If your pipes are leaking, you’re going to need a plumber. If you’ve put your back out, you might want a chiropractor. If your best friend is under the weather, you’re almost certainly going to want a vet (assuming your best friend is canine, feline or otherwise not human…work with me here), and if you’re hungry but not in the mood for cooking, you’ll want a recommendation for a restaurant.
What two things do all these businesses have in common?
Number one – you’re most likely to use Google to find them, probably on a mobile device.
Number two – they are local businesses. Businesses near you, for which you are a local customer. Unless you’re a megawatt celebrity, you’re not going to fly halfway across the country to a restaurant, even if they do have an extended happy hour.
For local businesses of all kinds, local searches of this nature are a lifeblood, and when you look at some of the statistics around local search, it’s easy to understand why. 46% of all Google searches are looking for local information, 78% of local searches result in an offline purchase and an incredible 88% of local searchers on a mobile device either call or visit that business within 24 hours.
Local search, also known as local SEO or local marketing, is a key pillar in the marketing mix for any business which has a physical storefront of any kind – any type of business which customers visit in person.
Best practice in local search can be divided into two key elements: on-(web)site strategies and off-site strategies. Here’s our quick guide to succeeding at both:
Best On-Site Local SEO Strategies
To best understand on-site local search strategies – things you can do on and with your own website – it helps to put yourself in your customer’s shoes.
If you know a lot about reptiles, it’s not that hard to rank well for a search which asks ‘how to pacify my angry lizard’. You might expect the results for this search to give you plenty of tips and advice on soothing ruffled scales. If, however, your angry lizard is doing very angry lizard things and your soothing isn’t working, you’re pretty soon going to progress to searching for ‘reptile whisperers near me’ – and that’s where local SEO comes in.
In order to rank well for someone who is looking for your type of business in your local area, think about the keywords you would use to find yourself. This isn’t rocket science – ‘dentist in Dallas’ is a good place to start. Add some longer tail keywords highlighting your specialty, such as ‘Dallas dentist for nervous patients’.
Once you have a suitable list of local keywords, make sure that the meta tags on your site and pages use them, and that you sprinkle them naturally across your website content.
If you have more than one physical location, create a page on your website for each, giving its full NAP details (name, address and phone number) as well as images and a map, opening hours and other genuinely useful information specific to that store or that outlet.
Be Mobile Friendly/Responsive
Depending on your customer demographic, many or even most of your customers will be searching for a store like yours on a mobile device. It’s absolutely essential that your website is responsive and mobile-friendly. You can check this yourself for free at Google’s Mobile Friendly Test, which will highlight any key problems you need to fix.
Create Local Content
You’re a part of your local community – so act like it! Make space on your website for local content of some kind. This can be as simple or as complex as you like – at the simple end of the scale, you could post short and simple news stories such as wishing students at your local high school all the best with their exams. Be sure to include location names and neighborhood keywords in any such content.
At the more complex end of the scale, you could create a whole section of locally focused resources of use to your customers. If you are a bakery, for example, you could collate details of local cookery classes; if you are a bookkeeper, you could offer a guide to local small business resources. Be imaginative and creative with your local content – remember, the end goal is to produce something genuinely useful which just happens to also embed your local credentials.
Best Off-Site Local Search Strategies
Much of the work around local search actually happens away from your own website.
A citation, in this context, is any online page or directory entry which includes your business name, address and phone number as a minimum (NAP), but ideally also your website and social media links, hours of opening, business description and other useful information.
Citations – so long as they are correct and up to date – are an absolute cornerstone of local search. The more citations you have, the better, but they must provide consistent information. If your NAP details do not match exactly, or if your hours of business show up differently in different places, Google will take a dim view and will regard your business as less trustworthy.
The best places to get citations are local business directories and industry directories. The more local, or the more industry-specific, the better.
A listing in BOTW Local is a valuable citation, because it showcases a detailed description of your business, your hours, and your offerings, as well as that all-important NAP information. BOTW Local listings also allow your customers to leave reviews for you – a vital part of local search, since research suggests that up to 90% of people check local reviews before buying a product locally or using a local service.
Another vital citation any business should have is its own Google My Business page, correctly and fully filled in – Google uses these pages to inform its local search results.
Other good sources of citations include a listing with your local chamber of commerce, and any directories specific to your city or your neighborhood.
Local Link Building
The more links you can get to your website from local sites, the better. Obviously, factors in normal link building, such as seeking links from high domain authority sites, are still valid in local search – but if your business relies on local customers, links from a locally focused blog or a local news outlet may be worth even more than a link from a major nationwide or worldwide site.
Think creatively to get local links. Could you team up with local related but non-competing businesses to offer end-to-end links to one another’s customers? For example, if you are a funeral director, can you work with local florists, function venues and limousine companies to link to one another’s services?
Send out press releases to local media outlets every time your business does anything remotely newsworthy. Local media are often hungry for stories, so even small news items will be picked up on and perhaps featured in their coverage.
Another way to obtain local links is through selective guest blogging. Could you contribute a blog post to a related business nearby, in return for a link? So long as you are providing good quality content, which is genuinely useful to their visitors, they’re likely to agree – and you will gain local search points too.
Look After Your Local Reputation
This is an off-site local search activity which is crucial but easily overlooked. Encourage honest reviews from your customers either on your own website or via trusted review sites. Maintain active social media accounts and respond quickly to customer questions, comments or complaints. All businesses make mistakes but responding fast and with good grace to any complaints will go a long way towards improving your reputation.
Your local reputation will also improve if you become more visible – perhaps by taking a stall at local trade fairs or charity events, or by sponsoring local schools, charities and other good causes.
The key with reputation management for local businesses is to embed yourself within your community. Keep up with what is going on locally and be an active part of it. Celebrate other businesses and people in the community, build up goodwill, show that you are engaged and responsive.
With this combination of on-site and off-site local search and local marketing techniques, your local business stands a good chance of success, even in today’s unprecedented marketplace. Good luck!