Mastering Local Search Engine Optimization – Getting Started

September 27th, 2018
Liz Hoscheid
Liz HoscheidSr. Digital Marketing Manager

Think social media is the best marketing tool for your business? Think again. More than 70 percent of searches for new products and services begin on a search engine. Despite the buzz around social media, search engines like Google still represent your greatest chance of acquiring new customers. The higher you rank on Google, Bing and the other search engines, the more likely you’ll be to attract attention from interested consumers.

But the rules of the search engine game have changed, as they so often do. The tricks that bumped you up to Page 1 of the search engines five years ago won’t work today. The modern era requires a new approach — a localized approach.

What Is SEO?

Search engine optimization, also known as SEO, has been on the minds of marketers for as long as the Internet has existed. After all, appearing at the top of the search results is far preferable to being buried on Page 5. Why wouldn’t a business want to bump up their stature on the search engines?

The only issue with this is the ever-changing rules at play. Google, in its perpetual effort to ensure that only the best and most relevant results appear at the top of its search engine results pages (SERPs), has tweaked its algorithms endlessly over the years. Not only do yesterday’s tricks not work anymore, but in some cases — particularly keyword stuffing and spammy content — will get you blacklisted by Google.

At the end of the day, Google’s changes are designed to ensure that the cream always rises to the top. A well-written page that accentuates a given keyword, but doesn’t beat you over the head with it, is the main trick for climbing the rankings.


Localized SEO

We’ve all heard about how the Internet has broken down barriers and ensured that interested consumers could get the products and services they needed, no matter where those products and services might reside. On one hand, this is still true. But this viewpoint is also a short-sighted one, especially when you consider how the Internet is used in modern times.

Whereas Internet users may have been tethered to a desktop once upon a time, this is no longer the case. Today’s Web searchers are on the go, and they’re looking for information that will help them to get to where they want to go five minutes from now. Therefore, your best bet is to ensure that your desired keywords work on two levels. Both traditional and localized searches need to return results for your company’s webpage.

What’s a localized search? It can be simply adding your city or state after your keyword (i.e. “bowling nyc”), or it can add the words “near me” to the end of your keyword (“bowling near me”). The idea is that if someone is looking for a local solution to their problem, Google can recommend your page as a local option that can help the searcher get their issue resolved immediately.

The power of local SEO works on many levels. Half of the individuals who have performed localized searches on their smartphones followed up those searches with visits to brick-and-mortar locations on the same day. Nearly 80 percent of localized searches on mobile devices lead to offline purchases. And, perhaps most telling of all, 46 percent of all Google searches are localized. Even if your product isn’t necessarily a local one, people are still interested in working with a local source, which breeds familiarity and trust.


The Ultimate Local SEO Option

The notion of transitioning into localized SEO can seem a bit intimidating. However, the good news is that Google has made it extremely simple for businesses to promote their local presence, even when a search doesn’t include localized factors.

You’ve undoubtedly seen Google My Business listings before. These are the sidebars that appear on the right side of search results for businesses on desktop devices, or above the regular search results for mobile searches. Google My Business allows companies to list pertinent information in an easy-to-access format that appears every time someone searches for a particular business. You can enter basic demographic information such as your official name, address, phone number and website URL, and Google will take it one step further by including a link to the Google Maps view of your location. This information will clearly display any time someone searches for your business, making it easy for prospective customers to find and contact you.

But that’s not all. You can also utilize posts, which are social media-type updates, that can be used to keep consumers informed about upcoming events and promotions. This is particularly useful if you want to drive sales over a short period of time. You can also allow viewers to book appointments, schedule meetings or call you directly from your Google My Business listing. It’s an incredibly efficient way to promote your business, both locally and globally.


Additional Local SEO Tips

Google My Business is a great start for incorporating localized SEO, but it only works if someone specifically searches for your business name. It’s also far from the only game in town. Here are some other ways you can introduce local SEO into your overall marketing strategy.

Local Pack Ads: When conducting open-ended local searches (i.e. “barber near me”), Google returns a SERP topped off by a map view with three options below the map. These options are referred to as a local pack. A local pack ad bumps up your listing to the top of the local pack, even if it not necessarily considered the “best” option by Google.
About Us and Directions Pages: Keyword stuffing is an obsolete strategy, but it doesn’t mean you can’t make sure Google knows where your business is located. Pages within your domain that clearly state your location (in conjunction with your keyword, of course) can help you boost your search engine rankings without any widespread changes to your website copy.
Social Media: Before Google My Business rose to prominence, your Facebook page was the best way to post a static document of your company’s contact information in a prominent location. Today, you can still use Facebook to prove your popularity and credibility to the search engines. Keep your business information (and your posts) up to date on Facebook and watch your page’s position rise up the rankings.

Although the Internet has made the world smaller, the importance of local business has never been more prominent. Pivot your search engine marketing strategy to include local SEO, and build your grassroots connections while opening up your business to a new population of interested consumers.