With nearly half of all Google searches being conducted for local results, it makes sense for companies that offer local services or products (especially those with a physical storefront) to aim to see their search engine optimization (SEO) results in both the main organic listings and in the local search results. Local SEO is one way to generate traffic via marketing services to your website, as well as to your physical store front, and bring in more phone calls or appointment requests for your company. Local search engine optimization can be incredibly important for businesses that service customers locally.
But for businesses who have spent the past 18 months pivoting online, back to in-person, back to online, and then to hybrid… Well, it can be confusing to figure out your next SEO step. While not all businesses that utilize local search engine optimization have a physical storefront for people to visit, everyone has seen changes to their business model due to the pandemic. With Google algorithm updates, you may have also seen changes to your online presence. By putting a stronger focus on SEO and local search engine optimization, you can improve your sales, leads, and business as a whole.
No matter your business model (ecommerce, products, services, etc.), local search engine optimization can help you reach customers right in your own backyard. While obviously there are some businesses that will benefit from local SEO to a high level, if you want to sell your products or services to local customers, implementing some local search strategies can help. Let’s take a look at what you need to know to understand local search, the benefits of having a local SEO strategy, and factors to successful local search, as well as what you should look for in a local SEO expert.
Understanding Local Search Engine Optimization
What is Local SEO?
Local search or local SEO is a strategy for search engine optimization for companies with a physical store that helps them to be more visible in local results on Google and other search engines. A business with a physical store front or one that serves a certain geographic area will benefit from local SEO tactics.
Some types of businesses that can benefit from local search engine optimization strategies include restaurants and bars, boutiques, shops, salons, barber shops, law firms, and markets that sell products in a physical store. They also include service businesses like pest control companies, plumbers, electricians, IT consultants, and anyone else who provides services to a certain geographic area or radius from a physical location.
How Does Local Search Engine Optimization Work?
When your customers use a search engine for an important keyword related to your company, and a map appears in the results, this is where local SEO comes into play. This map has three listings that appear beneath it, often called a map pack or local 3-pack. This part of SEO not only looks at the keyword being put into the search engine, but also proximity to results for that keyword. Even if someone does a search for sushi instead of Los Angeles sushi or sushi near me, a map will appear of nearby sushi restaurants because it’s a local search result in the eyes of search engine optimization.
5 Benefits of Having a Local SEO Strategy
As we already mentioned, a local search engine optimization strategy is key for businesses that only or primarily serve customers within a certain area. For some local businesses, 2020 was a turning point, and they added ecommerce as well as in-person shopping experiences. This led to an increase in online sales and the need for search marketing, maybe for the first time. Now that the world is pivoting back to an in-person existence — or at least a hybrid experience — many local businesses are having to pivot yet again. Aside from more sales, what other benefits can local businesses see? Here are five benefits that a local SEO strategy can bring to companies to boost local search results, whether they provide products or services.
- Improved online presence with a stronger website and a combination of search results and local search 3-pack results of search business directories
- Increased traffic to physical stores or locations as people begin to venture back outside again
- More local search traffic to your website, which can lead to ecommerce sales or conversions and a stronger brand awareness
- More phone calls, bookings, and/or leads for your service or store information
- Higher levels of trust, loyalty, and engagement within your local community and customer base
7 Important Factors for Local SEO
Many of the standard SEO factors still apply with local results, but there are a few additional elements that need to be taken into account. The most important factors for local search engine optimization include things like site structure, internal linking, and location information. Let’s take a closer look at some of the things that go into these factors.
Google My Business: This is key for good local search engine optimization results for your company’s website. You need to create and verify a Google My Business page, which is a free profile for companies offering something local to customers. You can upload photos, promotions, and other important information that local customers should be aware of so they can purchase your products or services. Customers can also leave reviews on your Google My Business page, and you can even respond to these reviews.
Address Information: If you have differing address or phone number information on various social media sites or other websites, then it could be confusing for Google and limit your success with local SEO. This is why having consistent contact information, including your physical address, is important for local SEO. If Google does not know where your location is, it can’t put you in the local SEO result map.
Location Pages: If your company has many different locations — or several different service areas — then you can create a separate locations page with information to describe what those locations (or areas) provide. You can include what makes that one unique or different from other locations, or you can simply describe directions to the location. Be sure each location page has unique content because Google can penalize webpages that have duplicate content, so you do not simply want to create one that says West Hollywood and one that says Anaheim with the exact same information other than the city/area name.
Linking Strategy: Having a strong internal and external linking strategy is important for SEO overall, but also for local SEO in particular. Good internal linking helps to support the website navigation, assist with information architecture and website hierarchy, and distribute page authority among your own pages. An external link, backlink, or inbound link occurs when another website links back to you. This shows Google that you are a legitimate source of good information and increase your domain authority, and is imperative to include in search engine optimization strategy.
