More important, why is it important? This is why: Nearly half of all searches–an estimated 46%, have a local intent. That means their users are seeking information that is location-specific. Local SEO is about optimizing for a search query that is location-specific. Google and other search engines, including Google’s YouTube, use a user’s location based on IP address (for desktop) and geolocation (for mobile) to determine what results to serve up to the user.
How many times have you keyed in a search query, then added “near me”?
That’s local SEO at work. Besides the convenience of identifying local doctors, dentists, barbers, drycleaners and other service professionals in our own little ‘hoods, we like to support our local businesses. It builds community.
Local Pack is another Google search tool
To help connect those users with their location results, Google has changed their algorithm to accommodate location in its search engine results page (SERP) listings. Another handy search tool is Google’s Local Pack–connecting users to specific local businesses they’re looking for.
You’ve used the Local Pack; you just didn’t know it had a name!
You’ve seen the Local Pack a gazillion times, but you likely didn’t know that it was its own product in the search space. Let’s say you’re going to be in Athens for a month and you’re looking for cafes with wifi near your airbnb. (Actually this was my local search for the month of May.) You’re served up a map with three listings, your location and that of three cafes. This is your Local Pack, and it’s very useful. If anyone’s wondering, I found a delightful little café in my neighborhood that became my go-to home with yummy food and friendly people, thanks to Local Pack!
How do you optimize for local search?
- First and foremost, claim your Google Business Profile (GBP). This has become nonnegotiable.
- Update NAP citations on your website. Having a consistent NAP plays an important part in Google’s Local Pack results and building citations to your GBP. Do an audit to make sure that your business is correctly listed the same way in every place that it’s listed. The same sequence of name, address, phone number, etc. is important as well. If your business is listed on those mysterious directories that seem to pop up, you’ll need to log in to all of these and make sure they all have your current information.
- Add your business to local directories.
- Get reviews and add them to your website. Add the local city for the person who’s giving the review.
- Identify local search terms and create local content: Make sure your name and address are in your footer. Add a notation that you are, for instance: “Serving the East Bay cities of Walnut Creek, Lafayette, Danville and Alamo”.
GBP Ranking Factors. While Google doesn’t share the exact ranking factors, you can work within these guidelines.
- Relevance: Complete and detailed business information will help Google better understand your business and match your listing to relevant searches from customers. This is a good time to do keyword research and identify what keywords/ phrases you want to own.
- Distance: How far each potential business is from the location terms used in a search.
- Prominence: How well-known a business is. Know that you’re going to be competing with big brands. Prominence is based on your overall Internet presence. More reviews and positive ratings will improve your overall local ranking.
Google’s Business Profile is becoming a workhorse
Let’s be honest. Navigating among Google apps has been challenging. I’ve struggled with my own accounts as well as those of my clients and I always wonder how long it’s going to take me to log in. What kinds of workarounds I’m going to have to try. Sometimes I can’t log in at all and give up in disgust. But maybe Google finally figured out what a mess they’d created.
So now we have the newly named GBP. In the old days, you could never see your own GBP—you could log in to the page, but just like you can never see your own Google ads, you never could see your GBP. Now you can click on a link and it’s clearly visible! I just logged in to my page, updated my services, added a few blogs and uploaded images. Anyone can log in from Google apps—Google Maps, etc. A couple of my clients left reviews for me. This is so easy! It’s unlike the old GBP that it’s nearly transformational. What’s astonishing is that it took them 15 years or more to get here.
A recent article suggested that one of the very best things you can do for SEO is to get reviews on your GBP. Start reaching out to current and former clients and colleagues and ask them to give you a review. Forget Yelp. It’s just too annoying.
Google’s really getting behind their new and improved GBP and making it seamless
Google’s making it easier for users to interact directly with businesses from their GBP pages to book appointments, get quotes for services and message directly. Without a GBP, you’re going to be missing out on opportunities in local search results and Local Packs. The Local Packs, especially, are just a nice visual way to package search results. You really want to be taking advantage of Google’s tools.
A Google Business Profile may be one of the most important free tools that any business has at its disposal. If you haven’t already, create a one. Believe me, I never would have said this before, because there were times when I was frustrated beyond belief. But it’s just so easy.
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