When it comes to getting your business seen on Google (or Bing, Duck Duck Go, etc.), boosting your local SEO efforts is becoming a can’t miss strategy for leapfrogging your competition.
More and more, search engines have a set of fields they like to see “checked” if they’re going to show your business above all others on the first page of search results. And being on that first page of search results is going to maximize your website’s visibility and traffic when it comes to organic (aka, search engine) visits.
So how do you know if your focus should be on general SEO or local SEO in 2021 and beyond?
Well to start, they’re intertwined. Google will factor your website’s general search engine optimization health into local results. Likewise, if you’re performing well locally, Google is more likely to show your website in regional and national results.
Knowing this, it’s important not to charge full steam ahead with one strategy and completely abandon the other. So we have recommendations for getting the most out of your local SEO, while boosting your general SEO as well.
Together, these two strategies will work together to show search engines, like Google, that your website is current, relevant, and worth sharing to the people who are looking for your goods or services.
Local SEO focuses on bringing traffic to your website from people
looking for a specific location or business. These people might be based
locally, or they can be searching from another part of the country.
For instance, if you want to send flowers to an aunt in Schaumburg, IL then you can search for florists in the area, and Google will show you results in the Schaumburg map pack.
Glossary term: The “map pack” is the collection of highlighted business results with a map and drop pins at the top of a Google results page. This area typically features three businesses, along with their phone numbers, addresses and links to their websites.
The map pack will show up whether a searcher is in Austin city limits, or at home in Schaumburg, IL. Why?
When you go to Google to ask a question, Google is making an attempt to serve you the exact results you’re looking for (your search intent). When you search for a service or product, Google is assuming you’re interested in locating a business, and therefore a Google My Business page will appear.
Glossary term: A “Google My Business” page features contact information, hours, and reviews for a business. It is up to a business to create, claim and manage their own Google My Business page.
These business pages are considered “Local Results.” If you search for general information, on the other hand, Google is more likely to display “Information Results.”
For example, if you search for “food-themed 2021 holidays” you’re likely to see website results with information, as opposed to businesses that sell anything related to food holidays.
You might be thinking, “But I sell internationally. Why would local SEO matter for my business?”
The answer is, if you want customers to find you through Google searches (wherever they are), you need a local SEO strategy. Your local SEO efforts are going to bolster your general SEO efforts, and also give Google a reason to list you in the map pack on the first page of results.
A Google My Business page and local presence is going to help give your business legitimacy, regardless of where your customers are when they find you.
If we think of SEO as a point system, local SEO will earn your business and website more collective points. When you use Google’s tools to showcase your business, Google is more likely to favor you over businesses that don’t use them — plain and simple.
So now that you know why local SEO can be an important piece of your online strategy, how do you go about implementing it? There are four major signals that search engines factor in when it comes to your local presence and getting your business displayed near the top of results.
This is where Google counts on you to keep your business information current, such as your hours, website address, and photos (and recently, COVID-19 updates). Depending on your business type, Google will also allow you to list your services and/or products, as well as notable business attributes such as being veteran-led or a woman-led company.
It’s best practice to log into your Google My Business page regularly to add updates, post photos, answer visitor questions, and view insights about your page. Google will share with you the search terms people used when landing on your page, as well as the number of views, website clicks and phone calls that resulted from your listing.
Your reviews serve multiple purposes. Not only do they help your word-of-mouth marketing by sharing first-hand experiences with other viewers, but they also indicate to Google that your business is current and active. Regular and recent reviews will show search engines that people are engaging with your business.
So whether your reviews are glowing, or you receive a 3-star, search engines are more likely to give preference to businesses that are bringing in reviews on a regular basis.
Quick tip: To pass along your Google Review link to your customers, log into your Google My Business page and click the “Share Your Business Profile” link. You can then copy the link and include it in your customer communication, or add to digital invoices and receipts. Read more about referral marketing and asking for customer reviews here.
When your business appears on online business directory sites, it’s another check in the box that lets Google know your business is current and active. An online directory site is like a digital version of the Yellow Pages — it can be anywhere that lists several businesses for visitors to find.
Examples of directories include:
Wherever you can list your business on another site and link back to yours, you’re giving search engines yet another reason to send qualified traffic your way.
When submitting your business listing to these other sites, it’s essential that your Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP) match on all.
Glossary term: “NAP” refers to a business’s Name, Address, and Phone information across the web. The more your NAP information matches on your online business listings, the easier it is for search engines to give you credit. So remember to choose one main version of your business name, one main phone number, and one main address — and stick with them.
Google (and other search engines) keep tabs on how and how often people interact with your business online. For this reason, user engagement is another prominent factor in whether or not your business will be seen at the top of search results.
Search engines track this information to help judge if your business is a good fit for someone’s search. A business with more engagement is likely to be a strong result, whereas a business with little engagement may be temporarily closed, or offering limited services (in Google’s eyes).
So what can you do about your engagement? Keep your Google My Business page up to date with your correct contact information, and add posts with links back to your website. If you maintain social media accounts, you can also encourage visitors to “check-in” on Facebook or Yelp when they visit your location.
Whether your business sells local products and services, or ships across North America, boosting your local SEO efforts shows search engines that your business is current, relevant, and worth showing on the first page of search results.
When your local SEO strategy begins to bring people to your Google My Business page and website, it will help to increase your overall traffic and have a trickle-down effect that can improve your website’s organic SEO as well.
And the final benefit of putting efforts into your local SEO strategy? You’ll be first to know about Google updates and changes. Search engines are constantly refreshing their ranking factors and signals, and when they release new services (like Google My Business, or the new GA4 Google Analytics update), you’ll be more likely to show up at the top of their list to take advantage.
If local SEO still feels like a mystery, that’s what we’re here for. Contact our Harvest Media team if you have questions about how local SEO can work for your business, and we can help you craft a custom action-plan based on your products and services, target customers, resources and goals.
Sarah is Director of Marketing at Harvest Media. She loves working with business owners and key decision makers who have a vision for the future and want to take their marketing strategy and business growth to the next level.
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