The interconnectivity of the internet has made it easy for businesses to cast as wide a net as possible, hoping to catch the attention of as many people worldwide as possible. While a theoretical audience of billions is incredibly appealing, it’s important to note that 46% of all Google Searches are local. These searches – those including modifying words such as cities, areas, or postcodes – are a vital source of revenue and exposure for smaller businesses looking to break into any industry. As crucial as a broad-market appeal is, cementing your business as a cornerstone of your geographic area is a fantastic first step that establishes a foundation for you to expand from and fall back upon continually.
The key to turning heads in this sector is Local SEO (Search engine optimisation). Local SEO works much like regular SEO but on a smaller scale, allowing greater control, that rewards a keen eye for detail. Managing your online presence and communications with search engines on such a small scale means that when your potential customers find you, they find you at your best.
In the United Kingdom, 93.4% of all search engine traffic is done through Google. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the algorithms that determine which results appear where are based on layers of incredibly intricate datasets. Ensuring your business’ data is constantly optimised in line with this algorithm is paramount for acquiring some prime digital real estate. These prime locations can differ depending on the service your business provides.
For example, Googling “local cocktail bars” will display results based on their geographic location on Google Maps, with only a select few primed to grab the eye. These mapped locations – often called ‘snack pack’ results – can drive as many as 33% of clicks following a local search. The ever-changing nature of both your business and Google’s algorithm can make optimisation feel like a herculean task, which is why many people opt to outsource their needs to Local SEO service providers such as ourselves. Contacting our team of experts gives your business its best chance of landing in the upper echelons of the search engine’s results.
As monolithic as the Google empire may seem, it is essential to remember that search engines exist outside of it. Bing and Yahoo! together control a little over 5% of the United Kingdom’s traffic, which is not a figure to disregard in real numbers. Focussing purely on Google and letting your other presences wilt is an easy way to alienate potential customers. The opposite is also true – maintaining a consistent position that spans all engines gives you a significant edge over your competition. Much like Google, Bing provides business owners with the tools needed to shift the algorithm in their favour (if you know how to wield them correctly).
Both ‘Google My Business’ and ‘Bing Places’ are simple ways of climbing onto the search engine ladder. While they may not be enough to rocket your business to the number one spot, they are an excellent first step that will slide your business in front of many of your less technologically literate competitors. Ensuring you are providing up-to-date, accurate information online is absolutely critical in reaching new customers and building the trust of those who already know you. This is especially true during the Coronavirus pandemic, where shifting government restrictions can have a drastic impact on your opening times or the services you are able to provide. If your search engine presence tells a customer the incorrect information, they might be put off your business for life.
Of course, Local SEO is not limited by the tools search engines provide. The web of interlinking connections that establish a business’ placement on the results list is complex and requires expertise to manipulate in your favour. One crucial aspect Local SEO services will examine is how optimised each page of your website is when taken both separately and as a cohesive entity. Perhaps more so here than any other, consistency is key. If your pages are displaying different information to one another, then your digital presence inevitably becomes confused. The exception here is if your business has separate pages for different physical locations, but even so, you should keep the noticeable differences between each to a minimum.
When it comes to service providers, make sure you are explicit in stating your business’ location. Most search engines will track the IP of their users and display results that seem to match up accurately – if you are not hammering home where your business is, then you are jeopardising your chances of getting noticed. This is just one of the many aspects of home page optimisation that business owners have to keep on top of to avoid being swallowed by the algorithm.
Local SEO service providers can significantly help with these tweaks and select your website’s keywords. Ensuring your keywords appear in the visible section of your page and in the HTML code. Your meta titles and descriptions are incredibly important in landing high in the search results rankings, and SEO servicers provide expert advice to maximise returns on these features.
Another is the usage of Schema Markup to deliver effective results that transform searchers into customers. Schema lets the owner of a website index and defines items on their page in more detail than is allowed with baseline HTML, which can then be translated and displayed when the search engine pulls that page. By using this extended vocabulary, businesses can communicate with search engines much more effectively and, by extension, talk directly to potential customers. Google provides tools to make use of this (“Google’s Structured Markup Helper”). However, its scope and customizability are severely restrained. For this reason, we recommend connecting with a professional local SEO service provider to make the most of this fantastic suite of communication tools.
