2020 Digital Marketing Insights on Local SEO
For small businesses, as well as larger brands with local physical locations, local SEO is a critical consideration. Google continues to focus on building awareness of local businesses through the SERPs, and consumers are more and more frequently using search to find service providers, retailers, and other businesses within their specific geographic area.
Local businesses have traditionally faced significant challenges in the realm of online visibility and traction. Because the Internet puts everyone on an even playing field, searchers were as likely to find listings for companies on the other side of the planet as they were within their immediate area. This led to a decline in local shopping, as ecommerce businesses thrived, but Google quickly shifted gears by introducing new tools and capabilities to help improve search based on not just user intent, but also on geographic location.
Today, a consumer searching for “running shoes” on their smartphone will first be presented with a list of local retailers in their immediate area offering running shoes and other athletic apparel. Farther down the page, Google will present links to sites like shoe manufacturers, or ecommerce companies. This helps to mitigate the initial negative impact on physical stores and local businesses while still enabling consumers to broaden their search if they so desire.
Of course, local SEO has changed, evolved, and grown a great deal over the years. The steps you took five or six years ago to optimise your online presence for local searches may no longer be enough to ensure that your website is visible or even relevant to your audience. As we move through 2020 and beyond, it will be even more crucial for business owners and decision makers to understand local SEO best practices and optimisation techniques to ensure you are able to rank well in the SERPs and connect with your audience.
In this guide, we’ll explore the most important things to know about local SEO in 2020 and beyond to help improve your digital marketing success.
- Claim Your Google My Business Page: The single most important thing for any business hoping to generate more local SEO traction is to claim your Google My Business page. It’s free from Google and it provides you with plenty of tools to help build your success. This page literally allows you to tell Google where your business is located, what you do, who your audience is, and more. If you do not claim (and complete) your GMB page, then all your other localisation efforts are most likely for naught. Haven’t claimed your page yet? Make sure you do it now.
- Use Google Posts: Google Posts are part of your GMB page, and they can offer a dramatic increase for your traction, as well as relevance within the SERPs. Think of them like blog posts, but within the Google framework, rather than being tied to your website. As such, they provide you with a way to share information about your services, to connect with your audience, and to position yourself as a thought leader within your industry.
- Location Information the Website Footer: Once you’ve claimed (and completed) your GMB page, you need to turn your attention to other details. One of the most important is also the simplest. Check the footer of your company’s website. If you don’t see your company name and address there, it’s time to rectify the situation. This should be present within the footer for every single page on your site, including product or service pages. It’s all about ensuring your website is optimised for your location.
- NAP: NAP, or name, address, and phone number, is an essential consideration. As mentioned, it needs to be present in the footer of every page on your website, but you also need to make sure that every single instance of your company’s NAP across the entire Internet is consistent and the same. While Google is pretty intelligent about a lot of things, it can read your address differently if you do not ensure consistency across the board.
For instance, if your business is located in Suite 8, but you alternate how you write that between “Suite 8”, “St. 8” and “Ste. #8”, Google will actually read this as three distinct addresses. That creates serious problems for your localisation efforts. So, ensuring consistent NAP usage everywhere is vital. That applies to your website, but also to business directories, your social media accounts, review sites like Yelp, and more.
- Revisit Your Site’s Linking: While it might not seem like it, your site’s internal linking structure has a big impact on visibility and ranking. It also helps support navigation, which is a critical consideration with Google’s rankings, provides information about page hierarchy and information architecture, and spreads page authority and ranking power throughout your entire website.
- Pay Attention to Behind the Scenes Content: When you think about digital content, chances are good you imagine things like PPC ads, social media content, blog posts, and whitepapers. Those are important parts, certainly, but there is a lot of content that works just as hard to help with your ranking but does so behind the scenes. Your URLs, title tags, meta content, and headers are all examples of this. Where possible, these should be localised to help support your efforts, but don’t throw in local geographic terms unless it makes sense to do so.
- Create Geo-Targeted Content: Content marketing is an enormous part of your overall digital marketing strategy. Make sure that the content you create, particularly the content that shows up on your website, is geo-targeted. Again, only do this where it makes sense, as using too heavy a hand may backfire, as it will look spammy. Some of the best places to use geo-targeting techniques include customer testimonials, case studies, and customer success stories. Using your customers’ names and locations makes plenty of sense here, and will help you ramp up your localisation efforts without creating content that might be considered low-quality.
