Your local business is constantly vying to maintain a strong online presence. You work hard to rank for the right keywords, watch your bounce rates, monitor how much traffic you get on your site, and much more. While you’re certainly on the right track, and each of these aspects is crucial for online success, there is another, often overlooked aspect—that of ranking for Google local search results.
In your everyday life, you probably use Google local search quite often. Whenever you type in “nearest,” or “near me,” you get results that rank for Google’s local search in your area. When consumers look for local businesses there’s general information they need to know. Because of this, Google formats local search results differently than regular search results, such as including the Google My Business Local Knowledge Panel. Take a look at this example of a local search results format below.
Local searches include information on directions, images, and reviews to let people know some important key points right away. Whether your business ranks for Google local search or not can have a major impact on the traffic and revenue of your business. If you’re not on Google local search you could be missing out on a hefty conversion rate. Every month, 59% of consumers search Google for local businesses, and 82% of consumers either visit the stores, purchase products, or call the location after their search.
As local search results continue to play an ever-expanding role in small business success, it becomes increasingly important to implement good local SEO tactics. Here are our top seven ways to rank higher in Google local search.
1.Claim and Optimize Your Google My Business
One of the most critical aspects of Google search is utilizing Google My Business to drive online traffic and foot traffic to your business. You can control and correct important business information like your phone number, address, and name in Google My Business. Businesses that verify their information are twice as likely to be considered reputable by consumers.1 Get started with Google My Business and claim your online listing here.
You can also upload videos and photos to your business profile after you’ve updated your information and it has been verified through Google. Photos are incredibly important and can make quite an impact on your online traffic. Google has found that adding photos increased Google Maps requests by 42% and website clicks by 35%, over sites that don’t post photos.2 Photos are listed in the Google My Business Local Knowledge Panel, and Google even allows posts to be featured in this section as well.
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2. Manage Online Reviews
For online reviews, Google has said, “High-quality, positive reviews from your customers will improve your business’s visibility.” A survey conducted by BrightLocal also found that people now trust online reviews almost as much as a personal recommendation. Out of the people they surveyed, 84% of the respondents stated that they trusted online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.3 For local businesses, reviews can go a long way towards increasing site traffic, click-through rates, and foot traffic to your brick and mortar locations. Be proactive about getting good reviews for your business by encouraging customers to go online and leave a review on Google or another platform.
You should also be proactive in responding to negative reviews people post on Google. Responding in a positive way and trying to offer a solution, can help remove negative reviews as customers will often change negative reviews when businesses reach to resolve issues. Responding to negative reviews in this way also looks good to other people because it shows your business is proactive and cares about your customers.
3. List Your Business in Online Directories
There are several areas to check online to make sure your company information is up to date and correct. Google checks your company website for information as well as directories like BBB and Yelp to find company information. Check these sites as well as your own and make sure the information is correct. Incorrect information can lead customers away from your business.
4. Use Schema
Utilizing the structured data format, or schema, for your site tells Google’s crawlers what your site does. Information included in rich snippets and the local Knowledge Graph is also pulled from site schema by Google and includes information like your name, address, phone number, social media profiles, and more.
5. SEO Basics with a Local Twist
Optimizing your H1 tags and title tags are important for any site’s SEO. However, local SEO requires a slightly different approach because customers are looking for information on businesses in a certain geographical area. For local search, your body content, title tags, and meta descriptions should contain geo-specific terms like the name of your city or neighborhood.
Businesses that have several locations should create location specific content for each separate location, and incorporate keywords relevant to those locations. Combining local SEO search tactics with general SEO tactics like quality backlinks, engaging content, and keyword usage will help your business site rank well in local search results on Google.
6. Utilize Google My Business Posts
Part of Google My Business is an infrequently utilized tool with lots of potential called Google My Business Posts. Google My Business Posts are located in the Local Knowledge Panel underneath your general business information. They allow you to include both text and images but do not yet allow gifs or videos to be displayed, although they may in the future. These posts are great for displaying services and products your company offers, as well as blog posts that encourage people to learn more about your company.
Google has a few requirements and restrictions when creating Google My Business Posts that you should keep in mind. Although images can be added, the recommended size is 750 pixels by 750 pixels. Anything under 250 pixels is not permitted and you are only able to post JPG or PNG at this time. Description lengths for your posts are limited to 300 words. However, tests using filler words limited the description to 227 words, equalling 1500 characters total. When your post appears under the Google My Business Local Knowledge Panel, only the first 100 characters or so, are displayed.
You can also invite customers to take action by using a button on your post. Google My Business allows you to choose the following buttons for your posts:
Simply enter your URL into Google My Business to create an actionable hyperlink from one of these buttons to your site. Make sure you are continually adding information to the Google My Business Posts section of the Local Knowledge Panel as Google only features posts for an average of 7 days—although there are exceptions for posts related to upcoming events. Recent posts are always displayed first and there is a limit of ten posts shown in the Local Knowledge Panel at a time.
7. Utilize Social Media
A strong social media presence affects Google search and can act as a substitute for your website.4 Social media is also a great place for you to promote your local brand and can help you create valuable links to your business website that improve your results for local search. Social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ are all great locations to share your Google My Business Posts and to drive more traffic. Google even provides shortened links that are easier to share on social media or in emails, as well as a Report the Post option.
While Google My Business Posts only appear under the Local Knowledge Panel for 7 days, information regarding engagement and how often the post was viewed are recorded even after they are no longer displayed on the Local Knowledge Panel. You can view the number of clicks, date the post was posted, and even delete the post and associated information, if you choose to.
Local search is essential, especially for any business with brick and mortar locations. Utilizing the Local Knowledge Panel with Google My Business Posts, updating information, and focusing on your social media strategy can help businesses get discovered in a noisy online world. Apply these local SEO tips and watch your local business grow.