If you have been following our blog you are probably familiar with the concept of search engine optimization, or SEO. What you may not be familiar with is the concept of local SEO, or local search engine optimization.
Local SEO is best used for businesses that get a lot of local phone calls or walk-ins.
In fact, up to 73% of all business traffic online is driven by search engines¹, so it’s absolutely vital that you are ranking as well as you can.
What is Local SEO?
Local SEO can be summarised as physically relevant search results. For example – if you are planning a trip to Melbourne and are looking for activities, are the search results that pop up relevant? Are they actually located in Melbourne?
Local SEO is a bit different to conventional SEO. When it comes to digital marketing, understanding the difference between all kinds of SEO, how to improve each, and knowing which one is best for your business – is absolutely vital to achieving success online.
Local SEO is a combination of indicators that Google uses to rank websites in their local results. These indicators have changed a lot over the years, and Google has honed their algorithm to narrow results down to searches based on their current location (or destination).
Here is a real world example of local search engine optimisation in action:
As you can see from the image, users searching get only the top 3 restaurants that meet their criteria. By looking at the image above, we can see that the local results come up on the very top of the page, before the national results that are displayed below.
How does Google know which local listings to show?
Local SEO is controlled by three main factors when displaying results to an individual:
• What is the user searching? (IE keyword – does it contain a location word like a city name, or in the previous example, a particular area?)
• What has the user searched for in the past? Search engines look at everything. What you searched for, and the sites you visited in the past, both play a role in determining what you will be presented with. If your previous searches were in a certain area, odds are you will see results from there. An easy trick that you can try is simply typing “restaurant” into Google and seeing what kind of local results come up, and what area they are in. If there aren’t any local results, it still doesn’t necessarily mean that Google can’t find your location.
• Where are they searching from? Google uses information like Wi-Fi location, IP location, as well as the actual GPS on the phone to track your current location in order to present search results custom tailored to what it thinks you are looking for.
The results that you get when searching for restaurants may be completely different to the results I get, based on the three factors above. It is also worth mentioning that these are just the main factors, and does not include all of the other factors that Google may use when displaying local results.
Alright, so now we understand how Google actually finds what results it will display, we can move on to the real reason you are reading this – to find how to get your business to rank higher in local searches.
How does Google rank your business for a local search result?
I have compiled the 7 main factors that Google uses to rank a site locally. Keep in mind, however, that these aren’t the only factors that Google uses.
1. Google My Business
By far the easiest way to see a boost for local results. In fact, you can set this up right now and see an immediate increase. Google has been trying to push this for years but for some reason local businesses still aren’t getting on it! I can’t stress enough how important it is to get your business listed here.
2. On-Page Signals
On page signals correlates with your On page SEO. On page signals are things like having your address listed on your website, or mentioning the city/area that you are targeting on your website.
Are people linking to your website? Just like normal SEO, this is a huge factor in local SEO. Who is linking to your website, are they links from and notable community resources? Remember the golden rule with links, quality not quantity!
4. External References to Location
Are other websites referencing your physical location correctly? To find out, you can check that any directories your website is submitted on are accurately showing your address.
5. Behavioural Signals
This is where your website design comes in to play. Does your website load quickly? Does the website offer a good user experience? This is covered in more detail in the blog post on local SEO.
6. Social Media
Google doesn’t just look at your website itself, it also takes into account your social media. Google looks at where your social media following is located (for example in your target ranking area), as well as what kind of engagement you get on these social channels.
Reviews play a big part in determining how you rank. Things like the quantity of reviews, the kind of diversity, as well as the actual quality of the reviews. Not only are they a huge ranking factor in Google, but people who are actually looking for your service will often make a decision on whether they will choose you or your competitor, based on reviews alone.
Getting these factors right can take a lot of work, but once they are all set up properly, I guarantee that you will start seeing results.
This is all sounds good in theory, but what about in practice?
Above, you can find a lot of information about the factors Google and other search engines use for ranking local businesses, but we decided to take it a step further, and actually put it to the test.
This is what using these factors alongside our other local SEO strategies equated to in cold hard stats, averaged out across 6 different campaigns:
Total traffic for locally relevant pages: 400% increase
Total local search engine listings: 3600% increase (this is how often rankings led to listings being reviewed and presented in a search engine)
Goals/Conversion: Across the board we averaged around a 75% increase (in the number of calls, contact form submissions, and purchases on local pages).
This goes to show that just concentrating on a few key areas can have a profound impact on companies that benefit from local searches. If you’re a business that gets a lot of local calls, walk-ins, or other such local engagement, it is possible to see this kind of increase in just 6 months.
¹ [Study done showing the 73% figure, as well as others for different industries – http://searchengineland.com/study-organic-search-drives-51-traffic-social-5-202063]