- Clarify Your Service Areas: If your website visitors do not see the name of their area listed with your services, they will most likely leave to visit a competitor. Make sure that your service pages mention the areas you serve. This can be as simple as a brief paragraph near the bottom of the page, or you could list specific services offered within various areas (if your services vary by geographic area).
- Create Location Pages: Whether you have a single location, or your company spans multiple areas, you can and should create location pages. These are geo-targeted landing pages that speak directly to your customers within those specific areas, provide information about your products or services, and help you build relevance and traction online. Your location pages should include your NAP, as well, but may also include other relevant, localised content, such as customer testimonials or reviews. Each location page should target a particular area, but also needs to be unique. Do not reuse content from page to page with only the location name changed.
- Localise Your Content: Your website’s content plays a significant role in how well you rank in local searches. By creating localised content, you can provide more value for website visitors while also ranking well within the SERPs. What should you write about, though? Actually, it could be almost anything, but it’s best if it somehow ties in with your business or your industry. For instance, if you’ll be at a tradeshow in a specific area, create a blog post about it. If your business is sponsoring a local sports team, highlight that within your content. If you’re getting involved in a local cause, such as pollution mitigation, clean-up, or something similar, highlight your activities to support both localisation and corporate responsibility.
- Create Content That Focuses on Customer Needs: Content is an essential part of your digital marketing plan, and you need to make sure that you’re able to create plenty of information-rich content that answers your customers’ queries. What questions do they need to answer? What problems do they need to solve? How does your product or service fit into the equation? Based on these questions, you need to create content that acts as customer service, with the end goal of converting information seekers into shoppers. In addition to providing information and education, pepper in location names and relevant information into the content you create.
- Make Sure You Have Plenty of Citation Pages: Citations are nothing more than mentions of your business name (and possibly location) on sites that don’t belong to you. Google sees these as signs of relevance and authority within your industry. Make sure that you have plenty of citation pages out there. Get listed with Yelp, for instance. Note that citations do not necessarily need to include a link back to your website – every mention of your name will build your rankings. Not sure if you have any citations? Google your business name and see what results show up.
- Optimise Your External Citation Pages: While you might not own those external citation pages we discussed previously, you can optimise them for better traction and to help drive traffic where you want it. How? Here are a few quick tips:
- Check the NAP and make sure the information is correct. If not, correct it or have the citation page owner correct it.
- Make sure there’s a link to your website (to direct traffic – Google gives you juice just for your name being used).
- Complete your profile/account. Fill in all the fields you can, including offering a description of your products/services, your service areas, and more.
- Correct Incorrect Information: Let’s face it. Information about your business is going to be online whether you put it there personally or not. The problem with that is this information is often inaccurate, and can lead to conflicting results/listing with Google. It’s vital that you take a proactive stance toward citations and listings that you don’t own but can influence. Again, turn to Google. Begin tracking down pages where your business information is listed, and make sure that your NAP data is accurate, as well as any other information listed. If you find inaccuracies, contact the site owner/manager and ask to have it corrected. If they won’t correct it, try to have it removed.
- Ask Customers to Review You: One way that you can build relevance and gain off-site citations to enhance local SEO is to ask your customers to review you. Have them go to Yelp or whatever review site you want to use and leave their review of your company. The more reviews you have, the better your localisation efforts will pan out. You can incentivise your customers to leave reviews if you like, but often just asking is all that’s needed.
- Monitor and Respond to Reviews: It’s not enough to ask for reviews. You also need to be proactive in managing them. If a review is positive, thank the reviewer. If it’s not so great, take the time to find out what went wrong with the experience. Reach out to the reviewer and see what it would take to make the situation right. Often, that’s all you’ll need to do to get them to change their rating and modify their review to be more positive. Remember that online reviews are your business’s reputation, so it pays to take an active stance when it comes to monitoring and managing them. With that being said, you need to avoid certain actions related to reputation management.
- Don’t Ask for the Review to Be Changed: The customers’ review is theirs – they own it. If you do a good job, they might change it, but they are never under any obligation to do so. Instead of asking to have negative reviews changed, make sure that your customer service and customer experience are up to par in the first place. If your team does their job correctly the first time, most negative reviews will never occur in the first place. Of course, it’s impossible to please everyone all the time, so some will happen no matter what you do.
