The foundation of your business’ digital existence.
Local SEO (“Local Search Engine Optimization”), is the practice of improving your online presence to attract local customers to your brick and mortar business. An effective Local SEO strategy is the key to ranking higher on Google and subsequently being found by potential customers for relevant "near me" type search queries.
It is worth noting that if you do not have a physical storefront or office where customers can visit you, Local SEO will not be as relevant to your business.
Google uses a searcher's current location to provide search results for queries with local intent such as "Pizza Near Me". These localized results show at the top of the search results page in what is referred to as the Local Pack.
By optimizing your small business for Google's Local Search Algorithm, you don't necessarily have to worry about competing against large corporations to get your business in front of local consumers.
Google's Local Search Algorithm is constantly evolving, but there there are a few ranking factors that SEO experts agree play a major role in determining which businesses get featured in the Local Pack: Proximity, Relevance, and Prominence.
Proximity relates to how close your business is to the person searching.
While you have little control over this factor, it’s vital that your business information is correct across the web. If your business information is inconsistent, Google will be less confident in its recommendation and this will hurt your local rankings.
There are a number of free tools (such as a Business Listings Scanner) which allow you to quickly confirm if your business data is accurate across the internet. If you find that your business information (name, address, phone number, website) is inconsistent or inaccurate, there are a number of ways to address this.
As a first step, be sure to claim and update your free Google Business, Yelp, and Facebook listings as these platforms carry a lot weight amongst top search engines.
For the countless other web directories and business listing sites, there are tools available to help automate the process of cleaning your bad data. Platforms such as Yext have partnerships with dozens of top websites, making it easy to fix your business information in seconds. An added benefit is that Yext will also retrieve insights from across the web. Learn how your customers find you online, what they think about your business, and where they engage with your brand.
Relevance relates to how well your business matches a search query compared to your competitors.
Google wants as much information about your business as possible. To get this information, Google will scour the web for any insights it can find. By feeding this information directly to Google, you have more control over the data they’re using to understand your business.
Google will also crawl your online reviews and social media for customer sentiment around your business. If everyone raves about a certain product or service in their reviews, Google will be more apt to recommend you when someone searches for that keyword (ex. “Best chicken wings near me”).
Finally, Google looks at how engaged customers are with your business listing when it’s shown in the Local Pack. By having a lot of strong reviews, it builds trust and customers will be more likely to click on your business. This signals to Google that they made a strong recommendation and it increases your odds of showing up in future searches.
The key to showing up in relevant search results is ensuring that you’re feeding as much accurate information to the web as possible. Google can only make recommendations based on information that it has, so be sure that Google knows what you do and why you’re the best.
Google My Business – If you haven’t already, be sure to claim your Google My Business listing immediately by going to https://business.google.com. You may find that customers have already left reviews and submitted photos of your business. This service is free and it’s the easiest way to make sure that Google has all of the right information about your company. Fill out your profile with as much detail as possible as Google treats this information as verified first party data once you’ve verified that you own the business. Without verifying your Google My Business listing, you run the risk of malicious 3rd parties providing inaccurate or misleading information about your business.
Local Listings – Make sure that you’ve also claimed your key online listings such as Yelp, Facebook, and any other relevant industry listings. Keep your information up to date and fill out your profiles with as much information as possible to increase your visibility within local search.
Website – Keep your website updated and make sure all of your business information aligns with what’s out there on your Google My Business and local listings. Google will validate the information that it scrapes from the web against your website, so make sure you list all of your products and services along with detailed descriptions.
Generate Reviews – Reach out to past customers and ask them for reviews on your top products and services. Not only does this help instill a sense of trust and legitimacy to potential customers, but Google and other search engines like to see a consistent flow of reviews as this signals that you have an engaged customer base. Make sure to respond to both positive and negative reviews – this shows customers that your business is responsive and further validates Google’s. Not all reviews will be positive, but the way in which you respond to negative reviews will show your potential customers that you care.
Prominence relates to how well known (and liked) your business is within your local area.
Google evaluates your business’ prominence by looking at both online and offline signals. In terms of online signals, there are a few key factors – the number of quality links that point to your website (“backlinks”), inclusion in relevant online directories, social media engagement, and your business’ online reviews.
One of the most important factors that determines prominence is backlinks, or the number of quality websites that link to your website. Any time another website links to your page, it is an indicator that they are vouching for your credibility online. In Google’s eyes, the more credibility that a referring site has, the more authority your business is given in the local space. Local businesses can take advantage of this by making sure that they are listed on relevant business directories as well as any local websites. The more links to your site, the better.
Online reviews also play a key role in determining your business’ prominence. Google uses its own reviews as well as other top sites such as Yelp, Trip Advisor, Angie’s List, and more in order to understand how your business compares to the competition. Google is not only looking for positive reviews, but they like to see a consistent flow of reviews each month from multiple sites. They also like to see businesses responding to their customers on these platforms, which is a positive ranking factor that could give you a leg up on the competition if you are not currently doing so.
In addition to your backlinks and reviews, Google looks at how engaged your followers are on social media compared to your competitors. An engaged fanbase is a positive indicator that your business is well-received in your area, and this improves your odds of showing in local search.
The simplest way to improve your prominence is to generate positive reviews across Google My Business, Yelp, and other top review sites. There are tools to automate this process if you have a high volume of customers, but typically a personalized email or phone call to your customers asking for a review will be your best bet.
Make sure your business is listed on industry-specific websites and directories as well as your town’s website. These types of niche listings signal to Google that you are part of the community that you claim to serve.
If you can, offer to write a guest blog or create content for relevant websites as you can typically build backlinks to your business’ site while creating authority within your industry as an influencer.
Digital Handyman Solutions, LLC
Littleton, MA 01460