In the last few years, it has become increasingly easy to find businesses located close by, and this has brought about a shift in search behavior and user intent. It is now vital that businesses optimize their website and content for local search in order to attract local customers.
While it may not be necessary for every business to optimize for local search, if you have a business that operates directly in a locality, or offers goods and services needed by people living in a locality, then it is vital you optimize for local search. Businesses that may need this include cafes, restaurants, repair shops, gymnasium, hotels, retail stores and any other similar line of businesses. One study reported that more than 75% of online search activity is local-search related. This translates to one in every three searches involving users looking for local businesses or content.
So how do you optimize your business for local search? The following tips will provide a good starting point.
1. Host Local
One of the first considerations you should make if you want your online business to enjoy local patronage is to host local. Research has shown that the closer your hosting server is to your target customers, the faster your website loads and the easier it is for them to access it. Apart from that, search engines are partial to websites hosted locally when it comes to bringing results for local search. Your website has a better chance of ranking high for local search if it comes with a local domain extension.
Server location tells search engines that your business clearly services local customers and so when users in New Zealand search for “Cloud hosting NZ” for instance, they are likely to check out sites that end with a “.co.nz”.
Hosting locally is like having the shop down the street. Customers trust you and are willing to do business with you. What this means is that customers know that they can easily reach you if anything goes wrong, so they would rather buy from you than buy from a business they know nothing about.
2. Claim and Optimize GMB
Google My Business is a free business directory powered by Google that gives local businesses tons of exposure. Every business with an optimized GMB page will definitely show up for relevant keywords in local search. On GMB, you can put up vital information about your business such as time of operation, physical location, phone numbers, products and service list and much more. A good number of local users today carry out search queries on their mobile phones, and they are looking for critical details such as those contained in your Google My Business Profile.
GMB is the perfect way to boost your business’ credibility and help attract local customers. You can gather social proof on your GMB page, display reviews; likes and business mentions, all of which will ultimately help you rank better in local searches. Bing Places for Business is an alternative to Google My Business and is powered by Microsoft.
3. Have a Local Business Profile
Apart from Google My Business, there are lots of directories where you can sign up to create a profile for your business. Directories like Yelp, Google+, and YellowPages make it easier for potential customers to find your business. They provide another incredible platform for gathering social proofs in the form of reviews, comments and shares, and can help drive tremendous amounts of traffic to your website.
While a lot of users make use of search engines like Google and Bing, there are some people who rely on directories to get information about local businesses. Different studies have shown that more customers rely on peer reviews when making their purchase decisions and a lot of these reviews and comments can be found in directory listings.
4. Local Structured Data
Schema markup or structured data are bits of code that you insert in your website which provide search engines with details about your website including the products and services you offer, prices of your products, area of coverage and more. It is however unfortunate that very few websites make use of schema markup. When you use structured data or schema markup, your website stands out in the search engine result page by displaying rich snippets which can significantly boost your click through rate.
There are several ways local businesses can implement schema markup, such as by industry (food, travel, repairs), by location, or by events. Whichever option you choose will display the relevant information as rich snippets in Google SERP. You can quickly check if your website is already optimized for schema markup by using Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool.
5. Local Keyword Research
It is safe to say that keywords are the foundation of any SEO. Keywords actually make up the phrases and search terms your potential visitors are using to search for the type of content you provide and, if utilized properly, can drive tremendous traffic to your website. To optimize your keywords for local SEO, your content should include keywords that contain geo-modifiers. For example, if you offer cloud hosting services on virtual machines, a keyword like “Cloud Hosting NZ” can be optimised for your www.umbrellar.com/cloud-platforms/umbrellarcloud/virtual-machine/ web page. This way, search engines understand that your hosting services cater to people in and around New Zealand. So when a search is done with phrases that contain “cloud”, “hosting” and “NZ” (or New Zealand), your website will be among those that show up in SERP. When researching for local SEO optimized keywords, spend some time brainstorming about the likely keywords or phrases containing locations that customers might use when searching for your type of business. You can then run your result through Google Keyword Planner to get a better idea of how to implement them.
6. Be Active On Social Media
Social media is one huge place where your potential customers are waiting, therefore, whether you like it or not, you have to be there to find them. Advancement in technology has made it so that the user defines the place of engagement, and in the last few years, it has been on social media. Social media affords you the opportunity to directly meet and engage with the people who need your products and services the most. Many people also turn to social media to find out what friends and family are saying about a particular product or service, so having good reviews on your social media profile will do a lot to drive traffic to your website. Additionally, positive reviews on these platforms will help increase your website’s visibility.
Also check out these 20 tips for startups by the Agency List on how to increase the local online marketing reach.
Oleksiy is the Founder of ArtDriver. He oftentimes takes the lead as the Agile Project Manager and SEO expert on selected projects, which allows him to be hands-on with the latest trends. In his spare time, Oleksiy enjoys playing the guitar and spending time with his family.