2016 is the year of Local SEO.
That is the bold prediction of industry observers who gazed into a crystal ball, and saw that consumers are growing accustomed to mobile payment platforms like Google Wallet and Apple Pay. The increasing popularity of these and other payment systems, according to these digital seers, means that the search engine giant Google will double down its investment in Local SEO.
“Google has definitively embraced the notion that localized searches convert at higher rates,” said Brian Smith, the director of local solutions at Placeable. “Therefore, large brands must ensure that their location data is accurate and can be found where consumers conduct local searches.”
In other words, Local SEO is more important than ever before.
Local SEO Has Enormous Potential
The trend in Local SEO illustrates how far Internet searches have come. In the beginning, there was Archie: generally considered to be the world’s first search engine. Archie was launched in 1990, at the dawn of the modern Internet age, and by present standards was primitive, indeed.
Other early search engines quickly followed. Alongside their development came the digital marketers, who recognized the enormous potential of web-based commerce and sought ways to manipulate search engine results. They learned keyword stuffing and excessive tagging. By the mid- to late-1990s Yahoo and Google emerged, and improved on Internet searching. They also began to define and level the playing field with the rules and regulations we have today.
Optimizing Search Engines
Today, seeking information on the Internet is common to any cyber experience, and Google is so dominant that its very name is synonymous with searching. The field of Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, has seen tremendous growth; it has been reported that nearly one million people on LinkedIn have “SEO” in their job title.
Small businesses, especially those with a brick-and-mortar presence, increasingly rely on local SEO. “Any business that gets some or all of its customers or clients locally should consider local SEO,” said Sam McRoberts, the Chief Executive Officer at Vudu Marketing, an Internet marketing firm. “If you have a physical address in a city and expect people to go there, you should be doing local SEO for that location.”
Local SEO is SEO that targets local results in Google and other search engines. It has much in common with ordinary SEO: the same on-page factors, social indexing and links. But there are additional features that set it apart:
- A local profile on Google.
- A citation
Let’s take a look at each.
Creating a local profile on Google is probably the most important feature. When someone searches for a business, Google finds its local listing.
A citation involves a business name, address and phone number, usually shortened to the acronym NAP. Search engines find the NAP wherever it appears online, so it’s important to be consistent with it. A street address must always appear as, for example, 100 Main Street.
If this example were to appear as 100 Main St. on a business homepage and 100 Main Street on Facebook, Google may not find each instance.
What can we say about reviews? Good reviews are good for business, and you want as many as you can possibly get. Positive reviews on your Google Places page, and lots of them, are critical factors in Local SEO rankings.
Get your business to show up on Google Maps. That way, potential customers can easily find your location and contact information. That contact information is important, because people might know about your business but not have the address or phone number.
For the most effective Local SEO, include the address of your business (in Schema.org format), along with the phone number, throughout your business website: not only on the Contact page, but in the header or footer of each page on the site.
Additionally, the business address should also appear in the title tag in your website’s HTML markup. According to the inbound marketing company Moz.com, the city and state in your site’s page title is among the most important things you can do for Local SEO.
In addition to all of the preceding, it is more important than ever before that your business website be mobile-friendly. Google Search has expanded its mobile device-friendliness as a ranking signal. Since doing so, users have been getting better search results on their smart phones and tablets.
And this cannot be emphasized enough: the use of mobile devices continues to rise, and is surpassing traditional desktop computers in terms of time spent on screen. An astonishing eighty percent of all Internet users own a smartphone. Local businesses that are unable to reach their target audience through mobile devices are going to fall behind their competition.
All of this points to that bold prediction that we are in the year of local marketing. The trend is likely to continue, so embracing local SEO will go a long way toward helping your business rank high in the search engines. It not only improves your company’s bottom line, but can be a critical component of your reputation management strategy.
Google has always shown respect for small businesses, and Local SEO helps them raise their online profiles and stay competitive.