Search engine optimization (SEO) is an important element of building your online presence, but for businesses that are only serving their local areas global SEO does not convert visitors to customers as much as being found locally. How do you build up a local presence? The answer is building a local SEO strategy.

Considering Google holds more than 70% of the market share for search engines, its safe to say that this should be your main focus. Don’t ignore the others, but don’t spend too much of your marketing budget on Bing or Yahoo since they each hold less than 10% of the market. Another element worth considering is more than 60% of online click-throughs occur on the first five listings of the search engine results page (SERP) and the lower you get on that list the more dramatic the decrease in chances you’ll convert traffic into visitors to your site.

Local SEO – The 5 Key Focuses of Your Strategy

Because there are many ways listings show up on a SERP, brands must look at all aspects of SEO to stay relevant to searchers and to help Google understand how it can use your business information to serve the searcher. This is a guide on what you cannot leave out of your local SEO strategy. There are 5 key focuses that will help boost your local visibility.

  1. Building a HIGH-quality Google My Business listing
  2. Creating & curating RELEVANT on-page content
  3. Maintaining a consistent NAP across the web
  4. Collect “great” links
  5. Make Google Reviews a PRIORITY

The Basics

First, if you don’t have a Google My Business listing – STOP – What are you doing? It’s FREE! Verify your business and start by owning your own listing.

What is a Google My Business (GMB) Listing?

A GMB listing is a public profile that appears as on location-based searches and in the maps view of a Google search. It gives your business a public identity that complements your website. Think of it as a way to legitimize your business and let people know, “yep, that’s us!”.

How GMB Works

Your GMB listing allows you to take charge of the information people see both when they search for your business or do a local search for your product or service. It is a one-stop overview of everything people need to know to do business with you. Your phone number, location, business category, services offered, business hours, reviews of your business, a link to your website, your elevator pitch and any posts you publish will all live in your business’ knowledge panel.

You Have A Listing, Now What?

Too many businesses create a GMB listing and stop there. Leaving your Google My Business listing untouched leaves too many leads on the table for your business. Like any marketing effort, local SEO is iterative and must constantly be changing in order to keep up with what your customer is looking for.

If you’re doing it right and find yourself effective in your optimization chances you’ll end up in the Google Local 3 Pack increase.

1. High-Quality Google My Business Listing: Help Google Help You

The first step in building your best Google My Business listing is identifying your business in the right category. This not only provides insight to build your keyword strategy, but it allows you to see what your competition is doing.

Starting off in the right category helps Google bring your company up in the most relevant search results. If you’ve placed yourself in a category unrelated to your industry this will eventually hurt your visibility as people neglect to interact with your panel or start bouncing off your website.

Next, you want to make sure you keep your information updated. Make sure people have what they need to know. This means uploading recent photos, publishing updates or offers in your posts section, maintaining accurate contact details and business hours are all important in keeping a clean listing and helping Google match you to searchers that need what your business is offering.

Content is King

Content IS king and the posts you publish give your potential leads and prospects a reason to do business with you. Posting articles in the “posts” section helps boost your credibility and establishes your brand as an authority in the space.

Be helpful without selling. Your content nurtures your leads and guides them towards doing business with you without telling them that they need your product or service.

Use Images ALWAYS

If content is king, then media (i.e. photos, graphics, and video) is queen. Use images of your business, of your product or service, and the team that helps it all happen. Boost your business’ appeal by using video to catch the attention of traffic.

Of people that do business with you more than 80% of them have done thorough research online; give them something to look at and keep their attention from moving to your competitors.

2. Creating & Curating Relevant Content

Your GMB listing will be helpful in building your website’s content. The insights tool in Google My Business lets you know the search queries that are being used to find your business. This is valuable information since this is your local audience.

Creating New Content

Use the data from local searches to build new content on your site that is relevant to your potential clients even if the keywords didn’t create part of your initial keyword research. GMB compliments your website; using what you know about how your local community finds you will help you build out copy on service or product pages as well as blog content.

