The use of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets has grown immensely over the past decade, particularly for internet searches on-the-go. It's very common for individuals with mobile devices to make a search on their device when they are looking to find a local business that suits their shopping needs. Fortunately, Google and other search engines have seen this trend as an opportunity to promote local businesses in search engine rankings to users, in order to give them visibility when their niche is searched by individuals in the area.
Google's algorithm for determining which businesses are local can be very effective, and as with any kind of online marketing, there are a number of SEO strategies that should be implemented in order to get the most out of local searches. Successful local marketing strategies follow many of the same rules, and show similar results. Having a well-planned local marketing strategy is the foundation of taking full advantage of the feature, and a local marketing strategy should be planned out ahead of time and followed in order to see results.
There are three main goals that a good local marketing strategy should achieve:
- High rankings in search results.
- An increase in offline conversions (it doesn't matter if people see the site, if they are not converting to customers as a result).
- A favorable online reputation, complete with testimonials and reviews that attest to the trustworthiness of the company.
In order to achieve these goals, a local marketing strategy should be outlined with specific tasks in mind. The first major task companies face when creating a local marketing strategy is gathering location data that is relevant to their product and business. This begins by establishing a database of canonical location data, which is then used as a model to build from.
Creating an effective database of canonical location data can be done by discussing ideas with stakeholders across the board. Speak not only to salesmen and marketers about the data, but talk to other departments such as Human Resources as well. Find out what their thoughts are with regard to the canonical location idea, and input these into a spreadsheet. This will form a strong foundation to build from.
Next, the website must be optimized to show store locations, as this is a major factor in Google's ranking algorithm. All local marketing strategies must include the development of a store locator, as this tells Google each and every one of a company's branch locations, allowing these results to show for hundreds of searches across the world with accurate results. If the individual locations have not been outlined on the store locator page, Google will not be able to tell all search users that there is a branch near them, as it will have no location data to work from.
In order to best implement store locations, follow the guidelines below:
- Give each store page it's own unique URL and page.
- Implement all technical basics into the store pages (name, address, contact information, brand name, Google Map, etc.)
- Include a set page for store location searches only, which will make it easy for customers to do an internal search once on the site.
- Publish all locations as a KML file, with the address of the KML file as part of the XML sitemap.
- Use split testing to determine what works and what doesn't.
Statistics show that nearly 7 billion searches are made each year with local intent, meaning that 7 billion searches are made with the goal of finding a local company. This is a large number to tap into, and must be done diligently to see results.
The next step is to determine which online portals customers are using to find your pages. Learn which search engines or social media platforms are producing the most searches, and focus on optimization for those platforms specifically. Ideally, most of your customers will be using Google, as studies show the search engine offer an average of 14 times more customer impression and visits than any other search platform.
Some tips for optimizing Google search engine rankings include:
- Accurate category listings that will be relevant to searchers and customers.
- Relevant URL with keywords.
- Business photos.
Now it's time to create a list of aggreagators and directories that could be relevant to your company. For example, restaurants will want to be listed on sites such as Yelp!, as this is a very widely used platform that allows its users to quickly and easily find information on restaurants, including menu information, pricing, and store hours.
Begin the list by thinking about aggregators you use regularly; if you use a certain platform to learn about local businesses in your area, be sure your site is included on that platform as well.
One of the key reasons businesses want their company listed on aggregates such as Yelp! is to garner a database of customer reviews. Customer reviews are one of the biggest persuaders when others search online for a trustworthy company. A business with many positive reviews will perform far better than one with negative reviews, as well as one with no reviews at all. Because of this, it's absolutely necessary that all companies encourage reviews in any way they can, and then have them listed online for others to clearly see. In addition, Google more highly ranks companies with many positive reviews online.
Finally, it's time to begin self-localization marketing, the final major step of building a successful local marketing strategy. This comes by way of typical SEO marketing strategies, such as content marketing and social media marketing. Paid advertisements can also be useful, as they can be set to appear to locals in the area who may be interested in your company.
All content should be SEO optimized for the page, including keywords about about the niche, the company, and it's product, as well as its location. This should be done on all social media profiles and posts as well, as it plays a significant role in determining a company's local search engine ranking.