The search engine optimisation (SEO) industry continues to grow year-on-year. Now expected to be worth around £60billion, SEO plays a vital role in any digital marketing strategy to make your site more visible in search engine results pages (SERPS). But SEO has seen a shift in recent times towards local SEO, perhaps in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, websites are now making more use of local SEO. In fact, around 46% of all Google searches now look for local information. Phrases such as “near me” and “close by” have seen an astonishing 900% increase over the last two years! So, adapting your SEO to appear in localised searches is something to consider as more consumers start visiting local businesses much closer to home. Read on to find out how local SEO works, the importance of local SEO and tips for how you can develop local SEO strategies.
Search engine optimisation
Search engine optimisation is a process that determines a website’s ranking, and therefore the visibility, within the search engine results pages. By adopting an SEO strategy to better increase the visibility of your website, this in turn will result in generating more targeted traffic to the site.
To determine the ranking of a web page in the SERPs, information is collected by bots, known as crawlers, from pages on the web and then indexed. The index is then analysed to determine what order the pages should appear in a search query. Factors that can affect a ranking include:
- On-page optimisation
- Ensuring your website is secure (https)
- Creating content that is valuable, relevant, and original
- Fast page loading time
- A mobile-friendly website
- Links, both inbound, outbound, and internal using relevant anchor text
By ensuring your SEO strategy is developed around these factors this will enable search engines to determine the authority and relevancy of your website content and place it higher in a search query listing. SEO is built around three main pillars:
A search listing could provide millions, or even billions, of results, but with SEO, the content a search engine deems as is the most relevant will be displayed at the top. An example can be seen below, where a search for ‘guide for content strategy’ displays results that Google believes is most relevant to the query.
An example of a search engine results query showing most relevant content at the top
What is local SEO?
Local SEO follows the same principle as general SEO – optimising the web presence of a business online for greater visibility. However, local SEO focuses on increasing the visibility of business in both local and localised search results, including (and more specifically) brick-and-mortar locations. The three main factors with local SEO are proximity, prominence, and relevance; how prominent a business should appear in the search results that provides a relevant answer to the searcher within a close proximity. An example of proximity, prominence and relevance can be seen in the search results below when searching for ‘places to eat’ (sorry if you’re hungry!).
An example of local SEO in Google showing places near the searcher
How does local SEO work?
Local search engine optimisation works in the same way as SEO. However, search engines use a slightly different set of factors, alongside those listed above, to determine the ranking of local search results. These include:
- Location of the search
- Presence of business listings (in search engine and directory sites)
- Review star rating
- Keywords used in online reviews
- Number of check-ins at the location
- Number of shares on social media
While local SEO will not be beneficial to every business, such as e-commerce and online only stores, local businesses with physical stores can greatly benefit from local SEO. Whether your business sells a product or provides a service, the importance of local SEO can help bring several benefits to both your online presence and to your physical stores.
The importance of local SEO
The most significant benefit of local SEO is the greater visibility it provides. Remember that we stated 46% of all Google searches now look for local information? More and more people are wanting to visit businesses much closer to home signifying the importance of local SEO. With greater visibility online, there is a possibility too that footfall to physical stores will increase. 50% of people who found a business through a local search on their phone visited the physical store within a day. In fact, 1 in 3 searches on phones were carried out just before arriving at a store. Additionally, 34% of people who carried out a search on a computer or tablet also visited that store within a day.
With greater visibility from implementing a local SEO strategy, also comes the potential of increased sales. 18% of mobile searches for a local business leads to a sale within a day. Furthermore, 78% of local searches on mobile devices end in purchases being made in store! Providing relevant and up-to-date contact information can also result in more people reaching out to your business. 70% of mobile users who perform a local search click to call a business directly from the search results.
Alongside greater visibility and sales, implementing local SEO has the following benefits:
- Improves local rankings in search results
- Greater traffic to your website
- Increased customer trustworthiness
- Greater presence, both online and physically
- Delivers more qualified leads
- Possible to outrank local competitors in search listings
It is all very well knowing the benefits of adopting a local SEO strategy, but you may be left wondering how do I go about implementing a local SEO strategy? Without knowing how to develop and implement a local SEO strategy, you may not get to benefit from the advantages outlined. We have picked out 5 fantastic tips that can help you get started with developing your local SEO.
5 tips for developing local SEO
As Google accounts for 92% of search engines market share, the tips outlined below will focus on Google for developing local SEO. However, the tips can be applied to other search engines, such as Bing and Yahoo.
