright. Pizza it is; you make up your mind. Now, to find the best Cheese burst denominator pizza, you whip out your smartphone, Google the “best Pizza outlets near me,” and find the top-rated hut. 

Local SEO

Pretty neat, huh! Ever wondered how those results were presented out to you?

All thanks to Local Search Engine Optimization or Local SEO! Moving onto the million dollar question. 

What is Local SEO

Local SEO is a strategy that is used to optimize your business to rank better on local search queries in Google.

In Google’s own words,

Local results appear for people who search for businesses and places near their location. They’re shown in a number of places across Maps and Search. For example, you’ll probably see local results if you search for “Italian restaurant” from your mobile device, Google will try to show you the kind of nearby restaurant that you’d like to visit.

Google

It leads to better brand visibility, increased traffic to your website, and guaranteed sale/conversions. In other words, Local SEO is what a business owner does to market a local business effectively to attract customers at exactly the time of their need. 

Now, you must be wondering what’s the big deal about Local SEO and why we are dedicating a blog itself to know its trend in 2020.

Let me tell you a couple of stats courtesy of Searchengineland.com & Business2community.com.

  • 46% of all Google Searches are local.
  • 64% of customers use search engines and local directories.
  • 71% of people check local business information before visiting.

For every local search, the majority of it ends in a brand interaction followed by a purchase. Realizing this goldmine of an opportunity, now more and more businesses are taking up local SEO making it quite a tough cookie to crack. 

Well, we’ll try to cover everything about Local SEO in this article so that you can put your business on the fast-track. 

Local SEO results

How does Local SEO Work?

Local SEO works similarly to a normal search query that’s entered by the user, on a broader level.

If you want to find the best flower delivery shops near your locality, Google uses a set of rules to find you the closest, most relevant outlets that you’ll find useful, along with the means to contact them. 

While normal SEO helps a website to rank over a wider geography, local SEO focuses on results surrounding the location of the user/search query. 

The first step towards effective Local SEO strategy starts with Google My Business.

Google My Business - Local SEO

It’s a free tool that helps business owners to put out relevant information about their brand for customers.

There are several features you’ll find in Google My Business. The popular amongst these include…

  • Contact details of the local business,
  • Hours of operation,
  • Address,
  • Reviews, and photographs/videos.

Google picks up these bundles of data and sprinkles it across the SERP for any relevant search by a user. 

When we say relevant, you must be wondering how search engines determine it? 

Backlinko’s Guide to Local SEO sums up a bunch of unique ranking signals which Google uses to determine the relevancy and consequently display it to users.

Local SEO Ranking Signals

Local SEO Ranking Signals

  • The location from which the search originates.
  • NAP: Name, Address, Phone Number of the local business.
  • Google My Business(GMB) Profile & Listing.
  • Keywords in focus on the GMB profile.
  • Google Map Ratings.
  • Nature of reviews dropped by customers.
  • The number of visits or “check-ins” made.
  • Brand mentions across social media.

So now you know why is a Pizza Hut not shown on the list while Pizza Shoppe tops it! 

What are Local SEO ranking factors in 2020

Here’s the thing.

Google is constantly trying to improve its checks & algorithms to ensure a user is presented with highly customized and personalized results. One that simply gets the job done.

If you’re a business owner, it’s good to know about these trends to ensure your business reaches the right people, at the right time, for the right thing! 

So, What’s the same?

The one thing that’ll remain unchanged would be what Local SEO experts fondly call as RDP- Relevance, Distance, Prominence.

In case you’re relatively new to Local SEO, this section will give you an idea about it. In case you already know, let’s refresh things, shall we?

Relevance

Relevance refers to how closely does the user’s search intent and query match what your business offers. If a user searches for “Chocolate Cupcakes near me,” relevant businesses that sell yummy chocolate cupcakes would be handpicked by Google and shown. 

Distance 

If you fancy a boutique to explore that bridesmaids gown, you wouldn’t want a shop that’s halfway across the world, would ya? (Cmon, I was talking about the gen pop!)

The distance factor takes into account exactly this; how close is your business to the geo-location of the user or the search query. 

Prominence

Prominence is all about how popular the business is amongst customers. Google considers customer reviews and brand mentions on social media to decode prominence. You know reviews play a crucial role when it comes to a customer picking you over competitors.

