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As of 2022, 46% of all Google searches have local intent. With over 3.5 billion daily searches, that’s a total of 1.6 billion focusing on the searcher’s local area.
With 78% of local searches resulting in online conversion and over 62% of consumers agreeing that they will disregard a business they can’t find online, it’s clear that local SEO has accelerated into one of the most impactful strategies for growing a business. That trend is only set to continue.
When the pandemic hit in 2020, more people chose to support businesses in their area as these presented the safest and most convenient avenues through which to purchase. Even with lockdowns looking like a thing of the past in the UK (fingers and toes crossed), this locally oriented consumer bias isn’t going away soon. Research from Accenture found that up to 84% of global consumers now intend to stick with supporting local businesses in the long-term.
Without optimising your website for local audiences, you are potentially missing out on serving nearby customers who are looking for products or services that you offer. Keep in mind that local searchers have a higher intent to purchase since you’re near their location. For instance, someone looking up “pizza near me” is likely looking for somewhere to eat pretty soon.
As business listings are usually free and easy to maintain on platforms such as Google Business, Facebook, or Yelp, increasing your site’s visibility to a local audience can also be a highly cost-effective online marketing strategy. You can also use this process as an opportunity to scope out the competition and see if they’ve chosen to invest in a local SEO strategy.
But is there any difference between traditional SEO and local SEO? And how can you properly execute the latter so your business can generate more online traffic and convert them?
What’s the Difference Between Traditional SEO and Local SEO?
Both traditional SEO and local SEO have the same goal: to increase a business’ search rankings. The difference lies in the outcomes. While the former can increase your visibility to an international audience, the latter focuses on local visibility to nearby customers.
How the SERPs look also differs. Traditional search results include featured snippets, reviews, sitelinks, videos, ‘People also ask’ boxes, and paid ads. Results for local queries typically show the local SEO 3-pack — a map with a list of the top three businesses relevant to what the user looked for — which Google pulls from a business’ Google Business Profile. Local SERPs also include relevant local service ads.
Any business with an international or global audience can benefit from traditional SEO but you’re going to need to apply local SEO strategies if your target market includes, or is solely comprised of, local customers. Examples might be home repair, real estate, legal, or franchised businesses.
While the outcomes are different, there is some overlap between the two which can make them work hand in hand. If done right, your traditional SEO can actually help your local SEO and vice versa.
Although Google remains quiet on the exact ranking factors they use for traditional SEO, the search giant has openly shared three factors that will affect your local visibility:
- Relevance — This refers to how close your Google Business Profile matches a user’s search query. Make sure your profile includes complete and detailed information about your business.
- Distance — This refers to your geographical location and how far it is from a user’s location query. If the user has not specified a location, Google will calculate the distance based on what they know about the user’s location.
- Prominence — This takes into account a couple of factors: how well-known a business is (e.g. a famous hotel, museum, or brand) and a business’ reputation across the web. The latter is based on reviews and positive ratings, links, articles, directories, and your ranking in the search results.
Local SEO experts have also speculated on which ranking factors make the biggest impact on a site’s visibility. In a 2021 Whitespark survey, experts agreed that the top five factors that move the needle are:
- The primary Google Business Profile category
- Keywords in the listing title
- Proximity of the business address to the searcher’s location
- The physical address in the city of search
- Additional Google Business Profile categories
The 8-Step Strategy to Optimise Your Site for Local SEO
In order to increase your site’s local visibility, search engines scout for signals that will help its crawlers rank your pages higher. If you follow these eight steps, you’ll improve your credibility among your customers, enable your business to appear in Google Maps and Search, and even potentially outrank bigger companies on locally-based search queries.
1. Perform an Initial Local SEO Audit
A local SEO audit helps you identify holes in your website that prevent you from showing up in local searches. A successful audit will also help you prioritise the optimisations that will lead to conversions.
Initial parts of a local SEO audit are:
- **Keyword review **— Look for the keywords you need your business to rank for in your locality. You would want your essential pages to rank high for these keywords, including your homepage, service pages, and blog posts.