- Don’t Argue: No matter who was in the right, don’t argue with the customer in the review comments. Your responsibility is to reach out and discover what went wrong. Accept responsibility for it no matter what, and then begin to rebuild the relationship.
- Improve Your Reviews and Ratings: Google continues to tweak its algorithms and in 2020 and beyond, will begin rewarding local businesses with better/more reviews the lion’s share when it comes to ranking in the SERPs. In short, the more reviews you have, and the more positive those reviews are, the more likely it is that you’ll be surfaced prominently in relevant searches. So, it’s obviously in your best interest to get as many (satisfied) customers to leave reviews as possible, with a focus on Google itself, and then on other sites.
- Make Sure Your Site is Mobile-Friendly: In most cases, local searches are not conducted from PCs or laptops. They’re conducted from smartphones, and often done on the go. Make sure that your website is optimised for mobile visitors. A responsive website design ensures that every visitor has a positive experience, no matter what device they might be using to access your website. It’s also a critical factor in gaining traction with Google, as mobile-friendly design is one of the search giant’s key considerations.
- Know Your Competitors and What They’re Doing: No matter how large or small your niche might be, you have competition. It’s your responsibility to know what businesses are competing with you, as well as what they are doing in the local marketplace. Delve into local market analytics and answer the following questions:
- What are my competitors doing in terms of keyword optimisation?
- How are they handling reviews and ratings?
- What sort of complaints do they have?
- Do they have a good or bad rating on Google?
- How robust is their Google My Business page?
- What local areas do they actually serve?
- Use Question-Based Keywords: In the past, keywords were pretty simple. Then Google began using phrases, which could be almost an entire sentence. Today, we are on the cusp of entire questions being used as keywords, particularly as more and more consumers turn to voice search. Make sure that your website is optimised for question-based keywords and phrases. For instance, if someone were typing manually into Google, they might search for “clothing stores near me”. However, the same consumer might use voice search by asking, “what are the nearest clothing stores to my location?”.
- Know Your Audience: It’s imperative that you know your audience intimately. You need to know what it is that they are searching for and why your business is the best suited to fill that need. Make that a major focus of your content creation plan.
- Segment Your Audience: Regardless of how narrow your geographic focus might be, you cannot afford to market to your entire audience in the same way. For instance, suppose you run a shoe store – some of your customers will be interested in athletic shoes, while others may want dress flats and yet others need special support shoes. Segment your audience based on needs, and then create localised content to reach each of those segments.
- Rank in Google Maps: Google Maps are displayed in the SERPs with relevant local business results. Make sure that your rank well in Maps results. This will require that you complete your Google My Business page, but also reinforce that information with local NAP citations through business directories and other online listings.
- Embed Google Maps: If you have a contact or about us page on your website (and you should), consider embedding a Google Map there. Not only does this provide value to your website visitors, but it is another local SEO signal for Google.
- Include CTAs: Calls-to-action, or CTAs, are used to tell your website visitors what you want them to do. With many local businesses, that’s making a phone call. Use strategically placed CTAs throughout your website content to tell your visitors what you want them to do, and include your business’s phone number. Make sure that it is formatted the same each time, though.
Keep reading to explore three bonus tips to help you maximise your local SEO results and build a stronger online presence.
- Guide Your Customers at Each Stage: As a business owner, it’s your responsibility to guide your website visitors through each stage of their journey. You need to do that with relevant, authoritative content that speaks directly to customer needs and intent.
- Set Measurable Goals: What do you want to achieve? It’s not enough to say you want to rank well in the SERPs for local searches. What do you want to rank well for? Whom do you want searching for your business? Set measurable goals that will guide your progress forward.
- Measure Everything: You cannot make progress toward a goal if you don’t measure the right metrics and KPIs. Know what matters to your company and then continually gauge progress toward reaching those goals. This applies to everything from traffic statistics to PPC costs and results, blogging effectiveness, local SEO success, competitor strategies, and more.
Work with an expert
Local SEO offers visibility and traction for small businesses by putting you on an even playing field with larger firms. However, even companies with multiple locations can benefit from local optimisation techniques. With that being said, it can be quite challenging to rank well in the local SERPs if you’re not a digital marketing specialist. If you are struggling to make your mark in the local area and rank well for local SEO, we can help. Reach out to Emarkable by calling us at 01 808 1301 to schedule a consultation on your needs.