The words and phrases people type into a search engine to find what they are looking for is known as ‘keywords’ or ‘key phrases’. Matching the keywords you use in your content with the keywords people are searching for helps to boost your on-page optimisation for SEO and local SEO.
As keywords play a crucial role in a website’s ranking, it is important to identify the right keywords or phrases. Knowing what keywords people are searching for the most and how to find them is the first step to a successful keyword research strategy.
There are a few methods you can use to carry out this research. Firstly, come up with your own keywords and make a list by identifying important and relevant information about your business. While this list is not definitive, it is a good place to start and will allow you to identify as many relevant keywords as possible.
Once you have your initial list, you can then look at other sources for potential keywords. Search engines like Google will provide suggestions when entering a primary keyword. For example, a search for “barbers Coventry” generates the following suggestions:
Using these search engine ‘hints’ can help to give you suggestions on popular keywords you haven’t thought of yet. After you have done a search, clear the search bar to uncover searches related to recent searches too. Related searches at the bottom of a search page could also yield some results.
Other tips for keyword research could include trying different phrases, seeing what keywords appear when searching for competitors, changing the location (such as the city) of the search, trying out different plurals and word variations, or using a keyword tool online.
Google Business Profile
Google Business Profile provides relevant information to users searching for a business through Google, either on a search query or Google Maps. Creating or claiming your business on Google is one of the top local ranking factors for both local search results and organic result listing.
In particular, the information set up through the Business Profile will help your business to stand out more in the 3-pack search:
If you have not yet claimed your business on Google, check first to see if the listing displays “Own this business?”. Clicking on this will take you to Google’s Business Profile. Following a few steps is all that is required to claim your business on Google. If your business does not appear in search results, you will need to create a Business Profile.
Setting up a Business Profile will allow you to add details about your organisation such as contact details and opening hours, manage and engage with customer reviews, and upload photos (as seen in the A1 Gas Force example above). Setting up or claiming a business on Google only requires following a few steps and verifying the listing. Providing as much information in your Business Profile can really help to optimise your local SEO.
Provide consistent information
The information you provide to customers online is important. It is even more important that the information you provide online is consistent across all sites. Checking to make sure the details about your business is consistent between your own website, Google’s Business Profile, and third-party websites, such as Yelp, helps in boosting local SEO. Maintaining the consistency across all these sites informs Google that your business is legitimate, thereby helping to better improve your local SEO ranking. Making sure your business details such as address, phone number and business name are exactly the same across all sites, even when details change, really helps boost your local SERP ranking.
Local link building
Links are a crucial factor for both your SEO and local SEO ranking. Therefore, the importance of local link building cannot be understated. Links can either be inbound, outbound, or internal.
- Inbound – when an external site creates a link through to your content. Helps boost authority and relevancy of content.
- Outbound – when a link is created in your content to an external site. Creating links to relevant and authoritative content in moderation helps boost the authority of your content.
- Internal – creating links to relevant pages and content within your own website. Helps build value, passes authority onto, and drives traffic to the linked content.
Creating a balance in your content between each of these three types of links can help boost your SEO ranking. However, the anchor text within each link is also an important factor. While the temptation may be to create a link with generic anchor text, such as “click here” or “learn more”, doing so will not help your keyword content or SEO ranking. Creating anchor text that is descriptive to the linked content not only tells the reader what the linked content is about, but also tells the search engines how relevant your content is.
Creating and gaining links to relevant content locally is another great way to boost your local SEO. While you could search for opportunities within your content to create outbound local links, gaining inbound links with relevancy and authority can really help boost local SEO. Ways to gain inbound links include sponsorships or partnerships, guest blog posts, or scholarships. Look for opportunities within your current business network or try building relationships with other businesses for opportunities to gain inbound links.
Engage on social media
Engaging on social media is another tip for helping to boost local SEO. Posting content and encouraging users to share content is a great way to boost your businesses local SEO ranking. While Google states social shares do not directly influence ranking factor, it can still have an indirect impact. Although links from social media are not counted in the same sense as links from authoritative websites, generating shares can still help to boost your local SEO ranking. Shares on social media can influence local SEO in two ways; the more shares on social media will generate more traffic to your webpage and the content shared is more likely to build backlinks. Obtaining more relevant and authoritative backlinks to your content will help build the authority of the page, which in turn better improves your local SEO ranking.