When it comes to climbing the search engine rankings, your best on-site option is producing and publishing quality content that draws people in and keeps them engaged. Whether these are long-form articles or shorter, list-based pieces will depend entirely on the industry your business is operating within. Legal services, for instance, should often opt for longer and more professional pieces. In contrast, those with perhaps a younger audience would benefit more from shorter, snappier articles that grab attention and (importantly) clicks. You should note that the purpose of this content is often not to convert readers into customers – although this certainly is a boon – but to drive engagement and ingratiate your website into the social media sharing web.
Drawing as many unique visitors to your business as possible is always beneficial, and this is especially true of those looking to optimise their search engine presence. If you produce high-quality, shareable content that people enjoy, you will quickly find yourself climbing higher and higher in the search engine rankings.
It is also a good idea to centre these posts around something local. Whether this is a particular business, a resource, or just the area itself, ensuring your business is associated with the locality makes it far more likely that your content will engage those in the community. As you are not necessarily looking to drive purchases from these publications, you can feel free to create content that is only tangentially related to the service you provide. While we do not recommend going entirely from the left field, you should not feel constrained by the parameters of your own business if it means sacrificing a potentially good idea.
Once you have published your article, finding online communities based in your area is a wonderful way of promoting the piece and attracting eyes to your business. Maintaining a good rapport with the admins of these groups will prove to be a significant investment, as they will be far more willing to both promote your content and recommend your business should the time arise. Local SEO service providers can point you in the right direction with content creation and promotion, so do not feel like you are in the dark!
Local unstructured citations
A significant amount of SEO, both local and regular, takes place outside of your website’s home page. One of the most critical aspects of this external optimisation is your business’s local citations across the internet, especially those with your NAP (Name and Phone Number).
With local SEO, the big players in this field are online journalism outlets, blog posts, and social media pages. Whenever a third-party reference your business, this informs the algorithm that your business is legitimate, reliable, and any information you directly provide is accurate. Google and Bing cannot physically track and log every coffee shop and dry cleaners themselves; they rely on their algorithm to sweep every corner of the internet to put together a cohesive profile of businesses and to place them on a geographical map. As such, you are building a solid connection with influential voices in the local area is essential in verifying to the algorithms that your business is genuine and should be recommended by the search engine.
However, because you are not directly in control of what information is put into these citations, it is essential to review how your business is being presented regularly. It is especially critical that the NAP information given by the third parties is in line with what you have listed on your own website. If, for example, the phone number given by a local news outlet is not accurate, then the Google algorithm has difficulty in building a complete profile for your business (let alone customers trying to communicate with you themselves). Local SEO services can conduct these audits quickly and effectively, ensuring any mention of your business online mirrors the real-life data and maximises your chances of appearing high in the search engine rankings.
Another place with significant location citations is online comparison sites. Whether this is the likes of Yelp or TripAdvisor for hospitality or Check’A’Trade for tradespeople, both search engine algorithms and potential customers rely heavily on these databases. The citations on these sites also have the advantage of being structured citations, meaning the NAP data is presented in an organised and cohesive manner. This is opposed to unstructured citations, such as those in online magazines, that contain your business’ information scattered throughout the article. Performing an audit on structured citations is far easier than unstructured, as the information has already been collected for you.
Correcting information becomes far more challenging with unstructured citations. With such formless storage of information, scouring the internet for incorrect mentions of your business is an exercise in resources and time without necessarily having the right tools for the job. Local SEO services have the expertise and resources needed to carry out quickly these assessments and ensure that the algorithm consistently returns a clearer picture of your business. It would be best to combine both data aggregation services and the manual use of search engines to manage your third-party citations effectively.
Future-proof your business!
Perhaps more so than anything else, Local SEO services provide the long-term support necessary to maintain a consistently optimised online presence for your business. Both your business and the search engine algorithms will constantly be changing, and your hard-earned optimisation can quickly become obsolete. Updating software can also disrupt your website’s presence, so it is very important to be aware of any forthcoming changes and be ready to adapt your business around them.
While much of this can be covered by your provider, ensuring your business continues actively with the local community. Responding to reviews and continuing to post quality content are essential actions that significantly boost your rankings while taking minimum time. Aside from this, continually reassessing local citations of your business and ensuring any changing information is reflected online are absolutely imperative in maintaining your position.
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Especially for small businesses, local SEO is arguably more important than a broader approach. Creating rapport with the surrounding community is essential in growing your company and building a loyal customer base. Ensuring your online presence reflects well on you is so important, as, for the most part, this presence really is your shop window. Many people will only interact with your company online, and often this is not restricted to your own website.
If you are ready to rise up beyond the competition and exponentially grow your business, then please get in touch today! Click here