Local Content: Creating search engine optimization content unique to a location, like a blog post, video, or podcast episode, can improve that location’s visibility on the web. General topics are great pieces of content, but creating something unique to the area, like tips or resources for locals, can generate buzz and traffic to the page. (Bonus: this type of content can also be useful for generating backlinks from other local sources of information.)
Mobile-Friendly Website: As mobile device usage has gone up over the years, making sure your website is mobile-friendly is incredibly important. It used to be that local results only appeared on a desktop device, but now that has changed. Local SEO also appears on Google searches conducted from a smartphone. If your website is not mobile-friendly, then chances are it will not rank for local search engine optimization on a phone or even a tablet.
What to Look for in Local SEO Companies & Specialists
When you are searching for the best local SEO specialist or marketing company to help your business grow, you should not be afraid to talk to several different companies. “Shopping around” can help you find someone who has the experience you need to position your company in Google’s map pack as well as search result listings.
Look for someone who has experience with local SEO, as this is a different type of specialty from general SEO.
- Review their case studies and past results. These results will give you an idea of what types of companies they have worked with in the past, as well as how successful they have been in getting them good local searches. You want to see where the companies ranked on results for keywords, traffic growth, and sales increases, if at all possible.
- Schema use. Schema.org is used in more than just local SEO and local marketing; it often is used with results as well. However, it is incredibly important with local SEO because ensuring the website is configured correctly will help Google understand what you do and where you are located (the whole point of local SEO!). Therefore, a local SEO specialist who is familiar with schema and has experience implementing it will be the best one to help you.
- Experience with customer reviews. Good local SEO requires positive reviews in marketing strategy. Someone who is going to work on your local SEO strategy should have a plan for review generation so that they can bring in more good reviews for your company that will better your local search engine optimization results.
- Reporting they will provide you. Find out what sort of reporting they offer their clients and how often they will provide that for you. See about getting examples of past reports they have provided for clients, so you can see exactly what it will look like. Compare this to the type of information you need to do your job and improve your business.
Questions to Ask Search Engine Optimization Agencies
As you shop around with different local SEO agencies and specialists, having a list of interview questions ready so you can get similar information out of each can be helpful. Then, you will be able to compare and contrast the information you have gathered as you work to make a decision on which company to work with.
Here is a starting list of questions you can use, in addition to any other information you feel you need to know to make a good decision about who to hire. Both sets of questions can give you valuable insight into the search company you are considering hiring. Know that there are not necessarily any wrong answers; each company might bring something different to the table. Consider what you are hoping to achieve and how you want to grow your company, and use that to compare and contrast against the answers you may collect from local SEO agencies.
To gauge their knowledge and experience:
- What are the latest changes or trends in local SEO? This will show you how invested they are in offering this service and whether they specialize in it or if they have other areas of focus, and this is simply one of many.
- What is their mobile strategy? As mentioned, mobile devices are a very important part of SEO and local search these days, so working with a local search specialist who understands mobile search can improve your business’s results in this area.
- What have they done with voice search in the past? Voice search is growing as people speak their questions and queries into phones and smartwatches.
To understand what they offer to clients:
- Do they offer a free analysis or consultation? This can help you understand and see just how it is to work with them on a smaller scale.
- How do they plan to rank you for organic rankings? Local SEO and traditional organic search work hand in hand, so if they can help increase both rankings, that’s the best-case scenario for you.
- Can they describe some of the SEO and local search tools they use? While some companies won’t want to give out any proprietary information, they should at least be able to describe the tools or way they develop strategies and tactics for your company’s website.
- How much on-site SEO do they do? On-site SEO refers to the content and other on-page elements of your website. Changes and work with on-site SEO can often help to improve rankings of local keywords. Content marketing is an integral part of on-site SEO.
- What do they include in their reports? You will probably want to see local search rankings for each of your locations, website traffic for each location page, and any conversion rates, leads/sales, or reviews generated.
- What is their experience with local blogs and city media? This will help with local search backlinking strategies for your website.
- What is their payment structure? Some companies offer a more structured payment scale where a certain amount gets you certain work or number of hours, while others offer a pay-for-results system that can be challenging for some companies.
Hiring a Local SEO Company
While you can do SEO and local search yourself, it is complicated, challenging, and time-consuming. In order to have the most effective local search campaign possible with search engine optimization, hiring a local SEO marketing agency is going to be your best bet for the most effective SEO services. This ensures that the right local search tactics are done at the right time, all while letting you focus on the other parts of your business. By working side by side with a local search expert, you can grow your business through digital marketing by providing products and services to the new customer base your local SEO brings in.
At ELK, our digital marketing SEO Team combines local and organic search marketing strategies to develop top-notch search engine optimization results that attract traffic that converts to sales. By improving your search rankings in the main organic results pages as well as your local results, you are capturing the widest audience possible. ELK’s team takes a three-pronged approach to SEO, with content, backlinking and technical elements that combine for results. Get in touch today to learn about how we can help you grow your local business using local search strategies that we’ve implemented for customers across industries.