In the past, there wasn’t really a vast difference between local and traditional SEO strategies. There were some variations but the basic principles were similar in many ways. At present, local SEO has evolved and has become an optimization specialty.
Due to changes to the local pack, dedicated local search algorithms, Google My Business evolution, AI and machine learning and online review benefits, local and traditional SEO is a separate entity.
This is an issue when you are attempting to offer local SEO services to a business owner who used traditional techniques for their online profile. These type of potential clients are more aware of what traditional SEO is and don’t know much about local SEO. It would be difficult to convey the benefits of local SEO when they are so accustomed to the concepts of SEO that they already feel comfortable with.
Here are a few examples of the differences:
• Links that are relevant such as ‘no follow’ links to a local business have a positive impact, and ‘do follow’ links used in traditional SEO are more direct for ranking power.
• You will less likely have a link from a high ranking site to a local business. Link building focuses more on lower premium sites. These may be seen at the bottom of the barrel in traditional SEO but are important for local SEO.
• A link from a local news site is pale in comparison to a link from a high ranking news site when compared, but is considered as such in local search.
• Citations are important for local SEO as they illuminate the physical location of a business and local search visibility.
• Reviews are valuable when the keyword and city are mentioned in local SEO – this wouldn’t work the same for traditional visibility.
Is It Important to Have a Website for Local Listings?
Local SEO for Newbies
The first most important point is that local listings don’t have much to do with a client’s website. In fact, visits to local business websites are dropping exponentially.
Many consumers will look for a local business online, but less will actually visit the website. Reason for this decline is that people view the reviews and are less likely to bother visiting the website. Potential clients would prefer getting in touch through other methods. Google has the ability to replace a business website as there is so much information available in SERPS and the Google environment, such as:
• Opening times
• Q and As
Hence, the need for visiting a website is decreasing. Local consumers have fewer reasons to visit a website due to Google My Business:
• Call-to-actions and clicks to call
• Offers and events posted on Google My Business
• Enhanced profiles with information and eye-catching images
• Directions to the physical address
• Information that is quick and simple to read
Traditional SEO only really happens on-site, whereas local SEO requires the use of external sources such as:
• Local citations
• Google My Business profiles
The factors that influence local rankings are different from the ones used to influence organic search position. Due to the business owner having a better understanding of traditional SEO, it is best to highlight the declining role of websites from a local perspective and the growing importance of offsite factors such as reviews, citations and local links.
The worth of local SEO
Now that the difference between traditional and local SEO is illuminated, you need to know the value of local SEO.
The best way we can describe it is through comparison. You as a client may own a restaurant. You believe that you serve the best steak locally. The thing is, there are tons of other restaurants in the area that believe they do too.
Everyone wants to be on the first page of Google and there are only ten spots available on page one of the SERPs. With only three local spots up for grabs, there are going to be eight restaurateurs left in the dark.
Big names such as Spur steakhouse, Wimpy and Dros have already taken top spots. So that would leave six spots left to 12 locals. Out of the 12, only ten might get onto page two and two will be flung to page three.
If there are four big cities in your area, which would mean another 80 local businesses you would need to climb over. If you leave the suburbs and factor in the city, you are looking at another 40 to 100 steakhouses that sell take-outs and more. These hopeful entrepreneurs are fighting for a spot on page one. The reality is that 120 or more are going to be left disappointed.
So, now the whole local SEO factor makes perfect business sense.
Explaining Local Citations
Local citations are the fifth most important local ranking factor. This can be hard to absorb if you are in your comfort zone with traditional SEO, as citations sound similar to the yellow pages directory craze from the start of the millennium. The key here is to understand the value that citations have for local customers.
Citations on business listings and directory sites are vital for local businesses. They don’t add as much fuel to ranking as in the past, but it is a fundamental factor getting in the right business listings and directories when you want SEO success. Some might say it is a waste of time and effort. The fact still remains that local citations are the equivalent of the Yellow Pages, just more effective.
It is easier to access and browse online now, instead of paging through hundreds of pages in a book. Digital listings are more trustworthy and credible.
Consistency isn’t just specific to Google, it is vital for gaining local consumers too. When internet surfers see that there are several listing for the same business and all the information is consistent, this makes it more trustworthy. Getting these wrong will not win over your prospective customers.
In this day and age, we still see the circulation of Yellow page directories and the local paper. There are vast amounts of directories online for all industries available. So if you are an established business you would need to consider making your business a lot more prolific through citations and as many niche citations as you can muster.
Having many citations shows that your business is popular, busy and prominent. A high volume of citations means that you are likely to be seen and will be contacted by prospective customers.
What is Google My Business?