- **Competitor analysis **— A thorough keyword review should also turn up your most relevant competitors. Study their service and landing pages, Google Business Profiles, and social media to look at what they’re doing that you’re not and brainstorm ways you can outrank them.
- Technical website audit — An audit can give you the assurance that your site is optimised for indexability and visibility by looking at its structure, content, and user experience. Technical audits include page optimisation (e.g. title tags, headings, meta descriptions), internal link audit, structured schema review, mobile audit, and checking for duplicate content.
2. Optimise for Google My Business
Google Business Profile, formerly known as Google My Business, enables local business owners to list their businesses with Google, letting prospective customers find them on Search and Maps.
You can go to the Google Business Profile website and set up your profile by entering your business name. If it’s already listed, you’re also able to claim it. Fill in as many data points as you can and make sure that you’re not skipping the category section and secondary categories, as these are often neglected by businesses. Apart from basic information like phone number, address, and website, don’t forget to upload high-quality photos so people can know what to expect before they visit.
Also, remember that customer reviews are critical. Encourage positive Google reviews by providing a stellar customer experience. Avoid enticing customers to write reviews with value adds or discounts, as this practice contravenes Google’s guidelines.
Remind customers that you highly appreciate reviews, and streamline the process for them by providing a short URL or QR code through which they can leave a review. Once they do, make sure that you respond, whether they gave you a positive or a negative review.
Bing Places for Business is also a useful supplement to Google Business Profile. You can easily sync your settings in the latter with the former to keep your information consistent and minimise additional effort. Don’t forget other popular online directories like Apple Maps, Yelp, Yellow Pages, Foursquare, and Yahoo’s Localworks.
3. Have a Consistent NAP
Your name, address, and phone number (NAP) comprise the backbone of your local SEO strategy. A consistent NAP is important because it helps Google judge the accuracy of a business’s location, contact details, and legitimacy if the information is valid.
When listing or editing your business on other directories like Yelp and Foursquare, ensure that your NAP is exactly the same in spelling and structure as it is on your Google Business Profile. These mentions on other platforms, called citations, are used by Google to cross-reference the information you’ve put on your Google Business Profile.
However, there are some places where you can’t change your NAP yourself, like local blogs or news sources. To remedy this, reach out to them and let them know your NAP has been updated.
Tools like Yext also let you scour the internet for instances of your NAP, helping you keep it consistent everywhere.
4. Improve Your On-Page SEO
Traditional on-page SEO principles apply here: optimise your URL, meta title, headers, and meta description. A useful technique for your title tag is to intentionally make it longer than Google’s 50-character limit. Ensure that the first 50 characters promote clickthroughs by providing a strong benefit or intriguing copy. For example, the title tag “Lawn care Edinburgh: Satisfied customers agree on top quality service” will show up on the SERP as “Lawn care Edinburgh: Satisfied customers agree on…”
An intuitive internal linking structure, meanwhile, helps people navigate your website, improves its hierarchy, and distributes page authority evenly throughout. Make sure that all internal links work and direct to the intended page.
Also important to local SEO is schema markup. This is structured data markup code that lets Google identify certain elements on your page. Schema markup means you occupy more screen space in the search results, thereby improving visibility and therefore conversion rate. This is especially true if your business provides detailed, bespoke resources like travel information or step-by-step recipes. Using schema markup, you can tell Google about the information and services you provide. Google’s own Structured Data Markup Helper will help you get started.
5. Create the Right Local Content
Robust local content helps you to rank for less competitive keywords that are useful to searchers in your area. Creating local content also helps show potential customers that you’re in tune with the needs of local people.
Types of local content you can create include:
- **FAQs **— The questions your customers ask you offline are likely to be the same ones they’ll be asking online.
- **Testimonials **— A base of happy local customers creates a foundation to attract more. Testimonials and case studies let the people you’ve provided a great service to showcase the value in what you provide.