Businesses that snooze, lose. It’s that simple. 

What’s Different?

It’s important but not impossible to catch up with the changing trends when it comes to SEO and business rankings. We’ve curated some of the most popular things to watch out for Local SEO in 2020. 

Entity Authority gains a foothold

Before knowing how entity authority influences local ranking in 2020, let’s take a quick look at what entity means. 

“A thing or concept that is singular, unique, well-defined, and distinguishable.”

Google

Your business and its services can be clubbed, categorized, and be identified as an identity. The authority of your business will have a key role to play in terms of ranking. (Source – Google)

By authority what I mean is how popular are you as a brand? Do people love it?

Are there mentions & shoutouts in social media? In communities or forums?

These are the things that Google picks up to measure how authoritative a brand is as an entity.

There was a time when backlinks ruled the world.

However, now, even if those brand mentions are without a link to your website, the search engines still consider it a part of entity authority. 

Yet another important part of building entity authority is user engagement.

Are customers reacting positively or is there a general aura of disappointment?

Ensure it’s the former because positive perception can help you go a long way in ranking locally. 

Target very-specific keywords

We cannot stress this enough when it comes to ranking locally.

Churn out content that is relevant to your offerings, specific to the location. In case you have multiple locations, ensure you have unique content for them all.

For instance, if you’re a boutique that sells birthday goodies & decor, round up a list of the popular ones in your locality and develop a content post around it.

You ask me why?

Isn’t that telling your customers about the competition directly?

Hold on. When you share this, make sure to reach out to all the other brands and get them to share the article as well across their social handles.

You get 5x-10x shares and the proportionate impressions & visibility. 

Growing Voice of Voice Searches

Hi Siri, call mom. Ok Google, play Billie Eilish.

60% of smartphone users have tried voice search at least once in the past 12 months.

Quoracreative

Yes, we’re all part of the voice search revolution without consciously even knowing it.

Needless to say, voice search plays a pivotal role in Local SEO, more than ever. So how do you optimize for voice search?

  • Optimize your On-Page Content & website
  • Update accurate profile in Google My Business 
  • Setting-up Knowledge Panel with structured data. 
  • Optimize your Google My Business Profile for Near Me searches.

We’ll cover these in detail in the following sections. Promise! 

Local SEO Ranking Checklist for Websites

You know what are the trends to keep up with when it’s about local SEO in 2020.

However, the end of the funnel is your website. Is your website fulfilling all the check-list to make it big? 

We have this curated local website checklist for you!

  • Basic Pages: The backbone of your business website; Home, About, Contact, FAQ, Disclaimer Pages.
  • Contact Us Page: All relevant details about your business. Phone number, address, email, and such. Show your social media presence by adding relevant links. 
  • Customer Testimonial Pages: Build your authority with trusted reviews by your customers. Make customer acquisition easy. 
  • Content: Unique, plagiarism-free, and catering to multiple long-tail keywords & specific ones like we’d mentioned. Having landing pages in perfect order while you run PPC Ads.

Source – Moz

9 Local SEO Strategies to rank your business 

Your websites all ready and you know what are the things to expect. Now let’s get our hands dirty with some execution.

Here are nine strategies to help your business rank well on local searches. 

1. Keep your Business Listing Spotless

Accurate. Up-to-date.

If you have changed the address or gotten a new phone number, make it a ritual to get it updated on Google My Business. Ensure your address is updated in Google Maps as well.

Most customers turn to Google Maps to get your physical address before stepping out. In such a case, there’s no bigger turn off than for a customer to spot a wrong address or a phone number.

Without a second thought, they skip and move on to your competition. Ouch!

Recently, Google rolled out news where you can opt for a paid membership in Google My Business.

Wait, just before you think why pay let me tell you why this is a splendid opportunity. When you opt for a subscription, your business gets a ‘tick’ and a neat badge saying Google Guaranteed.

Would customers think twice about opting for something that’s verified? Nah-ah! 

2. On-Page MAGIC: Optimize for Long-tail Keywords

As people tend to ask questions or phrases during voice search, optimizing your content for long-tail keywords is very important.

What, where, when, how, which, tops the list of key phrases used by users while running a search.

Find a collection of such commonly used questions and optimize your content or write one catering to it. But wait, how to find these you ask?

