What Is Local SEO And How To Get Top Google Maps / Local Search Rankings?
Local SEO is the process of enhancing your Google business page for higher rankings in local search results. Nearly 60% of all searches have local intent, and recent studies show that 78% of local searches resulted in off line purchases.
This data underscores the relevance of local SEO for any business that generates revenue from a local customer base. And getting found in the top local search results in Google is the most relevant path to your business connecting to these local customers. As you’ll see below, mobile devices play a critical role in your overall local SEO strategy.
Back in 2015, Google updated their local search results to show only the top 3 (letters A, B, and C) local businesses for any given local search query. Previously, the default presentation of local search results included the top 7 local businesses. With the default local search results being cut down to the top 3, getting top local search results in Google has become even more important for local businesses.
Read more: Are The Top 3 Local Search Results The New #1 in Google
The majority of searches in Google have local intent. People can search for phrases such as “dentists” from their mobile phone and Google will provide a suggested term like “dentists near me”. By tapping the suggested search term, Google will use your current location to present the top local businesses in your immediate area. Likewise, if you only searched the phrase “dentist”, and you were located in the Miami metro area, you would still be presented with the local search results before any organic search results. And again, this is where you would see the top 3 local search results on mobile and desktop computers.
Here’s a screenshot showing an example of the search phrase “dentist in miami” from an iPhone using the Google search app:
Google saw this shift in search behavior favoring mobile devices. And back in April 2015, they released a mobile algorithm update that favors websites that are mobile friendly. You can test to see if Google considers your website to be mobile friendly with the Mobile Friendly Test Tool.
As you can see in the search results above from an iPhone, Google also narrows the engagement options in the local search results. Because you are searching from a mobile phone, the implication is the best form of engagement would be to call the business. As such, in the example above, you see the “Call” button as the predominant action element.
Local SEO Tips For Businesses
The closer you get to the top local search results in Google, the tougher the competition gets to reaching letters A, B, or C. Even in smaller markets with relatively few competitors, the competition for the top 3 search results can be extremely stiff. There are many factors that come into play when determining the local rankings, but there are few local SEO techniques that can give you a quick competitive edge.
Local Keyword Targeting
The most important local SEO tip is to ensure you are targeting your Google business page and website with your local keyword phrases. The relationship between your website and your Google listing is critically important. By nature, your Google business page will be optimized for your business category and metro area. But this is not necessarily the case with your website. With your business website, you have to take the additional steps of optimizing your key pages for your business category and metro area.
For example, if you are a dentist in Miami, your Google business page would be listed in the “dentist” category and your address would include your location in Miami. This is the easy part with your Google business page. But on your website, you would want include “Dentist in Miami” within the title and description tags of your homepage meta data. Likewise, you’d want to include the targeted keyword phrases in on page content of your website. This creates a coherent relationship with keyword targeting and local relevance between your Google business page and your website.
Direct Data for Local SEO
Schema language allows you to enhance the data that’s most important to your local business. I refer to these elements as direct data for local SEO. There are generalized elements of Schema language, such as business name, address, phone number, and website URL. But then there are data sets specifically for your business category. For example, there are Schema language data sets for attorneys, dentists, dry cleaners, and automotive businesses. As you can see, these direct data sets exists for nearly every type of business both local and global.
Direct data, or Schema language, is an agreed upon protocol that all major search engines use to define key sets of data. Google, Yahoo, and Bing all use Schema language in the search algorithms.
The key point to leveraging Schema language and direct data sets for local SEO is that very few businesses implement this into their overall strategy. As such, the local businesses that do leverage Schema can give themselves a substantial competitive edge in the local search results.
Local citations for your business as basically the presence of your business name, address, and phone number published on different websites and business directories. The most relevant citations, and the ones that will enhance your Google local search results the most, are those that are found on websites and directories most relevant to your business category and metro area. For example, if I’m a dentist in Miami, the most powerful citations for local SEO would come from directories that are specifically for dentists in the Miami metro area.
You have the directories that every business uses such as Yelp, Yellow Pages, and Best of the Web. And certainly you’ll want to include these in your citation portfolio. But again, most of your competitors are also using these directories for citation purposes. That’s why you can gain a substantial competitive edge by identifying niche directories that are specifically targeting your business category and metro area.
