If you’re familiar with SEO, then you’re probably familiar with the statistic that there are 2 trillion searches on Google every year, which boils down to about 40,000 searches every second. However, many people do not realize that out of 2 trillion searches, 46% are local, which equates to roughly 920 billion local searches every year.
Let that sink in. The search potential for local results is huge.
Since rolling out Local Search in 2004, Google has changed tremendously. Which begs the questions: How do I stay competitive? How do I win at Local SEO in 2018?
Here are 3 essential areas of focus for local optimizations: Google My Business, Reviews, and Off-Page.
1: Set Up Google My Business
What I love about Google My Business (GMB), is that this tool is not just specifically for SEOs (search engine optimizers). It’s for local business owners. Google developed this tool for local businesses to easily list their business. Creating an account to list your business is essentially the same as creating any internet account, but with one additional step: verifying your location.
Verifying your location
If your business has a physical location, this is easy. Enter your address into the system, and Google will send a postcard to your location with a verification code. All you need to do is enter the code on your GMB Account, and your new verified business will start appearing in Google’s Local Index.
What if I don’t have a physical location?
Some businesses (specifically service-related businesses) do not have a physical, brick-and-mortar location. If this is the case for your business, you’ll need to set up Service Areas. Verifying your business in this case is essentially the same. You’ll simply need to enter the address you used to legally register your business. This is often a home address, but don’t worry—you can hide this address from users on Google, so potential customers will not know your private information. Once you’ve entered your verification code, you can start entering your service areas and letting Google know all the areas that you deliver or provide services.
Optimize for the NAP
The NAP is an SEO buzzword that stands for Name, Address, Phone Number. Though straightforward, this is vital for your Local SEO success. Make sure whatever you enter in these areas is 100% accurate. If you don’t have a physical address, then only enter your Name and Phone Number. This will come into play later when we talk about off-page SEO.
2: Get Reviews
According to a study done by SEO PowerSuite, reviews are the most important ranking signal in Google's local search algorithm. People often ask, how do I get reviews? My short answer is simple: ask. Studies have shown that 7 out of 10 customers will leave a review when asked. However, studies have also shown that users are less likely to convert (or leave a review) for every additional step they have to take. If the process for leaving a review is lengthy or has many steps, your customers will be less likely to complete a review — even when leaving a review will benefit the customer with a discount or free item.
So yes, the short answer is to ask, but then make it quick and easy. Some ideas might be sending a follow-up email or text with a link to your review platform, or leaving a QR code on a receipt that links to your review platform. The fewer steps people have to take to complete a review, the more likely they will be to leave one. Remember, your customers don’t have to do this, so make it as quick and easy as possible.
Be active on different platforms
Ask for reviews on different platforms. Start with Yelp, then move to Yellow Pages or FourSquare. Most importantly, be active on different platforms. Respond to reviews, negative or positive. Being active on review platforms shows both Google and potential customers that you care about your business.
3: Optimize for Off-Page SEO
Getting backlinks still matters in Local SEO, but the most important off-page signal is going to be Local Citations. A citation is an online mention of the Name, Address and Phone Number of a local business. Citations can be found on online local directories such as Yellow Pages, BBB, or Yelp.
Citations are different than backlinks, as you’re not trying to get authority from other websites, but rather simply show Google that your Name, Address, and Phone Number are legitimate and correct on all directories across the web. Remember the NAP? Whatever format we used in our NAP on GMB should remain the same for all directories and review platforms. Accuracy matters.
Along with accuracy, relevance also matters. After you’ve started with your more general citations (Yellow Pages, BBB, Yelp, etc.) move on to industry-specific directories to gain more relevant citations within a niche. If you’re an attorney, look into directories specific to law. Likewise if you’re a plumber or lawn care specialist. Find directories that are specific to your industry and enter your NAP.
So, while it’s impossible to be seen by every one of those 920 billion local searches, by setting up Google My Business, gaining online reviews, and acquiring quality off-page citations, you’ll start to get your slice of the pie — beating your competitors in search, and winning at local SEO.