Local SEO Ranking Factors & Introduction to Hyperlocal SEO

For local businesses, reaching out to new customers in your area is very important. Earlier small business relied on traditional methods like radio and newspaper ads or word of mouth to attract business. Back in 2014, Google began to offer a ranking boost to businesses in-close proximity to the searcher in location-specific searches.

 “restaurant near me” | “car dealer near me” | “paediatrician near me”

With the recent COVID-19 pandemic, many retail stores shut down due to the government’s lockdown initiative.  This brought about a surge in searches for essentials and brands providing home delivery.  

In India itself, 97% of the consumers who search for your business are near to your business. Around 61% of those local searches directly result in purchasing a product.

near me searches have seen a massive uptick since March 2020. They have been increasing by 75% year-over-year, as reported by Think with Google. An earlier survey found only 34% of small businesses invest in SEO. This has made local SEO largely untapped for small businesses .

But today, digital marketing enables smaller business to sell their products in a localised area.

Check out the Local SEO Statistics for 2020.

What is local SEO?

Local SEO (local search engine optimisation) is optimising the website to improve traffic, leads and brand awareness for local search. Businesses that have physical locations and who serve their communities face-to-face can increase their search visibility by applying local SEO.

In other words, the process of creating your business visible through location-based searches is what local SEO strives at accomplishing. These businesses may include local grocery shops, doctors, plumbers, car dealers, mechanics, electricians, lawyers, home cleaning companies, etc.

What is hyperlocal SEO and how is it different from local SEO?

Hyperlocal SEO is next level of Local SEO which uses the same kind of optimisation. However, it’s focused on a smaller areas and localities such as neighbourhoods, streets, towns, spots and landmarks.

Local SEO on the other hand focuses on cities or regions. With every update, Google has pushed to offer even more relevant results i.e. provide users with a list of businesses in-close proximity to the user’s current location.

Nowadays more people are using their mobile phones to search for products and services. Hyperlocal SEO has made the search journey much simpler for customers. It has also made it easier to compete with other businesses for more niche hyperlocal search terms.

Why is local SEO and hyperlocal SEO important for business?

Majority of big brands and international companies are occupying the first organic results in the search engine result pages. It is important for small brands to topple these giants and showcase their business at the very top of the SERP.

According to Google, ‘local intent’ came from 46% of searches and they have optimised their algorithms for this. With Local SEO, 93% of search results show the ‘Google 3-pack’ which is the top 3 results most valuable for the user. For e.g. even if you are ranked 1 in the standard organic result for your targeted keyword, Google puts heavier weight on local results.

So, at the very beginning of an SERP, you will find a local search result will be listed as number 1 before a standard organic result. Since the Google Pigeon Update in 2014, getting a local business to rank highly on search engines has become far more difficult. Local SEO has become more competitive and many businesses recognise that they must optimise for local searches.

While local SEO is certainly beneficial for both businesses and the consumers on a city, region or district level, Google has further stepped up their game when providing results which will require hyperlocal SEO for your business to be found. For e.g. your riding around on your bike in Pune and suddenly your bike’s rear bursts. Chances are you will not search for a tyre repair shop in Pune.

Instead, you will need to find a shop that is closest to your location. This is where a user switches to his mobile and quickly types in the hyperlocal keyword on search like “tyre shop baner” or “tyre shop near me”. The search engines picks up their exact location, then pulls up a suitable business that doesn’t require them to travel far. If you would like your business to be front and centre for the search results, your ranking has got to be above other businesses, which can be achieved through hyperlocal SEO.

From here on, I will focus on local SEO since the only difference are the hyperlocal search terms added when optimising for hyperlocal SEO.

How Local SEO works?

For Local SEO to work, Google uses a set of ranking factors that are mentioned below to rank in the local search results page. These algorithms look for long tail-geographically based local/hyperlocal keywords that businesses target in their on-page content, local listings, social profiles, etc.

What are local SEO ranking factors?

Local SEO has a set of unique ranking signals that include a claiming a Google My Business page, using localised keywords, proximity of the person searching the business, consistent NAP (name, address, phone number), local citations, review sentiments, social media presence, start ratings, etc.

So, let’s start off with a few below:

Google My Business [GMB]

Every small business owner should claim/verify or create a Google My Business page. It is completely free, and it’s takes few minutes to setup. Google My Business is the most effective and simplest ways to start optimising for local SEO. Make sure to provide details like-

  • Categories – Primary & Secondary (if applicable)
  • Photos- Exterior and interior photos of your establishment, employees, customer engagement programs, office get-togethers, etc.
  • Working hours
  • Service areas
  • Phone number
  • Postal address
  • Website link
  • Relevant keywords in your GMB business title and business description

The more information you provide through your GMB listings, the stronger your local search presence becomes. A complete GMB profile will maximize your success with local SEO.

