By Savannah McClelland
Local search engine marketing or local SEO is a geographically-targeted approach to enhancing your website. Where global SEO gives your business the ability to reach any searcher, local optimizations help your business to access people looking for products and services in a particular area. If your business is in an actual location, as opposed to being operated through the web, local SEO is a vital step to take in improving your marketing.
One of the main benefits of local SEO is that by its very nature it brings you more targeted traffic—while global SEO will increase your traffic overall, local SEO will help your site to rank in listings for people looking for a particular business in a particular area. So if you are, for example, a pediatrician in Fort Worth, Texas, local SEO will help you rank higher for users searching for “Fort Worth pediatrician,” or search terms derived from it.
According to multiple online surveys, approximately 58% of users trust local search results and 61% overall consider the local results relevant. 49% of local searches are performed without a certain business or brand in mind—meaning that searchers are looking for types of products and services, rather than a particular company.
There are some basic steps that every business can and should take to optimize their ranking in local searches. The first is to sign up on Google Places, and then claim the listing, which will allow you to add additional information. Claiming the listing also makes your business look more legitimate. Once you claim your business, maintaining the page with address, contact info, products and services, hours and types of payment you accept, are the next steps. The more complete your profile, the better.
Another important step is to get reviews. Reviews on Google are the most important, but reviews on other websites, such as Yelp will also help. One of the metrics that Google looks at in terms of ranking local pages is the quantity and quality of the reviews a business gets. Also, ensure that your business has a social media presence which features your address, phone number, and other contact information—these count in Google as citations, which help the search engine to rank your website.
Make sure that you also have your on-site optimizations in order as well; at least some of the links you build should contain your city and state, or your zip code, as an anchor. As important as what you should do are the things you absolutely shouldn’t: Do not buy reviews. It seems tempting, and there are examples of clearly bought reviews that can be seen anywhere, but it ends in disaster; Google doesn’t always catch fake reviews initially, but they are constantly improving their system. Other sites, like Yelp, lean on the side of caution and banish even legitimate overly positive reviews; too many potentially faked reviews can lead to a lot of problems for the business on the different sites.
While some of the optimizations are things that businesses can do for themselves, for an overall campaign it is best to get the services of an experienced professional, who can take control of all aspects of the project at once. Instead of trying to play catch-up with the different threads of your campaign, a professional can see the entire picture, and they have the dedication it takes to build and maintain the campaign to get the results you want.