Pro Tips: 

  • You can use tools like Answer The Public to identify the frequently posed query-questions to set-up landing pages.
  • Make use of the “People Also Ask” section in the SERP along with related search terms and “People Also Search For” at the end of the page. You’ll get a word cloud surrounding the particular query.

PS: That’s the level of finesse search engines strive to return for any search query. (I know, I know, we don’t need a search to remember these 3 names!) 

  • Make use of Google auto-complete or LSI keywords. 
  • Dig in Quora or other question-answer forums to get a pulse of what people are looking for. The Related Questions section is a goldmine of data!

Tip: Check out Suganthan’s Local SEO recommendations in his actionable SEO Tips guide.

3. Make it to the Knowledge Panel

Notice that square box on the right which tells you the A-Z about what you’d searched for? Doesn’t ring a bell? How about you fancied a coffee and googled it?

Knowledge Panel

Yes! Getting your business up on the knowledge panel neat & nice helps to rank higher. (Source – Yoast)

You have to add proper structured data on your website that has all relevant information about your business.

With a little bit of HTML magic, search engines can fetch all the relevant details about your business. 

4. Don’t forget the “Near Me” searches

The golden rule when it comes to local SEO. Optimization for Near Me searches, well because, as we already know, the intent of people is quick research, satisfaction, and transaction.

To optimize for near me searches, ensure you add as many locations relevant to your business on your Google My Business listing profile. 

5. Offer a Google Virtual Tour

Google virtual tour helps to add 3-D photographs of your local website. This will pique the interest of your customers, build trust & transparency, and improve your local rankings.

It’s a great way to stand apart from your competition too. To set-up a Google Virtual Tour, you’ll need to collaborate with a Google-trusted photographer to capture 3D images.

Here’s what I found when I googled Vandervest Harley-Davidson (Err, no, my knowledge about bullets is Nada!)

6. Have an active Social Media presence

Having an active social media presence serves dual purposes. One, it helps for insane user engagement. And, two, as we discussed before, it elevates entity authority.

Do keep in mind to engage with users using creative social interactions, short campaigns, contests, quizzes, and more! Get brand mentions & shoutouts, get your customers talking! 

When a poor passenger had to spend an entire flight journey staring at a grainy-TV, this is what happened.

7. Get customer reviews always

Guess what? We’re moving into the review economy. Customers trust online reviews. I don’t even need to elucidate this? Wouldn’t you check for reviews before online shopping for a product? 

In the same way, it’s important to encourage customer reviews for your local business too. People see the reviews and then decide whether or not to proceed with an interaction.

Not just getting reviews, it’s important to respond to these and manage it too. Keep it real. Like, genuine! They say search engines don’t like fake reviews. 

8. Collect high-quality, relevant backlinks

Keeping up with the local pulse is a great way to create relevant content. With targeted content, it’s not only beneficial to rank your business, but also get high-quality backlinks for the same. 

A few great backlinks ain’t hurt no one! So what are some of the best ways to go about this?

  • Good old guest blogging. But hey, that doesn’t mean spamming. Cherry-pick your guest posts and what you accept on your website too. A little more clarity? Why don’t you check out our video for the best tips for Guest Blogging the right way in 2020?
  • Actively be involved in local events. This will boost your brand presence and also has the potential for backlinks. Perhaps, a sponsorship? 
  • Reach out to influencers. You know, I know. Instagram is filled with them. Hit them up with a DM, collaborate, and try to get links on their website! 

9. Use Schema Markup

The Backlinko’s definitive guide to local SEO says that schema markup or structured data is more of a ‘nice to have’ for boosting your local business ranking. But since we’re going to leave no stone unturned, here’s the deal. 

Structured data or schema markup is a code you place on your website to get rich snippets on Google SERP.

These contain information about your business which will be crawled by google bots and then used to furnish nice ‘n neat information for a search query. 

Conclusion 

If you’re a brick and mortar business, having customers knock at your doorstep isn’t that easy.

However, thanks to local SEO and Google’s Hummingbird update. Staying at the top of the local business game is possible and brings great returns!

I hope you are moving on with a nod of satisfaction.

Do let me know in the comment section if there’s a topic you’d like us to take!

Until then, stay safe! 

Cheers! 🙂