You could also use Bing Places for Business even though India hold’s just 7% of the market share to further increase the presence of your local business.

Localised Content & Keywords

If you would like to compete locally in search rankings, you should create content that includes local or hyperlocal keywords i.e. city, town or local area. You could blend in with what’s happening in your local area to your business on the pages of your website. If you want to rank for a specific keyword, you need to show search engines that your website is a relevant result for it. Search engines use crawlers to analyse each of your web pages and determine what they’re about. In short, keywords are important because they determine which searches your pages have the prospect to rank for.

Here are some other ways to improve up your content’s local SEO score:

Meta title: Include your targeted local or hyperlocal keywords here.

Meta description: An ideal meta description with local or hyperlocal search terms could be used to attract users with key information about your business.

Header tags: The H1 tags indicates the subject of a webpage. Place localised keywords here to send relevance signals for readers and search engine crawlers.

On-page content: This is one of the most important Local SEO factors and you must avoid keyword stuffing and provide relevant information as required for users.

Content Length: According to Backlinko, the typical length of a first-page result on Google is 1,890 words. Length may be a general indicator of quality, so fill your site with relevant and valuable content for users.

Local relevance of content: To be locally relevant, content should reference the areas surrounding your business. this will be in-content links to local sites or pertaining to local areas of interest.

GMB: The title and content of your GMB page must be relevant to local users.

NAP footer: Your NAP (name, address, phone number) should be within the footer of each page. NAPs should be consistent and accurate with the information in your GMB profile and with the structured data (schema) placed in your website’s backend.

Backlinks

Backlinks are an important factor for local SEO and play a crucial role in boosting your website’s rankings in organic search results. When another site links to yours and more authoritative these links are, it drives traffic and increases your website rankings. High-quality backlinks tell search engines that your website is trustworthy and credible. This boost in credibility helps improve your rankings. Link-building is a primary off-page technique for improving your local SEO ranking. Here are few link-building techniques when establishing strong link signals to your business:

  • Online Business Directories/Citations: Make sure you have claimed popular online directories like e.g. Justdial, Sulekha, Yellowpages, Foursquare, etc. Google considers many of these citation sites as high-quality, trustworthy local directory websites and your local business’s listing on these directories can often show in top search results on the search engines.
  • Review Listing Sites: These websites are another source of information where Google considers them to be useful and relevant for users. For e.g. claim your listings on Yelp, Glassdoor, Mouthshut, Zomato, Tripadvisor, etc. for better local SEO rankings.  

Reviews

Online reviews are important Local SEO component for ranking higher in search engines. Not only do online reviews correlate with higher local rankings, but positive reviews also can assist you getting more customers. Google probably also uses reviews on 3rd party sites (Justdial, Sulekha) too for ranking purposes.

When reviewers use local or hyperlocal related keywords for e.g. car dealer in baner, or best pharmacist in Goregaon, it sends signals to Google that you are a trusted local business. Getting reviews on your Google My Business listings sites is a huge boost to your local SEO ranking factor – so try to get a solid number of 5-star ratings on Google My Business first.

On the flip-side, negative reviews on your Google My Business profile can hurt your rankings and not responding to them can further decreases to your ranking. In some cases, the percentage of negative reviews not responded to can also have an impact on your overall local SEO ranking factor.

Bottom line here is getting positive and high-quality reviews can improve your business’ visibility and ranking.

Please note: Avoid inviting reviews from all your customers. Asking for multiple reviews can backfire because it will look unnatural to potential customers, and those reviews might be hidden or blocked by the admins of those sites because they appear suspicious.

Schema

Schema was created by Google, Yahoo and Bing with a goal to create and provide support with tags that search engines could use to better understand and display data. Any business can benefit from Schema mark-up in order to gain an edge in SERPs. Structured data markups for local SEO generates SERP display data including business working hours, postal address, various departments, website, Google maps link, phone numbers, etc that is specific to certain businesses and appears as entities across the SERPs.

User Experience & On-page Behaviour

The way users interact with your site in-a-way can affect your website rankings. User behaviour sends signals to Google that indicate whether or not your site is useful for visitors. While these factors don’t directly impact your rankings, they can bring in a positive user experience through the following factors:

Bounce rate: The is an indicator of how often visitors reach your page from the search results and leave immediately. A high bounce rate indicates that your content isn’t relevant, leading to a lower ranking. It’s important that you simply keep the users on your page with engaging and relevant content so that you can decrease your bounce rate.

Pages/session: If people browse through your website and find value, they’re going increase average time spend on the page. This behaviour is important for your SEO rankings. Adding images, improving content quality, and on-page organisations gets users to spend more time on the page. Also, it’s better to steer your visitors by getting them to multiple pages, instead of only one or two through internal linking and related topics.