- **Announcements **— Got a new product or service? Create a post showcasing why customers would want to purchase it. Provide a discount link straight from the post.
- Unique location-specific landing pages — Focus on creating specific content per location. If you service different cities or areas, then create separate, targeted landing pages for each. Remember to keep it unique though. Using the same content with the locations swapped out will only tell Google that it’s duplicate content. Provide valuable information for each page, such as FAQs, case studies, or relevant legislation.
6. Design a Mobile-Friendly Website
Mobile is dominant in local search, especially with Google using mobile-first indexing. A joint study by Google and Nielsen found that of consumers using mobile to research products and services, 55% want to purchase within the hour, and 83% want to purchase within the day. Furthermore, an overwhelming 93% went on to actually make a purchase.
Your site loading quickly on mobile could be the clincher that ensures customers stay on your site, or else bounce and go to one of your competitors.
Basic mobile optimisation includes image compression, lazy loading and caching implementation. Several tools are also available, such as Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test and PageSpeed Insights, as well as external resources like Gatus (an open-source tool to monitor website health) and GTmetrix (which can pinpoint why your page is slow).
7. Get Quality Local Backlinks
If you want to build local authority in a reasonable timeframe, you need quality backlinks. Here’s how to get them:
- **Use your existing network — **You haven’t gotten where you are alone. List out businesses with whom you share a relationship. These can be suppliers, contractors, distributors, and other non-competitors. Look for a page on their site where a link to you fits organically (e.g. a list of partners), then let them know you’d appreciate a backlink.
- Reach out to local news — Local news sites are always looking for stories focused on the community. If you have an anniversary, a new branch opening, or a philanthropic drive lined up, you can launch a local PR campaign to get you some media coverage.
- **Find local directories **— Asides from global directories like Yelp, Yellow Pages, and Foursquare, try to tap into those that are unique to your area. A particularly high-value local directory is your Chamber of Commerce, which will help you get your NAP included in a trusted community source.
8. Increase Engagement on Social Media
Social media, regardless of how many followers you have, does not have a direct impact on rankings. However, when you share your content on these platforms, social media becomes a viable channel to spread the word and give your site more traffic. With more eyeballs, you also increase your chances of someone linking to your content.
An active social media presence also makes you look more trustworthy in the eyes of your customers and gives your NAP citations high credibility.
Most of these platforms are free, so you should have pages on:
- **Facebook **— Facebook serves as a mirror to your Google Business Profile. Provide your NAP and describe your services. You can also use Facebook Marketplace as a secondary storefront.
- Twitter —** **Keep lines of communication open with potential customers, prospective contacts in the media, and local influencers. Stay up-to-date with community events and interests.
- **LinkedIn **— LinkedIn is the most popular B2B social network. Use it to network with other businesses, attract employees, and establish yourself as a thought leader in your field.
Metrics to Measure: Local SEO KPIs and How to Measure Them
Local SEO is not a set it and forget it process. It has to be continuously measured and optimised over time so you can keep reaching your goals. Here are the metrics and KPIs to measure your SEO performance:
To see all the ways your prospective customers are interacting with your listing, you can check your Profile’s performance through Google Maps or go to the Performance section in your Business Profile account.
Another way is to download your Insights data in bulk. Here’s how:
- Sign into your Business Profile Manager
- Select the profile you want to download
- Click Download Insights
- Click Get Report
- Select the appropriate time frame
- Click download
Note that Insights is only available for verified profiles, so it’s important that you follow Google’s requirements.
Caption: Google My Business Insights App Data
Check out how many people clicked on the following:
- Call the business
- Read reviews
- View photos
- Browse products and services
- Ask questions
- Make a booking or reservation
- A website link
- An appointment link (if available)
- Google products (if available)
- Google posts (if available)
You can also measure website clicks from your Business Profile through Google Analytics. First, make sure that your GBP UTM is all set up.
Then on your GA dashboard, go to:
- All Campaigns
- Filter by campaign name
You’ll then see the number of visitors that got to your site through your GBP listing.
