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 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.
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 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!