Click-through rate (CTR): This is the frequency with which people click on the link to your website in search compared to competitors. The more people clicking through, the more relevant your page appears to search engines.  In my previous article, I mentioned that CTRs for the 1st three results are higher a lot of people click on them because they’re perceived as the most relatable to a user’s search inquiry. You want to have a high CTR because it indicates that users have an interest in your business and find your website to be helpful.

Clicks-to-call: A research conducted by Google, showed 40% of mobile searchers use click-to-call. Google interprets a call from the mobile search results page as a ranking signal of relevance.

Clicks-to-action: To encourage a positive user experience, its best to give your visitors a sense of direction. You could do this by creating a call to action (CTA) buttons. It’s common for local businesses to miss out on this opportunity that could lead to less leads. By including CTAs, you’ll increase the quantity of pages people visit, encourage them to require action (download, sign up, view, etc).

So, let me know what your thoughts are by leaving a comment below and don’t forget to share!

What is SEO and how it works?

SEO is a complex digital marketing strategy that brands use to make their content more appealing to search engines, ergo- providing the best service towards its users.

SEO helps brands improve their website’s presence in search results i.e. on search engines like Google, Bing, Yandex, Yahoo, Baidu, etc.  This can involve making certain technical SEO changes to your website design, making it SEO friendly website and SEO content friendly that focuses on user intent.

A study done by Backlinko and Search Engine Watch found out that the 1st position in the organic result is 10 times more likely to receive a click compared to a page in 10th position.

Furthermore, the 1st organic result receives 33% of search traffic compared to 18% for the 2nd organic result and lowers further down in search engine results page (SERP).

All in all, one of the main SEO goals is to get the website on top in SERP.

A well-developed SEO strategy will involve a blend of two types of SEO techniques which are:

  • On-Page SEO (On-Website SEO Techniques)

    On-page SEO or on-site SEO, includes producing content associated with high-value keywords and then optimising the content to make sure that the search engines bots (crawlers) know what the content is about. This involves optimising the website’s meta data for e.g. page titles, alt tags, header tags, meta descriptions, URL structure, internal linking, keyword placement, schema, and many more.
  • Off-Page SEO (Off-Website SEO Techniques)

    Off-page SEO or off-site SEO, is content that links your website from third party websites by creating backlinks to drive traffic and improve rankings. This technique of promoting the content across various platforms can be done through guest postings, social media, blogging, influencer marketing or content syndication.  These measures are meant to reflect your website’s social media authority and overall domain authority.

In my experience, off-page SEO is MORE difficult and tedious than on-page as this involves building trust and credibility for your brand.

Why is SEO important for business?

seo_on_keyboard

Google alone gets over 3.5 billion searches every day and no money in the world can pay Google or any program to occupy any position within the organic results. As more and more people use Google and other search engines to seek out products and services, it is vital to rank highly for relevant keywords that users are searching for. With reference to the above studies mentioned earlier, the disparity between the highest and lower ranking sites in SERP indicate clearly that brands desiring attention from online customers must boost their rankings in order to get the highest traffic and clicks.

Brands promoting their services and/or products online must concentrate their SEO efforts to make sure that their share of voice and visibility to customers isn’t compromised. SEO is a critical component in the overall digital marketing strategy that ensures a robust online presence and can engage with their customers. In short, SEO helps business by:

  • Expanding your visibility on the search engines
  • Increasing website traffic
  • Increase sales & leads
  • Builds trust and credibility
  • Increases brand awareness & equity
  • Drives offline sales

How SEO works?

With over 200+ ranking factors in Google search algorithm, there are many on-page and off-page factors to think about and actions that should be implemented in order to rank your website.

For instance, the search algorithms contain spiders aka bots that analyze your websites- page titles, social signals, backlinks, internal linking, blogs and determine whether your content is of high quality and useful for users, or

If your website is search engine friendly which makes it easier for indexing and crawling your website, or whether your website is mobile-friendly since many users access digital information from their mobile phones.  

These spiders collect data and information about your website and determine if your webpage serves user search intent. To begin with search engine optimisation, you would first require understanding the 3 fundamentally important questions about your client–

  1. Who your client is?
  2. What services/product your clients sells?
  3. Where does your client sell products/services?

Once you answer these basic questions, it’s time to move on to the next step:

Step 1: Keyword Research

Keyword research is foundation of an SEO strategy and the most crucial part in better understanding your client’s target market and analyzing how they are searching for your content, services, or products. As an SEO professional, you must find out what keywords, short or long-tail search terms are users typing in the search engines and how many people are searching. These popular keywords/search terms are to be ranked for in the search engines.