These niche directories are sometimes difficult to find, if they exist at all. But when you do find them, they are worth doing whatever you need to do to get a citation listed. Adding citations from niche directories is one way to quickly differentiate your local business from the rest of the crowd. And as such, Google will use these niche citations in determining your rankings in the local search results.
Local SEO Strategies – Bringing It All Together
None of the individual local SEO tips above are are valuable by themselves. The most effective local SEO strategies combine all of the above is a highly strategic manner. In order to compete at the highest level of local search results, your business will have to implement all of these strategies together by paying attention to the details better than your competition. We’ve found here at Bipper Media, and working with literally hundreds of local businesses, that paying attention to the local SEO details better than all of your competitors can be enough to drive you into the top local search results.
When your business gets found in the top local search results, on both mobile devices and desktop computers, you’ll find that you’ll be receiving the majority of the inbound calls, leads, and sales from new customers. As the research mentioned above stated, 78% of local searches in Google resulted in off line purchases. People turn to Google to quickly research local businesses, get directions, or find phone numbers. Then, they simply take that information and act on in their local markets. A lot of times, we’ll be driving down the road and my wife will Google something in route. This makes it super easy to find, or call, the business we are looking for.
Local SEO Bonus Tip
The final local SEO strategy I wanted to mention, that is really outside the scope of local SEO specifically, is the idea of blogging for your business. We’ve found with our clients, by producing consistent blog posts from their website, this always results in more authority for all of their SEO efforts. Especially when it comes to local SEO, blogging on topics relevant to your local area has proven to have a tremendous impact on competing in the local search results.
Whenever your publish blog posts, Google will keep coming back to your website to crawl and index the new content. This speaks the freshness factor in SEO. Google’s algorithm will always favor websites that are publishing fresh, updated content on their websites.
Read more: Why Am I Losing Organic Search Traffic
Websites that don’t produce new content become stale and Google will start to reduce the relevancy of your site for all of your targeted keyword phrases. On the other hand, by producing fresh content on a regular basis, the exact opposite effect takes place. Google will see your website are more relevant and authoritative as a result of the new content. For local SEO purposes, publishing content on the subject of the local area you are targeting, will likewise increase your relevance and authority in that metro area.
The Future of Local SEO Is Here!
The future of local SEO is defined by mobile phone users, refined ‘near me’ Google search algorithms, and an exploding surge in searches being conducted from Google’s mobile search app. More searches are now being conducted via mobile phones than from desktop computers. And statistics show that the top 3 local search results get the overwhelming majority of calls and taps for directions to their locations.
So whether you are a locally owned business with one location, or an enterprise company with hundreds of locations around the world, reaching your customer at the exact moment they are searching for is key to driving increased traffic, leads, and sales.
“Since Bipper Media took over our SEO, the increase in traffic, rankings, and exposure have been impressive. It’s clear to me that Bipper Media is at the forefront of all things digital media…”
Attorney Michael C. Daniel
Prior, Daniel, & Wiltshire
There have been two key local SEO updates in the past year that are critical to your success:
#1: Google now only shows the top 3 local search results on desktop and mobile phones
The first critical update made by Google over the past year regarding the local search results is they now only show the top 3 local search results for any locally targeted search. This means, if your local business is not found in letter A, B, or C in the local search results, your business will be overlooked by the majority of customers.
Here’s a screenshot of what the top 3 local search results looks like now:
Notice how on the only the top 3 local search results are displayed on both the desktop and mobile phone version of the search results. This is fundamental shift from the past when Google would display the top 7 local search results, previously known as the “7-pack”.
The new default local search results only shows the “3-pack”, and these businesses are capturing nearly 100% of the calls and clicks from customers searching in local markets.
#2: Google Mobile Algorithm Update
The second key update made by Google this past year is in their mobile search algorithm. This update has come to be known as “Mobilegeddon”, references the impending doom brought on businesses that do not have a mobile optimized, or mobile friendly version of their website.
Google’s mobile algorithm update is designed to do two things:
- Demote websites that are not mobile friendly.
- Promote, or give favor, to websites that are mobile friendly.
Your business website can be highly optimized, even ranking #1, for your targeted keyword phrase. But if your website is not mobile friendly, then you probably have seen a dramatic drop in your mobile traffic and exposure in the search results.
However, if your website is mobile friendly and conforms nicely on any device, then you may have seen an increasing in rankings in Google’s mobile search results.
Couple this with the fact that more searches are being conducted via mobile phones than desktop computers, and you see why Google is placing such as big emphasis on mobile search optimization.