Imagine planting a sapling one night and waking up to a full-grown tree in the morning. Unrealistic, unless we have magic beans!
Your website ranking follows a similar modus operandi; there are two ways to get your website on the first page of the SERPs –
- Search Engine Optimization (a.k.a SEO)
- Pay Per Click (PPC)
The first method is more like planting a sapling and nurturing it day-in-and-day-out and watching it grow into a tree. And the second method is rather quicker; it is like planting a few magic beans and waking up the next morning to find it metamorphosed into a tree.
While both the methods are equally important, since they have the same goal, performing SEO is a tad-bit more gratifying than choosing the PPC-way!
Indubitably, the process of growth requires tenacity and patience. To watch the stem grow into a sturdy trunk is rewarding and ecstatic. In a similar vein, SEO stretches across a span of months but watching your business name in the list on the first page of the SERP is truly rewarding.
Local SEO is a very close cousin of search engine optimization (SEO). In fact, some Local SEO packages are a subset of SEO itself! While the latter can get you to rank on the SERPs, irrespective of your location, the former is a location-specific endeavor, and it aims to increase traffic on your brick-and-mortar store. It functions on three principles;
Let’s understand these principles in detail to see how Local SEO works. Also, note that the search engine algorithm follows this process, and there is no telling which comes first in the process. Each of these steps is a subset of one another and happens each time a user enters a location-specific search query.
Note: A location-specific query involves location-determining modifiers, such as;
<query> + near me
<query> + in <my city>
<query> + in <my area>
Let’s say you’ve entered a location-specific query in your search engine; “Cake shops near me.”
The algorithm filters businesses around you following this parameter
- Is this business relevant to the local search query entered by the user?
- Does it include all the attributes that will satisfy the local search query?
As it answers the questions, it filters and complies with a list of businesses that are of relevance.
Here, the question is about the distance of a business from the user that has entered the query. When using location-specific modifiers, the motive is to find the closest place that’ll resolve a question. So the algorithm uses this parameter to curate a list to satisfy the question;
- How least is the distance between the user and the business?
When you enter a local search query, you’re expecting to find a list of prominent businesses with a proven track record. The search engine algorithm looks for all the leading companies for the local SEO niches. It uses the following KPIs to curate a list of companies that adhere to the search query parameters;
- Website rankings
- Social Media followings, etc.
So, How Does Local SEO Work?
Let’s assume you have a shop that sells cakes, and you want your shop to show up on the SERPs anytime a prospective customer searches for “cakes shops near me.” The idea that you wish to question your shop’s name to pop-up first can only be complete with Local SEO.
So I hop on to my search engine and punch in these words “cake shops near me,” and here is what I see on the SERPs;
On top of my SERP, four suggestions appeared with a ‘sponsored’ tag on the top right corner; this says that Ferns N Petals and FlowerAura have paid to be on the top of the SERPs anybody looks for a cake shop around a particular location.
In the next screenshot, you can see that there are only three shops that have come up; this is the local pack or 3-pack. To rank in the 3-pack would mean to attract more traffic to your store.
A local search is not limited to the keyword “near me,” since it is location-specific, you can enter a location after the thing you’re looking for, and voila!
You have the list in front of you.
For example, if I look up “cake shops in Qatar,” here is what I find;
Through the example, you’ve seen how the local search algorithm works. As local SEO niches, when you enter any search-query, you break-down the functioning of the three principles we talked about in the previous section. In the first case, when we wanted to find a cake shop around us, all the results that flashed on the SERP were a consequence of the three principles in action.
How Can You Use Local SEO To Increase Your Ranking?
We have just seen that each time we type in a location-specific search query, the search engine gathers all the data that fits into the determining attributes of the query and flashes a consolidated data with the most prominent businesses on the top. Once we understand the mechanism, we think about question like; Why local SEO is important for your business? How Can you use it to Rank #1?
Here is the answer to your questions!
Let’s now find out what factors you must take into account to facilitate easy ranking.
1) Ace Your Google My Business Profile
Google is the most popular search engine and ranking on google’s SERPs is a sure-shot way to enhance traffic to your e-store or brick-and-mortar store. To target the segmented Local SEO niches, get your store enlisted with Google My Business. The mechanism is simple – a school keeps a record of all the kids that have studied with them and are still studying. Later, the information may come in handy for other purposes. Similarly, Google My Business keeps track of the local stores and sorts them in categories; this way, when a user looks for a store similar to yours, your name comes up in the SERPs.
Once you have created your GMB profile, you’ll want to keep updating the account with client’s (or customer) reviews and rating to ensure that the profile is active and attracts more customers. The rationale behind this process is that as a customer moves through the buyers’ journey, they look for reviews and ratings from the existing buyer and make a purchase decision. So, to attract your local SEO niches, you’ll have to ensure that your GMB profile is up-to-date because that will flash on the SERPs when a user enters a relevant search query. In most cases, when you consider Local SEO packages, this is perhaps the first step in creating a killer Local SEO strategy.
2) Optimise The Determining Attributes Of Your Website
In the lucrative virtual presence, updating the website with competitive content is of utmost importance. From ranking on the SERPs via organic SEO to maintaining that rank for Local SEO, appropriate content can expedite the buyer’s journey of your local SEO niches.
Let’s look at a few attributes of your website that you must keep in check;
When creating content, be it blogs or website content, you must ensure that you include high-volume keywords and curate content based on geo-targeting.