There are a handful of online tools that an SEO expert would recommend you use, which are:

Google Keyword Planner is the most popular keyword research tool since the data comes (well) directly from Google. All you must do is

  • Create an account,  
  • Go to keyword planner tool
  • Click discover new keywords
  • Enter a search term or keyword that customers might use to find your content online
  • Adjust your targeted marketed and language if applicable
  • Click Get Results

The Keyword Planner will show the monthly search volume trend for that keyword and provide you a list of keyword ideas with their average monthly searches which might be useful in your content.

Google Keyword Planner – Keyword Trend

While discovering relevant keywords for your content, you will come across high- and low competition keywords which determines how challenging it would be for you to rank them. So, it’s better to prioritize and pick keywords that would be best suited in your overall content strategy.

Other popular keyword research tools include:

  1. SEM Rush
  2. KW Finder
  3. KeywordTool.io
  4. Ahrefs Keyword Planner
  5. Moz Keyword Explorer
  6. Keywords Everywhere
  7. Google Trends

Pro Tip: Always keep an eye on your competitors keywords and it’s better to prioritise high search volume keywords that your competitor is not currently ranking for.

Once you finalise and decided on the appropriate keywords that you would like to rank for, then move on to the second step i.e. content and on-page

Step 2: Content Optimisation and On-Page SEO

SEO and Content go hand in glove as there’s a deep relationship between both terms and is often difficult to know the nuances of how they relate. In other words, great content would ensure your SEO success.

The primary thing that must be understood is that there’s an enormous difference between content and optimisation, and every term applies and appeals to two entirely distinct audiences. Content, for instance, is targeted to readers- great content will attract readers, keep them interested, and encourage them to know or buy your product or service. Optimisation, on the other hand, has little or nothing to do with readers and instead is directed towards search algorithms, crawlers, search engine spiders that use your keywords to enhance your SEO ranking.

Simply put, content optimisation is the process of creating content that is written in a way to reach the most relevant audience. The method of optimising content should include relevant keywords present, i.e. by adding meta data like title tags, meta descriptions, and relevant links. You should also optimise your header tags (headlines) to increase CTRs (click-through-rate) and visual images for increased user engagement.

The reality is, if your content can’t be found by your audience, it won’t be very successful, which is why content optimisation is such an important step within the content marketing process.

Optimising Meta Tags

The meta title & meta description is a crucial HTML tag, because it tells search engines what your website is about. Optimise your website meta tags by ensuring that you include your targeted keywords. These keywords should also appear on the website more than once. The title tag also appears at the top of the browser when the page is viewed, and if the browser is tabbed, it’ll be the name of the tab for the page being viewed. As a result, title tags are important for search engines crawlers and explains your page’s content for your audience.

meta tags example
An example of how meta tags look in search engine results page
meta title on web browser
Page title shown on tab of web browser

You can also further improve website by optimising images, videos, headings, internal linking, schema, website structure, robots.txt, url structure and many more (new blogs coming soon!)

Step 3: Off-Page Optimisation and Link Building

Once you’ve created the content on your website and optimised it, the subsequent step is to promote that content. One important ranking factor that search engines use to work out a website’s quality is that the number of inbound links (backlinks) to the website. You would need to create as many high-quality backlinks as possible. A link from another website is sort of a vote of confidence that your site contains quality content. Getting links to your website shows search engines that you are trustworthy and reliable

However, not all links count an equivalent. A link from an authoritative website like BMW would be worth tons than the ones coming from a smaller website. BMW features a lot of traffic and plenty of inbound links from other sites, so it’s considered a high-authority website. The great thing is that you simply don’t need to start out by getting links to your site. Many SEO experts have countless ways for getting links to their sites. Some link building tactics include blogger outreach, blog directories, comment link, articles, influencer marketing, social media, brand mentions, getting press coverage, etc.

Off-page SEO is as important as on-site SEO. If you would like your SEO campaigns to achieve success, then you must blend in both techniques to ensure maximum success.

Step 4: UX and SEO

Creating a great user experience (UX) should be another goal as search engines are becoming better at measuring user experience factors. With each update that Google has released, it has leveled up towards providing more user-friendly results. Over the years, UX and SEO have created a partnership and share a common goal of giving users the best experience i.e. SEO is directed towards search engines, and UX towards your website’s visitors.

Websites should load quickly as slow loading sites frustrate users and cause them to go away and move on to another site. This increases the bounce rate and may hurt your website rankings.  Websites should even be mobile responsive so that users can view and access your website easily on multiple devices and different browsers. Avoid having too many ads on your site or having an excessive number of pop-ups. These are just few of key factors that influence your website rankings.

To sum up, UX is an important a part of your SEO tasks. You should work for your website visitors and not just for the search engines guidelines. The more attracting and optimized for users your website are going to be, the more traffic and returning visits you’ll gain.

So, what are your thoughts? Leave a comment below and we can discuss this further!

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