Mastering local SEO is a cornerstone to the success of your business. If you’re not ranking in search results, you are quite simply losing exposure and revenue opportunities. Still need proof to make the business case for investing in local SEO? Google found that 18 percent of local mobile searches lead to a sale within one day. As impressive as that number is, there’s more: Sixty percent of consumers rely on local information in ads and 50 percent of mobile users prefer a browser over an app. What’s all that mean? It means customers are conducting local searches from their smartphones, and they want your business and location information to show up in their results.
When you learn about a new SEO tool or tactic, do you jump on board quickly and try the DIY approach? Do you devote time and resources to following through on your idea, regardless of whether other SEO efforts or search engine marketing campaigns suffer as a result? I’m a small business owner, too, and I know how easy it is to get distracted (and even overwhelmed) when it comes to SEO. But let’s step back for a minute. Let’s take a look at why there’s such a fuss about local SEO and—most importantly—why a big picture strategy is the best plan for long-term digital marketing success.
What’s all the Fuss About Local SEO?
Why does local SEO matter? That’s simple. Your customers are using local search in record numbers (often from mobile devices) to find what they want to buy. As a business likely dependent on visibility to attract and retain consumers, you have a lot to gain if they find you and even more to lose if they don’t.
Precisely how important is local search? In August, BrightLocal conducted a survey and found local search to be the most powerful digital marketing channel available to local businesses. In the survey, local and organic searches generated the highest-quality leads, delivered more clicks, and realized better ROI than other marketing channels.
How simple is staying on top of local SEO? It’s all about big picture strategy and understanding the evolution of local search. In other words, know what you’re doing with algorithms—or hire someone who does—and think about where that activity fits into the grand scheme of your digital marketing plan.
Google’s Local Search Changes
Google has been on the move when it comes to local search and its SEO implications. Part of the big picture is knowing (and embracing) those changes as they relate to the overall web strategy for your brand. Google’s standout shifts include the following:
- Dubbed the “Pigeon Update,” Google’s primary algorithm shift took effect in the U.S. last year and altered the way search results—especially local search results—are calculated. This year, in an effort to meet the demands of an increasingly smartphone-centric consumer base, Google released a mobile-friendly update (affectionately called “Mobilegeddon” by many SEO-traditionalists).
- The Carousel—the horizontal bar at the top of Google’s local search results that shows small images and ratings for top hits for restaurants, entertainment and nightlife—is no more. It has recently been replaced with what’s called a “3 Pack,” an understated grouping of the top three search results. This feature includes a little more information than the Carousel and links to another business-specific search engine results page (SERP) instead of the business home page.
- Google My Business guidelines have been updated to include fewer category selections and a crackdown on adding descriptors to business names.
Strategies for Big Picture Success
Now you know how Google has changed the game. How can your local search strategy adapt—better yet, thrive—with all the moving parts? It’s simple, really: You have to keep moving, too, but you should always keep your eye on the big picture. Don’t narrow your focus to too few SEO tasks; rather, keep all of the following strategies for big picture success in mind:
- Take the time to optimize your Google My Business listing.
- Ensure you’re active on social media channels and available to engage with customers and prospects.
- Add citations on your site. (Not sure how to go about it? Remember this simple rule: When in doubt, give credit.)
- Solicit more positive reviews on Google My Business.
- Produce informative content for your blog and/or company page that is rich with local signals.
- Make sure your location pages are unique and your copy is clean.
- Keep your key brand information consistent across all channels.
- Know that mobile is the future. Take smartphones and consumer behavior into consideration when you’re defining a strategy.
- Get plenty of high quality links to your site.
Your lens for local SEO should be wide. If you want oodles of SEO success—and who doesn’t, with all the exposure that comes with a high search engine rank—avoid operating with a narrow focus. If you learn about a strategy that might enhance local SEO, don’t rush into anything. Rather, take a look at how it plays into the big picture. Does it fit within your overall strategy? Is the idea solid enough to exhibit longevity? Think before you adopt. Most importantly, if it’s overwhelming or if doing it correctly isn’t something you think you can handle, hire an expert. This is too important to your overall business success to just get a little bit right.
How have you approached local SEO? What would you identify as the ‘big picture’ for your business, and what steps have you taken to make sure your local search strategy fits within it? Can you identify anything SEO-related you wish you could do better? If so, maybe I could cover that in a future post. I’d love to hear your thoughts, experiences, and questions.
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