More often than not, many content curators are lost among a pool of keywords and content topics. To cure the dilemma, content marketers can perform a competitive analysis of the keywords and topics of their competitors. In terms of local SEO, you must identify the competition that is likely to capture your local SEO niche.
A title tag suggests the topic of your content, and it carries a lot of importance in SEO practices. When a crawler crawls your webpage, a title tag is perhaps one of the first few elements that it looks for; and if it consists of geo-targeted or relevant keywords, then your website stands a high chance of being ranked higher.
According to Moz, the optimal length of any title should be between 50-60 characters because Google’s display titles do not go beyond 600 pixels. While this is subject to the length of the words, but the average length remains 50-60 characters.
URLs are the identity of a website and the webpages, by extension. Each URL consists of the destination of a requested webpage. Now, since we’re talking about Local SEO and inviting more local SEO niches, it is beneficial if the URL consists of your businesses location; it becomes easier for the crawlers to look you up and rank you when a search query is entered.
Google recommends that every page that consists of a location attribute or map must be listed on a separate web page rather than clustering them in one. This separation allows the crawlers to identify, index, and rank each of them individually for better ranking on the webpages.
If your URL isn’t location-specific, then you can –
- Replace your domain name with a new one, or
- Give a 301 redirect to a new website and keep the old one intact.
Internal linking reduces website bounce rate by redirecting the user to a different webpage on your website when they click on any anchored word or phrase. Popularly understood, bounce rate is the number of users that do not redirect to another webpage on your website and leave after just visiting one. Internal linking helps in avoiding that, thereby inviting crawlers to crawl and rank your website higher. According to Neil Patel’s article on The Seven Commandments of Internal Linking that Will Improve Content Marketing SEO, internal linking solve three primary purposes;
- Easy Website Navigation
- Definite website architecture and hierarchy for the crawler to crawl every page easily
- Even distribution of ranking power and page authority – pan website.
3) Mobile-Friendly Website = More Local Traffic
Today, to resolve any query that comes to our mind, we quickly swipe out our phones and see instant results. Unless there is a laptop open, we don’t use it frequently as much as mobile phones. And to harness the traffic of your local SEO niches coming via mobile phones, you must have a mobile-friendly website. To operate a mobile-friendly website – you must ensure four steps;
Your Website MUST Be Responsive
A responsive website changes layout according to the devices it’s functioning on; this means that if you’re opening a website on your mobile, it’ll change a few functionalities to fit the layout, as opposed to a desktop layout.
According to Google, its algorithm also favours a responsive website rather than a rigid one.
Keywords That Are Mobile-Specific
Instead of including keywords that are desktop-specific, focus on mobile-specific keywords. Google has announced that its crawlers favour mobile-specific keywords that aim to attract local SEO niches. As a user, when making a search query, you tend to type shorter versions of keywords rather than elongated. So, to capture your local SEO niches, you must focus on location-specific short keywords.
On-Point Mobile SEO
Just like you would spearhead an organic SEO campaign to increase website traffic, you must also initiate a mobile-SEO to capture local traffic. Google has a program that scrutinises if your website is mobile-friendly or not.
Geo-tagging allows your prospective customer to find you on the website and follow the directions to your brick-and-mortar store if any. Geo-tagging is more involved in digital content than any other website attribute.
4) The Local Pack
Showing up on the local pack is a matter of pride for any local business. While cruising through the example mentioned above, you must have seen three stores that came up on the SERP when we Googled “cake shop near me.” The combination of the three most prominent stores is called a local pack.
To show up on the local pack, you should first enlist your business on GMB and pay attention to the three fields – Name, Address, and Phone.
Please note that enlisting on GMB does not ensure a place on the local pack. To reserve a spot there, you must go the organic way of accumulating reviews and ratings and optimising your website.
5) Include Location Pages
If your business functions in multiple locations, i.e., has a brick-and-mortar store in various places, you have a more extensive range of local SEO niches to target and capture. Google crawlers enjoy separate location pages with locally descriptive information about the store that facilitates easy conversion.
Here is a bonus tip – Add the GMB map to your website and watch how the crawler pushes you up the local pack rank. It acts as a big kick during any local SEO process.
In the example, you can see multiple locations for Ferns N Petals. Although sponsored (it means they chose the PPC way, they had magic beans..), it shows various places where they would readily deliver cakes and other confectionery.
What’s The Key Take Away?
Local SEO is a great way to capture your Local SEO niches before they walk the other way. Adhering to all the attributes we mentioned above, and trusting your instincts will fetch you great results on the SERPs. But like we said at the beginning of the article, SEO is a process that needs nurturing and plenty of patience. Unlike PPC, your website traffic will not boom over-night. If you ask us, SEO is a much more gratifying process than PPC. Watching the local SEO niches travel through the customer funnel and reach your store is a matter of pride in itself. Having said that, vigilance in creating and maintaining your SEO strategy must be of your utmost priority. You can always navigate to the various Local SEO packages that companies offer to create your SEO checklist or you can also hire someone to do it for you!
So, if you wish you enhance your local traffic, you must ensure;
- Claiming your Google My Business Profile
- Optimising your website’s content to location-specific content
- Focusing on making your website mobile-friendly, and
- Waiting patiently for your company’s name to appear in the local pack (after following the necessary steps).