If your business has a physical location, you may be thinking about how to capture more business from the local market. Properly optimize your website for local search can give your business a ranking boost. Local SEO helps businesses to show up in Google Map with location specific searches. We will explain how local SEO can better help customers to find your business online.
What is local SEO?
Local SEO is search engine optimization targeting the local market of certain geography. For example, when you search "ice cream shop near Los Angeles, California", you will get a list of results showing applicable businesses in that particular demographic area.
Google My Business for Local SEO Optimization
Most businesses can benefit from local SEO, especially if you have a physical store. This is also true when your main target market is set in certain geographic areas. Whether you are B2C retail or a B2B service provider, completing your profile with Google My Business (formerly Google My Place for Business) listing will work wonders for you.
Complete the following information about your company in Google My Business. This information should also appear on your website:
- Company name
- Zip Code
- Local phone number
- Photos of your business
Below are 2 examples of business listings in Google My Business. Search results will display detail information of businesses such as phone number, address, photos and even reviews.
- Snapshot of Ritz Carlton in Los Angeles, CA within Google
- The listing shows the name of the business, reviews, address, contact number, and also an ad for customers to book a room
- Snapshot of ice cream shops in Los Angeles, CA query within Google
- The listing you see here shows the name of the business, website, reviews, address, and contact number
How Local SEO Improves Business Online
Local SEO is such a broad subject. Like all SEO optimization effort, it takes time to see results. It is not just about adding a citation or using tactics to give you overnight results. Desired local SEO success is achieved by building an online reputation while improving organic search ranking.
7 Practices to Optimize Website for Local SEO Search
1. Set Up Citation on Your Website
Citation is your contact information. It can include:
- Business name
- Phone number
Make sure the citations are in visible places on your website. It is a good idea to include them on the navigation or footer where they will appear on every webpage.
In addition, make sure the addresses you have on different profiles across the web are consistent in formatting. For example, if you make any abbreviations like "Ave.", make sure you do that in every profile. The same goes for dash and dots with names and phone numbers.
2. Create a Locations .KML File
Let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of what a .KML file is about and how it works on Google. Incorporate a Keyhole Markup Language file (KML file) with location specific data. This file will help your mobile users to display geographical information within Google Map and Google Earth.
Similar to an .XML file for the sitemap, below is a sample of a .KML file.
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<name>This is my name</name>
<description>This is the description of my website</description>
<coordinates>Longitude and latitude coordinates</coordinates>
For more information on Keyhole Markup Language, see Google’s KML Tutorial.
Once the .KML file is saved and uploaded to your website, add the URL to the .XML sitemap. Also, make sure the XML sitemap is uploaded to your Google Search Console account.
3. Claim Your Free Google My Business
First, you will need to have a Google email account to set up Google My Business. It is quick and easy to do.
Second, make your profile as complete as possible. Here are 6 important things to consider when you fill out Google My Business profile:
- Confirm your business with Google to show that you are authorized to claim the listing. You have the option to confirm your business by selecting a mail in code or a quick phone call.
- The Email you submit to Google listing should be the email associated with your domain name and not public emails like @gmail, @yahoo, or @live.
- Input your business name and address in the same format across the web.
- Use your local phone number which shows the local area code instead of a toll-free number.
- Choose the category your business falls under. This helps google to better identify you in search queries.
- Write a detailed description and upload photos that represent your business. You should care about your online profile like how you care about your actual storefront. It is the first impression to potential customers online.
4. Take Advantage of Schema Local Markup
Schema Local Markup is a type of microdata that understands how to efficiently treat, identify and display website content. It helps search engines to better analyze and index the location of your business.
For example, it can properly read and display hours of operation, addresses, dates, and even menus in search queries. For a full list of Shema markup, visit Shema.org.
5. Get on Google 3 Pack Local Listing
Google 3 Pack local listing is a vertical ribbon of 3 business listings located above organic search results. This is another great opportunity for you to boost local search coverage. It includes location indicators on Google Maps, business contact information, and a photo. Google pulls this information from your Google My Business profile, website, or social media profiles.
Note that the 3 Pack is hyper-localized. This means Google will rotate different sets of businesses to display in search results. In addition, when you click the “More places” option at the bottom of 3 Pack, 20 more business listings will appear on the map view search results.
Now, why do some businesses have images next to their listings? They are usually photos from Google My Business, other public websites, or review websites like Zagat. So make sure you complete applicable online profiles with legible photos.
6. Know that Google is "Centroid Bias"
What does this mean? Let’s say your ice cream shop is actually not in the city center of Los Angeles, California. It is near the border of the greater Los Angeles County. When your customer lookup “ice cream shop in Los Angeles” in Google, search queries may have the tendency to bias search results towards businesses located closer to the center of Los Angeles city.
So in a situation like this, geolocation of your business may be putting you at a disadvantage. Although with the new Google Local Listing, centroid bias is less of a factor as long as your website’s SEO organic ranking is strong. Learn more about SEO strategies to improve your website ranking.
7. Gain Quality Online Reviews
Yelp, Foursquare, Google Place, are all free, review-based local business profiles you should claim. They help your business to increase local search exposures. According to Moz, 67% of shoppers are influenced by online reviews.
More and more consumers do their online due diligence before they make a decision about a certain business. Be it a restaurant, a retailer or a local service provider. Just think about how many times you’ve used Google or Yelp to research a new dining spot or a dentist.
So make the effort to manage your online reputation. Encourage existing customers to leave reviews about the positive experiences they have received. Remember to always value quality over quantity.
Local SEO is an Ongoing Work
It really doesn’t end here. Like all SEO work, it is always ongoing. Long term ranking success depends on consistent effort. Focus on creating quality content and invest time into social media marketing as well as building positive online reviews. You can observe improvement in SEO ranking over time.