Google MY Business is the most vital tenets of local SEO activity. Google My business is similar to looking through a shop window. You will be able to view exactly what the business looks like and information such as:
• Opening times
• Promotional offers and specials
• Contact information
Posts can be used to showcase new arrivals or special events that are similar to merchandising and sale offers. Reviews are very popular among consumers as they serve as proof that a product or service is worthy. Basically, Google My Business is an online version of flyers and catalogs without the paper waste.
Local customers can now access information at any time of the day wherever they are. There is no need to physically visit the business and waste time shopping around.
Google My Business populates the local pack which has a positive impact on local SEO new and small businesses that do not have a website. Local business owners will definitely grow if they set up their Google My Business listing.
Google My Business signals are the life source for local search ranking factors, and include:
• Keyword in business title
This is great news for those who do not own their own website. To ensure success in this area, you will need the expertise of a local SEO consultant. After all, a GMB profile leads ahead a website when it comes to local visibility. This is the first place to go when business information needs to be amended or updated.
The added value of Google My Business includes:
• Accurate and consistent information across the internet -There is a myriad of third-party apps and sites on Google My Business to access business information, so a healthy profile ensures accurate business contact information. Potential customers are informed and they have an idea of what your business has to offer.
• Image and video uploads – helps to create a positive first impression of the local business.
• Insights – gives detailed information about customers and what they search for. This data is used to target market customers and make improvements where needed.
• Bookings made easy – through the GMB profile. This way businesses gain new customers.
• Posts – act as free adverts
Google Local Pack Explained
What is the Local Google Pack?
The Google Local Pack appears on the search results page with local results when someone conducts a Google search with local intent. So, if they type in “hairdressers near me” or “hairdressers”, a few local businesses offering that service will show up in results.
The local pack appears to be above the main search results, which means its more visible to search users than a traditional SEO placement. Local ranking factors are influenced by Google diving into aspects of the business, such as:
• Google My Business listings
Local search results are very changeable, just as with traditional SEO. Local search results are superior to traditional results as they are interactive and creates more opportunities to convert users into customers through the search engine.
Google my business feeds Google with information that is then displayed in the search results – which benefits the user. These are things such as star ratings, reviews, photos and opening times. All information on Google My Business should be backed up completely on the local business website. Any changes made on either should mirror the other.
What Are Local Ranking Factors?
There is a convergence between traditional and local SEO ranking factors, but the local pack signals are more local business-specific.
Reviews contain relevant factors such as:
• Links from other local sites and GMB signal
The more prominent local ranking signals have nothing or little to do with a business website.
The Three Pillars that are relevant
Is the business near and what are you looking for? If a user is looking for something in a specific area, this is a vital thing to consider. When a business is located in that location, the proximity box is ticked. This has nothing to do with the website and everything to do with zip codes and street address in GMB.
How well does your business match the users’ search request? Let’s say a user is searching for a vehicle service near them and the business queried is a mechanic, this would be relevant. If it’s a bakery, it obviously isn’t.
Relevance is determined by how local SEO feeds Google with information at many junctures by:
• Selection of categories in GMB
• Building of citations
• Written business description
• Creating content with key phrases and keywords
• Accumulation of reviews that are product, services and location-specific.
This is really a profile. Are you a start-up or are you well known? Does your brand shine above the rest?
Local SEO prominence is the digital twin of being a celebrity. In reality, you may know that everyone has your business on their lips or have heard about you. In the digital world, this would include links from blogs, journals, online local media, social media likes and shares and mentions on other website blogs.
Prominence is built the best through citations, reviews, and backlinks. The more mentions and references, the more credibility you will gain and swiftly become the next digital celebrity.
What is Reputation Management?
The truth is that the average customer will tell 15 people about a bad experience with a business and only 11 people about a satisfactory one. Negative reviews spread like wildfire online, but there are those who are turning to online platforms to share their positive experiences too.
The Millenials are the ones that give positive reviews. According to a Google Reviews Study, the average star rating for most industries is high and more consumers are giving more positive reviews and less negative ones.
Five percent of businesses have an average star rating that is less than three. Around 61 percent see 4 to 5 stars, so there is nothing for local businesses to fear when it comes to the business reputation management part of local SEO services.
If the business has a solid reputation and they know they are customer-friendly, then online reviews are the best way to build online visibility. Local customers will believe your business is a trustworthy one if they see satisfactory reviews.
Local SEOs assist with review guideline rules so that the business can stay on track. Negative reviews also have to be managed. No one likes the bad reviews about their business being viewed by all and its probably best that the customer reviews the business directly.
Negative reviews should be diplomatic and decent. You would deal with a negative review in the same way that you would deal with an unhappy customer in a store. With an online customer, you would have to ask them to discuss the issue via email or telephone.
Online reviews are becoming the star feature of local businesses. Customers are looking for at least a 4-star rating before doing
any business with a business. Around 30 percent of consumers say that a business response to reviews is a key consideration. Online reputation management is key for a successful business.