Remember, you can also publish posts on GMB. These posts stay active for 7 days on the panel; if you track trends in your industry you can create a content calendar for your GMB and link it to relevant content on your website.

Curating Content

Another way you can use GMB insights is to monitor how your published posts are performing. Are there certain posts that are resonating more for your local audience than others? Use those to curate content for social media posts and email marketing campaigns.

This also helps you sort through and audit the content on your website. Curate new content from old blog posts related to the topics that are trending on your GMB. Prune, reformat and restructure old content into new digestible pieces that help your visitors convert into customers. Remember, content is there to empower your customer with knowledge. Giving your website visitors the tools they need to make decisions builds trust which is an important part of nurturing leads.

Google ranks businesses on the SERP by relevance to what the searcher has requested. Having a robust library of helpful content keeps your visitors on your site longer which signals to Google that searchers are finding what they need on your site.

3. Maintaining a Consistent Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP)

The name, address and phone number (NAP) you give to Google on your GMB listing should be the same across the web. Just like in real life, it doesn’t make sense to give multiple people different names (it’s confusing) and calling the wrong number is annoying.

By maintaining a consistent NAP you’re also letting Google know that citations on other sites and social media platforms are about you! This helps Google help you get found. You’ve built up all of this confidence with Google and the end goal is that you want to be found on any site that will help you convert leads into customers.

Google doesn’t know that Jim also goes by Bob, so why would it know that a company that calls itself XYZ, Inc. is the same as XYZ & Co? Keep it simple and stick to one name, one address, and one phone number.

4. Collect Great Links

Link building is the most buzzed-about SEO strategy and for good reason. Like people, Google is skeptical and doesn’t immediately trust what you say about yourself. Inbound links or “backlinking” is a determining factor in your ranking. Think of inbound links to your website as a vote of confidence and the more you have from trusted and relevant sites the higher your popularity vote climbs.

There are many different ways to collect links from other websites and it’s up to you to decide how you want to go about collecting them.

  1. Influencer outreach
  2. Collect them organically through awesome content
  3. Creating your own
  4. Local links from customers or business partners

There also different links formats that can help with your SEO strategy, but if not done correctly could hinder your ranking – Choose wisely.

  1. Uninformative/CTA link (i.e. “click here”)
  2. URL link (i.e. www.yourdomain.com)
  3. Topic link text (i.e. <link>“your topic”</link>)

Inbound links are important, but there is a sort of social class that exists among them. You should be shooting for quality over quantity. Don’t pay someone to give you a “backlink” and don’t let your site be part of a link farming scam. Disavow links that are suspicious to keep things clear with Google. Earn your inbound links and you will be rewarded for it.

5. Make Google Reviews Your Priority

Your reviews are your reputation and Google reviews should always be prioritized over other review sites. Why? Your Google reviews will show up on your GMB listing and are likely the first thing that people searching for your business will see.

Google also wants to keep things native. The more reviews you have that are positive the more Google is willing to list your business in the local 3-pack or higher on the list on a map search.

Reviews, Your Reputation & Why You Should Care

People are no longer limited to their inner circle anymore when they are looking for recommendations. Reviews are there to serve the customer and maybe worse than having a bad reputation is not having one at all

Encourage your customers to leave a review on Google. Don’t worry if someone leaves a less than favorable review. It is natural that a customer has a bad experience. We are human after all. However, not making it right is where those bad reviews hurt you. Use the GMB feature to notify you when a review is posted and respond to your reviewers.

People want to be heard and acknowledging them in the space they want to be heard makes a bad situation a favorable one in the eyes of the people doing business with you. So instead of trying to hide negative commentary, embrace the haters and let it be a moment for your business to shine and show that they care about their customers’ experience.

BONUS Marketing Focus to Succeed with Local SEO

An integrated marketing plan is the best way to win the attention of your customers online. No one marketing effort is a silver bullet and should be used as an integrated effort across multiple online channels and platforms.