Website clicks are well and good, but if your site visitors don’t convert, then all the leads you have generated will go to waste. There are several conversions that potential customers can do on your site, including:
- Revenue — This is your total sales. How much revenue did you earn from each local landing page or Google Product? Note your conversion rate before optimisation, so you’ll have a benchmark to measure your new revenue.
- Email sign-ups — Sign-ups may not immediately convert to paying customers, but having them on your email list gives you the opportunity to nurture them, while they’ll have the chance to get to know you as a brand, and eventually turn into paying customers.
- Appointment booking — These are customers with higher intent to purchase a product or service from you, enough to set an appointment so they can get to know your business more. This could mean that your Business Profile or your landing pages worked well to convince them.
- Phone calls — Similar to appointment bookings, inbound phone calls will tell you which web pages were successful to encourage site visitors to pick up the phone and get in touch with you.
Changes in consumer behaviour, whether positive or negative, will tell you whether your efforts are paying off or if you still need to optimise your Google Business Profile or your website further. Look at the following:
- Localised traffic vs overall website traffic — On your Analytics dashboard, check out the location your site visitors are coming from. If you have optimised it correctly, you should start seeing an uptick in your local traffic.
- Unique visitors — Look at new sessions and new users on your Analytics dashboard. These will tell you how well you’re attracting new and potential customers. You can even see which locations these new users are coming from.
- Business profile interactions — On your Google Business Profile, check how many calls, messages, or bookings your listing has generated. The more profile interactions, the better you’ve optimised your listing.
- Brand awareness — While increasing local traffic is the goal, you should also look at the amount of traffic that comes from branded searches. This can tell you if your brand reach and recognition are growing.
- Bounce rates — If your Business Profile is driving traffic to your site but the bounce rate remains high, then there may be information they are looking for that your landing pages lack. Also, check if there’s an issue that’s slowing down your site’s loading time.
- Exit pages — Looking at exit pages will tell you at which point your site visitors are dropping off. This will allow you to figure out which pages may still need further optimising.
Tools to Use to Measure KPIs
Apart from your Google Business Profile dashboard, there are also several tools you can use to give you more insight into how well your local SEO strategies are performing:
- Website performance — Google Analytics and Google Search Console are staples in every SEO professional’s arsenal. GA will give you a complete picture of your traffic down to the most granular detail, while GSC will give you search-related data, including suggestions on how to improve your traffic and fix your site’s issues.
- Social media performance — Hootsuite, Buffer, and Sprout Social are multi-purpose tool kits that can help you manage your posts, social marketing, and conversations. You can integrate these with most social platforms today.
- Localised SEO tools — Tools like White Spark, Yext, and Moz offer more extensive capabilities to manage your local SEO strategies than free tools like GA or GSC. The difference lies in the features you’ll need, your budget, and how nuanced your campaign is.
- Local reviews and mentions — Monitoring your brand performance in your target location will tell you how potential customers feel about your brand, whether in a positive or negative manner. You can monitor your brand performance using Google Alerts, Social Mention, and Brand Mentions.
- Backlinks — Gaining high-quality backlinks is one of the backbones of every SEO strategy. They are essentially votes of confidence in the eyes of search engines, telling them that your site is valuable enough that other websites link out to you. Use tools like Ahrefs or SemRush to gain a list of your backlinks.
Play the Long Game
The results from local SEO are not only dependent on how much time you’re investing into it but on the nature of your local competition. It’s important to stick to it and you will start seeing results. There are a lot of moving parts to any SEO strategy, and local SEO is no exception, despite the audience you’re targeting being a lot smaller than UK-wide search results.
Despite there being a lot of quick wins that will give you a quick lift in the SERPs, sooner or later you’re going to need to start putting real time and energy into it. In the long run, finding a local SEO agency in Bristol is going to pay dividends by freeing up your time to concentrate on growing your business and not having to learn a brand new skill!
Book your free strategy call today to learn more about our local SEO services and how we can help your business get the results you’re looking for.